I’ve been circling back to some dormant issues lately. One of those is Bob Dean’s apparent violation of the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority’s (FKAA) rules regarding residency requirements. Simply put, board members are supposed to live in the district which they represent.
For most of us, this is a straight-forward matter. Where do you get your mail? Where is your family? Where do you keep your stuff? Where does your dog hang out? Where do you sleep at night? Not for Mr. Dean. More on that here.
The FKAA board was in turmoil over this matter. Very unusual. This is a board that runs bland, pro-forma meetings. They typically vote in lockstep on every issue, with zero to minimal debate; and with zero to minimal public input. If I recall correctly, they don’t record their meetings. (Need to re-verify.) This is also very unusual for a public entity in the Keys. But on September 25, 2015, the FKAA held a hearing. Voices were raised!!! Calls to resign were issued!!! It was all caught on video!!! For the FKAA, this is major drama.
The end result was anti-climactic. The board decided not to decide. Executive Director, Kirk Zuelch, was instructed to forward the matter to the governor’s office. I believe that the board should have made a decision either way, but I understand why they punted.
- The FKAA tries like mad to avoid the spotlight. Understandable, given some of their most notable shenanigans. Public scrutiny is the last thing they want. And this issue attracted public scrutiny like no other (except maybe Cudjoe Regional).
- Either decision is no-win. They enforce their own rules against Bob Dean and it upsets their shadow constituency – the influential bubba contingent. They publicly flout their own rules and they upset their true constituency – all customers Keys-wide.
While I think the board should have made a decision one way or the other, I also understand that it is the governor who appoints FKAA board members. So ultimately this is his decision to make. However, there’s no question that the wishes of the FKAA board – arrived at as a body during a public meeting – would have been influential in the governor’s decision-making process. And that, I believe, is why the board decided to toss it to the governor. I think a majority of the board wants to keep Dean around so they can get back to the business of quietly bilking the public. But they also know how bad it would look for them to violate their own rules by keeping him there, especially following so closely behind the embarrassing Melva Wagner debacle.
They’d prefer to try to influence the governor’s decision behind the scenes rather than face public scorn. Remember that the state, in general, has made a series of irrational-seeming decisions that just so happen to benefit the FKAA and harm the public interest.
- The state has shot down two attempts to replace FKAA’s appointed board with an elected one. In one case, ignoring the clearly stated will of 70% of Keys voters.
- They’ve finagled funding clearly meant for all Florida Keys wastewater projects so that it most benefits the FKAA’s delayed and excessively costly ones.
- From among eleven applicants, Gov. Scott chose Richard Toppino to replace Melva Wagner on the FKAA board. Toppino comes loaded with potential conflicts of interest. His family construction business has done over $12 million worth of work on the Cudjoe Regional project alone. A fact that the FKAA blatantly lied to the public about. If the state did any due diligence at all, they kept it very quiet.
These factors seem to indicate that there is solid state support for the FKAA’s inept and seemingly corrupt approach to public utility management. However, it is unclear how much of this is based on bad information received from mendacious Keys officials. Remember that the county and the FKAA have attempted to exert complete control over the information flow to state and federal authorities to the detriment of citizens Keys-wide. The “super-lobbyist” debacle is one example, and the interference with Army Corps funding is another.
When we understand all this, the FKAA board’s decision to toss the Dean residency matter to the governor’s office makes perfect sense. They knew they would have a sympathetic audience, or at least an audience they could more easily manipulate. And they knew the affected public would have zero influence over the governor’s decision.
Sounds like a convoluted theory, but it’s a convoluted theory that fits the facts that are available so far. Consider that in December 2015, the governor’s office denied receiving the letter that Kirk Zuelch was supposed to have sent in October 2015. Consider that, after all the initial drama, not a single board member raised Dean’s residency issue again. Not once. Not ever. Not even Cara Higgins, who made a big show of being “concerned” about the matter at the time. Not even Bob Dean, who is personally affected. Aren’t they curious? Don’t they want an update? What about their responsibility to keep the public informed?
Of course, the best way to take a situation out of the realm of speculation and bring it into the realm of fact is to find, verify and share information. And so, I have submitted another public records request request to the FKAA.
I’ll let you know how it goes.