Monday, July 23, 2018

RECORD EDITORIAL: Careful who you look to for ethics. (SAR)

Good editorial in the St. Augustine Record, blowing the whistle on our craven, cowardly St. Johns County Board of County Commissioners.  Corrupt County Attorney PATRICK FRANCIS McCORMACK and his lobbyist pals got their way. Commissioners will rue the day that they torpedoed modest lobbyist registration ordinance.

How gauche and louche of our other-directed developer-directed County burghers.

RECORD EDITORIAL: Careful who you look to for ethics

St. Augustine Record
Posted Jul 22, 2018 at 8:19 AM

County Commissioner Jimmy Johns had a concern a few months back. Commissioners are stopped on the street or on supermarket aisles frequently by constituents, wanting to know what they “think” about this issue or that — 999-home PUDs in their neck of the woods being a ripe example. The back-and-forth between the commissioner and a random resident could spill into opinions by a commissioner, and recommendations by the resident. What if the person engaging the commissioner was a lobbyist in sheep’s clothing?

That may be among the least of the potential problems when lobbyists and commissioners mix, but the point should be well taken. And it was. Johns asked the support of fellow commissioners in directing staff to come up with a structure for a local lobbying ordinance. It did, and Tuesday, it presented the draft ordinance to commissioners. It provides for registration of lobbyists. It prohibits payment of contingency fees (that one has lawyer/lobbyists imploding), requires lobbyists to disclose that status prior to meeting with a commissioner and some other figures of authority and it sets penalties for noncompliance.

Commissioners talked it over briefly. Commissioner Jeb Smith thought it had the potential of unintended consequences that could be overly onerous, arduous or costly. Commissioner Jay Morris wondered just who would administer and enforce it. Would we need to hire more staff?

Both are valid concerns.

Smith and Commissioner Henry Dean both mentioned they’d heard the Legislature had a bill upcoming in 2019 intended to “fix” all that — and that it’s premature to work on a local law that may be preempted by state law next year. True as well, but more than a little Pollyanna.

If St. Johns County is waiting on our state legislature to tighten up lobbying rules, well, snowballs will freeze.

In late March of this year, just as the legislature was set to adjourn, Florida’s Ethics Commission did something largely unprecedented. It issued a warning to the Senate expressing its “deep concern” over an amendment to a bill that would gut existing ethics rules

Current rules say what shouldn’t need saying: A person can’t represent a firm before the board if another member that firm sits on that board. The permutations of these relationships drift out from there. It seemed especially concerning to lawyers.

The amendment this year to gut the bill failed. So did the same amendment in both 2017 and 2015. The sponsor of the latest attempt was Sen. Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican — and a lawyer. He was quoted after his amendment crashed: “The Commission is wrong on this issue. Hopefully the legislature addresses this matter next session.”

If at first you don’t succeed ...

Edward Adelbert Slavin

1. This misguided decision was the result of pressure from devious developer lobbyist RACHAEL BENNETT, et al. Read her angry, misleading, e-mails here:
2. Good editorial. Salud, Jim Sutton.
3. Only lobbyists were consulted by the County Attorney, who misleadingly and mistakenly called them “stakeholders.” No one from League of Women Voters or other public interest groups was consulted. No government watchdog or citizens were consulted. No law professors were consulted. Wonder why? St. Johns County is the captive of developers -- foreign-funded LLCs that don’t want to disclose who owns them, or even who lobbies for them. Shameful!
4. At the June 19, 2018 meeting, Commissioner James K. Johns rightly complained that lobbyists were shown drafts before Commissioners were involved, and that the matter was delayed without explanation.
5. Lobbyist pressure manufactured by County Attorney PATRICK FRANCIS McCORMACK & Co. helped torpedo this simple lobbying registration ordinance. similar to those elsewhere.
6. Share the shame of the corrupt St. Johns County political machine.
7. County Attorney PATRICK FRANCIS McCORMACK and County Administrator MICHAEL DAVID WANCHICK are tools of the rich and powerful.
8. They don’t give a fig about you.
9. They disdain open, honest government.
10. FBI must investigate.

1 day ago
Ethics commission? Puh leeeze! these people are snoring while Florida is daily being ripped off and lied to by our very ‘representatives’... what a job...get paid to ignore villainy and robbery... fire them all then all nobody!!!!

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