BY BUDDY NEVINS
Broward commissioners are violating the spirit of the new ethics law.
That’s clear after this week’s vote on a garbage disposal contract.
Commissioners ordered its staff to begin negotiations with two companies – Wheelabrator Technologies and Sun/Bergeron—despite evidence that other companies want the disposal contract.
Why Wheelabrator and Sun/Bergeron? Could it be that the two firms have a bevy of lobbyists and owners who are always good for beaucoup bucks in every campaign?
So apparently commissioners didn’t care about pushing the edge of the county’s new ethics law.
By picking only two firms to negotiate the contract, commissioners did exactly what the ethics law is designed to prevent.
The new law bans commissioners from serving on selection/evaluation committees. Those are the committees which recommend vendors for future contracts.
Before the new ethics law, commissioners fought to serve on the committees. By being the ones to pick which businesses got to negotiate contract, commissioners could curry favor and campaign contributions from lobbyists.
That’s why it was prohibited in the new law.
So the wily commissioners have now found a way to still keep that opportunity for contributions operating – just bypass the committee process and pick the vendors themselves. Then order the staff to negotiate a contract.
That’s what they did with the garbage disposal contract. Do their actions violate the ethics law that has overwhelming support by the public?
Lawyers will have to decide that one.
I believe they at least violated the spirit of the law.
Commissioners could make the public feel comfortable about dancing on the edge of the ethics law. Any of them or their families running this year should refuse campaign contributions from Wheelabrator and Sun/Bergeron, their principals and lobbyists. And they should return any contributions already given to them.
The ones running this year are Dale Holness, Kristin Jacobs (for Congress), Stacy Ritter, Charlotte Rodstrom (running for county commission and the wife of Commissioner John Rodstrom) and possibly Ilene Lieberman, who is considering a campaign for judge. Commissioner Lois Wexler’s term expires and she has not opened a re-election campaign yet.
Will they do the right thing when it comes to campaign contributions?
I’m not holding my breath.