BY BUDDY NEVINS
County Commissioner John Rodstrom is taking one last shot.
Although he is less than two months from leaving office, Rodstrom will proposed next week eviscerating a key provision of the 2010 county Ethics Law.
The law forbids commissioners from sitting on selection/procurement committees. The committee recommend who will supplies services and goods to the county government.
Rodstrom would put commissioners back on the committees.
“I think policy makers who are elected should make the decision,” Rodstrom says.
John Rodstrom: Shaking Up Government To The End
Here is how county government works:
Say a large group of firms want to provide services or goods.
A selection/procurement committee weeds through the proposals and/or bids. The committee then winnows the list of proposed vendors to a more manageable number.
The handful that are now “shortlisted” are ranked with a recommendation on who should get the business. The recommendation then is sent to the county commission for final action.
Before the Ethics Law, a committee consisting of staff membes and county commissioners did the shortlisting. Now only staff sits on the committees.
Rodstrom believes it is wrong to allow unelected staff to make important decisions like purchasing.
Supporters of the Ethics Law believe allowing commissioners on the committee gives lobbyists a greater influence on government through campaign contributions.
Until the Ethics Law was passed, the committees were a font of campaign contributions from lobbyists, who believed they had to pay to become shortlisted. A second contribution was given when the short-listed companies reached the county commission.
“These are two different issues. Campaign contributions are a different issue. Do they want public funding of campaigns? My calendar isn’t any less busy with lobbyists trying to see me now then before the Ethics Law,” Rodstrom says.
“I’m not a friend of the lobbyists,” he continues. “Look at Judy Stern.”
Rodstrom had a highly publicized break with lobbyist Stern. He accused her of bragging to clients that she had a lock on his vote and the vote of his wife, Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Charlotte Rodstrom.
The maverick Rodstrom has a long history as the Don Quixote of Broward government. He strikes out publicly at what he believes is right, regardless of whether it is good for him politically.
And this move looks like political suicide.
But Rodstrom is leaving office. And he is speaking his mind…like he has since the 1980s. This item is a long shot, Rodstrom says, since it would take six of the nine commissioners to approve it.
That doesn’t deter him:
“I just philosophically believe that the elected policy makers should make these type of decisions…It is just one of the loose ends I wanted to discuss before leaving office. When I was elected 30 years ago (to the Fort Lauderdale City Commission), I said I would get on my soap box and tell people like it is. I’m still doing that. I’m still at it.”
Here is an e-mail I received today, one of several:
As a member of the now defunct Broward County Ethics Commission I am forwarding to you the email below in the hopes that you will react to this proposed ordinance as strongly as I have.
For background, you should know that the only governmental entity in the county that allowed elected officials to sit on selection/procurement committees was the County Commission. All municipalities have prohibited it for the very reason the Ethics Commission sought to eliminate this blatant pandering to lobbyists for funds. You will also note that this amounts to double dipping at the lobbyist fountain because first they get to vote at the procurement level and then it goes to them again at the commission level.
The Ethics Commission took testimony from both academia and state ethics panels before voting to prohibit elected officials from seating themselves on procurement committees.
This is an affront to the voters of the county and the will of the people.