14 November 2023

Your government at work - Weekly briefing - 14 November 2023

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Tourist Development Council audit fallout. Your government has been working hard, but outcomes are not yet clear. 
  • Suspension recommended. The Monroe County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) voted unanimously to recommend suspension of TDC Marketing Director Stacey Mitchell with pay (annual salary $205,749) in the wake of the audit released November 1 by the Monroe County Clerk’s Office.
  • The audit was highly critical of the TDC’s financial controls and business dealings. But he BOCC doesn't have the authority to suspend Mitchell (who is not a county employee), only to recommend that the TDC board (which meets in a special session Wednesday November 15) do so. 
  • Former Restaurant Store owner Richard Tallmadge said, “I know the workings of the TDC.... This group has just gotten too big and is a cash cow.... Some people have sat on TDC for 16 or 17 years that just rubber-stamp funding projects.
  • Cold feet? Rita Irwin, chair of the TDC’s governing board, addressed the BOCC meeting and raised concerns about suspending Mitchell.
  • Outside auditor. Also unanimously, the BOCC agreed to bring in Cherry Bekaert, an accounting firm based in North Carolina, to take a deeper dive into the TDC's books and investigate further.
  • Grand jury investigation. Florida Keys State Attorney Dennis Ward said he will take the troubling audit findings to a grand jury and hire a yet another forensic auditor
  • Inevitable result. Linda Cunningham sees the TDC's woes as stemming from inattentive oversight
Traffic study rejected. In a split 3-2 vote, the BOCC chose not to accept a U.S. 1 traffic study that could have halted development except for single-family homes and instead chose to kick the can down our overcrowded road and conduct another study in 2024. 
  • Two webinars, on November 14 and 16, are planned for Florida Commerce staff to “inform local governments on updates to the Hurricane Evacuation Modeling and draft results.” The current models, based on population data and a simulation of evacuation using the Keys’ roadways before a disaster event, form the basis for the cap on building allocations in the Keys. 
  • Action alert. Advocacy group Last Stand of the Florida Keys issued an action alert about the webinars. 
No headache relief. Attempts by Florida Democrats to help Floridians cope with the rapidly growing burden of home insurance costs, address a decrease in access to affordable housing and provide a needed expansion of Medicare for kids were stopped dead in the mud during last week’s special legislative session.
Charter county: What's in it for us? The Monroe Board of County Commissioners wants voters to approve a charter form of government, which would allow them to create a new tax to pay the enormous costs of fixing bridges and roads across the island chain.
Griffiths stepping down. Andy Griffiths, one of the Florida Keys’ longest-serving elected officials who has served on the county school board for more than 30 years, has decided he will not seek reelection when his term ends in November 2024.  

Taxpayer dollars for Trump defense? Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis floated the idea of paying former President Donald Trump’s growing legal fees, plus those of any other presidential candidate from Florida, at the Republican Party of Florida’s Freedom Summit.

Wachusett. Mark Hedden reminisced about his childhood on a mountaintop

Our Eyes

Lynne Bentley-Kemp

Previously in Key West Voices

We're among the lucky ones. Linda Cunningham remembered why she and her husband made Key West their home.

Committee says no to court consolidation, unanimously. During a virtual November 3 meeting, a state judicial committee voted unanimously in favor of a motion to recommend keeping the circuit court district boundary structure intact. 
  • After weighing data and thousands of surveys from law professionals and the public, the committee will recommend no consolidation of Florida’s 20 circuit courts to state legislators. 
  • In June, Florida House Speaker Paul Renner tasked the state Supreme Court with analyzing a consolidation of the 20 judicial circuits. 
Charter workshop. The County Commission hosted a public workshop on November 6 to discuss a proposal that would be the largest change to its form of government in recent decades. 
  • Earlier this year, the BOCC agreed to pursue changing the way it governs and instituting a charter form of government as a way to generate revenue for critical infrastructure programs without having to raise property taxes or go to the state Capitol to ask for funding.

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