Purge politics

From Halifax Media Group.

Things are getting downright weird at the St. Johns River Water Management District, and each eyebrow-raising event — the list is growing — raises new concerns about the region’s future water policy, indeed its water supply.

First, after a series of moves by the water district administration that actually broke from the historically passive rubber-stamping of every water permit request — the denial of a small one for Sleepy Creek Lands, aka Adena Springs Ranch, notable among them — the executive director and four of the district’s top managers were suddenly shown the door.

They resigned, of course, but no one is pretending it was voluntary.

Then, when it became apparent the purge was orchestrated out of Tallahassee by Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Jon Steverson, with at least approval from Gov. Rick Scott’s office, their involvement was categorically denied and responsibility for the housecleaning was laid on Interim Executive Director Mike Register, a longtime district scientist who accepted the four managers’ resignation one day into the job.

Register’s explanation was he simply “found it in the best interest of the district to accept the resignations of four at-will employees this week.” Right.

But why? Don’t ask. Like every decision coming from the Scott monarchy, the people who fund this agency and whose water supply depends on its actions, policies and, yes, leadership do not need answers — and they are not getting them.

Oh, it gets weirder.

On Tuesday, the St. Johns Governing Board met and, lo and behold, a majority of its members had an executive director candidate already in mind — Ann Shortelle, who currently holds the same post at the Suwannee River Water Management District.

Not just in mind, but ready to hire.

Five of the nine board members voted to hire Shortelle sight unseen.

Not until board member Maryam Ghyabit of Ormond Beach said she found “it a little bothersome” to hire Shortelle without meeting her did the board pause — until a special meeting scheduled for next Thursday.

The rubber stamp is at the ready, to be sure.

Again, the heavy hand of Tallahassee looms large.

Obviously the St. Johns board is nothing more than a bunch of lackeys for the governor rather than advocates for our region’s water future. And clearly, Scott and Steverson do not belive what was, or rather is so wrong at the district to necessitate a purge of most of its top management is the people’s business.

Florida’s five water management districts were established to provide local oversight of the state’s water resources and are presumably constitutionally independent.

Of course, Scott and his regime have no regard for the Florida Constitution, as evidenced by their disregard for, among others, the Pubic Records Law, the Fair Districts Amendment and now Amendment 1, all of which they have flouted with impunity.

Scott has no regard for the environment or our state’s worsening water crisis.

We can think of no reason to believe what is happening at St. Johns is

“in the best interest of the district.”

If there is one, please, Gov. Scott or Secretary Steverson, share with us what it is.

Because what we are seeing so far is more than “a little bothersome.”

From Halifax Media Group.

This editorial first appeared in the Ocala Star-Banner. OUR OPINION-Purge politics



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