Phil Ammann - 6/389 - SaintPetersBlog

Phil Ammann

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

St. Pete College announces five finalists for new president, interviews scheduled for May

Dr. Bill Law

St. Petersburg College has narrowed the list in its search for a new president, replacing the retiring Dr. Bill Law.

The college’s search and screen committee announced five finalists Monday, each scheduled to visit the campus through next month to meet with faculty, staff, students and members of the community.

Members of the SPC board of trustees will interview the candidates, through five special meetings scheduled for May.

An announcement of the final choice is tentatively set for a special meeting at 9 a.m. June 9. All interviews and meetings will be at the St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus Music Center, 6605 Fifth Ave. N.

Finalists, interview times and dates include:

Edward Bonahue, Ph.D., Provost and VP for Academic Affairs, Santa Fe College, Gainesville — 4 p.m. May 4.

Stan Vittetoe, Ph.D., Provost, St. Petersburg College, Clearwater — 4 p.m. May 9.

Tonjua Williams, Ph.D., Sr. vice president, Student Services, St. Petersburg College, St. Petersburg — 4 p.m. May 16.

James Henningsen, EdD, President, College of Central Florida, Ocala — 4 p.m. May 22.

Frank A. Biafora, Jr., Ph.D., Dean and professor, College of Arts and Sciences at University of South Florida St. Petersburg — 4 p.m. May 26.

The winning candidate will become SPC’s seventh president, replacing Law, who has held the post since June 7, 2010. Law announced his retirement in November, and will step down July 1.

Law played a crucial role in the development of the Douglas L. Jamerson, Jr. Midtown Center, which opened August 2015 in South St. Petersburg, with a commitment to provide educational equity in a traditionally underserved community.

Among Law’s other achievements include working with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Aspen Institute, offering expert testimony to Congress, and serving on the Florida Task Force on Community College Baccalaureate Education. Law is also co-chair of the SPC Strategic Issues Council, a foundation of the Achieving the Dream Initiative.

During Law’s tenure, SPC was recognized as one of 30 community colleges in the nation to be part of the Pathways Project led by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). He also launched The College Experience, which received a Chancellor’s Best Practices Award in 2014 and as a Model of Excellence by University Business Magazine in 2015 for its effect on student success rates four First-Time-In-College (FTIC) students and minority males.

 

Tampa subdivision accuses former leadership of lying, falsifying records over recall vote

A Tampa subdivision is accusing its former leadership of lying and falsifying evidence to overturn a recall vote and stay in power, after an expensive arbitration process.

Camden Woods is a subdivision in southeast Tampa with 115 voting homeowners. Records suggest it is managed by Avid Management of Tampa.

Camden Woods’ current Homeowner’s Association president is 58-year-old Julie Patricia McDaniel.

Former HOA staff includes Terry Jolly Henry, 44, who previously served as president and is also a licensed real estate agent; John Clay Jenkins, 65, was vice president. Lanette Nicole Stevens, 43, was former secretary.

In 2016, homeowners at the Camden Woods subdivision narrowly approved a petition to recall the subdivision’s three-member board — led by then-president Henry.

A few days later, the board asked the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation to intercede, saying 10 of the homeowners had rescinded their votes to recall.

Arbitrator Terri Leigh Jones later ruled against Henry, Jenkins and Stevens, but not before the Homeowner’s Association spent over $18,000 on legal fees. Jones upheld the recall vote after concluding that the three had lied about discussing each of the 10 allegedly rescinded votes during a public meeting Sept. 6, 2016.

In a 104-page filing in Hillsborough County Circuit Court dated April 5, the HOA is claiming breach of fiduciary duty, accusing the ousted board members of fabricating evidence of rescinded votes to attempt to stay in power.

According to the complaint: “Defendants … fabricated events, fabricated motions, fabricated votes, fabricated revocations, fabricated signatures, and drafted four pages of falsified minutes, creating sham motions that did not occur.”

In addition, the three are accused of “intentionally and knowingly misled the Association’s attorney, provided the Association’s attorney with the fabricated evidence and fictitious minutes of the meeting, and through a series of motions and pleadings continue to improperly waste Association funds on events and evidence defendants knew were completely falsified.”

Current President McDaniel is the person allegedly leading the effort to oust the three former leaders.

Interestingly, Henry’s Facebook page has the introduction: “No Weapons formed against me shall prosper!”

 

Nearly 22K ballots now returned in St. Pete Al Lang Referendum

Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark released updated vote by mail numbers for the St. Petersburg Special Referendum election Tuesday, May 2.

On Monday, of the 68,694 mail ballots sent, just over 31 percent – 21,756 – have returned. By party, 9,904 Democrats, 7,804 Republicans and 4,048 NPR/other have cast ballots.

Turnout now stands at just under 13 percent of the 168,145 registered voters eligible to vote in this election: 46,658 Republicans, 77,825 Democrats and 43,662 No Party Affiliation/other. The City of St. Petersburg will not conduct early voting as provided in Florida Statute.

Residents will decide whether to allow the City Council to approve extending the Al Lang Field lease with the Tampa Bay Rowdies for up to 25 years, part of a plan by the Rowdies to attract a Major-League Soccer expansion team.

According to the referendum language: “These conditions include but are not limited to: term not exceeding 25 years; primary but not sole purpose is a home field for a Major-League Soccer expansion team; and City funding shall not be used for stadium upgrades or expansion proposed in bid for expansion team or required for award of expansion team.”

Rowdies owner Bill Edwards is also paying for the referendum itself.

Mail ballots must be received by 7 p.m. election day at one of the Pinellas elections offices: 315 Court St, Room 117, in Clearwater; 13001 Starkey Rd, Largo (Starkey Lakes Corporate Center) and 501 1st Ave. N (5th St. N Entrance), St. Petersburg. Office hours are Monday – Friday: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Election day hours are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

 

Enviro group fronting Florida’s ‘ban the bag’ effort spends next to nothing, accused of skirting lobbying rules

Single-use plastic bags, found at nearly every retail, grocery and convenience store in the nation, are now the latest target of environmentalists, as well as by state and local lawmakers.

However, in the case of the leading nonprofit behind Florida’s growing “ban the bag” movement, something is not quite right.

The Surfrider Foundation, headquartered in San Clemente, began as a small environmental organization to “champion surf and sand” of California beaches. Thirty years later, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit has evolved into a multimillion dollar nationwide concern, claiming to be “dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world’s oceans and beaches through a powerful activist network” and focusing on such hot-button environmental issues like climate change.

Having a growing presence — 11 chapters in Florida — Surfrider is working to ban not only plastic bags but also polystyrene, balloons, plastic water bottles, plastic drinking straws and the like.

But through financial secrecy, open politicking and skirting state and federal lobbying rules, Surfrider seems to be expending a lot of energy to “ban the bag” — while spending next to nothing to get it done. A closer look at the Surfrider network reveals a dubious lack of spending on lobbying efforts, clearly disproportionate to its actual activities.

Steven Allen writes in The Orange County Register: “According to the group’s Form 990, Surfrider generates $6.7 million in annual revenue, supposedly to combat climate change, but claims to spend minimal sums on political advocacy and lobbying. From 2010 to 2014, the group’s total lobbying limit, given its 501(c)(3) status, was roughly $2.3 million, yet Surfrider reported less than $70,000 in lobbying expenditures — 3 percent of the total limit.”

“During that period,” Allen notes, “Surfrider’s total grassroots lobbying limit was about $600,000, yet the group only spent a reported $24,909 on grassroots lobbying — 4 percent of its limit.”

Surfrider — which sends groups to lobby legislators in Washington D.C. — primarily targets local ordinances, as they seek to block or undermine statewide measures for uniformity of commerce (as described by Surfrider CEO Chad Nelson).

The group urges cities to mount legal challenges in parts of the county (such as Florida) where the regulatory authority to tax and single-use plastic bag bans is reserved exclusively for the state.

As part of its campaign, Surfrider has become a regular fixture at legislative lobby days and fly-ins, most recently in support of legislation that would authorize localities to enact pilot ordinances to ban or tax plastic bags.

Pushing its legislative agenda in Tallahassee, Surfrider helped write the statewide “ban the bag” bill sponsored in 2017 by Miami Beach Democrat David Richardson. HB 93 would allow water-adjacent municipalities of less than 100,000 residents to pass pilot programs banning single-use plastic bags. The Senate companion (SB 162), is now in the Community Affairs Committee.

In addition to its statewide campaign, Surfrider’s most recent local victory was in Coral Gables, which became the first city in Florida to move toward a total ban on the single-use plastic bag.

On March 14, the Coral Gables City Council gave the OK to a preliminary ordinance prohibiting plastic bags used by retailers or at special events. A vote May 8 could make the ban permanent.

Coral Gables represents a key part of Surfrider’s strategy. All they need is a single city to contradict state policy, provoking a lawsuit and giving the group an opportunity to legally challenge the entire state law. For this, Surfrider is willing to pay for the fight.

That enthusiasm to provide financial support to a range of political, legal and legislative battles raise a number of red flags.

For example, Surfrider’s spending irregularities have caught the attention of the Capital Research Center, a Washington, D.C.-based investigative think tank.

In February, the CRC published an extensive examination of the Surfrider Foundation’s activist history as a 501(c)(3) organization, which included several examples of financial filing discrepancies, potential political underreporting and activist training. Soon after, the group issued a shorter synopsis following up on Surfrider’s possible abuses of nonprofit status.

On March 22, CRC submitted a formal complaint against Surfrider Foundation with the Internal Revenue Service.

As a nonprofit, tax-exempt public service organization, federal rules prohibit Surfrider Foundation from engaging in direct action politics. To most taxpayers, it is straightforward — tax-exempt, nonprofit service organizations should not be in the business of politics.

In stark comparison, Surfrider wears its political activates like a badge of honor — claiming more than 400 campaign victories since 2006, and an activist campaign school for members (even offering courses such as Advocacy 101, Campaigns 101 and Lobbying 101 courses).

An egregious case of this gray area between nonprofit and active politicking is demonstrated in a YouTube video posted June 2016 — “How Political Hardball Can Save Our Oceans and Coast” — which features a Surfrider attorney openly colluding with candidates and talking strategy of using PACs and fundraising.

The video brings up an interesting issue: a lawyer for a 501(c)(3), onstage with a c(4) director and a candidate for public office, holding a panel with the theme “politics and grassroots DO mix.”

As part of the Environmental Media Association Speaker Series, the conversation also preceded a candidate fundraiser — with suggested donations to said candidate — something undoubtedly troublesome in light of candidate prohibitions for (c)(3)s. Flyers promoting the forum, and a fundraiser for Salud Carbajal running for California’s 24th Congressional District, were at the same address, with overlapping times.

It is also somewhat unwise for a candidate to speak openly about how a (c)(3) works in concert with a (c)(4), acknowledging that specific political issues/candidates/ballot discussions are being raised in (c)(3) chapter meetings.

What’s more, financial records show Surfrider claimed to spend no more than $25,000 on political activities since 2012 — well below its legal caps. That alone is improbable, given the degree they have been active in Florida and nationwide: lobbying Tallahassee this year, as well as its actions in Coral Gables and helping craft bills such as Richardson’s HB 93.

The fundamental question is this: How can a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) get away with open politicking, claiming political activities nationwide and “hundreds” of victories, all while spending practically nothing on the politics and lobbying to do so?

Emily Slosberg’s personal, uphill battle for tougher texting laws

Twenty-one years after a car crash that took her twin sister’s life, Emily Slosberg is continuing the fight to make Florida roads safer.

Slosberg, the state representative and daughter of longtime Democratic state lawmaker Irv Slosberg, has picked up her father’s crusade on driver’s safety by championing stronger texting while driving laws statewide.

As reported by WTSP 10Investigates, the issue is deeply personal for both Emily and Irv Slosberg,

On Feb. 23, 1996, seven teenagers between the ages of 13 and 15 — including Emily and Dori Slosberg — had been riding in the back seat of a 1995 Honda Civic. In the front seat were a 19-year-old and 17-year-old.

After the car had swerved to miss an oncoming car, the Honda hit a pole and slammed into another vehicle. Five of the teens were killed, others suffered severe spinal injuries. Emily Slosberg spent 10 days in the hospital and missed her sister’s funeral.

Irv Slosberg, who first came to the Florida House in 2000, passed a mandatory seat belt bill in 2009 — the Dori Slosberg and Katie Marchetti Safety Belt Law — signed by then-Gov. Charlie Crist. Slosberg was also one of first to advocate stronger texting laws in Florida, first enacted in 2013.

Emily Slosberg, CEO of the Dori Slosberg Foundation, is now a Democrat representing District 91, the seat her father held since 2012 and had given up in 2016 for an unsuccessful Senate run.

Emily seeks to continue what her father started.

“We have an epidemic on the roads,” she told WTSP. “I believe that texting and driving, distracted driving, is a major cause of driving fatalities.”

Slosberg said that she is not looking to replace Florida’s existing texting while driving law but to strengthen it.

Current Florida law puts texting while driving as a secondary offense — law enforcement cannot pull a driver over for texting only, and can only do so when they are committing another traffic violation. Even then, a texting ticket is only $20.

Initially, Slosberg sought to use a creative tactic to change the law, by attempting to introduce a bill making texting and driving a primary offense in her Palm Beach County district (known as a “municipality bill”), effectively sidestepping the state law restrictions that consider it a secondary offense.

Slosberg, however, faced stiff opposition from influential members of the Legislature — including some from her own delegation.

“She said on the night she planned to present her bill to her colleagues,” write Donovan Myrie and Noah Pransky of WTSP. “State Sen. Bobby Powell, the chair of the local Palm County delegation, blocked her from speaking to her colleagues. Slosberg was forced to make her presentation during public testimony, and in her words, leadership attempted to ‘add insult to injury’ by adjourning before she had a chance to speak.”

Slosberg also faced a legal challenge for her municipality bill, when Dawn Wynn, the senior assistant attorney for Palm Beach County, issued an opinion (at Powell’s request) confirming that “traffic laws shall be uniform throughout the state” and reinforcing that texting and driving is a secondary offense.

Republicans, many with a Libertarian lean, were also resistant to the idea.

What’s more, Powell suggested making texting while driving a primary offense could have racial overtones — saying that additional laws give law enforcement another opportunity to profile African-Americans and Hispanics.

Despite that, Slosberg stays undeterred, and progress could be coming, although not soon enough for many.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran — typically opposed to greater government intervention — told 10Investigates he will consider a workshop of the issue which could include a national study by Florida’s Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA). That would result in legislative recommendations in late 2017, and the issue of distracted driving would return for the 2018 Session. If passed, tougher laws in Florida could come as soon as summer 2018.

Former employee sued by Tampa activist Sam Rashid ‘won’t back down,’ lawyer says

Jacqueline Lilley former employee of Divine Designs Salon

A 21-year-old woman sued by Tampa political activist Sam Rashid is not “backing down,” and has filed a motion Monday to dismiss the case.

Rashid, who had twice resigned seats on prestigious boards after making controversial posts on social media, has filed suit in Hillsborough County against former employee Jacqueline Lilley for an alleged libelous” Facebook post in March.

Lilley worked as a receptionist at Divine Designs Salon in Brandon, which Rashid co-owns. She had written online that “the owners are thieves,” adding that workers at Devine Designs were ordered not to communicate with former workers who left on “bad terms.”

Lilley also urged staff there to leave.

Although the post just received over 39 comments and “liked” only about 14 times before it was taken down, Rashid, 55, sought damages in excess of $15,000.

However, in a statement, Lilley says she isn’t shying away from a fight. She has retained Tampa attorney Richard A. Harrison, who filed the motion Monday morning.

“Lilley spoke out about salon practices that she thought were unfair,” Harrison says. “In response, Rashid’s lawyer sent her a two-page, legalese-laden and very threatening sounding letter. Lilley took down her post after a few days, thinking that would resolve the matter. Instead, Rashid sued her for defamation. He’s also recently sued at least two other former employees of the salon.”

“This case isn’t about Rashid’s reputation,” Harrison says. “Rashid filing this lawsuit actually guarantees that more people will read Ms. Lilley’s comments than would ever have seen them otherwise.”

While the initial post was far from viral, Harrison notes that “well over 100 people” have now viewed, shared or commented on the Tampa Bay Times’ online article and accompanying social media post about the case.

“Let’s be clear,” Harrison adds. “This lawsuit is about bullying and intimidating the salon’s current and former employees, almost all of whom are young women … But that’s not really surprising coming from a man who called a successful professional woman a ‘taxpayer subsidized slut,’ is it?”

Harrison also brought up the irony of Rashid’s resignation from the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority.

In June 2014, Gov. Rick Scott appointed Rashid, then a high-profile GOP supporter, to the Hillsborough County’s Aviation Board. In September 2015, Rashid attacked Tampa businessperson Beth Leytham for her involvement in the “Go Hillsborough” transportation initiative, funded by the county government. Hillsborough had been considering increasing sales taxes to build new roads, improve bridges and expand mass transit.

In a Facebook post Sept. 2, 2015, Rashid called Leytham a “taxpayer-subsidized slut,” suggesting she had “intimately close relationships” with two county and one city official.

After a wave of outrage and mounting pressure for Scott to fire him, Rashid resigned Oct. 9, 2015. In his resignation letter, he did not apologize for making the Facebook slur.

“If Sam wants to fight this battle publicly, that’s what we’ll do,” Harrison says. “I’ll fight for the women who still have to deal with him and who fear for their jobs every day.”

As for Lilley’s bottom line, her lawyer quotes rocker Tom Petty: “I won’t back down.”

 

Business rent tax cuts still in play this Session

Florida’s business rent tax is one of the outstanding issues at play as lawmakers crawl toward sine die of the 2017 Legislative Session, set for May 5.

As the only state-sanctioned sales tax on commercial leases in the entire nation, a pair of bills now making way through the Florida Capitol that attempt to lighten the load on commercial businesses, which pay more than $1.7 billion in rent taxes every year.

Included in the House’s tax package is HB 7109, a reduction of the business rent tax — lowering it from 6 percent to 4.5 percent for two years. If approved, the tax cut would begin January 1, 2018, and then supporting a permanent tax rate reduction from 6 percent to 5.5 percent beginning January 1, 2020.

HB 7109 is on the House’s Special Order Calendar for Tuesday.

While the Senate has not yet put together a package, there are two bills in the upper chamber that seek to give businesses a break.

Sponsored by Hialeah Republican Sen. Rene Garcia, SB 704 seeks to provide tenants with relief from the Florida’s “double taxation” — a “tax on tax” that occurs when tenants pay property taxes for property owners.

The bill is a proposed alternate business rent tax cut, targeted to commercial tenants who have leases that separately state they pay their landlord’s property taxes as part of their lease payments.

Another bill (SB 484), put forth by Port Orange Republican Dorothy Hukill, would reduce the state sales tax rate charged on commercial leases from 6 percent to 5 percent.

Supporters of tax cuts say Florida’s business rent tax puts the state at a distinct competitive disadvantage, one that is unique in the country. Commercial rent taxes makes Florida’s competitors more attractive to business since companies are naturally more resistant to move to the state if they can get similar benefits elsewhere without paying a tax on rents.

Marco Rubio: With ‘higher standard’ for lawmakers, Frank Artiles was right to resign

Marco Rubio has ‘no doubt’ state Sen. Frank Artiles‘ did the right thing by resigning from the Florida Legislature Friday in the wake of a racist and sexist outburst against two lawmakers.

Elected officials are rightfully “held to a different standard,” Rubio said.

“You hold a public trust, you are a representative of those districts, and you are going to be held to a different standard, and people should know that coming in,” the U.S. Senator from Miami told host Jim DeFede on “Facing South Florida.”

First reported in the Miami Herald, Rubio’s interview will broadcast in full Sunday on WFOR-CBS 4.

“No one forces anyone to run for office,” Rubio, a former state representative and House Speaker, added, “And no one forces you to run in the state Senate.”

“I know Perry Thurston. I know Audrey Gibson, actually very well,” Rubio said, about the two lawmakers involved in Artiles’ comments Monday evening at the Governors Club in Tallahassee.

“She served with me in the House. We’re good friends. And I’m sorry she found herself in that position, because I know that is not what she is in Tallahassee to do. She didn’t seek this out.”

Artiles comments were obviously “unfortunate” and “inappropriate,” Rubio said.

He explained: “My understanding is that he resigned, and, in the end, what people don’t realize is the legislative bodies, the Senate and the House, they are the judge of their own members’ qualifications. They can remove members from their seats. And it sounds like that is where the Senate was headed.”

That said, there was “no doubt” Artiles made the right choice, Rubio said.

“It had gotten in the way of, I think, the Senate being able to function in Tallahassee, and, ultimately, I think, gotten in the way of his ability to continue to serve effectively,” he added.

“You know, I think it happens, and when it happens it has to be dealt with,” Rubio said. “For the most part, people need to recognize that when you are in public office, the words you use, your behavior, is held to a different standard.”

With a “collegial body” like the Florida Senate, Rubio pointed out the need “to work with 39 other people in Tallahassee” to get things done.

“How you comport yourself with your colleagues has a direct impact on your effectiveness,” he said. “Obviously, the terminology that was used is inappropriate in any setting. I think people, for the most part, know that.”

When a person makes “horrible mistakes or decisions horrible things,” Rubio said they need to understand that “they’re not — you’re not going to be treated, nor should you be, like anybody in some other job.”

Elected officials “hold a public trust,” he said. “You are a representative of those districts, and you are going to be held to a different standard, and people should know that coming in.”

Another Clearwater competitive bid error proves devil is truly in details

After awarding more than $16 million in the past decade to consultants without going through competitive bidding, the city of Clearwater had finally corrected a gross misunderstanding of Florida law governing the process.

While that may be indeed admirable, another potential problem could be on the horizon, as small print in a recent Request for Qualifications for Clearwater consulting services could lead to big headaches for the city.

Florida law has allowed governments to hire professional services — such as architects and engineers — without competition, but only if total project construction costs are less than $2 million.

Last year, officials in Clearwater corrected a misinterpretation of the law had continued for more two decades. Previously, as the Tampa Bay Times noted, Clearwater city leaders believed that if design contracts met another requirement in the statute — an agreement for particular work that has a fixed end date — design companies chosen with no bids, even for construction projects over $2 million.

“We weren’t trying to do anything wrong,” Director of Engineering Michael Quillen told the Times. “It’s confusing language in the Florida statute.”

Citing a confusion in the language of the law, Attorney General Pam Bondi said, “an apparent ambiguity exists” for when governments can use a firm on a continuing contract. It all rested on the word “or.”

According to the law, governments can give contracts to a company when construction costs are under $2 million; if design fees are less than $200,000; or for specific work that has an end date.

The word “or” implies a choice, Bondi asserted. It led to governments “circumventing the selection process,” when the $2 million limit should apply in all cases.

Good catch, but that might not be all.

In the Florida Statutes, there is the Consultants’ Competitive Negotiation Act (CCNA), a law that applies to the procurement of certain professional services, such as architecture, engineering, landscape architecture and the like.

CCNA instructs agencies to use a multistep process to select professional services — more than a simple dollar figure — where the qualifications of those who will provide the service are as important (or more) than just the costs.

Among the factors to be reviewed in qualifying firms, the agency has to consider the capabilities, adequacy of personnel, past record, and experience.

In these cases, the lowest bid is not necessarily the best way to go. Assigning a dollar figure to intangibles like experience and qualifications works against the intent of the CCNA.

It is for that reason a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) from the City of Clearwater raises more than a few red flags.

On March 30, the city issued an RFQ for an engineering firm to offer consulting services for its Wastewater Collection System Master Plan.

The company selected would help update the Clearwater’s plans for the wastewater collection system, which currently includes approximately 8,287 manholes and 389 cleanouts; 1,951,179 feet (370 miles) of gravity sewers; 199,811 ft. (about 38 miles) of primary force lines and 73 pump stations. The system has three service areas associated with the city’s three water reclamation facilities.

The proposal format gives very detailed instructions for interested firms, on the format, experience, qualifications and technical expertise.

Buried on Page 16, however, are specific criteria:

— “Schedule to complete the Master Plan including estimated number of hours per task, by personnel/position.”

— “Project Methodology. Demonstrate project understanding and ability of proposed approach to meet the needs of the City. Provide a detailed work plan, including a tentative schedule to complete the Master Plan including estimated number of hours per task, by personnel/position.”

Each notation attempts to put a number on something subjective, which is forbidden by the CCNA — and Florida law.

Companies under consideration could manipulate such by-task estimates, handing the city a shortcut in the bidding process by enumerating what is not supposed to be quantifiable.

All it takes is for the Clearwater screening committee to use that number, which is only an estimate and can be lowballed, to give an unfair advantage to the “lowest” bidder.

That was exactly what lawmakers sought to prevent when passing the CCNA in 1984, to keep from throwing good taxpayer money after bad when a winning bid turns out to have unreliable qualifications or expectations.

It should be noted the criteria with theses phrases appear in a single Clearwater RFQ (so far), and it only pertains to a section of the request worth 20 points out of a possible 100. But even a slight, intentional change in that number could prove just enough to tip the scales for one company over another.

And for Clearwater, after 20 years circumventing the legally required competitive bidding process for certain city projects, the devil is truly in the details.

Lauren Book unveils display on resilience, triumph over sexual abuse in Capitol rotunda

Book

Child advocate and state Sen. Lauren Book‘s inspirational story will be featured in Sheryl Sandberg‘s newly launched initiative on themes of resilience through tragedy.

On April 19, Book — a survivor of childhood sexual abuse who became an internationally renowned activist — will exhibit an installation decorating the Capitol rotunda, made up of more than 750 shoes worn and submitted by sexual assault survivors of all ages throughout Florida. The display will be up through April 21.

Book also plays a role in  Option B, Sandberg’s imitative on resilience that arose from the unexpected death of her husband. Sandberg, the Facebook chief operating officer turned author, had spent several months examining resilience as a way for her two sons to cope with tragedy, adversity and loss. She is now using those lessons learned to serve others thrive through challenging times. As part of the Option B community, Sandberg features inspiring voices of resilience and triumph, including that of Book — an advocate, author, state Senator and new mother. Book’s story of surviving child sexual abuse is also on the Option B website, under “Expert Talks and Advice.”

Book’s Capitol display also coincides with National Sexual Assault Awareness Month and National Child Abuse Prevention month. Book’s organization Lauren’s Kids and the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence (FCASV) are hosting the display, which asks viewers to “walk in the shoes” of survivors.

Both Book, of Plantation, and State Rep. Kristin Jacobs of Coconut Creek are supporting the event, which is intended to raise awareness and end stigma surrounding sexual violence, giving victims, families and those affected by the issue a larger voice in Tallahassee.

The display’s presentation will be at a news conference Wednesday, April 19, at 12:30 p.m. in the Capitol rotunda. Fifteen child victims — now survivors — will “unveil” the display in the Capitol rotunda and speak with legislators. In addition, members of Bikers Against Child Abuse Florida (BACA) will attend after biking across Florida in solidarity.

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