Key West to institute local lobbying ban
Mar 09, 2013 (Florida Keys Keynoter - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
With a full slate of expensive developments planned, Key West City Attorney Shawn Smith on Tuesday suggested the City Commission consider an anti-lobbying ordinance he dubbed the "cone of silence."
"Given the multimillions of dollars in public funds that will be expended in coming years, I'd like the taxpayers to have confidence that decisions are being made based upon facts and not determined by behind-the-scenes influence," he said. "Integrity and transparency are essential if the public is going to have trust in these projects."
The timeframes and price tags aren't final but in the pipeline are:
--A $50 million park at the Truman Waterfront.
--A $20 million conversion of Glynn Archer Elementary School into a new city hall.
--A $5 million Old Town fire station.
--Reconstruction of the Frederick Douglass Community Center in Bahama Village.
--A new transportation depot on Stock Island.
Smith said he'd craft a law to address the city's processes when issuing requests for proposals, request for qualifications and invitations to bid.
Already in place are what's called quasi-judicial proceedings governing major development plans brought by private developers. Such proceedings require anyone giving public testimony on a project to be sworn in and commissioners must disclose ex-parte communication.
"What a cone of silence does," Smith told the commission, "is prohibit communication with the commission and staff members from the time you release a solicitation ... for these particular projects until such time as the commission action is final."
People with a financial interest in a particular project can communicate with city staff and elected officials, "but in written form filed with the [city] clerk," Smith said.
He said he anticipated "a great deal of lobbying" as the construction projects go forward, and the lobbying ban "can remove that and make your decisions based on the documents and facts that you have and everyone else can review. We'd be much better served for it."
Although the commission discussion was limited, early feedback was positive.
Commissioner Jimmy Weekley said the proposed law is "a wise move."
Commissioner Tony Yaniz voiced his support but added that since Key West is a small community, he doesn't want the new law "to hamstring us from being able to talk to our constituents."
Smith said, "The bright line is people that have a financial stake in the outcome of your decisions. What this cone would attempt to remove is any sort of undue influence or communication outside of the meeting, again, from those individuals that have a stake in the outcome."
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Keynoter (Marathon, Fla.) at www.keysnet.com Distributed by MCT Information
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