Sunday, August 14, 2011

Too Sweet a Deal at St. Johns

Ron Littlepage writes a blog which is affiliated with the Jacksonville Times Union.  He noted on July 26 that the departure of the St. Johns River Water Management District’s General Counsel, Kathryn Mennella, and the remarkably quiet hire of the son of a former mayor of Jacksonville to replace her smells a little too sweet. 
Hans G. Tanzler, III

Rancid might be a better word. 

Hans G. Tanzler, III resigned from the St. Johns governing board the same day he got the $165,000 job.  (Decent of him, huh?)

Here’s what blogger Ron Littlepage had to say about it:

Hans Tanzler III, the son of a former Jacksonville mayor, certainly got a sweet deal.

This is nothing against Tanzler, but his recent and sudden rise from unpaid member of the St. Johns River Water Management District’s governing board to the high-salaried job as the agency’s top lawyer doesn’t pass the smell test.

First, the job opening, which was created when Kathryn Mennella stepped down as general counsel in June, wasn’t advertised.

Kirby Green, the district’s executive director who has announced his pending retirement, simply recommended Tanzler for the post.

Tanzler resigned from the board, which he was appointed to in 2008, and on the same day his now former board member colleagues said he was the one for the job, which will pay him $165,000 a year.

That’s all a little too chummy for my taste.

I wonder what ties he has to the governor’s office.  “A little too chummy” doesn’t begin to express the nausea this kind of stuff elicits.  Shades of Ray Sansom!

And what does this portend for our own SWFWMD?  The governing board is considering removing the general counsel from under supervision of the executive director to that of the board instead.  It’ll be interesting to see how that plays out in light of what happened at the St. Johns River district.

There’s nothing wrong with the board having its own general counsel.  The problem at SWFWMD is that board members don’t seem to understand that the bevy of lawyers who work there work for the d-i-s-t-r-i-c-t under the supervision of the ED because that’s what they are hired to do and are supposed to do. 

If the Board wants its own GC to attend board meetings and provide legal advice to the b-o-a-r-d with the board as the client vs. the district at large as the client, outsource it.  Hire from the outside, but don’t place the district’s entire legal team under the governing board and leave the ED without effective legal representation just because the board wants board legal representation.

It would be a bad move already clearly proven bad by the district’s recent experiment between Dave Moore and Bill Bilenky, which virtually everyone knows created a lot of unnecessary ill will between two otherwise outstanding professionals who found themselves with conflicting allegiances.

As a regulatory agency, the staff needs legal guidance and representation at least as much as the board, if not more.  Importantly, placing the legal team under the board also creates two silos of power from which the board will never be sure who’s giving the right answers.  Saying it’s just not good management understates the obvious.

With all the R and R (removal and replacement) going on at the water management districts, is it any wonder that some folks of prominence are beginning to see a not-so-good pattern emerging from the chaos?  This seems to be the strategy:  squeeze off water management district revenues by mandating reductions in budgets and staff, reduce their ability to carry out their statutory duties, gut the laws intended to foster responsible growth, and replace the professionals with political appointments whose background and experience need only include a promise to adhere to the Tallahassee/Tea Party dictum of slicing and burning regardless of the danger to Florida’s future.

1 comment:

  1. History Repeats Itself
    With the ED's retirement already announced, not too much of a stretch to imagine HTIII as having the inside track on replacing him.