Rumors that another very significant number of staff from SWFWMD are going to be laid off continue to seethe and swirl at the district’s headquarters in Brooksville. The number of unfortunate folks to get the boot in the middle of this country’s historic recession is unspecified but the rumor mill has it at 60 to 107 staff members.
Talk says it could hit several of the district’s central management departments (or should they now be referred to as bureaus like state agencies?) The buzz is that Information Technology, General Services, Finance Department and Management Services are being targeted.
The credence of the rumor is being reinforced by the number of people doing the whispering who are all saying the same thing. These are folks who would not typically be in communication with each other. Something is going on at SWFWMD and it’s going to destroy further the already badly damaged morale of a once highly respected, science-based public agency.
I didn’t think the morale could get any lower. Turns out I’m wrong. One can only hope the rumors are not true. This is the wrong time, the wrong way and probably the wrong reason to be doing this.
If true, the blame can be laid squarely at the feet of CEO Rick Scott, his boy Herschel Vinyard, DEP’s Tallahassee minions and a bobbing-head Governing Board that doesn’t know or care that the ability of the agency for which it has responsibility is being systematically rendered ineffective and incapacitated. Maybe the word destroyed would be more applicable.
Certainly the thread of blame should also reach back to a regulatory reform sub-committee of Scott’s transition team who vigorously promoted the idea that water management districts are simply bloated, arrogant bureaucracies that need to be erased from Florida’s regulatory scene. I seem to remember Tampa “water” lawyer Doug Manson was the chair of that subcommittee and maybe it’s significant that one of the lawyers in his firm at that time is now general counsel for the governing board at SWFWMD. She was his Tallahassee "operative" for several years. (Want to bet her job is not going to be one of those on the chopping block?)
If this is happening at the other four districts as well, anyone who has any concern for water resource management and the impact these reductions will have on Florida as a quality place to live, work, and play in the future should be up in arms.
Here’s the thing. If the layoffs are because the job of water management as a government necessity has been reduced to the point that it takes fewer staff to carry it out, then so be it. But if it’s because the legislature and governor cut water resource management funding for political reasons and without adequately considering the impact upon the districts’ collective ability to do what is needed, then that’s incompetence and dereliction of duty at the highest level.
I fear, and the facts are beginning to show, that the reality is the latter.