In what board members of the Southwest Florida Water Management District are interpreting as a political power play, a key Senate committee this week failed to confirm the water board's executive director.
The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee confirmed the executive directors of the other four state water management districts, but not Dave Moore, who for five years has been executive director of the agency commonly known as Swiftmud.
Moore, facing the possible loss of his $194,000-a-year post, did not respond to a request for comment Friday.
The committee's chairman, Lee Constantine, R-Altamonte Springs, said Moore's confirmation was being held up at the request of another senator, but he didn't know who.
"It was a request of the fourth floor — the senate president's office," Constantine said. "They said a senator had requested it."
Water district board vice chairman Neil Combee said the freeze on Moore is a signal that someone in Tallahassee is displeased with Moore.
"Sometimes messages are sent, and sometimes they're subtle or not so subtle," the former Polk County commissioner said.
But Combee said he wasn't sure what the message was. He also said he has not discussed the matter with Sen. J.D. Alexander, R-Lakeland, a close friend a political ally.
Alexander hung up on a reporter who called for comment.
Another board member, former Manatee County Commissioner Pat Glass, blamed "a hidden agenda" by state Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Plant City, involving the deal Tampa is trying to cut to sell its reclaimed water to phosphate giant Mosaic and Tampa Electric Co.
"It certainly is a twist on the usual political machinations," Glass said. "It's not too clever."
Storms did not respond to several requests for comment.
Water district board chairwoman Judith Whitehead of Brooksville said she wants the board to vote next week to rehire Moore. That way he could at least keep his job for another year, and then he could try again for Senate confirmation in 2009. Combee and board members Todd Pressman of Clearwater and Ronald Oakley of Zephyrhills said they would support such a move.
"He will without a doubt be confirmed next year," Combee predicted.
The 13-member water district board, a state agency that collects taxes and oversees water supply planning for a 16-county area, meets in Tampa on Tuesday.
Moore, 51, of Odessa was hired by the board on a 7-3 vote in 2003. A geologist who had worked for Swiftmud for 20 years, Moore's initial hiring for the top job was held up because of opposition from Tallahassee. The then-head of the state Department of Environmental Protection, David Struhs, objected that the board was rushing its decision.
Since then, Moore has won high marks from the board. He had already been confirmed by the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee on a 5-0 vote last week.