Saturday, May 26, 2018
Opinion

Tempest in a trash can in Tallahassee

Salacious allegations of office randiness. Surreptitious bugging of employee conversations. Catty rumor-mongering, with a dollop of sneering gossip — always a nice touch. And let us not forget the mini-wastebasket conflagration. Employees being read their Miranda rights. Enter the lawyers.

And just why is all this stuff swirling about the office of Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll? Because the stakes are so utterly meaningless?

Somebody needs to find something for these people to do involving adult supervision.

It is something of an odd curiosity that so much controversy has enveloped perhaps the least productive and most unnecessary office in state government. After all, Carroll's presence isn't even required at funerals.

The post of lieutenant governor is contrived for its occupant to sit around all day just in case the guy down the hall keels over. Yes, it has happened in recent Florida history when Gov. Lawton Chiles died a few days before the end of his term and Buddy MacKay stepped in to oversee the transition to Jeb Bush. But the butler at the Governor's Mansion could have just as easily managed handing over the keys to the front door.

It isn't as if nuclear codes are involved.

But Carroll has managed to turn her make-work job into an episode of Desperate Bureaucrats with former aide Carletha Cole accused of handing over an illegally recorded conversation to a reporter for the Florida Times-Union.

The recording Cole allegedly passed along to the press involved a conversation between John Konkus, Carroll's chief of staff, and Cole, who worked as a senior program analyst and flack for the lieutenant governor, jobs which probably involved unlinking tangled paperclips.

On the recording, Konkus is heard bragging that Steve MacNamara, who was then Gov. Rick Scott's chief of staff, was afraid of Carroll.

How naive of Konkus. During his time in Tallahassee, MacNamara was one of the capital's most powerful and influential insiders. He used people like Carroll for dental floss.

Konkus then whines that Scott is "not leading," which is not exactly a big state secret in Tallahassee.

And for supposedly exposing a recording that was more innocuous than a chat you have with your cat, Cole is facing the possibility of five years in the slammer?

But Cole, who is also a minister, wasn't about to take her legal pickle lying down, especially if she could get Carroll to take her place, so to speak.

Cole denied being the secret taper, suggesting instead it was Carroll, who had found her inner Richard Nixon. Maybe she was bored.

And Cole was only getting warmed up, so to speak. She claimed she had walked in on Carroll and a female staffer, Beatriz Ramos, and found the two in an indelicate position.

Capping off the Animal House atmosphere in the capital, Cole's trash receptacle caught fire. Who knows how this got started, although Ramos suggested it might have happened when she tossed a lit cigar into the can. Busy people, these folks are.

Let us remind ourselves that all this saucy fiddle-faddle is coming out of the office of the lieutenant governor, a job with less impact on the affairs of the state than Scott's barber.

Carroll took time from her hectic schedule of rearranging the paperweights on her desk to deny anything untoward occurred between herself and Ramos, noting she was a wife and mother and besides, "black women who look like me don't engage in (lesbian relationships)."

That's an interesting alibi. It's pretty obvious Carroll has never met Nadine Smith, a lesbian who is also the executive director of Equality Florida, and of whom it must be said is a very attractive woman.

The position of lieutenant governor was abolished in 1889 and for some inexplicable reason brought back in 1969, perhaps out of caution that Gov. Claude Kirk was at great risk of falling off a bar stool, landing into the lap of a hoochie-coochie girl and suffocating in her bosom.

Stranger things happened during the Kirk years.

But if anything supports the argument the lieutenant governor's role has become a Ministry of Silly Walks it is a senseless scandal in a small-potatoes post.

Cole also hinted that perhaps it was Scott who was behind the office bugging. If true, then what did Scott learn about the work of Carroll and her bickering drones?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

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