Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Editorials

Don't let political favoritism tarnish Hernando County contracts

When John Druzbick began his quest for the Hernando County Commission in 2007, his first campaign contribution check came from Coastal Engineering Associates for $250. Before winning the seat 15 months later, Coastal or its patriarch contributed three more times. The company also donated to Druzbick's 2012 re-election campaign.

So why are we not surprised that Druzbick and a unanimous commission — with no public explanation — overruled its professional staff and picked a political benefactor as the company it wants to help handle a utility project?

The decision is the first under a new purchasing policy that allows the commission to more easily steer contracts for professional services to favored local companies/political contributors. On May 8, the commission did just that and ranked Coastal Engineering of Brooksville as its preferred vendor to facilitate installing 3 linear miles of water lines as part of the expanded County Line Road between the Suncoast Parkway and U.S. 41.

The county's professional staff had reviewed company qualifications and ranked an Ocala-based firm, that had done utility work along State Road 50 through Hernando County, as its top choice.

Only Commissioner Jeff Stabins recognized the potential for unsavory political back-scratching, telling Times staff writer Barbara Behrendt he didn't favor the new selection process because, "We don't need to inject politics into it."

No kidding. Though all five commissioners ranked Coastal at the top of the three-firm short-list, this maneuvering is the handiwork of Druzbick. He made the motion last month to deviate from the staff recommendations and for the commission to hear companies' presentations. Previously, if commissioners disagreed with a staff recommended professional services contractor, all vendors were tossed out and the process began again. Not this time. Commissioners pointed to a looming state deadline just five weeks away as a rationalization. If meeting that deadline is so imperative, perhaps Druzbick can explain his decision to ask for the two-week delay to bypass the staff recommendation.

Commissioners have made no secret of a desire to try to keep more government spending within Hernando County, where the economy is still staggering from the housing bust. But overruling the professional staff simply because of the applicants' home addresses (and open checkbook during campaign season) invites abuse and potential reluctance from companies outside Hernando to bid. That can drive up prices and cost the public more than it should.

In essence, commissioners have said they don't trust their own staff to complete due diligence on request for proposals from professional-service providers. It is unfortunate because political favoritism and patronage shouldn't be on the county government's qualification list.

Comments
Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are traveling to the state capital today and declaring "never again.íí A prominent Florida Republican fundraiser vows he wonít raise another nickel until his party approves new gun controls. Across F...
Published: 02/19/18

Editorial: No more doubt about Russian meddling in election

The latest indictment by the Justice Department special counsel, Robert Mueller, refutes President Donald Trumpís claims that Russian interference in the 2016 election was a Democratic hoax. The indictment details the lengths Russian conspirators too...
Published: 02/19/18

Another voice: Tips should belong to workers, not their bosses

The Trump administration is under fire for proposing a Labor Department regulation that could result in hotel and restaurant employers dipping into the tips customers leave for their employees, depriving the nationís 14 million hard-working restauran...
Published: 02/18/18
Updated: 02/20/18
Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Itís not popular in Washington or virtually anywhere else these days to express concern about the rising federal deficit. Congressional Republicans who used to be deficit hawks first voted to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, then rais...
Published: 02/17/18
Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

The city of Tampa should have taken Tanja Vidovic seriously from the start when the Tampa firefighter complained about her treatment in the workplace. Now that a jury and judge have spoken, itís time for City Hall to cut its losses, learn from its mi...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

The dark cloud enveloping Tampa Bayís job placement centers keeps growing. There are accusations of forged documents, evidence of nepotism and concerns about grossly inflated performance numbers that could be tied to receiving more public money and b...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Even before the victims of another mass shooting at another public school were identified, Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, state legislators and members of Congress rushed to South Florida or to social media to offer their thoughts and p...
Published: 02/15/18
Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

The Florida Department of Children and Families is right to call for a timely and "comprehensive" review of Hillsborough Countyís foster care system. Though the probe is a reaction to a recent case involving a child who was left unattended, the revie...
Published: 02/14/18

A Washington Post editorial: Modernize 911 calling before it becomes an emergency

This Friday marks the 50th anniversary of the first 911 emergency call placed in the United States. Since then, uncounted lives have been saved and people helped. It has been a great accomplishment of government.But even as an estimated 240 million 9...
Published: 02/13/18
Updated: 02/14/18
Editorial: Scott, Cabinet cannot be trusted on felonsí voting rights

Editorial: Scott, Cabinet cannot be trusted on felonsí voting rights

Gov. Rick Scott always has been grudging and imperious about restoring the voting rights of felons, requiring them to wait for years before begging the governor and Cabinet to be recognized again as citizens. That arrogance is on full display in a le...
Published: 02/13/18