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Pasco commissioner opts to hear lobbyist presentations itself

Commissioners decide not to simply take the lobbyist chosen by a staff panel: the brother of the former House Speaker who discouraged local governments from hiring lobbyists.

DADE CITY — With a myriad of county needs that could use some financial help from the Florida Legislature, Pasco commissioners said two months ago that it’s time to hire a lobbyist again.

They gave up their lobbyist a few years ago after hearing then state house speaker Richard Corcoran blast local governments for spending money to hire lobbyists.

"I think it’s a disgrace that taxpayer dollars are used to hire lobbyists when we elected people to represent them. The state doesn’t do it and neither should the locals,'' Corcoran told the Times/Herald at the time.

Yet county staffers recommended the firm of Corcoran’s brother Michael to commissioners on Tuesday. It was among three companies that sought the job after the county issued a request for proposals.

Commissioner Kathryn Starkey immediately rejected the recommendation. She argued that when the commission had hired a lobbyist before, it was a choice made by commissioners after they had heard presentations from each. “I’m not happy with the way this was done,” she said.

She made a motion to delay a decision until after commissioners got the chance to hear presentations at a future meeting.

Commissioner Jack Mariano asked whether waiting another month to get someone on board might hurt the county since state lawmakers begin work soon in preparation for the 2021 legislative session.

Starkey said she knew that time was of the essence but that she didn’t anticipate that much work would be done by legislators during the next few weeks around Thanksgiving.

Commissioners Ron Oakley said he agreed that the best way to make the choice was to have commissioners hear the companies themselves.

Commission Chairman Mike Moore said the three companies that applied, Corcoran Partners, Sunrise Consulting, both based in Pasco County, and Tampa-based Shumaker Advisors Florida, LLC. were all known by the commission. Commissioners have probably dealt with each of them at some point. He said he favored getting a chance to hear the presentations himself.

After hearing the commissioners' discussion in September, the county staff had sought proposals and received packets from each of those three companies. Sunrise Consulting and its owner Shawn Foster was the county’s previous lobbyist. Four staff members including County Administrator Dan Biles graded each of the packets with Michael Corcoran’s company, which has been in business for 20 years, getting the highest score.

Commissioners unanimously agreed to hear 10 minute presentations next month to make their own selection.

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