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Breakfast gate now officially bizarro

Breakfast is served.

Sen. Paula Dockery now wants Gov. Charlie Crist to delay the Wednesday signing of the rail bill she opposed now that Crist asked the state's inspector general to conduct an inquiry into Florida Department of Transportation emails that bore the headlines "pancake," "Pancakes" and "French Toast."

To Dockery, R-Lakeland, the breakast-food words are an example of "code words" that FDOT Secretary Stephanie Kopelousos and her chief, Kevin Thibault, used to potentially skirt a public-records request for agency correspondence concerning rail issues for the just-ended special lawmaking session.

Kopelousos said the email titles were sent in a moment of inspiration by Thibault who needed an "eye-catching" way to get her attention about a hum-drum rail issue. The breakfast food names stood out and, she said, enabled her to quickly distinguish the email from all others.

Dockery, a Republican governor's candidate, has promised to "clean house" at FDOT. State Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, a Democratic governor's candidate, said Kopelousos should leave if it can be demonstrated that she attempted to break the law.

Said Dockery: "Governor Crist’s call for an investigation of the Florida Department of Transportation’s secret negotiations with CSX Railroad is most welcome. For three years, the agency has been stonewalling citizens trying to examine this back-room deal. Given the secretive code words used to hide its communications, the agency has violated the public trust. Until the investigation is completed, I would encourage the governor to delay signing – or better yet, veto – the legislation we’ve now learned was authored by CSX.”

 

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Gatortrapper

Apparently there is more to the story than just the inept and injudicious decision to forego use of MS Outlook's "Importance" and "Sensitivity" options in favor of using "Highlight" terminology such as "French Toast" to make important e-mails rise to the top of the list.

As I understand it the FDOT initially (in 2008) stonewalled inquiries from Senator Dockery. At that time she was looking into complaints by constituents and the City of Lakeland that the planned commuter rail deal, some 50- 80 miles distant, would result in an increase of disruptive freight train traffic in downtown Lakeland. Already pressured by a large number of trains already, the projected increase occasioned by the shift to commuter rail in distant Deland and Orlando would wreck havoc on Lakeland’s traffic patterns and businesses. Even the conservative estimates by the FDOT predicted that the 16 freight trains passing through Lakeland would nearly double to 27. Less conservative projections have the number tripling to nearly 48 a day. In either case the burden more than warranted a legitimate examination of the proposed transaction by Senator Dockery. The FDOT, however, refused to provide much in response Senator Dockery’s friendly inquiries.

When FDOT stonewalled a duly elected member of the Florida Senate, and refused to cooperate and share public records to Senator Dockery she was forced to resort to Florida's Public Records laws to get the information that she requested. The FDOT complied– with some 24 Bankers Boxes full of documents, many of questionable relevance. Undeterred by this tactic-- something seen in books, movies and TV shows like CSI Miami -- Dockery persisted notwithstanding the sudden about face by FDOT that the avalanche of documents evidenced and with the help of dedicated volunteers was able to separate the wheat from the chaff.

That information resulted in the body of undeniable facts she organized into a compelling presentation made to her colleagues in the Senate who twice refused to approve the FDOT/CSX exercise in excess. Because she was not dissuaded and had the character to persist and wade through boxes and boxes of minute meant to side track her work Senator Dockery found the real facts. She then used the true facts to successfully demonstrate that the agreement brokered under the Jeb Bush administration had glaring inequities and unjustified costs. Costs that Florida taxpayers would have to largely shoulder without suitable compensation or justification. Costs which neither the Crist Administration nor the FDOT have felt compelled to explain – TO THIS DAY. And that was before the fact that Florida's taxpayers, in an act that is the total opposite of generally held beliefs about fairness and responsibility, are indemnifying CSX from its own grossly negligent actions and any resulting damages and injuries to persons and property.

With that context the concerns voiced by Senator Dockery appear to be benign and overly fair. I think she could overreact and still be justified. Instead she has merely noted that it is improvident to move forward until the full extent of the conduct is known and understood. It would be sad to find Florida contractually bound to CSX in a bad agreement that was the result of improper, if not illegal, conduct. Don't you? Who knows why Florida is paying some $300 Million more for the railway than its worth. Maybe we should find out first? Or is that unreasonable?

Vicki

Oh, believe me. Dig deeper! As a former 18 year employee of the DOT I can assure you that cover-ups "do" exist. Can I give you a clue...I worked in the legal department in one of the districts for 18 years. A whole new "regime" took over in Tallahassee in 2007/2008 and they systematically forced resignation of a good portion of the General Counsels (attorneys) in every district. Governor Christ was never "there" in Tallahassee to even know what was going on, there was just his Goon Squad of attorneys. Shame on him for not knowing what was going on. It amazes me how they have been able to claim that they are all about being in the interest of the "People" of Florida. What a farce! Look at them now....they've been caught with their pants around their ankles. I can only hope that all of the people who worked so hard for so long for our State and were wrongly treated will rise up and make a stand against this "socialized" government we now have in charge. Let the dominos fall. :)

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