December 17, 2009

Poll: Crist leads Rubio by 9; half unsure between McCollum/Dockery

More from that Associated Industries/Zogby poll of Dec. 7-11 poll of likely voters (5.7% MoE for GOP primary): Charlie Crist 45%, Marco Rubio 36.4%, 16.4% not sure.

The Republican primary for governor is particularly interesting. Bill McCollum overwhelmingly leads Paula Dockery, 38.2% to 7.2%, but a whopping 48.9% said they were not sure.

-- Adam C. Smith

Padrón, lawmakers, Times/Herald listed as newsmakers of 2009

Some of you might have already seen Florida Trend's feature in its January edition called "Florida Newsmakers of 2009." But if you haven't, here are some highlights:

Eduardo Padrón was named Floridian of the Year for his work as Miami Dade College president to re-shape the way the country views community colleges.

In government, Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, is highlighted for his role in passing SB 360, the growth management bill.

Also from the halls of government, the magazine puts a spotlight on the passenger rail bill and its chief opponent, Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland.

A third government article, you ask? Why there's Ray Sansom, the former House Speaker indicted for his role in steering $35 million in taxpayer funding to Northwest Florida State College.

Florida Power and Light gets a nod for its work on solar plants.

Another honor for the star University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow.

The magazine (a sister publication of the St. Petersburg Times) was also gracious enough to write a few words about the scribes at the Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau.

December 16, 2009

Inside FDOT's breakfast 'scandal!' Secret codes revealed!

So here's the content and attachments of the breakfast gate emails. The level of conspiracy and wicked government skullduggery and abuse of public records laws is shocking! (look herehere, here and here for more background). Beware, these attachments contain highly classified info.

From: Thibault, Kevin
Sent: Tuesday, October 20, 2009 10:11 AM
To: Kopelousos, Stephanie
Subject: Pancakes

As requested.

Download Providing a Dedicated Funding Source


Continue reading "Inside FDOT's breakfast 'scandal!' Secret codes revealed!" »

FDOT breakfast egg on Alex Sink's face

In her zeal to score political points over breakfast-gate, state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink's governor's campaign sent out a screed lambasting the Gov. Charlie Crist's administration for a Sunshine Law violation because DOT officials used words like "French toast" and "pancakes" in the subject header of emails dealing with the SunRail legislation.

"It's not cute, nor clever. It is outrageous," Sink's email states in bold type, referring to the use of breakfast terms. "That's why I called on Governor Charlie Crist to investigate this violation of Florida's 'Sunshine Law' and hold every government official involved in this scheme accountable."

Huh. So in one day Sink has morphed from calling for an investigation into being judge and jury by determining the law way broken.

To borrow a breakfast analogy, Sink is going to have a lot of egg on her face if she can't back up the allegation of illegality.

Campaign spokesman Paul Dunn says he's looking into it.

Sink spokesman Kyra Jennings was more forthright: "It's possible that the campaign may have just made an unintentional misstatement on their email."

Jennings followed up with an email noting that she had no authority to speak on behalf of the campaign.

UPDATE: Attorney General Bill McCollum, a Republican candidate for governor, issued a statement through his campaign: "CFO Sink's rush to judgment in this serious issue for the apparent goal of political expediency is disturbing." (McCollum has repeatedly criticized Sink for not speaking out  forcefully on a range of issues, such as a public option element of a national health care bill).

Even Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland and a governor's candidate as well, among the harshest critics of the rail legislation, has not ever accused the state of violating the Sunshine Law in this instance. And it was her office that obtained the emails in which the breakfast foods were used and it was Dockery's office that first noted the suspicious nature of the emails.

December 15, 2009

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.”


December 14, 2009

FDOT: Sometimes a pancake's just a pancake

So Florida Department of Transportation secretary Stephanie Kopelousos's attention is tough to get. Asst. Secretary for Engineering and Operations Kevin Thibault said had a solution: Write a weird headline that she can easily see and search for on her BlackBerry. 

The headline: Pancake.

Thus begins the mystery of the breakfast food emails, rail, and FDOT. 

The emails stood out because, initially, they weren't released in a records request Sen. Paula Dockery had sent the agency. (More here) So apparent code words could look like an effort to circumvent the public records law. Or it could be the case of the head of an agency under the gun who, besieged by emails, needed to read something quickly.

"It was something eye-catching," Kopelousos said. "We aren't trying to circumvent anything."

Continue reading "FDOT: Sometimes a pancake's just a pancake" »

December 13, 2009

Is Dockery campaign over before it began?

Images Not so long ago, the Republican Party of Florida was fielding an all-white, all-male slate of statewide candidates in 2010.

But three credible female contenders have recently emerged: state Sen. Paula Dockery of Lakeland is taking on Attorney General Bill McCollum for governor and former state Rep. Holly Benson of Pensacola and Hillsborough County prosecutor Pam Bondi are challenging Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp to be attorney general.Images
The GOP can't exactly take credit for grooming these strong women since they are running against the party's establishment candidates. In contrast, Chief Financial Officer Adelaide "Alex'' Sink, the Democratic front-runner for governor, has got the party machine working overtime.
Images Her Republican colleagues couldn't be more distinct. Benson is the brainy but awkward Ivy League bond lawyer who recently served in Gov. Charlie Crist's administration. Bondi is the head cheerleader/Junior League-type whose blonde hair, pearls and zeal for catching bad guys made her a popular talking head on cable news. Dockery is the feisty citizen lawmaker who stayed up late doing her homework and made a career out of fighting a proposed rail system in Central Florida.

And about that rail deal. It passed the Legislature on Tuesday. The McCollum campaign proclaimed the vote "may very well signal the end of Dockery's fledging campaign effort.''

Maybe not. Keep reading here.

December 10, 2009

FDOT to Sen. Paula Dockery: The software ate your public info

Sen. Paula Dockery just wanted to see eight-month's worth of emails issues to and from FDOT honchos about "CSX, rail, liability."** The Lakeland Republican barely got a thing. There was not one email from FDOT chief Stephanie Kopelousos over the past eight months on an issue that her boss, Gov. Charlie Crist, and the Legislature felt could put people to work and transform the economy.

Is that believable she was asked Dec. 3. “I’m sure that we gave her every document that we have and every email.”

Wrong on two counts.

1) The agency's general counsel, Robert M. Burdick, just wrote Dockery with ye olde computin' explanation about a snafu: "the (software) program did not function as intended." Indeed. The agency just delivered a 8,037 emails with the apology letter.

2) The emails aren't everything. The secretary and other FDOT officials appear to be conducting public work with private email accounts. But those email accounts haven't been mind. So the secretary either forgot she does this or decided not to review her personal email for some other reason.

3) In some emails, Kopelousos and others appear to use breakfast food names, like "pancakes," to hide the fact they're talking about rail.

It'll take a while to go through it all to see if any information (about federal money, costs, financing or liability) could have affected the session that ended with a surprisingly easy 27-10 vote in the Senate.

Continue reading "FDOT to Sen. Paula Dockery: The software ate your public info " »

December 08, 2009

Unions deliver the bad news to Dockery: SunRail deal

Mike Williams, president of the AFL-CIO, just left Sen. Paula Dockery's office after delivering a bombshell: They're about to reach an accord on union workers at SunRail. So Democrats in the Senate might vote for the rail bill.

That means they can roll it over to third reading and pas it out of the chamber.

Is the session over?

Not necessarily. There's resistance to the deal in the House. So even if the Senate passes the legislation, it won't look like the House version and leaders will meet in conference. Some House Republicans are no fans of the unions, or the fact that the Senate might change the agreement heading into the session. The House had rejected union language last month before the session was called.

"While things are open to negotiation in a session, we had a deal," Rep. Carlos Lopez Cantera, the Republican whip, said yesterday when we asked about the emerging union deal. "And a deal's, a deal is a deal."

Oh, the inconvenience of a special session vs. moneyraising

Opponents of Sen. Paula Dockery, the moderate Republican running against AG Bill McCollum for the gubernatorial Republican primary, say her recent Facebook page post inviting "friends" to a fundraiser this weekend was not a violation of Senate money-raising rules.

But the Lakeland lawmaker took the post down this morning anyway, "in an abundance of caution." When the Times/Herald asked Dockery about it earlier today, she said she doesn't always man her FB candidate page and was not aware someone on the campaign had posted fundraiser information. She said she did not want the information posted on the page. Within 15 minutes, the post was gone.

Dockery said she didn't consider it a rule breaker, though, stressing that Senate rules against soliciting donations during a session or special session only apply to senators seeking re-election to the chamber.

"I'm not seeking re-election."

Meanwhile, Rep. David Rivera of Miami transformed a planned fundraiser into a "meet and greet." And Sen. Dave Aronberg wasn't around the Capitol on Monday as the special session was underway -- he was at a fundraiser in Tampa. Aronberg's absence Monday left the regulated industries committee without a quorum.

Ouch. There's fodder for Aronberg's opponent for the Democratic primary for Attorney General, Sen. Dan Gelber, who was in Tallahassee for the session.