The Daytona Beach News Journal has an editorial calling for John A. Miklos to step down from the Saint Johns River Water Management Board . He has been called out by many for his business dealings which have an apparent conflict of interest with his position as chairman of the governing board for the St Johns district. Miklos claims that recusing himself from voting is sufficient, and ignores the criticism that his position of power and influence is a strong factor in determining the actions of the board.
This newsletter has posted several stories related to the tarnish that Miklos brings to Dr. Ann Shortelle’s agency in Palatka.
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-
Don’t reappoint Miklos to water board
Tuesday Nov. 15, 2016
Posted at 2:01 AM
The last time someone served more than three years as chairman of the St. Johns River Water Management District, Ronald Reagan was challenging Jimmy Carter for the presidency and George Brett was chasing a .400 batting average.
John Miklos is about the last person you would want to break that streak.
The News-Journal’s Dinah Voyles Pulver reports that local officials and environmental advocates are concerned that Miklos, first appointed as chair in 2010, may seek a record fourth term when the district’s governing board meets today. It’s difficult to figure out why the public would need him to continue presiding when every other SJRWMD chair since Tommy Clay in 1976-80, save one, has served two years or less.
It’s not hard, though, to see why Miklos would want to keep serving: It’s been very good for his business.
In addition to being chairman of the water management district, Miklos is president of Bio-Tech Consulting Inc., an Orlando-based firm hired by developers and local governments to help guide them through the environmental permitting process. That often involves taking them before the very agency that he oversees.
The News-Journal’s Pulver reports that Bio-Tech has been a party to at least 85 permit applications to the St. Johns district since Miklos was named chairman. The number of permit applications to the St. Johns and South Florida water districts that list the company as a consultant doubled within two years after he was named chairman. It would seem clients like the idea of having a friend in high places.
Miklos insists there’s nothing wrong with serving two masters. He says that as chairman he recuses himself from voting on any issue before the board that involves Bio-Tech.
But what about the permitting process before it reaches a vote? District staff who evaluate permit requests and recommend actions to the board might worry about job security if they cross their boss, Miklos, on matters important to his company’s health.
In recent years Florida’s water management districts have been marked by high turnover in management and senior staff positions, through firings and resignations, because Gov. Rick Scott said he wanted a “new culture in leadership.” It’s not a stretch to imagine remaining staffers getting the message and being reluctant to do anything that might harm the business of a chairman who was appointed by Scott.
Jeffrey Collins, an environmental permit reviewer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, told The News-Journal’s Pulver that Miklos “has influence with the state,” and that “with people in fear of their jobs, he can have an influence on that process absolutely.”
Miklos’ conflicts of interest are more than enough to disqualify him from serving as chairman. But another reason not to reappoint him in November is timing. Miklos’ involvement in a proposed land deal between the city of DeBary and the SJRWMD, in which the city hired Bio-Tech as a consultant, is the subject of an investigation by the Florida Commission on Ethics; a hearing on that case is expected in December. In addition, the State Attorney’s Office in May seized records from DeBary City Hall regarding the land deal. That investigation is ongoing.
Why reappoint a chairman who has those clouds hanging over his head?
If Miklos seeks another term, he either is completely clueless about how his conflicts as chair and consultant undermine public confidence in the water management district, or else he simply doesn’t give a fig how things look and is determined to do what’s best for Bio-Tech. Either is sufficient reason to move him off the board.