Saturday, December 22, 2007


I think we can all agree that one sign of leadership in an elected official is the willingness and ability to make the tough decisions. Tough decisions are usually those that have major implications, are usually controversial and, once made, may not show immediate positive results. Regardless of the decision made, you run the risk of alienating the very people that elected you to that office. However, the test of whether or not that was a good decision may ultimately prove itself over time and create a larger community benefit that shows the worthiness of that decision. And there is always another major decision coming down the pike.

With our system of elections every two years, working for the greater good for the long term can be difficult to achieve. Thus, our elected decision-makers in Lake Worth are looking at how their decisions will play within a relatively short two year (at the maximum) time horizon. Remember, we have a chance to change that January 29th. Besides that, if your ultimate goal is running for another, higher elected position - say the state legislature - then the stakes are higher. Serving the community who elected you to your current position may not be your own first political priority.

In order to keep elected and appointed government officials from ducking their responsibility in the making of decisions, the following provisions were made part of the Florida Statutes:

Let's examine some of the highlighted sections of the above. F.S. 268.012 states that if you are a member of a municipal commission and present at a meeting - you must vote on matters before the governing body and not abstain from voting. The only time that this is allowed is when "there is, or appears to be, a possible conflict of interest" as defined further in the State Statutes.

Now comes our own Mayor Clemens. He has raised the issue that his employment with Morgan Stanley precludes him from voting on Florida Municipal Power Agency (FMPA) issues in relation to Lake Worth because his employer invests in municipal and utility related securities. Certain others have raised this issue in the community as a rallying cry that corruption is rampant within the City (which it may be, but this is not an example of that in my opinion). So, Mayor Clemens, at this most recent December 18th meeting, said that, even though every attorney that he has talked to has told him that since his job does not involve the original underwriting or placement of such securities and that he is essentially a wealth management consultant for certain individuals that there is no conflict of interest, he still plans on not voting on issues related to FMPA.

However, at that meeting, he did vote in favor of bringing in a consultant to help advise the City Commission on decisions related to the City's electric utility. (Which the City Commission should have done long ago anyway).

Mayor Clemens - on this matter it is not a "pick and choose" proposition whether you vote or not.

Let's look at the provision under F.S. 112.313 which states that no officer of an agency (City) have or hold any employment that will create a "continuing or frequently occurring conflict between his or her private interests and the performance of his or her public duties or that would impede the full and faithful discharge of his or her duties." So Mayor Clemens, your real choice, instead of the one related to voting or not voting on FMPA issues, might be more of an issue whether or not you keep your current employment situation or position of Mayor of Lake Worth. That is if you continue to believe that somehow there is an appearance of conflict here. You cannot have it both ways.

Now, one might say that if it was a minor matter, let it pass. However, we are dealing with our electric utility which makes up at least half of our municipal budget (utilities make up about 2/3 of our budget, but also includes water and sewer charges). Our titular leader should not be able to select which items he votes on when there is no conflict of interest! Pandering to the public that rightly is skeptical of things governmental is not the way a leader should act. Education of the public as to the legal framework in which elected officials operate is the proper role of a leader. Making important, sometimes difficult decisions, is another mark of a leader.