A lobbying firm won a new contract from Monroe County commissioners after stating its work for an unnamed “agricultural client” will not conflict with the county’s advocacy for Florida Bay.
We “believe that our firm is compliant with the requirements that we not represent any other entity whose interest or position adversely impacts the interests of Monroe County...,” Albert Balido, managing member for Anfield Consulting, wrote in an Oct. 26 letter to the county.
On Tuesday in Key West, commissioners voted, 4-1, to sign the Anfield contract with virtually no discussion. Commissioner Danny Kolhage cast the dissenting vote without comment.
In September, commissioners delayed consideration of renewing Anfield’s contract after Kolhage and George Neugent, now county mayor, raised questions about a possible conflict of interest.
“They represent Big Sugar,” Kolhage said in September. “That’s an inherent conflict and I cannot vote for it.”
Monroe County commissioners have taken stands in favor of moving forward quickly on efforts to restore the Everglades system that includes Florida Bay.
One of those stands advocates for creating a massive water-storage area in the Everglades Agricultural Area south of Lake Okeechobee. Everglades advocates contend such a reservoir is critical to cleaning fresh water of agricultural runoff before sending the needed water south to the Everglades and Florida Bay.
Some of the large sugar-producing companies, collectively described by critics as Big Sugar, have objected to losing a large swath of fertile land south of Lake Okeechobee.
“We could find ourselves in a potentially embarrassing conflict,” Neugent said in September. Commissioners then asked for a written statement from the lobbying firm.
County legislative liaison Lisa Tennyson said Tuesday that Anfield staff has been been very productive for Monroe County in recent sessions of the Florida Legislature.
“Anfield Consulting drafted the original language for the Florida Keys Stewardship bill and was instrumental in securing the bill’s Senate sponsor, steering it through its House and Senate Committees and its eventual passage by the entire legislature in 2016,” Tennyson summarized in a report.
Balido wrote to the county that Senate President Joe Negron, an advocate of a new Everglades reservoir, has said he will only pursue land purchases “from willing sellers.”
“Therefore, Senator Negron’s plan ... that is predicated on willing sellers presents no conflict between Monroe County’s position and our agricultural client,” Balido wrote.
The county contract will pay Anfield $51,432 plus expenses for the year.
Kevin Wadlow: 305-440-3206