Residency issue of Aqueduct Authority chairman Dean likely to go before the full board Sept. 25

Robert Dean says he lives at this house at 417 Bahama Street in Key West but he has a homestead exemption on his house outside Key West proper.
Robert Dean says he lives at this house at 417 Bahama Street in Key West but he has a homestead exemption on his house outside Key West proper.

Residency questions involving a Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority board member might be heard by the full board when it meets on Sept. 25.

Board attorney Robert Feldman said Tuesday he believes, at the request of board member Cara Higgins, that the board will hear the issue of whether Chairman J. Robert Dean lives in the district in which he was appointed.

His voter registration lists 417 Bahama St. in Key West proper as his address but his homestead exemption and numerous other legal documents list his address as Cypress Terrace in Key Haven, which is in unincorporated Monroe County. He says he lives at the Bahama Street house and that his wife lives at the Key Haven one.

Bahama Street is in District 3. Key Haven is in District 1. FKAA board members must live in the district in which they're appointed by the governor. Dean was appointed in District 3.

Higgins said last week that given the prevalence of documents signed by Dean listing his Key Haven address as his home, "it appears that Mr. Dean's eligibility to continue service on the FKAA board is in question."

Feldman said Tuesday that only Higgins has contacted him regarding the Dean questions. "It's my impression it will be on the [Sept. 25] agenda," Feldman said.

The board is scheduled to meet that day at its offices at 1100 Kennedy Drive in Key West at 10 a.m. Higgins wants a response from the FKAA administration.

"I think the public is pretty horrified by all this," she said.

Dean is also vice chairman of the Housing Authority of Key West. He's held the position, which is on renewable four-year terms, continuously since 1987. According to Florida statute, he is allowed to serve on the board since he'd be living within five miles of the territorial boundaries.

"All Housing Authority members reside within our area of operation and we are totally compliant," Housing Authority Executive Director Manuel Castillo said. "He's been an excellent board member to the Housing Authority."

Gov. Rick Scott's office did not respond to multiple questions about Dean's residency or how it vets candidates for appointments.

Monroe County Property Appraiser's Office investigator Randy Pekarik said his office can't strip Dean's Key Haven home of its homestead exemptions.

"We can't remove it under the current circumstances," Pekarik said. "None of the indicators have changed."

Dean's attorney Bobby Highsmith has said his client is not breaking the law or violating terms of his homestead exemption.