As the City of Apopka celebrates its city taxpayer funded Old Florida Festival, some surprising news was reported. Stop me if you are shocked, but it turns out that Apopka’s $22,000.00/month PAID Lobbyist/Consultant is NOT REGISTERED to lobby for the City of Apopka. As reported in the Orlando Sentinel, Richard Anderson, public trough feeder extraordinaire, has been collecting $11,000/month for Lobbying services (the other $11,000/month is for “consulting” services), for 15 straight months, but is not registered to lobby on behalf of the City in either in Tallahassee, FL or in Washington DC. He is still listed as a lobbyist on the home page of Ballard Partners, a lobbying firm he joined right after “leaving” the City, with offices across the State. Mr. Dave Mica, Chair of the Florida Association of Professional Lobbyists confirmed that Anderson is not a member of the organization, but would not comment further.
Recall that in September of 2014, the City spent close to $400,000.00 on Anderson’s “retirement”, $350,000.00 on accumulated comp time; his 2nd pension with the City, and the lucrative “consulting/lobbying” contract. The Anderson package was passed during the evening meeting of the Commission, after hours of emotional testimony from dozens of citizens about the Sandpiper Project. The Mayor shoved this package down the throats of the Council and taxpayers by simply not allowing a public hearing or discussion on the matter, due to the lateness of the hour, demanding only a vote be taken; the package passed 4-1.To counteract the Mayor’s demand, all the Council had to do was request a delay in the vote, or tabling to the next meeting, but they did not. Since then, despite repeated requests from Council and citizens, we have seen only 9 reports, largely one page summaries that are identical to each other and providing few details. Commissioner Sam Ruth, the lone NO vote, stated that Anderson’s reports “do little to describe what the City is getting from Anderson”.
And your Mayor’s reaction to this news? “Richard’s status and business practices as a lobbyist are his business.”. REALLY, Mr. Mayor?? At $11,000/month for lobbying, I would say this is the CITIZENS Business as Much as Mr. Anderson’s. Mayor continues, “I never felt like I had to get into how Richard conducts his own business”. Again, Mr. Mayor, at $11,000/month, you make it OUR business by getting into his business and protect the City’s interests, NOT Mr. Anderson’s. It is up to YOU to demand an accounting of what Apopka is getting for it’s money. While never addressing the fact he is not registered to actually lobby for the city, Anderson defends himself, “The City hasn’t given me any legislative priorities on what they would like to see thus far”. Not that he’d be able to do anything about it anyway, ethical issues aside. Anderson and the Mayor both use the work being done bringing the Town Center to Apopka as a smokescreen and an excuse for Anderson’s continued misappropriation of at least $11,000.00/month of taxpayer money.
What should the City do? One: Demand the IMMEDIATE return of the $165,000.00 ($11,000.00 X 15 months) by Richard Anderson (or sue him for the money if he won’t return it); Two: the City of Apopka terminates immediately the entire lobbying/consulting contract and any other relationship with Richard Anderson. Three: The City Attorney (or some entity) launch an ethics/fraud investigation to determine which laws Anderson has broken by taking this money under the false assumption that Anderson is a registered lobbyist for our City. This entire matter must be dealt with NOW, as soon as this week’s City Commission meeting. Four: Mayor Kilsheimer is NOT off the hook here and should be questioned closely why he did not feel he had to account for paying someone $11,000.00 a month to someone who was not even registered to perform the services he was hired to do. Richard Anderson has managed to help himself to literally millions of Apopka taxpayer dollars; it’s time for the City to let Mr Anderson know his time is up here.