Letter: The State Of The Groves

Equal influence and equal benefit are the foundation of “right and proper government.” The ultimate rulers of our community are not the Loxahatchee Groves Town Council and the Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District, not councilmen and supervisors, but the voters of Loxahatchee Groves.

In last council session, John Ryan, treasurer of the LGWCD, complimented those who attend council meetings, as they do represent the majority of town residents, when he said, “Todd is right. There was a lot of loud comments at the September meeting, but I think those were from people that are very loud and pay attention to a lot of what’s going on in the town.”

I am one of the very loud, and “Chancellor Ryan,” you’re right. I do pay a lot of attention to what’s going on in town. I’m loud because the Groves residents need to draw near and hear.

We no longer live at the corner of “happy and healthy.” We are still reeling from the activities of last year’s election. And now, we have two seats coming up for the town council on March 15 and two seats for the LGWCD board in June. Here’s the deal:

The siege by the phantom of the town’s opera to remove Underwood Management has entered its seventh month. The council delays action to extend Underwood Management’s contract. Select members want to hear from the residents. Severn Trent heard that the residents want Bill and Perla Underwood as the town management.

Resident Todd McLendon reminded the council, “You’ve already heard from the residents. For the past six months, the residents have been telling you they want Underwood Management to stay.”

The only publicly offered opposition to the Underwoods are Supervisor John Ryan and Councilman Jim Rockett.

Fellow voters, consider the following five ongoing investigations: the 2015 election by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Councilman Rockett by the Florida Commission on Ethics, LGWCD invoices to the town by the FDLE, LGWCD Supervisor Frank Schiola by the FDLE and the Palm Beach County Office of the Inspector General audit of town government. A complaint has been forwarded to the FCOE alleging interference by Supervisor John Ryan of a town magistrate hearing.

The perception of non-transparency exists. A select group of councilmen and supervisors, that is supposedly a nonpartisan group, works nonstop to keep the same crew in office year after year.

It is hard to see clearly when supervisors and councilmen who are LGWCD loyalists support each other as campaign managers, financially contribute to each others’ campaign and endorse each other in public venue. Does “quid pro quo” evolve from such activities?

The Town Charter prohibits political party affiliation. Is not the LGWCD the cover for a political action group? In a recent council session, a mysterious female LGWCD lobbyist offered threatening remarks to Councilman Tom Goltzené.

Mayor Dave Browning recently commented, “I firmly believe to this day that if the town had come forward, those going for corporation, said we’re going to dissolve the LGWCD, we would not be sitting here today as a town because it would have not passed, because we were assured, I was on the LGWCD board at the time, and we were assured there would not be a move to take over the LGWCD.”

There you have it. The LGWCD is more important than being a town.

It is my view, the rationale to incorporate by LGWCD loyalists was to utilize “town status” to obtain additional revenue for the LGWCD.

Why does the town charter say we incorporated for self-determination, and what guarantees were made to the LGWCD and by whom?

Former councilman and incorporation committee member Dennis Lipp has offered that the incorporation committee never offered the LGWCD any deal.

The December 2015 LGWCD meeting revealed that the LGWCD entered last year’s budget year with a $150,000 surplus and ended with a $116,000 deficit, an estimated $266,000 loss for a single year.

Last week, council voted to ask the LGWCD for site control of all district roads. Florida State Statute 95.361, 2, (b) may require the LGWCD to comply with the town’s request.

The loud and the not so loud are urged to ask LGWCD supervisors Dave DeMarois, Don Widing and Laura Danowski to motion and approve action to make the LGWCD dependent to the Town of Loxahatchee Groves. It is the right thing to do.

Groves residents are encouraged to consider the issues, positions and tendencies of our two elected policy-making bodies, the incumbents, the challengers and to vote accordingly.

It is our duty as citizens to question our government. Casting your vote is the only process that can lead to a truly representative democracy in Loxahatchee Groves.

Keith Harris, Loxahatchee Groves