Hopefully, a renewed Town of Loxahatchee Groves will better consider and benefit the landowners, businesses and residents of Loxahatchee Groves. Underwood Management Services Group (UMSG) is leaving. This should have happened in September 2015, before we endured more misuse of public funds, inappropriate codes with costly weaponized enforcement, failure of road responsibility and maintenance, poorly planned and costly water control district dependency, loss of storm recovery protection and continued vendor contract excesses. Hindsight should be a learning opportunity. We don’t need or want a town manager who controls a majority of the council. Neither do we need or want council members who don’t understand their oversight and evaluation responsibilities or the need for plans and sound judgment, who are unresponsive to resident and Palm Beach County Inspector General concerns and recommendations, and who are afraid to make difficult changes.
Mayor [Dave] Browning had serious oversight failures and was frozen in his support for UMSG to avoid the risk of an abrupt change in the whole town staff. Browning and Underwood both saw the town failing to an extent they both — as primary responsible parties — knew it was time to leave. Here we are: new town manager, new town clerk and probably changes in town staff, especially code enforcement. The now-dependent water control district staff is entirely new and unproven, and left with limited equipment. Changes in the extravagant use of the town engineer, private road contractors, consultants and past misuse of the town attorney must also change. Regarding incumbent council members Todd McLendon and Anita Kane — both have led and provided majority votes on road turnover and water control district dependency decisions that have brought the town to near collapse.
McLendon supported seriously flawed UMSG contracts beginning in April 2016 that were backdated to cover up misuse of public funds and provided more compensation with less responsibility. McLendon sued the town as part of his opposition to Palm Beach State College locating a campus in Loxahatchee Groves. He has personally benefited from selective code enforcement, nonpayment of a federal court judgment in favor of the town and continuing to ignore a state court contempt judgment due to filling in wetlands on his Loxahatchee Groves property. McLendon’s public attack on the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office services and contract with the town have resulted in the prospect of needing an unaffordable police department.
Kane’s recent candidate mailer has mischaracterized her bad judgments as chair of the water control board as accomplishments. She actually spearheaded the expenditure of more than $20,000 to retire the useless mineral rights of Southern States Land & Timber that had no realistic prospect of becoming a problem for canal maintenance or trails. She promoted the turnover of 15 miles of dirt letter roads to the town with no plan for cost-effective maintenance, and then sold water control district graders and water trucks that removed important storm recovery capability when Hurricane Irma visited the town. The town was not prepared for water control district dependency subject to UMSG, and she promoted the false benefits of town control and reduced acre assessments.
Loxahatchee Groves does not need the continued flawed judgments and personalities of incumbents McLendon and Kane on the council. Thankfully, contenders Laura Danowski and Lisa El-Ramey have offered capable alternatives and a transparency commitment to move forward with the town’s recovery. Please listen to and consider these candidates when you vote on March 12.
John Ryan, Loxahatchee Groves