ROOTS-L ArchivesArchiver > ROOTS > 2003-03 > 1046809678
Subject: [ROOTS-L] UPDATE ON STATE LIBRARY IN TALLAHASSEE
Date: Tue, 4 Mar 2003 14:27:58 -0600
For those not familiar with Florida, Tallahassee, Florida's captial, is halfway between Pensacola and Jacksonville. It's 30 miles south of the Georgia line and about 75 miles southwest of Alabama. the reason this is so important to know is that most of the people who moved to Florida as it was developing were from Georgia, SC & Alabama.
The area south of Mouseworld wasn't developed until the early 1910 & 20s. It was a getaway for people in the North and promoted even today as a retirement area for people in the Northern US.
The proposed closing of the State Library and move to FSU was bad enough but now they want to move part of it to Ft. Lauderdale. This move will guarantee it will no longer be accessible to North Florida and its neighbors.
Posted on Tue, Mar. 04, 2003
Smith denies lobbying for library's transfer
By Nancy Cook Lauer
DEMOCRAT CAPITOL BUREAU CHIEF
Former Secretary of State Jim Smith says he attended meetings between the Department of State and Nova Southeastern University after he resigned from his government job and resumed his work as a Nova lobbyist.
But Smith, who earned a reputation for high ethical standards during almost two decades as a public official, said he didn't see it as a conflict of interest because he was at the negotiating sessions as a "resource" to the state, not on behalf of his client.
Smith said he attended at the request of former Interim Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who said, "I'm very grateful that Jim was able to step in and provide an introduction with the Nova people." Detzner said Smith also helped those at the meetings understand the workings of the state library. Smith said he didn't recall how many meetings there were.
"I am obviously not lobbying this library issue," Smith said. "I was asked to attend the meetings because I had the background on the issue. If anything, I represented the Department of State."
State "revolving door" law imposes a two-year moratorium on former government decision-makers lobbying the agency where they worked. Civil penalties range from public reprimand to a $10,000 fine if the state Ethics Commission finds a violation did occur.
Smith's action has prompted criticism from some state library supporters, who say it appears to be a conflict of interest. Opponents of Gov. Jeb Bush's plan to transfer the $10 million State Library circulating book collection from the R.A. Gray Building in Tallahassee to the private university located in Fort Lauderdale are organizing a protest of the library move today.
The plan also would give Nova $5 million to move and maintain the collection over the next four years.
Bush says the state will save about $3.8 million per year in upkeep and salaries by not having to maintain the collection. And the transfer will provide much more public access to the little-used 673,002-volume collection, he said. The move includes firing 42 state employees.
Ben Wilcox, executive director of Common Cause Florida, says the criticism of Smith is an indication how easy it is to appear to run afoul of Florida's rather murky lobbyist laws, especially in close-knit capital circles, where lobbyists often make the leap to public official and vice versa.
"If he's technically a lobbyist employed by Nova, I don't think he should be working on something that falls under his previous agency's jurisdiction, especially if it's something that benefits Nova," Wilcox said. "Maybe the distinction he's trying to make is he wasn't lobbying, but it makes you wonder what hat he's wearing at the time."
Records show Smith registered to lobby the executive and legislative branches on behalf of Nova in 2000. He dropped Nova and the rest of his extensive client list when he took over as secretary of state after the sudden resignation of Katherine Harris in August, then resumed lobbying when his five-month stint ended Jan. 7. Bush named Detzner, another Tallahassee lobbyist whom Smith had appointed chief of staff, as the interim secretary of state until Orlando Mayor Glenda Hood took over last week.
Smith said he plans to lobby the Legislature on behalf of Nova this session, but he promised to steer clear of lobbying for funding to move the State Library collection. State law allows Smith to lobby the legislature as well as other state agencies.
Nova attorney Tom Panza said he remembered Smith's being at one or possibly two negotiating sessions but said he himself - not Smith - worked out the deal. Smith's role was limited to describing the State Library collections and how the state wanted to split them, Panza said.
Smith told the Tallahassee Democrat that he had told the governor and others that he thought the Gray Building was "greatly underutilized." But the legislative budget request submitted to lawmakers under Smith's watch in September did not mention a move; it recommended the Division of Library and Information Services' $50.1 million operating budget be increased by about $15 million.
Smith shrugged off the criticism.
"This is just another example, I think unfortunately, that people unhappy with this decision keep stirring the pot," Smith said. "They obviously want to fling a little mud my way."