The Key Biscayne Village Council severed ties with its primary lobbyist on Friday after finding ethical concerns with the unauthorized use of the Village’s name to land a $3 million environmental appropriation that passed the Florida Legislature.
The Council voted to accept the resignation of Jonathan Kilman, who sought the funds for the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, where he sits as a member of the board of governors.
Mayor Joe Rasco, an experienced lobbyist in his own right, said the decision came down to telling the truth.
“In my view, there was a misrepresentation of our position and our interest and so we need to move on and put this behind this,” he said.
The move means Village Manager Steve Williamson will have to quickly find another lobbyist as the Legislature is already starting committee work in advance of the January session.
Williamson had initially recommended keeping Kilman and his Converge Public Strategies though the end of the session, but said if the Council wanted to sever the relationship, it needed to act now.
Kilman and his Converge Public Strategies firm offered to resign Oct. 10 after it became public that the appropriations request for a stormwater analytic sensor pilot program falsely cited a letter of support from Williamson.
Kilman has said the reference was an inadvertent mistake. The money was earmarked for the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce based in Wellington, Fla. Kilman has been a member of the board of directors of the group since 2016.
The Council accepted Kilman’s recommendation by a 6-1 vote – with Council Member Frank Caplan the lone no.
Council Member Allison McCormmick said she felt the Village’s position in pursuing $2.6 million for eight projects with the Legislature in the coming session could be compromised.
“Things like reputation and trust matter,” she said. “Trust that we have with our lobbyist, but also the reputation and trust of the Village of Key Biscayne with our legislative body.”
Caplan said he thought the Council was overreacting to an innocuous mistake and that – despite the $3 million pursued – Kilman delivered on all the Village’s priorities, such as funding for beach renourishment and a new library.
“In the past, they worked hard for us, they do a whole array of things that benefit us in Tallahassee,” he said.
The $3 million budget item was introduced by the State House Rep. Carolina Amesty, who represents a district outside of Orlando. State Sen. Alexis Calatayud, whose district includes Key Biscayne, sponsored it in the Senate.
Calatayud’s budget request didn’t cite the Williamson letter of support like the one in the House. However, it did say the Hispanic chamber “is partnering with the Village of Key Biscayne.”
Williamson told Independent he did not even know the $3 million had been secured until he got a phone call from a news reporter. He said a company did reach out to the Village about the project in August but he never heard back from it.
The Council and Williamson stressed that none of the $3 million were ever intended to go to Key Biscayne or have any use for Key Biscayne projects.
The stormwater sensor and predictive analysis pilot project wanted to use Key Biscayne as the site to test its technology. Williamson said it didn’t fit into the Village’s infrastructure plans to replace its outdated stormwater system with one that is pumped-based.
“This wasn’t just for Key Biscayne, it was one that would support the entire state,” Williamson said. “At the time, I told Jonathan and the Converge team that it sounded interesting, but it was not a priority for us at that time.”
Council Member Ed London was tallied as a ‘yes’ vote though he spoke against accepting the resignation. He attended the meeting remotely and the connection was glitchy. He could not be immediately reached for comment to clarify his vote.