Key Biscayne hired a new lobbyist after the last one resigned when it was learned he pursued a $3 million appropriation for a chamber of commerce despite being told explicitly by the Village manager not to do so.
At an Oct. 20 special Council meeting, members accepted the resignation of Jonathan Kilman and his company, Converge Public Strategies. But the hiring of the new lobbying firm was not announced publicly at the regular Council meeting on Tuesday, despite appearing on the agenda.
Instead council members were informed, as part of the Village Manager’s meeting memorandum, that the Fort Lauderdale-based firm of Rubin, Turnbull & Associates had been hired for an eight-month agreement.
Williamson and Mayor Joe Rasco interviewed 10 lobbying firms, consulting numerous local and Tallahassee associates, the memo stated. “We believe they are the right firm to help the Village tackle our specific session needs and navigate the current political environment,” Williamson wrote.
In March, the Village plans on releasing a request for proposal (RFP) for long-term representation that involves annually proposing new legislation or modifications to existing laws, appropriations requests and coordinating with departments and agencies.
The firm’s representative for Key Biscayne will be Erica Chanti, who prior to joining Rubin Turnbull served as executive director of Miami-Dade Legislation Delegation in the county’s Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. She also has experience in political campaigns, according to the firm’s website.
Neither Chanti nor the firm returned phone calls or e-mails for comment.
Chanti will replace Jonathan Kilman, who resigned after news reports of how he pursued and secured $3 million for a stormwater sensor pilot for the Wellington-based Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Kilman sits on the governing board of the chamber.
Williamson had told Kilman he was not interested in the stormwater sensor pilot and to focus on other priorities. Kilman pursued it nonetheless.
Rep. Carolina Amnesty, who represents a district in the Orlando area, sponsored the appropriations request in the Florida House, citing a letter of support from Williamson that did not exist. Sen. Alexis Calatayud sponsored the funding ask in the Senate, also citing Key Biscayne’s interest but without mentioning the letter of support.
Kilman said citing the letter of support was a clerical error where an old budget request form was used – but he did not explain why Key Biscayne was floated as a site for the stormwater pilot in the first place. In his resignation letter, he insisted the project was good for Key Biscayne, saying it “offered significant value” because it uses predictive analytics.
“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,” Mayor Joe Rasco said at the Oct. 20 meeting.
While the hiring of Rubin Turnbill didn’t get a mention at Tuesday’s Council meeting, there was discussion of Key Biscayne’s legislative priorities.
The Village is looking for $1 million to help in the first phase of replacing its stormwater drainage in the K-8 Community School neighborhood. It also seeks $700,000 through two appropriations to improve traffic flow along Crandon Boulevard. Programming for seniors ($200,000) and special needs ($100,000) are also among what the Village seeks from the Legislature.
The Village is requesting $250,000 for emergency management planning, training and a 2024 Hurricane Season exercise. Finally, there will also be another effort to land a state grant to help in the removal of sargassum.
Council members on Tuesday asked Williamson if there would be any pursuit of legislation regulating scooters and e-bikes. Williamson said he doesn’t know of any interest after it failed last session but that the new lobbyist would make sure lawmakers know Key Biscayne is interested in any enforcement tools.
Council Member Ed London also asked the lobbyist to see if legislation can be proposed to change the Public Service Act to give coastal communities priority in undergrounding utilities.
As for the stormwater sensor project, Julio Fuentes – president of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce – said he has a team “in touch” with Key Biscayne to still put the pilot on the island.