The news out of Tallahassee yesterday was extraordinary.
At long last, Governor Ron DeSantis finally put the kibosh on one of the longest running scams in our states history when he unceremoniously retracted the appointment of Long John Miklos, Chairman of the powerful St. John’s River Water Management District and president of Bio-Tech Consulting, an environmental consultancy that advocates for private clients before the very regulatory agency he oversees. . .
The move comes after the second ethics complaint in three years was filed against Mr. Miklos alleging “a pattern of concealing ‘conflicts’ which appear to have been completed in a deliberate purposeful manner.”
No kidding. . .
This is good news for anyone who values our sensitive ecology, clean water or the ethical, fair and impartial administration of government regulatory agencies.
As we digest the Governor’s decision, it is also important to recognize the incredible persistence and journalist integrity of The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s environmental reporter Dinah Voyles-Pulver – who, in my view, deserves a Pulitzer for her dogged pursuit of the truth in the curious case of Long John Miklos.
When this alternative opinion blog was in it’s infancy, Mr. Miklos came on the Barker’s View radar in early 2016 with his weird involvement in “The Debacle in DeBary,” a period when city officials hired Mr. Miklos and Bio-Tech to ramrod a highly controversial transportation oriented development on sensitive wetlands known as the Gemini Springs annex.
It was ugly and dark, but it perfectly exemplified how “things” work here in the Sunshine State – the biggest whorehouse in the world.
May 31, 2016 – “The Debacle in DeBary – The Temptation of John Miklos”
My wife and I enjoy the company of two wonderful dogs, Diamond and Nola, both of whom are very affectionate and have become the center of our household. I often remark that we don’t so much keep a home as an elaborate support system for our dogs.
Our youngest, Nola, is just two years old and she can be very precocious.
While well-mannered in most respects, Nola’s one intractable failing is her complete inability to resist the temptation of food. If Patti or I let our guard down and leave the slightest opening – Nola will seize the moment.
As good natured as Nola is, she simply can’t help herself.
Last Christmas I had just taken a beautiful Honey Baked ham out of the oven and placed it carefully on the counter to rest. The family was gathered in the other room, all the trimmings were carefully cooked, prepped and baked and that incredible store-bought ham was as shining and resplendent as a $50-dollar piece of processed meat can be. Just gorgeous.
As I walked into the living room to call the assembled extended family to dinner, I detected a weird shuffling sound behind me. Imagine if you will my abject horror when I next heard what sounded like an Atomic bomb detonating in the kitchen.
Nothing – and I mean nothing – sounds quite like a ten-pound ham and its Pyrex baking dish smashing onto a tile floor from counter-height. It’s a shock to the system. My worst fear was instantly realized with the immediate recognition that Nola had helped herself to the centerpiece of our family’s Holiday dinner.
Now, as I stood there gazing at that wonderful, mahogany-colored, warm dark sugar encrusted beauty laying in a glittering debris field of broken tempered glass I immediately realized – it was not Nola’s fault, it was mine.
I had left the ham too close to the edge knowing full-well that our poor dog is pitifully incapable of any reasonable self-restraint in these matters. So, we all tried to laugh and even took a picture for posterity.
Then Patti mixed a strong eggnog. . .
Leaving Nola alone in the kitchen and asking her to mind the lunch meat is like asking a big boar raccoon to watch your hen house – after a while, the poor bugger just won’t be able to help himself.
It’s in the genes, and at the end of the day, you know deep down that you have no one to blame but yourself.
Which brings me to the continuing saga of Long John Miklos and the curious case of the “DeBary Land Deal.”
It seems that John has a small environmental consultancy in Orlando, Bio Tech Consultants, Inc., that has had the most incredible run of success in ensuring his clients – generally big time land developers – get what they damn well want from the St. John’s River Water Management District.
I mean, it’s uncanny.
Did I mention that the same John Miklos also happens to be Chairman of the St. John’s River Water Management District’s Governing Board?
Because he is.
Now, I’m just spit-balling here, but in most places promoting the interests of personal customers coming before the very same regulatory board that you chair would be considered a colossal conflict of interest – if not a criminal misuse of public office.
In most places, a person that engaged in that level of open thievery would be slapped in irons and publicly humiliated for high crimes against the environment and massive public corruption.
But this is Florida. The rules are different here.
Since his gubernatorial appointment to the board, Miklos’ environmental record is, well, one for the record books – and an interesting confirmation of the old adage, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”
In 2012, in order to facilitate a development near Vero Beach, Bio Tech received a permit to remove a tree which contained an osprey’s nest. Turns out it was a bald eagles nest – but they took the tree down anyway. In my experience, you mess with a bald eagle – or its nest – and the Federal government will tack what’s left of your hide to a barn door.
Not if your John Miklos.
Apparently, records of an investigation into the incident show that Bio Tech had a financial relationship with the chairman of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission – the very agency conducting the investigation.
It seems Miklos and then FWC Chairman Kenneth Wright were business partners in two Florida corporations. No prosecution was ever brought and Federal authorities gave the whole matter a wide berth.
Naturally, Miklos explained his relationship with Wright away as a mere partnership in a Polk County hunting camp.
He has a convenient answer for everything.
Then, last summer a subcontractor working for Bio Tech destroyed nearly 30 acres of restored conservation land in Osceola County. Of course, John Miklos had a perfectly logical excuse – it was the tractor operators fault.
In an unfortunate turn of events, the gentleman operating the tractor said he was simply following a map personally given to him by John Miklos.
Again, regulatory officials investigating the incident found no violation.
Miklos also happens to be the longest serving chairman of the SJRWMD Governing Board, having first been appointed by Charlie Crist in 2010, then reappointed by Rick Scott to an additional four-year term in March 2014. The Governing Board first elected Miklos as Chairman in 2013, and re-elected him in both 2014 and 2015. His current term runs through November 2016.
Let’s just say Governor Scott must have a lot – and I mean A LOT – of confidence in ol’ John.
I mean, most folks would look at his environmental track record and glaring professional conflict of interest and say, “maybe not the best guy to be regulating our drinking water supply,” but not Rick. In fact, the Governor cleaned house of any real environmental regulators at SJRWMD and allowed Miklos to essentially cherry pick the new executive director.
And that’s a big deal.
Conveniently, in 2009 the rules were changed so that only the biggest permits are decided by the Governing Board – the rest are administered by the Executive Director. A good person to have on your side if you are an environmental consultant. . .
The Daytona Beach News-Journal recently reported that an analysis of records obtained from the St. John’s River Water Management District shows that Miklos’ company has represented clients in permitted activities 117 times since he was appointed to the board in 2010 – and Bio Tech’s permitting activity before the district has more than doubled since he became chairman in 2013.
Life was good at Bio Tech.
Unfortunately, it looks like John Miklos and his co-conspirators at the City of DeBary dropped the ball. Or, like all habitual criminals, they just got complacent.
The News-Journal’s Dinah Pulver hasn’t just peeled the onion on this slimy land deal in DeBary – she ripped that sucker open like one of those greasy “Bloomin’ Vidalia’s” at a chain steakhouse.
Of course, these cheap bastards have an answer for everything, and they’ve told themselves the same lies so many times that they are actually beginning to believe their own line of bullshit – and that’s the fatal mistake of the professional grifter.
Never fall victim to your own con. That’s how you end up in a 6’x6’ cell like Bernie Madoff.
Trust me, at the end of the day this debacle will lead all the way to the Governor’s Office.
When asked for comment on the deepening scandal at the St. Johns River Water Management District, Slick Rick repeatedly responds through his media liaison with the same rehearsed yammering about how he expects his appointee’s to conduct themselves in an ethical manner, blah, blah, blah. But I think some folks are getting nervous in Tallahassee.
Scott knows full well that he put the fox in charge of the hen house and everyone associated with Miklos got rich on the double-dip. Much like my Nola – John Miklos just couldn’t help himself when tempted.
In my view, Governor Scott either knew or should have known that John Miklos is a congenital liar and a pathological sneak thief with no morals and a personal disdain for transactional ethics.
Hell, he’s been engaged in the basest form of quid pro quo corruption for so long that he actually thinks its normal.
We are the victims of John Miklos’ crimes, and his exploitation of our sensitive conservation areas – the very wild places he was charged with protecting – will have repercussions for our children.
Damn these scum.
Fortunately, it appears the worm is beginning to turn, and thanks to the leadership of Governor DeSantis, the focus is returning to ensuring that those who occupy positions of high power serve the citizens of the State of Florida – and not their own self-interests.