Power Of Bureaucracy Increases As Power Of Politicians Wane In Florida
By William Henry PhD
Disappointed in your elected leaders? You may direct this disenchantment toward your local bureaucrats.
Many shrewd lobbyists and governmental liaisons have slowly come to realize that the best avenue for exerting influence on government policy and purchasing decisions may not run through elected government officials, but instead through appointed officials, better known as government staff. Enactment of industry-friendly policy or award of a lucrative governmental contract may be just a luncheon or phone call away; not to your local politician, but instead to your local agency staff member that routinely handles these matters.
Why has the influence of politicians waned? As a former appointed government official, I can point to three major reasons:
1. THE FLORIDA SUNSHINE LAW EMPOWERS GOVERNMENT STAFF.
Some time ago, Florida government officials came to the conclusion that decisions out of the public view in so-called ‘smoke filled rooms’ caused bad public policy leading to bad law. They could point to the Federal Government and Congress as an example of this. Congress is notorious for secret back room deals and arm twisting. The Sunshine Law simply means that no two elected officials can meet ‘out of the sunshine’ to discuss the public’s business. Instead, any such meeting must be scheduled in advance and ‘open to the public.’ This may be aired by the local news outlet.
Particularly troublesome is discussing the lack of performance of any government employee in the public forum. Such discussions could undermine any chance for a positive relationship with the staff member after such negativity is aired. Both parties often attempt to avoid such encounters.
The result is that staff can fly under the radar screen. They become emboldened to conduct activities and write policy that may not reflect the elected body’s intent. An avoidance game is played out to avoid controversy.
2. RISK ADVERSE PURCHASING DRIVES UP COST OF GOVERNMENT.
With purchasing decisions, non-elected officials don’t want to be ‘called on the carpet’ by the policy makers for making a mistake. They therefore create criteria for purchasing services or goods from private firms that are construed as ‘safe decisions.’ ‘Safe’ translates into selection criteria that entail the size of the company staff and so-called ‘comparable experience.’ This could eliminate from consideration many smaller more cost effective firms. Therefore, the cost of government goes up.
3. COMLEXITY OF GOVERNMENT MAKES ELECTED OFFICIALS DEPENDENT ON UNELECTED STAFF.
More rules and regulations engender more complex government. Then only long-term government employees can readily understand all the rules and regulations.
Newly elected politicians may want to change things, but quickly find out that they are dependent on their staff for the needed information on which to base decisions. If the staff denies access to this information, the elected leader can be made to look inexperienced and unknowledgeable in the public forum. Again, staff becomes emboldened as they can manipulate decisions to their own agenda. This could be very different from the citizenry’s.
Politicians need to be ardent students of government prior to seeking public office. Otherwise, they could become minions to staff agenda and government protocol. The Governor and State Attorney should look into the constitutionality of the Sunshine Law and the limits to Free Speech. Further, all government contracts to service providers should be publicly bid in lieu of sole sourced under the guise of the Consultants Competition Negotiations Act or what is fondly known by large established firms as ‘CCNA.’ These two steps can reduce the trend of government power being siphoned from elected leaders to non-elected government staff in Florida.
Reliable Group, LLC Architects AA# 0003523 is a well-known architectural and construction management firm based in Tampa, Florida. RGA is headed by Dr. William Henry, both an architect and certified expert witness who issues opinions and testimony concerning design and construction related matters. Having designed over 250 landmark buildings in the state of Florida, he has represented and testified for both plaintiffs and defendants in cases involving code violations such as associated with design and construction defects as well as American Disabilities Act – ‘ADA’ violations. William Henry, PhD (Bill) may be reached at (813) 226.2220 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © 2012 REAL Magazine
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