Did Crist Dangle Commission Seat to Coax Dauray's Sugar Vote?
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Charlie Crist isn't helping a cynical America trust its politicians.
Certainly, he's not helping me.
I learned nine years ago, when he was education commissioner, when he stood in front of a roomful of teachers and promised them they would be making "six-figure salaries" by the end of the decade, that the man will say or do anything to win the moment.
Well, this time Crist may have used the death of a Lee County commissioner to reel in the last extend-the-sugar-deal vote.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, two sources close to the South Florida Water Management District said the Florida governor promised to appoint district Governing Board Member Charles Dauray to the Lee County Commission seat left vacant when Bob Janes died.
All Dauray had to do was vote to extend the Crist sugar deal.
Which is excactly what the Estero resident did. And, which is a little odd.
Dauray, Southwest Florida's representative on the water management board, hasn't always been a proponent of the governor's expensive plan to buy out sugar land in the name of Everglades restoration. He has even been quoted in newspaper articles as complaining the buyout is the wrong way to go in today's bad economy. He voted against the deal first time around.
But, before last Thursday's vote, Dauray is quoted in The Naples Daily News: "(The land-deal extension) is absolutely critical to the economy of the West Coast of Florida and the health and safety of the million people who live there."
Will the governor reward this once-contentious-opponent-turned-SFMWD-teammate with a seat on the Lee County Commission? After all, his vote did make the extension unanimous, 9-0.
Hard to say what the governor will do.
Reached during his visit to Jacksonville last week, Crist denied he had made Dauray any such offer. "That's absurd," Crist told Sunshine State News. "(The appointment) is not going to happen."
Dauray, meanwhile, was "highly insulted" that anybody would think he could trade his vote for a seat on the commission.
"Purchasing or not purchasing the Everglades sugar land stands on its own merit," he said. "I've voted 'yes' to purchase it and 'no' not to purchase it, and that's while Bob Janes was still alive. To imply there was some kind of reciprocity is highly insulting. Now, I did inform the governor some months ago that Bob wasn't healthy, and should he need somebody to step in in Lee County, I would do it. That's all."
Mike Collins, former SFWMD board member from Key West -- a staunch opponent of the land deal -- said, "I only know Charlie (Dauray) was interested in being a Lee County commissioner and he was afraid the governor would punish him by ruling his application out if he voted against the (U.S. Sugar) extension."
One of the sources for this story called Crist's "interference" a bribe. "You put this on your Web site and Gov. Crist is very likely to double-cross Charlie Dauray. The governor doesn't want to confirm a bribe. He'll run like a rabbit from Dauray.
"I used to respect politicians," the source said. "I thought they were engaged in a noble profession. Now I see them as venal, corrupt and obsessed by personal ambition."
Meanwhile, when asked Friday if the governor personally, or through his friend Connie Mack, offered to appoint Charles Dauray to replace Bob Janes on the Lee County Commission in exchange for his support on the Everglades sugar-deal extension, Sterling Ivey, the governor's press secretary, returned this by email:
"I'm not traveling with the governor today, so I can't confirm if he has spoken with either Mack or Dauray ... The Governor's Appointments Office has begun accepting applications from individuals interested in serving on the (Lee County Commission) and will review these applications as they are received. We will interview prospective candidates and the governor will make an appointment from the application pool ..."
Dauray claims he doesn't care one way or the other: "If I'm not appointed to the Lee County Commission, it makes no difference to me. I'll just go back and take my seat on the Water Management District."
Was the disingenuous Crist trying to win the moment again?
Watch our blogs. When Lee County has a new commissioner, no doubt you'll read the name there.
Reach Executive Editor Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at (850) 583-1823.