Lakeland’s Lobbyist?

When a city hires a lobbyist, they should expect that person or company to first try to influence legislation to help that city. Second, they should expect that person to report back items that will impact that city.

Most of all, they should expect that person has no problems putting that city first.

For more than six years, Lakeland has employed David Shepp and Florida Strategic Group, LLC. as their lobbyist in Tallahassee. Evidently, they’ve been happy with the work. They’ve just rehired FSG:

Florida Strategic Group has worked diligently in both Tallahassee and in Washington D.C on behalf of the City and has greatly assisted in advancing Lakeland’s interest, project funding and monitoring of legislation that would impact municipal operations. — Sep. 17, 2007 recommendation to rehire FSG (pdf) (1)

Lobbyists rarely represent a single entity, but they don’t represent competing groups. FSG has quite a few clients, including the cities of Lakeland and Winter Haven. (2)

Looking back at Limited Liability Company Annual Reports since 2001, FSG was started by Sam Killebrew, the current president of the Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce. Shepp was brought in as a partner in 2002.

It was in May 2002, that FSG temporarily removed themselves as Winter Haven’s registered lobbyists during Winter Haven Mayor Charles Richardson’s campaign for Polk County Commission. At that time, Richardson praised FSG’s work for Winter Haven, “They’ve done their job for the city,”

Killebrew’s tenure at the Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce has been one where the CSX project was often, and highly, touted on the Chamber’s blog. During that same time, Lakeland has always been a step or two behind finding out information from our legislature and state departments. Areas where you’d expect your lobbyist to be “in the know.”

In light of the fact that Lakeland and Winter Haven are at odds over the CSX deal, and that the Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce has been such a strong supporter of the ILC, would we be better served by a lobbyist who works only for our city?

(1) The city did rehire FSG at $54,325 plus certain expenses for work Oct. 2007 to Sep. 31, 2008.

(2) According to the Lobbyist Registration Office, Shepp represented Lakeland for “$10,000 to $19,999” for the period of July 1, 2007 to Sep. 30, 2007.

During that same time he represented Winter Haven for “$0” He did get “$1 to $9,999” from Winter Haven in January to March 2007. It was $0 again for April to June, 2007.

(3) Shepp registered the company with a new business in Lakeland during September 2007 (pdf). However, staff report Killebrew is still at the company.