On August 22, 2017, Parks and Recreation Manager Harry Johnson sought approval for a concession contract for Guest Services Inc., known, and doing business as Boating in Florida. At that time, Johnson did not mention that an existing contract already allowed Flohana, LLC to pick up kayaks at Rogers Park. Flohana’s existing contract was not voted on or signed by the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC), and expires on September 30, 2018. A county-wide memo was issued by Attorney Garth Coller to immediately prohibit the practice going forward.
The county has a contract with Flohana to conduct their operations at Linda Pedersen Park, Bayport Park, Jenkins Creek, and Pine Island. Flohana rents beach chairs and umbrellas as well as kayaks and stand-up paddleboards (SUP) for use on the Weeki Wachee River. They currently use Boating in Florida’s ramp to launch the vessels at the headspring.
According to Johnson, Flohana’s kayaks are accounted for in the 70 boats launched-per-hour requirements of Boating in Florida. Since the August 22, 2017 contract only allows for one vessel rental agency to pick up in Rogers Park, Parks and Recreation has allowed Flohana to enter the park with a vehicle to pick up kayaks after Florida Boating has completed their pickups at the end of the day.
The core problem is that staff signed the contract with Flohana, and the BOCC was unaware that the contract existed, or was in effect at the time they voted for Boating in Florida to conduct operations on the Weeki Wachee.
Commissioner John Allocco expressed his concern that the problem is viewed by the public as a lack of transparency by the BOCC. Allocco said “I don’t think we should have any contracts that are getting signed by staff without coming through (the BOCC).” He went on to question how many other contracts that the board is unaware of that will be found by “citizens being watchdogs.”
Deputy County Administrator Jeff Rogers suspects that prior leadership may have permitted the practice, and according to Coller, by law the contract is still valid due to county staff having the appearance of authority from Flohana’s perspective. In a case such as this, the true authority is still bound by the contract.
No further action is being considered at this time, and The Hernando Sun will continue to follow developments relating to the Weeki Wachee River.