State Rep. Lake Ray offered to step down from the Jacksonville Waterways Commission if its members had an issue with his attendance, the subject of a recent Folio Weekly editorial.
Ray attended the commission’s meeting Wednesday.
The editorial also referred to his recent appointment as president of the First Coast Manufacturers Association.
“If I have misled this body in any way I am willing to tender a resignation and let someone else serve on this commission if that is something (the commission) deems appropriate,” said Ray, who was hired as the association’s president effective Oct. 1.
A letter of resignation wasn’t necessary, according to City Council member Don Redman, chairman of the commission.
“I don’t feel you’ve misled anybody. With your background and your representation here, I think we are very fortunate to have you,” said Redman.
The Jacksonville Waterways Commission was established by Council in 1984 to make recommendations regarding the St. Johns River and tidal waters in Duval County.
Ray was the focus of an Oct. 4 editorial in Folio Weekly because he has attended only seven meetings and missed 23 since October 2009.
It also questioned his stance on a proposed resolution, 2011-607, which asks the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to delay the issuance of a wastewater discharge permit to Georgia-Pacific that would allow the company to direct its treated wastewater into the St. Johns River.
The editorial pointed out that Ray hadn’t attended a majority of meetings, but was present when a vote regarding a Georgia-Pacific issue was scheduled.
Georgia-Pacific is a member of the First Coast Manufacturers Association and a Georgia-Pacific employee, Gary Frost, sits on the association’s board of directors.
“The story made it seem that I was there to specifically address the resolution, but I had no idea that it was going to be discussed,” said Ray.
The resolution was introduced during a Council meeting the night before the commission’s Sept. 14 meeting and it was added to the commission’s agenda the following morning.
“Historically, since the Waterways Commission only meets once a month, anything that comes up on the Council agenda that the Council will take action on before our next meeting we’d historically take that up at the next meeting we have,” said Bill Bishop, Council vice president and a Waterways Commission member.
In addressing his attendance, Ray explained to the commission that his legislative schedule keeps him away from Jacksonville for most of the year, making it difficult to attend all the meetings.
“I was surprised that my committee schedule allowed me to be here today. I didn’t expect to be able to attend until sometime near April or May,” said Ray.
“The question I would pose, given that particular type of scrutiny, is, ‘is it worth having a member of the Legislature as a present member of this body?’”
All of the commission members who spoke were in favor of Ray staying on the panel.
“I appreciate your representation here and think it is very important to have that when you can be here,” said Redman.
“I believe it is very important that we have a member of the Duval Delegation on this commission because the river is not just a Duval County or City of Jacksonville entity. It has statewide implications and we need that connection. I think it’s vital that we maintain it,” said Bishop.
“I think it is understood that a member of the delegation is not going to be here all the time because of the nature of what legislative members do,” he said.
Commission member Penny Thompson agreed.
“I think it is vitally important to have a representative on this commission. You may not physically be here, but we always have the opportunity to talk to you about issues and ask for your support and help over in Tallahassee,” said Thompson.
Council member John Crescimbeni is vice chairman of the commission.
“The waterways of Duval County and the St. Johns River need an advocate in Tallahassee. We deal with FIND money. A lot of good things that happen for the St. Johns River originate in Tallahassee and I think that was the key reason a representative was melded into this mix,” he said.
FIND is the Florida Inland Navigational District.
“I think the value of having a representative from the Legislature sitting on this panel is well worth the hits you may take elsewhere. Thank you,” said Crescimbeni.
“We had two state representatives, I won’t name names, who didn’t attend a single meeting,” added Crescimbeni.
The commission was established in 1984 to study and make recommendations to the Council on improvement, development and protection of the St. Johns River and all tidal waters in Duval County.
The 13-member commission consists of three members of Council appointed by the Council president plus an alternate; one member of the Duval Legislative Delegation designated by the delegation chairman; and nine members of the general public appointed by Council.