Water-Related News

South Florida water district chief of staff resigns

A budget dust-up at the South Florida Water Management District over the summer may have taken its first victim: chief of staff Dan DeLisi.

On Thursday, DeLisi submitted his resignation, effective Friday, giving no reason for his departure. When contacted, he referred calls to district spokesman Randy Smith. Smith said DeLisi wanted to return to private practice.

“He felt the timing was right and he was excited about his decision, so he made up his mind and that’s what he’s going to do,” Smith said.

But Audubon Florida Executive Director Eric Draper worries DeLisi was forced to leave after the district governing board voted in July not to cut taxes, then hastily called a meeting to reverse itself.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology-trained planner was appointed to the board by Gov. Rick Scott in 2011 before applying for the chief of staff job two years later.

“Dan DeLisi was a good public servant, both when he was on the governing board and as the chief of staff. He was an honest broker who worked hard to do what was in the best interest of the agency,” said Draper, who said he has known the Fort Myers planner for years. “Dan was one of the better ones. He really was.”

In July, after heavy lobbying by environmental groups, the governing board rejected a staff recommendation to roll back the tax rate and voted for the first time in five years not to cut taxes. The decision added about $21 million to the $754 million budget and prevented the district from having to dip into reserves.

But two weeks later, the board held another meeting to undo the vote, saying the state needed to foot more of the bill for Everglades restoration work overseen by the district, which covers 16 counties from Orlando south to Key West.

After the vote, a spokeswoman for Scott said in an email to the Herald that the board “did the right thing.”

Homestead farmer Sam Accursio, who was appointed to the board in July and approved the cut as his first act, said Friday that he was still trying to get information about the resignation.

The board is scheduled to meet Thursday.