letter to the editor

Walter Lagraves on Mosquito Control Board Race: “I will not vote for….

by Walter Lagraves

Dear Editor:

Ralph DePalma is a candidate for the Board of the Florida Keys Mosquito Control Authority (MC).  Let’s think about Ralph DePalma’s record when he was previously employed by Mosquito Control.

We can actually learn a lot about his performance because of Florida’s Government in the Sunshine Law.  That law requires government to make available documents such as personnel records to the public.  I acquired certain portions of Mr. DePalma’s personal record through that law.  If you want, you too can look at his record by clicking here.

His file reveals that he secured a job at MC back in the day when the organization was very loosely managed.  He was one of a 2-person IT department.  It’s reported that IT support was at best….. poor.  During his first years, MC failed Monroe County because of their ineffectual practices, Dengue fever came to Monroe.  It came on the wings of mosquitoes that MC was tasked to control.  In 2009/2010 in Key West alone, there were at least 97 cases. The cases were locally acquired, not travel related.  Mr. DePalma’s beloved team blew it, they failed.  But they spent a ton of money doing it.

Remember that this is the “team” that Mr. DePalma was so proud of.  During this time the MC board voted itself a really big pay raise.  And gave big raises to staff.  In addition, they gave themselves lifetime free healthcare.

But Ralph DePalma was a good ole boy and got along well with the then powers that be.  Maybe it was his prowess with a guitar.  One of his superiors, Mike Spoto, wrote “kind” personnel reviews.  BTW Spoto stole thousands from MC and went to jail for it.  Nonetheless, Mr. DePalma really must have pissed somebody in management, because even in the loosey-goosey management climate he somehow got a memo reprimanding him for using an MC truck for personal usages.  That was and is now forbidden.

Ultimately, a new sheriff came to town in the form of new management.  Things changed for Mr. DePalma.  He was required to perform.  According to his personnel file, he didn’t perform all that well.

The files reveal that he was reprimanded for not showing up for work on time, repeatedly.  His performance evaluations chronicle his failure to complete assigned tasks on time, and lack of punctuality.  The reports also tell us that he was written up on at least one occasion for not even bothering to come to work.  The file shows that he had a penchant for showing up late for meetings, or not showing up at all.  The reports tell us that his co-workers often couldn’t find him to ask him questions or share info, and that his co-workers complained that they had to ask him multiple times to solve IT problems.  And, he often was unable to solve the problems that he had been hired to solve.

The MC uses a numerical system for evaluating employees.  For his last two evals, he just managed to squeak into the “satisfactory” classification.  It’s interesting to note that when Mr. DePalma quit MC, he wasn’t replaced.  It’s reliably reported that their IT system is now working better than ever.

I will not vote for Mr. DePalma.  I’ll vote for Phil Goodman, a man of sterling integrity who led the charge to cut Commissioners pay, and to impose term limits on MC.

~ Walter Lagraves, Big Pine Key


Note:  Mr. DePalma’s personnel file linked here and above contains responses to negative comments found in some of his employee evaluations.

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