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  • Writer's pictureStaci-lee Sherwood

Florida agency gets ½ BILLION budget & a ‘nonprofit’ but where does the money really go?

Updated: Jan 24, 2023

By Staci-lee Sherwood

In the age of corruption you need not look any further than the state of Florida as a prime example. Just when you think you have heard it all, there’s Florida waiting in the wings with something even more outlandish. Their state wildlife agency, Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission (FWC) has brought the level of corruption to new heights. On the list of offenses are openly hunting endangered species like the Goliath Grouper, whose accurate population is unknown yet the killing has been allowed. The killing of most endangered sea turtle hatchlings by light pollution and the starving of the manatees just to name a few.

Public servants are suppose to serve the public but rarely do. One of the biggest draws to a government job is easy access to money. Whether hired or appointed those who work in government have a protected shield around them from lawsuits and accountability. Some have it down to a science where they constantly move from different departments staying one step ahead of being discovered as a fraud, liar or thief.

Total disregard for wildlife

Money is not spent on Sea Turtle conservation because most of the hatchlings are killed before hitting the ocean by light pollution. Laws are not enforced, fines and lawsuits never materialize and no funding is spent on that. Salaries of the staff in the sea turtle program run near the $40 – 50k so they aren’t spending it on big staff perks.

They refuse to enforce state and federal protection law. They refuse to enforce any light ordinance. They refuse to fine or sue any violators and law breakers. They skew the data to fit their agenda. They lie by omission to the media. They are the biggest obstacle to real conservation and openly hostile to any person or group who wants to save the species. They got rid of all but a few rescue volunteers, thanks to a lawsuit they lost, but have crippled the effort. Click here to read the truth which contradicts their spin.

They claim they feed the Manatees but much of the lettuce they use is donated, it’s also not what should be fed to them. The water they swim in and where their food is grown is so polluted that replanting seagrass did not succeed. Whatever they claim to have done would have to be 1) verified by someone other than FWC staff and 2) the bare minimum they can get away with. The agency websites claims the 2023 budget comes with $30 million to ‘enhance and expand manatee rescue and rehabilitation efforts and provide habitat restoration’.

How does FWC plan to restore the habitat when they refuse to stop spraying toxic herbicide that killed most of their food? Necropsies should have been done on all dead manatees but were not, any data collected was not released to the public because it would show how their herbicide policy is killing manatees. This is the same agency that threatened to arrest people feeding manatees lettuce because they knew the FWC wouldn’t lift a finger to help. Call them about a stranded manatee means waiting hours for them to show, if they even bother to. Calling their hotline has proved futile most of the time. Click here to read and watch a short video of the truth which again contradicts the spin coming out the agency paid mouthpieces.

If funding is spent on preserving Panther habitat it must be invisible because every year they lose more land. Every chance FDEP (Florida Dept of Environmental Protection) gets they sell public land, especially in Collier County where there is ‘panther refuge’ listed but is too small to sustain a healthy population. Former FWC Commissioner Liesa Priddy spent many years trying to get a hunt of panthers going. The species losses habitat every year to developers and is barely hanging on. No surprise the Chair of FWC Commissioners is a developer.

The water in Florida is among some of the most contaminated since they still allow dumping of human poop into the water. This is on top of the near constant spraying of herbicides into the water and air. Some of the chemicals used are Diquat (banned in the EU since 2018) and Glphosphate (main ingredient used in deadly Roundup that has caused so many to die from cancer) so they aren’t spending money of safer alternatives. No training is provided to those charged with spraying. This is evidenced by countless eyewitnesses watching year after year when everything in sight is sprayed including wildlife. I have witnessed this myself many times. Money is not spent on oversight because that would require following the law.

"How can anyone read this and still believe that Florida water and food is safe?"

Paraquat is known to cause Parkinson’s Disease and banned in the EU. It is still exported and widely used in the US due to virtually non-existent regulations and concern for citizens health. It’s used in Florida for weed control and produce. Despite being a known carcinogen it’s still OK to use in Florida. According to Fred Fishel, who is a pesticide specialist and retired professor of agronomy at the UF/IFAS Extension “officials have allowed the use of this highly toxic herbicide on many of Florida’s important crops, including vegetables and peanuts.”

In 2018 Ron Desantis ran for Governor on a ‘clean water’ campaign that was suppose to end herbicide spraying. The South Florida Water Management District did for a few months then resumed. FWC was nowhere to be found when it came to the toxic effect on manatees, sea turtles, oysters and fish, they did nothing. Toxic water has been a forever problem that keeps getting worse. However since Desantis made campaign claims he would end a big part of the problem, then allowed for the previous status quo, toxic water is the legacy of Gov. Desantis.

After the Black Bear massacre of 2015, which was called off after 2 days due to national pressure brought on by photos of dead nursing mama bears and cubs. More examples of the pro hunting policies this agency has with little to none genuine conservation. Much of the actual work is being done by volunteers and nonprofits who want to save the bears. These groups would be the nonprofit Bear Warriors United United and Bear Defenders. Once again science was ignored in favor of the blood bath. The only regret the agency has is how the facts got leaked to the press. This is one of the terrible legacies of former Gov and now Senator Rick (tricky dick) Scott.

The endangered Goliath Grouper would love some funding but the agency shoes instead to allow a hunt of them. Up to 200 groupers can be killed yet no one actually knows how many we have which might not even be 200. The reckless policies of FWC appears to be kill and lie and little else. The IUCN claims they’re listed as critically endangered and protected but Florida does not recognize or abide by laws.

During FWC hearings people spoke against any lifting of protection while nearly 60,000 people signed petitions against the hunt. At first the hunt was going to allow for 100 to be killed then it was changed to twice that. FWC Chair Rodney Barreto claimed this was a great conservation success and they should pat themselves on the back… says the developer with more than a dozen LLC’s to his name. This is another terrible legacy of Gov. Ron Desantis. Click here to read about the idiocy and illegality of Florida ‘conservation’ policy

The Gopher Tortoise is a protected species in Florida. In the past developers only had to apply for an ‘incidental take permit’ (allowed to kill for no reason) to pave over their burrows slowly killing them by starvation and suffocation. Though FWC says they no longer issue these take permits, enforcement is lacking and developers have been known to start construction without first relocating tortoises. The state population is unknown but in 2006 it was estimated they numbered near 785,000, scientists today don’t think there are even 700,000 left in the wild globally. FWC stated in 2022 that 10,000 tortoises are relocated annually so we can build more houses and malls. Survival rate of relocated animals is unverified but relocation is done for the convenience of people.

Look at all that money

What does nearly a half Billion dollar budget buy a state agency? Contrary to their PR spin to the media, that does little fact checking, not much genuine conservation. With that much money they should be saving wildlife and keeping the water safe and clean but the opposite is true. What do they do with all that money? I know personally their sea turtle program is a sham and after 15 years in Florida I have witnessed time and again the lies and manipulation of facts. They ignore their own scientists when it suits their pro hunting buddies, as was the case with the bear hunt.

If their taxpayer budget isn’t enough they have their own ‘nonprofit’ to draw from with $10 million in assets. Where does that money go? Nonprofits have little regulations and oversight and anyone can form them so who knows where those millions really end up. How is it legal for a government agency to also have a nonprofit? It doesn’t sound legal, certainly not ethical, but they copied the federal government who do the same thing. If you ever questioned government corruption here is part of that answer. These federal agencies also work closely with state agencies so they’re sympatico.

“The state government takes primary responsibility for regulating nonprofits. So it really IS the fox guarding the hen house. The state has no interest in overseeing a nonprofit run by a state agency.”

Giving themselves awards

Awards are suppose to be given to a person or group that goes above and beyond what is required. The standard for qualifying for such a prestigious recognition of work has been lowered to where much of the meaning is lost. The state agency FWC puts out press releases showing them receiving awards from their own nonprofit foundation. The public is clueless about this unless they look at who makes up this foundation and you see they are former FWC staff or FDEP staff (Florida Dept of Environmental Protection). If you work in conservation it would be unfathomable how anyone at FWC would receive an award, a prison sentence maybe but not an award.

How many businesses does the FWC Chair need?

Government appointees should be individuals who demonstrate great talent and integrity and a desire to serve the public. Of course this is the myth few, if any, live up to. I can’t think of any FWC Commissioner coming close to that, usually they live on the opposite end of the spectrum. Below are the companies and foundations that Rodney Barreto has formed, there might be more. Little to no information is available as almost all are listed as a LLC, a Limited Liability Company.

The main advantage to an LLC is the legal protection they offer. The owners' personal assets are protected from business debts and lawsuits against the business. LLCs are not required to have annual shareholder meetings or maintain a board of directors, nor are they bound by the administrative requirements often seen with corporations. With all these businesses to run where does Barreto find the time to work at FWC?

In 2021 Barreto got into hot water when he tried to get several acres of submerged land he bought four years ago, filled and dredged in the Lake Worth Lagoon. He wants to do this without state or FWC approval because the condos he plans would make him millions. The plan is so destructive even the South Florida Water Management District said they had serious concerns back in 2018. If they disapprove you know it’s bad. The lagoon is where the state spent money and time bringing back oysters and mangroves. Barreto claimed his job as FWC Chair and head of Government Lot 1, LLC, the company he formed to buy this land, was not a conflict of interest. Of course there’s a conflict but Florida is a deregulation state with no protection for consumers or taxpayers.

Here are the listed active companies Rodney Barreto has, could be others:

  • Otter Creek Investments, Inc. 1990

  • Otter Creek Market, Inc. 1991

  • 235 Catalonia, Inc. 1996

  • Barreto Holdings, LLC 2002

  • Barreto Management Limited Liability Company 2003

  • 12310 LLC 2005

  • Blue Water Express, LLC 2006

  • Bg Commercial, LLC 2007

  • Barreto Cunningham May Dudley, doing business as Floridian Partners, formed in 2009. They provide consulting, strategic advice, and lobbying services. The Company specializes in areas such as campaigns, elections, legislative, and insurance regulatory practices, as well as telecommunications and utilities.

  • Silver Oak Plantation Ts, LLC 2010

  • Plan B Marine, LLC 2015

  • Bnm Opa, LLC 2016

  • Government Lot 1, LLC 2016

  • Barreto Capital LLC 2017

  • Btw Investments, LLC 2019

  • Rodney & Sheila Barreto Family Foundation, Inc 2019

  • Barreto Real Estate Group, LLC 2021 (run by son Bradley)

Ethics & integrity?

How ethical is it for an employee of a government agency to also be the President of The Florida Aquatic Plant Management Society (FAMPS), whose mission is to maintain the status quo of using herbicides. According to their website their mission is ‘protection of water quality in the state’. How does spraying chemicals in the water that has been banned in other countries and shown to be dangerous qualify as protection? It doesn’t it’s a lie.

The FAPMS website states ‘Making available to the media accurate information for the education of the public as to the need, safety, advantages and limitations of aquatic plant control.’ This is about the millions the state pays to these companies to spray the poison in the water and air, who are also part of the society. Bottom line is this has nothing to do with safety and everything to do with $ money.

Matt Phillips. FWC Biological Administrator for the Invasive Plant Management section is now running this group. Does this look ethical to you? How can a government employee paid by taxpayers to act in their best interest also run a group with officers made up from the very same chemical companies they hire for millions? It sure seems like a violation of state ethics law but you won’t see anyone investigating this…..I wonder why.

The 2021 Florida Statues

Title X Public Officers Employees and Records

Chapter 112

112.313 Standards of conduct for public officers, employees of agencies, and local government attorneys.

(6) MISUSE OF PUBLIC POSITION.—No public officer, employee of an agency, or local government attorney shall corruptly use or attempt to use his or her official position or any property or resource which may be within his or her trust, or perform his or her official duties, to secure a special privilege, benefit, or exemption for himself, herself, or others.

"Wondering why you don’t read about all this in the ‘news’ ? It’s called corporate consolidation of media companies designed to remove facts from public access. Remember that every time you read or watch the news."

The New York Times won't report on this either. Their branding company Tbrand has the state of Florida as a client. Just another reason to question what you read in the news. Click here to read about these giant newspapers with their own clientele of polluters

Florida will never have clean water, abundant wildlife or an agency that isn’t corrupted as long as things stay the same. The residents do not benefit from the status quo but those who do run the state government and all the agency’s, it’s up to the citizens to force the change those in power never will.

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7 Σχόλια

07 Αυγ 2023

And after reading this article, on emay ask what will the Governor do? I doubt anything. He is too busy failing at running for President of the country and has little if any regard to what goes on here in Florida unless something may impact his political aspirations.

But you may ask why is Barreto even on the FWC Commission much less the Chair?

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21 Δεκ 2022

This article makes me feel like going insane and I don’t even live in Florida! Sickening and sad, I do not understand has this is allowed and why people in Florida allow it! Your reporting is unlike most reporting now a days, you actually report it all! It sticks out like a sore thumb and I hope people notice, please keep it up! Kevin

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Staci-lee Sherwood
Staci-lee Sherwood
21 Δεκ 2022
Απάντηση σε

Thank you Kevin and it is beyond comprehension how any of this goes on. The obvious lies, cruelty and conflict of interest stands out and is not hidden. The state is the poster child for how to run a state govt with 0 ethics. I started this blog for this reason to shed light on issues few if any want to report on. Our news has been taken over by industries with interests in keeping the public in the dark while they reap rewards $$,

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19 Δεκ 2022

Top notch reporting, as always. Thank you, Staci-Lee!

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Staci-lee Sherwood
Staci-lee Sherwood
20 Δεκ 2022
Απάντηση σε

Thank you. If only this was how newspaper reported the public would really know what's going on.

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17 Δεκ 2022

Thank you for excellent reporting.

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Staci-lee Sherwood
Staci-lee Sherwood
17 Δεκ 2022
Απάντηση σε

Thank you for reading., so much information is just not being covered by the media.

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