Palm Bay: City Hires Ritch Workman. Really?

According to the FloridaToday, the City of Palm Bay has hired former Florida Representative Ritch Workman as a Special Projects Manager.

Former Florida Rep. Ritch Workman recently began work at Palm Bay City Hall as a special projects manager in the facilities maintenance department.

His mission is to oversee a $4 million effort to make all city facilities more energy efficient, which ultimately will lead to saving money in utility costs.

Workman served as business development director at Keiser University from 2014 until March when he was let go because of budget cutbacks. He was responsible for building business-to-business relationships for Florida’s second-largest not-for-profit university, his resume states.

“I did project management for Keiser and really that was the favorite part of that job,” Workman said. “That type of work really is one my attributes, that I enjoy and do well.”

We want to examine a couple of things about this hire and specifically Workman himself.

Workman served in the Florida House of Representatives.

While serving in the House Workman proposed a bill that would allow “dwarf tossing.” This was an activity in bars where people would literally throw “little people” with the longest toss winning. The practice was initially smiled upon but then as people looked into it began to realize the lack of morals and class that it would take to use a person as a sack of sand and throw them for a “sport.” The tide turned and legislation was passed country wide banning the practice, but Workman sought to make “dwarf throwing”legal.

Workman also sponsored a bill that would prevent divorce judges from hearing issues of marital infidelity during divorces. This means that Workman felt that it was okay to break your marriage vows and lying to your spouse about it should not be considered a part of a divorce.

Woekman’s stance may have been because while up in Tallahassee, he signed up on the “Ashley Madison” website, whose slogan was “life is short – have an affair.” The site would “hook people up” with other looking to cheat on their spouses. Workman claimed that he was only on the site for a month and nothing ever came of it, but that is not the point. What kind of person does that? What kind of moral fortitude are you showing by willing to have an affair and sponsoring legislation that would make marital infidelity a non-issue in a divorce?

After leaving the legislature Workman moved on to another venture:

Workman worked for Keiser University as a “business development director” at a time when Keiser was changing it’s business model. In 2011, the Obama administration sought to cut off funding from for profit schools like Keiser. Keiser transitioned to a “not for profit” school but essentially kept up the same business practices of making false claims of graduation rates and employment opportunities to prospective students. Keiser was investigated by Florida State Attorney Pam Bondi and the school reached a settlement with the state.

Keiser University also was the subject of an attorney general investigation. In a negotiated settlement, it admitted no wrongdoing and offered to let some students retake classes. As of early this year, about 1,500 Keiser students had expressed an interest in that opportunity, the Attorney General’s Office said.

The Miami Herald examined thousands of pages from a dozen Florida attorney general investigations — and then followed up with interviews. Other employees who were never part of those investigations also were contacted.

Some worked as recruiters, others as instructors, academic administrators or job placement counselors.

In fact, there is still an ongoing class lawsuit against Kaiser for it’s practices – practices that took place while Workman worked there,

Don’t get us wrong. We aren’t saying that Workman was directly involved with the practices – but he knew about them. He had to know. He had to know that the University / company for which he was working was involved in shady deal and practices and yet he stayed there, collecting a pay check from tuition that people paid based on fraudulent claims and illegal practices by Keiser.

In our opinion this is continuing the idea that Workman lacks a certain standard of morals and character. Think about this for a moment…..

We all hate robocalls and calls that are trying to sell us something. They are scams and come at all times of the day on our phones, interrupting our lives and being pains in the butt. Ask yourself if you could ever work for a company that makes those calls. Could you get up in the morning, look in the mirror and go to work knowing that your paycheck was based upon cheating people and illegal practices?

Workman did just that.

In 2015, Workman began working as a lobbyist and fundraiser.

The role made it easy for Workman’s political committee, Citizens United for Liberty and Freedom, to attract large donations from companies seeking legislation. Workman, whose net worth went from negative $24,000 in 2013 to $34,432 in 2015, used the political committee to cover the cost of many expensive meals while he was in Tallahassee, according to the expenditure reports.

On one day in December 2014, during a week legislators were in town to hold committee meetings in advance of the legislative session, Workman’s political committee had three expenditures he labeled as a “fundraiser.” Purchases on Dec. 9 included: $65.66 at Jacob’s on the Plaza restaurant, $29.16 at Andrew’s Capital Grill & Bar and $717.70 at Cypress Restaurant. All three are within three blocks of the Capitol.

Workman’s fundraising for the week didn’t end there. On Dec. 10, he spent $225.98 at Kool Beanz Cafe for a “fundraiser” and $119.17 at Avenue Eat and Drink the same night, for a “fundraiser.”

The next day he was at The Front Porch, another high-end restaurant in Tallahassee, where he spent $62.60. Sometime that day his political committee racked up a bill for $5,231 at the Governor’s Club, a members-only restaurant also a block from the Capitol.

By Dec. 12, Workman had one more Tallahassee fundraiser charged to his political committee: $56.55 at Jacob’s. And on Dec. 13, he was back in Melbourne holding a “fundraiser,” where he charged $160.36 at the Rodizio Grill.

During this five-day period, Workman spent $6,668 at nine restaurants. His committee received four checks totaling more than $12,700 in December 2014, including $6,231 from the Florida Insurance Council and $5,000 from the optometrists’ political committee. All were dated several days after the “fundraisers.”

Throughout 2015 and 2016, Workman’s political committee spent more than $8,900 on fundraisers in Tallahassee — the lowest single expense being $18.81 at Andrew’s.

Between 2014 and 2016, there are $3,600 other “travel meals” and “travel expenses” from Nashville to Atlanta to Orlando. They include fuel, car rentals, hotels and air fare. Workman’s political committee also financed a $4,400 trip to the Kentucky Derby in May 2016, where he joined other legislators including former state Sen. Frank Artiles, R-Miami.

“I have a large family. My wife is a self-employed speech therapist. We make just fine money,” Workman told the Herald/Times. “We own a farm — donkeys and alpacas — a hobby farm and petting zoo. We don’t have a lot of money, and one of the rules I made for myself is this part-time job, with all the remarkable expenses and travel it takes, won’t affect my income.”

He said he not only used the “fundraisers” to meet with lobbyists but to meet lobbyists and their clients. “Yes, I’m trying to sell myself and why they should give me $1,000, but it’s also a meal I wouldn’t have otherwise bought and my family shouldn’t have to pay for it.”

There were concerns about his actions in that endeavor as well:

State law bans legislators from accepting as much as a cup of coffee from a lobbyist without paying for it, but the laws governing political committees allow lawmakers to take checks of unlimited amounts from lobbyists for their political committees and then use that to pay for everything from tolls and tickets to meals and trips.

“This looks to me like an attempt to get around the gift ban,” said Ben Wilcox, director of Integrity Florida, a Tallahassee-based public interest watchdog group and he said Workman’s expenses expose the flaws in the law. “If you call it a fundraiser, and you’re not raising any money but are meeting with potential donors, it’s probably legally a fundraiser.”

Workman’s political committee raised more than $890,000 over three years with large contributions from gambling, healthcare, insurance, marijuana, telecommunications and sugar interests. Workman, who was term limited out of the House, ran for a state Senate seat against another House member, Debbie Mayfield, in 2016 and lost.

The committee raised its last dollar a week before the August 2016 primary, when he lost to [Debbie] Mayfield. The high-end spending ended then, too. The committee spent its last dollars on contributions to other candidates, a couple of charities, to pay his accountant’s bills, and to a second political committee, Accomplished Conservatives, that financed much of the political spending in his race.

All was not lost for Workman.

In 2017, Governor Rick Scot appointed Workman to the Public Utilities Commission, despite Workman not having any credentials or work experience that would be a good fit for that position. Before he could be confirmed, an allegation of sexual impropriety was leveled against him:

Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto said in a statement that Ritch Workman had touched her inappropriately and made “vulgar” comments to her at a charity event in 2016.

“Workman approached me from behind, pushed his body up against me and made vulgar and inappropriate gestures,” said the Fort Myers Republican. “I immediately asked him to stop. He continued to make vulgar and inappropriate comments and gestures until other attendees intervened. I found his conduct to be abhorrent.”

Scott had appointed Workman, a Republican from Melbourne, to a $131,000 a year job on the Public Service Commission. He was scheduled to start work in January.

Workman’s position was subject to Senate confirmation. Senate President Joe Negron said as a result of the allegations against Workman that he would not be confirmed.

We here at Raised on Hoecakes have long said that just because an accusation is made, that does not make it true. These incidents are often “he said, she said,” and should be investigated. This was not such an accusation. Benacquisto says “other attendees intervened.” There are other people who could have been and should have been talked to. If the accusation is found to be accurate, the person should be held accountable. If the accusation is false, the accuser should be held accountable.

It is unfortunate, but people who are accused of these things and are innocent have to fight to make it clear they did nothing wrong. It is almost as if the innocent have to prove their innocence, but at the same time, people who are innocent will fight for their reputation and their honor.

With all that being true, Workman’s response to the accusation is puzzling at best:

Workman called the governor’s office and resigned within minutes of Benacquisto releasing her statement.

“The governor has consistently said that any misconduct cannot be tolerated,” said Lauren Schenone, a spokeswoman for Scott. “He supports his decision to resign.”

Workman said he did not recall the incident but said “all I can do is humbly apologize to her.

“Out of respect for her, I don’t want to be a distraction to the Legislature and the governor,” Workman said. (emphasis ours)

So a legislator says Workman acted in appropriately, but Workman doesn’t remember it…..and then APOLOGIZES for the incident he can’t remember?

What the heck?

What type of man with any sense of morals and integrity does that?

What type of man can’t remember the incident, but essentially says “I’m sorry for making vulgar comments and rubbing up against you in a suggestive manner?”

Does that make any sense to anyone?

Does any of Workman’s history that we have written about demonstrate that at a time when Palm Bay is crying out for quality leadership and people of character, that Workman is a good hire? A good fit?

I did project management for Keiser and really that was the favorite part of that job,” Workman said. “That type of work really is one my attributes, that I enjoy and do well.”

Workman added: “At the end of the day, Palm Bay has decided to do the right thing, both for the taxpayer and the environment.”

Workman was at Keiser for less than a year and was so good at his job that he was laid off. In other words, the University did not think he was essential to their growth. Furthermore, Workman has no degree in this field, no engineering experience, no LEEDS certification, or anything else that uniquely qualifies him for this job. Nothing.

Palm Bay City Manager Gregg Lynk said of Workman: “We will be able to utilize his skill set and experience working in local government to help ensure continued success working with outside vendors and project managers. Mr. Workman comes highly recommended from colleagues at the county level and we believe he will be a valuable addition to our staff as we continue our work to make Palm Bay thrive.”

As far as we can determine, Workman never worked at the County, so what is being discussed is political connections – not job qualifications, job experience and job quality. If we want to talk about the work he has done, let’s look at his history as a legislator. Let’s look at his participation at a school where all sorts of shenanigans were going on. Let’s talk to Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto and see how she feels about Workman.

Heck, let’s talk to the people who didn’t vote for him during the last election and see how they feel about him.

(As a side note, wasn’t it just last month that the Mayor and the City Council made and presented a proclamation on behalf of “National Procurement Month,” specifically citing the Palm Bay Procurement Department for their excellence in procurement and contract administration? Are we really saying that someone with Workman’s job experience is going to maintain that department high standards? Heck, shouldn’t that Department hired from within and then looked to back fill the position?)

This is a political hire. Pure and simple. This is one of those things where the City of Palm Bay is looking for connections rather than quality of work. For some reason, Palm Bay has become the resting place of failed politicians and people whose morals we question.

And the City leaders wonder why the people don’t trust and believe in them.

Oy vey.

7 Responses to “Palm Bay: City Hires Ritch Workman. Really?”

  1. Dean Paterakis says:

    Is it me or does Ritch Workman look like Anton Levey’s twin brother?

    • AAfterwit says:

      Dean Paterakis,

      Thank you for your comment.

      To answer your question, does Workman’s looks have anything to do with this discussion?

      This is about his performance, qualifications and his hiring by the City of Palm Bay – not his looks.

      And besides, people with glass mirrors shouldn’t throw stones.

      A. Afterwit.

  2. Joseph Mascetta says:

    Palm Bay …. Wake up !! They take away your right to vote for assessments , now this ?? We will REMEMBER in NOVEMBER !!!

  3. David Morris says:

    One thing is for sure, if there is a wrong choice to make Greg Lynk is the right man for the job. He needs a new job someplace else.

  4. A. Chiarillo-Carlson says:

    Really, now when are the leaders of Palm Bay going to wake up and realize that they have no business hiring someone who has such a mixed up background. If he is not saving the city money within 6 months he needs to be gone.

    • AAfterwit says:

      A. Chiarillo-Carlson,

      Thank you for the comment.

      If he is not saving the city money within 6 months he needs to be gone.

      No offense, but wouldn’t Workman have to be saving the City the cost of his salary and benefits (well over $100K per year)?

      The ability to save the City money should have been demonstrated before the hire when the open position was announced. Oh wait….the position was never announced or posted. Wonder why?

      The bottom line is that while the rest of the real world deals with costs and saving money, the City (or any government) doesn’t have to do that. They simply raise taxes and or fees.

      Unlike the outside world, where there is competition, the City has no competition. Unlike the outside world where there are going to be companies making and actually selling products and services and fighting for customers (with the incentive to keep cost down) the City doesn’t have to do that.

      This position doesn’t save the City money? Who cares? There’s always a tax increase that can make up the difference.

      We don’t mean to be picking on you, but once again, this was a political hire – not one based on need or benefits to the City / residents.

      A. Afterwit.

  5. Voter says:

    Palm Bay City Council is a prime example of the Swamp. We need to vote all incumbents out of office and start from scratch.

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