Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Ex-Lobbyist Gets Post Trades Panel Makes Hire without Search

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Ex-Lobbyist Gets Post Trades Panel Makes Hire without Search

Article excerpt

Two weeks after firing a controversial director who angered

builders and City Hall, a Jacksonville board that punishes bad

construction contractors hired a building industry lobbyist as a

replacement.

Richard Hickok, new executive director of the Construction

Trades Qualifying Board, was hired with no search to find other

replacements for Donald Hodges. For more than a year, Hickok has

been a lobbyist with the Mechanical Contractors Association of

South Florida.

Hodges was fired last month after writing a letter to state

regulators, without board knowledge, that said builders and

politicians exerted control over the city's Building and Zoning

Inspection Division, the trades board's enforcement arm.

Hodges, a longtime critic of city enforcement, had angered a

number of builders and city officials. He frequently claimed

influential groups including a local air conditioning

association received special treatment at City Hall.

Hickok said the timing of his hiring was "ironic," because it

occurred a little more than a week after the Times-Union

published a story dehtailing how the air conditioning trade

group had influenced city regulation of new construction.

"I read that," Hickok said. "I never met anybody that had

anything to do with that."

Hickok has lobbied in Tallahassee for South Florida air

conditioning contractors since 1997 but said he will sever that

relationship.

Bob Mathews, chairman of Jacksonville's Construction Trades

Qualifying Board, said he didn't see Hickok's lobbying

background as a problem, adding "if he had been a lobbyist for

North Florida, then it would have raised a question."

Mathews said board members wanted to fill the director's job

quickly.

Hickok and the director's assistant were the only two

applicants board members considered.

"We didn't have enough time to advertise" for candidates,

Mathews said.

Hickok said another building lobbyist told him in August that

Hodges' job might be opening up.

Ronnie Fussell, an aide to Mayor John Delaney, said Hickok

contacted him last year about the job. …

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