Title: Letter
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/WL00000950/00001
 Material Information
Title: Letter
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Spatial Coverage: North America -- United States of America -- Florida
Abstract: Letter To: The Honorable John W. Vogt - President, Florida Senate and The Honorable Jon L. Mills - Speaker, Florida House of Representatives From: Robert A. Butterworth -Attorney General
General Note: Box 7, Folder 4 ( Vail Conference 1989 - 1989 ), Item 49
Funding: Digitized by the Legal Technology Institute in the Levin College of Law at the University of Florida.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: WL00000950
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: Levin College of Law, University of Florida
Holding Location: Levin College of Law, University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.

Full Text


Atornry Ceneol
Staor o FloridO

October 24, 1988

The Honorable John W. Vogt
President, Florida Senate
409 The Capitol
Tallahassee, Florida 32399-1100

The Honorable Jon L. Mills
Speaker, Florida House of
420 The Capitol
Tallahassee, Florida 32399-1300

Dear President Vogt and Speaker Mills:

As members of the Legislature are painfully aware, the State of
Florida has been fending off attacks on its sovereignty land
ownership of river beds and lake bottoms for more than a decade.
Taxpayers have paid more than $7 million in litigation costs
defending the people's ownership of these submerged lands during
this period.

On November 3, 1987, this office brought before the Governor and
Cabinet a keystone settlement with the Mobil Oil Corporation in
the dispute over ownership of the Peace and Alafia Rivers. Under
that settlement, not only was the State's ownership of the rivers
affirmed, certain environmentally sensitive tracts were conveyed
to the State to partially offset our legal expenses.

The Governor and Cabinet unanimously adopted that settlement,
simultaneously instructing the Department of Natural Resources to
develop rules by which the laws governing sovereignty submerged
lands can be applied. The Department was instructed to ensure
that its rules are fair, that special attention be paid to
homestead and other small tracts and that a mechanism be provided
for a quick resolution of disputes in a private landowner's favor
when the interests of justice so dictate. That rule-making
process has been under way for many months. It was intended that
all interested parties have input into this process and was hoped
that the resulting rules would at long last end the costly
M- litigation of the past decade.



President Vogt and Speaker Mills
Page Two

Inexplicably, the Florida Board of Professional Land Surveyors
has decided to duplicate the DNR rule-making process. This
board, consisting of appointed members, adopted a rule purporting
to set an official ordinary high water line definition. This
rule, approved with minimal public notice and debate, is
virtually identical to the position advanced, without success, by
Mobil oil and other large corporate landowners, both in the
courts and in the Legislature. The principal witnesses heard by
the board were the same so-called "expert" witnesses employed by
Mobil for the Peace River litigation. And the effect of the rule
will be the same as if the State had lost the Peace River case:
the people of Florida will lose title to numerous submerged

This office, acting on behalf of the Governor and Cabinet, filed
an administrative challenge to the rule, thus delaying its
implementation. It is the legal position of the Executive Branch
that the board has radically exceeded its statutory authority in
adopting this rule, which amounts to a fundamental change in law.
Analysis of the rule finds it containing much that has nothing
whatsoever to do with land surveying. Either the board has been
grossly misled by others as to its powers and duties, or it has
acted irresponsibly at potentially great expense to taxpayers.
If this board believes it is empowered to, in effect, transfer
title of submerged lands away from the people of this state, does
it also believe it has the authority to set restrictions on the
r size of public schools or the location of new highways simply
because surveyors are also utilized in those projects?

The board's action has already proven costly. An emergency DNR
budget transfer of more than $50,000 is necessary to re-assemble
the State's team of expert witnesses. Thousands of dollars worth
of attorney time has already been consumed. And should the rule
become implemented -- however briefly -- the costs of the
probable additional litigation are certain to run into the
hundreds of thousands of dollars at a minimum.
The manner in which this rule was proposed and adopted is
troubling and has raised several disturbing questions:

--What influence did the Mobil Oil Corp. and/or other
corporate landowners or their lawyers have in proposing that such
a rule be adopted when the board apparently saw no need for one
in its regulation of surveyors in the past?

--Did counsel for these corporations actually author a draft
or drafts of the rule considered by board members?

--Did the board ignore the advice of its own private outside
legal counsel regarding the adoption of such a rule?

President Vogt and Speaker Hills
S Page Three

--Were any steps taken beyond the minimum required public
notice to solicit input from sportsmen's organizations,
environmental groups and other interested parties or to alert the
Florida public and statewide news media to a proposed rule having
such a profound public impact?

--Have any board members had business or other relationships
with the corporations on record in this case or their law firms?

While the board is appointed by the Governor, receives
administrative support from the Department of Professional
Regulation and normally receives legal counsel from^this office,
it is an independent entity whose main accountability comes
during a Sunset review process. A Sunset review is scheduled for
the Board of Professional Land Surveyors in the coming
legislative session. It is the recommendation of this office
that the scope of the board's authority be examined at that time
to determine if statutory change is necessary to prevent such a
waste of public funds in the future.

Thank you.


Robert A. Butterworth
Attorney General


cc: The Honorable Bob Martinez
The Honorable Jim Smith
The Honorable Gerald A. Lewis
The Honorable Bill Gunter
The Honorable Doyle Conner
The Honorable Betty Castor

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