Month of August 2009

 
 

Watchdog Report Vol.10 No. 14 August 30, 2009

Miami-Dade Florida

Vol. 10 No. 14 August 30, 2009

Daniel A. Ricker, Publisher & Editor

Est. 05.05.00  I go when you cannot & A community education resource & news service

Celebrating My Tenth Anniversary  www.watchdogreport.net & Former, www.miamiherald.com/news/columnists/dan_ricker

CONTENTS

Argus Report: Gov. Crist goes for loyalty, picks the campaign’s ‘maestro,’ attorney LeMieux

Florida: CFO Sink wants to prepare “Florida for 21st Century,” runs on shoulders of activist women given vote 89 years ago

Florida Supreme Court: Justice Pariente is in the spotlight this week, had $3.45 million net worth through Dec. 2008, over all disclosure is benign

Miami-Dade County: Dramatic black tee-shirts with names of dozens of fallen police officers will greet employees at Stephen P. Clark Center Monday

Broward County: Commissioner Gunzburger in the spotlight, elected in 1992, had net worth of $4.1 million through 2008

Palm Beach County: State Sen. Aronberg running for state AG, had $554,000 in net worth, faces state Sen. Gelber in primary

Monroe County: Schools Supt. Acevedo convicted, wife faces prosecutors and jurors next

Miami-Dade Public Schools: New school year kicks off for 336,000 students, some courses taught in over a dozen languages

Public Health Trust: Commissioner Heyman sends message to health trust, top salaries are way too high for the times

City of Miami: Mayor Diaz tries again to get Miami 21 passed, $2.5 million already spent on the plan

City of Miami Beach: Possible PHT trustee Ruiz says she has the time; administration supports such activities

City of Coral Gables: One resident’s verbal detonation at commission meeting, causes Mayor Slesnick to recess body

City of Homestead: Old city in the spotlight, Mayor Bell’s salary only $4,975 says ethic commission report

Village of Bal Harbour: Mayor gets $1,800 salary; council members get $1,200 per year

Village of Bay Harbour Islands: Village’s leaders find out what can be bought for a $1.00 a year, which is their elected yearly salary

Village of El Portal: In Village, Mayor Davis and other elected leaders get $1,000 salary, another $1,000 in expenses

Town of Medley: Mayor Ramon Rodriguez gets $179,000 in salary; council members receive $35,258

Community Events: Fair Immigration Summit — Ethics and the Media panel at UM

Editorials: Signs suggest Miami-Dade budget hearings will be contentious, civility must be maintained — Miami finally wakes-up, realizes $118 million in cuts, also busted by HUD for millions undocumented

Letters: Reader on civility & what no school report?

Sponsors – Publisher’s mission statement & Subscription information is at the bottom of this issue

>>> Just because you do not take an interest in politics does not mean politics will not take an interest in you. –Pericles (430 B.C.)

>>> If you wish to be deleted, just e-mail me with that message and you are free to e-mail this on to friends.

CORRECTION: In your 08-23 Watchdog Report issue, you mentioned Commissioner’s get a travel allowance.  We don’t, so if you could please correct the record, I would really appreciate it. Coral Gables Commissioner Maria Anderson

ARGUS REPORT – Heard, Seen on the Street

Gov. Crist goes for loyalty, picks the campaign’s ‘maestro,’ attorney LeMieux

Gov. Charlie Crist (net worth $466,000) Friday picked George LeMieux, a former Florida deputy attorney general and chief of staff to the governor to the U.S. senate seat being vacated by Republican Sen. Mel Martinez and it is a safe selection for Crist who is running for the seat in 2010. LeMieux, a former Broward County Republican Party chair ran the governor’s campaign and Crist gave him the title of ‘maestro’ after he won the election in 2006. A number of other people were in the chase but after the Watchdog Report heard the news Friday. I asked about 20 people what they thought, many noted LeMieux’s “loyalty” to Crist, and it was a “predicable and safe choice,” said someone else. However, Democrats fired back immediately in e-mails saying, the choice smacked of ‘cronyism’ and LeMieux was not up to the job and has worked as a lobbyist for a number of firms. The attorney is more centrist than some Republicans wanted and former House Speaker Marco Rubio, R-Miami blasted the governor for the making this choice. It should be noted Rubio is seeking the Senate seat and is challenging Crist in the closed Republican Primary in 2010. U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, D-Miami and a challenger from his party who is gunning for the Senate seat as well thought Florida would be better served with another choice with more experience on Capital Hill.

LeMieux, 40, is expected to take office after Sept.9 states www.miamiherald.com and that will result in Martinez still doing the interview with the three U.S. attorney candidates here in the Southern District of Florida as was reported in last week’s Watchdog Report. Martinez and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson will be interviewing David Buckner, Wilfredo “Willy” Ferrer, and Daryl Trawick for the local top federal prosecutor and the district is one of the largest and busiest in the nation.

>>> Gov. Crist press release: Dear Friends, The process of selecting a United States Senator has been guided by the intent to select someone of great honor and integrity, who also has demonstrated a commitment to serve the people of our state. I am grateful to the Floridians we considered for this appointment – for their service in their respective capacities, and for their patience with this process. They are honorable men and women of great distinction, and I thank them all for their wisdom and their candor.

I am also grateful to Senator Mel Martinez for his years of service to our great state. His is a story that illustrates the American Dream for so many in this country and around the world. I wish him and his family well as he transitions back into private life. The guiding principle of my career, my campaigns, and our administration has been public service. I have had the great honor to work with so many hard working public servants who choose to put service above self in ways that inspire and encourage me to continue my commitment to the people each and every day. So many of the individuals who serve in our administration sacrifice time with their families and financial opportunities in the private sector to give back to the very communities that nurtured their upbringing in our great state and around the country.

George LeMieux has been a tremendous example of this very type of commitment. When the private sector first called, George chose the path of public service – to first serve as Deputy Attorney General, and then as Chief of Staff in our administration. I am proud to inform you today that I am appointing former Deputy Attorney General George LeMieux to the United States Senate where he will serve the remainder of Senator Mel Martinez’s term. He has argued before the United States Supreme Court and played an integral role in the creation of the Florida Cyber Crime Unit. He was instrumental in developing legislation to provide handheld devices to protect our children and to improve higher education for our students. He has built a beautiful family with his wife Meike and their three wonderful boys – all while fighting for Florida’s families, small business owners and seniors. May God bless you and the great state of Florida.

>>> The death of Ted Kennedy has the nation reflecting on his life, and his two brothers John and Robert Kennedy cut down early in their lives by a assassins bullets and depending on your age, I am soon to be 58. You can still clearly see the black and white television footage of the president’s burial, and in color the train procession of his brother’s coffin in 1968, just months after Martin Luther King, Jr., had been killed as well.  Kennedy whose life was a mixed bag that included a women drowning in a car he was driving after an accident and was considered the devil by many Republicans. However, in his later years, his stature evolved and grew and if the many people that came out to watch the funeral profession from both political parties Friday is any indication. He died with a positive note on his life and legacy.

>>> Veteran political reporter Bogert says sayonara to south Florida, his knowledge will be missed

Nick Bogert, the political reporter for WTVJ/NBC 6 and his wife Sally are leaving South Florida for Chicago and with three decades of covering South Florida. He will be missed in the news world. The veteran reporter gave his sayonara broadcast Friday night and it was tough to watch given all the events he covered over the years and another seasoned reporter leaves the Miami landscape and that is the real danger to this historical news brain drain. Nick and Sally had a soirée last Saturday at Pacific Time Restaurant in Miami’s Design District and I am sure many of their friends attended the Farewell to Florida sendoff. To see his last show go to NBC6, WTVJ | NBC Miami NBC 6/WTVJ was Florida’s first television station and has been covering news in South …http://www.nbcmiami.com/station/

>>> Thanks to my supporters, the Watchdog Report, celebrated its Tenth Anniversary on May 5th.

Over the past ten years there have been so many stories and here are just a miniscule few that have been in the past 410 Watchdog Report’s that each has had almost three dozen stories or announcements per week, and that does not include around 100 Watchdog Report EXTRAS over this time. Back in September 2000, then county manager Merrett Stierheim gave the Watchdog Report the gift of a lifetime when I wrote he would be retiring by Feb 1 and he responded with a official county memo to the mayor and commissioners titled Rumor Control blasting my assertion that later became true. Other stories broken were that Miami Police Chief John Timoney was joining Miami in Jan. 2003 and that there was a man in Italy claiming to be a Miami vice Mayor and being wined and dined by Italian officials even though the city does not have such an office. Over the years I have covered almost every significant story regarding Jackson Memorial Hospital, the school board and county and sent a EXTRA from the PAC construction committee in the summer of 2003 noting the arts centers would be 20-months delayed and needed immediately over $60 million in new funding that ultimately came in at $472.9 million.

In addition, I have covered the Miami-Dade ethics commission and the Office of the Inspector General since there inception and over the years have done dozens of stories on people busted by both agencies since then. For me it is difficult to reflect sometimes on past stories because there have been so many and generally once I have done it I move on to the many other news stories that develop every day and spring up like weeds every week. I have tried to be the news contrarian, and if there is major media at an event, I will move on unless I have something significant to add, and given the size of our public institutions, something is always going on somewhere else. We may just not be aware of it. >>> A convenient form at the end of this report gives instructions on how to financially support the Watchdog Report and me.

>>> See what was said about the Watchdog Report in the Miami New Times 2003 — Best of Miami — BEST CITIZEN  — Daniel Ricker –

watchdogreport1@earthlink.net

Three years ago, we said Ricker was our Best Gadfly. Given his dedication and perseverance, this new honor, Best Citizen, is well deserved. Ricker goes to 2500 mind-melting meetings annually, from the Public Health Trust’s purchasing subcommittee to the Efficiency and Competition Commission to the Alliance for Human Services’ nominating council to the school board’s audit committee. Sometimes he’s the only public observer. Object: to be the Public Citizen for all those out there who can’t attend, and to connect and serve as an information bridge among the special-interest-dominated Miami-Dade governmental institutions that seem so problematic and indifferent to the democratic process.

This month his e-mail newsletter, The Watchdog Report, celebrates its fourth anniversary. In a former life Ricker made a handsome living as an international salesman of heart pacemakers. As the hard-working publisher of Watchdog Report, though, he’s struggling financially — this despite the fact that his weekly compendium of meeting summaries, analysis, interviews, and commentary has become essential reading for anyone involved in public affairs. What his written work may lack in polish, it more than makes up for in comprehensiveness. So raise a toast to the man whose official slogan says it all: “A community education resource — I go when you cannot!”

FLORIDA

CFO Sink wants to prepare Florida for 21st Century, on shoulders of activist women given vote 89 years ago

Alex Sink, (net worth $8.6 million) the Florida Chief Financial Officer was in Miami Wednesday and before she had lunch at La Loggia on Flagler Street the Watchdog Report got an exclusive interview with her in a near by parking lot. Sink a retired Bank of America senior executive got her first taste for campaigning in 2002 when her husband Bill McBride, a Democrat faced off against Gov. Jeb Bush who ultimately defeated the trial attorney. At the time when I heard Sink speak at campaign rallies. I told her, you are the candidate and she came across and was well received by the crowds and groups back then. Sink threw her hat in the statewide ring in 2006 when she ran for the CFO position and won her race decisively against her Republican opponent. Sink at first said she would run for her current post in 2010 but changed her mind after Gov. Charlie Crist announced he was running for the seat that is being vacated by Republican U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez. Crist on Friday picked George LeMieux to fill the seat and the man ran Crist’s gubernatorial campaign. Trial attorney Ira Leesfield, a major Hillary Clinton fundraiser in 2008, escorted Sink to the restaurant and with others had a meal there. Sink will face Republican Attorney General Bill McCollum ($1.2 million net worth) next year and he is leading in the preliminary polls but it is very early in the race.

What about her gubernatorial campaign?

Sink said the campaign was “going fantastic” and she is traveling all over the state in her run for governor. The CFO said she wants to utilize her years in business and her “business experience” to “work on reinventing Florida for the 21st Century” and when it came to government, she said after two-in-a-half years in Tallahassee. “I have seen enough and we can run state government more efficiently,” she thought.  She believes more of the state’s strength’s should be highlighted more effectively and wants to “build our state economy on more diversification and better paying jobs.”  “Right here in Miami is an example and we are in a global city and we need to take advantage of that,” including the “fabulous healthcare facilities,” that are here and that should be drawing people from around the world. She also wants “to bring a new focus for Floridians to think about” and how they live and raise their families in the state in the coming years.

What about the 89th anniversary of a Women’s Right to Vote?

When asked about the 89th anniversary Wednesday of the Women’s Right to Vote Act. She said “look at me, I am a woman running for governor” and that would not occurred without “all the women before me out there fighting” for the right to vote.

State Rep. Planas calls Speaker Cretul’s consolidation of budget committees to 18-members “not a fair process”

State Rep. Juan Carlos “JC” Planas, R-Miami told the Watchdog Report last week that he thinks House Speaker Larry Cretul, R-Ocala (net worth of $455,000) was out of line when he consolidated house committees and reducing the number of members on the house budget body. He said a “contract exists” between the House members and the leadership. “I have no problem with [Cretul] changing committee chairs” but the House members did vote on two separate budget committees that could have “up to 50 members” on them but the speaker has consolidated the two committees and reduced that “to 18-members” on the budget committee. That act given the 120 representatives in the body “is not a fair process for the citizens of Florida,” since such a small body of people will be making and affecting the budget process, Planas closed.

>>> Press release: Governor Charlie Crist today announced the following appointments: Florida Prepaid College Board (Senate confirmation required)

Anthony C. Krayer, 65, of Hollywood, executive vice president and chief administrative officer of Memorial Healthcare System, succeeding Theodore Hoepner, appointed for a term beginning August 26, 2009, and ending June 30, 2011.

Thomas H. Ruggie, 41, of Tavares, president of Ruggie Wealth Management, succeeding Erin Sjostrom, appointed for a term beginning August 26, 2009, and ending June 30, 2012.

FLORIDA SUPREME COURT

Justice Pariente is in the spotlight this week, had $3.45 million net worth through Dec. 2008, over all disclosure is benign

Long serving Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente is in this week’s spotlight on the Supreme Court yearly review and she was first appointed in 1997. She has served as Chief Justice of the court in the past and is a widely respected jurist.

What do we know about her finances?

Pariente through Dec. 2008 had a net worth of $3.45 million and she lists $225,000 in household goods. There is $329,000 and $12,000 in Cash Accounts, a pension/IRA has $784,000 and jointly owned real estate is valued at $1.2 million, another is worth $500,000 and a third is valued at $350,000. There is another $10,591 in a Limited Partnership and income for the year was $185,000 from a sale of securities, and her salary on the bench was $158,000. The only gifts listed are University of Florida game tickets, two airfares, and one-hotel accommodations for speaking engagements and her disclosures are benign.

>>> Court’s webpage: Justice Pariente has been a Justice since 1997 and served as Chief Justice from 2004 through 2006. She was born in New York City in 1948 and attended public schools in New York and New Jersey.  She graduated with highest honors from Boston University majoring in communications. Justice Barbar J. Pariente She then attended George Washington University Law School, where she graduated fifth in her class in 1973, earning highest honors and membership in the Order of the Coif.  She moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida in 1973 for a two year judicial clerkship with United States District Court Judge Norman C. Roettger, Jr., of the Southern District of Florida. After her judicial clerkship, Justice Pariente settled in West Palm Beach, where she joined the law firm of Cone, Wagner and Nugent in 1975 and became a partner in 1977.  In 1983, she formed the law firm of Pariente & Silber, P.A. In both firms, she specialized in civil trial litigation.  She earned certification by the Florida Bar as a Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer as well as nationally by The National Board of Trial Advocacy.  She was awarded an AV rating, the highest available, by Martindale-Hubbell.  During her eighteen years in private practice, Justice Pariente served on the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit Grievance Committee, the Florida Bar Civil Rules Committee, and the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit Nominating Commission.  She was instrumental in organizing Palm Beach County’s first Bench-Bar Conference.  She was a founding member and master of the Palm Beach County Chapter of the American Inns of Court, and was very active in the Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County, serving on its Board of Directors for many years. In September 1993, Justice Pariente was appointed to the Fourth District Court of Appeal, where she served until her appointment as the seventy-seventh Justice of the Florida Supreme Court on December 10, 1997.  During her time on the Supreme Court, she has worked to improve methods for handling cases involving families and children in the courts.  She has served as both liaison and then the Chair of the Supreme Court’s Steering Committee on Families and Children in the Courts.  In that role, she met with family court judges and staffs throughout Florida’s judicial circuits, promoted judicial education on the unified family court and advocated for improved case management, case coordination, and non-adversarial methods of resolving these disputes.  From 2000-2002, she was a member of the Florida Bar’s Commission on the Legal Needs of Children.  In 1999 she served on the Governor’s Advisory Committee on Character Education, where she focused on promoting civic education. Justice Pariente has also actively supported programs that promote successful alternatives to incarceration such as Florida’s drug courts.  From 1998 onward, she served as the liaison to the Supreme Court’s Task Force on Treatment-Based Drug Courts and she helped to organize the first statewide conference on drug courts.  Justice Pariente speaks throughout the state on professionalism, judicial independence, the unified family court, juvenile justice and crime prevention. Based on her longstanding commitment to children, Justice Pariente remains involved as a mentor to school-age children.  She currently serves as a mentor to students through Take Stock in Children, a program for helping economically disadvantaged students earn a college scholarship. Her current mentee is a high school senior. She is proud that another mentee, whom she began mentoring in ninth grade, has since graduated from college and is contemplating a career in the law.

Justice Pariente is a recipient of the 2007 Florida Justice Association’s Al J. Cone Lifetime Achievement Award, the 2006 George Washington University’s Distinguished Alumni Award, the 2006 American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers’ Jurist of the Year Award, the 2005 Florida Association of School Social Workers’ Lifetime Achievement Award, the 2005 Florida Bar Public Interest Law Section’s Hugh S. Glickstein Child Advocate of the Year Award, the 2005 Palm Beach County League of Women Voters Good Government Award, the 2004 William M. Hoeveler Judicial Professionalism Award of the Florida Bar’s Committee on Professionalism, the 2004 Visionary Award of the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar, the Jewish Museum of Florida’s 2002 Breaking the Glass Ceiling Award, the 2000 Florida Council on Crime and Delinquency Distinguished Judicial Service Award, the 2001 Florida Association of Women Lawyers’ Award in recognition of lifelong dedication to the success of women lawyers in the legal profession,  the 1998 American Bar Association’s Law Day Speech Award, the 1998 Lifetime Achievement Award presented by the Palm Beach County Jewish Federation and the 1993 Legal Aid Society Civil Litigation Pro Bono Award. In March 2008, Pariente was inducted into the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame by Gov. Charlie Crist. Justice Pariente’s past publications include a contribution to the Cardozo Journal of Law & Gender entitled “A Symposium with Women Chiefs” at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. Volume 13, No. 2 (April 2007); a contribution to Women Trial Lawyers: How They Succeed in Practice and in the Courtroom (Prentice-Hall 1987). In addition, she authored an article in the Florida Bar Journal entitled “A Profession for the New Millennium: Restoring Public Trust and Confidence in Our System of Justice.” 74 Fla. B.J. 50 (January 2000) and most recently, co-authored an article in the Florida Bar Journal entitled “Teaching Them a Lesson,” 77 Fla. B.J. 6 (June 2003). The latter is about girls in the Juvenile Justice system.

Justice Pariente is married to the Honorable Frederick A. Hazouri, judge of the Fourth District Court of Appeal. Together, they have three married children and seven grandchildren, all of whom live in Florida.  In 2003, Justice Pariente shared with the public her successful treatment for breast cancer, in hopes of promoting greater awareness of this disease that strikes one in eight American women. >>> Read a Conversation with Justice Pariente by Jodi Wilkof, a Profile of Justice Pariente published in the October 2004 Bar Journal, and an article on her in the Bostonia alumni magazine. >>> Office Information: Justice Pariente’s office may be reached in Tallahassee by phone at (850) 488-8421. The judicial assistant in Justice Pariente’s office is Brenda Williams and the law clerks are Lylli Van Whittle, Zainabu Rumala and Kristen Fiore.  The mailing address is 500 South Duval Street, Tallahassee FL 32399-1925. Attorneys or law students interested in clerkships in this office should check our Law Clerk Recruitment Page. There also is information on Internships.

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY

Dramatic black tee-shirts with names of dozens of fallen officers great employees at Stephen P. Clark Center Monday

The Watchdog Report stopped in my tracks Friday afternoon after attending a bond meeting when I saw dozens of dozens of black tee shirts on hangers, that were formed like a human chest with the words in white. “I died for you,” and it had the police officers name and date they were killed on the back of the shirt and it is a profound statement of what the Miami-Dade Police Department officers face every day. John Rivera, the head of the police union at the county is fighting the budget cuts in next year’s budget that has its first public hearing on Thursday at 5:01 p.m. and the display is his organization’s way of getting commissioners attention. The first public budget hearing is expected to be a long and vocal affair with groups across the spectrum asking to be spared from the reductions, but many countywide tax payers are also skeptical about raising residents taxes.

What about the county commission budget hearings?

A county commission committee met for three days last week with only the last day’s meeting being televised. During these sessions chaired by Commissioner Katy Sorenson (net worth $1.34 million) a number of unusual things occurred. At Tuesday’s meeting in the morning when commissioners were carping about the lack of information the administration was making available before the budget hearings. County Manager George Burgess came down from his 29th floor office to the 18th floor conference room where the meeting was held and he told commissioners that he was authorized by Mayor Carlos Alvarez ($1.66 million net worth) to say if senior staff was not treated with respect. He would pull them from the meetings.

Further, on Monday, County Commissioner Natacha Seijas (net worth $655,000) stated she was upset by not being allowed to participate and speak at the committee meeting and got up and left when the situation did not change. Sorenson had indicated only members of the committee could participate during the hearings. The other commissioners on the Budget, Planning and Sustainability Committee were Carlos Gimenez, Barbara Jordan, Audrey Edmonson, Sally Heyman, Joe Martinez and Commission Chair Dennis Moss also attended many the sessions.

Almost $850 million more in aviation bonds for MIA, should be sold by January

A Manager’s Finance Committee met Friday at 2:00 p.m., and at the meeting, the investment houses to sell $850 million in new securities were chosen after two unanimous votes of the seven-committee members. There are two offerings of bonds, one is $247.5 million, another is $600 million, and both are for aviation projects.  The smaller bond is known as an Aviation Double Barrel General Obligation Bond that is backed not only by MIA revenues but also by Miami-Dade County. Voters in 1986, said county staff, passed the idea of a Double Barrel GOB bond and MIA is one of three county entities that can use this financing structure. The bonds are expected to be sold by the end of January and there were 29 people in attendance at the meeting by 2:12 p.m.

>>> Ethics Commission meeting press release: Utility official is fined for ethics violations

A senior construction manager in the Miami-Dade Water and Sewer Department (WASD) will pay a $1,000 fine and accept a Letter of Reprimand for violating the County’s Conflict of Interest and Code of Ethics Ordinance by using his position to get his son a job.   The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and the Public Trust last month found probable cause in a complaint (C 09-13) against Mario Garcia, Jr. for influencing the hiring manager of a private contractor to the utility to give his son an advantage when filling a junior inspector position.   After his father was provided the questions that would be asked during his interview, Mario Garcia III scored highest in the hiring process, but he failed the drug screening.  He was, however, hired by a different subcontractor to WASD after Garcia, Jr. misrepresented the reason his son did not get the first position.   The department had already suspended the elder Garcia for five days without pay and today the Ethics Commission approved a settlement that requires Garcia, Jr. to pay $500 for each of the two counts filed against him.

>>> A complaint (C 09-09) that the owner of Royal Rent-A-Car did not properly register as a lobbyist was dismissed after Miami-Dade Commissioner Bruno Barreiro gave a sworn statement defending Ismael Perera.  Royal Rent-A-Car had been a vendor to the county, but lost the contract to competitors on December 16, 2008.  The two men met on December 17and on December 18, Commissioner Barreiro asked fellow commissioners to revisit the contract, prompting an investigation into a possible violation of the Conflict of Interest and Code of Ethics ordinance.  Since then, the Commissioner attested that Perera provided factual information about the agenda item and did not seek to encourage any action pending before the board, and therefore, did not violate the section of the law requiring lobbyist registration.

>>> Probable cause has been found that relatives who serve on two different advisory boards in Miami failed to file a “source of income statement” as required.  Complaint 09-14 is against Anthony Cutler, a member of the City of Miami Equal Opportunity Advisory Board.  Complaint 09-15 is against Charles Cutler, a member of the City of Miami OAB/Overtown Community Oversight Board.  Both complaints cite numerous efforts, including certified mail, to encourage the men to complete the forms for 2007 that were due July 1, 2008.  The cases are set for a public hearing next month.

>>> A complaint of retaliation originally filed two and a half years ago against officers in the Miami-Dade Fire Department (C 06-58) was dismissed for lack of probable cause.   The investigation by the Ethics Commission was put on hold, pending the outcome of a criminal investigation against the complainant, which was resolved in June.

>>> In response to a Request for Opinion (RQO 09-26) from the attorney for the Dade County Police Benevolent Association (PBA), the Ethics Commission ruled that the president of the organization is not considered a lobbyist when he meets with County Commissioners on proposed budget cuts and union contracts.   Since Sgt. John Rivera is serving in his official capacity, the opinion states he is not required to register as a lobbyist to discuss PBA issues when meeting with County officials.

>>> The Ethics Commission clarified in RQO 09-27 that vendors who provide architectural and engineering services to County agencies must complete a financial disclosure form every year.  The Conflict of Interest and Code of Ethics ordinance requires all firms providing professional services to file financial disclosure information within 30 days of winning a bid award.  Commissioners interpreted language elsewhere in the ordinance to require those outside companies to provide an updated form by the July first deadline annually, as long as they are under contract.

>>> A company that is currently providing operational support to Port of Miami Crane Management, Inc. (a county-created agency that manages gantry cranes) may also bid to perform work under a Bond Consultant Contract for the port.   The Ethics Commission opined in response to RQO 09-25 that Shaw Environmental and Infrastructure Group’s current work assisting with day-to-day management of the cranes would not be in conflict with long-term bond consulting services under the new contract.

>>> Finally, the Ethics Commission decided that an attorney in the Intergovernmental Affairs unit at the Miami-Dade Water and Sewer Department (WASD) may work as an outside political consultant for legislative or judicial candidates or for political action committees and community organizations.   Ethics Commission members warned, in response to RQO 09-28, that he may not represent an incumbent or candidate in any city in Miami-Dade County unless he get prior approval from the Ethics Commission, nor may he represent private clients before any County personnel, boards or agencies.  In addition to receiving his supervisor’s approval before seeking consultant work, the attorney must also submit a client list to his division director every quarter and file an “outside employment statement” annually. >>> The Ethics Commission was created in 1996 as an independent agency with advisory and quasi-judicial powers.  It is composed of five members, serving staggered terms of four years each.  Through a program of education and outreach, the Commission seeks to empower the community and bolster public trust.

>>> The Watchdog Report is running unedited excerpts from a report done on the 35 municipalities in Miami-Dade and leaders compensation and benefits while in public office by the Miami-Dade Ethics and Public Trust Commission last year. This week I will publish the compensation and benefits of leaders in Bay Harbor Islands, Village of Bal Harbor, Homestead, El Portal, and Medley.

BROWARD COUNTY

Commissioner Gunzburger in the spotlight, elected in 1992, had net worth of $4.1 million through 2008

County Commissioner Suzanne Gunzburger (net worth $4.1 million) is in the spotlight this week and she represents Commission District 6. The former Hollywood commissioner was first elected to the county commission in 1992 in a landslide and has been reelected ever since. She has been a teacher and social worker and is a strong proponent of the arts and culture. The commissioner up for election in 2010 has drawn a challenger in former state Sen. Steve Geller, D-Cooper City, (net worth $1.24 million) and the commission race is expected to be contentious next year.

What do we know about her finances?

Gunzburger through Dec. 2008 had a net worth of $4.1 million and she lists $70,000 in household goods. Assets include $920,000 in banks and money markets, stocks account for $7,425, bonds are valued at $1.8 million and there is $602,000 in retirement accounts. There is $707,000 in real estate, and she received $19,632 from the IRS for a tax overpayment. Her only listed liability is $19,632 owed on credit cards. The commissioner’s income for the year was $93,291 as a commissioner, $21,000 came from social security, $21,000 was rental payments, and interest and dividends provided $113,683 of income for the year.

>>> The county commission’s two public budget hearings that start at 5:01 p.m. are being held on Sept. 10 and Sept. 22 and residents are expected to pack the commission chambers for the hearings that will likely drag on through the night. The administration is trying to pare over $100 million from the county budget and about half of that cut is hoped to come from Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti’s (net worth $642,000) budget and progress toward a resolution has been made after a total stalemate a few months ago.

>>> Press release: JUSTICE DEPARTMENT SETTLES RACE DISCRIMINATION ALLEGATIONS AGAINST DAVIE, FLORIDA, APARTMENT COMPLEX

The Justice Department today announced an agreement with the owner of College Square Apartments, in Davie, Fla., to settle allegations of discrimination against African Americans. Under the consent decree, approved today in U.S. District Court in Miami, the defendants must pay a total of up to $140,000 to victims of discrimination and a civil penalty of $74,000 to the government. The lawsuit, filed in August 2008 and later amended, alleged that the property manager at the time, Don Murroni, acting under the direction of Craig Forman, the president and sole shareholder of C.F. Enterprises, falsely told African Americans that no apartments were available and discouraged African Americans from applying.  Murroni also allegedly offered to waive the application fee or other costs for white applicants, and told white testers that a selling point of College Square Apartments was the absence of black tenants.  The allegations were based on evidence obtained through the Department’s fair housing testing unit, where individuals present as potential renters to gather information about possible discriminatory practices. Today’s settlement resolves the government’s claims against C.F. Enterprises and Craig Forman.

“This type of housing discrimination undercuts decades of progress in our nation’s efforts to ensure equal rights for all Americans. The fair housing testing program enables the Justice Department to aggressively root out blatant discrimination. Housing providers who break fair housing laws should view this case as a reminder that they will be sued,” said Loretta King, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “Eradicating such discriminatory practices from the South Florida area is of the utmost importance. They are a scourge on our community, and will not be tolerated,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Jeffery H. Sloman for the Southern District of Florida. The settlement requires C.F. Enterprises and Forman to implement and publicize a nondiscrimination policy and provide periodic reports to the Justice Department.  It also requires these defendants and their employees to undergo training on the requirements of the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin and disability. Individuals who believe that they may have been victims of housing discrimination at College Square Apartments should call the Department at 1-800-896-7743 extension 992. >>> More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at. Individuals who believe that they may have been victims of housing discrimination can call the Housing Discrimination Tip Line at 1-800-896-7743, email the Justice Department at fairhousing@usdoj.gov or contact the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development at 1-800-669-9777. >>> A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

PALM BEACH COUNTY

State Sen. Aronberg running for state AG, had $554,000 in net worth, faces Sen. Gelber in primary,

State Sen. Dave Aronberg, D-Greenacres, (net worth $554,000) is in the spotlight this week and the attorney represents senate District 27. He has served on a wide variety of committees in the body over the years and is setting his goals higher in 2010. The state senator has thrown his hat in the ring to run for Florida’s attorney general cabinet position and he is facing state Sen. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach (net worth $973,000) in the Democratic Party primary next year.

What do we know about his finances?

Aronberg through Dec. 2008 had a net worth of $554,000 and he lists $50,000 in household goods. His two townhouses are valued at $285,000 and $210,000; there is $210,000 in a mutual fund, and $38,953 in a Roth IRA. His only two liabilities are mortgages owed $156,000 and $155,000. The senator’s income for the year was $112,464 from a law firm, the state kicked in $31,242 and rental income was $9,497.

MONROE COUNTY

Schools Supt. Acevedo convicted, wife faces prosecutors and jurors next

Randy Acevedo, the disgraced superintendent of the Monroe School District was convicted last week and his wife Monique is up next for trial in state court. Acevedo claims he did not know that his wife had spent around $190,000 in public money for a wide assortment of things for her personal use, including a pink silk tie and reinforces the fact that while Monroe likes to think of itself as different. Residents and officials there must still follow the law and not steal from the public. His wife’s trial is in the future as will be his sentencing.

PAST WDR: June: First Palm Beach, now Conch Republic with arrest of Randy Acevedo on corruption charges, along with wife

The indictment, arrest and removal of Monroe school board district head Randy Acevedo by the state attorney’s office continues the unspoken tradition in the country’s southern most county to stay out of the spotlight regardless of what might be going on in the 65,000 resident population that makes up the county. Monroe recently put all its county employees through ethics training, something Miami-Dade did in the late 1990s but many of the county employees are related with others that might try to do business with the county and to say it is laid back is a understatement. Gov. Charlie Crist will fill the elected supervisor’s office in the coming weeks but it also serves as a bookend to a corruption bloodbath in Palm Beach County by federal prosecutors, now that a majority of past county commissioners are in federal prisons serving extensive sentences on mostly public corruption charges.

April 5, 2009 WDR: Conch Republic in spotlight with school district’s superintendent’s wife charging $95,000 on public dime, Supt. has $1.01 million net worth through 07

Anyone that thinks an elected public school superintendent is a panacea for all the ills that can plague school districts needs to check out the story today by reporter Cammy Clark in www.miamiherald.com, about the wife of the superintendent and her spending habits the last two-years. Monique Acevedo, a long tine school employee and the wife of Superintendent Randy Acevedo has charged over ‘$95,000 on pink silk ties, bar stools, and spear gun accessories’ and the local state attorney is investigating the whole affair, that on face value looks more than bad and it continues a local trend of skirting laws on the belief they will never be found out.

The Watchdog Report would never have started to write about the Conch Republic every week (a tourist tag line an elected leader once used in a discussion with me) if they were not dumping their homeless and battered women in Miami-Dade about five-years ago and they have done much better in these areas more recently. I also have written about the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority that years ago had outrageous benefits for a few select senior administrators and after almost two decades after these stories and a critical legislative state audit. The authority finally settled with county leaders overall infrastructure issues and what body would pay and manage the projects after years of no progress in the talks.

The point is the nation’s most southern county is still part of the United States and as I have pointed out to some officials. There is a federal and state courthouse in Key West and while you don’t get the spotlight like Miami-Dade. That lack of oversight of public official’s activities eventually will be picked up and as one former senior federal judge once told me. Over his decades on the bench, pretty much every elected position has had problems with its occupant and the belief that Margaretville overrides all is a fairy tale. One the wife and possible her husband may soon learn the hard way.

Past WDR:  What do we know about the Acevedo’s finances?

The Watchdog Report requested Acevedo’s financial disclosure form last week and through Dec. 31, 2007 he had a net worth of $1.01 million and lists $150,000 in household goods. His only listed assets are a boat worth $37,000 and his home is valued at $900,000. He owes Key Federal $26,000 and $24,000 and there is $325,000 in a home mortgage. His only listed income is $137,769 as the school district superintendent.

State Road 5 (U.S. 1) between Card Sound Road and 344th Street in Florida City

One northbound lane of U.S. 1 will be closed between Card Sound Road and 344th Street in Florida City, August 10, 2009 through Friday, October 2, 2009. Work is scheduled for the non-peak daytime hours of 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and non-peak nighttime hours of 8:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. Monday through Thursday. One lane of traffic will be maintained at all times and access to businesses will be provided. Please note this schedule is tentative and may change due to bad weather and/or unforeseen circumstances. Motorists are encouraged to call 511 before they drive, or log on to www.fl511.com to get real-time traffic and lane closure information. For more information, please contact Abbie Kelley at 305-481-1186 or via email at pbus1@bellsouth.net.

MIAMI-DADE PUBLIC SCHOOLS

New school year kicks off for 336,000 students, some courses taught in over a dozen languages

All residents in Miami-Dade know public schools are open because of the radical change in traffic patterns Monday morning and a new school year begins for the over 336,000 students in the nation’s fourth largest public school district. The school system, where some courses are taught in over a dozen languages has made the district the poster child of student diversity and backgrounds and teaching in the system brings some unique challenges not faced with students at private schools. The once segregated district has evolved since then but a little of the past still lingers in the inner city and around parts of Dade County though a massive building program over the years has brought new schools or refurbished class rooms and the almost 3,000 portable class rooms found a decade ago, most have been replaced or removed. However, the district has been losing students at a steady stream and about 40,000 less students are in the system than five–years ago.

Press release: MIAMI-DADE’S PUBLIC SCHOOLS WELCOME STUDENTS IN STYLE

Miami-Dade County Public Schools opened its doors to more than 336,000 students today, in one of the smoothest opening days the District has ever experienced.  Superintendent of Schools Alberto M. Carvalho was joined by elected officials and celebrities as he toured schools across the county. Miami Heat players and executives welcomed students to Riverside Elementary School, with a plush red carpet, as well as school supplies and backpacks, and Miami Heat staff provided special activities for parents and students.  The team has had a partnership with the school for eleven years.

A former Miami Heat star and his wife wore school uniform shirts when they visited the new North Dade school that bears their names:  Alonzo and Tracy Mourning High School Biscayne Bay Campus.  The pair addressed students, and Ms. Mourning encouraged students to “Handle your business.”  Governor Charlie Crist greeted students at Holmes Elementary School.  Last year, the teachers, staff and parents of Holmes helped students raise the school’s performance grace from “F” to “C”. Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, who, along with Superintendent Carvalho originated the City of Miami’s compact with Miami-Dade County Public Schools and has constantly shown a dedicated interest in public education, toured the Miami Edison Edu-Plex, a facility that was completely refurbished over the summer.  The reinvigorated school offers academies including International Studies and Finance; College Board; Health and Public Affairs; and Visual and Performing Arts.  Superintendent Carvalho commended staff across the District for the superb effort in opening schools for the coming year.  “I know that without your hard work and commitment to excellence, the smooth launch to this school year would not have been possible.  The challenge to all of us this year is to pull together, refocus our collective energy, and find the genius in every student.  I know without a doubt that we will meet that challenge,” Carvalho said.

>>> Press release: Miami-Dade County Public Schools’ Food and Nutrition Department, which began the last school year with a deficit, turned around its operations and finished the year with a $794,000 surplus representing a recovery of $12.7 million. “This shows that we can contain costs and limit expenditures, and still provide students nutritious, enjoyable meals that support our wellness goals,” said Alberto M. Carvalho, Superintendent of Schools. Some of the measures implemented to help achieve this turnaround include having stricter inventory controls, maintaining inventories on an “as needed” basis, and reducing the number of entrée choices at breakfast and lunch from three to two.  Additionally, contracts with vendors were changed to lower the cost of distributing food products to schools. “I just think it’s the people – they’re amazing!” said Food and Nutrition’s Administrative Director Penny Parham of the army of staff that makes up the countywide department.  “The cafeteria employees and Food and Nutrition administrators are amazingly dedicated and paid attention to every detail to make sure we did not waste anything, and at the same time served healthy meals,” she said. Despite a year of belt-tightening, the District continued to serve quality, healthy meals, and has not cut back on important nutritional components such as fresh produce.

PUBLIC HEALTH TRUST

Commissioner Heyman sends message to health trust, top salaries are way too high for the times

At a county commission budget conference committee meeting Wednesday, County Commissioner Sally Heyman (net worth $426,000) discussed the health trust, the county’s maintenance of effort funding levels and the salaries of staff at the PHT. Heyman, who correctly noted while the PHT board passes the organization’s budget for next year. It still has to be ratified by the county commission and Heyman was using the public Sunshine meeting to alert the board of her concerns. She indicated there were way too many people at the institution making over $100,000 and $200,000 and given the nature of the economy. She expected some compensation changes before the PHT budget comes to the county board. The commissioner said there were “23 people at the executive level” that had an “average salary of $284,000” and another “130 people called Team Leaders” were getting an average of $124,000 and that does not include some of the other benefits these employees get and she believes a roll back should be looked at. She said the top “150 managers salaries should be cut,” and she is sending a signal to the health trust board.

What about the cost for immigrant care?

The Miami Herald www.miamiherald.com veteran reporter John Dorschner did a front-page story on the cost of immigrant patient’s care at Jackson Memorial Hospital and last year the health trust gave $33 million in such uncompensated medical care. The federal government does fund immigrant care but it is by the country of origin and federal legislation passed by Congress specifically says it applies only to immigrants from Mexico, but does not apply to others from other nations like South and Central American countries. The federal legislators from Texas, California, and Arizona were the main proponents of this special healthcare funding in Congress and the legislation has yet to change and be applied to other nation’s people here in the United States.

>>> PHT & BCC honor former CEO Clark with naming of DTC building

The health trust’s Diagnostic Treatment Center was named after Ira C. Clark, the former Jackson CEO who died a few months ago on Monday. Clark along with many others in a broad coalition of the community were able to convince county voters to tax themselves a half-cent to help fund the financially struggling hospital in Sept. 1991 and the tax will bring in about $175 million this year. Miami-Dade Commission Chair Dennis Moss ($477,941) remembered when Clark and Commissioner Art Teele, Jr., came down to south Dade to talk about the sales tax. He said after the two men “were through talking, we supported the half-cent-sales tax proposal.” Moss also questioned if the naming of the building “was enough” and a near by street is expected to be named in Clark’s honor as well. County Commissioners Barbara Jordan, Audrey Edmonson, and Javier Souto, state Sen. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami, four past PHT chairs, and a representative attended the event from the offices of U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-FL and U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami.

CITY OF MIAMI

Mayor Diaz tries again to get Miami 21 passed, $2.5 million already spent on the plan

For Mayor Manuel Diaz (net worth $1.8 million), if first you don’t succeed, try, try, again and Miami 21, a new sweeping zoning plan is coming back in front of the commission again on Friday Sept. 4 after a 2-2 vote in July. This time Commissioner Angel Gonzalez (net worth $843,000) is expected to be on the dais, the legislation has already gotten support from Commissioners Michelle Spence-Jones (net worth $17,346), and Marc Sarnoff (net worth $2.28 million) but Commission Chair Joe Sanchez (net worth $319,000) and Commissioner Tomas Regalado (net worth $5,000) felt other wise and voted no. The city to date has spent $2.5 million for the zoning rewrite and update, but land use attorneys are eyeing it with suspicion, with some suggesting both zoning codes be available while 21 is being implemented. Diaz had planned to make this his crowning achievement after eight years in office but critics charge it is too little, too late since most of the city’s choice property has already been developed or approved for future projects. Further, Sarnoff at the past commission meeting inserted some new legislation during the discussion and it is unknown if he will try to tweak the plan further again on Friday.

>>> Kelly Penton, the long serving press front woman for the city of Miami is saying sayonara and here is her e mail to friends and colleagues.>>> Dear friends: It is with both sadness and excitement for the future that I write to you to let you know that Friday will be my last day with the City of Miami. I have accepted the opportunity to be the Director of Development for the Children’s Home Society (CHS). CHS is a non-profit organization that manages foster care group homes, helps prepare foster parents, and facilitates adoptions, among other services. I’m looking forward to working for an organization that helps the many foster children in Miami receive the care and guidance they need and deserve.

For nearly 8 years now, I have been able to serve the residents of Miami under the leadership of a Mayor and an administration that has worked to bring the city closer to its true potential, elevated the level of professionalism, and made Miami shine on the world stage. I have truly enjoyed working with each of you. I will miss receiving daily calls from my colleagues at the news desks, TV reporters on assignment, and print reporters researching for their stories. I hope that in my new capacity we will be able to once again work together- this time to shine the light on what CHS does for our community and how children are affected. >>> Cristina Fernandez will continue to be the point person for daily media inquiries and public records requests. Her office # is 305-416-1444 and her email is cfernandez@miamigov.com Mario Riquelme will be the Acting Director of Communications. His can be reached at 305-416-1440 or via email at mriquelme@miamigov.com

>>> The following e-mail was sent  to Mayor Manny Diaz using his e-mail address on his extensive city web-page on Sept. 13, 2008 at 9:38 a.m. and to date there has been no answer from the mayor.>>> “Mayor Diaz, I wanted to ask you in the chamber today but not in front of Chair Joe Sanchez. My question is where did the extra $400,000 in the 2007 disclosure form come from? I will run what ever you respond unedited but I would appreciate closing this issue, as I am sure you do. Sorry but I have to ask.  Best to all. Dan”  >>>> The Watchdog Report through Dec.7 has yet to get a response or catch-up with Miami Mayor Manuel Diaz on where he got the extra $400,000 in cash listed in his 2007 financial disclosure forms. To see what CBS 4 reporter David Sutta’s take on this issue and the other city leaders financial disclosures go to cbs4.com Blogs . >>> Readers should stay tuned and catch the meeting on the city’s cable station channel 77. >>> Stream Channel 77, for all City of Miami meetings, (Commission, Village Council meetings, Waterfront, Zoning, PAB, Code, etc. hearings)    http://videos.miamigov.com/

CITY OF MIAMI BEACH

Possible PHT trustee Ruiz says she has the time, administration supports such activities

Last week the Watchdog Report reported that Maria Ruiz, a city employee was selected to be on an eight-name slate on the Public Health Trust trustee nominees that the Miami-Dade commission will now vote on in September picking six of the people. Ruiz has since responded in an e-mail and the following is what she wrote back Monday. “Mr. Ricker – My apologies for the delay in responding to your e-mail question. I was working with our community partners to prepare for the start of the school year. If I am selected to serve on the Public Health Trust, my service will not interfere with my job at the City. In addition to ample vacation time, my work schedule during the school year accommodates the service schedules for various youth programs under my supervision that require me to work evenings and weekends. In these instances, my office schedule is amended to reflect my work needs. I believe I will be more than able to manage the preparation for meetings, including the review of documents, during my personal time.

I am fortunate to work for a City Administration that supports its employees’ civic commitment.  I believe that my professional commitment to public service does not free me from my personal obligation to serve. In this instance, the Public Health Trust can benefit from my perspective as a consumer and my passion for quality healthcare for all our residents, as well as draw upon my experience in the public sector, to create processes that enable the efficient and cost-effective delivery of such healthcare. I appreciate your commitment to upholding the highest standards of our public officials. It is a standard I have adhered to in my career and will continue to adhere to always. Have a great day,” wrote Ruiz, a division director in the Office in Community Services.

>>> Candidates continue to jump-in as Nov. election draws near, Mayor Bower draws challenger:  NOVEMBER 3, 2009 GENERAL ELECTION

The following individual(s) have submitted Form DS-DE 9 (Appointment of Campaign Treasurer and Designation of Campaign Depository for Candidates) Mayor (Mayor Bower’s Seat), Matti Herrera Bower, *Joshua Larose; Group I (Commissioner Libbin’s Seat) Jerry Libbin, Oduardo Segui; Group II (Commissioner Gross’ Seat), Roger Abramson, Fred Karlton, Jorge Exposito, Sherry Roberts; Group III (Commissioner Diaz’s Seat), Alex Fernandez, Michael Gongora, Gabrielle Redfern, Luis Salom and Martin Shapiro *denotes latest change

>>> Press release: Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club Meeting Date:  Tuesday, September 1st, 2009 – Meeting time:  8:30 AM -Meeting Location:  David’s Café, 1654 Meridian Ave., South Beach >> David Raymond, Executive Director of the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust, will be the guest speaker at the September 1st meeting of the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club.  Mr. Raymond’s agency oversees an outreach to the homeless for services and housing and administers the 1 % county tax on food & beverage sales that helps fund the efforts of the Trust.  The Trust is recognized by HUD as a model agency for dealing with the homeless. Everyone is welcome to attend. David Kelsey, Moderator for the Breakfast Club. >> For more information contact David Kelsey.  To be placed on the Breakfast Club’s mailing list, contact Harry Cherry.  Both can be reached at: www.TuesdayMorningBreakfastClub@Yahoo

CITY OF CORAL GABLES

One resident’s verbal detonation at commission meeting, causes Mayor Slesnick to recess body

At a little after 11:00 a.m. at Tuesday’s commission meeting an exchange during a discussion of a fire fee that later passed but will have one more hearing resulted in a hot verbal exchange between a irate resident and Wayne “Chip” Withers that had Mayor Donald Slesnick, II recessing the meeting for a few minutes. Slesnick would later apologize to Withers for not shutting down the speaker and would “hope more civility” would prevail in the future. Coral Gables is not the only place where things are getting heated and I am not trying to highlight their unique issues in the City Beautiful. Further, Roxy Bolton, a community icon in the Women’s Movement decades ago called out from the audience saying “Chip I think you have been used a little,” said Bolton. However, while tensions are running high between some of the residents and elected officials decorum and civility must prevail if a community is not to be ruled by the mob.

What did the elected leaders say about the event and fire fee?

Slesnick said the body did pass the $50.00 yearly fire fee, and “We have one more “implementation” hearing to go through, and we’ll see what happens. I always expect Coral Gables citizens to be civil and I am disappointed when that is not the case.  It was an embarrassing moment for all concerned – and the speaker was, at best, confused as to the facts (which weren’t related to the subject at hand), wrote the mayor. Commissioner Ralph Cabrera the only no vote wrote, “The fire fee passed 4 to 1. I voted against it because I see it as a regressive tax. I also voted against the Fire Rescue Transport fee because I consider this a CORE city benefit. The only thing that happened Tuesday was that ONE speaker became verbally entangled with one of my colleagues (Withers) over the Coral Gables Museum. It was unfortunate,” wrote the legislator. And Commissioner Maria Anderson weighed in saying “I highly treasure our first amendment right, along with respectful, factual and civilized discourse. Regarding the speaker, he exemplified the Eric Hoffer quote, “Rudeness is the weak man’s imitation of strength.”” Maria Anderson.

CITY OF HOMESTEAD

Old city in the spotlight, Mayor Lynda Bell salary only $4,975 says ethic commission

The City of Homestead is in the spotlight and the municipality is one of the oldest in the county and was founded in 1913. Since then the city has had its ups and downs that included being in financial distress in the early 2000s. >>> Ethics Commission report on pay and benefits: The City of Homestead’s Mayor received a taxable salary of $4,975 in 2007 and City Council Members received a taxable salary of $4,800 each, in the same calendar year.  All salary compensation is set forth in the City Charter. In 2007, the total taxable expense allowance for the Mayor was $13,471.  The Mayor also received $11,271 in the form of a taxable vehicle allowance, a $360 taxable cell phone allowance and a $4,000 non-taxable public relations budget.  The City does not provide its Mayor with a government-issued procurement card. For each Council Member, the total taxable expense allowance was $13,325.  Council Members also received $11,125 in the form of a taxable vehicle allowance, a $360 taxable cell phone allowance and a $4,000 non-taxable public relations budget.  The City does not provide its officials with a government issued procurement card. Section 2.06, Compensation, of the City Charter Homestead sets forth the policy governing compensation for its elected officials.  Specifically, the Charter states the following:

(a)       “The compensation of the Council Members shall be

fixed by ordinance.  No Council Member shall receive

compensation, either directly or indirectly, from the City,

except such compensation as provided by ordinance.

(b)       An ordinance increasing the compensation to any or all

Council Members shall not take effect until after the next

election.  This restriction shall not be construed to apply

to insurance programs of the city.”

With regards to the ordinance governing expense allowances and benefits for elected officials, the City Clerk explained that both compensation and expense allowances are included in the City’s annual budget process.  The ordinance that sets the compensation and benefits of elected officials for the fiscal year 2008 is Ordinance 2007-09-35.  Travel allowances are governed by City Ordinance 2007-08-33, “Payment of Subsistence and Travel Expenses,” which also addresses the travel reimbursement policy for the City of Homestead. Lastly, it should be noted that no travel allowances are provided to any elected official in the city.  According to the City Clerk, travel expenses are paid as incurred, as a travel reimbursement, the governing authority of which is set forth in City Ordinance 2007-08-33, “Payment of Subsistence and Travel Expenses.” The executive assistant to the Council prepares the expense reimbursements for the Mayor and Council.  An expense report form is completed with supporting receipts attached to the report.  Prior to payment of the expense reimbursement, the expense form is approved by the City Manager and/or the Assistant City Manager.

VILLAGE OF BAL HARBOUR

Mayor gets $1,800 salary; council members get $1,200 per year

>>> Ethics Commission municipality report: The Village of Bal Harbour’s Mayor received a salary of $1,800 in 2007.  The Village Council Members received a salary of $1,200 in 2007. Neither the Mayor nor Council Members received any reimbursements, taxable or non-taxable, in 2007. There are no allowances or expense accounts given to Council Members or the mayor.  The Village Manager is authorized to purchase Medicare supplement insurance policies for Council Members so as to provide Medicare supplement insurance coverage for any Council Member who leaves the Village Council after two consecutive terms in office and is eligible for Medicare at the time of leaving the Council.

BAY HARBOR ISLANDS

Village leaders find out what can be bought for a $1.00 a year, which is their elected yearly salary

>>> Ethics commission report: Bay Harbor Island’s Mayor receives a salary of $1 per year, which is donated in a ceremonious gesture.  Each Council Member receives a salary of $1.00 as well.  It is also donated in a ceremonious gesture.  They do not have any allowances or expense accounts. Council members and staff are reimbursed only when traveling on behalf of the town, as follows: The maximum reimbursement for meals is $50 per day; Mileage is paid pursuant to the rate established by the IRS for the calendar year in which travel occurs; The maximum reimbursement for rental cars, if necessary, shall be no more than the standard mid-size car rate; The maximum reimbursement for lodging is no more than the group rate set by the conference or other organizers.  If no group rate exists, lodging shall be no more than the standard room rate at a moderately priced hotel; and All incidental travel expenses such as bridge, road tolls, taxi fares, parking fees, etc., shall be reimbursed at full cost.

Requests for travel shall be submitted in advance, whenever possible, for Council approval.  All of the aforementioned expenses shall be submitted to the town in writing and each expense shall be separately enumerated.  Said writing shall contain the following sworn statement: “The Expenses were actually incurred by the traveler as necessary travel expenses in the performance of official duties and are true and correct as to every material matter.” The writing must also have attached to it a receipt for each expense item. This section must be fully complied with as a condition precedent to reimbursement for travel expenses.

VILLAGE OF EL PORTAL

In Village, Mayor Joyce Davis and other elected leaders get $1,000 salary, another $1,000 in expenses

>>> Ethics commission report: The Village of El Portal’s Mayor and Village Council Members receive an annual salary of $1,000, as set by ordinance. They receive another $1,000 yearly as reimbursement for expenses. According to the City Manager, these funds are treated as regular income, and no vouchers are required to justify expenses – in other words, a “non-accountable “ expense account system. In addition, the Mayor receives $150 a month as a cellular phone allowance, for a total of $1,800 yearly. Council Members receive $70 a month as a phone allowance, or $840 yearly. According to the City Manager, these three budgetary items are treated as income for Commissioners and they receive the appropriate tax documents. In sum, the Mayor receives yearly compensation totaling $3,800 and each City Council Member receives compensation totaling $2,840.

Neither the Mayor nor Council Members drive city vehicles, nor are they issued city credit cards.  Each elected official does have a “discretionary account” of $1,000 that can be allocated to support constituent causes. However, the City Manager controls those accounts and will not issue a check unless the request is supported by a memo from the elected official. The City Manager controls additional monies budgeted for travel for the mayor and Council Members totaling about $3,500 so that officials may attend League of Cities meetings and other such events.

TOWN OF MEDLEY

Mayor Ramon Rodriguez gets $179,000 in salary; council members receive $35,258

>>> Ethics commission report: In 2007, the Mayor of the Town of Medley received a taxable salary of $179,276.01 and the Council Members received a taxable salary of $35,258.98. With regards to expenses of the elected officials, the City Attorney cited the town’s budget Resolution No. C-996 and indicated that for the fiscal year 2007, the Mayor’s taxable expenses totaled $693. The Mayor is provided with a credit card issued in the Mayor’s name and is to be used solely for government expenses.  According to the Town’s Finance Director, there are no personal expenditures charged on the Mayor’s credit card.  Also, the Mayor is provided with a government-issued cell phone and is taxed on his share of personal calls per Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rules.  Lastly, the Town Attorney stated that non-taxable expense reimbursements are provided to the Mayor for Town-required travel and these expenses are reimbursed dollar-for-dollar per IRS rules.

Similarly, Council Members are provided with a government-issued cell phone.  Personal cell phone calls made by the Council Members are taxed as income on the elected official’s W-2 in accordance with IRS rules.  Additionally, the Town Attorney stated that non-taxable expense reimbursements are provided to the Council Members for all official government-related travel and are reimbursed on a dollar-for-dollar basis, per IRS rules. Lastly, Medley does not provide either the Mayor or any Council Member with a vehicle allowance, travel allowance, or a personal public relations budget.

COMMUNITY EVENTS

>>> September 2 – Noon: Fair Immigration Summit>>> Join Miami-Dade Elected Officials, Immigrant Advocates and Community Leaders along with the Miami-Dade County Community Relations Board and City of Miami Community Relations Board Stephen P. Clark Government Center, 111 NW 1st St, Second Floor Chambers of the Board of County Commissioners To unite our diverse communities around agreed upon priorities for legislative reform that will uphold our common commitment to equal treatment and due process for all immigrants RSVP – (305) 375-5730.

>>> Press release: ETHICS AND THE MEDIA — “Principled Journalism and Government Relations in a New Era”

A one-day conference for South Florida journalists, government officials and public relations professionals sponsored by the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics, the School of Communication at the University of Miami and the South Florida Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists >> FRIDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2009 – 8:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m., School of Communication, University of Miami, 5100 Brunson Drive, Coral Gables, Florida >> Keynote Speaker: Syndicated Columnist Leonard Pitts, Jr., Other conference presenters include: The Hon. Lynda Bell, Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, Esq., Helen Aguirre Ferre, Howard Finklestein, Esq., Dwight Lauderdale, Michael Lewis, The Hon. Harvey Ruvin, Chief John Timoney — Workshop Topics include: Media, Law and Public Access; The Revolving Door between Government and Media Government Information: Presentation and Perception, The Appearance of Impropriety >>> The $20 registration fee includes breakfast, lunch and a panel discussion on Political Smears and Media Manipulation >>> For more information contact the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics at 305-350-0631 or ethics@miamidade.gov .

EDITORIALS

Signs suggest Miami-Dade budget hearings will be contentious, civility must be maintained

The tone of the nation’s citizens and residents debate over healthcare, the economy, and local government budgets, is only getting more strident with each passing day and with public budget hearings coming-up in September, these voices of stridency are expected to only get louder unfortunately, and what elected leaders are hearing is peoples frustration at how they are and have been governed. The electorate is not the most nimble body, election turnout goes from okay to dismal at the local levels of governance but the tax payers who just got their Truth in Millage Notices (TRIM) are shaking their heads as they see not just county taxes, but their municipalities, the school board, and other entities funded by ad valorem property taxes all going up. At the county, cuts come to $427 million under County Mayor Carlos Alvarez’s proposed budget, that is likely to get mauled when the county commission is done with it, especially given the story about select staffers getting raises, some which were retroactive and were reported in www.miamiherald.com recently.

Now, with only days before the first county budget public hearing in the chamber’s that is expected to be packed with residents and county employees with issues covering all aspect of living in Miami-Dade and one can only hope a certain level of civility will prevail, that people are not bosteious, and elected leaders will make the hard decisions voters expected of them rather than abdicate their duties like when they let the property appraiser’s office set the TRIM rate. For when times are tough like now, people in office actually have to show leadership, much of which is by example, and how the next few weeks play out will determine who is a statesperson on the commission, especially when they represent 2.4 million residents, and let’s hope they get it right.

Miami finally wakes-up, realizes $118 million in cuts, also busted by HUD for millions undocumented

The fact that Miami leaders are getting the final budget information so late, that millions in HUD funds are having to be paid back to the federal government for lack of support documentation is a major symptom that things in the Magic City have not changed that much since Mayor Manuel Diaz was elected. The city in the mid 1990s was broke, had an appointed state financial oversight board made up of residents outside the city appointed by the governor that was dissolved in 2001. Now the city is facing over $118 million in cuts but has been operating in a “what me worry” mode over the past eight years and in the next two-years, when things are really tough financially. Many of the elected participants from the past will be out of office and others in office will have to deal with significant problems that could have been lessened with a little fore thought but government is like a addict when it comes to money and Miamians are now waking-up to what has occurred, and the Watchdog Report predicts the public hearings on the budget in September will be must see television. I only wish it were otherwise.

LETTERS

>>> Thanks for your plug for civility!

Mayor Donald Slesnick, II

City of Coral Gables

>>> What, no school board issues to report this week? There was an article in today’s Herald on Academy for Advanced Academics put together by FIU President Mark Rosenberg and me a few weeks ago. Link below:  http://www.miamiherald.com/news/education/story/1198534.html

Renier Diaz de la Portilla

School Board Member

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The Watchdog Report covers a few of the meetings attended weekly. It remains my belief that an informed public will make better decisions. Therefore, I go to meetings, make the presence of an informed citizen known, and bring the information to you.   The Watchdog Report is in the fourth year of publication and it has been an honor to be able to send this information to you. It is sent to readers in Miami-Dade, Florida, the U.S. and the world. The Watchdog Report is sent to thousands free and while readers have been prodded to subscribe the results have been mixed. Over 250 reports and Extra’s have been sent since May 5, 2000 and over one million words have been written on our community’s governments and events.  The report is an original work based on information gathered at public meetings, interviews and from documents in the public domain.

LETTER POLICY

I welcome letters via e-mail, fax, or snail mail. Letters may be edited for length or clarity and must refer to material published in the Watchdog Report.  Please see address and contact information. Please send any additions and corrections by e-mail, fax or snail mail. All corrections will be published in the next Watchdog Report. If you or your organization would like to publish the contents of this newsletter, please contact me. Please send your request to watchdogreport1@earthlink.net

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Watchdog Report

Est. 05.05.00

Copyright © of original material, 2009, Daniel A. Ricker

>>> Watchdog Report is expanding as a new service and this content is now available to other news media, no longer exclusive to The Miami Herald

The Watchdog Report is no longer exclusively with The Miami Herald, and excluding the one story a week that is printed in the paper on Monday in the Metro & State section by me. The rest of the 20 or so news stories weekly sent out Sunday in the Watchdog Report are now available to television stations web pages, and all the newspapers and other media in South Florida if the publishers have an interest to run part or all of the stories. Further, in 2000, I used to have some paper’s running the report in the Spanish press, that option is available again, and publishers should contact me.  The news content will not be free, but you can pick and chose the stories of interest, edit them if necessary but you must still keep the general story intact.  If you are a news outlet and would like to learn more about, the Watchdog Report and this offer contact me at watchdogreport1@earthlink.net for further information.

>>> Here is what past newspapers have written about the Watchdog Report publisher including a survey and regional study done by the U. North Carolina at Chapel Hill on the media in the southeast United States.

>>> The Miami Herald and Orlando Sentinel & Sun-Sentinel articles on the Watchdog Report publisher over the years.

Published on September 9, 1999, Page 1EA, Miami Herald, The (FL)

CITIZEN ADVOCATE’ KEEPS TABS ON POLITICIANS

Published on January 3, 2000, Page 1B, Miami Herald, The (FL)

MIAMI-DADE WATCHDOG WILL BE MISSED

Published on January 20, 2003, Page 1E, Orlando Sentinel, PAPERWORK TIGER, Miami’s citizen watchdog piles up government files in his quest to keep the “little people” informed.

>>>Watchdog Report publisher named ‘Best Citizen’ 2003 by the Miami New Times  –The publisher would like to thank the weekly alternative paper Miami New Times for bestowing their 2003 Best of Miami, ‘Best Citizen’ award to me and I am honored.  Thank you. To read the full story go to http://www.miaminewtimes.com/issues/2003-05-15/citylife2.html/1/index.html

From the spring of 2003:  U. North Carolina, Chapel Hill:  Southeast U.S. Media Report lists Watchdog Report publisher as leading Florida commentator >>> Selected excerpts from the report on Florida’s media sources

Those who do read the newspaper in Florida have a bevy of options for state government and political coverage. The dominant newspapers in the state are Knight-Ridder’s The Miami Herald (Acquired by The McClatchy Company in 2006) and the Poynter Institute’s St. Petersburg Times. Both papers endorsed Gore in 2000 but split on the 2002 gubernatorial race, with the Herald endorsing Republican incumbent Jeb Bush and the Times backing Democratic challenger Bill McBride.

Daniel Ricker of The Miami Herald also writes an influential column as well as an email newsletter called the Watchdog Report that goes out to more than 100,000 subscribers. FEBRUARY 2004 – Florida: Columnists in Abundance –ERIC GAUTSCHI, graduate student, School of Journalism & Mass Communication, UNC-Chapel Hill – D) LEADING COMMENTATORS – Resource Commentator Organization Type Web site –Steve Bousquet St. Petersburg Times Column www.sptimes.com/columns/bousquet.shtml -“First Friday” WPBT TV (Miami) TV Show www.channel2.org/firstfriday/issues.html –Lucy Morgan St. Petersburg Times Column www.sptimes.com/columns/morgan.shtml  –Daniel Ricker Miami Herald/Watchdog Report Newsletter -www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/news/columnists/dan_ricker/ >>> Readers who would like to read the complete University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill Southeast United States Media Report go to view the complete report or download all the data used in this study. >>> Watchdog Report Editor’s note to the NCU/CH study: The subscriber number referenced is incorrect and applies to readership. The Southern Media Landscape (PDF)  Daniel Ricker. Miami Herald/Watchdog Report Newsletter. www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald … circulation, 134,269. Dan Hoover leads the. publication’s ..www.unc.edu/~davismt/SouthNow.pdf – 574k – View as html

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