Monday, January 14, 2013
Follies on the Miami Beach Dais. Guest Blog by Mr. Sunny
I have watched the anger of some Commissioners on the dais as they lashed out at George Gonzalez. Since his resignation in the summer of 2012, the City has been operating without a Manager. On January 16th, the City of Miami Beach Commission will meet to start the hiring process.
Remember my anger that I wrote about in my first blog published January 5th? I said that some of my anger was reserved for the many people unwilling to address corruption or are complacent about it. That inclination to shrug off the problem seems to have been George Gonzalez's main form of managing our City. I am not suggesting he was corrupt. His lack of leadership was evident based on the fact that in all the years I've been paying attention and for all the new instances of corruption that were published in the newspapers, he did not take bold moves. At times he seemed as surprised as I was when the reports came out. How could he not have an inkling of what was going on under his nose?
Some will try to push the responsibility to deal with the corruption to past administrations by saying it all started before George Gonzalez arrived on the scene, but with 12 years in the job and the unfortunate circumstance of numerous eruptions of corruption, there should have been a point where his attention turned to addressing the problem. Instead George Gonzalez allowed the ugly mess to fester. What is even more shameful, or frightening, is the fact that I believe what is written in the newspapers is only the tip of the iceberg.
On the 16th, it will be very interesting to see if the Commission will move forward. Bickering and herky-jerky steps toward resolving the crises of leadership to finally hire a permanent City Manager have been the hallmark of the Commission over the past few months. It would be too easy to blame them for the confusion, fighting and drawn out process of dealing with George Gonzalez's departure, but much of the situation likely stems from frustration over the former City Manager twisting the knife by not stepping down when it was obvious he lost Commission and residents' support. In my opinion, his actions show a lack of respect for the Mayor, the Commissioners, the residents and the City he proclaimed to love. I also throw blame back on the Commission – one cannot overlook the fact that politics are being played. This year we will elect a new Mayor and some of the Commissioners.
I believe a sign of leadership in government is creating a culture of honesty, efficiency and citizen-focused empowerment. On these measurements George Gonzalez failed miserably. I hope there is agreement that creating a culture that fosters good, honest and responsive government is paramount and supersedes all other considerations.
I can't help but feel the center in Miami Beach is corrupt, with rings reaching outward. The outward appearance of paradise we all admire is rotten at the core. For Miami Beach, a good reputation would be a nice change of pace. I want a Miami Beach that is strong, brimming with vibrancy, honesty and energy. How about you?
Leadership Fails: Following is a laundry list of evidence on how rotten the City of Miami has become:
I am very sure this is not a complete list. (Unfortunately, the Miami Herald Website does house an archive its articles. This, in some cases, necessitates citing a third party reference to the original article.)
2006 City electrical inspector Thomas Ratner arrested for taking a $1,000 bribe.
March 19, 2008 Arrests of one former and two current Miami Beach building inspectors, Andres Villarreal, Mohammad Partovi and Henry Johnson.
Scroll to article titled, "Short Changed? Corrupt building officials almost certainly have cost the city some money, but could it be millions rather than thousands?" The link will launch a PDF file.
June 19, 2008 Director of the Miami Beach Building Department, Thomas Velazquez, resigned in the midst of an ongoing public corruption investigation that has already resulted in the arrests of three city employees.
February 12, 2010 Building Inspector Andres Villarreal, 51, is sentenced after pleading guilty to two counts of unlawful compensation. Villarreal agreed to cooperate with other investigations.
In March 2010, Miami New Times published an investigation into the Beach police. The article reported that more than half of the police made over $100K. The article notes that "Worse, many of the top earners had terrible records of theft, fraud, racial discrimination, and gay harassment."
August 2010, An article in Miami New Times reports that "without consulting the commission, Gonzalez hired Cynthia Curry -- an aide to then-County Manager George Burgess -- to run the Building Department. But then the Miami Herald ran a front-page exposé that reported Curry had once admitted to double-billing the county for more than $154,000."
On April 8, 2011, An Ethics Complaint was filed, but dismissed later, against City Manager George Gonzalez for violating Miami-Dade County regarding airfare provided for his wife to travel with him on trips to Switzerland for Art Basel-related business. The article notes that aside from the ethics charge there was outrage over taxpayer-funded trips that amounted to nothing more than "junkets."
May 30, 2011,Officers shot and killed a tourist and wounded several innocent bystanders. A separate discussion is required to do justice to the issues surrounding the City's handling of Memorial Day weekend year in and year out.
July 3, 2011 Two police officers were allegedly drinking on the job. One of them, Derick Kuilan, went on out on his ATV with a woman and ended up running over a woman on the beach very nearly killing her. The result led to demotions and firings. Not all were related to the incident. The investigation found some officers lied about the hours they worked.
July 12, 2011 Mohammed Partovi, 54, pleaded guilty to two counts of “unlawful compensation” for accepting a Rolex watch and cash from Michael Stern, a troubled Miami Beach developer who has repeatedly been accused of fraud and forgery in lawsuits relating to his real estate business.
2011 The Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office investigated the City Manager and other staff due to accusations of withholding a grant of $15 million to the New World Symphony in order to receive free tickets. In October, the office declined to file charges but the investigation resulted in the county changing its ethics guidelines.
March 2012 A police officer was caught speeding on the Beach past tourists and was allegedly drunk. The fallout leads to him being relieved of duty and other officers were suspended.
March 30,2012 The City’s chief procurement office, Gus Lopez, resigns. Shortly after, an investigation is launched into his ties to Walter Garcia, a developer who had already pleaded guilty in 1997 for conspiring to sell drugs. Since then Lopez has been charged with numerous counts tied to corruption. Among the allegations are that Lopez, provided his crony inside information about the Convention Center bids. Further, one of the Convention Center bidders, CMC paid Walter $25,000 through his company, Peninsula Development. In July 2012, according to the Miami Sun Post, ". . . City Attorney Jose Smith clears CMC Group and its president Ugo Columbo of any wrongdoing in the convention center redevelopment bidding. . . .There is no evidence suggesting that either CMC Group or Ugo Colombo engaged in any criminal wrongdoing,” Smith rules." (I noted this payment in my last blog and find it very convenient for the City that there appears to be an arm's length between the developer, Garcia and Lopez despite all of Lopez' shenanigans.)
April 11, 2012 The FBI announces the arrest of the City's chief code compliance officer, Jose Alberto, along with four other officers and a firefighter. There were accused of accepting bribes from a club owner who worked undercover with the FBI. The FBI, also, announced that a firefighter allegedly tried to facilitate a cocaine shipment through the club.
October 2012 The Miami Herald reports, "Investigators began looking this month into a parking enforcement officer’s letter alleging that his supervisors were giving a free pass to the illegally parked cars of customers at iconic restaurants."