Friday, September 13, 2013

Slapping Wrists, The Ethics Department. By Geniusofdespair

Nothing ever happens over at Ethics but here is their press release...lots of wrist slapping:

The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust (COE) today issued an opinion (RQO 13-08) advising Doral Mayor Luigi Boria to refrain from voting on or participating in any official matters involving a private company seeking to develop 17 acres of land in the West Miami-Dade municipality. The mayor’s son and daughter used an estate gift from their father to purchase a combined 50% ownership in the firm, The Grand Floridian, but sold that and now hold a collateralized loan worth $8 million dollars from the company’s owner, Juan Carlos Tovar. Tovar also has a revolving line of credit with Mayor Boria’s international computer distribution company. The Conflict of Interest and Code of Ethics Ordinance prohibits an elected official from taking any official action directly or indirectly affecting an entity in which he, a debtor, or his immediate family members have a financial interest. In order to avoid any appearance of impropriety, the Ethics Commission also advises administrators and Doral city staff to apply consistent and objective standards to any requests brought by The Grand Floridian related to its development.

Two complaints filed by lobbyist Dusty Melton accusing local attorneys of violating the Ethics Code by lobbying on behalf of the same client without registering first with the County were resolved today. C 13-19 was filed against Stuart Sobel who was hired in May by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries America to prepare a protest after the company’s bid was ranked second for work on Miami International Airport’s Automated People Mover. The investigation shows Mr. Sobel met with an assistant county attorney and sent letters to an airport procurement contract officer without registering to lobby on behalf of Mitsubishi. He agreed to settle the charges today by pleading no contest to one count, paying a $500 fine and accepting a Letter of Instruction. Mitchell Bierman was authorized to represent Mitsubishi in July when he wrote a letter to the aviation director arguing against the bid winner, but was not officially registered to lobby for the company until four days later. However, the Ethics Commission considered the violation to be of minimal impact and determined that the public interest would not be served by proceeding further, and so dismissed the complaint (C 13-18).

The Ethics Commission found No Probable Cause that County Commissioner Sally Heyman violated the Citizen’s Bill of Rights or other provisions of the Ethics Code. A complaint (C 13-15) was filed by Alan Rigerman after he was not recognized to speak about the “No Kill Shelter” during a June meeting of the Public Safety and Animal Services Committee, which Commissioner Heyman chaired. The investigation determined that the agenda item was set for “discussion only,” which does not require Commissioners to take public testimony, although several professionals in the field were asked to speak on the subject. The complainant also questioned if it was proper for Heyman’s coffee truck to sell refreshments at the annual “Love-In” festival at Greynolds Park – a County facility. Through her corporation, Heyman registered and paid the vendor application fee as other participants, so no violation was found and the complaint was dismissed.

No Probable Cause was found to a complaint (C 13-16) against Miami Beach City Commissioner Jonah Wolfson, filed by a constituent who made three unsuccessful requests for an e-mail address list used to distribute a newsletter in recent years. His aide denied such a list existed, but after being contacted by Ethics Commission investigators, Commissioner Wolfson instructed his staff to work with Miami Beach’s technology department and the records request was fulfilled. While the complaint will be dismissed, the Ethics Commission will issue a Letter of Instruction to Commissioner Wolfson’s legislative aide, reminding her of the duties and obligations regarding provision of public records by public servants in the Miami-Dade County Citizen’s Bill of Rights.

The COE issued Letters of Instruction to North Bay Village Vice-Mayor Eddie Lim and Commissioner Jorge Gonzalez, who settled complaints (C 13-13 & C 13-14) last month after they failed to report as gifts tickets to a Miami Heat game in December 2012. The Letters advise the politicians to abide by the requirement to report any gift received from someone other than a close friend or family member in excess of $25 in value, as required by the North Bay Village Code. They are also encouraged, as are all other public officials, to request an opinion from the Ethics Commission whenever it is unclear how the Ethics Code should be interpreted or applied.

Two advisory board members who were accused of violating the Ethics Code by failing to file required financial disclosure forms by the due date complied after complaints were filed against them. Frantz Telfort (C 13-20) served on the Miami-Dade Community Small Business Enterprise Board during 2010 and 2011 and failed to file a Source of Income Statement for either year. Bruce Christensen (C 13-21) was a member of the Coral Gables Green Task Force in 2012 and was due to submit the form by July 1, 2013. Since both have now complied, the Ethics Commission approved the Advocate’s recommendation to dismiss the complaints.


Anonymous said...

A letter of instruction as a penalty? They don't call Ethics Director Joe Centorino "Let em Go Joe" for nothing!

Anonymous said...

The Ethics Commission was created in 1968 as a first line of defense for the public on issues such as corruption. However, it was changed in 1974 by the legislature from criminal to Administrative, obviously by elected officials who didn’t want to be subjected to criminal punishment. Now we have only a shell of a commission, severely limited in its response when the public tries to get help.

So don’t blame the Ethics Commission especially Joe Centerino who is a very capable man but can only do what he is legally allowed to do.

The law clearly needs to be returned to its original purpose:

The "Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees" adopted by the Legislature is found in Chapter 112 (Part III) of the Florida Statutes. Foremost among the goals of the Code is to promote the public interest and maintain the respect of the people for their government. The Code is also intended to ensure that public officials conduct themselves independently and impartially, not using their offices for private gain other than compensation provided by law. While seeking to protect the integrity of government, the Code also seeks to avoid the creation of unnecessary barriers to public service.
Criminal penalties which initially applied to violations of the Code were eliminated in 1974 in favor of administrative enforcement. The Legislature created the Commission on Ethics that year "to serve as guardian of the standards of conduct" for public officials, state and local. Five of the Commission's nine members are appointed by the Governor, and two each are appointed by the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives.
112.320 Commission on Ethics; purpose.—There is created a Commission on Ethics, the purpose of which is to serve as guardian of the standards of conduct for the officers and employees of the state, and of a county, city, or other political subdivision of the state, as defined in this part, and to serve as the independent commission provided for in s. 8(f), Art. II of the State Constitution.

112.3213 Legislative intent and purpose.—The Legislature finds that the operation of open and responsible government requires the fullest opportunity to be afforded to the people to petition their government for the redress of grievances and to express freely their opinions on executive branch action. Further, the Legislature finds that preservation of the integrity of the governmental decisionmaking process is essential to the continued functioning of an open government. Therefore, in order to preserve and maintain the integrity of the process and to better inform citizens of the efforts to influence executive branch action, the Legislature finds it necessary to require the public disclosure of the identity, expenditures, and activities of certain persons who attempt to influence actions of the executive branch in the areas of policy and procurement.

You will be hearing much more on this matter and hope that when you the public are needed to correct this miscarriage of justice you will be out front loaded for bear and ready to help. Only the people en masse can change things in this miserable atmosphere of what is loosely called "the law," So be prepared for battle because when we try to change this we will need all hands on deck. To be effective the Ethics Commission must be provided the tools to do their work efficiently. Let's get busy folks and change what we now know has been written into aw by those who would steal from the taxpayers.

Please believe me when I tell you, You will be hearing much more on this and will be called into action.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous above:
Your statement is dead on. It is time to take this state back one elected official as a time. Has anyone ever done a report comparing public disclosure forms of when politicians come into office and then leave? I have in my city and I am DISGUSTED!!

Anonymous said...

Keep in mind that Luigi Boria was the one who requested the advisory opinion. no complaint was involved.

Anonymous said...

Not just Joe, do not forget these Four 4-0 Unanimously SEE no evil, HEAR no evil, SPEAK no evil
The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics convened in the Biscayne Building, 19 West Flagler Street, Suite 820, Miami, FL, on July 11, 2013. Present were Commission Chair Charlton COPELAND, Commission Vice-Chair Nelson BELLIDO, Commissioner Dawn ADDY and Commissioner Lawrence SCHWARTZ. Also present were Joe Centorino, Executive Director Michael Murawski, Advocate Miriam RAMOS, Deputy General Counsel Victoria Frigo, Senior Staff Attorney; Gilma Diaz-Greco, Staff Attorney, Rhonda Victor Sibilia, Communications Director, Rachelle Cedeno Ross, Administrative Legal Clerk, Lawrence Lebowitz and Robert Steinback, COE Investigators.

2 Commission on Ethics Minutes July 11, 2013 VIII.VII. Public Comments Al Crespo questioned if there is an attendance requirement of ethics commissioners. South Miami City Commissioner Bob Welsh spoke against a proposed settlement for C 12-31. South Miami City Commissioner Walter Harris spoke against a proposed settlement for C 12-31. South Miami City Commissioner Valerie Newman spoke in support of the city police chief. Armando Oliveros, Jr. spoke in support of the South Miami police chief. Jose Basulto spoke in support of the South Miami police chief. South Miami Vice Mayor Josh Liebman spoke in support of the city police chief. John Edward Smith spoke in support of the South Miami police chief. Brad Casso spoke in support of the South Miami police chief. Denise Covington spoke against the South Miami police chief.

3 Commission on Ethics Minutes July 11, 2013 VIII. Complaints The Ethics Commission convened in closed session at 1130 am. The commission recessed at 1146 and returned to open session at 1151 am. Public Advocate Michael Murawski proposed a settlement with South Miami Police Chief Orlando Martinez de Castro. Probable Cause had been found to C 12-31 that the Chief violated the city’s ethics code during 2011 when the South Miami Police Department contracted with Airways Auto Tag Agency for tags and titles for forfeiture vehicles. Airways is owned by Ileana Martinez de Castro, the police chief’s wife. As part of the negotiated settlement, a fourth count was dropped, and Chief Martinez de Castro agreed not to contest the allegations in Counts 1, 2, & 3 of the complaint, pay $2,000 in investigative costs and accept a Letter of Instruction. Commissioner Schwartz made a motion to approve the settlement. It was seconded by Commissioner and unanimously approved 4-0.

Anonymous said...

VI. Executive Director’s Report Joseph Centorino suggested a deferral of a vote on a proposed revision of the Rules of Procedure until the full Commission is present, but he did explain changes to the section regarding whistleblower retaliation.

He presented a resolution declaring Ethical Governance Day 2013, on October 22nd to promote greater civic involvement and commitment to public and community service. Commissioner Bellido made the motion to endorse the resolution. It was seconded by Commissioner Schwartz and unanimously approved 4-0. Volunteers are being recruited to address high school seniors in their government and economics classes.

Mr. Centorino reported on the recent approval of two ordinances by the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners. One requires all County and municipal elected officials to complete ethics training within 90 days after being sworn into office. Another codifies a charter amendment approved by voters last fall that permits the Ethics Commission to enact penalties for violations of the Citizens Bill of Rights similar to those applied to violations of the Conflict of Interest and Code of Ethics Ordinance.

Anonymous said...

2 Commission on Ethics Minutes July 11, 2013 III. V. Miami Beach Lobbyist Appeals Deputy General Counsel Miriam Ramos presented appeals from seven lobbyists who were late filing their expenditure statements with the City of Miami Beach. She recommended waiving the fee for all. Commissioner Addy moved to approve the recommendation. It was seconded by Commissioner Schwartz and passed unanimously 4-0.

Anonymous said...

See the 50 second Sunshine violation by COE board members during the last "ethics herring":

Oscar said...

The second anon is confusing the state ethics commission with the county ethics commission. The state ethics commission may have been created in 1968, but the county ethics commission was not created until 1997. They are both useless, but this blog article is about the county board. The county ethics commission has only had two directors, Robert Meyers and Let'em Go Joe Centorino. I think most people would categorize both of them as wimps.

In addition to Joe's reputation of being soft on corruption when he worked at the state attorney's office, the fact that Let'em Go Joe kept his predecessor's staff including Michael Murawski as his prosecutor tells you Joe is cut from the same incompetent cloth as Meyers. Murawski, of course, is the loser whose only serious investigation was in 2011 to find which of his co-workers was the whistleblower who leaked evidence that indicated Meyers engaged in "inappropriate conduct" with his secretary. Murawski should have been fired and brought up on ethics charges with Meyers for that disgusting debacle. Read about Murawski's inappropriate hunt for an anonymous whistleblower here:

Anonymous said...

I like Katy.. But... I have to agree with Mr. Crespo. Having Raquel Regalado and Steve Marin address your next class on Oct 4th for Good Government initiative is a stretch. Raquel,should be in jail,for losing $40000 from her dads campaign and Marin is the master puppeteer in this city. I won't even mention Braman who thinks he is the kingmaker in our elections. No honor among thieves..

Anonymous said...

I am not confusing State vs. County Ethics Commissions. I am very aware that first came the state commission and then much later came he County commission. I have filed complaints with the state commission which are now floating successfully through the process. I have also been in touch with the County Commission on many occasions.
If the State Commission is returned to its originally noble purpose to protect the public, the County Commission will have no choice but to follow suit. That is the way this thing we call politics works. However, not if but when, the state commission is returned to its original form, it is up to us the people to make sure that the County commission follows.
Finding fault and not doing anything to accomplish the public purpose is never the way to go. If we the public does nothing, then elected officials will do nothing. We have to begin with little pin pricks to get their attention and then if they don’t take the hint, charge with all our strength to let them know without question we mean business when we say we want this changed. It is difficult for one person to accomplish much but together we can change anything want.
I have also been active in Governance Day from the onset and urge all of you to consider joining in this critical program initiated by the Executive Director of the County Ethics Commission, Joe Centerino. The second annual Governance day this year is scheduled for October 1. Go to the Commission’s website and download the application form. I can honestly tell you, speaking to a combined two high school classes about the First Amendment last year was one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. The students were thirsty for information and most were surprised at how powerful the Amendment is. I will do it over and over again, anytime I am called upon to contribute and urge you to do the same.
I have been reading this blog for some time now and never cease to be amazed at the intelligence of the responses. I have often thought how powerful it would be if we removed all our shining light from under the “bushel” and let it shine brightly on our elected officials. Does anyone deny that we are brighter and much more sensible than this sorry lot of ignorance parading as elected officials who think they know what they are doing?
As practiced in South Florida, politics is nothing more than what I call “play-play politics...dolly house politics” children playing in the sandbox with no idea what they are doing. We are seriously in need for the adults to take over but it will never happen if we don’t make it happen.

Anonymous said...

Interesting that one mayor gets slap on wrist and another gets removed from office, tried publicly by the media, forced to campaign for re-election in the middle of a sea of negative publicity... That's justice?

Anonymous said...

Miami-Dade: The Banana Republic
Posted on September 14, 2013

"The degree of lawlessness with respect to public records access in Miami-Dade County was stunning. I’ve been there to conduct audits many times before, but it seems like things are getting worse. I guess it’s time for Education through Litigation…again." -

Anonymous said...

The ethics commission is not a total fail. The majority of the investigation against Homestead Mayor Steve Bateman was done by ethics commission investigator Karl Ross, who also got several no gooders in Opa Locka including Dorrin Rolle's bagman Dante Starks.