Monday, November 03, 2014

Ethics or Business as Usual? By Geniusofdespair

I was there when Lobbyist Dusty Melton wanted the Miami Dade County ethics department to take action against a fellow lobbyist for not being registered. He wrote letters, made presentations, etc. all for naught. They ruled the other lobbyist just made a small blunder.

That is the problem. When people do something wrong, as far as ethics department is concerned they have to do something really really wrong. They follow their rules loosely and try to find the offender any excuse. The Conflict of Interest and Code of Ethics Ordinance already establishes "minimum" standards of ethical conduct. They don't have to minimize more. In fact I am sure they can increase the standards if they really wanted things to be different. They remain instead, part of the problem. What happens is the commissioners ask for an ethics opinion and they get one, usually favoring what they want to do (that would seem unethical to you and me --- any reasonable person).

One of the parts of the ethics code is "Exploitation of official position." If anyone from the ethics department doesn't think this goes on during fundraising, they are in for a rude awakening. When are they going to start interviewing donors? The Ethics rule: "A person cannot use his or her public position to obtain a special privilege or exemption for him or herself or for others." Everyone giving knows they have a special privilege, like even a small thing like getting an appointment with a commissioner. Most regular people can't get to see their OWN Commissioner, they get to see the aides only. I could go on and on. You all know it is going on...except ethics, they turn a blind eye to most misbehavior. Major overhaul needed!!! Suggestions?

I am fascinated with the concept of "Moral Hazard" because it is exactly what we are doing, not real change:

(Do not hit play all, don't know how that got there)


Anonymous said...

Very weird when citizens cannot get appointments with their elected officials.

Anonymous said...

"A person cannot use his or her public position to obtain a special privilege or exemption for him or herself or for others.". This year, COE brought a case against an elected official for doing that. The official admitted it and paid a fine without protesting.

Anonymous said...

Miami commish Marc Sarnoff has been using a taxpayer paid chauffeur driving a new City SUV for 8 years. 24/7. The chauffeur even picks up Sarnoff at his house 2 minutes from City Hall. By the way, the chauffeur is paid $118,000 per year plus benefits. He is a certified police officer so the chauffeur duty keeps him off the streets and NOT doing any crime fighting.

Anonymous said...

Moral hazard is the free rider scenario, it can be as simple as a light bulb from your neighbor also lighting your yard, or as complex as public projects biding process benefiting campaign contributors.

Anonymous said...

If I had to drive Sarnoff around all day, you would have to pay me more than that!

Dusty Melton said...

The Miami-Dade County Commission on Ethics and Public Trust will only enforce its relevant sections of the County Code to the extent the public pays close attention to its meetings, its opinions and its disposition of legitimate complaints.

Which is to say, it is running amok because only a few citizens attend its brief, monthly meetings to monitor its activities. Unless and until there is robust public scrutiny of the Ethics Commission, it will continue to finesse its way out of punishing manifest Code violations and unlawful behavior by rogue lobbyists.

Al Crespo said...


Folks can watch the entire presentation of the professor talking to the Ethics Commission by clicking on this link and going to 31.32 at my You Tube page.

Al Crespo

Al Crespo said...

Ops, sorry I forgot to add the link

Anonymous said...

May a County Commissioner use his official position to engage in fundraising activities in the private sector in order to help finance various public projects in the district that he represents?
II. Brief Answer
GENERALLY, YES. The County Ethics Code at Sec. 2-11.1 (e)(2)(f) allows County Commissioners to solicit gifts on behalf of the County in the performance of their official duties for use solely by the County to conduct its official business. Additionally, Sec. 2-11.1 (e)(2)(g) allows County Commissioners and their staffs to solicit gifts on behalf of 501(c)(3) nonprofit entities.
Nevertheless, because these solicitations could create the perception of possible quid pro quo arrangements, the Board of County Commissioners should adopt several safeguards to avoid appearances of impropriety in the proposed solicitation and funding processes.
County Commissioner Juan Zapata represents District 11. District 11 is entirely unincorporated and depends on funding through the Unincorporated Municipal Service Area (UMSA) budget.
The Commissioner wishes to raise private-sector funds to finance public infrastructure projects and other programs in District 11 that serve a public purpose, such as sports and beautification activities.
The Commissioner would also like to solicit private-sector financing on behalf of the Florida International University (FIU) Foundation. Using funds solicited on behalf of the Foundation, Commissioner Zapata would direct FIU to develop a strategic master plan to address service and infrastructure deficiencies in District 11. The FIU Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit entity.