Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Will there be fireworks at Miami Beach City Hall tomorrow?

Click to enlarge.
The Miami Beach City Commission meets tomorrow.

Some of the items on the commission's agenda deal with the feeding of cats in city parks, the establishment of tobacco-free zones in city parks, and the erection of a memorial to Art Deco pioneer Barbara Capitman.

There's even one that asks "Should the City commission amend the city code to permit rooftop wind turbines? ...blah, blah, blah"

But, all eyes will be on City Manager Jorge Gonzalez who will formally ask the commission to approve his choice of Acting Police Chief Ray Martinez to be the city's next police chief.

Martinez was last man standing from a field of 79 candidates who "applied from all over the country, including Ohio, New York, Virginia, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Maine and Maryland, to name a few," wrote Gonzalez in a letter to the commission.

One city hall veteran predicts that Martinez's appointment will sail through the commission without too much trouble. All Gonzalez needs are four votes for approval..but "he probably has 5," says a source. "Watch for the vote to happen in the morning around 10:30 or 11."

However, a number of city hall watchers will also be paying close attention to Commissioner Ed Tobin when the vote to approve Ray Martinez comes up. "Expect some fireworks," says one source.

Tobin made no secret of the fact that his choice for police chief was his long-time friend, Bal Harbour Police Chief Tom Hunker. When Hunker was passed over, Tobin's anger and disappointment bubbled to the surface.

Also on the agenda is Item #R5N, Commissioner Jonah Wolfson's proposal to amend "the Unclassified Employees Salary Ordinance (Ordinance No. 1605) to specifically delineate the current compensation of the City Manager and City Attorney."

According to a source, what that means in plain English is that, "the intent is simply to approve the manager and the city attorney's compensation by ordinance...up til now, they were just amending the contracts piecemeal by resolution."

Wolfson first raised the issue during a Feb. 24th commission meeting. From the minutes of that meeting:
"Commissioner Wolfson distributed, for the record, a copy of the City Charter and a copy of an old ordinance related to this item and stated that the City Charter provides, under section 4.01 and 3.01, that the City Manager and City Attorney compensations shall be fixed by ordinance. In the past, Ordinance 1605 has not set forth the specific compensation. What Ordinance 1605 stated for the past 12 years is that the salaries are "determined by the City Commission," which is not fixing the compensation. The salaries have been fixed by resolution. The City Charter is very clear that this shall be done by ordinance, because ordinances require two readings and a public hearing. He requested from the City Commission that the City Charter is followed."
(In response to a public records request, Miami Beach City Clerk Robert Parcher told me in an email that over the years there have been 10 resolutions amending Gonzalez's contract.)

And what that means is that Gonzalez's contract might now look something like this:

After Wolfson raised the issue at the Feb. 24 meeting, some in Miami Beach started taking a closer look at the true cost Gonzalez's pay and benefits. It was apparently something no one had bothered to do during Gonzalez's almost 12 years with the city. For instance, some were surprised to learn that the city pays Gonzalez a monthly housing allowance of $2,000 on top of his $231,000 annual salary.

Not bad for the manager of a city that's just 7.2 sq. miles in size with less than 100,000 residents.

(Today, someone posted a detailed analysis of Gonzalez's contract on YouTube...set to music!)

(By way of comparison, Miami-Dade County manager Alina Hudak earns a salary of $259,000, and receives $10,000 in Executive Benefits Allowance annually, participation in a 401(a) Supplemental Retirement Account ($1,500 per year) and an annual physical exam with County provider (optional).)

If you want to see the tomorrow's action live outside of Miami Beach, city commission meetings can now be seen county-wide on AT&T Uverse government Channel 99.

And the Miami Herald's David Smiley tells me he'll be live tweeting all the action.


  1. My god, what a scam! Miami Beach needs to invest in calculators for those commissioners -- stat!

    I laughed til I cried!!
    Then I couldn't stop crying 'cause it's sooo disgusting how Gonzo & the MB Commissioners "nickel and dime" the MBPD pension fund while pouring our tax $$ into Gonzo's pocket.
    Good work...love your blogs


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