Monday, April 23, 2012

How bad do things have to get? [Part II]

Jorge Gonzalez and Ed Tobin
The Miami Herald says there's plenty of blame to go around on Miami Beach. From an editorial in yesterday's paper:
Corruption on the Beach

OUR OPINION: Before targeting city manager, commission must acknowledge own culpability.

Given Miami Beach’s decades-old history of crime, corruption and payola in sunshine — stretching back to the days of mobster Meyer Lansky, no less — there’s deeply engrained precedent leading to the latest corruption scandal. Rooting it out never has been easy. But if the past is prologue, is anyone really surprised at the most recent arrests?

Five city code inspectors, two city firefighters and a Miami-Dade police officer are accused of drug-trafficking and taking bribes from a club owner to overlook code violations and tax debt. The club doors stayed open, and everybody was happy — including allegedly crooked city employees who, over time, were $25,000 richer.

Now comes the blame game. Could City Manager Jorge Gonzalez, in the position for 12 years, have been more proactive given chronic trouble in several city departments during and preceding his tenure? Sure. It’s a relief to see him get out in front of this most recent bad news and engage outside agencies in the quest to clean up city government. He says that an FBI multiagency task force will probe city departments; the county’s Inspector General, Chris Mazzella, will bring the Beach under his purview. The IG can initiate investigations, pursuing hotline tips. The county’s ethics commission will create more-comprehensive training for city employees; and Mr. Gonzalez reassigned a law-enforcement officer to help run code enforcement.
Mr. Gonzalez, indeed, has to account for what has happened and how he plans to move the city forward. But commissioners can’t squirm or blame their way out of giving the public an accounting of their actions — or inaction. As elected officials who set policy, they need to come clean.
This morning - perhaps in response to the Herald editorial - Miami Beach Commissioner Ed Tobin sent this email to the mayor, city manager and his colleagues on the commission:
From: "Tobin, Ed"
Date: April 23, 2012 7:45:51 AM EDT
To: "Jorge Gonzalez" <>
Cc: "Deede Weithorn" , "Jerry Libbin" , "Jonah Wolfson" , "Jorge Exposito" , "Michael Gongora" <>, "Matti Bower" <>, "Ed Tobin" , "Ed Tobin"

Subject: The Public and the elected officials have a right to know

For the entire term for which I have served I have faced enormous hurdles whenever I sought information relative to mistakes,inefficiency, incompetence, overspending, waste,criminal conduct or lack of oversight.You have always fought hard and successfully to keep these matters strictly within your purview citing your management privilege.

Commissioners only receive information through you. All hand picked department heads and executive level employees for which you have long standing friendships guard this information insuring information of any negative nature whatsoever does not go to a Commissioner.

This culture trickles into every aspect of the City as employees consistently omit information to the elected officials of fail to perform basic due dilgence that may suggest an alternate course of action different from that of their recommendation.

Of course we cannot exercise any effective oversight over management when any information that may tend to suggest mistakes,inefficiency, incompetence, overspending, waste,criminal conduct or lack of oversight by management is withheld from us (unless it reaches the Miami Herald). The most essential of information can no longer be kept from the public and their elected officials.

Specifically as it relates to the pending criminal investigations I want to be present with you and the Mayor as a representative of my fellow Commissioners for all matters relative to any criminal wrong doing to insure that we receive all information unfiltered and that we provide all information unfiltered to the public at the appropriate time.

Without Commission access to all information in real time we will never know:
What about our organization allowed this to happen? Did we see signs of wrong doing? Should we have seen signs ? Did we cover up or ignore matters that would have lead to the discovery of wrong doing?

These questions were never explored by the Commission in the building department corruption scandal because you managed the information.


Ed Tobin

Sent from my iPad
So, just how serious are the city manager and commissioners about implementing change?

Perhaps an answer can be found in what they did after they learned of the arrests of the code enforcement officers and fire inspectors on April 11.

The city commission was in session on that day.

The meeting adjourned at around noon so the city manager, mayor and commissioners could attend the press conference announcing the arrests at the U.S. Attorney's office.

When the meeting was reconvened that afternoon did the mayor and commissioners spend time talking about ways to fix things?


They spent more than an hour discussing the banning of plastic drinking straws on the beach.

How serious are Miami Beach residents about demanding change from city hall?

We'll find out this week.

Beach activist Frank Del Vecchio has organized what he's calling a "public protest rally" for noon Thursday, April 26 at Miami Beach City Hall.

It will be interesting to see how many residents show up. Or for that matter, any of the Miami Beach commissioners.

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