Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Right Thing

Friday, December 19, 2014

Moment of Silence or Moment of Ridicule for Deerfield Beach

Some years ago the Deerfield Beach commission heard from some residents that they would like a moment of silence instead of a prayer in the beginning of commission meetings.  This caused many religious residents to attend the next commission meeting and demand that the prayers continue, which as a result of the uproar, they did.

Now, in reaction to court decisions, there is a movement to have the invocation delivered by those of non-traditional beliefs, all legal according to the courts.  The people who are making these unusual requests are hoping to stage a publicity stunt trying to make the point that government should not be in the business of religion, and that many attendees of commission meetings feel ostracized by the current type of invocations.

Not wanting their invocations turned into a media circus many cities have done away with invocations entirely; other cities, have decided to have a moment of silence during which people can pray silently or not as they wish. 

I don’t think Deerfield Beach is ready to do away with a spiritual moment before our meetings, but a moment of silence will eliminate the possibility of the invocation time being turned into a moment of ridicule, and go a long way toward eliminating the feeling by many residents that the city is not one of inclusion. 
COMMENT BY DAVID COHEN (This was sent to the city commission):
The Five Electees Serving on the Deerfield Beach City Commission were elected To Represent All Constituents, Not Just Christians
The diversity in our town underscores the need to replace the divisive sectarian invocations at civic gatherings with unifying Moments of Silence. 

Scriptures of major creeds support this practice.   Quotations provided upon request.   
Consider also, in sharing that moment of silence for prayer and/or contemplation, non-believers can, at last, attain their due civil rights — HUMAN RIGHTS — to be treated as the equal citizens that they are. 
This is yet one more time for me to invoke the spirit of Rosa Parks.   I insist that you will no longer shove me to the back of the bus.  

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Letter to Blog-by-Bett from David Cohen:

December 5, 2014 in a commentary  along with his typically brilliant abilities to analyze facts and conditions and to eloquently express well-founded opinions; the author, Jeff Sayles, is a gentleman.  In this case I feel that he’s been overly kind.  

I too, once had a telephone and Email acquaintance with Jean Robb — it doesn't seem to have been anywhere nearly as close or enduring a relationship as Jeff describes his.  That is at least partly due to my feeling of repugnance engendered by her contentious and abrasive manner and her regressive (way out of date) attitudes toward social issues.

Like some who supported Jean when she ran for office, in this century and in the last, Jeff can still bring forward such kind and sweet words for the motives and conduct of a person whose performance is clearly marked by a belief — a belief that being nasty and dirty, and everything that that implies such as lack of integrity and fairness, ruthlessness, dishonesty, deceit, vindictiveness, and meanness as well as a Machiavellian approach to governing — all attributes shared by a true misanthropist — justifies the trust of the people enough to get her elected. 

So it has been.  Rather than proceeding as one elected to serve as a commission member with a ceremonial role in accordance with the city charter, she has behaved like an anointed despot with all of those characteristics that we’ve listed.  Fortunately her conduct was moderated by a diligent city manager, by the Broward County Inspector General and by city commissioners.  CHAOS checked.

Robb has supporters/fellow travelers.   Each time that some of them speak or write, we are struck by the fact that they seem to see life through a straw — far narrower than tunnel vision with eyes that see but do not observe, ears that hear but do not listen.

 Add to this, tongues that express respect for the words of naive and credulous sheep who venerate a shepherd — skilled but flawed but fail to speak to an issue at hand.

I have much respect for Jeff, but I cannot condone giving that woman a "Queen's pass' any more than I would give a pass to the conniving of any such person.  There is no end to the chicanery to which we've been and are exposed in our town.

 Vermin cannot be controlled with sweet words.  They respond to kindness as a weakness.  Vermin must be — nullified — defanged, quarantined where they cannot pollute with their poison. Then, we can be merciful FROM A DISTANCE.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Deerfield Beach Mayor Censured

At last night’s (Tuesday, December 2) commission meeting, in reaction to the OIG report, the commissioners voted to send a message to Mayor Jean Robb that her unethical behavior was not going to be tolerated by passing a motion to go on record that Robb’s conduct is unacceptable and is an abuse of power and should cease immediately. 

Her answer was to make snide joking remarks about the $500 checks and the Little League bus.  The one commissioner who voted no on the resolution did so because he thought it was too weak.  He was in favor of a vote to suspend her.  Given her reaction, which was to speak up and deny that she violated the charter in spite of being advised by her VERY high priced attorney not to say anything, perhaps a suspension should have been the motion.

Strangely there were people in the audience who were urged to come and speak because they thought that Fr. Dalton of St. Ambrose Church was being accused of something.  Bill Ganz made it plain that that was not the case, but many got up and extolled the priest’s and the school’s virtues anyway.  The situation is not that anyone in the church asked for favors, it is that Robb overstepped her authority by demanding a city employee parking sticker be given to Fr. Dalton and that the church parking lot be cleaned by the city, those are not her decisions to make. 

It seemed that the good church people were OK with a violation of the charter and the code of ethics as long as the church benefited.  Or, maybe if they actually knew the circumstances behind the actions they wouldn’t be OK with it.  They seemed to be nice people who had no idea of the facts of the situation and had no clue what was happening which made what they did say seem quite surreal. 

Others spoke basically saying that because the mayor meant well, what she did was all right.  That kind of thinking leads me to believe that those people would be OK with an elected official stealing, lying, taking bribes and abusing their position as long as something they liked benefited.   We have laws, charter provisions and ethics laws for a reason into which I need not go as it is quite evident why. Elected officials MUST follow the rules even when they are inconvenient. 

Instead of acknowledging that what she did was wrong, apologizing and correcting her behavior Mayor Robb is living in denial.  The OIG report was specific, she did it. 

The reason the report exists at all is due to Robb’s inability to correct her behavior.  The reasons behind the drastic move of complaining to the Office of the Inspector General lie solely on her shoulders; she brought this upon herself by refusing to comply with city laws even after being corrected time after time by the city manager, the other commissioners and the city attorney. This last-ditch effort to get some relief from her behavior and to bring her misconduct out in the public paid off in the findings of the OIG report.  Her feigning innocence will not convince anyone who reads the report that she is not totally guilty.  If going forward she continues to act as in the past I hope the Commission, or the State will take much stronger measures. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Saturday, November 8, 2014

In Deerfield Beach, A Conspiracy of Truth

A Conspiracy of Truth - 11/08/14

(Thanks for writing this Jeff, so much better than I could have.)


There's no question in my mind, after reading the IG report of her conduct as mayor and hearing other reports, that Jean Robb has committed malfeasance or misfeasance by her frequent violations of the city charter; and possibly, in some cases, she's violated criminal statutes. The latter is still under investigation. Meanwhile, Mayor Robb is dismissive of the report — her lawyer will take care of it — as if to suggest the report's findings are not to be taken too seriously.
However, the final report of the Broward Office of the Inspector General (OIG), just issued Nov. 7, 2014, Misconduct by Deerfield Beach Mayor Jean Robb, OIG 14-017, concluded that her pattern of unlawful behavior in contravention of the city charter is serious:
The OIG investigation found probable cause to believe that Mayor Robb engaged in misconduct when she attempted to use her position to obstruct City code enforcement efforts involving a local dealership that donated to her chosen causes. We found that Mayor Robb routinely abused her authority by directing staff members without the City Manager’s knowledge and approval. Given Mayor Robb’s long tenure in her position, we must conclude that such abuse was not accidental. Such actions contravene the City charter’s well-considered safeguards separating the executive from the legislature. They also have a predictably coercive effect on employees and circumvent controls designed to protect public resources and maintain governmental accountability. [Emphasis added.]
 The mayor did not file a formal response to the preliminary report that was issued about a month ago (so she hasn't denied the allegations), and she continues to wear a face of unconcerned indifference in her public appearances.
 Throughout her political career, Robb has faced attacks on her conduct and character. She's always managed to immerge relatively intact, and that could be the case here, though it doesn't look too good for her now. Also, through it all, she has maintained a loyal band of followers who love her to death and will support her to the bitter end. Unfortunately, the recurring allegations of misconduct distract from the more important business of the city, which is to make better lives for its residents. Mayor Robb, as well, ought to stick to city business rather than spend her time trying to get special privileges for her friends or concocting vendettas against people she less favors. It's in that arena where she gets into the most trouble.
If there is, now, a grand conspiracy against Mayor Robb to unseat her, as some may believe, it is more likely a conspiracy of truth. At the next stage of this investigation, the facts will out and consequences, follow.
 Malfeasance is a concept we (Florida) inherited from the law of England. It is a general principle that when a state separates from another state, the law of the former state continues in force until changed. This assures legal continuity. This is why if you should ever happen to be involved in a civil suit for breach of contract, the suit may be decided on legal principles established by English judges centuries ago before American independence.
At common law, malfeasance is a crime. It is sometimes referred to as a breach of public trust. Malfeasance can also be the basis of a civil tort action in some cases. It still is a crime in the Realm. A recent Canada Supreme Court case discussed it at length, and the UK Attorney General has advised British prosecutors they still may pursue criminal charges of malfeasance in applicable cases. In Florida, the governor's power to suspend a public official for malfeasance or misfeasance dates back to at least the post-Reconstruction constitution of 1885.
Malfeasance is essentially wrongdoing — a willful violation of the law. Under Florida law, it has been largely subsumed on the criminal side by statute (e.g., official misconduct), but can still result in civil penalties (misuse of office) or be grounds for suspension or recall.
In other words, malfeasance, misfeasance, breach of public trust, unlawful or unethical conduct — whatever you may call it — is no laughing matter, to be brushed off as a mere legal technicality.
A related question is why Mayor Robb is so blasé about these reports and the possible consequences — arrogantly so the way I read her. I don't think she is a crook or "crazy." At this point, she hasn't been accused of any crime that is malum in se: bribery, embezzlement, extortion, or oppression, for example. Nor has she been accused, yet, of falsifying public records, conflict of interest, or anything of that sort. Nonetheless, the evidence points to repeated, knowing violations of the city charter by her interference with the city's administration, undermining the council-manager form of government adopted in the charter.
Government codes of ethics are designed to preserve public integrity. If we had a mayor who was perfectly honest, we probably would not have to worry too much about public integrity. She would always tell the truth; act impartially, setting aside personal biases and prejudices; respect the rights and dignity of all people; and comply with the law whether she agrees with it or not. On the other hand, a thoroughly dishonest public official, from the standpoint of personal ethics, can fully comply with the standards of conduct set out in the ethics codes and never be accused of ethics violations. This, I believe, is the crux of the matter: Jean Robb is short in the personal integrity department. It's not that she does not have the intellectual or mental capacity to know "right" and "wrong" or that she does not totally understand the charter that governs the way the city is supposed to operate. She just doesn't want to do it that way. As the IG report stated: "Given Mayor Robb’s long tenure in her position, we must conclude that [her] abuse [of authority] was not accidental."
Thus, she does "stupid" things. She hardly ever admits to her mistakes. She resists making amends. If she does apologize, it's half-hearted and she goes back to her old ways. No, she will claim, she didn't demand code enforcement ease up on the car dealer who gave money to her favorite causes — she just asked if. Like she asked if (just if) a certain person could be blocked from her city email account. Nor did she tell city employees to issue a city parking sticker to her pastor or seek to exclude a potential contractor she doesn't like for some reason from a contract bid. She, she will say, was misunderstood . . . or they are lying. Just like Sheriff Israel lied. As Maj. Burns ("M*A*S*H") said, "I wouldn't be so paranoid if everyone wasn't against me."
If Jean Robb, in the face of the evidence, does not atone or resign, the city may have no choice but to act. The commission cannot let this behavior go unchecked. As Mr. Ganz indicated at the last city commission meeting, if Robb's behavior continues, the city must do something. The commission has options, he said, which is true.
 If my thesis that Mayor Robb has committed malfeasance or misfeasance is correct, the commission could ask the governor to suspend her from office. That would an option — a good first one to explore.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Advice on how to stay out of jail---from a lobbyist who didn’t

By Kevin A. Ring October 24

Virginia’s legislators and governor should embrace a total ban on gifts of any value from private interests, including lobbyists, to lawmakers. I say this not because I think politicians can be bought with a free cheeseburger or Redskins tickets. I do not believe that at all, but it seems clear that a great majority of the general public does.

I should know. In 2010, a federal jury convicted me of honest services fraud, a junior varsity form of bribery, for giving numerous small gifts to members of Congress and their staffs while I worked as a lobbyist.

From my prison bunk in Maryland, I offer this unsolicited but hard-learned advice for the commonwealth’s lawmakers and lobbyists:

Zero is the right “limit.” Lawmakers should not pick some low-dollar value for a gift limit. Go with zero. First, if you create a limit, no matter how reasonable-sounding, people will try to abuse it. When Congress limited gifts to $50 in the 1990s, the late Abe Pollin allegedly responded by setting the value of a ticket to a Verizon Center skybox at $48. Second, do not be fooled into thinking that limiting the size of permissible gifts solves the problem. Numerous psychologists and behavioral economists have confirmed the principle of reciprocity: People are hard-wired to repay even small favors or gifts. For officeholders, this benign, evolutionary instinct could come back to hurt them.

Any legal prohibition should also apply to lobbyists, not just the public officials they are trying to influence. I say this to protect lobbyists, not hurt them. Every lobbyist knows that conflicted feeling when a lawmaker whose help you need asks you for something you know he or she probably should not take. You want to say “yes” for your and your client’s benefit. And, let’s face it, if a gift prohibition applies only to the officeholder, a lobbyist will find it easy to do the wrong thing. The lobbyist’s other choice is to remind the lawmaker that he or she shouldn’t be asking for a particular gift. Your service as the lawmaker’s moral conscience will not be welcomed in most cases. Far better to be able to say, “Sorry, I would love to help, but I could go to jail if I say yes.”

If you don’t act, the feds will. A career-climbing federal prosecutor enjoys nothing so much as playing white knight to the scourge of public corruption, especially the corruption found in an opposing political party. Congress has given ambitious prosecutors a powerful weapon in the federal honest service statute. The law is so broad that every public official in the country — from a U.S. senator to a local dogcatcher — is subject to prosecution for accepting gifts from private interests.

If you get caught, you will almost certainly be convicted. News flash to lawmakers: The public doesn’t like you all that much, and it likes lobbyists even less. The level of cynicism about public officials and lobbyists is too high in my view for a healthy democracy, but it is real and you best beware. Most employees (read: prospective jurors) are not offered free meals, tickets and trips at their jobs and see no reason that public servants deserve such freebies.

I appreciate that many Virginia lawmakers might think that their integrity is being unfairly attacked because of the misdeeds of former governor Robert F. McDonnell (R). Get over it. When 12 politician-hating laypeople convene in a jury room to decide what they think about powerful public servants accepting gifts from those who want power used on their behalf, they will not care how strongly you feel about your integrity. They will be happy to convict you.

Some lawmakers might worry that a ban on gifts will lead to fewer opportunities to meet with constituents and conduct commonwealth business in informal social settings. These relaxed events can improve government responsiveness by increasing interaction between the public and its elected leaders. And, some might be candid enough to admit, free hospitality and gifts make the job a little more fun. I get it. But I promise the commonwealth’s leaders and lobbyists that even without free gifts, being in politics will be more fun than being in prison.

The writer is an inmate at Cumberland Federal Prison Camp. Before entering prison, he was a freelance writer in Kensington and, before that, a federal lobbyist.