Monday, September 14, 2009

Coconut Creek Lawsuit

Comment after reading the press release (Please see below) from Jim Freeman, a member of the Concerned Citizens of Coconut Creek:

Even if the economy was good, it is disgusting that $60,000 is wasted on such a magazine. It also shows how the civil/political environment is so similar in other places -- in some places better and others worse. There are combinations of circumstances that lead to good or bad government. Deerfield has been fortunate to have the dedication and selflessness of OSOB to help the government be better. Just think that if it had not been for the 1998 Referendum that added to the Charter requiring 4 votes concerning the pier restaurant lease and the efforts of OSOB in fighting the Boinis lease, the beach area would be a mess now with the massive Boinis lease. Also, OSOB has contributed to the Charter amendments protecting the main beach parking lot and Charter Amendment that will not let there be significant changes to the existing development regulations in the beach area. We have gotten wacked around a lot and lost a lot of battles with variances. But we have contributed to good government. Lastly, Pam's Ethics Code has put into place a good Code to try to make government better for citizens. - Tom Connick


COCONUT CREEK, FL – Once a month residents and businesses in Coconut Creek receive Coconut Creek Life, a glossy full-color magazine featuring local stories and ads, whether they want it or not. Published by Ryplin Industries, Inc. of Coconut Creek, Coconut Creek Life is the little sister of Parkland Life, a version tailored for Parkland residents. It seems that after seeing Parkland Life, Coconut Creek City Hall liked the idea of having its own magazine. According to Ryplin’s website, publisher Mindi F. Rudan was approached by the City to publish a Creek magazine and now receives a $60,000.00 annual grant from the City of Coconut Creek to do so. That works out to $5,000.00 per issue. The magazine also lists the City of Coconut Creek under “contributing photographers”. Coincidentally, Rudan is one of the original incorporators of the Coconut Creek Chamber of Commerce, along with Mary Blasi who is the current Coconut Creek Deputy City Manager.

Each month, in a section entitled A View from the Top, The current mayor gets some space to deliver a personal message to the community. Coconut Creek has a system where there are five city commissioners, and once a year they decide which one of them gets to be the mayor for that year. Long-time Commissioner Marilyn Gerber who represents District C is the current mayor.

In the September 2009 issue of Coconut Creek Life, Mayor Gerber took on the highly controversial Amendment 4 slated for Florida’s November 2010 ballot. In her view from the top, Gerber expressed some standard arguments against A4 and suggested that if voters couldn’t see that it was a wolf dressed up in Hometown Democracy and apple pie clothes, then perhaps they should not vote at all. She closes her remarks stating that things like comprehensive plan changes should be her call until she is voted out of office.

It’s no surprise that Gerber is against Amendment 4. Her major campaign contributors are her former City Manager Dennis Mele’s current employer, law/lobby firm Ruden-McClosky, alleged to be a conduit for developer and construction industry political donations. Gerber has a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. In September of 2008, Gerber and all four other commissioners voted to grant a zoning change to a big box development represented by Mele, in spite of strong protests from area residents. An appeal filed by residents blocked the development and the developer, Jacksonville-based Regency Centers, pulled out of the deal. The appeal is still pending and the outcome will determine the fate of the parcel in question for future development.

What is kind of a surprise is that the Mayor would engage in what appears to be a clear violation of Florida State law, specifically SB 216 that prohibits elected officials from utilizing public funds for campaigning or electioneering purposes. Gerber’s platform, in this instance, is subsidized by the City of Coconut Creek.

Creek resident James Freeman feels something needs to be done. Freeman is a member of the Concerned Citizens of Coconut Creek, a non-profit community group that fought and appealed the Sept. 2008 re-zoning. He has filed the following complaint with the State Attorney General’s office:

“As a resident of Coconut Creek, Florida, I wish to file a formal complaint against Coconut Creek Commissioner and Mayor Marilyn Gerber and Ryplin Industries, Inc. of Coconut Creek, Florida.
In the September 2009 issue of Coconut Creek Life magazine, published by Ryplin Industries, in a monthly column entitled "A View From the Top", Mayor Gerber engages in what I consider to be electioneering against the proposed Amendment 4 on the 2010 Florida ballot.
According to the "About Us" section on Coconut Creek Life's website: http://www.lifepubs.com/about_us.shtml, the magazine receives an annual taxpayer-based grant of $60,000.
This would appear to be a direct violation of Florida SB 216, which specifically prohibits the use of taxpayer money for electioneering purposes. It is my contention that both Mayor Gerber and Ryplin Industries have violated state law in this instance.
I also feel that with all of the media exposure for Amendment 4, this has the potential to be a highly publicized issue, and wonder if similar violations have incurred in any of Ryplin's other publications.
I urge your office to investigate this matter and take appropriate action. I find this misuse of public funds both highly disturbing and threatening to our democratic process.”

To the press, Freeman adds: “Why is the City cutting budgets but pays $60,000 to help support this magazine? There are lots of ads, can’t the magazine make it on its own? And I strongly disagree when my tax dollars are helping to promote an election-issue agenda my neighbors and I feel is not in our best interest.”

Freeman’s complaint was filed on 9/14/09. As he awaits the Attorney General’s response, he is encouraging his fellow residents to voice their concerns as well.

1 comment:

  1. Tom Connick. Our Lord and Savior.

    ReplyDelete