Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The cost of ethics, well worth it.

$7000 to investigate 3 possible ethics violations. This is what I am hearing our mayor thinks is a problem. Yup, me too. But, that is because I believe the claims were bogus; indeed they did not hold up. I think that the lawyer who looked them over should have thrown them out in about a half hour. But he is new to the code; the code is new to the commissioners and the citizens. Some breaking in is to be expected. Like new shoes. I guess he had to interview some people and check the facts. I don’t know why he didn’t just call JBs and ask if young Noland worked there and in one phone call put an end to that problem, but that will come in the future.

I think it will get much simpler as everyone gets more familiar with the code. Because of these complaints, the committee was toying with putting some language in about preventing frivolous claims. But, these were not frivolous; they were seen as serious by a resident. That they were not in violation was something she didn’t know. So I hope the committee will not get tangled up in that issue.

There is a cost connected with an ethics code, but a far greater cost if we don’t have one. All you have to do is pick up a recent paper to read about another elected official getting indicted. If, the whole time they were in office they were aware of a standard of conduct that was being strictly enforced, and not just given a wink and a nod, I believe we would have far fewer straying off the path.

If Deerfield Beach had an institutionalized culture of honesty with teeth in the violations, I don’t believe Capellini would be headed for trial on February 8th. You cannot legislate honesty, but you can set the bar so high that the morally unethical will hesitate to transgress due to fear of reprisal. THAT’S WHAT WE’RE TALKING ABOUT!

Too hard to just say no?

The next Deerfield Beach Ethics Committee meeting is on December 10th, 5pm in City Hall. At the last meeting lots of time again, was spent on how much money a commissioner could take legally from someone doing business with the city. The current code says none. However committee members think that is too restrictive. Apparently it is too hard for our commissioners to just say no to a free glass of wine or cup of coffee. I guess it would be a hardship for the commissioners to attend a, for example, developer sponsored party, perhaps on a yacht, perhaps in a hotel, or wherever, and not have some of the free shrimp. Some committee members think up to $50, some want $10 or $25, I still lean to none.

I do think that they should be able to go to an event in their district for free. They are expected to show up at events even if they don’t want to. It is an unwritten expectation of the job. And the solution for that was discussed, the tickets could be given to the city, and the city could dole them out to the commissioners if they wanted to go. Nothing directly to the commissioner and no expectation of quid pro quo by the sponsor of the event.

Are the commissioners special, should they have things given to them just because they are commissioners? Some things, like tickets to city events, yes. But dinners, special hotel rates, new kitchen renovations, money in a golf bag, even a cup of coffee, NO. Because you know very well, that they would not be getting the offer if they were you or me. A good smell test for city workers accepting anything, is keeping the criterion: accept nothing if it gives the appearance that it might be unethical in mind. And, in my opinion there is nothing ethical in accepting gifts of any kind from someone who wants to do business with the city. Ask yourself, commissioner, would Joe six-pack get this, if not, just say no; easy.

AND, some advice commissioners, know the code. The mayor complained about not being allowed to do certain things that were allowed, but she didn’t know it. She is against a code that she doesn’t understand or know. Duh. Of course it is hard to abide by rules you don’t know. That is why we have to take a test to get a drivers’ license. OK bad example. But you get the idea. Commissioners are PAID; there are some things, like understanding the Florida State and local ethics codes that go with the job.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A1A SCENIC HIGHWAY CELEBRATION


State Road A1A was designated a Scenic Highway Corridor by the State of Florida. It was a decade long project started in 1999. The grass roots committee had to document that the highway has
· resources visible from the roadway,
· that the corridor “tells a story”,
· exhibits significant, exceptional, and distinctive features,
· and provides access to various resources.
All this documentation was collected by the committee, which had many Deerfield Beach residents. They also helped gather letters of support from government and civic groups, another requirement of the application.
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On Wednesday, November 18 the event was celebrated at the beautiful Bonnet House Museum and Gardens. State, County and Local officials were there for the ribbon cutting. Guests got to see the lovely Museum grounds, have wonderful refreshments and enjoy the Presentation of the Colors by the Fort Lauderdale Police Honor Guard.

The designation opens up opportunities for grant money for signs and landscaping.



Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Rich Lorraine Was First

The other night, a few friends and I were discussing Tom Francis’, who is an excellent investigative reporter, latest post and past posts by Tom and Elgin Jones, about the Deerfield Beach Mango Festival. We were trying to remember when the amount the city donated to the festival and the accounting of the receipts was first questioned. We knew it was Rich Lorraine who first tried to get the city to account for the funds, and we decided it was over 6 years ago, perhaps as long as 9 years ago.

Recently Francis wrote: “I've been stymied in my efforts to get an answer to the question I put at the bottom of this mammoth post from yesterday, about the Deerfield Beach's Mango Festival. Namely, why did the city cut the Mango Festival a check for $36,000 in June 2008?” (http://blogs.browardpalmbeach.com/juice/2009/11/mango_festival_deerfield_finances.php)

Elgin Jones, a bulldog of a reporter who has aired many a scandal wrote in September, 2007: “We are still gathering the facts, but it appears that income the city generated from the popular Mango Festival may have been kept in a separate account, in violation of accepted accounting practices.

City Manager Mike Mahaney acknowledged he had heard of some type of ‘enterprise’ fund in which income from several events was held. Mahany said that may not have been part of the regular budget process, but added that he is not exactly sure what has taken place. The Mango Festival has its own committee, which is separate from the city. However, the proceeds and donations that go to the city have not been accounted for, and there is no indication of exactly how the money has been spent or where it went.

This is yet another example of the lack of oversight of city operations that was commonplace in the administration of former City Manager Larry Deetjen. Some sources are referring to this money as being in a “slush” fund that has been maintained in a secret account connected to the parks and recreation department’s budget, but that has not been confirmed, at least not yet.” http://www.sfltimes.com/index.php?Itemid=98&id=479&option=com_content&task=view

And, here we are in November of 2009 and it has not been “confirmed” by now either. Rich Lorraine was equally as frustrated in his attempts to get an accounting, as Tom Francis, and I assume, Elgin are, but investigating the Mango Festival finances is proving to be a Sisyphean task.

Credit to Bill Ganz for raising the question yet again during budget talks, but he was only able to get a small portion of the records, and, it seems, there are no more to get. So, where do we go from here? No records mean no culpability, no proof that things were straightforward and no proof that they were not.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

With young men like this, Deerfield Beach may have some hope for the future.

At last night’s commission meeting a couple of delightful young men stole the show. Christopher Chisholm received a certificate of recognition for putting out a fire in a city truck. He took his few minutes to thank his fellow workers, supervisors and his parents in a most charming and self effacing way. If you didn’t attend the meeting, you should go to the city website to view the video of this young man.

A young man of 14, (I didn’t catch his name) with the group of fisherman protesting the proposed ordinance to ban all fishing from the beach, was a delight. His poise speaking before a room full of adults was impressive. His plea to allow him to continue to fish for food for his family, and continue this worthwhile spare time pursuit swayed the commission I am sure.

In contrast to the two outstanding young men, Sylvia and Peggy got into it again. Sylvia wanted to name the Aquatic Center after Vince Kendrick who is recovering from a kidney transplant, and not expected to return to work. Peggy reacted, saying all he did was his job, for which he was paid, whereas she, Peggy, was the one who did all the work getting the swimming pool built; and then went on to question if anything should be named for city employees. It got hot for a bit with Sylvia wanting to know if Peggy wanted the pool named after her. Peggy backed off from saying that in so many words, but the intent was there. Peggy was instrumental in the pool’s success, but I guess knowing it was a job well done isn’t as good as having your name on a plaque. She sort of gulped when she realized that she, in fact, is a city employee.

Joe Miller, had a question he wanted to ask, but when he was called on after the Sylvia/Peggy scuffle, he sat back in disgust and waved a never mind.

Last week Joe had a district 1 meeting which was well attended and informative. Good going Joe. Don’t let the turkeys get you down.