Friday, December 25, 2009

Monday, December 21, 2009

Guilty, Guilty, Guilty, but Free as a Bird

Excerpted from: Dan Christensen’s browardbulldog.org

Executives talk, but PBS&J walks in campaign scheme

A Federal Election Commission report made public last week says one of Broward County's biggest government contractors regularly made illegal campaign contributions.

In the report written in September, FEC investigators concluded that "political contributions were part of PBS&J's business strategy," and that "the practice of making illegal campaign contributions involved officers at all levels of the company and was not limited to a few rogue employees."

But in a surprising Oct. 20 decision that was made public last week, the six commissioners failed to pass a motion to approve the staff recommendations. The 3-3 vote along party lines means the FEC will not enforce the law in the PBS&J case. The case will be closed.

Three Democrats voted to approve the recommendations; three Republicans voted to kill them – the latest in a string of partisan deadlocks that have raised doubts about agency’s ability to function.


This year, Broward County chose PBS&J to help lead the design engineering team for its $810 million airport runway expansion.

To read the entire post go to:
http://www.browardbulldog.org/?p=605#more-605


Yikes!!!! How can this be possible, PBS&J gets away without even a slap on the wrist, and then they get a county contract!!!! Who says crime doesn’t pay, in Broward County (and with the FEC) it certainly does!!!!!

What does this say about the caliber of people we have as Commissioners at the Federal Elections Commission. And, why did the federal prosecutors send the case to a civil board? Why not continue the criminal case and go after the other miscreants, after locking up the company’s chairman? What part of the word ILLEGAL do they have trouble with?

What is additionally disgusting is that partisanship trumps good judgment. In this circumstance, it is the Republicans voting not to do something about this behavior. But, both parties are equally guilty. Given slightly different circumstances, the positions would be flipped. Good and bad government crosses party lines. Both Republicans and Democrats are sleazy in going after campaign dollars and doing the bidding of developers. But the voters, of both parties, want good, ethical government, and are getting sick to death of hearing about the corruption.

Along with reading about the latest elected felon, we are reading about all the cities, counties and states jumping on the “lets toughen the ethics laws” bandwagon. Yes, we should have strong ethics codes with big nasty teeth, and yes the codes should be set up so it doesn’t take a citizen’s complaint to start an investigation, that will help. But, politicians have big egos.

Chris Megerian in writing for “Inside New Jersey” about New Jersey’s latest corruption sting said,

“The arrests also renewed the age-old question of why politicians continue to do dirty deeds when so many of them are caught and sent to jail.

“When opportunity presents itself, most people can’t turn down money,” says Louis B. Schlesinger, professor of forensic psychology at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.

Taking money from a crooked developer is no different than walking into a 7-Eleven with a pistol in your pocket, Schlesinger says. It’s just a matter of convincing yourself that you can get away with it.

“This has been going on and on and on, and nobody seems to learn,” he says. “They don’t think the law applies to them, because they don’t think they’re going to get caught.”

Rejection of all incumbents will be the reaction of voters; with the futile hope that change will bring honesty. There is some validity to this hope, most newly elected officials tend to take a while to become corrupt.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Deerfield Beach Holiday Party a Flop?

I heard that the employees' holiday party cost the city $11,000 and asked around about it. This year’s Deerfield Beach employee holiday party was the most poorly attended ever, I was told by an employee. The employee said they, and many others didn't attend because workers don’t feel valued by the city or their supervisors.

A holiday party is a very good opportunity for the city to show its appreciation of its staff and it is a shame so many declined to attend, and a shame employees don’t feel respected.

Of the about 760 (including BSO) city employees, only 235 attended and of those, 59 were part-timers. I also heard that Mayor Noland was upset with the quality of the food. THIS EVENT COST THE CITY $11,000. What’s that, about $45 for each person? If a full dinner is really necessary for the employee party, it could be done for less. A quick Google search came up with a catered hot and cold buffet from Boca Joes, with servers included, for $15.95 (see menu below) less than $5,000, add a grand for entertainment and we can pull this off for $6,000.

I am sure most company holiday parties this year were done on more of a shoe string than the city one, some hors d'oeuvres and soft drinks and the high school glee club singing for their supper sounds about right.

Add this $11,000 to the $15,000 that the city spent for the retreat at the Embassy Suites which resulted in the commissioners discovering that they didn’t communicate well and we have $26,000 which could have been better spent on needed audits, and ethics investigations.

Boca Joes Full Service Catered Buffet $15.95 ea
30 persons min.

INCLUDES :
l Salad ( choose 1 ) Caesar , Tossed , Tricolor Chopped , Greek ( All salads come with dressing of choice )
l Pasta Entree ( choose 1 )
m Penne Vodka
m Rigatoni Marinara
m Penne with Rosemary Alfredo
m Baked Ziti
m Tortelline ALA Audry
m Orzo with Spinach and Mushrooms
m Baked Stuffed Shells
m Bow Ties with Broccoli , Sun Dried Tomatoes , Roasted Garlic
l Meat Entree ( choose 1 )
m Chicken Marsala
m Shrimp Scampi
m Crabmeat Stuffed Tilapia
m Chicken Francaise
m Salmon Livornese
m Chicken Parmesan
m Rosemary Grilled Chicken
m Chicken Rustica ( sun dried tomatoes , spinach and mushrooms )
All Buffets Include :
l Garlic or Dinner Rolls with Butter
l Complete Plastiware
l Chafers and Sternos
l Serving Utensils
This Buffet Includes 1 Staff Member For 2 Hours . They Will Set Up , Serve , Clean , Breakdown The Buffet.
( 15% Gratuity and Tax NOT INCLUDED )
Free Delivery Within 10 Miles Of Store

Friday, December 18, 2009

Nuisance Abatement

Thanks to Commissioner Bill Ganz proposing a new ordinance, the City of Deerfield Beach will be able to take remedial action on abandoned properties and levy a special assessment against the building so the city will get their money back. The City will also create a nuisance abatement trust fund and have a nuisance inspector, the aim is to maintain properties, prevent blight and vandalism.

That this kind of ordinance is needed rekindles my anger at the current mess Florida is in and the laxness of government oversight in allowing, even encouraging loans to people with no hope of paying long term, and at developers who were so greedy they build condo after condo selling to flippers with interest only loans and interest only in making millions, and at our elected officials, the corrupt and maybe not so corrupt who listened to the developer lobbyists who promised increased tax revenue and gave large campaign donations if allowed to build their monstrosities. There was no researching by commissions to find out if the claims were true, if they had, they would have found that for every dollar in taxes residential developments bring in the city has to spend from $1.75 to $2.50+ depending on the study you read, but certainly every study shows they cost more than they bring in.

George Santayana, a great Spanish philosopher said, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it” and, Albert Einstein once said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. However our politicians don’t seem to get it, and once again are starting to tout building as a way to get out of the recession. (Yes, the very thing that is to blame for the mess we are in.) OMG!!!

The fear of the coming Hometown Democracy Amendment 4 referendum provision which, if passed, will give citizens the right to vote for or against any proposed comprehensive land use change, has developers flocking to commissions trying to get their parcels of farmland, green space, golf courses and parkland changed from whatever they are now to residential or commercial or industrial usage before the residents have to have a say.

If we are to save what is left of Florida, we cannot leave the decisions to builders, developers, lobbyists and especially our commissioners who are to blame for the mess we are in, we need to have the people who live in a community have a say as to whether a proposal is good for the quality of life in their neighborhood, and the future of their city.

We need a different emphasis in Florida; one that focuses on education and high paying jobs, and attracts industry and business with those kinds of jobs. This will keep our property values high, and prevent the boom and bust that is historic Florida.

Nuisance Abatement

During the commission meeting, thanks to Bill Ganz proposing a new ordinance, the City now will be able to take remedial action on abandoned properties and levy a special assessment against the building so the city will get their money back. The City will also create a nuisance abatement trust fund and have a nuisance inspector, the aim is to maintain properties, prevent blight and vandalism.

That this kind of ordinance is needed rekindles my anger at the current mess Florida is in and the laxness of government oversight in allowing, even encouraging loans to people with no hope of paying long term, and at developers who were so greedy they build condo after condo selling to flippers with interest only loans and interest only in making millions, and at our elected officials, the corrupt and maybe not so corrupt who listened to the developer lobbyists who promised increased tax revenue and gave large campaign donations if allowed to build their monstrosities. There was no researching by commissions to find out if the claims were true, if they had, they would have found that for every dollar in taxes residential developments bring in the city has to spend from $1.75 to $2.50+ depending on the study you read, but certainly every study shows they cost more than they bring in.

George Santayana, a great Spanish philosopher said, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it” and, Albert Einstein once said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. However our politicians don’t seem to get it, and once again are starting to tout building as a way to get out of the recession. (Yes, the very thing that is to blame for the mess we are in.) OMG!!!

The fear of the coming Hometown Democracy Amendment 4 referendum provision which, if passed, will give citizens the right to vote for or against a city's proposed comprehensive plan land use change, has developers flocking to commissions trying to get their parcels of farmland, green space, golf courses and parkland changed from whatever they are now to residential or commercial or industrial usage before the residents have to have a say.

If we are to save what is left of Florida, we need Amendment 4, we cannot leave the decisions to builders, developers, lobbyists and especially our commissioners who are to blame for the mess we are in, we need to have the people who live in a community have a say as to whether a proposal is good for the quality of life in their neighborhood, and the future of their city.

We need a different emphasis in Florida; one that focuses on education and high paying jobs, and attracts industry and business with those kinds of jobs. This will keep our property values high, and prevent the boom and bust that is historic Florida.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Deerfield Beach Frivolous?

During their latest meeting the Deerfield Beach Ethics Committee went around and around about how to prevent Caryl and Chaz from submitting “frivolous” complaints. No they didn’t say that, no names were mentioned. But there was a lot of discussion about the cost of the only complaints that have been filed so far, (Caryl and Chaz are the only ones who have filed complaints) and how to write a provision which would deter “people” from, as Gloria Battle said, filing “fruitless” claims. In an attempt to prevent the filing of frivolous complaints, she wanted people whose claims were not upheld to pay the cost of the research, and she wanted to have language about this in the code. On its face that may seem like a good idea to some, but in practice it is not.

As I have said before, the code is new, some breaking in is to be expected, and, frankly, some cost to investigating code violations is to be expected; even at the risk of a few groundless filings it is much cheaper than the consequences of not having a code and doing business as usual in Deerfield Beach.

The fact that all Caryl’s and Chaz’s claims were found NOT to be in violation of the ethics code does not mean that they were frivolous. Caryl and Chaz, in my opinion, thought that there were grounds for their complaints; they were not trying to “get” a commissioner out of spite or malice. So, even if the claims went nowhere, and even if they cost the city to investigate them, they would not be considered malicious or frivolous.

At the meeting, a definition from the State about frivolous/malicious filings was distributed by attorney/facilitator Andy Maurodis which said something like a claim is considered malicious if filed by someone whose intent is to be damaging and contains falsehoods. However he pointed out that very few suits against those claims at the State level had been upheld.

But, let’s imagine what would happen if we had some language about that in our code. Citizen X gets ticked off at Commissioner Y, and files a bunch of false complaints which are then dismissed after some research by the attorney, and a hefty bill. The city sends a bill to Mr. X for. Let’s say, $8,000. Mr. X laughs and tears the bill up and tosses it. After a few more bills and much laughter, what happens? Does the city sue Mr. X? First, that would probably cost the city much more than Mr. X “owes”, and second, the Commission would have to vote to start the suit, and I am pretty sure that the Constitution has some provision about a party to a suit voting about it.

Many actions by elected officials are controversial, and open to criticism; sometimes scathing, and sometimes quite believable. But all should be taken with a large dose of the salt shaker. Elected officials have a public forum where they can present their viewpoints, and defend themselves. The public should be questioning decisions and actions by elected officials, and the officials should explain and defend them. Perhaps if this was done there would have been no complaints.