Thursday, October 23, 2014

Does Deerfield Beach Have Broken Windows?

Applying the Broken Windows Theory to Local Government Ethics

Does the "broken windows" theory, as first stated in a 1982 Atlantic essay by George L. Kelling and James Q. Wilson, apply to government ethics? The theory says that, if small things like broken windows are ignored, people will think that no one cares and, therefore, they will break more windows and move on to more serious misconduct. It's about setting norms and sending signals.

Forget the misuse of this theory in policing, where individuals are arrested for small offenses, sending them into the criminal justice system when they should not be. The focus of the theory was on fixing windows, showing that people do care, and sending the message that good conduct is the community norm.

Isn't this what a good local government ethics program is supposed to do:  try to prevent and fix the small instances of ethical misconduct through training, advice, and disclosure, so that the big ones don't happen? A good ethics officer should dispose of reports and complaints of minor misconduct and misconduct that isn't covered by the ethics code by talking with the official and trying to get her to understand why what she is alleged to have done (whether or not she actually did it, whether or not there is an enforceable rule involved) might be harmful to the government organization and the community if it were to become (or remain) common.

A well-run local government ethics program is a form of community policing, with the community being the government organization and the ethics officer being the police officer on the beat. This is, for example, the way my colleague Carla Miller does it in Jacksonville. The relationship between ethics officer and official is not primarily an adversarial relationship, but rather a service relationship, in which the ethics officer's role is to help keep officials (and the organization) on the straight and narrow so scandals don't undermine the public's trust in their community's government. It requires that the ethics officer have room for maneuver, a strategy, and clear goals.

It is harmful to the public's trust when every little report and complaint is taken past the investigation and warning/settlement stage into a full-fledged proceeding. Most matters should be dismissed before an enforcement proceeding begins, and those that begin should rarely get very far without a settlement, at least if the ethics officer-official relationship has been working. A leadership supportive of the government ethics program will help make this relationship work.

As it is, there are too few ethics officers to form these relationships, too many ethics programs feel they need to be primarily adversarial, and too much of the news media and too many good government groups do not appear to recognize the value of these relationships, of treating broken windows not as crimes, but rather as something to be fixed in order to set good norms and send the right messages before things go too far.

Robert Wechsler
Director of Research, City Ethics
A good essay, but Mr. Wechsler's essay deals with folks who listen and correct their behavior when shown the error of their ways.

Unlike our Mayor who cannot seem to learn, and does not alter her behavior even when the "complaint is taken past the investigation and warning/settlement stage".   

Our Madam Mayor is still trying to go around the City Manager, and continues directly to ask staff to do her bidding.  She wanted an inappropriate notice put on the city web site, and was piqued when told no by the staff member and told that the City Manager would have to approve any posting. 


Jean, as you are not able to take advice or direction it's time you realize you are not the right person to be mayor, time to step down. You are an embarrassment to Deerfield Beach.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Beautiful Deerfield Beach

Thanks to the Original Save Our Beach committee and thousands of Deerfield voters our beach area is attracting the type of development they envisioned. 

Residents overwhelming voted to keep our beach low-rise and uncluttered. 

The CRA board has improved the look of the beach with new pavers, furniture and refurbished pier. 

As a result, builders of new homes, condos, hotels and rentals are eager to be a part of our in-demand gem of a beach area. 

These are the words of the owner of the new Royal Blues Hotel saying why he located his new boutique hotel on the beach in Deerfield Beach: “for its timeless qualities of 1960’s surf culture, low rise building landscape and its devotion to natural beauty,"

This is the new Royal Blues Hotel which was built to code


In addition, a new beautiful short term vacation rental building will soon be built around the corner from the Billabong store:

Our beach, because residents demanded that buildings should be low and setbacks generous, is in demand for it’s unique-in-South Florida, ambiance. 

Residents have always wanted our beach to have a small village feel, but former commissioners did not, they tried to bring in massive overdevelopment.  Residents prevented this by making sure the beach building codes are in our City Charter and cannot be changed except by voter referendum.

One of the developers who is now building a new restaurant by the Cove loves the character of Deerfield Beach so much that he said he is going to live here and is now very glad that his former enormous projects were denied. 

Kudos to the commissioners who resisted the pressure from some greedy land owners who wanted to change our codes, kudos to the builders and owners who are building such beautiful projects within our code, shame on anyone who proposes to change our beach codes.  We, the residents and smart builders, know that keeping our beach free from massive congestion and traffic will benefit the whole city well into the future.

There are 2 more examples of what’s to come on our Beach in my Sept. 7 post.  See below.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

News headline: “Deerfield Beach Mayor Engaged in "Ethical Misconduct," OIG Report Says”

For another article about the report go to:

After reading the Office of the Inspector General’s report on Mayor Robb’s conduct my first reaction is sadness, first and foremost sadness, not for the mayor, but for Deerfield Beach residents and city workers.
This should not have happened! 

The actions which resulted in the findings from the OIG were disgraceful examples of hubris; the actions of a person who feels she is above the rules that govern the rest of us, even after being warned her conduct was illegal. 

This was not one event, it was over and over again, and the evidence shows that when she was mayor back in the 80s it was a problem even then.  A persistent pattern, I understand, which even when sued, and censured, and having a special resolution passed to halt her behavior, did not stop then and is continuing even now.

We have an excellent group of administrative employees, award winning, and responsive to residents.  But their moral is being battered by the mayor’s behavior to them.  Many employees will not talk to the mayor unless another person is also present.  This is sad. 

I was told that at least three employees retired early or left for other jobs in a large part because of Mayor Robb’s conduct. This is sad.

Mayor Jean Robb is not new to politics, she cannot use the excuse of not knowing the City of Deerfield Beach Charter provisions, she was the head of the charter review committee which took each element and scrutinized it to decide if it should be retained as is, changed or deleted.

She knows what she does is prohibited.  She recently had 8 hours of training on ethics laws; 4 hours a year are mandated by state law. She knows better, and, she was warned by the City Manager and the City Attorney.

The OIG report points out the many times that Robb has violated laws since she became mayor in March of 2013.  

As an example the report states that she, without going through the City Manager, directed the duties of employees. 

In the report,  

“The City Manager stated that, pursuant to the Charter, the Mayor and any Commissioner may make inquiries of City staff, but they may not direct or interfere in staff members' job duties or assignments.

 “He also stated that he knew of no instances when any other members of the City Commission attempted to direct the work of City employees.

“He stated he can and has cautioned Mayor Robb about her conduct, and he has directed his staff to let him know if she attempted to affect their job duties.

“He further stated that he believed that the City Attorney has also advised her about the prohibition against her directing the activities of City staff.”

The report also says she obstructed the city’s code enforcement efforts in favor of a car dealership who donated to two of her favorite charities; tried to block the city from awarding a contract to a vendor she didn’t like; on her own committed the city to pay for transportation of a Little League baseball team; had the city clean St. Ambrose’s parking lot and insisted that Fr. Dalton be issued an employee parking sticker.

All this adds up to simply a maverick who, cannot or will not control her behavior.  I lean to the cannot control side because as many times as she promises not to interrupt or disrupt meetings, she continues to do it, as many times as she was warned that she must not interfere with employees duties, she continues to do it, even in public meetings, on camera.  This is sad.

This cannot go on, her word is not to be trusted, in my opinion she will not change.   

Jean Robb should resign, if not, citing the charter provision that she approved, the other commissioners should vote her off the dais.
The complete OIG Report: