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FROM WHERE I STAND

FROM WHERE I STAND

John Edward Smith

So, we’ve done it again! Good-bye to yet another city manager.

Hello, instability, turbulence and low staff morale. Hello to yet more missed opportunities to move our city toward a realization of its potential.

Good-bye to professionalism; hello to more fastidious micro-management.

What is going on at city hall? Why are we jettisoning a strong and effective city manager?

Well, perhaps that’s the answer: strong and effective. (And obviously certain elected officials don’t want that!). Some seem to forget that we are a city manager form of local government – professionals hired to run the city, with the elected commission establishing policy.

As an observer of city hall for some twenty-plus years, and as one who is not intimated by corrupt officials, I will emphatically note that this current elected city commission is the most dysfunctional body I have witnessed and in some cases, dysfunctional individuals as well.

After praising both the city manager and the police chief in his “state of the city” address in March 2011, and voting to extend the city manager’s contract only a few months ago, all of a sudden, in November 2012, a 180 degree shift by the mayor and a resolution to terminate the manager. Why?

While the mayor (and two other commissioners) voted to terminate the manager “without cause” he enumerated several reasons for the termination. First among them, that he was a “friend” of the police chief. Something he didn’t know? Get real! The manager and the chief served in the City of Miami Police Department together – didn’t you get that in the hiring interview and your due diligence? I’m certain their work over the years formed bonds. So what if they are friends? Other reasons, which go at the heart of the termination of the manager and ultimate goal of terminating Chief Orlando Martinez de Castro: a neighbor of the mayor was arrested for disorderly conduct and interfering with the police; and second, a known federal fugitive who worked for and resided with an elected official was caught by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement).

Item one: The arrest of a neighbor, the new cause célèbre. The clarion call for the unwarranted arrest and alleged “police brutality” and enforcement of the law was “off with their heads” (manager and chief). The mayor allegedly went to the state attorney’s office to have the case dismissed. (Abuse of office by an elected official?). The long and short of it is, on November 7, the “victim” spoke publicly and acknowledged there was no police brutality and that he had plead to the charges.

Item two: Arrest and detention by ICE of a known federal fugitive. Doesn’t get any simpler than that, but oh, the police chief and the regional director of ICE know each other!!! Wouldn’t a common sense individual figure that senior law enforcement officials in the state and region know each other? And this federal fugitive was “harbored” (legal term) by a city commissioner, who hired him to work on various projects. The claim: alleged retaliation toward the commissioner by the police state. Did I miss something when these elected officials swore/affirmed to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, the laws of the State of Florida, the City Charter and the Code of Ordinances? Obstructing justice and harboring a fugitive…hmmmm?

The City Commission meetings of Wednesday, November 7 and a special meeting called for Friday, November 9 are watershed moments in this current administration. The mayor couldn’t ram through the termination of the manager in the first meeting due to procedural issues, and then convened a “special meeting” (at which no public comment is allowed) at an inconvenient time for many in order to terminate the manager. (Reason prevailed for a brief moment when the tide shifted and the commission voted to allow public comments.) After the call for termination, the mayor wanted to prevent the manager from making his comments. However, the manager prevailed and provided those in attendance with a litany of accomplishments over the course of his brief tenure.

For those who are not disposed to watch our city commission meetings in real time, make some popcorn and watch on the internet. See instructions below. It’s better than comedy central. And unfortunately South Miami is viewed among other county officials as being a big joke. Aren’t you glad you put these folks in office! Don’t they make you real proud?!

In February, 2012, when the electorate voted in the mayor for a second term and elected “Bobnoxious” (that’s his self-ascribed acronym) Welsh, who knew how vindictive and callous the months following would be. The mayor has struck back at those who supported his opponent, former mayor Julio Robaina. This is a reason attributed by some to his vendetta against the Police Chief. Welsh, known for his penchant to fabricate the “truth” on the circulars he distributes on his bicycle (hence “Bicycle Bob”), is relishing his new found celebrity (and POWER) as “Commissioner” and managing to get jammed in his spokes as many ethics violations have been filed. (And get ready for a big defamation of character law suit!). Rather than elevate the discussion, some on the dais are slithering down to Welsh’s level. It’s disgusting to watch.

The leadership in South Miami is non-existent. It is a rudderless ship. The commission meetings are a joke and the business of the city is not getting done. So, let’s blame it on the city manager and the police chief and get rid of them.

A primer of local government: police, garbage and taxes are the three things people don’t want messed with. Mess with these and you’re stepping on the third rail.

Well, fellow South Miami residents: there’s a move afoot to outsource the SMPD to Miami-Dade county (don’t believe the contrary – this is a real agenda). Garbage: well, as I said, take in the commission meetings. There’s enough garbage there! (And who can forget Welsh’s suggestion that garbage be collected from alternating sides of the street in a money-saving “innovation” that would have residents wheeling their trash bins across the street to their neighbor’s swale?). Taxes: how can we afford the termination of city managers and police chiefs and pay out severance and benefits? Not in the budget? Guess we’ll have to raise taxes! Don’t forget to include pending and future lawsuits….

I question the suitability of three sitting members of the commission to continue serving in office: mayor Stoddard, commissioners Welsh and Harris.

As regards the mayor, it’s not mine to comment on the burglary at the mayor’s home and admitted nudity in front of adolescent girls. This is indeed an unfortunate embarrassment for all concerned, and in my opinion, not to be the subject of public discourse. (That’s up to DCF.).

In fact, that has become a distraction from the other nakedness in our city, which is so apparent. The actions of certain elected officials are totally impalpable and border on misfeasance and malfeasance. The conduct and demeanor of our meetings are a disgrace and a constant embarrassment. It is my belief that the viability and sustainability of my/our city is in peril.

For these reasons, I believe their actions merit consideration for a recall from office. Simply put, they are not serving the best interests of the taxpayers.

- Numerous violations of the city charter, ordinances and code of ethics
- A movement to outsource our Police Department to Miami-Dade County
- Misfeasance and Malfeasance of city affairs – Interference in the police department
- Obstruction of justice and official misconduct

Further, in light of our penchant to axe managers in short order, I would commend to the empowered Charter Review Committee to give consideration to a charter amendment which would require a super majority (four of five) to terminate the manager “without cause,” with a simple majority vote “for cause.” I believe this has some merit for discussion and could alleviate South Miami’s revolving door syndrome.

I hope the next few years see a commission working together and with the professional staff to realize the potential of our fine community which I’ve called “home” for over three decades.

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TO VIEW COMMISSION MEETINGS

Two meetings, Wed., Nov 7 and Fri., Nov 9.
Go to www.southmiamifl.gov
Scroll down on left panel to: Live Feed & Video Library

Archived Videos
Two meetings in order of viewing:
City Comm. Mtg, Nov. 7, 2012 VIDEO
Item L: Commission Reports, Discussion & Remarks
2:14 Mayor to offer resolution to terminate Mirabile
and it goes on from there to 3:10:51.

Special Mtg. Mtg, Nov.9
Termination of Mirabile
Starts 15:29 >

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John Edward Smith is a resident/homeowner of South Miami since 1974.  He established his marketing/communications business in South Miami in 1982 and for the past eight years is the publisher of SOMI Magazine.  He has been active in civic/community affairs in South Miami for the past thirty years.

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One comment

  1. Hector C. Fernandez

    Very well put. Personally I have been waiting for the dust to settle a bit. Give time for accused to make their case and substantiate their cause(s). So far all I have seen are attempts to create mountains out of molehills. So far I cannot see any truley valid causes for what otherwise continues to come into focus as personal mudslinging gone haywire. I just question from where we are pulling the severance money apx. $85k due to Dr. Mirabile? I don't recall seeing a 4-5 vote to approve funds as is required?

    Perhaps we will just lump that in along with interest for withholding as part of the settlement/mediation agreement that it sure to come for unfounded and improper termination without substantiated cause. Hell we already paid out apx. $250k this year alone to one of our former City Managers. And let's not forget the looming $22m lawsuit for discriminatory practice and violation of mediation agreement for stonewalling the proposed development of a permitted use affordable elderly housing project across the street from City Hall. Not to mention a min of $200k we have to come up with to pay back grant money spent on a pool that has gone nowhere and that to present has no proof of written county commitments to extend term deadlines. (Substantial Completion by Dec. 31, 2012)

    I am prepared as things settle down in weeks to come to put my money where my mouth is and contribute a min. Of $1k towards a recall process if our elected officials do not provide conclusive and adequate responses to why our City Manager was terminated, why the witch hunt to terminate our Police Chief continues, status of pool, status of development law suit, status of outsourcing our police dept. etc.

    The ball is in your court folks. Please prove to me I am worrying for not.

    - Hector C. Fernandez
    786-315-6764