Hallandale Beach Blog -A common sense public policy overview offering a critical perspective on the current events, politics, govt., public policy, sports scene and pop culture of the U.S., South Florida and Europe, especially the UK and Sweden. In particular, Broward & Miami-Dade County, and the cities of Hallandale Beach, Hollywood & Aventura. Trust me when I tell you, this part of Florida is NOT the Land of Lincoln. Pictured in upper-left is Hallandale Beach's iconic beachball-colored Water Tower on State Road A1A; September 2008 photo by me, South Beach Hoosier. © 2013 Hallandale Beach Blog, All Rights Reserved.
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Monday, June 25, 2007
Miami 21 Draft
Received this email last week and meant to post it here as well as my http://www.southbeachhoosier.blogspot.com/ site. Oops!
More info is being made available online now for all you armchair urban policy experts to peruse from the comfort of your home, and not spend time poring over docs in some govt. bldg. with bad A/C or parking -or both.
(I meant to attend the "City of Miami Commissioner's Workshop" on Miami 21
- http://www.miami21.org/ - last Thursday, which would've proved very interesting, in light of the arrest of so many city of Miami planning employees for reasons that we're all familiar with by now. See Miami Herald's front page take from last Friday below: Prosecutor: Miami workers ran 'The Firm' on city time, Authorities said 11 Miami government workers ran a private consulting business on city time.)
The online info allows you to do some reconnaissance in advance of the meeting and see who on the Commission has done their homework and is really following what's being done -and who hasn't- as well as watch and take plenty of copious notes.
Just don't expect anyone to be handing you a microphone to ask one of your trademark penetrating, three-part questions, wherein you bring up the fact where you went to college again, even though it isn't relevant. Ivy Leaguers, this means you!
Found this link on the Miami 21 page with archived articles on the subject, pro and con:
The aforementioned email from Miami 21 HQ read:
Updated Miami 21 Draft is Available Online
Please visit www.Miami21.org for the latest Miami 21 Draft which was posted today.
For your convenience, we have included an amendments file which indicates all changes taking place from the original Miami 21 Draft (March 16, 2007) to the present Miami 21 Draft (June 20, 2007).
As always, we thank you for your continued participation in the Miami 21 process and encourage your questions and/or comments pertaining to Miami 21.
Quick Links...Miami 21 WebsiteMiami 21
Draft-June 20, 2007Amendments from Original Draft
Upcoming Meetings Contact Information phone:
Miami 21 Hotline (305) 416-2121 fax: (305) 400-5400
Mailing Address: PO BOX 330708 Miami, FL. 33233
The Miami Herald
June 22, 2007
Prosecutor: Miami workers ran 'The Firm' on city time
BY SUSANNAH A. NESMITH AND MICHAEL VASQUEZ
They called it ''The Firm'' -- a consulting business Miami city government employees were running from their desks at the Riverside Center administrative building.
On Thursday, police and prosecutors called it racketeering and organized fraud.
Police rounded up 10 current and former city workers Thursday and are planning to arrest an 11th when he returns from a vacation abroad.
All are accused of doing construction design and planning work for outside companies on city time, using city computers and equipment, and even visiting the sites in their city vehicles. All but one worked in the city's Capital Improvements department, which is responsible for things like building parks and fixing streets. Two who had been with the city since the mid-1970s recently retired.
''We are arresting virtually an entire arm of city government,'' Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle said during a news conference in the lobby of the city administrative building.
The Capital Improvements department has 48 employees, City Manager Pete Hernandez said. The 10 arrested worked together on city construction plans.
The 11th person who will be arrested worked in the zoning department. All are charged with racketeering, theft and fraud among other charges, and each potentially faces 23 to 95 years in prison and loss of their city pension.
The group put together construction plans and designs for clients from the Keys to Ocala, designing everything from shopping centers and day-care centers to private homes, Fernández Rundle said.
They even got the city to buy specialized equipment and computer software that the city had no use for -- so they could use it to do their freelance work, she said.
''These 11 city workers decided that their government paycheck was insufficient and that the taxpayers owed them more,'' she said.
City officials first discovered the scam more than two years ago. Former Assistant City Manager Alicia Cuervo Schreiber said she noticed capital improvements employees in the lobby looking over building plans that had nothing to do with the city. She took a closer look at the department.
''We started seeing there was no production coming out of [Capital Improvements]; meanwhile they were there working until 1 a.m. or 2 a.m.,'' she said.
Then the city received an anonymous letter warning ''there's something going on in your department. They're running a company called The Firm,'' former City Manager Joe Arriola said.
Mary Conway, then department director, began investigating further but couldn't find much.
''At first we thought it was ineptitude or laziness or incompetence,'' said Conway, now chief of operations.
The investigation did turn up pornography on one computer in the office, and an employee was suspended for a few days, but there was nothing on any of the hard drives suggesting employees were doing anything but city business, Cuervo said.
''We didn't realize they were using flash drives,'' she explained.
City officials took the case to Miami Police, who also investigated. But at that point the state attorney's office declined to prosecute, and police agreed.
''It looked strictly administrative,'' Chief John Timoney said. ``You find employees all the time doing stuff on company time.''
CITY HIRES P.I.
The city hired a private investigator for roughly $100,000 to dig up more. When the investigator presented videos of employees traveling to private jobs during work hours, the criminal probe resumed.
Timoney assigned a sergeant and two detectives to the case. The officers were able to install a secret program in the employees' computers that took pictures of whatever was on each computer's screen every minute.
''We were able to calculate that they were spending 85 percent of their time on outside activities,'' Timoney said.
The computer images also enabled detectives to track down 24 projects the group worked on between March 19 and May 22.
Timoney doubled the size of the investigative team after learning that word of the probe had leaked out.
''Frankly, we thought, we've got to shut this down,'' Assistant State Attorney Joe Centorino said. ``We're expecting more people to come forward when they hear about this.''
One of the arrested employees, Jorge Fabregat, was interviewed by detectives on June 12. He admitted doing the work and gave the detectives a handwritten list of 31 projects he had worked on, according to the arrest affidavit.
Investigators described him as a ''low-level'' member of the conspiracy.
The investigation is continuing, with detectives looking at three other employees.
Mayor Manny Diaz told a lobby packed with reporters and city employees that his administration would continue to try to root out what he called the ``bad apples.''
''I pledge zero tolerance for this sort of abuse,'' he said.
City Commissioner Joe Sanchez said he was pleased the city initiated the investigation, though he said City Hall faces a difficult task in keeping the public's trust. ''There's a perception that we're all crooks,'' Sanchez said. ``It's absolutely wrong.''
Charlie Cox, head of the city's general employees union, said his phone Thursday rang ``off the hook.''
''Everybody's upset about it,'' he said.
Hernandez, the city manager, vowed to bring in extra help to get projects moving. He said he would look for consultants and shift other employees' responsibilities to pick up the slack.
While successfully completing many projects, the department has repeatedly found itself the target of criticism for shoddy work, delays and cost overruns.
Karen Cartwright, of Overtown, said she attended a groundbreaking for improvements to Gibson Park, at 401 NW 13th St., in October 2004. She says she was told the various planned upgrades -- which included swimming-pool renovations and a new roof for the recreation center -- would mostly be complete within a year.
''This is 2007, and it's not finished,'' Cartwright said. ``I've heard so many excuses.''
The department also has faced allegations of favoritism in awarding contracts.
A controversial no-bid Capital Improvements contract that benefited prominent City Hall lobbyist Steve Marin has grown by at least $21 million during the past two or so years. That and other cost increases have left the department cash-strapped -- placing about $39 million worth of planned projects at risk.
Meanwhile, The Miami Herald reported in 2005 that when Conway was the department's director, she was significantly involved in deciding which contractors from a preapproved list received city work -- a list that included her husband Scott's employer, Louisville, Ky.-based Corradino Group.
Corradino Group at the time had received more work than any of the other 22 firms on the list. But county ethics officials, noting that Scott Conway did not have an ownership interest in the company, said no ethics laws had been violated.
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