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.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Broward County Commissioner Stacy Ritter Unplugged on Ethics, January 2010

Below are the verbatim comments of Broward
County Commissioner Stacy Ritter as recorded
before the Broward County Ethics Commission
meeting of January 13th, 2010.

I think they speak for themselves, and what
they say to me is that for all of her tough talk
and PR spin over the past few months,
Stacy Ritter DOESN'T want meaningful
pro-active ethical accountability in Broward
County government, and prefers that she
and her colleagues continue their stealthy
and unethical behavior behind games of
semantics in public, while playing puppeteers
behind-the-scenes.
Or are THEY the puppets, as some insist?


On Sunday I will have info and news for you
here about the Ethics Committee and the
Broward Legislative Delegation, both
of whom have VERY IMPORTANT public
meetings and votes coming in the next few
days.

The Delegation will be voting next Tuesday,
Jan. 26th, on their Draft of an Ethics bill from
2-4 p.m. at the downtown Broward College
campus on E. Las Olas Avenue, up on the
12th floor boardroom.
There have to be ten members for a quorum,
and at least one member must be a State Senator.

The next meeting of the Broward Ethics
Commission
is two days later, Thursday
the 28th, from 5-8:30 p.m., where they will
react to what the Broward Delegation says.

I'll have agendas, bill drafts and links here
for
you to peruse and try to bring you up
to speed
on what's happening, good and bad,
as well
as detail efforts to derail the focus
of the
Ethics Committee so that it will be
weaker than it ought to be.


----------

http://www.cityethics.org/print/991

Broward County Legislators Drag the County's Ethics Feet
By Robert Wechsler
Created 2010-01-14 17:13

Also see www.sunshinereview.org
and http://sunshinereview.org/index.php/Florida

----------

MAYOR (sic) RITTER: Well, thanks. I didn't ask to be on the agenda, so I appreciate you giving me a couple of minutes.

I have spent some time -- good morning everybody. Thank you for your service. I have spent some time going through the minutes of the past several meetings, and have been quite frankly disturbed at some of the comments that have been coming from this Committee and feel there are some assumptions that have been made here that

9 Ethics Commission 1-13-10 BS

are, quite frankly, wrong. I have seen it in other Commissions and Committees where you are asked to do things and you may not know exactly what the Commission does, so you are asking for changes to stuff that you're really not sure what we do. I’ve see it with the Management and Efficiency Study Committee, on which I sit. There are lots of decisions and conversations being said about things we already do, that people don't know we do or things we have tried to do that haven't worked. And there is not a whole lot of knowledge of the process, and I found that true in some of the comments that have come from this Commission. Just having received your draft, which is skeletal, it's going to be hard for me to make any comments on that specifically, but I'm concerned that there appears to be a perception from this group that the County Commission is full of corrupt elected officials who want nothing better than to line their pockets, and to date, we have had, since I have been on the Commission, in November 2006, one County Commissioner who has pled guilty to an offense that had nothing to do with his office and has been charged with an offense that has something to do with land use, not procurement, yet you have chosen to focus on procurement, and I haven't received a single e-mail from anybody in this county, either way, that focuses on procurement. There has never been a hint of scandal, as it relates to Broward County's procurement process, and yet, you wish to change a system that is quite frankly not broken. And I was most disturbed by my colleague Commissioner Wexler's comments as it relates to procurement, and what she perceives to be an issue, which I quite frankly don't see. You had all discussed with her, and this is the meeting she attended and I have lots of tabs that made me scratch my head, but she -- the Commissioner who sits on the most selection committees and who actually raised her hand three times yesterday to sit on

10 Ethics Commission 1-13-10 BS

the three selection committees that were on the agenda, seems to feel that Commissioners don't belong on the selection committee. Well, I like to lead by example, so if I don't think something should happen, I don't participate in the process. And so I scratch my head when one of my colleagues comes and says we should change something that she participates in quite freely, and gleefully, I might add.

When the conversation came to sand bagging, lots of people come to the table with agendas. I dare say that some of you have come with agendas too, which may not be what you are putting down on the public comment, but that doesn't make it illegal and it certainly doesn't make it unethical. If I'm sitting in a selection committee and I think company A is the best company, but company B is the stiffest competition, I may well choose to rank company B lower because I think company A should win. There is nothing wrong with that. There is nothing illegal or unethical in that, and if you want to know the reasons why we vote, all you have to do is ask us. Sometimes you will get the right answer and sometimes you will get the couched answer, but that is politics. I don't think the selection committee is broken.

Commissioner Wexler talked about intimidation of staff. The County Commission doesn't hire and fire staff, so they shouldn't be intimidated by us because we're not their bosses. The County Administrator is their bosses. And if they have issues with the County Administrator, they should take it up with her, not with us because we don't hire and fire the people that are sitting at the table with you.

There was a comment that not a lot of questions are asked by staff at selection committees because of the intimidation. I don't ask a lot of questions at selection committees, and I can promise you, I'm not intimidated by a single one of my

11 Ethics Commission 1-13-10 BS

colleagues. That is not the reason I don't ask questions. I don't ask questions because I read the proposals, which are thorough, and I listen and watch the presentations, which are equally thorough, and I make up my mind based on the proposals and the presentations. There is no intimidation there. I get my questions answered either beforehand or in the proposal and the presentation.

I think that your Inspector General local bill has some problems with it. You are allowing somebody who basically does what the auditor does. We're already paying for somebody to do much of what the Inspector General does, and I don't think the county needs an Inspector General and an auditor to overlap each other, and I think the County Commission, by the way -- I would certainly be willing to put an ordinance on the agenda to talk about an Inspector General. It's funny you want the Legislature to meddle in this, because in 2000, Mr. Scherer, you and I were on the same side of a strong mayor, to try to curtail the Legislators attempt to meddle into county business by putting a strong mayor on the ballot. We were at the same table to kill it, and our argument was, the Legislature shouldn't meddle in county business. They should take care of their own house and let the County Commission take care of its own house, but 10 years later, I know times change, people change and issues change, but I don't think the Legislature should meddle.

I think that there are, by the way, Legislatures who have been accused of things. Legislatures who have gone to jail, but I don't see you talking about them. There are Legislatures who actually work for businesses that have business in front of the Legislature, and vote on their issues, but I don't see you talk about their conflicts. I don't see you talk about the conflicts in Congress. I see you talk about selection committees,

12 Ethics Commission 1-13-10 BS

that Congress doesn't sit on selection committees; that the Legislature doesn't sit on selection committees. But the Legislature doesn't sit as the executive branch, which the County Commission does. The Legislature doesn't sit as the judicial branch, which the County Commission sometimes does, and we always sit as the Legislative branch. So really you can't compare -- and by the way, I have experience. I can speak from both angles. I was a Legislature. I know what is going on up there that nobody seems to care about. All you seem to care about is one of us is going to jail for something that had nothing to do with what he did here at the county, and I do not mean to diminish the offense. It was horrendous and no elected official should ever betray the public confidence, but you're going to allow an Inspector General to investigate anonymous complaints. Now as someone who has been the subject of anonymous attackers on the web, I can tell you that is really harmful. I believe also I have a constitutional amendment to confront my accuser. Now with an anonymous complaint, I lose that. How can you do that? How can you not let me, if I'm accused of something, defend myself to the person who is the accuser. I could go on. I have lots of notes and tabs.

I notice that last week you had Charlotte Greenbar come to speak to you. She notoriously hates the County Commission. She notoriously hates the School Board. She made some comments about School Board members shouldn't sit on selection committees either, but I don't see anybody talking about that either, and I recognize that your purview is the County Commission, yet you have on occasion, gone outside of that and discussed things that are not within the quote purview of the Ethics Commission. If you want to, and we all want to make sure that our elected officials are trustworthy, and by the way, I'm not sure you could ever make 100 percent of the public believe that that

13 Ethics Commission 1-13-10 BS

is true. Those people who think we're dirty will always think we're dirty, no matter what we do or say, and those people who think we aren't will always think that. Then you might want to broaden it. You might want to broaden your local bill and say you know, it applies it Legislatures too, and it applies to municipal officials and it applies to the School Board and it applies to the Hospital District Commissioners and it applies to every Water Control Board supervisor in this county, to every single special district supervisor in this county, which there are 97, because quite frankly to single out the County Commissioner for something is wrong. If you want to talk about elected officials and corruption, let's talk about elected officials and corruption, but to paint us all on this County Commission with a broad brush, when I have seen members do nothing illegal or unethical –have seen members do things for their own reasons, which I may not agree with, but they are elected to do that, and if the public doesn't

like the job we're doing, then the public knows how to get rid of us.

MAYOR RITTER: If I may conclude.

COMMISSIONER DE JESUS: If you could close, because the Mayor is here for his appointed time.

MAYOR RITTER: Thank you.

And this isn't personal, Bill. You and I have a personal relationship that completely transcends this, and I hope that you would know that. We're disagreeing on an issue, but we're not disagreeable. I still count you as a friend and I still hope that you count me as one at the end of the day.

MR. SCHERER: I do. 16 Ethics Commission 1-13-10 BS

MAYOR RITTER: I think that perception of lobbyists is also misunderstood. And lobbyists purvey the system anyway. Politics and lobbyists, just like politics and sex sort of go hand-in-hand, sometimes in my house they are one and the same, but we just had a major procurement on the court house. Construction manager on the court house, the winner had no lobbyist, knocked on everyone of our doors all by himself.

MR. SCHERER: That is why I fired mine.

MAYOR RITTER: Well, good for you.

But the point is that yes, sometimes it happens that way and sometimes it doesn't. We just did the financial services. Now the winner did have representation. The person I voted for had no representation. It happens. It's not always the fact that the lobbyist client wins, but it is sometimes the fact. That is just true in life. Lawyers represent clients. We want our clients to win, just like the lobbyists want our clients to win. And by the way, I told my appointment, Ken Fink, that he is free to do -- not told me. He can do whatever he wants. He is a grown man. But I have put no pressure on him --

MR. FINK: Thank you.

MAYOR RITTER: -- and he and I have argued like cats and dogs on this. We have screamed at each other, but at the end of the day he is going to do what he thinks is right and I'm going to tell him he is wrong, but I think if you are moving towards a, Miami Dade system, which is what looks like is happening, is a big mistake. The last major project in Broward County was the rental car center at the airport. Before my time, Commissioners sat on the selection committee. It came in under budget and on time. The last major project in Miami Dade was the airport, which came in a billion 17 Ethics Commission 1-13-10 BS

dollars over budget and did not come in on time, and the only people that you can complain to are the staff, not the elected officials, and I mean no disrespect to the staff, but the staff controlled the process in Miami Dade and staff spoke to the staff, not to the elected officials.

So at the end of the day, if you are looking for accountability and transparency, in my opinion, and with all due respect to this Committee and the intelligence of this Committee, I think you're heading down the wrong path. You will not find accountability or transparency if you hand this over to the non-elected officials. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DE JESUS: Thanks for your time.

MAYOR RITTER: Thanks for letting me speak. I didn't -- I came to monitor, but a politician with a microphone. Good luck.

COMMISSIONER DE JESUS: Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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