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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Missing voices in Broward County's ethics debate are ignored by South Florida news media. It's our old media friend: Mr. Lack of Curiosity!

Earlier today I sent a version of the following email to some
folks around South Florida and the rest of the Sunshine State
who make it their business to pay attention to what's going on
hereabouts in local government, especially as it applies to the
issue of ethics and political miscreants.

Per the Broward Beat and Broward Politics blog postings
I cite and link to for your perusal, it's worth mentioning that
State Senator Chris Smith and State Rep. Perry Thurston
both voted against
Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff's common sense
ethics proposal at the Broward Legislative
Delegation public
meeting that I attended three weeks ago at the FAU campus
in downtown Fort Lauderdale.

(Ellyn Bogdanoff, who I think is a very impressive person
and full of moxie and enthusiasm, is running for State Senate
District 25 this Fall, which is
currently represented by
Jeff Atwater, who's running for Florida Chief Financial Officer.
See http://www.ellynbogdanoff.com/ and

That BLD meeting was scheduled to iron-out aspects of a bill
that would provide the proper legal framework for an IG
position to be created in ethics-starved Broward County.

Not surprisingly, this important meeting got ZERO
on local Miami TV newscasts, so citizens here heard nothing
about the absurd histrionics and melodrama that took place,
with petty verbal tantrums thrown by Messrs Smith and
Thurston, with an assist to State Sen. Dan Gelber,
chiefly for his wasting so much time chasing-his-tail that
the public's ability to actually speak at the end of the meeting
was greatly compromised, as some people who wanted to
speak, were not able to, including myself.

But at least Gelber voted in favor of it, unlike the other two.
That is, after he lectured everyone in the room as he channeled
a Law prof schooling kids on the intricacies of property law,
when all they really wanted was to retrieve their errant ball
from his front yard.

Instead of dealing with it forthrightly, he chose to use it as a
pretext to share what he, apparently, believes to be his colossal
legal mind.
It would seem Gelber loves to get on a soap box, even when
it's not necessary.

Personally, I was already inclined to support another candidate
for State Attorney General this Fall, but I can tell you after
this particular first-hand experience, State Sen. Dan Gelber,
in person, makes a very poor case for the plausibility of
Dan Gelber the FL AG candidate.

He was every bit the caricature of a preening pol and left many
of the people who attended the meeting dumbfounded, if my
subsequent conversations and emails from fellow attendees
is any indication.

Some even volunteered that they'd actually been leaning towards
Gelber instead of State Sen. Dave Aronberg for AG, but now
were re-thinking that decision.

I guess I hardly need mention that people who'd be attending this
sort of meeting are more well-informed about what's really going on
here than the average voter and that their opinion, among friends,
neighbors and co-workers, is considerably more persuasive than
any paid ad.

In that sense, Gelber's performance that day was almost like an
in-kind political contribution to Aronberg.

On a more important note, to me, one of the most obvious but
least-discussed aspect of the current Broward County ethics
killing-zone is the almost complete absence of any African-American
or Hispanic individuals or groups speaking publicly for making
stronger ethics both a reality and a priority here, and not just an
abstract idea in a book or political campaign.

All the minority "Usual Suspects" who generally clamor to get
their spin out to the public and news media in order to be thought
of as serious players in this community's future, were and are
almost entirely MIA -Missing in Action!

I can name the exceptions, since I know who some of them are,
like Ted Mena,
a former Coral Springs city commissioner and
business owner, whom I met in 2008 while he was on the county's
Charter Review Commission.

He has been a
consistent voice for greater public accountability
and transparency in local government and stronger ethical standards.

In my opinion, he'd exactly the sort of person with integrity and
common sense that we need dozens of clones of in Broward County
and local government to flush-out the defective govt. and political
miscreants and ticking-time bombs.

He recently wrote something about the current ethics debacle,
which I've placed at the bottom of this post for you to consider.

But as is the case with so many other issues I could name,
along with you, the South Florida news media hasn't even noticed
this absence of diverse voices on this important issue, even though
we're constantly told -lectured!- by theses same newspapers
and TV stations how important diversity is.

The news media has been too preoccupied the past few weeks by...
well, now that you mention it, nothing in particular.

I plan on posting some things in the near future on the above topics
and what I observed first-hand, and will try to post some video
I shot up in Fort Lauderdale as well.

Broward Beat
Commissioners Loving Ethics Reform To Death
By Buddy Nevins

In Tallahassee its called, “Loving It To Death”.

That is defined as loading up of a piece of legislation with so much unnecessary baggage that it is sure to fail.

Some Broward County Commissioners appear to be using that tactic to kill the ethics regulations that the public is clamoring for.

Read the rest of the story at:

Sun-Sentinel's Broward Politics blog
Gunzburger runs into trouble protecting proposed ethics code
By Scott Wyman
February 23, 2010

A move by Commissioner Suzanne Gunzburger to protect Broward’s fledgling ethics ordinance ran into trouble Tuesday. Gunzburger wanted to draw up a ballot issue to place the ethics rules in the county charter – meaning they could only be changed in the future by voters. As a task force wrapped up its work to write the code this month, concern grew that the commission could immediately gut or rescind it.

Read the rest of the story at: http://weblogs.sun-sentinel.com/news/politics/broward/blog/2010/02/gunzburger_runs_into_trouble_p.html

Sun-Sentinel's Broward Politics blog
Bogdanoff sees passage of legislation to create anti-corruption office
By Anthony Man
February 22, 2010

State Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, said Monday she’s confident there’s enough momentum to win passage of legislation that could lead to creation of an inspector general to police corruption in Broward’s local governments.

Action on the legislation moves to Tallahassee next week when lawmakers gather for the annual legislative session. Bogdanoff said she expects lawmakers will soon put the finishing touches on the inspector general legislation.

The IG would be an independent office with authority to investigate the County Commission, the School Board, independent agencies such as the North Broward Hospital District, and all the cities, towns and villages in the county. The office would have the power to subpoena people and documents.

South Florida Sun-Sentinel

January 20, 2010
By Ted Mena

Most municipalities in our country have a declaration of policy concerning ethics as it applies to municipal employees, which of course is what politicians are in most county and some city governments.

Most of these declarations state that municipal employees are there to work for the citizens of a city or county. These statements of policy also say that it is the responsibility of that person to "act in a manner that promotes trust and confidence in government with complete transparency and honesty in their services, and to avoid even the appearance and perception of impropriety."

It seems to me that some people in Broward County government and the School Board have not read, nor understand, this simple and straightforward statement of policy. Most of these policies are in most cases being ignored here in Broward.

Presently, there is a committee on ethics looking into this matter. They need input from the public as well as the media, who need to step up and publish what these politicians are up to and investigate them to see who else has "conflicts of interest." When I was a city commissioner in Coral Springs, where city commissioners do not get involved in any procurement process at all, I was appointed to the Broward County Charter Review. As a member for two years of this committee, the issue of ethics came up and was looked into. The present Ethics Commission is the result. I can tell you that many of the county commissioners serving in Broward did not want to have this committee on ethics.

One of the reasons that some county commissioners give for being involved in the procurement process is that they do not want county staff to provide them the "backup" on issues before them. They say that they don't have time to read it. But that's what they are paid to do!

(It must be because they are too busy hobnobbing with lobbyists to obtain money to be reelected at parties on yachts or hotel.)

Thanks to Eggelletion, Salesman, and Gallagher, we now have a strong reason to do something about it. Let's put some teeth in the ethic rules and some consequences to misbehavior. We need a watchdog group to make sure these ethic violations do not occur and that this group is independent of the commissioners. County commissioners should not be involved in any role in the procurement process since back in November 2008, the public voted to have the Ethics Commission created. Commissioner Angelo Castillo of Pembroke Pines wrote recently, "We are becoming a community of disbelievers in government to operate effectively..." Hopefully, we will get something done this time.

Ted Mena is a former Coral Springs city commissioner and a Broward County business owner.

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