To me, the key sentence from Debra J. Saunders excellent piece below that I got via The Rasmussen Report on the situation at Berkeley is this one: "Moreover, the rules as written are not enforced consistently."
If you had never heard of the particular problem she opines about out at the home of the University of California's mother-ship campus, you can be forgiven for thinking that this spot-on sentence sounds exactly like one that you or I might used in conversations with friends
to describe the ethical problem, writ large, in South Florida from top-to-bottom, and Broward County and Hallandale Beach in particular.
There's the written law, there's the written and un-written ruies of normal social behavior, and then there's what too many people with power or influence down here -and their pack of cronies- think they can reasonably get away with, often right in front of us, and then look at us
like we're the ones who have a problem.
They just keep nibbling away, never satisfied, undermining our laws and our concept of what local government is supposed to be like thru their sheer ego and avarice.
The larger problem for residents of South Florida is that, in large part, the very elected or appointed people who are actually supposed to enforce those written (and un-written) laws, whether Broward County SAO Michael Satz or Broward County Sheriff Al Lamberti or HB City Attorney David Jove, far too often for a healthy democracy, are either oblivious to what's going on right in front of them, or, sadly, looking the other way, so that "the rules as written are not enforced consistently."
The desultory results of that longstanding inconsistency are pretty obvious all around us, and one of the by-products of that is the sheer level of genuine taxpayer anger among so many people who were previously apathetic about local government.
Fortuitously, while I was writing this, I received a timely email from Charlotte Greenbarg that consists of Comm. Gunzburger's email to Broward County Attorney Jeffrey J. Newton
about the needed Ethics Comm. proposals, the same one I referenced Friday and Saturday in some emails to selected people throughout the area about the rearguard action by some on the County Commission to thwart their implementation, by hook or by crook.
Now you can see for yourself what's what.
On Saturday, in responding to my email of Friday, Comm. Gunzburger reminded me again of her own role to get some real teeth in the Broward Ethics Commission proposals, something I've noted and seen for myself since last year.
Here is what she wrote me:
FYI I wrote a memo to Atty. Newton and distributed it to 2 members of the ethics committee after the vote. That is why the emergency meeting was called.
Also, since my blog post of Thursday, the Sun-Sentinel's Brittany Wallman, who, alone, was on top of that recent Broward MPO re-organization story -see my May 20th post re her story, County: MPO is laying off some employees, then bumping up salaries
http://hallandalebeachblog.blogspot.com/2010/05/brittany-wallman-is-on-top-of-broward.html- has posted several posts on the Ethics fight on the Broward Politics blog, including one today about Legislative Delegation chair, State Rep. Ari Porth, zeroing-in on Stacey Ritter. Links to those posts of her's are at the bottom.
If you know anyone who works at the Miami Herald, be sure to tell them that you appreciate their completely sleeping on this Ethics story this week, with zero news articles in print, plus this misleadling blog post
To paraphrase what others have stated before, in the case of Hallandale Beach in particular and Broward County in general, we may well need some plate tectonics to put us in Cuba before the Herald ever starts putting out a quality product for its Broward residents reflecting where they live.
In the year 2010, while the Herald has a Gay-centric blog and and number of Spanish language blogs, plus ones dedicated to individual TV shows, there are still ZERO Broward-centric columnists and ZERO Broward-centric government/politics blog.
Hardly anyone I know and respect from Broward County bothers to read the Herald's Naked Politics blog anymore because they so rarely have something of interest to Broward County.
Most of the people I know are already hip to the fact that the St. Pete Times Buzz politics blog and the Orlando Sentinel's Central Florida Political Pulse are far superior in every way in their coverage of the rest of the state to the Herald's.
Meanwhile, Broward County remain terra incognita for One Herald Plaza -and it shows every single day you look at the newspaper.
University of Anarchy and No Consequences
A Commentary By Debra J. Saunders
Sunday, June 20, 2010
When activists (who are not necessarily students) were able to delay construction of a UC Berkeley sports center by living in trees for 21 months, there was no review of what went wrong.
When protesters with torches vandalized UC Chancellor Robert Birgeneau's home, there was no review.
But when UC police arrested 46 people demonstrating against higher-education cuts by occupying Wheeler Hall on Nov. 20, there were complaints that police overreacted.
And so -- with authorities, not anarchists in the sights -- a review was born.
Read the rest of the article at:
See also: http://www.rasmussenreports.
Sent: Wednesday, June 16, 2010 8:34 AM
Cc: recipient list not shown:
Subject: Fwd:My Email to Jeff Newton
Many on the commission are trying to water down the ethics code. This is what I sent to our attorney last night.
With little reasonable advance time for review, you submitted a substantive legal memorandum to the Commission for immediate review dated just one day before Tuesday's meeting. In the memo ("Our File: 10-026 - Re: Portions of Proposed Ethics Code that Exceed Charter Authority or are Otherwise Legally Invalid"), you boldly -- and I believe incorrectly -- stated a lobbying ban on the Commission is likely "unconstitutional." This is very troubling.
In said memo, you stated lobbying is a "core First Amendment right" which cannot be restricted except for the narrowest of reasons. You further wrote that a "ban based on the identity of the lobbyist (i.e., County Commissioners, ...)" may be an "impermissible" regulation of speech. You seem to miss that lobbying bans have been routinely upheld and enforced. Congress, the federal executive branch, and the Florida Legislature, even the City Of Hollywood -- among others -- have all adopted long-standing lobbying bans of imposing a ban of varying amounts of years (typically 2 years) during which a former official is prohibited from lobbying his/her former agency or branch of government. These were put in place to prohibit the appearance of impropriety, and all are based upon the identity of the lobbyist (to wit: a former official). To date, not a single one of these bans has ever been struck down by the courts. See:
· Art. II, Sec. 8(e), Florida Constitution - "No member of the legislature or statewide elected officer shall personally represent another person or entity for compensation before the government body or agency of which the individual was an officer or member for a period of two years following vacation of office. No member of the legislature shall personally represent another person or entity for compensation during term of office before any state agency other than judicial tribunals. Similar restrictions on other public officers and employees may be established by law." NOTE: The restriction prohibiting current legislators from lobbying "any state agency other than judicial tribunals" is virtually analogous in purpose to the "lobbying down" ban the Ethics Committee suggested we adopt for sitting County Commissioners. Further, the lobbying ban set forth in the Florida Constitution is explicitly based on the identity of the lobbyist (to wit: a "member of the legislature"). Clearly, your analysis was severely flawed if you failed to note in your memo this nearly on-point provision from within Florida's own constitution.
· Section 112.313(9), Florida Statutes - Establishes lobbying bans explicitly targeted at individuals based on the identity of the lobbyist. See the lengthy list of covered job titles encompassed within this section's lobbying ban. I can find no court rulings invalidating, or even questioning, the constitutionality of this provision. Further, many states have virtually identical laws -- all of which appear to remain good law. See: http://www.ncsl.org/Default.
Secondly, I have questions about wasting tax dollars on a declaratory judgment action that appears concerned only with some general, speculative fear of future harm that may possibly occur at some time in the indefinite future. Until the voters enact it and there is a justiciable controversy, the County cannot in good faith make any showing of a real threat of immediate injury. If and until such time that the voters enact the proposed Commission Ethics Code, any declaratory judgment action would appear unripe for court review. See: State v. Florida Consumer Action Network, 830 So.2d 148 (Fla. 1st DCA, 2002). What is the purpose of going to court to expend significant tax dollars to challenge reforms that have yet to even be adopted by the voters? This makes no sense from a public policy perspective.
Finally, I have serious concerns about whether the County is the appropriate party to bring the declaratory judgment action seeking to undermine the proposed ethics reforms. Are you proposing -- even if done through contracted outside counsel -- that the County retain outside counsel to bring a legal challenge against the County (i.e., our own Ethics Committee, for which the County Attorney is also legal counsel). Doesn't this raise ethical questions of bringing a lawsuit in which "the fix" is in place, and undermine public confidence? Wouldn't your office also be the legal entity responsible for defending the provisions in court (i.e., the entity against which you are filing the declaratory judgment action)? If yes, it would seem that the “adverse” parties we essentially agents of one and the same master, seemingly intent on derailing ethics reform. It further suggests the two sides would be able to enter into manipulated and deceptive stipulations in court while posting as faux "opposing" parties with the goal of invalidating the reforms. If not an actual ethical conflict for your office, it certainly doesn't pass the smell test for avoiding the appearance of conflict of interest. Further, wouldn't the appropriate party to bring a declaratory judgment action and bear the costly financial burden of the suit be a member of the public (or perhaps one of my colleagues, if s/he feels so inclined) who seeks to invalidate a portion of the Commission Ethics Code once it has been adopted? I simply do not understand why the County is seeking to act as a legal roadblock to thwart the public's very appropriate desire to enact significant ethics reforms for the County Commission.
Let me be very clear: I fully support enactment of the entire proposed County Ethics Code. I am very disturbed by this legal attack -- seemingly coordinated with the assistance of your office -- seeking to undermine these important ethical reforms.
Please share with me your thoughts on the concerns I expressed above.
Broward Politics blog
Broward political ethics reform vaporizing
Posted by Brittany Wallman on June 19, 2010 08:11 AM
Broward voters asked for a wholesale cleanup of county government, and it appeared a sure thing. Until now.
The political ethics reform that voters demanded two years ago is headed not to the ballot, not to the Broward County Commission rule books, but to courts.Read the rest of the post at:
Broward Politics blog
Broward delegation chairman singles out county's Ritter
Posted by Brittany Wallman on June 20, 2010 09:13 AM
Broward delegation chairman Rep. Ari Porth, D-Coral Springs, singled out Broward County Commissioner Stacy Ritter in a recent op-ed column in our newspaper.
I'm re-publishing it now because Porth lambasted commissioners in a written statement today for sending proposed ethics reform to court rather than passing it. He accused commissioners of opposing state efforts at corruption reform, and when I asked his office to name names, this is what they sent. Read the rest of the post at:
com/news/politics/broward/ blog/2010/06/broward_ delegation_chairman_si.html
I'm re-publishing it now because Porth lambasted commissioners in a written statement today for sending proposed ethics reform to court rather than passing it. He accused commissioners of opposing state efforts at corruption reform, and when I asked his office to name names, this is what they sent.Read the rest of the post at: