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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Why are there so many incompetent police officials & pols in South Florida? Miami-Dade police won't repay 'misspent' environmental funds used on flat-screen TVs. Yet another spot-on story by Matthew Haggman that reveals the true depths of the problem in Miami and environs: lack of #ethics & #competency

To those of you reading the spot-on Matthew Haggman story below outside of South Florida, the Miami-Dade County mayor Carlos Alvarez referenced in this article is the very same Carlos Alvarez that was formerly the Miami-Dade County Police Director.

He is also the same Carlos Alvarez that I believe WILL be successfully recalled from office on March 15th, owing to his lethargic, myopic leadership style, and his rather curious predilection for outright duplicity in dealing not only with his colleagues on the publicly-unpopular County Commission -in far too many instances to cite here- but also in his dealings with the general public.

The people who voted for him in the first place.


Alvarez is part of the harmful mass of middling-mediocrities of elected officials that I have long contended have held South Florida hostage for decades with their short-sighted ego and ethnically-driven brand of public policy that resembles nothing so much as a dog forever chasing its tail.
Somewhat humorous to observe from the outside, perhaps, but not so funny closer to the action, where it's just maddening beyond belief..


Consider what has happened politically to former City of Miami and Miami-Dade County mayors:
NOTHING!


Hardly anyone ever talks about it, not even Channel 10's Michael Putney, but the fact is that in one of the largest cities in Florida -and the largest county in the fourth largest state of the country- is the exact opposite of a political launching pad: it's where political ambitions crash-and-burn.

In other states, those people would become governors or U.S. Senators, but here, they just disappear completely.
That's one of the reasons this area is so backward and why the I-4 corridor is considered by many objective observers to be both more important politically and home to more pols who can be elected statewide.

Soon, that black hole he's created in the universe thru his negative karma will swallow
Alvarez whole, and he will disappear from sight entirely, recalled from office by an embarrassing margin.

(FYI: My father is a retired Miami-Dade police officer who was on the job for 25 years.)


Sadly for its citizen taxpayers who by now are long used to being the money pinata that is regularly bashed for loose change for purposes unknown -Miami-Dade Commissioners' discretionary funds- this terrific Matthew Haggman story shows what passes for governance in South Florida in the year 2011.

Cops intentionally and brazenly mis-using funds for purposes that have nothing to do with its original intent and nearly everyone involved is making excuses for it, led by the incompetent police officials and gutless Miami-Dade politicians who are the embodiment of the sick political culture, led by Carlos Alvarez, who will be pushed from the political stage with a vengeance in exactly two months for crimes of omission: lack of leadership.

And not that I'm the first person to say it among my circle of friends and acquaintances, but where the hell exactly has Miami-Dade Commissioner Sally Heyman been hiding?

The Northeast Dade district, that includes Miami Beach, is full of lots of smart and well-educated good-government types who have high expectations that whoever represents the district will be someone who's adept at keeping an eye peeled for exactly the sort of dubious behavior this article highlights: lack of effective internal controls and a complete absence of real punishment for people who abuse their authority.

For someone like Heyman, who has such a very high opinion of herself and her record in office, especially about what she thinks is her fiscal and ethical probity and sense of accountability, tell me, other than her vote against the Marlins Stadium in Little Havana, how can you not say that she's been slumping noticeably, almost sleep-walking since it was revealed in 2009 how much taxpayer money she doles out thru her Commissioner's discretionary fund.

Your taxes,
her discretionary fund...

excerpts from
I-Team: You Pay, Miami-Dade Commission SpendsJanuary 13, 2009 10:25 AM 

 
As the slumping economy drives most people to cut costs, the CBS 4 I-Team learned lawmakers aren’t doing the same with your tax dollars.
Here’s what the CBS4 I-Team Investigator Stephen Stock found after pulling the Miami-Dade county budget for the past three years.
Read the rest of the story at:
http://miami.cbslocal.com/2009/01/13/i-team-you-pay-miami-dade-commission-spends/


-----

excerpt from I-Team: M-D Commission “Carrying Over” Controversy
March 3, 2009 3:41 PM


District 4 Commissioner Sally Heyman agreed.

“I like opportunity to have it when we need it,” Heyman told the I-Team.
“This is not my money. It is an office fund, it is the people’s money,” Heyman said.
The people’s money that builds up into a financial kitty to be used any way a commissioner wants with little oversight, debate or public input.
Here’s how it works.
Any money budgeted for commissioners’ district offices NOT spent in one fiscal year carries over. It accrues in future years.
Commissioner Sally Heyman says her preliminary records show she has $1,006,000 in carry-over.

Add up all 13 Miami-Dade Commissioners’ carry-over for fiscal year 2007-2008 unaudited and you are talking about almost 4 million dollars in their carry-over kitty. That’s $3,816,000 of your tax dollars that has accrued in carry-over budgets over the years with little oversight, process or debate.

Read the rest of the story at: http://miami.cbslocal.com/2009/03/03/i-team-m-d-commission-carrying-over-controversy/

-----
http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/01/13/2015129/miami-dade-police-wont-repay-misspent.html

Miami Herald

Miami-Dade police won't repay misspent environmental funds

By Matthew Haggman

January 13, 2011

The Miami-Dade Police Department is acknowledging it misspent funds meant to fight environmental crime on flat-screen TVs, SUVs and firearms.

"Clearly inappropriate,'' Police Director James Loftus says.

But putting the money back into the green funds, as the county's inspector general has requested? Not so fast.

"No, we are not,'' county police spokeswoman Nancy Perez said.

Miami-Dade Inspector General Christopher Mazzella said in a recent memo to Mayor Carlos Alvarez that the police have adopted many of his recommended fixes, following a scathing IG audit that found the police used two environmental trust funds as a kitty for pricey purchases with little connection to environmental crime-fighting.

But the police department is flatly rebuffing two IG recommendations: that it stop using green-fund money to pay expenses such as monthly cellphone and aircard bills, and that it repay the misused public dollars.

"We continue to stand by our original recommendations that the Trust Funds be reimbursed,'' Mazzella said in a Dec. 21 memo to Alvarez.

The police department isn't obligated to follow the IG's recommendations, unless the mayor or the county commission act. And there's little push coming from the county executive's office.

Mayoral spokeswoman Victoria Mallette would only say in a statement that "administrative procedures have been strengthened.'' When pressed whether the mayor thinks county police should pay up, she referred questions to Loftus and hung up.

The standoff is the latest chapter in a scandal that erupted last year over county stewardship of funds that were meant to combat polluters. Instead, amid "overall chaotic administration,'' the funds were steered to "excessive, unreasonable, or unnecessary'' purchases, the IG audit found.

The IG's inquiry, following a Miami Herald series last year that detailed dubious spending, focused on nearly $6 million spent from 2000 to 2009 from two funds: the South Florida Environmental Task Force Trust Fund and Florida Environmental Task Force Trust Fund.

More than $1.1 million was spent on vehicle-related expenses, including the purchase of 23 SUVs and trucks that went to top brass rather than environmental investigators working in remote areas. Another $1.1 million went for cellphones used, in many cases, by officials in non-environmental departments.

Three Sharp 52-inch flat screen TVs were snapped up for about $6,000. Nearly $35,000 was spent on 30 Smith & Wesson M&P-15 rifles and holographic sights. Police justified the firearms on the grounds that an environmental investigator might encounter "a wildlife poacher armed with a high-powered rifle.''

Three Segways were bought for $25,000. One was used periodically to patrol MDPD's suburban headquarters, and two were found "sitting unused in a warehouse,'' auditors found.

The episode served as an embarrassment for embattled Mayor Alvarez, who is facing a recall vote on March 15.

Division Chief Frank Vecin, a close ally and supporter of Mayor Alvarez, was in charge of fund spending. At one point, Alvarez was ferried around in a Chevy Tahoe purchased with green-fund money. The county mayor later returned the automobile, saying he didn't know it was bought with funds meant to fight polluters.

The revelations of fund mismanagement prompted the retirement of Vecin.

"The IG believes the funds were managed improperly,'' said C. Michael Cornely, Vecin's attorney. "It was their opinion. To me, the IG justifies its existence by looking for things and making issues out of things that are not really an issue.''

The two environmental funds, created in 2000 by the county commission and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, were established to help fight polluters in South Florida, which the county has called a "drum dump capital.'' Funding sources included fines and court judgments.

Police director Loftus -- named to the top job in February, after spending questions were already being raised -- now says new money will not be accepted into the two funds. The remaining balance in the accounts is $1.5 million.

In defending his position that the police department need not repay the misspent dollars, Loftus contends that over the life of the trust funds, the department paid some $27 million out of its general fund for the salaries and benefits of officers and directors working environmental investigations -- that, in sum, the contribution of personnel costs far offset the questioned expenses.

Mazzella responded that the trust fund money was "to augment, not replace'' general funds.

If they police were to repay for misspending, the precise amount isn't clear, though the August audit provides a road map.

"We left it to the police to determine what was justified, and repay what was not,'' said Mazzella.

Miami Herald staff writer Martha Brannigan contributed to this report. 

-----  
In case you were wondering, yes, the Frank Vecin mentioned above, the Carlos Alvarez supporter who was in charge of those environmental funds, is the same Miami-Dade police commander who, in the words of Channel 4 News' I-Team , had:
"allegedly been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by developers to expedite their request for permits and provide access to top county administrators, has agreed to retire..."
http://miami.cbslocal.com/2010/06/23/i-team-police-commander-steps-down/
At the same time Vecin was assisting various developers as CEO and as President of Oak Tree Development, he was also in charge of the police department’s Intergovernmental Bureau, which is responsible for investigating illegal contractors and criminal violations of the county’s building code.
In other words, he was being paid by the very same developers and builders his police unit might be called upon to investigate. Instead it was the developers who found themselves with a valuable friend in the police department.
Here's the link for that I-Team story which also reveals how much Vecin was getting for his handiwork from The Terra Group:
http://miami.cbslocal.com/2010/06/20/i-team-frank-vecin-beyond-the-badge/


Not that things are any better in the City of Miami.. cops paid overtime for work they didn't do.
That's how it's done down here!

 
http://miami.cbslocal.com/2008/12/10/i-team-money-for-nothing/

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