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.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

BP oil spill remediation funds: Birds gotta fly, fish gotta swim, little towns gotta spend money like crazy like... well, little towns. And South FL?

Entering Miami-Dade County sign on south-bound U.S.-1/Biscayne Blvd., Aventura, coming out of Hallandale Beach. Aventura Hospital on the right. November 16, 2010 photo by South Beach Hoosier.


Birds gotta fly, fish gotta swim, little towns gotta spend money like crazy like... well, little towns...
Like many of you out there reading this post today, I'm really looking forward to finding out where the
BP remediation funds sent to Miami-Dade and Broward Counties -that saw no oil- actually wind-up being spent.


Given the long and well-chronicled tradition in South Florida of our elected officials and municipal/county leaders' outside-the-box thinking when it comes to ways of treating themselves (and their pals) like kings and queens, with money that's supposed to be spent in very specific ways -for instance, money for environmental code enforcement getting squandered by cocky and patronizing Miami-Dade cops on TVs, see below- I wait with baited breath to see which local print or TV reporters are first to expose how the money was spent down here in ways that only raise more questions about the character and caliber of the people making those decisions.


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St. Petersburg Times
BP buys Gulf Coast millions in gear

By Michael Kunzelman, Mike Schneider and Melinda Deslatte

Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Tasers. Brand-new SUVs. A top-of-the-line iPad. A fully loaded laptop. In the year since the Gulf oil spill, officials along the coast have gone on a spending spree with BP money, dropping tens of millions of dollars on gadgets and other gear - much of which had little to do with the cleanup, an Associated Press investigation shows.

The oil giant opened its checkbook while the crisis was still unfolding last spring and poured hundreds of millions of dollars into Gulf Coast communities with few strings attached.
Read the rest of the article at:
http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_GULF_OIL_SPILL_SPENDING_SPREE?SITE=FLPET&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT

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Orlando Sentinel
Central Florida Politcal Pulse
blog

BP gives NW Fla $30 M

Posted by khaughney on April, 11 2011 11:54 AM

http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/news_politics/2011/04/bp-gives-nw-fla-30-m.html

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

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 live outside of South Florida and are reading this and wondering if the sort of inappropriate behavior by law enforcement officials -described above in such great detail by Matthew Haggman- is common, and whether the cumulative effect of such moral and intellectual laxness was a factor in the successful recall from office of former M-D mayor Carlos Alvarez last month, the answer to both questions is YES.

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Not that you asked but the BP station in Aventura on Biscayne Blvd. & N.E. 211th Street, across from Aventura Hospital and near the Venezuelan Target, is my favorite service station in the area to use, as I've probably only used a different operator maybe five times in the past year. They are always clean, efficient and extremely well-lit at night, which is more than I can say for many other service stations in SE Broward/NE Miami-Dade.

Plus, they usually have copies of the NY Times available when other places are already out.

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