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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Csaba Kulin on City of Hallandale Beach's upside-down understanding of FL's Sunshine Laws, their pattern of intimidation re Public Records Requests; the city's abject failure in providing timely info on CRC meetings for the ENTIRETY of its existence -6 months

Csaba Kulin on City of Hallandale Beach's upside-down understanding of FL's Sunshine Laws, their pattern of intimidation re Public Records Requests; the city's abject failure to provide timely info on CRC  meetings for the ENTIRETY of its existence -6 months!
Below is an especially useful email from my friend and fellow Hallandale Beach and Broward activist Csaba Kulin which he first wrote back on September 2, 2011. I had meant to post it here shortly after he originally wrote it, but having failed to do that, in looking at it again, I think it provides a very good window for many of you to better understand the daily frustration felt by Hallandale Beach residents with respect to longstanding problems in how this city is managed -mismanaged- in so many, many areas.
Even ones that you would think would NOT be controversial.

This despite the claims that the city is ship-shape by those running things at HB City Hall, whether elected officials or highly-paid city employees, like some of the Assistant City Managers, who make $200k in salary and benefits, even while taxpayers wonder what they're actually doing to earn it, given that the city remains a morass, with low morale to match.
Yes, Assistant City Managers pulling THAT in a city of under 40,000 residents.


Csaba's email concerns how this small ocean-side city REALLY operates, and frequently attempts to use all manner of  obfuscation and intimidation to prevent citizens and other interested parties from gaining access to information they are legally entitled to, including, as I've demonstrated here a few times in the past thru personal experience, via email responses with City Hall with inflated and absurd costs for actually providing the PUBLIC INFORMATION, in an attempt to dissuade residents from actually filing.

Csaba's email is to the then-extant Hallandale Beach Charter Review Committee, whose meetings he either attended or watched religiously, gets to his troubling concerns with  the process the City of Hallandale Beach uses to dodge legitimate public discussion and force citizens and other interested parties to file Public Records Requests as a means to silence critics, esp. at public meetings, literally trying to starve them for information.

This often happens when elected officials and city employees are discussing a subject and claim NOT to know the answers they clearly do know, but are reluctant to make them public, for whatever reason.

This is made worse, of course, by a corrosive culture at HB City Hall that completely has it upside-down regarding government in the Sunshine, given that elected officials like Comm. Dotty Ross have felt free to chastise members of the public even BEFORE they can walk up to the microphone to ask their questions, in that case, Csaba himself.


More recently, we have the case of Comm. Alexander Lewy, who publicly steamed-up up on the dais during a City Commission meeting when someone spoke up to say that they were STILL waiting for requested answers from the city, and then Lewy showed bad judgment and lack of self-awareness by commenting publicly that he wanted to know why the citizen of his own city wanted it.
Really.


Instead of taking his oversight responsibility seriously, and asking/directing the City Manager to crack the whip and figure out why this continues to be such a problem, Lewy "killed the messenger." 

In that case, it was longtime Halandale Beach resident and civic activist Dr. Judy Selz, one of the most-respected and civic-minded citizens in this community who was outlining her difficulty in gaining information that she had a Constitutional RIGHT to.


See my previous post of on Dr. Selz here, Dr. Judy Selz zeroes-in on wasteful city spending, angering Comm. Lewy; Keith London's take on Hallandale Beach City Comm. meeting of Dec, 7 2011

This sad and pathetic moment not only highlighted how very short of the mark Comm. Lewy has been in office for the 15 months since he defeated sitting Comm. William "Bill Julian, coming in second to Comm. Keith London for the two seats that were up in November of 2010 -you regular readers of the blog will recall that I consistently urged you in the strongest terms to NOT trust or believe Lewy back then, lest you be greatly disappointed by what you had wrought, a phony- compared to his grand promises of being a fully-engaged reformer if elected, but also shows one of the great aspects of Florida's Sunshine Laws that make up the state Constitution.

That is, in this state, citizens are NOT required to have to persuade elected officials or city bureaucrats of the importance or significance or reason for their PUBLIC INFORMATION request in order to receive it.
You'd think an elected official like Lewy would know better than that after more than a year in office.

The second part of this email which is noteworthy is its description of the city's COMPLETE LACK OF EFFORT to keep the promise made by City Manager Mark A, Antonio at the very first CRC meeting -a meeting I personally attended, being one of the two people in the audience in July- to make sure that background information was readily available on the CRC web page on the city's website so that citizens could watch CRC meetings on TV or via streaming and be able to see what was being reviewed and and discussing, so citizens could keep up.

Though Csaba wrote the email in September, it was just as true in October, November and December, since it was NOT until January of this year, weeks after the CRC submitted their final recommendations to the City Commission just days before Christmas, that Hallandale Beach citizens could see any of the information.
Once the CRC no longer existed!

You tell me, what good was it after-the-fact? Exactly.

That's how the public process works here in Hallandale Beach under the current crew at City Hall.
It doesn't, it only pretends to operate in the Sunshine and be competent and efficient.
It's all pretense, a charade.


That's why we need big changes here in Hallandale Beach when election time comes in November, just 33 weeks away.

Trust me, given their disastrous voting records against the best long-term interests of this city's taxpayers, their  complete lack of effort to provide genuine oversight, and consistently oblivious feeling for what's really going on in this city while serving on the HB City Commission, Anthony A. Sanders and William "Bill" Julian, have absolutely failed to earn the trust or respect of the WHOLE community, and do NOT deserve another chance to keep the status quo Rubber Stamp Crew of Joy Cooper in charge, ruining this city's future.
They need to be rejected in November in the strongest possible terms.

----- 

From: Csaba Kulin
Sent: Fri 9/2/2011 12:47 PM
Subject: CRC - Sept. 2, 2011

 Dear Charter Review Committee Members,

After two months of your existence I cannot find any information about your committee on the city's web site so I have to use only the names of the members I had some previous contact with. In my future correspondence if you like me to add the names of the rest of members, delete the name of some of the members or use a different e-mail address, please let me know.

During your last meeting, you mentioned the lack of interest of the residents in the work of the Committee. To some extent you are right but the lack of information available on the city's web site and the summer season can explain some of it. If you add to it the general belief of the residents that your recommendations can be and will be ignored by the City Commission, it is difficult to get real exited. I am an optimist, I will follow your meetings. I hope that you save the more important issues like districting, FOIA, recall any elected official and others for October, when most of our residents return from summer vacation.

During your August 31, 2011 meeting you talked about the City Clerk and his/her responsibility to honor public record requests. In my opinion, timeliness is an issue but there are bigger issues than that. Intimidation and the lack of co-operation are more important.

If I go the City Clerk and I request some information I have good reason to be "public record", the Clerk should have the following options:
*       I should be provided that information as is
*       "Black out" part of the record that is not public record
*       Deny the request with explanation (pending law suit, not in existence etc).

If I am not happy with explanation, I have a right to go to court and sue. As far as I know, in one case (09-22405 (03)) just the opposite happened. HB decided to sue the resident using the resources of the City instead of just "denying" the request. Of course the resident had to use his money to defend himself. The the way I look at it, this intimates me and many other residents.

Lack of co-operation comes in when I request some public record but I do not have the exact name of the items I requested. The City may call it a different name or give an extremely high cost for the request without proper explanation or ways to deduce the costs.

I hope you get a chance to read my e-mail prior to this afternoon's meeting.

Sincerely,

Csaba Kulin

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