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, Europe 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.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Wither Florida's Sunshine Laws? Part II: Investigating the continuing dysfunction, lack of appropriate disclosure of public information and the generally imperious anti-citizen attitude at Hallandale Beach City Hall under Mayor Joy Cooper; Yet MORE on the City of Hallandale Beach's failure to comply with legally-required public disclosure/lobbying laws, as well as the accuracy and timeliness of public records on HB's own website; Lobbying records that are supposed to be timely and accurate are TWO MONTHS old, making any pretense of genuine lobbying disclosure a joke; @MayorCooper


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Wither Florida's Sunshine Laws? Part II: Investigating the continuing dysfunction, lack of appropriate disclosure of public information and the generally imperious anti-citizen attitude at Hallandale Beach City Hall under Mayor Joy Cooper; Yet MORE on the City of Hallandale Beach's failure to comply with legally-required public disclosure/lobbying laws, as well as the accuracy and timeliness of public records on HB's own website; Lobbying records that are supposed to be timely and accurate are TWO MONTHS old, making any pretense of genuine lobbying disclosure a joke; @MayorCooper
Just to prove my point again about how those in government closest to the people, with a track record of consistently FAILING to pay attention to details on smaller matters -that is, if you consider the city actually obeying it's own ordinances and State laws a minor matter- shouldn't be trusted to make important multi-million dollar decisions based on the public's best long-term interests, I present my email of Monday to Hallandale Beach Commissioner Michele Lazarow, whom I voted for in November and who's going to be in office for the next four years.

I also sent cc's to HB City Attorney V. Lynn Whitfield, HB City Manager Renee C.Miller, HB IT Dept. head Ted Lamott, HB CRA Director Liza Torres, HB CRA Steven W. Zelkowitz and HB City Clerk Sheena James, with bcc's to concerned and angry people all over HB and Broward County, as well as some people with authority up in the state capital of Tallahassee with names you might recognize.


Think of this blog post today as the natural follow-up to my post of a month ago, March 19th, titled, Part I: Investigating the continuing dysfunction, lack of appropriate disclosure of public information and the generally imperious anti-citizen attitude at Hallandale Beach City Hall under Mayor Joy Cooper; Matters that anyone could see if they just looked -I looked and here's what I found in late February 2013
http://hallandalebeachblog.blogspot.com/2013/03/part-i-investigating-continuing.html

If you never saw that, and clearly many of you didn't, you might want to minimize today's post for a few minutes and open that one up and read it first so that this will make more sense.
Think of that as the first chorus and this the second chorus. 
That's what I would do if I were you.

As of tomorrow, the City of Hallandale Beach's Lobbying/Visitors list will be NINE WEEKS old.
That's nine weeks that lobbyists, contractors and vendors have spoken in-person with the city's five elected officials and many city bureaucrats WITHOUT the citizens of this community being in a position to actually know who they are, who they met with, what subjects were discussed and when did it happen.
All questions we are entitled by law to know the answer to -and don't.

As always, all email addresses below have been deleted to prevent spam.
------

April 15, 2013

Dear Comm. Lazarow:

So, here here I am again.

Six weeks after my last fact-filled complaint to Hallandale Beach City Hall -directed to the same management officials whose names now appear on the cc line of my email today, and now also including CRA Attorney Zelkowitz- below, I find myself with the same grave concerns as then about their serious lack of commitment to HB's residents, taxpayers and small business owners when it comes to the integrity of the public policy process in this city, and their continuing failure of duty with respect to the state's Sunshine Laws.

Not just a law, but a Right that citizens of this state have enshrined in the State Constitution.

Today I remain just as dumb-founded as in February about why the City of Hallandale Beach and their employees continue having such big problem complying with State and city laws regarding required public disclosure of public information, and the accuracy and timeliness of those records.

Since I know that you are a very strong advocate for both MORE transparency and increased public accountability regarding public policy and spending decisions here, perhaps you could see your way to mentioning some of the following matters, and ask some tough questions about them at tonight's CRA Board meeting during Director Communications.

As of Friday, the city's official Visitors/Lobbyist log continued to NOT be properly maintained, so it is now over eight (8) weeks behind in being up-to-date and accurate, which is NOT within the 72 hours that the city proclaims on its own website, below:


Elected Official Requirements

Section 3(c), to further promote full and complete transparency, Elected Officials must disclose any and all lobbying activity that knowingly occurs between themselves and individual lobbyits or their rprincipals or employers outside their governments offices/premises.  This shall include communicating by any form of telephonic or electronic media.


  1. The disclosure shall include the lobbyist's name; the name of the entity by which the lobbyist is employed; the name of the person or entity for whom or which he or she is lobbying; the date, time and location of the meeting; and the specific purpose and subject matter of the meeting. 
  2. The disclosure shall be made within ten (10) business days of the lobbying activity, but must, in any event, be made prior to any vote on a matter that was the subject of the lobbying activity.
  3. The dislclosue shall be filed for public inspection. 

That link and the city's untrue claims are here:
CLICK TO SEARCH LOBBYIST/VISITOR CONTACT LOGS
 (visitors logs are updated every 72 hours)

Somehow, despite being over three times as large in population and size, the City of Hollywood seems to be able to actually update their list within 72 hours, often even the next day, so that there is no vote that takes place without everyone knowing who was trying to influence who.

That is NOT at all the case in this city.

Why is that Visitors list NOT made a permanent web page that is continually updated instead of a file that must be downloaded each time you want to access it?

Why is the Visitors list presented upside-down, with most recent visits at the bottom instead of where they should be -at the top?

The practical effect of all of this, to cite but one obvious example, is that any and all visits after February 13th by attorney/lobbyist Alan Koslow or anyone else on behalf of Jerome Hollo and Florida East Coast Realty regarding their request to have $450,000 in fines they owe Hallandale Beach taxpayers waived, are completely unknown to the citizens of this community. 

And were unknown to them even when that vote took place on March 20th.

That is NOT disclosure and that is NOT government in the Sunshine by any stretch of the imagination.

The purpose of the list is to properly inform the public about the activities of the city's elected officials and management and any individuals attempting to influence public policy, BEFORE something happens, NOT to conceal that information, and yet the facts are what they are, aren't they?

Not eight days behind, though that would be bad enough, but EIGHT WEEKS behind.

So even as you vote again tonight on a matter of great interest to Mr. Hollo, the public is still in the dark and still DOESN'T know who may've contacted you or your Board/Commission colleagues or members of the city's staff about this matter.
What kind of way is that to run a city?

Why is the city's Lobbyist list formatted without subject headers, thus, one name can be repeated three times on the same line, signifying what exactly?

What is the purpose of Hallandale Beach taxpayers paying for IT improvements that "will increase the City's Internet capacity by 600%
if the city's management and line employees consistently can NOT or WILL NOT follow it's own rules, State laws and fulfill the community's basic expectations?

Until the city's Visitor list is made 100% accurate, say by 10 a.m. the day of a publicly-scheduled meeting, I strongly suggest that you make a motion to have every single person speaking for or representing a company with business before the HB City Commission, HB CRA Board or the HB Planning & Zoning Advisory Board, be required to publicly disclose just whom they have spoken with in person or contacted via email or telephone, BEFORE they can give any public testimony, present evidence, drawings, plans or renderings, or, speak with respect to the subject at hand.

Until the public of this community can actually have faith that the city government is committed to fulfilling both the spirit and letter of the law with respect to the state's Sunshine Laws, as well as being in compliance with the city's own laws, this action I'm suggesting seems like the very least we should all be able to expect.

-------
Under this email I had a copy of my email to the City of Hallandale Beach about their past recent failure

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Whitfield, Lynn 
Date: Thu, Feb 28, 2013 at 2:29 PM
Subject: Re: Follow-up to your email response of yesterday re my email re City of HB's failure with respect to required public disclosure records and public notices
To: "DBS" 
Cc: "Miller C., Renee"  "Scott, John W.", "Donnelly, Timothy" , Attorney General Pam Bondi  Information Technology, "Torres, Liza" "Lazarow, Michele";


Mr. Smith;
I agree that there is no need for us to go back and forth; but since your e-mail appears to address some CRA matters; I would just remind you that the CRA is a different entity from the city and is responsible for advertising it's own meetings and has It's own website and attorney. As for your question about who is responsible for the other matters, that would be better answered by CM office since they would be employees of her office and not the City Atty's.

Sent from my iPhone

On Feb 28, 2013, at 2:11 PM, "DBS" wrote:

> Follow-up to your email response of yesterday, at bottom
>
> February 28, 2013
>
> Dear Ms. Whitfield:
>
> I am in receipt of your email response to my email of yesterday, February
> 27, 2013.
>
> While I certainly appreciate your quick response, unfortunately, your email
> neglected to mention just who those parties are at Hallandale Beach City
> Hall that have been irresponsible and/or negligent in ensuring that citizens
> of this city have full-access to public information that is legally required to
> be both recorded accurately and publicly posted.
>
> While Mark A. Antonio was the City Manager of Hallandale Beach the last
> time any public information seemed to be current on those two separate
> databases as they appeared on the city's website, March 16, 2012, it's
> also true that he did not leave the city's employment until late June, more
> than three months later, so he clearly bears a large share of the responsibility
> himself.
>
> That is, if the buck truly stopped at his desk, as he publicly claimed so often
> that it did, evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.
>
> I look forward to hearing publicly at the March 6th HB City Commission meeting
> just what precisely the city plans on doing now to make sure that the required
> public disclosure information is accurately updated and publicly displayed,
> and what sort of remediation steps it has in mind to ensure that this sort
> of egregious double-failure of the public does NOT happen again.
>
> Hallandale Beach taxpayers, residents and small business owners should
> NOT be forced to accept a lesser-standard than other Florida communities
> merely because of lack of effort, resolve or integrity by individual city employees.
> There needs to be a genuine dollar's worth of effort and service expended
> for every tax dollar received in a paycheck.
>
> Frankly, many more HB citizens than you think do NOT see the sort of earnest
> and conscientious attitude displayed by city employees as they drive around
> town.
> The sort they reasonably believe they're entitled to in a city where the city's
> budget has nearly doubled in the past eight years, with little tangible to show
> for it.
>
> Ms. Whitfield, I can assure you that after personally witnessing and/or
> experiencing first-hand other episodes like this over the past few years
> involving public access to public meetings and or to information -and of
> being physically prevented for 15-20 minutes by city employees from
> attending a publicly-noticed meeting on the 2nd floor of City Hall
> dealing with the city's bidding process, and once I was able to
> get up there, the meeting was mysteriously postponed once I,
> the only citizen present, arrived; City Manager Antonio refused
> to say why it was postponed once I arrived and rushed to get away
> and into his office- the days of HB residents being forced to meekly
> accept unsatisfactory job performances by city employees as normal,
> is over.
>
> That is especially the case with city employees who have a responsibility
> for ensuring that legally-required public information is properly disclosed
> as accurately and quickly as possible.
>
> Personally, I think it would be entirely appropriate for the city to say on the
> city's website just who the parties are that are accountable for what is written
> on the website, perhaps with initials at the bottom, so that there is no confusion,
> since the people who are actually responsible for things in this city are not
> always the ones held accountable.
> That needs to change right now.
>
> I draw your attention to the attached photo that I took at 3:22 p.m. on January
> 3rd of a posted public notice on the City Hall bulletin board re the city's annual
> Quadrant meetings.
> I originally took it as a reminder so that I'd know the dates and could write
> them down once I got back home, as I did another posted notice.
>
> For my purposes today, though, Ms. Whitfield, I believe this photo also amply
> demonstrates quite clearly that I was, in fact, exactly where I wrote I was
> yesterday, when I looked at the city's bulletin board for any notice about the
> HB CRA Advisory Board meeting starting a few minutes later, which I attended,
> being one of the three citizens present.
>
> There was no notice posted there, just as there was nothing on the
> city's website.
>
> If there had been, there would be no logical reason for me saying so publicly
> at the meeting once I arrived upstairs, nor in my email to you yesterday,
> since it could be so easily disproved.
>
> As it happens, on the afternoon of January 3rd, I was actually with someone
> who saw the same thing I did -or rather didn't see- who was also attending
> the meeting, and they were surprised to see nothing posted, too.
>
> I mention this because this morning I've received an email from City Clerk
> Sheena James claiming that there was, in fact, a public notice and a listing
> on the city's website re that CRA Advisory Board meeting.
> Ms. James is incorrect.
>
> In fact, I specifically called the City Clerk's office that morning when I saw
> that there was still no mention of the meeting on the city website's calendar,
> as this excerpt from a January 3rd email I sent out at 11 a.m. to many HB
> residents and other interested parties makes rather clear.
>
> Again, if the info had been on the website, why would I call?
> Answer: I wouldn't.
>
> Thursday 11:00 a.m.
>
> Per the continuing Hallandale Beach CRA scandal that led to its Director
> being fired three weeks ago, within the hour I've found out after calling the
> HB City Clerk's office that the required CRA Advisory Board mtg is TODAY
> in Room 257 at 3:30 p.m.!
> No, not next week as you'd expect in a normal city.
> I only found out because I called them!
>
> Three weeks since today's meeting was mandated by HB City Comm. vote in
> mid-December, via a common sense motion to defer final vote on dispersal of
> funds until January 14th by Comm. Michele Lazarow, to verify accuracy and
> legality of documents, info re today's meeting was STILL NOT posted on the
> city's website as of 10 a.m. today.
> Really.
>
> Stupid me, I naturally assumed the city would hold it in a non-holiday week
> -like next week, when more people are actually here.
>
> Again, Ms. Whitfield, the facts are exactly as I described them yesterday.
> As far as I'm concerned, there's no need for any more emails back and forth
> about this matter, since the concerned citizens of this community will wait
> to hear what is said and done next week at the City Commission meeting.
>
> DBS, Nine-year Hallandale Beach resident
>
> -----
>
> On Wed, Feb 27, 2013 at 3:32 PM, Whitfield, Lynn wrote:
> Good Afternoon Mr. Smith
> Thank you for your e-mail.  In that the City Attorney’s office neither monitors the website or the lobbyist registration log, your inquiry has been forwarded to the appropriate departments for handling.   As you saw, this office has undertaken an ethics training program not only for the Planning and Zoning Board but for all appointed boards and committees of the City.  This office will continue to work to ensure that ethics training is provided to all City Boards and Committees under the Florida Statutes and the Broward County Ethics Code.
> Again thank you for bringing  this issue to the City’s attention.
>
> V. Lynn Whitfield
> City Attorney
>
> From: DBS
> Sent: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 2:58 PM
> To: Whitfield, Lynn
> Cc: Miller C., Renee; Information Technology; James, Sheena; Lazarow, Michele; Scott, John W.; Donnelly, Timothy; Attorney General Pam Bondi
Subject: Since you were talking about ethics, lobbying and conflicts of interest today at the HB Planning & Zoning Advisory Board, how do YOU explain this situation in Hallandale Beach?
>
> February 27, 2013
>
> Dear Ms. Whitfield:
>
> Since in your role as HB City Attorney you were talking this afternoon about
> ethics, lobbying and conflicts of interest at the HB Planning & Zoning Advisory
> Board, how do YOU explain this current completely unacceptable situation in
> Hallandale Beach?
>
> The city's "Current List of Registered Lobbyists" is almost 50 weeks old,
> and has not been updated since March 16th of LAST YEAR, which is to say,
> many months prior to the very controversial Beachwalk tower development
> project was voted upon and approved by the City Commission in August.
>
> That's over four months of residents NOT being in an accurate position to
> WHO was actually considered a lobbyist playing their trade at City Hall on
> that specific project -or any other lobbying effort the past 11 months.
http://www.cohb.org/files/Lobbyist%20Registration%20List_CURRENT_3_16_12.pdf
>
> Tell me, does roughly 50-week old information sound like the City of Hallandale
> Beach and its elected leaders and staff is following the letter and spirit of
> the law to you, Ms. Whitfield?
> It doesn't to me and many people I know and respect in this city.
>
> All of that is made worse by the fact that the Lobbyist/Visitor contact list
> on the city's website
http://www.cohb.org/index.aspx?NID=835 that is supposed to give
> Hallandale Beach citizens a reasonable degree of transparency regarding
> whom is visiting whom at City Hall, does NOT currently work.
> How many months exactly has the information not
> been there as legally required?
>
>
> Elected Official Requirements
>
> Section 3(c), to further promote full and complete transparency, Elected Officials must disclose any and all lobbying activity that knowingly occurs between themselves and individual lobbyits or their rprincipals or employers outside their governments offices/premises.  This shall include communicating by any form of telephonic or electronic media.
>
> 1.     The disclosure shall include the lobbyist's name; the name of the entity by which the lobbyist is employed; the name of the person or entity for whom or which he or she is lobbying; the date, time and location of the meeting; and the specific purpose and subject matter of the meeting.
> 2.     The disclosure shall be made within ten (10) business days of the lobbying activity, but must, in any event, be made prior to
> any vote on a matter that was the subject of the lobbying activity.
> 3.     The dislclosue shall be filed for public inspection.
>
>
> Instead, when you go to http://www.cohb.org/DocumentCenter/View/2253
> you get:
>
> We're sorry, but there is not a web page matching your entry.
>
>
> Click here to go to the home page
>
> It is possible that you typed the address incorrectly, or that the page no longer exists.
>
>
> How many MONTHS has this been the case?
> I can tell you with certainty that it has been at least several months, but it
> could even be MUCH longer further back than that.
>
> Ms. Whitfield, does that sound anything at all like a city that is actively trying
> to do what is both legally required and what is in the best interests of its
> citizens to you? It doesn't to me.
> Not by a long shot.
>
> The three key transparency tools that the public counts on to be able to
> have any degree of trust in the city, ones that are mandated by law and
> public policy, and yet all three are effectively broken in this city where
> citizens have constantly taken it on the chin in the past when trying to
> simply get what they are legally entitled to: access to relevant
> public information in a timely fashion.
>
> It looks to me like you and others at City Hall have a LOT more work ahead
> of you if your words are to have any meaning, and the law is to actually
> be followed here.
>
> By the way, why does the City of Hallandale Beach run a political advocacy
> advertisement for the Florida League of Cities on its webcast?
> I saw one before this afternoon's P&Z meeting began.
>
> There was very little that was "educational" about that anti-Florida legislature
> ad and I wonder what possible justification there is for its inclusion on what is,
> in fact, a taxpayer-owned resource.

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