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.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Robert Wechsler analyzes it @CityEthics and I can confirm it: Despite best efforts of Broward Inspector General, the state of ethics in Broward County, FL at municipal level is poor and getting worse with "friends" like the Broward League of Cities, fresh from their trying to create loopholes in Broward's hard-won, voter-approved ethics laws, and now looking for a paid spokesmodel to peddle their anti-taxpayer nonsense that's paid for in large part BY Broward's taxpayers; Hallandale Beach City Hall continues to be one of the true ethics hotspots in Florida, given the unwillingness of its elected officials & high-paid staff to follow state & federal laws, esp. those re transparency & participation

Above, Broward Inspector General John W. Scott at a Broward League of Women Voters event in Coconut Creek, FL on January 24, 2013. photo by South Beach Hoosier.© 2013 Hallandale Beach Blog, All Rights Reserved. From my May 31, 2013 blog post at
http://hallandalebeachblog.blogspot.com/2013/05/given-longstanding-mismanagement-and.html

Robert Wechsler analyzes it @CityEthics and I can confirm it: Despite best efforts of Broward Inspector General, the state of ethics in Broward County, FL at municipal level is poor and getting worse with "friends" like the Broward League of Cities, fresh from their trying to create loopholes in Broward's hard-won, voter-approved ethics laws, and now looking for a paid spokesmodel to peddle their anti-taxpayer nonsense that's paid for in large part BY Broward's taxpayers; Hallandale Beach City Hall continues to be one of the true ethics hotspots in Florida, given the unwillingness of its elected officials & high-paid staff to follow state & federal laws, esp. those re transparency & participation

South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Editorial
Next step for ethics reform in Broward
January 30, 2014

The Broward Office of the Inspector General needs help. So do local politicians who want to attend community events while staying on the right side of the county's ethics code.


Inspector General John Scott is calling for the addition of an ethics official or commission to ensure government leaders get consistent advice about accepting gifts or trips -- and an impartial review when rules might have been violated. 


Scott is working on such a proposal for the November ballot. 


And he is on the right track. 


Already, some politicians are objecting, decrying another level of bureaucracy. Some fear an independent body might call out those who are simply trying to do the public's business. 


They should look to history and remember how we got to where we are today. 


Two years ago, voters demanded a new ethics code after watching far too many elected officials hauled off in handcuffs, charged with bribery and public corruption. The headlines continue even today, as readers of the Sun Sentinel well know. 


To enforce the ethics code, commissioners tasked the inspector general's office with investigating and prosecuting potential violations. However, since the referendum's passage, Scott and his staff have discovered problems that need addressing. 


For example, for advice on accepting a gift or free trip, local officials now mostly turn to their city or county attorneys. The result is a plethora of local opinions about what politicians can accept as a freebie. In the past two years, some 900 legal advisories have been served up countywide, the inspector general's office reports. 


These advisories can put government attorneys in the awkward position of having to tell their bosses bad news about taking free stuff -- or how to find a way around the law's intent. They also provide cover to politicians who may be seeking personal gain. 


After recently reviewing legal opinions from Weston to Sunrise to Fort Lauderdale, Sun Sentinel reporter Brittany Wallman found politicians are accepting questionable gifts and perks. 


In Miramar, for example, city attorney Jamie Cole told Commissioner Winston Barnes he couldn't accept 10 free tickets to the circus last year, but suggested the circus could provide "promotional" tickets to the city that could then be given to Barnes guilt-free. 


City attorneys similarly told the mayors of Miramar and Hallandale Beach they could accept free trips to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, though it's hard to see the public benefit there. 


Hallandale city attorney V. Lynn Whitfield told Mayor Joy Cooper the trip was allowed if it somehow promoted "the exchange of ideas between, or the professional development of, governmental officials or employees." She even said Cooper could bring along her husband, all expenses paid, so long as she reported it as a gift. Cooper went, but did not take her husband along. 


The vast majority of local politicians work to do the right thing, no question. But a recent report shows public corruption in Florida continues to rank among the worst in the nation. Between 1998 and 2007, 824 Florida officials were convicted on public corruption charges at the local, state and federal level. The New York Times says the totals may be worse than in any other state. 


Ironically, in the face of this news, Florida lawmakers are considering a proposal to loosen the ethics reins. Legislation filed this month by Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, would strip many gift-reporting requirements for public officials and officially protect them if they have a legal advisory in hand. 


Meanwhile in Broward, the person responsible for investigating ethics complaints says that to improve the process, the system needs to be tweaked. We encourage county commissioners and the Broward League of Cities to embrace his goal and ensure that public officials countywide play by the same rules and definitions. 


Given our history with public corruption, it's time we got this right. 

http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2014-01-29/news/fl-editorial-broward-ethics-code-fix-dv-2-20140129_1_ethics-code-ethics-reform-inspector-general-john-scott

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South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Broward needs an ethics czar, inspector general says 2014 could bring next phase of reform, but it's sure to spark controversy with city officials 
By Brittany Wallman, Sun Sentinel
January 5, 2014
http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2014-01-05/news/fl-ethics-code-changes-20140105_1_ethics-czar-city-attorneys-inspector-general

South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Inspector: Ethics system flawed
Brittany Wallman , Staff writer 
February 1, 2014
When it comes to public ethics, nobody does it like Broward County. And that's not a good thing, the county's top corruption cop says.
http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2014-01-31/news/fl-broward-ethics-reform-20140131_1_ethics-code-broward-league-corruption-cop

Keep in mind as you digest the thoughts expressed above that this outrage comes from the same Tribune Company-owned newspaper editorial board that has refused to post a single editorial in over two years on the Hallandale Beach CRA scandal that has cost tens of millions of dollars with very little tangible to show for it.
Yes, people do notice those things.
People like me.

Which is why I made a point of not only attending the Broward IG's oversight meeting on November 8th in downtown Ft. Lauderdale but actually spoke there, one of the few citizens to do so in a meeting where the public comments were largely from municipal officials who were trying desperately to plead for the right to keep their parochial self-serving way of doing things, rather than having one firm set of ethical rules covering all officials.


And did you notice that the Sun-Sentinel editorial didn't name the attorneys for the Broward League of Cities who are trying to dig holes and loopholes for its members, even though they know full-well who it is? 

Why do you suppose that is?
(Sam Goren, the attorney who wears multiple hats in this county, just like Steve Geller did.)

Yes, because they also love to quote him on other matters and don't want to "out" one of their reliable Usual Suspects who will talk on any subject, no matter how poorly-informed he is, because he knows the paper will never mention his egregious conflicts-of-interest.

The following links from Robert Wechsler are placed here in reverse chron order:

City Ethics blog 

Florida League of Cities' Ethics Reform Proposals I - Preventing the Filing of Complaints
by Robert Wechsler
http://www.cityethics.org/content/florida-league-cities-ethics-reform-proposals-i-preventing-filing-complaints



City Ethics blog 

Florida League of Cities' Ethics Reform Proposals II - Gifts, Ethics Advice, and Training
by Robert Wechsler




City Ethics blog 

Florida League of Cities' Ethics Reform Proposals III - Placing Shackles on Countywide Ethics Programs
by Robert Wechsler
http://www.cityethics.org/content/florida-league-cities-ethics-reform-proposals-iii-placing-shackles-countywide-ethics-program



City Ethics blog 

FL League of Cities' Ethics Proposals IV - Local Govt. Assocs. Should Not Lobby re Conflicts of Interest
by Robert Wechsler
http://www.cityethics.org/content/fl-league-cities-ethics-proposals-iv-local-govt-assocs-should-not-lobby-re-conflicts-interes



City Ethics blog

Good News from Florida Legislative Leaders
by Robert Wechsler
http://www.cityethics.org/content/good-news-florida-legislative-leaders

City Ethics blog

A Government Attorney Ethics Advice Case Study from Florida
by Robert Wechsler
http://www.cityethics.org/content/government-attorney-ethics-advice-case-study-florida


Broward Beat
Update: Ethics Police Won’t Punish Sheriff Israel 
By Buddy Nevins
January 30, 2014
http://www.browardbeat.com/ethics-commission-wont-punish-sheriff-israel/

City Ethics blog

Broward County IG Report on Countywide Ethics Program
by Robert Wechsler
http://www.cityethics.org/content/broward-county-ig-report-countywide-ethics-program




*By the way, the Broward League of Cities is now looking for spokesmodel to peddle their anti-taxpayer nonsense that's paid for BY taxpayers -here's the RFP
http://www.browardleague.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/2014-Marketing-and-Public-Relations-Consulting-Services-RFP.pdf

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South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Inspector general has cases cooking 
By Brittany Wallman 4:23 p.m. EDT, 
October 31, 2013
http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/broward/broward-politics-blog/sfl-inspector-general-tallies-a-year-of-work-20131031,0,5917466.story 


South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Corruption watchdog gets positive review 

By Brittany Wallman

November 9, 2013 

http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2013-11-08/news/fl-broward-inspector-general-eval-20131108_1_inspector-general-corruption-watchdog-public-officials


South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Inspector general's Hallandale probe painful
By Brittany Wallman
November 11, 2013
http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2013-11-11/news/sfl-inspector-generals-hallandale-probe-painful-20131111_1_inspector-general-john-scott-hallandale-beach-city-officials

Not mentioned in the Broward IG article above about Hallandale Beach is the testimony that came out of the Broward IG Oversight Committee meeting I was at that caused nearly everyone in the room to start laughing out loud, and even hoot.
That is, everyone but Hallandale Beach CRA Attorney Stephen W. Zelkowitz and CRA Director Daniel Rosemond.
It was all I could do to not record myself laughing on my videocamera!

It turns out that someone accompanied Hallandale Beach Mayor Joy Cooper to her meeting with the Broward IG's office.
Like all people who had to speak to them, Mayor cooper was allowed to bring someone with her if she chose, but when asked who the person with her was, she told them that it was here attorney when it was NOT.
The truth came out in a way that really hammered home Mayor Cooper's well-known mendacity -the person that the mayor had claimed was her attorney was actually one of her mayoral campaign workers, who taped her comments.


It's not mentioned in the Broward Politics blog tweets below or the articles but as many of you may recall from my emails in November, I specifically recommended that either the Broward IG Oversight Comm. or the Broward County Commission formally require that in the future, when the IG's office is formally investigating a specific Broward city or a CRA, that they be required to have at least one public forum for the affected community to attend and get the basic info on what is -and is NOT- happening, and what the process consists of so that everyone is on the same page.

A public meeting that is NOT for city employees, administrators or elected officials to show-up at and complain about being picked on, blamed, or made the scapegoat for others, etc.
Anyone drawing a govt. paycheck there whom the IG Office wants to interview under oath should NOT have a chance to poison the public well before they know what the process is.

I mentioned publicly during my testimony that despite how much I've written about this subject and what I've sent to most of you in emails with links to that's appeared elsewhere, esp. in the Broward Bulldog, that I was forever running into people all over the area who asked me what was the latest news with  the investigation, despite the fact that their Final Report came out in April.

I usually just shake my head after I tell them what's what and after they've told me, as they often do, that they're "surprised that Mayor Cooper hasn't been arrested yet."

I didn't see the reporting via tweets below until after I'd sent an email out about what happened.
Once I read it, I realized that my intuition was correct about who some of the people were on the other side of the room who didn't speak and whom I didn't recognize.





































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