What follows are selected excerpts from my written comments to the 2014 meeting last Thursday of the Oversight Committee for the Office of Broward Inspector General, via the group's liaison, Kevin Kelleher.
I will have more excerpts posted soon, as I had two other short pages full of facts and anecdotes that I want to share with you that I felt the Oversight Committe really ought to know about before Broward General John. W. Scott spoke and answered their questions, since he would NOT answer the questions about his Office's performance and resolve to improve when they were sent to him directly.
Recent useful predicates for understanding this matter are, in reverse chron order:
#Ethics still matter to some of us in #Broward; re upcoming Dec. 4th meeting of the Oversight Committee of @BrowardIG http://t.co/Rj4bHWil0G
— HallandaleBeachBlog (@hbbtruth) November 17, 2014
#Ethics #SoFL - Updated news/observations re Dec. 4th meeting of the Oversight Committee for Office of the @BrowardIG http://t.co/qxZz7nUpO0
— HallandaleBeachBlog (@hbbtruth) November 29, 2014
December 4, 2014
Dear Mr. Kelleher:
I'm writing to you today in your capacity as liaison to the Oversight Committee for the Office of Broward Inspector General.
Since I will be unable to appear in-person at this afternoon's meeting, I am sending my comments to you via email, with this being the first of three emails documenting my concerns.
I want to make sure that my voice, as well as the voices of other concerned residents of Broward County, have the opportunity to continue to push-back and call-out the stealthy, frequently anti-democratic and very antagonistic actions taken by so many elected public officials, who for some reason persist in thinking that they are beyond the reach of both the law and society's norms.
At last year's annual meeting of the Broward IG Oversight Committee, I spoke in some detail about some of the matters that I was most concerned with involving the evolving structure, operations and public outreach responsibilities of the Broward IG's office. I noted specific areas that I believed the office was deficient in and called for much-needed improvement in those areas IF it wanted to truly satisfy Broward County's much-beleaguered citizenry's very strong interest in seeing unethical behavior investigated, pulled-out by the roots and fully-prosecuted.
I said that in my opinion, IF the Broward IG's Office wanted to continue to maintain the public's trust, the area that most-needed tangible improvement was the allocation of adequate resources and personnel to public outreach in cities that were being formally investigated, so that the public would know with certainty just what WAS and was NOT being investigated, and how the public could best assist the office with respect to perhaps gathering additional relevant facts and evidence, to say nothing of context.
The latter was something that, to my astonishment, was NEVER done in Hallandale Beach in 2012 and 2013 when the Broward IG was investigating the longstanding Hallandale Beach CRA scandal involving tens of millions of dollars, since in my opinion, it would have produced a LOT more useful information and context for the IG's Office to peruse and consider.
In my opinion, they barely saw the the tip of the iceberg.
As someone who was frequently the only member of the public attending those early morning meetings years ago of the appointed Broward County Ethics Committee, someone who actually videotaped many of them so that I could later describe in accurate detail what had transpired in those meetings, esp. with respect to which appointed member was consistently voting FOR meaningful ethical standards and thresholds and which appointed members had consistently tried to obfuscate, misdirect or otherwise water-down any serious effort to hold people with power, influence and opportunity to account, I take what happens with the Office of Broward IG very seriously.
I don't think I or others need to apologize for wanting to make sure that the will and best interests of the Broward citizenry is represented as often as possible, NOT pushed to the side of the road by self-interested politicans, government employees and outside groups, esp. ones with zero public oversight like the Broward League of Cities, a group that STILL clearly wants its member cities and officials to have as low a threshold as possible, to meet and carve-out exceptions to common sense -as if common sense was something that we'd been enjoying too much of over the years, instead of its opposite.
Obviously, many of these individuals and groups would very much like to keep their perks and the trappings of the pay-to-play culture that had long flourished in Broward, and want to un-do the very small, positive things that have FINALLY taken place.
Sorry, that ship has sailed!
Despite my fact-filled warnings and anecdotes last year to the IG Oversight Committe and the public attending that meeting about the reality on-the-ground at Hallandale Beach City Hall, that same corrosive attitude and anti-citizen culture I described then persists from top-to-bottom at HB City Hall.
As my other emails today make clear, there has been no let-up by Mayor Joy Cooper and City Manager Renee Miller since either the April 2013 issuance of the IG's damning report on the Hallandale Beach CRA scandal that involved tens of millions of dollars, or, even since Mr. Scott and the Chief Counsel's own descriptions last year of the sorts of foolish and entirely self-serving gambits and attempts at misrepresentations engaged in by those women and the city.
Right down to Mayor Cooper intentionally sending her inaccurate letter and account of the facts to everyone scheduled to attend last year's IG Oversight Comm. meeting
That is, everyone BUT the IG's Office itself.
Yes, it was hard not to see that desperate and pathetic effort for precisely what it was. A shameful effort to obfuscate and blame others for their own unethical behavior and lack of proper governance, due diligence and meaningful oversight for SO MANY YEARS, which is just how I described it last year since that's precisely how the majority of Hallandale Beach's best-informed residents and Small Business owners see it
Despite his office having my contact information from my previous email over the years, after my testimony before you last year, here's the totality of what I heard back from Mr. Scott and his staff: NOTHING.
Nothing at all.
Not one phone call and not one email about about any of the useful suggestions that the Committee, any member of the public who testified, or that I made myself to tangibly improve the Office and the public's support of it.
It's important that members of the Oversight Committee fully understand one thing.
As someone who has followed this ethics and enforcement issue closely from the beginning, more than 99% of the county's populace, I strongly support a pro-active person in a leadership position at the Broward IG Office.
I am NOT wedded at all to the idea that Mr. Scott gets to keep that position indefinitely if he continues to ignore the advice and counsel that the Committee and the public gives, but which he and his staff seem to have no intention of taking and implementing.
Frankly, I'm sorry that I can't be there in-person to say that in front of Mr. Scott so that he can know how thin the ice is that he is on these days as far as I and many other civic activists are concerned.
If he is to succeeed, he has to be MUCH MORE accountable to the public and get outside of his current comfort zone.
I mean at what point do you insist that someone who is stubbornly refusing to adapt and evolve to the circumstances -and engaging in what is, ultimately, self-defeating behavior- that they have had their
opportunity and that the time is right to make a change?
And it's not like I'm the only one who thinks this, even if I'm the only one willing to say it publicly today.
There are many hundreds of concerned people throughout Broward County and up in Tallahassee who know how important establishing this IG Office is in the larger scheme of things.
People who know that it's very important thet the Office succeeed, and yet because of what I have learned and experienced first-hand -and shared with them- they wonder what's really going on, too.
Why so little apparent effort to improve and make things better?
The residents of this county need the office, we do not need necessarily the person in office now.
I should also mention that in the view of many people, including myself, having the office physically located where it is, in Tamarac, does NOT properly serve the long-term interests of the public, since it is not convenient to either Downtown, 1-95 or Tri-Rail. It's almost as if they are a collection of old historical parade floats being stored in a warehouse, and are wheeled out once a year -like today.
I'd be remisss if I didn't close by again emphasizing the importance of the Committee strongly urging the the Broward IG's Office to wake-up and smell the coffee about their current failed communication outreach to the public, whose support it so desperately needs.
It continues to be so inadequate to the current task and when you combine their elementary and unsatisfactory current use of Social Media, it almost makes the whole enterprise comical.
But nobody's laughing, certainly not me or other concerned Broward residents who see how for themselves everyday how much current ethics laws need to be strengthened, NOT weakened.
DBS, 11-year Hallandale Beach resident
Below are just three recent examples of many dozens that I could choose from throughout the area that amply demonstrate that things have NOT changed for the better regarding elected officials adhering to the spirit and letter of the ethics law throughout Broward County since last year's Oversight Comm. meeting, which I attended and spoke at.
Whether it's the matter of lobbyists who are elected officials lobbying other city's elected officials, complete compliance with the ethics rules, or simply elected officials actually paying attention to what the Broward IG says and does, these are some rather self-evident examples that MUCH MORE work needs to be done in changing the pay-to-play, "special rules for special people" political culture of Broward County, via City of Hallandale Beach Mayor Joy Cooper, City of Coconut Creek Commissioner Lisa Aronson and FL State Rep. Shevrin Jones.
The latter represents the part of Hallandale Beach that was the epicenter of the longstanding HB CRA scandal, and admits that he was NOT paying any attention to it at all, despite the millions of dollars involved and the years of wasted opportunities it represents.
That certainly explains a lot of what we see with our own eyes:
---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, Apr 30, 2014 at 12:17 PM
Subject: Hallandale Beach Mayor's latest example of revisionist history, re Broward IG; I'll be writing something about this on blog over weekend and will be highlighting her self-evident lies and mis-truths
Hear the latest from the woman who told the Broward IG's office that the campaign aide of hers that filmed her appearance and testimony at their office was actually an attorney.
But wasn't, of course, as we heard from the IG himself at last November's annual IG Oversight meeting in FTL that I attended and testified at.
The very meeting where Cooper's name was mentioned more frequently by the IG and the Oversight Board than any other individual's, and NOT in a positive way.
Joy Cooper just can't help lying, even about small things.
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
OIG's recommendations should be opposed
Joy Cooper , mayor, Hallandale Beach
April 27, 2014
Last week the a task force meeting was held to review the OIGs recommendation to establish yet another new position of ethics czar and establish a Broward Commission on Ethics to centralize ethics opinions.
I have written before about my objections to the OIG recommendations. It is akin to having the jury, judge and executioner in one position. Currently there is a state Commission on Ethics paid for by our tax dollars. There are also State Attorney's offices around the state to prosecute violators.
Having gone through an investigation that was prompted by a former commissioner and candidate, I understand how centralized power and the current system can be utilized for political reasons. To create another layer of government that would duplicate the work of the county attorney, every city attorney and state Ethics Commission and State Attorney's would be an ineffective use of our taxpayer dollars.
A vote was taken by the taskforce to support the OIG's recommendation with a 3-2 vote. The separation of the two offices was included. The problem is this action nor the creation of yet another layer of government does not address the root problems that prompted the OIG's report; a poorly written ordnance.
Rather than wasting more taxpayer dollars over and above the $3 million-plus for the OIG's office, the ordinance needs to be amended. With or without the establishment of the czar and commission, the County Commission needs to clarify the poorly written sections of the ordinance that were mentioned in the OIGs report.
Every elected official should have the ability to due process. The current ordinance provides a safe harbor clause that provides there is a fair and equitable process for all elected officials. The County Commission should work with all the stakeholders to amend the ordinance before spending another tax dollar.
Joy Cooper, mayor, Hallandale Beach
Attacks Begin in County Commission
By Buddy Nevins
April 18, 2014
The gloves are off in the five-candidate race for an open County Commissionseat in North Broward.
In what is the first attack in the campaign, former Commissioner *CharlotteRodstrom* of Fort Lauderdale branded Mayor *Lisa Aronson* of Coconut Creekan enemy of ethics reform.
Aronson and Rodstrom are both vying for the seat now held by long-timeCommissioner *Kristin Jacobs*, who is term limited after 2014 election.There are three other candidates.Read the rest of the article at:
excerpt from my email of Tue, Mar 18, 2014 at 3:04 PM, titled, More proof -as if needed- that Broward's state legislators AREN'T paying attention -State Rep. from area where most of wasted HB CRA millions were mis-spent, now publicly claims to know nothing about the issue, or the efforts to get a JLAC audit.
My comments are below the email I received this afternoon.
---------- Forwarded message ----------
@Buddynevins But @ShevrinJones still WON'T publicly comment in #HallandaleBeach re his failure to push JLAC audit of HB CRA -wasted MILLION$
— HallandaleBeachBlog (@hbbtruth) March 18, 2014
@Buddynevins FL leg. session ends w/@ShevrinJones & staff still clueless abt Sobel & Braynon short-circuiting audit of HallandaleBeach CRA
— HallandaleBeachBlog (@hbbtruth) May 2, 2014
@hbbtruth Unfortunately, I don't sit on an audit committee for CRA's. Also, I am not familiar with the issue. @Buddynevins
— Shevrin Jones (@ShevrinJones) May 2, 2014
So, given how open Shevrin Jones is about now acknowledging NOT knowing anything about this important issue of longstanding public interest and controversy in Hallandale Beach, and within the district he represents, do you want to bet that he also never got around to reading the Broward Inspector General's damning report from last April either, re the lack of official oversight by Mayor/Chair Joy Cooper and the HB City Comm./CRA Board?
The Broward Inspector General’s final report that labeled as “gross mismanagement” the way millions in tax dollars by Hallandale Beach were mis-spent and the lack of attention to detail and lack of common sense oversight by Mayor Cooper and her Rubber Stamp Crew.
The detailed report that said that Cooper & Company have shown a “basic misunderstanding” of what’s gone wrong."
Yes, the IG final report that never appeared on the city's website, along with the city's own response because Mayor Cooper wants to keep everything about that matter on the down low?
Guess Rep. Jones also never heard about the collective attempts of myself and so many others for months to get that much-needed independent JLAC audit to find out where the millions really went, and why none of the many elected officials and highly-paid city officials at Hallandale Beach City Hall who were/are directly responsible for the ingrained and palpable culture of perennially looking the other way, obstinate stealthiness and craven crony capitalism, were ever properly punished.
Given that, I guess Rep. Jones still doesn't know what we do,
That many of the people who are most personally responsible for that scandal -the wasted million$ and lost opportunities to really put a dent in the self-evident problems- are STILL drawing paychecks from Hallandale Beach taxpayers.