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My name is David Arthur Walters. I am an independent journalist.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Commissioner Wolfson alleged "Go f*** yourself" answer



Gonzalez under attack at 2012 Breakfast Meeting


August 15, 2013

Joe Centorino, Director
MIAMI DADE COUNTY COMMISSION ON ETHICS AND PUBLIC TRUST

Re: Commissioner Jonah Wolfson said “Go f*** yourself.”

Dear Sir:

I understand that the Florida Bar has someone who goes through legitimate newspapers for stories indicating that one of its members is violating its rules, and, when there is reasonable suspicion of misconduct based on the account, initiates an inquiry. The public is also relied on to bring news accounts of possible misconduct to the Bar’s attention.

Perhaps the COE has someone examining bona fide press accounts for indications that a public official might be exploiting his office for his personal gain or the gain of someone else. If not, maybe a member of the public has already directed your attention to the August 6-14, 2013, Miami New Times article by Francisco Alvarado entitled ‘Hustle & Tow.’

The report has Commission Jonah Wolfson, Florida Bar member 498130, championing a rate increase for towing companies, and asserts that Beach Towing contributed $2,500 to his wife’s successful bid for “county circuit judge,” while Tremont Towing and 35 companies, having the same address as Russell Galbut’s company, Crescent Heights, contributed $17,500 to that campaign.

Wolfson, when asked for his explanation for the sake of journalistic balance, allegedly responded “Go f*** yourself.”

I do not know if our local Village Voice publication is considered to be a legitimate paper. I suppose the Miami New Times checked the facts behind the story prior to publishing it. And I am unclear as to what the exploitation of public office for personal gain means after reading several Ethics Commission decisions, especially when the persons investigated happen to be lawyers. However, this news account might be something for your commission to inquire into if your investigators are not already on it.

I can say that “Go f*** yourself”rang a bell when I read it, as that has been pretty much the attitude of many members of the City of Miami Beach regime when inquiries into their conduct are made by members of the public and its bona fide press.

Furthermore, the New Times allegation that the city commission got rid of former City Manager Jorge Gonzalez because he opposed the rate hikes makes sense now. I recall, when I attended a meeting where the so-called opposition led by Wolfson and retired lawyer Frank Del Vecchio, that Mayor Bower pointed out to me how Wolfson was scurrying around the room currying favor. Despite her cynicism, my report filed thereafter depicted Wolfson as a populist hero. Actually, he has not responded to a single one of my concerns over the last few years, so I do not know how popular he really is.

I was no friend of Jorge Gonzalez. I objected to what I perceived as his arrogance and lack of oversight of department heads. However, when he responded to the public clamor and proceeded to conduct investigations and make recommendations, I felt he should be kept on board for at least a year given his knowledge of the city. Still, the call for immediate crucifixion resulted in his immediate forced resignation, with a handsome payoff to go quietly into the unemployment line. Perhaps he will not be so quiet, and tell all in a book that may outsell J.P. Morgan’s Sins of South Beach.

It occurred to me that Jorge Gonzalez was not the all-powerful City Boss I thought he was. There was obviously a Ring behind the throne pulling his strings. When I observed that the so-called Opposition was not really an Opposition, and recalled how the Opposition had at least tolerated Gonzalez for over a decade, and suggested to the Opposition that he be kept on for a year, a commissioner expressed mock astonishment, asking me where he could get some good pot to smoke.

That is why I became an advocate for a strong mayor system, with a mayor who can veto the commission, and who can be recalled or voted out if he does not perform, instead of the city manager system, which is supposed to be a business-like system but is just a political charade with a puppet who must go along with the Ring, which is dominated by lawyers.

Good Grief, is it true that certain city commissioners are morally corrupt, that they may have sold out the public, and scapegoated their city manager, for the towing companies?

I suppose the answer to that will be “Go f*** yourself,” as usual, but I just had to ask the question.

Sincerely,

David Arthur Walters

ATTACHED:

News: Notes on South Beach

[ 0 ] February 2, 2012 | SunPost

Breakfast Meeting David’s Cafe January 31, 2012 8:30 am

By David Arthur Walters
 
David Kelsey moderated the Tuesday morning breakfast meeting, attended by 60 people from the community including city employees, neighborhood leaders, and other concerned citizens.

City of Miami Beach Commissioner Jonah Wolfson was the guest of honor. The main topic of his presentation was his recent motion on the commission, together with Commissioner Deede Weithorn, to depose longstanding City Manager Jorge Gonzalez, whom Mr. Wolfson described as an “intelligent” and “nice” man, but one who had not limited his actions to administration of the city as its “CEO” as per the city charter, but had effectually usurped political powers that the charter vested solely in the commission.

He was careful to describe his issue with the manager as impersonal and professional; i.e. based on the manager’s “performance by results” rather than personal disaffection.

He said he found Mr. Gonzalez’ management of the CIP, building, and police departments lacking, and referred to mistakes he felt the manager had made. He did not, however, mention persistent complaints specifically related to the code enforcement/compliance division of the building department, nor did he mention recent complaints about the manager’s lack of oversight over the parks department.

He did point out that Mr. Gonzalez had virtually appointed Raymond Martinez as the city’s de facto police chief after the retirement of the former chief, whose retirement was mandatory because of the kind of retirement benefits plan he had selected. Acting Chief Martinez, Mr. Gonzalez’ personal pick for the job, has for some considerable time assumed the duties of police chief without the advise and consent of the Commission.

The eventual selection of Mr. Martinez by the city manager, by a process of “whittling down” the slate of qualified candidates to Mr. Martinez, and his confirmation by the commission, is considered as inevitable by many members of the community who are experienced with the ruling political faction presently figure-headed by Mayor Matti Herrera Bower, a close friend of the city manager. He did not mention the proposal to amend the city charter to provide for an elected police commissioner to make the police department more directly responsible to the electorate than its part-time representatives.

He made notice of the fact that Mr. Gonzalez has been outspoken on strictly political matters, such as whether or not Miami Beach should have casinos and a new convention center, and other matters for which he should have kept his political opinions to himself and followed the political will of the commission.

In fine, the commissioner said, the city manager had been in office for so long that he had inevitably become a “bureaucrat” who believed he was “bigger than the electorate.” The administration rather than the elected representatives ruled the city as a consequence. Indeed, many residents of Miami Beach do refer to their city manager as “Boss Gonzalez,” and he himself has mocked residents who think they are his bosses when he answers to the commission alone.

There should be term limits for professional administrators, said the commissioner, to prevent their becoming an entrenched political power. “Residents have been too casual about term limits” he observed, thus the beach has the longest standing manager in its history, having served eleven years to date.

Several issues were broached by members of the audience. For instance, it was asserted that the city manager had circumvented an existing committee or board created to deal with the prospect of a new convention center by appointing his own convention center committee in his eagerness to expend hundreds of millions of dollars on developers and contractors.

Mr. Wolfson responded that he was against any expansion of the existing convention center, noting that convention centers were proven to be not profitable in themselves, and that the only justification for them were for bringing more tourists dollars to town. He also voiced his opposition to placing a casino on the beach, an idea associated with the possibility of expanding the convention center. He said he did not want to see a “return to the less desirable heyday” of Miami Beach, and wanted to retain the “positive” aspects the beach had obtained since then.

He was asked what the commission intended to do about the unruliness of the crowd that descends on South Beach for so-called Black Week, euphemistically referred to as Urban Week. He responded that the commission had already spoken that issue, but that the proof of the pudding is what would be done; to wit, it had been decided that every little law would be enforced, and no permits would be issued for special permits. He admitted, however, that it was a fact that the solution to the Freaknik chaos in Atlanta, now inherited by South Beach, had been the massive towing of cars in cruising zones, the penalty for moving at less than 5 m.p.h. in those zones.

He was informed after the meeting that any publicity about enforcement of quality-of-life ordinances, and the law against refusing to obey police orders, would be considered a challenge to the urban culture all over the nation, and would result in greater numbers of attendees and arrests–part of the bling seen on the streets during the last even including the wearing of handcuffs on one wrist as bracelets.

Residents present applauded the Miami Beach Police Department’s new sector-patrolling program, which has gone a long way to cleaning up the streets.


By David Arthur Walters

Miami Beach City Manager Jorge Gonzalez was barely honored at this morning’s Tuesday Breakfast Club meeting at David’s Café. In fact, disgruntled residents, hungry for reform, had the handsome city manager for breakfast. Many people have been afraid to speak out for fear of retaliation from city officials, but the climate of fear has been dissipated by an ongoing investigation into corruption by the FBI that has already netted seven arrests. The only honor he received was a thank you for the good things he has accomplished, with a recommendation that he resign before the city commission considers letting him go tomorrow.

Mr. Gonzalez pointed out that a recent poll of 3,500 residents chosen at random implies that 80% of Miami Beach residents believe the quality of life is so high that they would recommend living here. He cited several improvements, but he did not cite the recently released statistic that the major crime index is up 13.8% in Miami Beach, which is one of the most dangerous small cities in the country, while it fell statewide.

He recited several steps he wants to take to address the issues raised by outraged residents who believe his 12-year administration has resulted in the shaming of the City of Miami Beach. Not that anyone believes he is a criminal. Indeed, he has appointed himself “partner”with the FBI. Some people now refer to him as “G-Man Gonzalez.”

I was tempted to help throw him to the wolves by reciting some very embarrassing facts, but I managed to hold my tongue with one exception, which I will not relate here because I promised Mayor Matti Herrera Bower that I would not batter her with a 10,000 word missive.

Although the manager can be faulted for the bad system, he is the victim of a system that was supposed to effect reform. The strong city manager reform was supposed to take politics out of management and turn it over to scientific administrators. Corrupt political bosses loved the reform because it made their job easier.

A smaller, lowly paid city legislature, serving part-time with a part-time mayor, who has no more power than a commissioner other than chairing the commission and being a focus of public attention, can bicker among themselves in public while divvying up political spoils in the shadows notwithstanding the Sunshine Act. Of course there is always the chance that one or two commissioners will get out of line for one reason or another, but they can be kept in check.

Now a strong city manager reform charter provides for a strong city manager to head the city, and his tenure may be indefinite. If tenure is not unlimited, his contract may be renewed time and time again. He will form a tight ring with his department heads. A successful ring or machine is never entirely corrupt because it must satisfy some of the interests that allow it to be maintained. As with any body corporate, a small number of votes control its directorate until the grievances of a usually“apathetic” electorate mount and bring a community to the tipping point. A position then must be taken by the leadership on “corruption,” and of course the leaders must be against it or else. Political fortunes have been made fighting corruption—that fight almost won Samuel Tilden the White House.

That is not to say that the Boss Gonzalez Ring is just like the Tweed Ring or the Pendergast Machine. Maybe our city manager has some secret accounts off shore, or some real estate here and there held by limited liability companies and corporations, but I doubt it. I believe he is in part the victim of the system he inherited. Some members of“his” ring or machine, namely the Old Cronies, were around before he arrived a dozen years ago.

Incidentally, the current talk about hiring qualified people with lots of experience to reform the city overlooks the statistical evidence that highly qualified people with the most experience do most of the stealing. Perhaps we should not allow highly qualified people to become too comfortable and secure in their jobs. Perhaps we should hire some smart people who have little experience.

Wherefore my recommendation to Mayor Bower during the furor at the Tuesday Breakfast meeting: Initiate a movement to amend the Charter in order to provide for a strong city mayor, who, in turn, will appoint a professional city manager with the advice and consent of the city commission. Be sure that the mayor may be impeached so that the buck stops with her, with a political solution, no matter how many people are arrested, or not. Provide that the city manager and department heads serve on good behavior, and devise a method of review, retention or removal.

As for Jorge Gonzalez, I have been on his case for quite awhile now, and once called for his firing. But now I am not so sure, now that he is an underdog like me. Unlike me, maybe he can learn new tricks.

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