Friday, September 21, 2018

Why Settle?

While Laura Cattabriga slithers around the Village claiming that our current fiscal strategy of hiring and firing people as fast as we can is working wonders for our money, tonight we are facing yet another "waiver of the right to sue" disguised as a settlement package.  

We have had two of those executed this year, most famously when the Village Manager was requested to resign 4 months after starting and she received $127,000 plus a year's insurance to agree not to sue, then the Deputy Village Manager who had a mere 30 days got $21,000.   

In another situation, the former police chief was offered a settlement but he turned it down preferring to keep his dignity and integrity unbought.  

That's a lot of money not to be sued.  It's 30% of our current operating reserve and about 4% of annual budget.   

Tonight, the commission is meeting yet again to approve another "waiver of the right to sue" for the Village Clerk, Yvonne Hamilton, who was brutally disrespected by our mayor and vice mayor in the September 11th meeting.  You can watch the bogus attacks on her here at 1 hour and 44 minutes.  

Problem 1 - This Is Not Normal:

The cliché is that anybody can sue for anything.  But the question is will they prevail?   Can you imagine any company you ever worked for giving away hundreds of thousands of dollars in waiver settlements and the top management never asking "Why?"   Yet that's exactly what's happening in North Bay Village.  

None of our commission members are asking why and to his great credit, Commissioner Jose Alvarez, who I have criticized strongly in the past, has taken a No position on each of the settlements because he knows it's not normal.  

Eddie Lim has also voted against it.  

Laura Cattabriga, who is a consummate politician which means that tells you what you want to hear, voted for the Martell settlement without asking a single question.   After all, it's not her money.  

I predict tonight she will vote for the settlement "reluctantly" because it is of great benefit to her politically to have the honest clerk removed from office.  I hope I'm wrong.  I'm not wrong.  

Problem 2 - The Village Clerk Is The Elections Supervisor

In North Bay Village, the Village Clerk is also the Elections supervisor.  This is a usual dual role and ensures that our elections are done to form.   

I am deeply concerned that the reason Yvonne Hamilton is being forced out is to clear the way for a clerk who will manipulate the election.  It's common belief that Laura Cattabriga is likely to lose the election, and if she does, several very highly paid Village employees are likely to find their gravy train off the tracks.  

An elections supervisor can raise doubt a candidate's legitimacy and even disqualify them.  The process is then expensive and time consuming to fix and in the meantime we continue to pay all involved.  

Assuming that the settlement passes, watch for shenanigans closely.  It's going to get crazy.  

Kevin Vericker
September 21, 2018


Monday, September 17, 2018

What's Worse Than Getting SLAPPED?

Given that today's article in the Miami Herald about the Village Attorney's attempt to sue me into silence is forefront in my mind, it's probably a good time to remember that I am not alone.  

If you haven't seen today's article, I recommend that you go to the Miami Herald by clicking here.  I am one often loud and always clear voice in the village.   But there are others who are not loud and who are not showy.  

On the video from September 11, you can watch the mayor's authoritarian ruling that citizens do not have the right to speak during Good & Welfare, a time that is set aside for residents to bring governmental issues forward that are on not on the agenda, if the mayor does not like what you have to say.  

You can see it here.   Go to 44 minutes in the video and watch through 56 minutes and you will see two residents who are concerned about close mayoral confidante being appointed to and remaining on village boards after her arrest.   

The issue is real but far more important is that Laura Cattabriga, who is running for mayor, stood by and said nothing as this act of suppression was carried out in plain sight.  

This is scarier than what's happening to me.  

Our mayor knows or should have known or should have been reminded that Good & Welfare is open to all residents and their concerns which may not be on the agenda.   The mayor's claim that residents must not speak because the item was not on the agenda was wrong and possibly illegal.   

But the other commissioners, including Cattabriga, sat silently as this was carried out and our attorney/parliamentarian said nothing.   

Later in that same meeting, at 1 Hour and 44 minutes, a different version of distortion and silencing happened.  Yvonne Hamilton, our Village Clerk of 16 years, was the target of a deliberately misleading attack by our mayor and vice mayor who were demanding she be fired.  

The misleading part was that Jackson claimed that Julianna Strout, candidate for At-Large Commissioner, and Marvin Wilmoth, candidate for Harbor Island Commissioner, did not have the right to film their interaction with Yvonne Hamilton as they submitted their petitions.  But they do.  

In Florida, under the Sunshine Law, citizens have the right to record and video almost all their transactions with the government and had the clerk tried to stop them, Hamilton would have been violating the law.   To attack Hamilton for transparency was chilling.  

This time Cattabriga spoke but appallingly, she took the view that this exercise of free speech was "disturbing."  

Our legal counsel, who should know the law, instead spoke about how this matter was with the State Attorney's Office instead.   

Laura Cattabriga has been going around town "forget about the past.  Let's move forward." but she is both the past and the present.  The future, well, we can predict it and there's every reason to believe it will look just like the present.  

Kevin Vericker
September 17, 2018


Thursday, September 13, 2018

Miami Beach and North Bay Village

Last night I had the opportunity to be at the Miami Beach Commission meeting.  I attended because they were considering a discussion about annexing North Bay Village.  (It was on their public agenda.  Anyone could have attended.)  

The Miami Beach Commission decided to refer the matter to their Finance Committee to study and report on the impact.  

During the discussion, the attorney made it clear that this was a long process, one that would involve the Miami Beach Commission deciding if they want to propose an annexation.  If they do, then it would have to be voted on by the North Bay Village Commission, the residents of North Bay Village, and approved by the Miami Dade Commission.   It's not the hostile takeover that our mayor characterized this as but a considered discussion at to whether or not North Bay Village and North Beach should be a mutually beneficial entity.  

We have bigger problems than a less than square mile village can handle.   Sea level rise is real and a regional approach is needed.  We have nowhere for recreation.  We are split in our school feeder patterns.  And that doesn't even consider our shambles of a government.  

They may not even want us.  We face huge infrastructure and legal issues.  North Bay Village has historically prided itself on not being Miami Beach.   And we risk being lost in the behemoth of Miami Beach.   

So I said last night that I hope this discussion goes forward regardless of where it leads.   It needs to be had and we need to figure out what's best for all of us.  

What pleased me was the curiosity of the dais and civility of the discussion.  

This is big and unlike our knee jerk reactions, is being considered in a logical and dispassionate way.  No screaming about "hostile takeovers", no doomsday predictions, no insults, just an often contentious commission discussing the value of a thought.   That was pretty cool.  

Kevin Vericker
September 14, 2018

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

September 11 2018

The Commission meeting reached a new low tonight.  During the section known as "Good & Welfare", where residents are specifically allowed to address their government, two residents spoke objecting to the continued presence of Ana Watson, who is facing four felony charges, on not one but two Boards.   

The Mayor, prodded by the Vice Mayor, shut them both down on the grounds that the item was not on the agenda.  In fact, the purpose of Good & Welfare is for residents to bring up matters of concern that are not on the agenda.  This concept is well known to Mayor Kreps.  In fact, the first time I ever saw her at a commission meeting, her face was twisted in rage and she was demanding that she would speak about whatever she chose.  

These two residents were expressing their genuine concern that there continues to be a presence in the Village Commission inner circle who is facing prosecution.  The residents were legitimately concerned about this situation.   

It should be noted that elected officials facing felony charges are routinely removed from their posts, not as a presumption of guilt, but as a precaution against them using their public position to help their case.  

It should also be noted that in an earlier meeting, Laura Cattabriga did not join Eddie Lim in setting an Ethics Requirement for Board Members.   Apparently she does not consider ethics useful.  

Worse than the Mayor and the Vice Mayor shutting them down during their established right to free speech was the silence of Mayoral Candidate Commissioner Laura Cattabriga.  This is the person who constantly talks about the need for communication and open discussion but when it comes to her friend.  Silence.  

Worse, far worse, is that the Vice Mayor took over an item prepared by the Mayor to try to force the firing of Village Clerk Yvonne Hamilton.  Hamilton is a 29 year employee of the Village and has served as an exemplary Village Clerk.  In fact, she is often the only adult in the room and has tried consistently to bring order to a shambolic and poorly run commission.  

The motion was "deferred" until the next meeting, with Laura Cattabriga not willing to take a stand.  

This is bad, people.  

The Mayor does not even control the meetings.  The Commission is going after residents for being concerned.  The longest serving senior employee is being threatened.  

But there's this.  Andreana Jackson is leading us all in the peaceful practice of Yoga next month.   

Kevin Vericker
September 11, 2018

Thursday, September 6, 2018

North Bay Village Ugly™

There are a series of vile and violently themed videos on YouTube designed to intimidate those people in North Bay Village who are perceived to be against the candidacy of Laura Cattabriga.  

My best guess is that these are from an semi-anonymous troll involved with the Cattabriga campaign, and previously by the Kreps campaign, and are designed to be divisive and crude.  

Note that the videos are not aimed at people who are actually running for office. 

Instead they smear residents who are not running with the purpose is to make the campaign uglier, not to bring information forward.  

They send the message that if you don't line up to support Cattabriga even though you are a private citizen, you're next.  

In one, the video attacks the only veteran we have had on the commission in years, Doug Hornsby, twice wounded in Vietnam, and attempts to paint him a bully and a sleaze.  

In another video, they attack Richard Chervony, former commissioner, using the old classic homophobic tropes.   

Mayoral Candidate Laura Cattabriga signed on to Fair Campaign Practices Pledge not to engage in dirty tactics and while this video series is not directly from her campaign, it is clear that these are designed to disparage people who do not support her.  I call on Cattabriga to denounce the use of anonymous trolling in this campaign.  There are words to be said and issues to be discussed but they should be said and discussed publicly and focused on the Village, not the people.  

No I'm not linking to the videos.  If you want to see them, email Laura Cattabriga and ask her. 

Kevin Vericker
September 6, 2018




Friday, August 31, 2018

More Lawsuits in North Bay Village

First Amendment Hero* and former registered strip club lobbyist, North Bay Village Attorney, Norman C. Powell, represented by North Bay Village Litigation Attorney, Neil Kodsi, have decided that Norman Powell's feeling are hurt by criticisms of his performance as Village Attorney.

Instead of having a good cry and then resolving to do better in the future, they did what lawyers do best - slap a great big complaint against the person they want to shut up and file it in court, hoping to scare the person into either silence or saying only nice things about them because, really, it's one thing to claim respect for the First Amendment and another to have your public performance as a public figure criticized.  

I present to you the Powell Complaint Against Prominent North Bay Village Blogger and Civic Gadfly, me.

Well, I don't actually present it to you as it is over a 100 pages of mostly cut and paste so I link it to you.  Go ahead.  Read it.  I'll wait.  

Anyway, while I am preparing a strong response, and I deny all the allegations put forward, I'm in the weird position of not being able to comment extensively on the lawsuit until it gets in front of a judge.  Those who know me know how hard it is.

In fact, the only reason I am discussing it here is that Laura Cattabriga, who sued the village herself to remove Hornsby, then took his commission seat, and in one of her first moves as commissioner voted to appoint Ana Watson, (Watson is facing four counts of felony fraud to our Charter Review Board) on the grounds "innocent until proven guilty", and is now a declared mayoral candidate to continue the Kreps legacy, is reported to be skulking around town darkly muttering about "the blogger's legal issues." 

It almost feels like this might be happening to silence and discredit me during the elections.

But enough about me.

In this week's installment of North Bay Village Crazy™ (note:  not actually trademarked. Satire.  I have to be careful in case the Village decides that's our new Village motto.  I relinquish all rights.), fired North Bay Village Detectives Tom Columbano and Sam Bejar, respectively, are suing the Village for wrongful termination. 

In the Bejar lawsuit, the detective drops this interesting piece of information.  The so called Fencemaster's matter where the village manager, the village finance director and Commissioner Eddie Lim were all accused of stealing $15,000 to improve Frank Rollason's property?  The one that was closed as unfounded?  Bejar states that the anonymous complaint came from Board Member Ana Watson.  (Paragraph 23) and in other parts, (paragraph 18 on), writes about the release of sensitive data to Xact Data Recovery at the direction of the Village Attorney.  Then Bejar was fired.

In the Columbano complaint, he alleges that the Mayor confronts him to complain that Columbano was "chasing the mayor's friend, Ana Watson" and then she, the mayor, was going to find Watson a "good lawyer."  Watson was later indicted on 4 counts of felony fraud and surprisingly also appointed by the commission, including the Mayor and Laura Cattabriga, to the Charter Review Board.  Then Columbano was fired.

Common threads.

*On the video from the June Regular Commission Meeting, Village Attorney Norman C. Powell explains that he is big league First Amendment defender, so I award him the First Amendment Hero title.  There is no monetary value.

Kevin Vericker
August 30, 2018


Friday, August 24, 2018

The Manager's Budget Workshop

I’ve heard that developers like to come into a community or a city where the commission is stable."  Mayor Connie Leon Kreps in the Miami Herald article 'How a dispute over stationery turned this mayor's tenure into 'a Greek tragedy'

Mayor Crazy Eyes does not make clear where she heard that but it seems like common sense so I assume it was externally.  

Last night's Budget Workshop with Village Manager Velken drove this home.  

After a short introduction of the overall concept of the budget and stating that a major goal is to up the operating reserve to 50% of the operating budget, Velken invited the 15 or so residents present to ask questions about the budget priorities and the proposals. 

The first question out of the gate was "Where's the plan?  Is the budget related to the priorities set by the commission?"  


The image on the side (I know it's hard to read) is a picture the Commission's top priorities:  

  • Village Beautification and Landscaping
  • Proative (sic) Strategic Communications
  • Sea Level Rise
  • Village Complex
  • Short Term Vacation Rentals
  • Public Works Land Management
  • Five Years (sic) Improvement Plan


So the question was about how these priorities are supported by the budget. 

The answer was that money is going to each of these but there is not a drafted strategic plan for the Village.  

And that led to another discussion about the instability of the village government.  

The turnover since November 2017:

2 Village Attorneys following the abrupt firing of Robert Switkes. 
4 Village Managers - Frank Rollason, Bert Wrains (interim), Marlen Martell, Lewis Velken (interim?)
2 Deputy Managers - Jenice Rosado, Yolanda Menegazzo, currently vacant. 
3 Police Chiefs - Carlos Noriega, Brian Collins (interim), Lewis Velken, Brian Collins (interim)

Plus

1 Commissioner removed thru a dubious legal process.

1 Commissioner appointed to a seat that may not have been vacant.

2 Vice Mayors. 

and the inherent difficulty of creating a budget even for the short term in this environment.   

It is difficult to do that.   Until we fix that problem, we are not moving forward and the best we can hope for is to hold the line.  And that was the point raised by longtime resident Luis Torrego.  Start nothing new and keep things on course until a new more stable government is in place.

Richard Chervony questioned the wisdom of a $20,000 raise for one employee and expressed his concern that the Sakura purchase has a balloon payment coming for $2.1 million in 2021 that will need to either be paid out of the operating budget or financed at higher rates.  

For me, two of the clearest mistakes this budget proposal is making are caused by inexperience.

1.)  There is a proposal to eliminate police dispatch in the name of cost savings.  Instead we will be routed through the county 911 system.  This is a huge error and one that a manager with experience of the North Bay Village PD would immediately recognize.  There is a valid argument that North Bay Village's best asset is our local police and the Village dispatchers play an important role in that.  

They know who lives where, they know things like the West Bridge is up or that there is a flood on Adventure and who is who.   They serve as a lifeline for our residents and an information central point about our village.   It's the sort of cut that only looks good on paper.  

2.)  And then there is a discussion, which seems to have since changed direction, about replacing the PAL camp with the Miami Dade camp.  These have different purposes with PAL providing a full range of experiences for our kids while Miami Dade's is focused on academics.   Both good, but different.  

The PAL program has frequently been in the cross hairs of the budget hawks but it provides North Bay Village kids with an in depth experience of our police and in turn gives our police insight into the community.  It's a low cost, high value program and needs to be kept.  

As this finished, the hope is that the concerns brought up will be included in the commission decisions on the budget which will be made in two workshops - September 13 and 25th.

The commission needs to recognize the chaos of the personnel situation and before any other considerations, should only agree to those items that stabilize the village.  They won't.  They will grandstand and push things to ensure the election of Laura Cattabriga regardless of cost.  But they should consider the damage being done.

Kevin Vericker
August 24, 2018