Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day 2010 (and why I've been silent)

All over the country, small towns and big cities are draped with flags, staging parades, holding solemn ceremonies in honor of Memorial Day. It is a time honored American custom to fly the US flag on holidays, and no day stands more sacred than Memorial Day.

Just not here, in North Bay Village.

Memorial Day, a day set aside in the United States to honor those who died defending our country, is passing unnoted in North Bay Village.

In my walk this morning around Treasure Island at 11 AM, I saw only three houses flying flags. Two were on Hispanola and another on Cutlass. Maybe there were others?

This is sad. Flags are inexpensive, readily available and simple to mount. Whether we were born in this country, naturalized as a citizen or arrived last week, we all owe a debt of gratitude to those who died to make this nation possible.

Why I have been silent. Two weeks ago, after a long illness my father died. He died as he lived, with dignity and on his own terms. When it was clear that no medical treatment could work, he simply said, "Let's go home." and in his own place, with all five of his sons present, he let go peacefully on May 14.

If you're lucky, you have a dad that you can look up to and I am very lucky. My father was out of the ordinary. My dad was a poor kid from NYC who entered adulthood in the US Navy during World War 2. He spent a 20 year career in the FBI exposing and bringing to justice politicians and officials who abused the public trust and who robbed the citizens. He then entered a second career leading the fight against Medicaid fraud in New York. My father had no respect for the weasels who would steal from the most vulnerable and who would betray the public trust by abusing their position for personal gain.

His funeral was dignified and honorable.

A week later, my sister-in-law died suddenly and too soon. As an art teacher in a Catholic grammar school, she too left behind a legacy of lives she touched. As a single mother on a Catholic school teacher's salary, she brought up three boys and got them through college and launched them into adulthood.

Christine's career was more humble than my father's, yet I have not been to a wake and a funeral that crowded in my adult life. People she had touched were lined up outside the funeral home in 90 degree heat to pay tribute to her. The church was standing room only. Her sons paid her great tribute and she will be sorely missed.

Tomorrow I will get back to the cesspool of North Bay Village politics but for today, I just want to reflect on the honesty and dignity of those who gave themselves to make this country and world a better place.

Kevin Vericker
May 31, 2010

Monday, May 10, 2010

The May 11 Commission Meeting

I have been told by Mayor Oscar Alfonso and Commissioner Frank Rodriguez that the planned commission meeting for Tuesday May 11, 7:30 at the Treasure Island School, may be back on. The meeting was cancelled when Commissioner Trujillo could not attend, and then Vice Mayor George Kane and Commissioner Paul Vogel suddenly also found themselves otherwise engaged. Nevertheless, both Rodriguez and Alfonso have made it clear that the issues facing the city, the need for a city manager, the need for a police chief, the need for a grants manager and the ballooning deficit (now nearly double the planned reductions) are too urgent to be left unaddressed and have told me they plan to be there tomorrow even if the others cannot.

I also understand that a number of citizens will be there as well. I wish I could be but I am away due to a family illness. Still I am pleased that at least two members of our commission take their oaths seriously enough to put aside the bickering and show up.

Kevin Vericker

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Posting from Tim O'Regan

I have offered to turn the blog over to others as the occasion arose. In this case, Tim O'Regan has offered the following piece that I believe is worthy of note. I have privately invited Commissioner Trujillo to respond. No answer yet but I am reiterating that invitation here and now. In the meantime, here is Tim's piece about what happened to him when he got involved.


I would like to reach out to some of your readers who don’t know me and set the record straight regarding untrue, personal statements about me by Commissioner Trujillo. I have been a resident of North Bay Village for the past 19 years. Prior to Chief Pandolfi’s resignation I had met City Manager Matthew Schwartz while offering to do some volunteer work for the City/Police Department.

I am retired from the City of Miami Beach Police Department. During my employment at Miami Beach I served as an Investigative Sergeant in Internal Affairs Unit for ten (10) years and five (5) years as the Security Administrator for the police department and managed a budget that rose to three (3) million dollars at one point.

I have to emphasize my only action was to volunteer to help out. I was just offering to be a good resident and offer my past experience and expertise to help in my community. It was and is very evident that there are some major problems internally with the police department, take what ever side you want, but all in all what’s happening at the PD with these never ending investigations, officers relieved of duty with pay for excessive amounts of time are costing the tax payers of which I am one.

The City Manager came to me and asked if I would consider taking over as the interim chief while they conducted a search for a permanent replacement for the chief’s position. This I agreed to do.

What is absolutely amazing is that with the simple act of volunteering, I found myself as a threat to numerous parties involved with NBV politics and the Police Department. I’ve waited this long to speak out for the mere fact that I wanted to double check my facts and the wording that I had heard at the April 13 Commission Meeting. I had provided the City Manager with a resume and attended the commission meeting to hear the outcome.

I was shocked Commissioner Trujillo's announcement that he had spoken to my references and others in the law enforcement community and although they had nice things to say about me, they questioned my ability to administer the police department.  Commissioner Trujillo’s actions were in fact the prudent thing to do as a city leader, check out employment references, IF HE HAD DONE SO.

I have contacted the three references I provided, all outstanding members of their communities and professional individuals with knowledge of the law enforcement community. Each and every one of them to a soul indicated they had no idea who Commissioner Rey Trujillo was, nor did they ever speak with anyone representing himself to be Commissioner Trujillo.

Commissioner Trujillo did in fact speak by telephone with a chief of police of one of our neighboring cities. When I met with Commissioner Trujillo he told me, he and I shared a close personal friend, ire. this chief of police, who he had spoken to and indicated he had provided a stellar evaluation of my abilities. I have known this chief for the past thirty five (35) years as a friend and co-worker, and when I explained what was said at the Commission meeting he went verbally berserk. He indicated his conversation with Trujillo was extremely positive in reference to me. If this was one of the others Trujillo had spoken to, then again another misrepresentation of fact or down right lie.

Commissioner Trujillo did mention he had spoken to someone “so impartial, and unbiased that it would surprise us all”, then added he would disclose the identity of this person to anyone who wanted it; “in private”. The accusation was made in public but Commissioner Trujillo will only back it up in private?

I don’t know who Commissioner Trujillo spoke with, but I do know he represented to the Commission, Public, and residents of NBV that he spoke with my references and HE DID NOT. Even our children at Treasure Island Elementary know the difference between the truth and a falsehood, shouldn't we expect the same from our elected commissioner?

If the intent of the commissioners was to in fact table the appointment of an interim chief, or if they didn’t believe I was the right person for the job so be it. Why not just say so and vote no on the appointment?

Instead Commissioner Trujillo chose to act in a cowardly manner by stating to his fellow commissioners and residents untruthful statements or as I see it out right lies. 

I don’t know all the players or conspiracies  being constructed beneath the surface involving this issue, but see no apparent reason for the Commissioner to lie. If he did this for some self serving purpose. unknown to others, then simply he possesses no integrity.  Unfortunately my wife and a few friends were present at this meeting, allowing the commissioner’s statements to embarrass me and my family in an open forum. 
Again as a resident, I offered to volunteer my services to the Village. This escalated when I was offered employment. The City came to me for this position; I did ask or covet the employment being offered. I have been embarrassed and to appearances libeled by an elected official, for no apparent reason other then agreeing to serve the community in which I live .  Elections have consequences; think very hard when the time comes to casting your next ballot for our elected officials.
Tim O’Regan
Resident Hispanola Ave.
North Bay Village.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

When the going gets tough, the Commission takes the month off

What sort of things start to happen when the most transparent City Manager in the history of North Bay Village is fired for “poor communication”? The communication gets even worse.

Remember when all of this was about the budget? It still is. Last year, the commission directed the police to find $350,000 to make up for the shortfall. This shortfall was the result of keeping the ad valorem tax rate at the same level as previous years.

As of March 1, the deadline for the police cuts, the police found only $172,000 in confirmed cuts. The rest was based on hope.

As of May 5, 2010, we are now in worse shape than ever. Watch the math here.

-$350,000 Budget Gap
$172,000 Realized Cuts

-$233,469 Add'l Shortfall

-$42,500 Severance paid this year Police Chief - Total $204,000 through 2012
-$80,000 Severance to City Manager.

-$533,969 Subtotal

$1,200,000 Reserve

$666,031 After Shortfall

Reserve After Shortfall $666,031

There are some other known expenses not included. The Acting City Manager will certainly expect to be paid some amount of money for his work. The city has no reserve to pay any of the lawsuits currently pending and a few new ones likely to pop up as a result of the illegal commission actions, and should we be hit by a hurricane, well...

This is deeply disturbing and if ever there was a cause for alarm, this is it. This is an emergency.

How does our commission respond? By taking the month of May off. That's right. I posted a few days ago that the commission meeting was to be postponed a week but it is now, as of this writing, canceled. You see, Commissioner Rey Trujillo could not be there May 11 owing to other commitments. That's alright. It happens. But because the commission requires a quorum, three members present, and because Vice Mayor George Kane and Commissioner Paul Vogel suddenly also found themselves unavailable, the meeting has been canceled. Not rescheduled, canceled.

So, here we are in the worst budget crisis to hit the city in history, with our two major positions of City Manager and Police Chief unfilled, with no one attending to the grants since Arleen Weintraub left, in the middle of hostile negotiations with the Fraternal Order of Police, without any direction on the needed cuts to balance the budget, and three of our commissioners take the month off.

The battle over Matt Schwartz was never about the City Manager. It was always about the fear of transparency, the fear of the FOP and sad little ego trips.

I do hear that the city has been moving forward on the selection of a city manager. Two candidates, Randy Hilliard and Frank Lagos, have already been presented to and held discussions with the FOP representatives in our PD. I have been told George Kane organized these discussions. This is causing much comment and consternation among the righteous group of citizens who joined in the lynching of Matt Schwartz.

This is not unfolding well.

Kevin Vericker

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Things Fall Apart

A recent Miami Herald story on George Kane's settlement with Miami-Dade County Commission on Ethics and Public Trust regarding a charge that he violated a conflict of interest ordinance can be found by clicking here.

The story does not detail the specific charges or the implications. So I got and posted below the documents from the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust. There are three complaints.

Count 1: On March 10, 2009, George Kane introduced a motion directing the city manager to consider other locations for the new city hall. Kane represented as a real estate agent the owners of several of the properties being considered by the city.

Count 2: In May of 2009, Kane served as the representative in the lease negotiations for the planned move to the Lexi. This entitled Kane to a $25,000 commission.

Count 3: Between February and May of 2009, Kane acquired interests in properties that would directly benefit by the actions of the city government.

Resolution: George Kane pleaded No Contest on the second count, accepting a commission for the city hall move to the Lexi and agreed to deposit that commission in the General Fund in exchange for the country dropping Counts 1 & 3.

My opinion: This is pretty bad. Our Vice Mayor admits to setting up a personally profitable deal, directs the city manager to explore other personally profitable opportunities and when caught out, does not contest the charge.

Two things need to happen now:

1.) Kane should do the honorable thing and resign.

2.) The Commission should vacate the plans to move city hall unless and until the deal is absolutely clean.

Here are the two documents detailing the charges and resolution.

Compilation of Complaint Against George Kane
Resolution of Complaint Against George Kane

Kevin Vericker

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

May 11 Commission Meeting to be Postponed

Former Vice Mayor Commissioner Rey Trujillo requested last week that the commission meeting for May 11 be postponed since he can't make it. That request did not get the unanimous consent of the commission, so the meeting remained on the schedule.

Current Vice Mayor George Kane and Mayor Emeritus Paul Vogel today informed the City Clerk that they too will be unable to attend May 11th's meeting, which means that there will be no meeting next Tuesday.

One really hopes that this is mere coincidence that three separate pressing events are keeping our commission from their jobs and not collusion.

No word yet on the reschedule.

Reminder: Tomorrow night there is a Citizen's Budget and Oversight Commission, 4:30 at City Hall.

Note on my absence: There's an illness in my family and I have been in New Jersey most of the last week and will be back there later this week. I haven't had much extra time.

Kevin Vericker