Thursday, September 30, 2010

Extortion is such an ugly word

On Tuesday, September 28, 2010, commissioner Rey Trujillo speaking from the dais at special commission meeting accused former city manager Matthew Schwartz of extortion.

The Hobbs Act defines "extortion" as "the obtaining of property from another, with his consent, induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear, or under color of official right." 18 U.S.C. S 1951(b)(2).

Put simply, Rey Trujillo in trying to deflect criticism of the North Bay Village Trujillo Tax, offered the following explanation for why at his insistence North Bay Village is paying two city managers while the city is going broke. According to Trujillo, "Mr. Matthew" (as Mr. Rey refers to Matthew Schwartz) forced the police chief, Roland Pandolfi, to resign. For this offense, "Mr. Matthew" had to be fired.

According to Trujillo, Schwartz then initiated a lawsuit and the then city attorney, Joe Geller, recommended a settlement which was passed by the commission. Because of this recommendation, Geller had to be fired too and North Bay Village then doubled the legal outlay.

So you see, it's not Trujillo's fault.

Except that it is.

Here's the timeline.

On March 17, 2010, Roland Pandolfi, the Police Chief, resigned. It was no secret that he had a contentious relationship with Schwartz. Pandolfi has never said publicly that he was forced to resign as Trujillo continues to say.

March 17, Trujillo and George Kane requested a special meeting of the NBV Commission for March 19 to fire Mr. Schwartz for interfering in the police department. The meeting was held and the item postponed.

During the next week, it was pointed out to the commission that the city charter is very clear that the city manager is in charge of the police department and the commission is specifically prohibited from firing the city manager because of his personnel decisions. Specifically prohibited. Right there in Section 3.01 of the charter.

So in the April meeting, Trujillo introduced a resolution to fire Schwartz citing vague and unspecified allegations of poor communication. This passed 3 to 2. Trujillo, Kane and Vogel voted for it. Rodriguez and Alfonso voted against.

The real reason for the firing, Trujillo and others did not approve of Schwartz's decisions regarding personnel policies in the police, had been publicly stated and written. Schwartz's suit objected that his firing was based on a violation of the charter. He had been defamed and seriously injured by the bogus excuses later offered.

Geller believed there was a fair chance that the city would lose in this case and recommended an alternate settlement. Schwartz agreed.

And now, as late as six months later, Rey Trujillo under fire for his authorship of the North Bay Village Trujillo Tax where we are paying no fewer than three duplicate salaries, continues to state that Schwartz needed to be fired for his "interference" with the police department. Then Trujillo ups it one more and makes accusations, on public record and from the dais, of "Extortion".

Trujillo better be prepared to defend his claim under the definition of extortion as noted above. If not, he and our whole city may be liable under the definition of another crime, SLANDER, defined in Florida as "may be defined as the speaking of base and defamatory words which tend to prejudice another in his reputation, office, trade, business or means of livelihood. When the words published concerning a person tend to degrade him, bring him into ill repute, destroy confidence in his integrity, or cause other like injury, such language is actionable per se."

Kevin Vericker
September 30, 2010

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