Saturday, March 24, 2012

Paul Vogel

You may have seen the Miami Herald article on Paul Vogel and the concern over his non performance on the commission. It paints a picture of a man who just wants to continue serving the city, a picture that may very well be true. It's not Vogel who concerns me, but the people around him.

I've written before that I believe Paul Vogel is the object of bullying and elder abuse from his self appointed supporters and I stand by that.

On the cell phone issue, the article says, "About six years ago, he had a stroke from which he completely recovered, coming back full-time to his commissioner duties, she [Marietta Vogel]said"

I don't know if Paul Vogel knew that his wife had the city cellphone and never claimed that, but she knew. And she used it for seven years. This was not well intentioned assistance during a crisis. It was taking petty advantage of the city's good graces.

The article goes on about the last three absences from the commission meetings. Those were excused. But in 2011, he missed at least four meetings as well with no excuse.

I guess the biggest issue I have with the article is that while it presented a clear picture of the people talking about Vogel, Paul Vogel himself was not heard from. Isn't that the voice we need to hear? Was he kept from being interviewed?

In short, my issue is not with Vogel himself. It is with the people around him who profess their admiration while using his declining health to further their own ends. They take advantage of the incapacity of someone who served the city well and that's just wrong.

And I would remind the Commission on Ethics that it is not their job to judge intentions. It's their job to evaluate actions.

Kevin Vericker
March 23, 2012

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Financial Stability

The special commission meeting tonight was called out of newly installed Commissioner Blumberg's frustration, shared by other commission members, that they had no clear picture of the city's finances. The commission voted to bring in an outside audit firm, in addition to our current auditors, to review our finances, prepare a report and make recommendations to the commission.

Not a bad starting place but I'm not sure it will accomplish what they want. The fundamental complaint, the financial reports are not current or useful, is not going to be resolved by an audit.

The city needs operational accounting that will show quickly and well how much cash we have, how much we owe, and what our reserve is. The city needs operational reports on performance. The commission needs to know a basic question - how much does it cost to do things and why does it cost that amount?

A simple example of questions we should ask, how much does it cost to fill a pothole and how many do we fill?

More complex questions might be, how much does a police patrol cost? How many do we do?

Real question. How many do we need?

Then it gets fun. What is the cost of filling potholes versus repaving the street? What is the cost of police emergency response versus community policing efforts that might reduce those responses?

These questions are being asked in every government entity from North Bay Village to the White House. And we need to answer them, quickly.

Tonight was a start. The commission has to question the expenditures top to bottom. It's their main job and I hope they will follow it through.

Kevin Vericker
March 22, 2012

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Special Commission Meeting Thursday March 22

There is a special commission meeting on Thursday night at 7:30 PM, City Hall. The subject is "to hire a Certified Public Accountant to perform a special audit of the city's finances."

The Budget Oversight Board is holding a meeting the day before at 4:30 as is their custom so working residents can't attend.

Something must be going on that a special meeting is required for a hire like this.

Kevin Vericker
March 20, 2012

Monday, March 19, 2012

NBV Police Chief Applies to Port St. Lucie

Police chief Bob Daniels applied for the job as Chief of Police in Port St. Lucie. The article is in the Treasure Coast Palm. Check the list of applicants at the bottom and there he is:

Robert Daniels: Chief of Police city of North Bay Village Police Department, 7/2010 — present

Kevin Vericker
March 19, 2012

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Police Department and the Budget

What does the budget tell us our priorities are?

The biggest single discretionary expense has been the ongoing arbitration and court battles with two officers. In one case, the results are in and we are now on the hook for wrongful termination with a yet to be determined amount of money to reinstate the officer. It will probably be a hit well over $200,000 for back pay and benefits, plus the legal bills for an additonal $200,000.

In another case, there is an ongoing legal battle over what seems to be a union battle. Former CFD president and current appointed commissioner Richard Chervony was subpoenaed on Friday in the case over his involvement. Apparently he instigated the complaint over a Facebook posting two years ago where the officer posted that he believed North Bay Village needed "new blood" on the commission. This one too has all the earmarks of a losing case.

The police chief was brought in to resolve the conflicts in the police department but he hasn't succeeded. If anything they are worse. And we're footing the bill. Reduced or nonexistent services and unnecessary lawsuits of over $500,000 while the city is going broke.

The cherry on the sundae is that mismanaging the police takes so much effort, that there is now a posting for an "Assistant Chief" to help in it. Where does it stop?

Kevin Vericker
March 18, 2012

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Ides of March

Sometimes, you just have to shake your head. In my last posting, I put up my letter of resignation from the Budget Oversight Board. The commission in its wisdom decided that the problem was not that the budget meetings happened during the workday when most residents can't attend, but that members should be people who are not busy at that time. Kind of narrows the pool.

Other things happened at the meeting. There is a proposal to take out the oak trees on Treasure Island at some cost to the city. I think it would be much better to fix the problem. The trees should be beautiful.

The city planner resigned. Word has it that the resignation was not amicable. There is a great deal of lingering bitterness over the cavalier way he treated the strip club application, never reviewing or applying the conditions specified in the city ordinance, and apparently there were many complaints that business permits were handled randomly.

We need serious zoning and coding revision. Many of our problems stem from poor zoning and I hope this will be an opportunity for a top to bottom review of the whole city plan.

Speaking of strip clubs, apparently the plans were resubmitted and rejected as incomplete. Word on the street has it that Scott Greenwald is very angry at the commission he bought and paid for. Who could have known that these people were unreliable? Just kidding, we all knew.

Dr. Vogel continues to be absent and Mrs. Vogel is still ducking the bill collectors who would like her to pay back the seven years of personal phone service paid for by the city.

The police department lost a court case and now has to reinstate a wrongly fired officer at great cost to the city. They are poised to lose another. And Tuesday, they took another $100,000 out of the Law Enforcement Trust Fund to pay for routine overtime. It's a lucky thing there are no community policing programs in place, Crime Watch, Outreach to the Elderly, PAL, or they might have to be cut. I wonder if an individual department can declare bankruptcy or if the whole city will have to? I'll check that out.

The meeting droned on until about 12:40 AM. Eddie Lim, now the only elected commissioner, was visibly impatient and Connie Lim-Kreps, lawsuit winner, got terribly confused over which items on the agenda were being covered.

We really need to do something different in November.

Kevin Vericker
March 15, 2012

Monday, March 12, 2012

I resign from the Citizens Budget Oversight Board

I submitted my letter of resignation from the Budget Oversight Board today. The board was started three years ago in response to the lack of transparency in the budget process. But this year, it became very un-transparent when they refused to meet outside of working hours and Mayor and Vice Mayor Lim-Kreps appointed Scott Greenwald, strip club developer and the city's largest tax debtor to the board. Imagine that, a guy who owes $1.2 million in overdue property taxes in charge of seeing how the money he didn't pay is spent. Anyway the text is below :

North Bay Village is in a precarious budgetary position. The global recession hit South Florida harder and longer than many other regions. The North Bay Village Citizens Budget Oversight Board was formed to bring transparency to this critical process. But the board has failed.

Instead of being a Board to review the soundness of budget decisions, it has become insular and ineffective. Meetings are uniquely held during the workday, when few residents are able to attend, and in a particularly cynical appointment, the city's largest tax debtor was appointed to represent "business" issues.

As the only member of the board with public finance experience, I tried to bring full perspective and transparency to the board. This effort was thwarted and the meetings were deliberately scheduled to preclude my (and most residents) presence. This leaves me no other option but to reluctantly resign.

I urge the commission to open the budget process transparently to the residents and insist that any future meetings be held in accordance with the intent and custom of the other boards at times and places accessible to the residents. The budget must be done in the light.

Kevin Vericker
March 13, 2012

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Back to the Blog

I apologize. I really should have explained that I was taking a month off from blogging because I've been traveling for work. But since this is North Bay Village, I was not willing to expose that I would be out of town. That would have been the perfect time for the commission to reluctantly pass the strip club. So I kept it quiet.

Okay, what's up on the agenda?

Still no action on the strip club - good or bad. The city has not taken steps to fix the the broken city planning process, so that's bad, but there is still no notice when or if the commission will hear the application again. This is probably because it will require a four vote supermajority to pass the club since P and Z voted unanimously to reject it. And I don't think they have four votes. Let's see.

There is a commission meeting on Tuesday March 13, 2012. The agenda is attached at the bottom of this posting. And guess what? I'm on that agenda.

The Citizens Budget and Oversight Board wants to kick me off. The reasoning is pretty simple. As one of the founding members, I became increasingly concerned about two things.

  • The meetings are held during the working day, at 4:30 in the afternoon. Every other board meets at times when the citizens can attend.

  • The city's largest tax debtor with $1.2 million in over due taxes, not counting the Lexi taxes, and strip club impressario Scott Greenwald, should not be allowed to sit on the board that oversees how the taxes he does not pay are spent.

Well, once I brought these up and stupidly mentioned that Thursdays are the one day I can't attend at that time, Al Blake, the nominal vice chair of the board but really the one who runs it, decided Thursday at 4:30 was the only time possible for the meetings.

This was of course a thin political excuse to avoid the uncomfortable questions about the budget. What's the reserve? Why are our police legal expenses so high? Should the city pay for a commissioner's family member to have a cell phone?

The commission, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Citizens for Full Disclosure, will not want these uncomfortable questions in the public view. So I think they will vote yes. They will see it as a chance to offer a personal insult to me, but it's really a slap in the face to the public. The pillaging of city coffers can happily proceed behind closed doors.

Here's the agenda. More tomorrow.

03-13-2012 REG COM MTG 3-13-12

Kevin Vericker
March 11, 2012