Thursday, August 15, 2013

Updates and Muddy Clarifications

On August 8, the Commission on Ethics sent out its monthly update by email.  The opening headline and the first paragraph are cut and pasted from that email.  (bolded emphases are mine)

Miami Heat tickets score an ethics complaint
The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust (COE) today agreed to accept a settlement agreement with two political leaders in North Bay Village who failed to report a gift after attending a Miami Heat game last December.   Vice-Mayor Eddie Lim and Commissioner Jorge Gonzalez were the guests of the vice-president of a corporation that has been involved in real estate in the municipality.  They should have filed gift disclosure forms by the end of March for the tickets that were valued between $110-140 each.  As part of the settlement to the complaints (C 13-13 and C 13-14), Lim and Gonzalez agreed to file gift disclosure forms, pay $100 each in investigative costs and accept Letters of Instruction.
On August 13, the Commission on Ethics sent out a revision to the monthly report.  
Miami Heat tickets score an ethics complaint
 
The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust (COE) agreed on August 8, 2013, to accept a settlement agreement with two political leaders in North Bay Village who failed to report a gift after attending a Miami Heat game last December.   Vice-Mayor Eddie Lim and Commissioner Jorge Gonzalez were the guests of a friend of Commissioner Gonzalez.  They should have filed gift disclosure forms by the end of March for the tickets that were valued between $110-140 each.  As part of the settlement to the complaints (C 13-13 and C 13-14), Lim and Gonzalez agreed to file gift disclosure forms, pay $100 each in investigative costs and accept Letters of Instruction.  

I was surprised that this was worthy of a revision and wrote to Rhonda Sibilia, the Communications Director of the CoE.  Specifically I asked her "Will the investigation results of C13-13 and C13-14 also be revised to remove references to Asia Connect Medial's business interest in North Bay Village?"  

Ms. Sibilia replied as follows:  

No, the allegation of the company’s business interests were made by the complainant, but not confirmed or asserted by the investigation.   It was a mistake to put it in the probable cause memorandum, from which I wrote the summary. 

The fact that Asia Connect Modial is doing business in North Bay Village still remains in the investigation and the complaints themselves are not in dispute.  And that is the key point - the gifts were from a company doing business in North Bay Village.   Otherwise it would never have been noteworthy.  

I've written before that the appearance of impropriety in public service can be as destructive as actual impropriety and to watch the Commission on Ethics scramble to change the emphasis rather than leaving the factual first report alone is one of many causes of concern as to the reliability of the ethics watchdogs.  

There is undue influence at the CoE when it comes to North Bay Village.   In the past, the CoE have found that the case of a commissioner receiving a second mobile phone for her personal use paid for by the city for over 7 years was alright since it was "done with good intentions."  They have leaked findings to influence elections in North Bay Village and did not acknowledge criminal investigations resulting from their work.   In one weird move, the CoE solicited documents from me regarding the misspending of public funds, which I provided with no accusations, and then took time to dismiss the bills as gossip and slander rather than math.  

Other sites have accused the CoE of being window dressing but I think it's worse.  They are actively working against their mission in North Bay Village by engaging in partisan politics and not even being subtle.  Our tax dollars at work.  

Kevin Vericker
August 15, 2013 


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