Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Obama Care and the Florida Leg

There was an interesting presentation last night at Treasure Island Elementary.   State Rep. David Richardson spoke a bit about the upcoming legislative session in Tallahassee and what he sees as the top issues.  Richardson is all about the budget, a very good thing, and tends to see issues through that perspective.  

In his short presentation he mentioned:
  • Medicaid expansion.  Florida turned down $55bn in Federal money rather than expand Medicaid.  In those states where it was put in place, the state was able to provide Medicaid to working poor families who previously had no insurance but not here.  There will be an effort to revive it.

  • Education - There seems to be emerging bipartisan consensus that students on visa waiver whose parents may not be here legally should be able to pay in state tuition.  Since it has to do with immigration it will probably be controversial but it seems like it will pass.
  • Gambling - or better "Gaming" which is exactly the same thing.  Surprising fact that Florida is the 4th most active gaming state and there are attempts to reform and reposition this.

  • In passing, Richardson that "Medical" marijuana is going before the voters.  He offered no opinion on it.  But I will.  Just legalize it.  Forget the medical thing.  I don't use it and doubt that I will if it's legal but what a waste of time and effort.   
So then it was on to the main point.   Obamacare.  There was a presentation by Beth Swickard about the Affordable Care Act.   In essence, it showed how the different plans worked, what levels are needed to get a tax credit subsidy, what new services are covered and what has changed.  For example, no more rejection for pre-existing conditions, being a woman is no longer grounds for higher insurance premiums, small businesses can get subsidies and she did an overview of how the website at HealthCare.gov  works.  

There were a group of navigators in the room to help anyone wanting to enroll.   

Attendance was sparse.  There were maybe 15 residents?   That was a shame but still it was very useful.  

Kevin Vericker
January 28, 2014

Friday, January 24, 2014

There's No News on Shuckers

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/01/19/3877500/shuckers-popular-sports-eatery.html#storylink=cp
Shuckers was part of the community fabric of North Bay Village.  It's where we met for dinner, drinks and brought out of towners to show them the bay and the village at it's best advantage.  It was welcome news the Miami Herald ran a story on Sunday Shuckers Bar and Grill in North Bay Village rebuilding seven months after deck collapse until you actually read the story.   

Several things jump out right away.  

  • The Owners had no comment. 
  • Their lawyers had no comment.  
  • Their PR group had no comment.  
In fact, the only people commenting on the subject were the Village Manager, the Building Inspector and the lawyer for people suing Shuckers, none of whom have direct knowledge of the owner's plans.  Given how poorly Mayor Kreps and the Village staff managed the aftermath of the deck collapse last June, you'd think that the Village would have figured out that the best policy is to let the owners speak or not, and only comment on things that can be seen by others.  For a recap of the shambolic events last June, check out this link. It's best if you imagine the theme from Benny Hill playing as you watch the mayor being asked if an expert would have overlooked the deck inspection.  It's time for the grandstanding to end.  I'm surprised the Herald even published the article.  There's no news there, just speculation and blather.  

Kevin Vericker
January 24, 2014


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Coverups, Secret Meetings and The Mayor

Last March, when Mayor Kreps and the commission negotiated Village Manager Dennis Kelly's resignation, the village agreed to pay him approximately $80,000 in severance. That hit a snag.

It looks like Mayor Kreps and her commission have decided to hang an emerging scandal solely on Dennis Kelly while protecting those current employees who initiated and participated in the cover up of illegally monitored phone calls in North Bay Village.

According to what several sources have told me, the Village discovered that some time in 2012, the village phone system was recording all calls made to or from village numbers. This is illegal under Florida law. Recorded phone calls, with the exception of emergency services, must be announced and the caller given the option of disconnecting. You can imagine that as a policy having all phone calls recorded and open to review could be a problem – for example, confidential personnel and legal matters could be made public, medical information revealed during an insurance call, personal family information could be made public and overall, people find it a bit creepy to be recorded without their knowledge or consent. So it's illegal in Florida, as it should be.

During his tenure, Dennis Kelly found out that the recordings were happening anyway. The reason given was a misset switch that instead of recording just the emergency services calls was recording all calls. Mistakes happen like this with technology and our State Attorney's office is set up to deal with that. When a mistake like this is found, the municipality reports it to the SAO, who review the relevant facts and assuming they find nothing to contrary, write a letter or report explaining what happened and admonishing the administration and everyone moves along.

Not here in North Bay Village and the situation quickly went North Bay Village Crazy™. Instead of documenting and reporting the phone monitoring, Dennis Kelly and the current Finance Director opened a safe deposit box under their own names and personal addresses, took the disk containing the recordings and stashed them there. I don't know why they did that but I have been told that is what happened. Upon his termination, Dennis Kelly told the administration about this.

The recordings were retrieved and given to the State Attorney's Office for investigation. The SAO opened an investigation, because by then the circumstances seemed suspicious. It's just not normal to take a piece of evidence and hide it. As is customary in the SAO, the new village manager was informed about the investigation and his cooperation sought. The underlying expectation is of course that the village manager will keep it confidential. And once again, things took a North Bay Village Crazy™ turn.

You see, when there is a new investigation, almost everyone is a suspect. The commission, the management, the police, and part of a good investigation is to prevent people from tampering with or even being aware of the early evidence. So confidentiality matters.
The Village Manager did not keep the issue confidential. According to sources, Rollason called in the Police Department management staff and briefed them on the issue. Remember, the PD controls the phone system, presumably knew about the recordings, possibly knew that the disk has “disappeared” and now knew that the SAO was looking into it. Not exactly CSI stuff but it gives lots of time to start preparing defenses and obfuscation.

Here's where we are left. The Village illegally, perhaps mistakenly, recorded and monitored every phone call made to and from Village Hall. It is entirely possible that certain calls were reviewed illegally by village employees hoping to find out information. The then Village Manager and the current Finance Director took the evidence and hid it in a personal safe deposit box and never reported the problem. The new Village Manager briefed the principals of the investigation on the investigation itself.

In a flourish only those of who know her would have expected, Mayor Kreps has chosen to lay the entire issue on Dennis Kelly and has led the effort to not pay the negotiated $80,000 severance. For his part, Kelly is suing the village for his money.

Kelly is the only one being held liable for consequences. The other three employees, the tech manager who programmed the recordings is still with us, the finance manager who hid the recordings is still in place and recently received a raise, the new village manager, who had nothing to do with the original problem but whose indiscretion may yet derail the SAO investigation, was hired to the permanent position even after his deliberate leaking was known.

In other words, just one guy in this web is being held accountable, Dennis Kelly.

Tonight there will be a special meeting of our commission to authorize a private, closed to the public, meeting on the subject. Secret meetings are the worst way to deal with cover-ups. Sunshine is the best disinfectant and no matter how ugly this might get, Mayor Kreps should be dealing with it publicly. We have a right to know.   

Kevin Vericker
January 15, 2014

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Sunny Sunday Update

Today is the Miami No Pants Metrorail ride.  If you have ever wanted to ride mass transit in your boxers or panties, today is the day.   I have no such desire so I won't be there.  Also, it's Miami.  If you want to see scantily clad people in public, Lincoln Road is always a good choice.  

There is a very special commission meeting scheduled for Wednesday, Jan 15 at 6:30 PM to authorize a private executive session to deal with the ongoing issue of the former village manager's severance package.  The Village has not paid the money to him because of well, reasons.   

As the Village has continued to achieve its only known goal - "to be a beautiful, quaint Village on the Bay" - the commission has decided that January is a vacation month for them and won't be considering any other business this month.   The Charter says that either July or August is the time allowed to skip a meeting for vacation but whatever.  

Normally, this absence would prevent the village manager from doing his job since some things must be commission authorized but he's covered that by conducting polls through email so the public doesn't have to be concerned about the issues.  Nothing to see here.  
So that's the round up.  

Kevin Vericker
January 12, 2014

Friday, January 3, 2014

Every Month Has a Second Tuesday Except January

Eddie Lim and Wendy Duvall scheduled their vacations to run over the second Tuesday of January 2014, the one day of the month they are required to report for their jobs.   Jorge Gonzalez cannot attend for reasons.   And none can seem to find a single other date in January to do the job they sought and are paid for  

So there will be no commission meeting this month.  There may not be board meetings either. There is nothing published on our village calendar.  (And the Bookmobile stopped coming this year.) 

Here's the calendar as of today January 3, 2014:

I think three of the commission members have just given up.  Commissioners Lim and Gonzalez barely speak at the meetings, let alone offer any guidance, and Wendy Duvall does not show up.   Most decisions are made by the cabal of our unelected Mayor Kreps, the voices in her head, the voices in the shadow government of praise singers - those commercial contractors and over paid,  underperforming managers who play her so masterfully.    

Mayor Kreps has done everything she can to disenfranchise the community and reward those obsequious favor seekers.  The commission meetings long ago degenerated into Mayor Kreps making surly nonsensical remarks to and about Commissioner Chervony while the two commissioners present merely look on with expressions of embarassed disgust at her antics.  I understand them not showing up but I blame them for not taking a stand.  

Mayor Kreps should resign in 2014.  The job is clearly beyond her capabilities and it's embarrassing to watch her alienate her peers like this.  

Kevin Vericker
January 3, 2014