Saturday, December 15, 2018

The First Commission Meeting

The first commission meeting of the new administration, held on Tuesday, December 11, was a failure. 

The newly installed commission members, Mayor Brent Latham and Commissioners Marvin Wilmoth and Julianna Strout need to get some slack for it being their first day on the job and facing a hostile, paid professional staff is never easy, but they failed to coalesce to restructure the Village administration to one that works for the residents and not the highly paid Village attorney. 

In the end, it was clearly Marvin Wilmoth's fault.  In what he presented as an attempt to reasonably evaluate the attorney, he joined with  Andreana Jackson and Mary Kramer's Husband to protect the Village attorney by proposing that instead of firing Norman Powell, he be put on a "probation" period without specifying what the terms of the probation are, what the results might be, and what actions should happen next.  It was sad to watch this. 

It's probably important to note that last September, in Andreana Jackson and Connie Kreps' attempt to fire Yvonne Hamilton, our longest serving, highly respected civil servant, Wilmoth was caught in the cross fire and the same attorney he is now "evaluating" forced a complaint implicating him in a criminal violation of state law, long after it had been established that no such violation existed.  This could have derailed his political ambitions and hurt his career. 

It's not "rising above" to propose keeping the same attorney, it's driving off a cliff with political expediency to avoid a difficult decision. 

Wilmoth needs to step up.  We don't have time for political games. 

If there was any doubt about how bad the situation with Powell is, watch the video of the consideration to terminate him.  Powell acted as both counsel to the commission and as opposing counsel to defend his position.  

In most people's eyes, this would be a serious violation of ethics.  We'd expect our attorney to advise the commission that they should seek different counsel because of the obvious conflict of interest, not act on both parts to his own benefit. 

Then yesterday, Powell fired our labor attorneys.  The people we rely on for advice about things like "probation" and "legality of contracts."  Whether this is legal under the Village ordinances is an open question, but it sure looks like a retaliatory firing.  You know, to the untrained legal eye that most decent people have.  But the result is that we do not have an independent labor attorney to help us with the issues around Powell.  

If He's So Bad, Who Supports Him?

Well, the list of supporters at the meeting was scant but loud.  

Laura Cattabriga got up and explained that during her unsuccessful election bid, a crash and burn operation, the message she heard from the voters was "Don't fire Powell."  That may be why she lost.  The voters were saying "You destabilized the administration."  

Powell's longtime partner in strip club lobbying, Mitch Edelstein, attested to Powell's abilities and pointedly reminded Commissioner Andreana Jackson that she owes him since he pulled off the miracle of getting her elected.   Jackson obligingly paid her political debt.  Edelstein also lobbies for every developer in North Bay Village.  

Some out of town guy whose multiple North Bay Village Code violations were magically erased expressed that he doesn't like me so Powell should stay.  Also, apparently I terrify him.  

Former mayor Connie was sitting ominously in the back row, looking like someone just dropped a house on her sister, letting us all know that she is still here.  

And that was about it.  

Nevertheless, money and legal impunity are great motivators and for the moment they prevailed.   

What Happens Now?

I understand that one commissioner, Julianna Strout, has called for a special meeting to fix the broken resolution by at least doing the minimum of establishing the terms of the probation.  

It requires another  commissioner to also request and in the end three have to show up.  

I hope Wilmoth has the intestinal fortitude and integrity to be there.   I hope he doesn't weasel out under the guise of "being busy."  He broke it.  He needs to fix it.  

And Now For Your Amusement and Pleasure

Heavily edited because that top
makes me look fat...I mean because
it's obscene.  
An anonymous video, always the best kind, was circulated yesterday to various unwilling residents, mostly in the Bayswater, under the subject "What's Really Wrong With North Bay Village" where my face is superimposed over a clip of a surrealist ecdysiast doing a strip tease.   

Yeah, that is the best place to get your news.  

I'm not sure what fever-driven demented mind thought this was somehow relevant but it's part of the nasty pattern of anonymous attacks that have prevailed in this Village since 2010, when Connie Leon-Kreps first sued her way on to the commission and then bullied her way into the mayor's seat.  

Unfortunately, you can no longer see it on YouTube as they have judged it obscene.  But like the incels over at LeoAffairs (no, I'm not linking.  Find it yourself), they shroud their identities under anonymous IP's and names and then have the chutzpah to criticize their betters, who post with names, dates, pictures and contact information, to spread their lies and filth.  

In other news, Marvin Wilmoth was selected as Vice Mayor, nominated by Andreana Jackson, and is poised to step into the mayoral seat if the attacks on Latham succeed.  

Kevin Vericker
December 15, 2018




Monday, December 10, 2018

Clean Up At Village Hall

The election in November sent one resounding message.  North Bay Village is stuck and it needs new policies, new ideas and most importantly new people to get moving.   

Brent Latham, Julianna Strout and Marvin Wilmoth were elected to do exactly that.  Each of them has strengths and experience that can be of immediate benefit.   

But all of this could run off the tracks if they don't have an administration that they can trust to execute on their policies.  

And North Bay Village does not have an administration in place that can deliver.  

Tomorrow night at the regular Commission meeting, there is an item to discuss replacing the Village Attorney, Norman C. Powell.   Doing this is critical.  

Powell was never a good choice for Village Attorney.  The previous attorney was fired in a sneak move in the dead of the night in November 2017, Powell was brought in as interim with no discussion, the commission never issued an RFP for legal services and with next to no discussion directly negotiated an outstandingly generous contract with Powell who had never worked as a municipal attorney before.  The contract included a 4 year commitment on the Village's part which is not the norm, as well as substantial penalties for terminating the contract early.   

There's very little point in reviewing all of the areas that Powell has not performed for the Village as I have detailed them through the last year but I do not believe that his contract is valid.

Powell's lack of experience as a municipal attorney and his questionable actions could be the grounds that the commission needs to fire him for cause.   

Regardless of their approach, whether it be another painful payoff to go away or a stand to dismiss for cause, Powell has to go.   Now.  

The Village employees are unwilling to perform even basic functions without the specific go ahead from Powell.  This has meant depriving citizens of our rights and services unless this one unelected official decides we deserve them.  

All of our zoning decisions up until October are at risk because the property parliamentary procedures  were not followed, presumably due to ignorance of the law.  

Most important is the trust.  In what looked like a highly political move, during the election Powell brought a video diary recorded by now Commissioner Julianna Strout to the Commission on Ethics claiming that the video was a de facto endorsement by the Village Clerk Yvonne Hamilton and may have constituted a crime by Commissioners Julianna Strout, Marvin Wilmoth and Village Clerk Yvonne Hamilton.

Powell then insisted on bringing the video, which did not contain any such endorsement, to the FDLE and speaking about it publicly at the commission meeting.  You can read more about it here.  

Powell's associates donated to Latham's opponent, a legal but questionable ethical move, and a company for which he is the registered agent also donated.  

However the commission does it tomorrow, it's imperative that he be replaced.  

There will be people against it.  

Police officers unhappy with being held accountable for their behavior support Powell.  

Powell and the main developer lobbyist Mitch Edelstein worked together for years lobbying for strip clubs in Miami and the developers know they have a friend in Powell.   Oddly, they also have a friend in the new commission but they probably don't see that.  

The former mayor and her cronies are probably worried about their legal exposure when Powell is removed and they are right to worry.  

The Village has been in trouble for a while and the solution is painful but necessary.  

Get rid of the principal in the bad decisions and build it right.  

The voters could not have been clearer and anything less will hobble the new commission right out of the gate.  

Kevin Vericker
December 10, 2018




Tuesday, December 4, 2018

The Commission Thinks Out Loud

Last night, newly elected Commissioner Marvin Wilmoth tried an innovative approach to bring better and more effective communication to the residents of North Bay Village by doing a Facebook Live event with the other commission members - Mayor Brent Latham, Commissioner Julianna Strout, Commissioner Jose Alvarez, and Commissioner Andreana Jackson.  

Wilmoth's approach was to use the forum, properly noticed and in compliance with Florida Sunshine Law, to have informal conversations regarding what they see as the priorities for the new commission and their approach to governance.  Apart from some technical issues, there was a lot of dead air, it seems like a good idea and I hope it evolves into a regular channel of discussion among our legislators.  The public needs to know not just what they are thinking but how they are thinking and with all four of the commission members, you could see their styles.  

Julianna Strout was up first and she talked some about her priorities of infrastructure and education.   The most important thing I heard from her about her process was that there will be disagreements.  She's not afraid of them and unlike the previous commission, doesn't see them as attacks but a piece of the discussion to get to the right outcomes.  

Andreana Jackson followed and expounded on her view that residents speaking about their concerns during commission meetings were simply distractions to be dismissed, that she has taken an interest in the cat problem after 3 years of ignoring it because the builders of the McMansions on South Treasure Drive might be allergic to cats and then discussed the never ending construction on Treasure Island, cheerfully noting that the project will not be complete in December as promised but will be another three months.  Since there is an administration embargo on news about the project, this was welcome information.   

Commissioner Jose Alvarez was next.  Alvarez spoke at great length about his experience on the dais over the last two years.  His concern that small minded contention has overwhelmed the ability to govern was apparent and Alvarez laid out step by step his vision of how North Bay Village can rise from the rut it is in and turn things around by laser like focus on the goals.  

Nah, just yanking your chain.  Alvarez didn't show.



Brent Latham, Mayor was last up and he actively engaged Wilmoth in discussion about their mutual goals, most specifically the need to create a Strategic Plan, focus the Budget so that it supports the planned outcomes, measure success and fix failures quickly.  They discussed the need for zoning to include resiliency for climate change and I think I heard that Wilmoth is very eager to go forward with the Unified Land Development Ordinance, a subject I have some disagreements on but would like to hear more about it. 

Overall, it was a refreshing and open view of the thought processess of the commissioners.  I hope the technical issues and the structure don't discourage them from figuring out how to do this regularly.  I'm really pleased to see Marvin Wilmoth taking the lead on this.  

Of Course, None Of It Will Work If We Don't Fix The Government Infrastructure

It doesn't how well thought out the plans of three commissioner members are, and make no mistake they are well thought out, if the administration is unwilling or incapable of carrying them out.  Worse, if the administration is actively fighting the commission.   

North Bay Village has three key Charter officers - the Village Manager, the Village Clerk and the Village Attorney.   The Village relies on this trio to create policy, administer the government and run the daily operations of the Village.  If the commission cannot rely on them, and if the residents can't trust them, it all falls apart.  

The Village Manager and the Village Clerk offices are both filled with interim appointments.  Interim Village Manager Lewis Velken is experienced in police work and that was what he was hired for.  The manager gig is a fill in position and Velken is the first to note that he has little experience in this area and that he has to rely on others who are more experienced in the arena, which is a humble and good thing to do, but we can't afford to be a training ground.  There's too much to do overall and the police department, where Velken was hired to be chief, is drifting again.  Velken needs to get back to the PD before it goes completely inert. The commission needs to address the position and start a full search for an experienced and innovative Village Manager.  

The Village Clerk which in spite of its title is a powerful executive position, is currently run by an interim who seems to be unfamiliar with some of the basics of procedure and research.  The clerk matters as she is typically the village historian, the archivist and the keeper of form.  We need an experienced Clerk who can prevent us from doing stupid things.  

And of course, Village Attorney Norman C. Powell.  Powell was brought in without an RFP by previous mayor Kreps and while he fiercely advocated for her, his tenure has been controversial and the Village continues to be hampered by his decision making.   I will also note that his law partners, Neil Kodsi and David Raben, contributed directly to the Laura  Cattabriga campaign while a company for which Powell is the listed agent contributed as well.  It's might seem his loyalties lie more with individuals and less with North Bay Village.  

The commission has to get the right team in place as their first priority or nothing will get done.  

I know it's a cliche but it has never been more true in North Bay Village.  

By the way, Einstein never said this.  It was Rita Mae Brown.


Kevin Vericker
December 4, 2018