Friday, January 11, 2019

It Looks Like A Duck

During January 8th's Commission meeting, something struck me and some others as odd.  The discussion about two charter officers, the Village Clerk and the Village Manager, included the phrase RFQ, which generally means Request for Qualifications, something you write when you are requesting a service, not when planning to recruit an employee.

The Manager and Clerk positions are both going out for advertising as they are filled with interims.  Graciela Mariot is filling the role of Village Clerk after Yvonne Hamilton was viciously savaged by Commissioner Andreana Jackson, and "Police Chief" Lewis Velken has been acting as Village Manager.   

The commission announced their intention to permanently fill these spots and so the question came up as to why the Village was not talking about job postings for these two positions historically filled by permanent Village employees.  And the answer was that the RFQ was a mistake and of course we were looking for full time employees.   

The only other charter position, Village Attorney, has to my knowledge always been contracted out so an RFQ seems about on course.  


It turns out that Lewis Velken, appointed as police chief in April of last year, then dual appointed to the role of interim village manager and police chief in July, then unappointed as police chief the following morning since dual appointments are against Florida law, is not for payroll purposes an employee of the Village. 

His services are contracted through Stephanie Leon PA, a real estate agency in Miami Lakes.  

Now I'm not a strip club lobbyist municipal attorney, but it seems like an arrangement whereby our police chief, now acting as a charter officer, is actually employed by a real estate agent named Stephanie Leon in Miami Lakes is something that would require a commission resolution, you know to agree to and understand the contract with the real estate agency.

But to my knowledge, this was never discussed on the dais and I am willing to bet that the members of the commission were unaware of this unusual arrangement.  

I even made a table of the payments.

Stephanie Leon PA
10/05/2018 Regular 0.00 10,153.84 7934

18-704 Invoice 10/04/2018 LABOR WAGES- 8/31-9/27/2018 LEWIS VELK…

Stephanie Leon PA
11/05/2018 Regular 0.00 12,692.30 8122

18-705 Invoice 11/05/2018 LABOR WAGES- 09/28/18-11/14/18 LEWIS V…

Stephanie Leon PA
12/04/2018 Regular 0.00 10,153.84 8278

18-706 Invoice 12/03/2018 LABOR WAGES FOR L. VELKEN -11/02-11/29…

For what it's worth, I asked for an explanation of Mr. Velken's salary as long ago as August 2018 but I have never gotten an answer.  Now I understand why I did not get that answer.

I hope our commission gets to the bottom of this.  After all,

If it looks like a duck.
If it walks like a duck.

Kevin Vericker
Jan. 11, 2019


Thursday, January 10, 2019

Norman Powell Dragged Through The Sunshine - North Bay Village Loses

On Broadway, there is a thing called the 11 O'Clock number, the big dramatic song or monologue that stops the show.  And like any good show, this one had an 11 O'Clock.  

Presenting Commissioner Andreana Jackson weeping loudly in her hit number "Don't Cry For Me, North Bay Village."  Watch as Ms. Jackson enraptures the audience with her simulation of a frustrated, decent person.  

This critic would have found her performance more powerful except that leaves unexplained her own role in the savaging of former Village Clerk Yvonne Hamilton, former Village Attorney Robert Switkes (although in a stunning new development, Jackson speaks for the first time publicly about why she voted to fire him), her fabricated allegations against a resident of threats and her knife in the back to Eddie Lim.   Perhaps in the sequel?

Anyway, three members of the commission courageously aligned themselves with the right of former strip club lobbyist Norman C. Powell to collect the $204,000 plus extras annually and run rampant over the Village.  They were unelected Vice Mayor Marvin Wilmoth, along with Commissioners Mary Kramer's Husband and Andreana Jackson, who clutched their collective pearls and voted to keep Norman C. Powell in place on the grounds that:

  • It's ever so mean to talk about these things in public.  Why can't the elected officials do like previous administration and discuss the problems out of the public view and against Sunshine Law, you know like the way politics really should run?  It worked really well when the previous commission got rid of Switkes, Hornsby, demoted Lim and lynched Hamilton.
  • What will the neighbors think?  Seriously, this was Wilmoth's big concern.  That potential employees watching this public discussion would say, "Oh, me, oh, my, I don't want to go to North Bay Village.  I mean I keep reading about how awful their Village attorney is in the Herald but that they are discussing it?  The nerve.  Well, it's Opa-Locka for me."

  • Julianna Strout has an exhaustive, well researched list of missteps and straight up bad moves since the "probation" was announced.     But you know, she's blonde...

The meeting went past midnight, again, just to prove that Norman Powell is untouchable.

It was no surprise that Mary Kramer's Husband voted to keep him on the dais.  Nor that Ms. Jackson did.  Given the extent of their political debts and Norman Powell's assistance to Ms. Jackson on resolving her credit card debts, they owe him big time.

But it was a surprise that Marvin Wilmoth who as a candidate and as member of the dais argued passionately that the Village needs to get beyond all the drama and move forward, did not share  his reasoning on why he thought keeping Powell was a good idea.  He simply voted not to fire him.  So the Village is stuck.

That's not to say completely.

Commissioner Julianna Strout was well prepared with the list of issues Powell has created since the last meeting. 

The director of the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics was there.  He had written a personal opinion that Powell needed to recuse himself and the commission needed independent counsel to discuss his employment.  Mr. Arrojo emphasized "personal" as the CoE is still working on a formal position. 

Mayor Brent Latham brought up that the recent confusion over the firing of Bryan Miller Olive and the retention of Weiss Serota as labor counsel had resulted in several contradictory explanations from Mr. Powell. 

These were all well presented and discussed by Ms. Strout and and Mr. Latham. 

But it was clear that it fell on deaf ears.

After the refusal to fire Powell, the three, Wilmoth, Jackson, and Mary Kramer's husband, tried to stonewall against putting any conditions on Mr. Powell's probation but Latham and Strout kept at it until they reluctantly agreed. 

Remember, the key objections to this process as stated are:

1.)  It's being done publicly as required by Sunshine.  Jackson found this to be "coming at you with daggers."

2.)  It's being done publicly and people might not want to work here.  Wilmoth was most concerned about this but there were at least three attorneys present willing to work so I think it won't be much of an obstacle. 

My take.  Unless Marvin Wilmoth steps up and acts like the reformer he claims to be, we're doomed.  It may be time to just shut the Village down.   We're so far in a hole, I don't see how we climb out.

Kevin Vericker
Jan 10 2019

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life

The most positive thing North Bay Villagers did in 2019 was to soundly reject the shrill inept administration of the past.   After years of the commission being led by resentful and incompetent leaders, supported by people out to make a fast buck, after all the chaotic hirings and firings and purges, after a campaign that sharply contrasted the vision of Brent Latham and Julianna Strout with the negative  and substance free campaign of Laura Cattabriga, the self identified protege of Kreps, the voters said overwhelmingly "Enough."  and kicked the old guard out.  

There is now an ongoing row over how to fix the toxic administration the previous commission put in place, but that's for another post.  

The important thing is the voters said "Enough."  

Laura Cattabriga, who got less that 1/3rd of the vote in last election, has not gracefully accepted the referendum on her style and cronies.  This is surprising because during the mayoral debate, where Laura spent most of her time making false claims of residency fraud against her opponent, Brent Latham, Ms. Cattabriga took time out to compliment herself on her "critical thinking abilities."  

You think she would apply that now to understanding why she lost so severely.   But like her mentor, Connie Kreps, Cattabriga (CattaKreps?) is now skipping around the Village announcing that what she heard during her disastrous campaign was the people only want to hear bright shiny news about North Bay Village and she is taking on the task by creating an all good news blog and Facebook site to disseminate bright shiny information and not the dank, nasty information she sees elsewhere.  

Here's a link to the Facebook group:

Now it's not clear in her first post on the new blog if it is a singular or group effort because she/they write "We decided to start this newsletter to fill a void in North Bay Village life." I can't tell if Laura is using the Royal We, The Kreps Multiple Persona We, or is referring to herself and her backers, but Cattabriga then goes on to extol the virtues of positivity in the Facebook group rules and announces that anyone not meeting this measure of positivity will be banned.   

False positives actually can hurt
As readers of this blog may have discerned, I am not a big fan of "positive thinking."  I find it tyrannical, as the kids say, it's gaslighting

It's bullying practiced by people who are doing harm and then announce the real harm is that you don't look on the bright side of things. When you point out issues, they find themselves "offended" by your negativity.  

The way to create positive news is to do the right thing, something Cattabriga demonstrably did not do during her short tenure nor in her disastrous and expensive campaign.  
But doing the right thing has not really been at the core of the Cattabriga universe.  

Still, I'm a reasonable person and while there is no question that this blog is not a place to come to for Sunshine and pictures of kittens, I regularly look at the Facebook group North Bay Village Residents Speak, which I moderate, with a critical eye.  Is the group doing more harm or good?  What are people saying and how are they saying it?  Should I intervene or let the sometimes combative discussions play themselves out?   

And here's what I find, and I believe an honest look will bear this out.  

The group is mostly discussion, some complaints and criticisms, but overwhelmingly it breaks down broadly into Information like when the  next village meeting is, recommendations like what restaurants have opened or where to find a housecleaner, photos of life in North Bay Village, and a lot more on pets than I ever expected.  This has been true for years.  

Don't believe me?   I just went through the last 40 posts on the site and this is how they broke out:

Humor or Inspiration717.50%

*Pets:  I think this is an anomaly.  There are more posts about pets as you go further back.  

Yet I know that there is an impression that is a small group of malcontents.  It's not.  With 1,839 members it follows the usual social media platform patterns with about 5% of the members posting actively and most reading the posts.  And these conversations are often from different perspectives, except everyone agrees on the manatees and dolphins.
North Bay Village Spirit Animals

The group has for years been the only regular source of information in North Bay Village covering school events, road construction, power outages, bridge and traffic closures, public safety and village events and reaching out to the residents.   

That in a large, and largely unmoderated group, there are people who would rather blame the messenger than read the message is not the fault of the group.   

Ms. Cattabriga will find that out.  People want news they can use, not puffy pieces with a one way slant.  But still, I wish her luck.  

Kevin Vericker
January 5, 2019


Tuesday, January 1, 2019

2019 In North Bay Village

'You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.'

E.L. Doctorow

It's a New Year and North Bay Village is on the verge of getting the overhaul it so badly needs.   

The new administration came into a chaotic mess, with an interim village manager and an interim village clerk and a village attorney who just can't seem to stay out of the papers.  

It's not going to be easy.  The chaos has resulted in some people making serious amounts of money for very little work vigorously defending themselves, and there is a well founded fear of previous and current commission members that they could get caught up in the legal consequences of their misfeasance.   Still, keeping focused, this commission can reclaim our government for and by us.  

As we go forward into 2019, I hope our commission remembers that they can only see as far as the headlights and they need to keep steady on the path forward.   

Kevin Vericker
January 1, 2018 2019!