Thursday, January 17, 2019

Our Village Manager Stephanie Leon PA Miami Lakes Realtor

Our Interim Village Manager, Lewis Velken, apparently cut a deal with the North Bay Village Administration in April of 2018, when he was appointed Police Chief in North Bay Village.
The deal was that he would not be directly employed by the Village but rather work under a contract with one Stephanie Leon, a real estate broker in Miami Lakes.  And this arrangement, whereby Lewis Velken was never an actual employee of North Bay Village, has continued during his tenure as Interim Village Manager.  

This came out last week and I am still waiting for a non-fraud based explanation to emerge.  So far none has. 

Here's the likely scenario.   

In February 2018, Lewis Velken retired with a full pension from the Miami-Dade Police Department.   

According to the Florida Retirement Plan, retirees who go to work for an FRS entity within 6 months "your retirement will be voided and you will be required to repay all the Pension Plan benefits you have received, including any DROP payout"  

Lewis Velken went to work 2 months after his retirement.   

But rather then comply with the clearly stated FRS rules, reports are that the Village Manager, the Village Attorney and Lewis Velken concocted a scheme to pay Velken through a third party, a real estate broker with no staffing agency.   

The Village did not report his re employment to the Florida Retirement System and Velken did not return his collected DROP payment and pension checks.  

In fact, he continues to draw on his pension, according to several people in Village Hall.  

Think about the implications.  

Without the commission's knowledge, the village administration entered into a $130,000 per year contract with a third party, violating all our procurement laws.   

The village police chief of record and then village manager of record was Stephanie Leon, not Lewis Velken.  There's this:

A police officer, including the Chief, gets their police powers of arrest and use of deadly force from the State through a lower governmental agency or tribal council for a State Certified police officer via the Fla Dept of Law Enforcement (FDLE) and those powers only exist when the individual is duly employed by said governmental agency.  You cannot be a certified police officer who can act ‘under the color of law’ unless you are so employed by a governmental agency (state, county, municipality, or tribe).  If you are not an employee of the governmental agency, but rather an employee of an outside private agency, you have no police powers. 

So our police chief was not even a cop.   That calls into question any actions he took as police chief, including internal affairs investigations, any arrests he authorized or access to criminal justice systems.   A smart lawyer could probably challenge any actions taken during that time.   

Then, moving along to the Interim Village Manager appointment, how is he an agent of the Village if he does not work for the Village?   Isn't it Stephanie Leon who can sign contracts, approves hires and terminations, sponsors legislation and administers the Village?  What are we paying her for?

But it's no big thing, right?  

Well, considering the Village is currently paying off a fine for the improper employment of another FRS retiree, and considering that the penalties can range from a fine to the Village for the clumsy attempt to get around the rules to a decertification of North Bay Village as an FRS employer.   

Not to mention the myriad possibilities of legal challenges by people unhappy with their interactions with the village.   

And let's not forget that this was never brought to the commission.  In fact, it appears to have been hidden from them.  And our laws are clear - the Village Manager does not have the right to enter into a $130,000 contract with anyone without Commission Approval.   

And think about the implications.   

North Bay Village reached a point when the administration saw no problem with creating a side deal to assist a new employee in getting around the law.   

Our Chief Law Enforcement Officer saw a law that was not beneficial to him and agreed to the scheme, perhaps even proposed it.   

Former Village Manager Marlen Martell told me that Village Attorney Norman C. Powell was aware of this from the beginning and did not raise any objections.  

Our previous mayor and at least the finance manager, issued and signed checks to a Real Estate company and never expressed any public doubts about the arrangement.  

According to two sources, our current Labor Attorney, Weiss Serota, have reviewed the situation, agreed that it's bad, and advised that we regularize the employment and hope that no one reports this to the Florida Retirement System. 

What will happen next? 

First of all, it's too late to sweep it under the rug.  And nor should it be ignored.   It's an appalling lack of ethics and possibly a crime.  

I do know that the State Attorney's Office is involved, the Inspector General of Management Services and others are aware.  We can't hide this. 

But three members of our dais have shown a strange reluctance to investigate the sketchy doings of our Village officers and if history is any indication, they will try to minimize this.   What they should do is suspend Velken pending an independent, outside investigation.   They won't.  

I hope that our mayor, Brent Latham, refuses to sign any further checks for Stephanie Leon, and that Vice Mayor Marvin Wilmoth refuses to as well.  Remember, there is no commission authorization for such payments and the payments are illegal.   

How Did You Find Out?

Is this a case of "Fake news" or "coming at people with daggers" or racism as Commission Andreana Jackson claims whenever well documented evidence emerges?

No.  It is right there in the payment reports for 2018 and 2019.   Plain as day and never questioned.  Right there on Page 125 for 2018 and Page 25 for 2019. 

The only fake news was the lack of news reported to the FRS.  

Kevin Vericker
January 17, 2019

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