Friday, May 31, 2019

Police Work Is Boring Until It's Not

Major announcement from the North Bay Village Police Department.  

Following a report of a stolen BMW from a local resident, the North Bay Village Police Department detective bureau began what looked like a routine investigation.  Det. Brent worked with the victim to establish information channels and by tracking down the previous owner of the car, was able to activate the car's tracking device.  Det. Cassais took that geo data and coordinated with the other police departments to track and arrest the suspects.

The three arrests made as a result of this detective work are allegedly connected with over 60 open cases.

Good news from a police department that knows how to do its job.  

Wait! It Was Nowhere Near That Boring...

The rest of the story is amazingly cool and belongs on a cop reality show.

The BMW owner reported it stolen on May 16 and had some video.  Detective Brent asked if there was a tracking device on the car and there was but it was not turned on by the current owner.  Rather than wait two days or so to reestablish the tracker, Brent did some shoe leather work and found the previous owner, in Michigan.  After first convincing the previous owner that Brent was not a scamster, they activated the tracker and the car showed up around LeJeune and 40th.

Det. Cassais then got on to the other police agencies in the area and in the early morning (like 0'Dark Thirty early) North Bay Village police along with the City of Miami and the M-D County police followed the pings and watched the driver as he moved around the neighborhood.

What happened next was described to me as "like a goshdarn* movie".   The Miami police helicopter was tracking the car through the neighborhood and several units were on the BMW.

Figuring out where the driver was going next, Brent changed direction and came on to him from the west.  The driver decided to make a run and took off toward LeJeune where instead of turning, he plowed across traffic and smashed into an oncoming car, really messing up the car* but fortunately not the occupants, then because the suspect's a genius* tried to climb out the sunroof and run away.  That plan didn't work and he was quickly apprehended.

Turns out that this was not one isolated incident.  This arrest closed 60 separate stolen car incidents.  Allegedly, confessions were flying yesterday morning and all because after 59 successful heists, it looks like they made a mistake.  They came to North Bay Village.

*footnotes:  the cop describing the scene did not say "goshdarn" or "messing up the car."  He used an older Anglo Saxon intensifier but I don't want to drop F bombs in the blog.  Also, the driver is not a genius.  

Nice, But What The Heck Was Ceasar Costa Doing?

You know Ceasar Costa.  He's got hands the size of baseball mitts and talks really slow?  Seriously, I finish my taxes faster than he finishes a sentence.

Turns out he's the Columbo* of North Bay Village.

Costa was recognized by the US Attorney's office for his 2018 help in convicting a businessman for his extra legal activities.

He was at the US Attorney's office to receive the certificate pictured on the right while the above incident played out.

You might wonder about the crimes?  I did.   Well, it turns out that Costa worked with the DEA agent while on loan from North Bay Village and was a major player in bringing down MI SANGRE, one Henry de Jesus Lopez Londoño, a 47 year old Colombian who was convicted last year in Miami.  According to the prosecution "Lopez Londoño was involved in moving tens of thousands of kilos of cocaine into the United States between 2006 and 2012 and ordered assassinations, kidnappings and extortion."  MI SANGRE ratted out his coworkers and wrongly thought that this gave him immunity from all future crimes as well.  It didn't.  

Anyway, our small town Columbo* Costa was doing some pretty big league stuff.   You can read more about the case here.  

In most cities, this would be a big deal.  A major car theft ring busted, a cop puts away a Colombian drug lord.  I'm really glad our police are back because for the North Bay Village police, it's Thursday.   

*For my younger readers, Columbo was a fictional detective made famous by actor Peter Falk.   

He was known for talking really slow (like Costa) and getting it right to the point when it mattered (like Costa)

Hope this clears things up.  

Kevin Vericker
May 31, 2019

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Vote Thrice - Execute Once

If you know me in real life, you probably know that I am obsessed with the madness of Brexit. Apart from the sheer wrongheadedness of the Brexit referendum, it fascinates me to watch the utter failure of an established government to do even their basic job of implementing the decision.   
Theresa May was much more interested in winning the top spot than she was in being Prime Minister and when your only allies are Northern Irish fanatics and you have to talk to Jeremy Corbyn, you know you been outclassed. 
I can hear you now wondering if I've suddenly decided to go international in scale with this blog.  Nah.   I only bring this up because we are facing the same issue here in North Bay Village.  
North Bay Village has voted twice on referendums to fund the burying of the power lines and to fund a new civic center.   First in 2008 and then again in 2016.   
There's been no concrete progress on either one of those issues, to no one's surprise.  
The problem is not that it is clear what the residents want but the votes to tax ourselves were just guesswork since there was never a clear plan in place for either of these issues.  
Burying the power limes is the best example.  Both votes show that the residents want this outcome but neither one laid out a true estimate of the costs involved, including the fixed costs to all buildings and the special costs to older buildings who would need to update their electricity.   
The only thing agreed is that whatever the cost. the current amount will not cover it. And that assumes that FPL will go along with the plan which they say they are not obligated to do and don't plan to.  
The civic center is also still a big question.  Although the more ridiculous and excessive desires have been pared out, it is not clear how much the new construction will cost and what its principal focus will be or even where to put it.  
Before either of these projects move forward, it is critically important for the North Bay Village government to create a detailed plan of how these projects will be executed, what the results will be, the impact on the village and in the case of the buried power lines, the impact on the homes and businesses including the additional costs of hooking up to the new power grid.  
Once the detail is in hand, the commission should vote to hold a special election this November for a final vote on the issues, a vote where we know the real costs and the real impact.   It matters to get it done and get it done right.   
There's some concern that the new election would cost about $35,000.  Actually it would cost more because we would expect our government to plan and accurately lay out the costs and implications so the voters are fully informed, and then to proceed with the realistic implementation.  But that's a small amount in order to ensure we spend the $35 million or so correctly.   

As part of the Looney Tunes parody that passed for government under the previous commission, there were a serious of truly terrible charter amendments passed in November.
These included a prohibition on allowing the Village Manager to delegate functions, so the Village Manager is technically responsible for doing all the Village work.  Code Enforcement was moved from the Police Department to directly report to the Village Manager.  "Nepotism" which was always prohibited now extends to a third degree of consanguinity or relationship.  This means nothing and should be restored to its previous second degree.  The election can be used to fix this.

I hope this is a topic at the June meeting and we get back on track.

Kevin Vericker
May 30, 2019

Thursday, May 16, 2019

The Flood Waters Recede - North Bay Village Today

North Bay Village After Irma
Trigger Warning:  This is a really long post about Tuesday's Commission Meeting.  For a good short post, go to Richard Chervony's summary here.  It's less dull.  

In 2017, North Bay Village got hit by Irma and the immediate picture after the landfall was pretty bleak.  We still see some damage and changes but looking at us today, we don't look like South Treasure Drive did that day as pictured above.  
Almost simultaneously, a human caused storm engulfed our islands as our commission began a nearly year long rampage to destroy the infrastructure of North Bay Village and cover up the failed legacy of a an 8 year rule during which the only accomplishments were detrimental to the village.
Previous NBV Commission
The village attorney was fired without explanation and replaced with an inexperienced municipal attorney whose missteps are well documented, the police chief was fired and replaced with a contractor who is now being investigated for violating the laws around retirement, a sitting commissioner was removed without the due process set out in our charter and replaced via a process that is not in our charter with an ambitious friend of the mayor.   In the meantime, the village manager, deputy manager and executive administrator left hours before they were to be put on the chopping block.  A new village manager was brought in and then fired when she failed to provide the fireworks the mayor wanted.    Well, you know the story.   

Righting the Course

The newly elected members of the dais, Mayor Brent Latham, Commissioner Julianna Strout and Vice Mayor Marvin Wilmoth, along with the holdovers from the crew of the Exxon Valdez, North Bay Village edition, voted to bring in the consulting firm of Marsal & Alvarez to create a definitive assessment of where we are now and deliver recommended course corrections to get us back to rights.  
On Tuesday, they presented their results.  You can review them at this link, starting page 10, or watch the presentation on the North Bay Village web streaming site.  
Spoiler Alert:  A&M found that the Village was badly managed under the previous administration and the interim status of key positions is not helping.   
And that was the point.     
When you're in the middle of the storm and busy building the rudder, you can't stop to assess where you are.  
Alvarez & Marsal came into to act as a navigator, establishing where we are and plotting the course to go forward.  Their report is a success.  

But First What They Didn't Find

The previous commission was famous for their use of casually placed slanders to discredit people who might point out the real problems their actions were causing.  There were two major ones.  
A completely unfounded slander that there are large amounts of money unaccounted for or misappropriated.  A second slander that Village employees were not reporting for work or doing their jobs.  
The assessment found no evidence of either one of these things.  Nor by the way did the previous commission members but that hasn't stopped them from spreading these lies.  

What A&M Did Find - InterimVille

I'm not going to go all through the report.  Again, here's the link and it starts on page 10.  Most of the recommendations are technical or procedural in nature.   
What jumps out at me and jumped out at the commission was how dysfunctional our departments have been while we are run by a team of "interims" replacing a team of inexperienced political hires. An interim Village Manager, an interim Attorney, an interim Police Chief, a vacancy at the head of the building department, outsourced planning, an unfilled procurement position and a recently hired Village Clerk replacing an interim clerk.   
This overview was exactly what the commission needed to truly assess their next steps and they took action quickly.  
The same night, the three useful members of the commission voted to fill the interim manager position with Dr. Ralph Rosado and made him permanent, they filled the interim attorney position with Weiss Serota, they approved the contract with Patrick Slevin to run communications, and approved the hire of a new public works director, Jose Olivo.  
The next step is to create a strategic and tactical work plan to get us back on track and Rosado is already on it.   
The public was largely supportive of the assessment and several added their own view on how to proceed.  
Except for one.  Someone from the previous commission wondered why we spent money on this when anybody could see how badly the Village was deliberately broken by the previous commission.  It was a good question.  Let's ponder it.  
Oh, yeah.  Even the vandals on the dais last year didn't know how bad the damage they were inflicting was so the current dais needed to know. 

The Rest of the Meeting

After the A&M presentation, the three useful commission members swung right into their regular session...invocation, kids singing, awards, plaques, Good & Welfare, something about invasive species, a long rambling presentation by our village lobbyist, the above mentioned permanent positions, an update from Kimley Horn on the CLK Walkway to Nowhere, there's progress on the Dog Park but there's not a Dog Park yet, very little on STVR's but a plan to move more aggressively on the subject will be presented and so on.  It went late and ran smoothly.  


That's right.  In the Game of Thrones knockoff edition that passed for governance in the last year, one of the victims was Carlos Noriega, our well respected chief of police.  In a turn of events that any competent, experienced municipal lawyer would have seen, Noriega took his case to court to show that he was fired for investigating criminal complaints and reporting a potentially illegal data breach to the state authorities.   
The Useful 3 voted unanimously to reinstate him.   The place went wild.  You see the public has long known that not only was the firing unjust, but the police department needs to move forward and Noriega has the skills and experience to do just that.  
Noriega graciously accepted a settlement for far less than he could have gotten had the trial gone to jury, an outcome any competent, experience municipal attorney would have seen,  and is back probably next week.  I'll keep you posted.   

Good days in North Bay Village!

Attendance Report:  Both meetings were attended by Mayor Brent Latham, Commissioner Julianna Strout and Vice Mayor Marvin Wilmoth.   Commissioners Jackson and Alvarez were otherwise engaged and sent their regrets.  

Kevin Vericker
May 16, 2019

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Guest Blog by Richard Chervony

Today I am posting a guest piece by former commissioner Richard Chervony.   Enjoy.

WHO EVER SAID that the money spent on the Alvarez and Marsel LLC report revealed nothing new is terribly wrong. After a grueling incompetent two years and dismantling of every position at Village Hall a nice size crowd sat attentively and listened to this National Firm not only state our deficiency but give us a plan to act and effectuate change.  

This kick in the butt along with three committed COMMISSIONERS who listened, acted and started implementing the recommendations is the result of an 8 hour marathon spearheaded by Mayor Latham, Vice Mayor Wilmoth and Commissioner Strout.

With a break in between meetings for a sumptuous feast courtesy of Halal Market the ENERGIZED Commission Meeting Started to a full packed house.  The Children from TIES feted us with the No Room For Hate Choir, followed by strong words from our State Senator, Jason Pizzo and State Representative, Michael Grieco.  Our State Lobbyist, Ron Book followed with a call for action to ensure our monies get funneled to North Bay Village.  Then in Good and Welfare the same words were heard over and over again “ERADICATE THE WORD INTERIM”. 

The suggestion from Alvarez and Marsal to fill the needed positions with the proper leadership had resonated with the residents.  We were ready for action and the COMMISSION of Three were listening and acting to our needs as they have proven over and over again in their six months in office.

In a quick flurry of action and by the end of a very busy and long Agenda, the Village has named Dan Espino and his firm of Weiss Serrota as our PERMANENT Legal Counsel (pending contract negotiations).  They further filled the TRIUNVURATE of Charter Officials by naming Ralph Rosado as PERMANENT VILLAGE MANAGER (pending contract negotiaitions).  The important vote for me was the righting the wrong of the past commission and REINSTATING CHIEF CARLOS NORIEGA in another unanimous vote of confidence for the direction that will mark the NEW NORTH BAY VILLAGE.  To see Chief Noriega walk back in to Village Hall and keep his promise to his men that he would fight and return to the job and Village he loves was a highlight of the evening. This was followed by the introduction of our PR Director and our new Public Works Director, Jose Olivo.

Let’s not be so quick and overlook the word INTERIM.  Special thanks go to Dr. Ralph Rosado and Dan Espino for stepping into those interims shoes and proving that they are the right fit for the role.  Special Thanks go to that one hero that has served possibly longer as INTERIM CHIEF longer than any other Chief in the History of North Bay Village.  Every time there is a falling out and we replace a Chief, Lt. Brian Collins steps up to the plate and fill the position with dignity, courage and devotion.  Interim Chief Collins (for now and soon to be Lt again), there are no words of gratitude for a job well done.

North Bay Village wakes up this Wednesday morning to a NEW DAWN of action and a plan to move forward.  To soar to new heights of greatness and accomplish the vision we the residents voted for last November.  Several key positions are to be created and everyone needs to get in sync.  But there is a great sense of renewal and commitment coming from the dais and the administration and as the song says…………  THERE’S NO STOPPING US NOW!

Richard Chervony
May 15, 2019  

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Right Track - This Simple Reaction Speaks Volumes

Maybe getting North Bay Village on track to run as a transparent, effective city is not as hard as it has been presented.  
Maybe it's just a simple case of doing the right thing at the right time.  
Yesterday, there was a problem at Vogel Park.  An exercise station fell over.  (Insert joke here.) A resident posted on Facebook, another reached out to Village Manager Ralph Rosado and within minutes on a Saturday, the area was cordoned off and the repair plan publicly posted on Facebook.  
This is the new normal in North Bay Village.  Residents, elected officials and Village employees working together to do the right thing at the right time.  
For years, our city has been restrained by elected officials interested only in their own priorities and frightened of public discussion, residents frustrated with the lack of response and employees under constant threat for responding to the public.  
Then 2018 happened.  North Bay Village had enough and put in a mayor and two new commissioners who have no reason to fear the public and replaced the double dipping handmaid Village Manager with a professional and the results are showing.   When a simple thing breaks, a simple solution is proposed and advertised, and then done.   Simple and useful.  Who knew?  Besides all of us?

Kevin Vericker
May 12, 2019

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Moving Forward

As the Village emerges from the chaos of the last administration, the first question that had to be answered is "Where the hell are we?"  
All of our executive positions, the Village Attorney, the Village Clerk and the Village Manager were replaced in the last year with political hires of little experience and often even less judgment.   
It left North Bay Village in a terrible situation.  There is so much out of balance that the first order of business for the new commission was to get an assessment of the current status so that moving forward could be done from a fixed point.   

Alvarez & Marsal Lay Out Where We Are

The consulting company, Alvarez & Marsal, have spent the last 2 months establishing where we are  and on Tuesday, May 14 at 4:30 PM, they will be presenting their report to the commission.   It is included in the agenda packet for the meeting and makes for some very interesting reading.  You can access it here.   

Putting Concerns to Rest

In the first part of the executive summary, A&M consultants address two falsehoods that were being floated to discredit the North Bay Village staff and administration:  
  1. Falsehood 1 is the claim that finance had misallocated money and funds were missing.  After an extensive review by the consultants and our auditors, there is no evidence that supports this slander. 
  2. Falsehood 2 is the claim that Village Staff is not doing their jobs, including the reckless accusation by former mayor Kreps that there are no show village employees.  The assessment found no evidence to support this, not even anecdotes.   
Having established that, the report delves into those areas where the village most needs improvement. 


Assessing the finance group, A&M found that our accounting procedures are solid but the Village needs to step up its game in planning, budgeting and efficiencies that can be achieved through fully implementing the automation tools at the village's disposal.   

A strong recommendation is create a new Chief Financial Officer reporting to the Village Manager.  The commission will be considering this move at the meeting.  

Assessing the personnel group, A&M strongly recommended recruiting and hiring a professional HR Director, reporting to the Village Manager, to re-establish the training, development, recruitment and standards.  

Special note:  Much of what A&M noted as lacking in HR is a report of the status quo, that is what they did not find currently.   Particularly in the area of evaluation and training, the Village had strong procedures in place that were inculcated in the policies and procedures.  These were put aside in the  last year, so the observations are correct on the part of A&M, they are not currently in place but there are policies and procedures established, the several village managers just ignored them and now they look like they never existed.  The new director and Village manager need to do some digging and they will quickly find that they do not need to start from scratch.   This should make re-implementing these easier.  

The lack of permanent personnel at the management level is holding us back and North Bay Village needs to aggressively fill these positions.  

Here's a short list of the interim or vacant positions:

Village Manager - Currently occupied by Dr. Ralph Rosado as an interim.   The Village needs to fill this position with an experienced change management professional who can get us back on track.  In my view, Rosado fits the bill and I hope the Village does not waste time looking for a slightly better match.  It's not Tinder and there's a lot at stake by not moving forward.  

Village Attorney - Weiss Serota is acting as interim Village Attorneys and has been actively restoring the integrity and focus of the office.  It may be that the same situation as the Village Manager is true.  We are in enough need to justify making the relationship permanent, although I do believe that the option of hiring an in house attorney should at least be discussed before acting.  

Police Chief - On the second agenda for Tuesday night, there is a resolution to reinstate Carlos Noriega, wrongfully dismissed during the last whirlwind of the previous mayor.  Noriega enjoys broad support in the community, the administration, and the police union.   There is no serious opposition to his reinstatement and the police department had significantly advanced under his stewardship.   Should be solved next week.  

Building & Planning - These essential departments are outsourced, not unusual for municipality our size, but it has led to an unclear situation about responsibility.   There are several possible routes and once we have a permanent Village manager, this needs to be addressed.  

Code Enforcement - At several points A&M discusses the optimal placement of coding.  Like everyone else, they have not noticed that as a parting gift, Mayor Kreps and her handlers put in the charter that coding can only report to the Village Manager and that precludes a reorganization of the function.  Thanks, Crazy Eyes!

There's a lot of detail and I would strongly recommend reading the report.  It should give us a clear view of what's next and what has to be done.  

Kevin Vericker
May 9, 2019

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Turning the Page - Noriega Set To Return

Today, Mayor Brent Latham announced that negotiations with wrongly fired police chief Carlos Noriega are on track for his reinstatement as North Bay Village Police Chief.  The commission agreed to offer resinstatement in order to settle the outstanding lawsuit by Noriega.  

Under Noriega the police were progressing in ways they have not in years and the best course for the village is to continue this progress.  This last year was a mess that the current commission inherited and has been trying to figure out the right path forward since November.  It seem that barring unforeseen circumstances Noriega will be back by May 14. 

Major props go to our mayor and our commission.  That they listened carefully and weighed the community input in the matter merits our respect. 

Of particular note is that the mayor today posted the following on his Facebook page

North Bay Village Citizens -
Carlos Noriega has accepted the Commission's proposal to end his legal claims on our village. The conditions proposed include his reinstatement as Police Chief. 
Pending some minor legal details to be agreed, the terms will go before the Commission for final approval at the next Commission meeting on May 14. 
Further details will be provided by the village as they are determined. 
This closes a sad and troubling chapter in North Bay Village's history. Alongside the Vice Mayor and my fellow Commissioners, our village administration and employees, and now Chief Noriega and our police force, I look forward to continuing to lead our city forward on an ambitious and just path. 
I would also like to recognize and thank Interim Chief Brian Collins for his faithful stewardship of the department over the past year. 
Please follow the village's Facebook page to stay informed. North Bay Village
This is radical transparency.  Our mayor shared what he knew when he knew it with the people who care about the issue.  I want to write that it is a good sign for a healthy future but the truth is that it's a good thing that is happening now.  We have a truthful Commission who trusts us and that means we can trust them.   Well done. 

Not yet time for the whole "Welcome Back" party.  The commission still has to finalize the settlement on May 14 but we are on a much better road. 

Kevin Vericker
May 1, 2019