Thursday, January 9, 2020

It Could All Go Off Course

Last entry, I posted about the relative good shape the Village is in as the world enters the 2020's. 

But no one can afford to pretend it's all blue skies from here on in.

Yes.  The commission is no longer a dysfunctional circus acting out dramas of little interest to real people and the employees are actual employees rather than contractors, but the last administration has left a number of land mines that could derail the recovery.

The most visible ones are the two useless commissioners, who aided and abetted in every piece of the destructive insanity throughout 2018.   Neither one contributes to the commission or the village and 2020 should see a goodbye to them.
Commissioner Jose Alvarez

Commissioner Andreana Jackson
(No I don't know what she's doing)

But there are less obvious and far riskier issues yet to be resolved.  And of course a crazy one.  Let's start with that.

People Are Supposed To Give Back Government Property.  

It seems that one or two former electeds and a former charter officer failed to return taxpayer owned property when the taxpayers decided that their services were no longer needed.   
Reports are that these include village phones, at least one village computer, a whole server's worth of data, id cards and for some reason, badges.    The Village has been trying to recover these for some time (since November 2019 at least) and so far have been ignored.   So there's an item on the commission agenda next week to compel the Village to take action and explain that these were not lovely parting gifts.    

Hornsby Lawsuit Awaiting Settlement Following Finding.

The 11th Judicial Court of Florida found last July that Douglas Hornsby had been removed illegally from the dais.  Now the Village is entering into mediation with Hornsby as there are considerable legal bills, above and beyond what the Village spent in this ill begotten move, and other damages. The amount could be huge.    

It's my view that Jackson and Alvarez, both of whom voted for the removal of Hornsby, and who should have known that the process being used would never stand up in court, should recuse themselves.  After all, they weren't part of the problem, they were the problem.   

Who's To Blame For Lewis Velken?

On March 6, 2019, the Florida Retirement System notified former North Bay Village Police Chief Lewis Velken (and interim manager) that he had violated the FRS rules with his arrangement to be paid through a third party.   Velken was ordered to pay back $691,307 dollars and his ongoing benefits were reduced or eliminated.   Velken is currently appealing the ruling stating that his arrangement did not violate FRS rules.   It's Case No: 19-002746 and the details can be found here.  

Velken asserted that he was legitimately working for a contractor in his response and not in violation of the rules.   

There's no clear view of how this works out but Velken's attorneys have reportedly already put the Village on notice that Velken might sue in the event of an unfavorable decision.   

Given the uncertainty, the Village Manager at the time said under oath that the arrangement was made by then Village Attorney Norman Powell, who in turn was quoted in the Miami Herald saying "“That’s a complete fabrication,” Powell said.  Now both of these people are gone but if the Village is sued and loses, the taxpayers are on the hook for a large amount, which could include the $691,307 DROP, lost pension benefits and legal fees.   

It's pretty urgent that the Village form a strategy now if they are to defend against this.   

You Can't Just Ignore Things.

There's still a lot of cleanup left over from the reign of lunacy that preceded 2019.   

Two of the above are financial threats but there are other toxic spills that need to be addressed by the commission, and solely by the commission.  

  • There were a series of useless and in some cases destructive Charter amendments put on the 2018 ballot.  In particular, a Citizens Bill of Rights mirroring the County Charter, that does not contain any agreed up investigation or enforcement methods, a nepotism amendment that does not define "affinity" and makes no sense, a series of amendments to hobble the village administrator, and others. 
  • Through most of 2018, Zoning hearings were not held as "quasi-judicial" as required by Florida procedure and it is possible that the decisions made during these are not enforceable.
  • Regardless of how the Velken pension turns out, there remain legal questions raised by the FOP as to police actions taken while he was acting as police chief and if he was able to sign contracts as Village Manager.  These need to be made clear.  

2019 Was A Good Year

It started out contentiously with the old guard protecting their positions and that took a lot of energy.  Jackson and Alvarez are not productive.  The new administration got ahead of itself sometimes but overall, a good year, not just in contrast to the previous year but by any measure.  

The holidays are over.  The Commission will be back next week and it's time for a plan to finish the job they started.   

Kevin Vericker
January 9, 2020

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