Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Public Face Vs. The Private Face…

As many politicians do, Mr. Curran also has the same affliction of misleading the public by adopting a public face of one person and in private outside of the public eye another.
Recently a report came to the Insider detailing the private face Mr. Curran does not want you know about. The report is as follows. When purchasing another  home in the same complex the home was offered on an “AS IS’ basis. He had an inspection performed. The report was approved and the purchased was completed. A couple of months later a problem was discovered in the upstairs a/c. Upon finding that the original inspection failed to report on the problem  he chose to demand compensation from the seller despite the purchase contract that clearly stated an “AS IS” basis.
When this contract clause was pointed out to him he refused to honor it and instead  obtained a lawyer who proceeded to send to the seller a series of demand letters with the threat of a lawsuit should the seller refuse to pay  damages of $15k to him.
The seller, a recent widow (about 3 months earlier) with two of her children still residing with her, bereaved over her recent loss and the unexpected need to sell her home in order to deal with the subsequent unexpected expenses was quite distraught.  
The under the pressure of the persistent deluge of demand letters and  the threat  of a lawsuit the widow who was also dealing with a heart condition, gave in and paid Mr. Curran $15k  rather than go to court and deal with the anguish of going to court.
Does this sound like the person that talks about how much he cares for others?
We think not. What say you?
A final twist is that the lawyer Mr. Curran chose demanded his fee of $8K. Therefore, the net to Curran was a mere $7k.  How would you feel regarding Mr. Curran had you been the seller under these conditions?




Sunday, July 27, 2014

Why are we funding the school board?

Subject: School Computers

To Mr. & Mrs. Cooper City Taxpayer,

At first glance most of us are favorably inclined to the concept of diverting $100k towards schools for computer. The needs having been described by the head school janitor as urgently needed. Upon further contemplation not as favorably disposed towards the idea for some reasons I will convey to you.

While the idea of better computers sounds good, the proposed gift ignores that school funding is strictly a state & county function, with additional federal funds thrown in.  You will soon receive a notice, the TRIM Notice, AKA, notice of proposed property taxes. Review it closely and you will see that the amount you will probably pay to the school board is greater than your city tax bill for two reasons. The millage is greater and the amount of exemption is less thus a larger bill in most cases for the average homeowner.

There is also the question of the funding of school activities by a municipal government. While it is true in some areas of the country there are municipalities that are responsible for funding of the school system. However, given the structure of the school system in Florida the school board is a county level function will state funding as well as federal funds to the state/local school board. It is noteworthy that the Broward School System is the 2nd largest in the country. Given these facts I find no sound legal or logical basis for municipal funding a requirement or even necessity that city taxes need be appropriated to the public schools.

The growth of charter schools both private and public does give rise to the question of funding and this is particularly true in Pembroke Pines. And we have watched that over the years and I am not sure that we can look to that as answer to enhancing the public school system in a municipality. I would wonder what the reaction is to all of this for parents who fund our public schools but receive not consideration for sending their kids to the non-public funded education systems.

The public schools are funded through direct taxes paid by property owners to the Broward Schools System. It now appears as though the Cooper City Commission has inserted into the budget a gift, that’s right Bertha, a gift of $100,000 to fund obtaining computers. The exact reason is not being made very clear. Is it for additional computers for testing or for day to day usage or for other reasons?

Apparently this gift request was made by the principal of the high school on behalf of the five public schools in Cooper City. No mention of the charter or private schools was included. This is occurring in the same time frame as the efforts of the school board to ramp up support of the $800 million bond issue to be paid by the property owners of Broward. (Sources knowledgeable on this indicate that a substantial portion will be directed to payment of the previous indebtedness of the school board.)

Once again it appears that the city commission chooses to take the rise in total increase in the tax base (thanks to the Monterra development) and lavish it to another uncommon place. Is there something I missed or is this just an inherent flaw in the ideology of this commission that if there is additional monies coming in let’s find a place to spend it. Least we not forget the more cynical theory that three of the five commissioners earn their income from the public trough, Commissioner Curran being one who actually works at CCHS.

 As a side note this even lacks a modicum of accountability as there is no restrictions to ensure that the gift is spend as the city taxpayers are led to believe it will be.

There are already enough problems with accountability on the collection or spending of tax dollars and "fees" without adding more.

It is somewhat of a mystery of how and why a request made in May of this year, sent to directly to the city manager, Bruce Loucks, and never distributed to the city commission as a whole, placed as an item in the budget  until the unveiling of the city budget on or about July 1 and the public until July 10th. Was there some nefarious reason to withhold it from the public? I find it somewhat devious that it was not presented as a request for funding and allowing the commission to discuss it beforehand. Rather it was placed in the budget with an implied “let’s see if you have the daring to suggest that it be removed”.

One overriding concern revolves around why the $100k is being spent for this purpose as opposed to others. We are spending about ¾ of a million on sports facilities and additionally $800k for the sports complex on Flamingo Rd but little on additional upgrades to parks throughout the city. Many residents are asking for a dog park and have been totally ignored. We increase the fees for the use of the recreational facilities, fees for usage of the gym equipment, not to mention additional fee for permits to upgrade the appearances of the individual properties.

Or even a small reduction in taxes, keeping mind that almost every homeowner has had their property increase and many are still struggling with stresses of the recession or recovery if that what this current economy really is.

I leave it to you to decide. Once you have made your decision let your city commissioners know how you feel. Now is the time for you to act. Don’t let this issue slide by as once the first bite is taken a desire to continue and even increase it will surely happen.

Monday, March 24, 2014

"Deception" (Lisa Mallozzi's DRW Article, Part II)

by Skip Klauber, resident & p/t journalist

City residents should consider Ms. Mallozzi's DRW article as an opportunity. An opportunity to see through any smokescreen of rhetorical nonsense and examine the deplorable condition of governance in Cooper City. Even more to the point, it is time for each resident in our community to gauge for themselves just how far away we are from any semblance of good governance. And I am not referring to some unreachable political Utopia.  The citizenry need only reflect upon basic concepts of decent representation provided by responsible local elected officials conscious of their sworn oath of office and fiduciary responsibilities.

The individuals controlling the majority of votes on the Commission, with an able assist by fellow travelers and sycophants, count on you, the residents. They count on you to be far too busy to focus on the activities of part-time, locally elected officials who generally meet only twice a month. In addition, most residents are probably vaguely aware we have a qualified, professional City Manager to really run things, and generally make sure the wheels don't come off the bus.

In the person of Bruce Loucks we indeed have a qualified, professional City Manager. While I may sometimes vehemently disagree with Mr. Loucks' decisions, he is a very competent and well-respected professional. However, counterbalancing Mr. Loucks' competence and qualifications are the local offices of mayor and city commissioner. With only three votes necessary to fire any City Manager who might rub their fur the wrong way, I have a great deal of sympathy for anyone trying to hold down that position.

Back in 2008, the majority of individuals holding the offices of mayor and city commissioner exercised a coup de main. Through a series of events never fully explained, and quite irregular in process, they literally bullied their way into seizing the reins of local power. The elected officials decided that despite a distinct lack of any qualifications, and damn the consequences, they were taking control of "City policy". This decision allowed Commission members to fully develop and put into practice their present "make it up as we go along" political philosophy.  In an unforeseen consequence, taking power to which they were never intended also sounded the death knell for any effective oversight within the City.

In over 26 months of closely observing the City Commission, I've noticed "the truth" has a life expectancy shorter than soldiers assigned to WWII Soviet Penal Battalions. The DRW magazine publication has graciously provided local elected officials the opportunity to publish several articles in each edition. It is with astoundingly poor judgment that some of our elected officials seem intent on using the platform provided by DRW to disseminate propaganda pieces, rather than the local chamber of commerce, or health/safety/welfare type articles for which the space is clearly intended.

Rather than respect and observe the courtesy granted by the DRW publication, it seems several Commission members have discovered a new outlet for their favorite method of communication with the electorate. Commission members can write what they want, and then have their propaganda printed and disseminated to a wide audience. Of course, given that DRW is a publication not intended for political statements, there is no procedure in place whereby readers can raise questions that should be answered. The DRW publication is not in the business of fact-checking and making considered judgments regarding articles submitted by local officials. It offers elected officials a transaction dependent on good faith and trust. (Hmmm. Wasn't there a line in the movie "Animal House" relevant to this trust situation?).

I first noticed misuse of the DRW magazine in an article by Commissioner Jamie Curran in the December, 2013 issue. The article was part of Mr. Curran's efforts to, amongst other things, resuscitate a stalled expenditure of over $6,000,000 for construction of a Soccer Complex and upgrades to existing athletic facilities. The projects were to be funded by the City's taxpayers.

Despite essentially no public disclosures, participation, or input through about 18+ months of private discussion and development, the way seemed clear to force through this enormous project. However, at almost the last possible moment certain problems arose. First, it became impossible to hide that no due diligence had ever been done demonstrating any necessity for the notably large expenditure of taxpayers' dollars. Second, to this observer there looked to be an inability to convince Mayor Ross and City Manager Loucks into setting aside their well-founded concerns. Third, there had been questions raised by Commissioner John Sims that remained very much unanswered.

Commissioner Curran used his December of 2013 DRW article to discuss the projected projects of a park and updating athletic facilities (note, for now the term "Soccer Complex" has been virtually barred from the City's vocabulary). He also focused on alleged public disclosure, as well as public input into the projects. The article was based on a rather sketchy version of local legislative history, but the real problem was Commissioner Curran's use of inaccurate information to bolster a key point.

Although I found Mr. Curran's use of the DRW space for propaganda to be an exercise in poor political acumen, it involved an emotional matter for the Commissioner. He had become very closely associated with building a Soccer Complex, and despite taking zero personal responsibility for there being no due diligence, he was clearly unhappy with the situation. Thus, although the article was premised on at least one fact that was clearly and unequivocally false, I thought it likely Mr. Curran had not intended to lie.

Ms. Mallozzi's recent article suggests the bully pulpit offered by DRW presents certain Commission members with an irresistible opportunity. Though cowardly, the preference of the majoritarians for "no questions asked; no questions answered" communications with the public is a matter of record. It's also quite effective, though misuse of DRW magazine could very well backfire badly on those seeking to use the free printing and dissemination of rank propaganda to beat down, undermine or suppress dissent. Once again, the selfish interests of a few local elected officials may well result in certain unintended consequences.

At this point in examining the Mallozzi article, I want to really focus in on the nuts 'n bolts of bad governance. Therefore, I direct your attention to the Commissioner's ill-judged effort to distort and, certain evidence suggests,  intentionally mislead residents via her reference to and explanation of the "70% threshold" in the 2012 CCO-City Resolution.

Resolutions since at least 2003 have resolved that Optimist-run leagues must be made up of 70% or more City residents. Indeed, Ms. Mallozzi alludes to the 70% threshold being part of the 2012 Resolution. However, seeking to justify an apparent back room deal, Ms. Mallozzi adds that participant numbers from basketball are not included, "since they use non-city facilities". Looking at the history of City-CCO sports and Resolutions, this is an absurd and rather comical contention. However, by examining the several different aspects of exactly how the statement is misleading, residents can look "behind the curtain" and view the absence of ability or imagination, as well as the overall lack of candor prevalent amongst the majority of the Commission.   

The reason basketball numbers are backed-out in determining the 70% threshold is as basic as you can get. If the numbers are included, the 70% threshold cannot be reached. It's that simple, and that's all there is to it. Basketball participation was an element of determining the threshold percentage of residents from sometime as early as the 1980's (note, at one time, in a much smaller program, the threshold number was 90%!) through July of 2012. I have scoured the public records produced by the City, and there is no discussion or reference to a discussion concerning backing-out basketball numbers because of using non-city facilities.

If one chooses to pause for 20 minutes and review the applicable data (e.g., the City budget numbers on overall maintenance costs for athletic facilities, CCO participants by town of residence, etc.), there really isn't any scenario where backing-out the data on participation in CCO-organized basketball makes sense but for "the cold equations". Those being that with the basketball numbers included, it is impossible for a 70% threshold of City participants to be reached.

Of course, because discussions involving negotiation of the 2012 Resolution ranged from secretive to fully private in manner, it is not possible to categorically state that Commissioner Mallozzi was being untruthful. There was an alleged open public meeting on April 12, 2012, that addressed six CCO sports-related matters, with the meeting lasting 1 hr. 45 min. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately?) for Ms. Mallozzi, what is being very unwisely hawked by the City as "official minutes" for that meeting describe 105 minutes of discussion in a mere 17 words. That's right, 17. If 17 words representing an hour and forty five minutes of discussion is not disgraceful enough, Commissioners Curran and Jeff Green have publicly asserted these minutes to be substantially inaccurate. (Yes, I know we have a City Attorney. But...).

All of the other meetings that might have discussed the 70% threshold or otherwise supported Ms. Mallozzi's story were private. Commissioner Curran was there, but there are absolutely no records indicating the basketball story is true, and no minutes from the private meetings exist. It should also be noted that when the 2012 Resolution came before the Commission for consideration and vote, there were no discussions or disclosures of any sort. Even though he had presumably been at the helm while the Resolution was drafted, Commissioner Curran failed to introduce the matter, point out and explain changes, ask if he could answer questions, etc., etc. Nothing anyone might expect of an experienced elected representative and official liaison to the Optimists was done.  Or was it... ?


Monday, March 3, 2014

"Deflection" (Commissioner Lisa Mallozzi's DRW Article)

by Skip Klauber, resident & p/t journalist 

I don't care for the tactics being utilized by Commissioners Jamie Curran, Lisa Mallozzi and Jeff Green. While I can't give a legal analysis, as far as I can tell from observing events and reviewing documents, there is no present issue about the "Optimists owing money". The aforementioned individuals, and their fellow travellers, need to stop trying to undermine the Optimists. Be men, and women, rather than selfish, self-centered, power hungry cowards.

There certainly seems to be an issue of financial and other mismanagement by the City. There are also, apparently, issues of mis-governance related to covering up the City's financial and other mismanagement. But based on everything I've seen, and I forwarded public record requests for everything relevant, I don't believe the Optimists owe the City a single penny. But the Optimists' financial obligations are not what the aforementioned Commissioners, and any possible accommodations for them by the Mayor, are all about.

There are few things more annoying to purveyors of bad governance than dissent. All the potential thinking and answering questions can be so very bothersome. In 2009 our Commission found a way to get around most of that dissent "stuff". The Commission promulgated a rule that terminated the decades-old privilege held by City residents to pose questions to Commission members.

The Commission liked the new gag rule so much it has not only been reaffirmed, it has even been extended to all of the City's so-called advisory boards. In fact, it appears the Commission members are even barred from asking questions of one another! (To his credit, Mayor Greg Ross joined Commissioner John Sims in unsuccessfully seeking to widen public input at Commission meetings). 

Getting rid of a need to answer residents' questions has been a real boon to most Commission members. Other than having to listen to three, or at most six total minutes of a resident's comments, most Commission members have a pretty low-stress position. A Commission member doesn't even have to listen to residents' comments- it's not like an elected official might have to answer questions, or anything potentially challenging. If nothing else, the past few years have shown that truly anyone, of any ability, can be on our City's Commission.

Eliminating nearly all effective dissent is nice, but your average tin-horn Caesar with a soft spot for authoritarian process requires more. They need affirmation. A sure vehicle for such affirmation is reading what others say or write about the utter brilliance of your positions, analysis, or performance. And having the populace as a whole reading of your accomplishments goes hand in hand with the affirmation process. Thus, there are "house organs", "party newspapers", and the like. After a while, some pols of high ego/low intelligence even forget they are just reading political propaganda.

Because city commission in a town of under 50,000 residents is on the smaller potatoes side, local yokel tin-horn Caesars need to settle for less media when it comes to the affirmation/ propaganda process. This leads to my thoughts regarding Commissioner Lisa Mallozzi's recent article in the DRW publication.

The article may be more in the nature of self-affirmation, but it fulfills the sine qua non of our local Commission majoritarians: "No Questions Will Be Answered!"  This is reflected in what I believe to be the "write what you want, and don't worry" philosophy underlying the author's approach.

I don't know who penned the DRW article attributed to Mallozzi. I guess I'd like to think its not someone who defeated the well-qualified David Nall in the 2010 election. But whoever composed the article has a very hostile relationship with the truth.

What is the precise status of the facts in Ms. Mallozzi's article?

(1) The article claims it will let residents know "a few facts". This is true. Ms. Mallozzi's article has a few actual facts;

(2) The 2004 Resolution? Sorry, what Ms. Mallozzi writes is less than accurate. By 2004 the Optimists and City were several decades into a relationship. I believe Ms. Mallozzi's entire discussion on this point shows either a complete lack of knowledge (i.e., "ignorance") regarding the Optimists-City relationship, or is intended to be misleading;

(3) The April 12, 2012 get-together? I'm afraid what Ms. Mallozzi writes scores comfortably below the Mendoza Line for truthfulness. That's not to say everything is inaccurate or misleading, but there is enough here straying far from the truth to give me material for another article, or two.

For the doubters, some examples:

(A) Why did the City (note, CITY, not the Optimists!) "invite" only four Commissioners? Do you think it odd the sole Commission member not invited, Commissioner John Sims, was also the only Commissioner not a member of the Optimists organization?

            (by the way, did Commissioner Mallozzi mention she is a member of the Optimists?)

(B) While the 2012 meeting was indeed held in the Commission's meeting room, it was moved to that room at the time of the 2012 meeting. The 2012 meeting was noticed for the City Manager's office. At 9:00 A.M. On a weekday.

(C) As noted, the notice said the meeting was in the City Manager's office. Does that sound like easy access for the public? If you think so, go try and walk into the City Manager's office tomorrow morning;

(D) About that "notice". In Cooper City, City policy is that open public meetings subject to the Sunshine Laws are noticed to the public in (at least) two places, a cork board in City Hall, and online. The City's online site has this big calendar that has about every meeting possibly of interest to a resident, in quite a bit of detail. Yet, the April 12, 2012 meeting was not on the website. Only on that City Hall bulletin board;

(E) The notice failed to reference two of the items to be discussed on April 12, 2012. The items left off the notice were the most complex matters, as well as those of greatest importance to the public;

(F) Ah, the minutes. Yes, the minutes. Maybe Commissioner Mallozzi should read these minutes at the next Commission meeting. A discussion of five subjects over 1 hr. 45 minutes summarized into: 17 words (note, in fairness to all, one word is hyphenated). That may sound a little, sketchy, but

(G) Those minutes again! Commissioner Mallozzi failed to include in her article that two of her colleagues, Commissioners Curran and Green, insisted at a January 28, 2014 Commission meeting the 2012 "minutes" are inaccurate. Yep, inaccurate.  (And you believe Commissioners Curran and Green, don't you?);

This could go on for quite while, so let's summarize. The article by Commissioner Mallozzi is disrespectful to residents, devoid of integrity, and a stain on Cooper City's reputation. Surely, Commissioner Mallozzi must realize that sooner or later the truth always comes out.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Excellence in Financial Reporting?

Commission meeting Feb. 25
(copy of email to Cooper City, City Manager, Bruce Loucks)

On tonight's Agenda is an item, "Frank DiPaolo will present Finance Director Horacio Montes de Oca with a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting". While I don't know Mr. Montes de Oca, or even know very much about him, the presentation at this time of an award for excellence in "Financial Reporting" seems quite irregular.

During the last Commission meeting, the City Attorney presented his opinion on whether Resolutions create legally binding obligations. That is, whether Resolutions can create obligations in the nature of a contractual relationship. Because the City Attorney confidently advised that Resolutions can bind parties in the nature of an enforceable contractual relationship, I would think considerable questions now exist regarding the the nature of the parameters regarding the CCO-City relationship as set out in the 2003 and 2004 Resolutions. As you are aware, an important part of the 2003 and 2004 Resolutions addressed financial obligations by and between the Optimists and the City.

On the question of any financial obligations to the City from the Optimists, prior to Mr. Wolpin's pronouncement it was my belief the Optimists did not possess anything akin to an enforceable financial obligation in favor of Cooper City. However, I can only look at the problem as a layman, not as an attorney. In attempting to incorporate Mr. Wolpin's analysis into the present realities, I see several problems in a decision to present Mr. Montes de Oca with a "
Certificate of Achievement". 

(1) No monies were collected by the City from the Optimists from at least January 1, 2007 through around August of 2012. If the 2003 and 2004 Resolutions represent enforceable agreements, the time period just given would result in unpaid fees aggregating as much as (approx.) $250,000 due to the City;

(2) I have been advised by Mr. Montes de Oca, through you and Ms. Poling, the City is unable to account (i.e., provide information) for the receipt of any fees from the CCO prior to January 1, 2007. I have asked for clarification on this issue, but received none. The bottom line appears to be that precisely when the CCO stopped paying nonresident fees over to the City is an open question. Because when the CCO ceased making payments contemplated under the 2003 and 2004 Resolutions is unknown, the amount of unpaid nonresident fees may be greater than $250,000;

(3)  Despite the existence of the 2003 and 2004 Resolutions, public records indicate no attempt by the City to ever enforce the payments contemplated in the 2003 and 2004 Resolutions. Public Records produced no invoices, demand letters, letters requesting payments, relevant emails, etc. from the City to the Optimists. In addition, Public Records indicate that no special account into which nonresident fees were deposited exists, or existed, even though such an account was contemplated by the 2003 and 2004 Resolutions;

(4) Despite the legal opinion presented by the City Attorney, aside from the Resolutions there is nothing in the Public Records evincing any intent on the part of the City to enforce the obligation of the Optimists to pay to the City all nonresident fees collected from participants in CCO leagues.

I am not entirely sure what to make of the above. Particularly in light of the City Attorney suggesting the possibility the 2003 and 2004 Resolutions could represent an enforceable legal obligation. Setting aside any legal analysis best left to qualified counsel, the facts so far discovered via Public Record Requests suggest financial mismanagement on the part of the City. A deal was worked out with the Optimists for nonresident fees to be paid over to the City. For obvious reasons, this is what one would anticipate happening to the nonresident fees. Does anyone doubt that nonresidents paying the extra money all believed the extra amount would flow to the City to assist in deferring the expense of City taxpayers maintaining facilities for use by nonresidents? For what other purpose would a nonresident fee be imposed?

I have assiduously sought out the reason(s) why and when payment to the City of nonresident fees ceased. No answers have been provided. Until there is a clear explanation by the City regarding nonresident fees does the Commission actually believe a, Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting should be presented to Mr. Montes de Oca? The situation is so bizarre and provocative it adds to my suspicion that in order to deflect attention from any allegations of financial mismanagement, the City is prepared to accuse the Optimists of failing to make payments pursuant to an enforceable legal obligation (i.e., the 2003/2004 Resolutions).

The basic, underlying fact set forth herein about nonresident fees not paid/collected is not in dispute. Frankly, with the open questions associated with what happened, or should have happened regarding the nonresident fees, this Commission presiding over this type of ceremony at this time gives off an odor of possible corruption. Until the outstanding financial questions are truthfully and credibly answered, the planned Certificate of Achievement should be delayed. In my opinion, the provocative nature of the ceremony's timing will otherwise work to frame certain questions about the character, judgment and motivations of yourself, members of the Commission, and the Commission's various fellow travelers.       

 Skip Klauber

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Sunshine Law violated? (again?)

Article from the Broward Bulldog reprinted for the resident of Cooper city who may have missed it.  Broward Bulldog Article

Comment from Skip Klauber:

I am glad to see the issue of the City’s misuse and outright perversion of “minutes” under the Sunshine Law has again appeared, this time via the Fourth Estate. Thank G-d for that First Amendment, right?  ......
The purpose of the Sunshine Law is to provide the public with certain protections against those covered by the Law. As all of you should be aware, one of the greatest weapons available to guarantee protection of the public in the context of the Sunshine Law is “transparency”. Actions by a governmental body cannot be taken in secrecy, or virtual secrecy. There must be proper notice of meetings and key events. Proper minutes must be recorded and made available to the public. Disclosure and truth are of paramount importance.

There are four members of the present Commission who fail to understand that minutes taken pursuant a policy of purposefully excluding events “embarrassing” to the City do not comply with either the letter or spirit of the Sunshine Law. It makes little difference if you have ten different video feeds of an open public meeting recorded and available via video on demand, if the minutes required by the Sunshine Law are deliberately meant to defeat transparency. How exactly does the “supplement” of a video cure this problem? By allowing anyone with an interest to watch entire Commission meetings, right. Except, if the minutes purposely leave out events, how are you going to know to watch the video to see what occurred regarding that event?

The intended answer to the above is, of course, you won’t know. You will have no reason to watch several hours of video if you do not see in the minutes anything of interest having occurred. And the policy is quite effective in making sure you will not be going through a few hours of video because you know via the minutes something occurred that made, e.g., the Mayor look bad. Nope. That is kept out of the minutes so as to be hush-hush. Actually, pretty close to secret. Its there on the video, but almost nobody knows to look at the video because the event is scrubbed from the minutes.
Even a non-lawyer such as myself can read the brief Sunshine Law and understand what is necessary in minutes: Neutrality and Accuracy. The policy in effect in this City ensures that neither is met.
The above is so easy to understand that, and let’s be candid, you folks must have a pretty good idea you are acting in derogation of “transparency in governance”. One would have to be an imbecile to miss it. With that in mind, I note:

1) The Commission has never requested a written legal opinion from the Weiss & Serota firm on whether the policy for taking minutes complies with the Sunshine Law. All you have is a sort of oral opinion from David Wolpin, Esq., citing no law, and without the full question even being stated. No responsible fiduciaries would be satisfied by that;
2) Because of his conflict of interest, you have never considered having Mr. (Bruce) Loucks employ outside counsel solely for the purpose of providing a written legal opinion, or even simply requesting the written opinion from one of Mr. Wolpin’s Partners;

3) The Commission will never consider requesting an Advisory Opinion from the Attorney General’s Office. And I do not mean this as an obvious “throw-away” point. Both Mayor Ross and Commissioner Mallozzi would appear to have good reason to join with Commissioner Sims and request an Advisory Opinion from the A.G. As an attorney, Mayor Ross’ should have a genuine interest in the bona fides of a City policy that purposefully excludes from minutes notice of information or events embarrassing to the City (i.e., to certain elected officials?). And during 2008, it was Commissioner Mallozzi who was the most forceful advocate against the abbreviation of Commission minutes.

While it may make very good sense that Mayor Ross and Commissioner Mallozzi would seek an Advisory Opinion, they will do nothing. For personal or political reasons they have chosen to adopt a policy quite close to outright censorship, and each properly fears the consequences of the City’s “scrubbing of minutes” policy being scrutinized.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Wanted: Dissent in Cooper City


Dissent Is An American Necessity

Once again the principle of free speech and the right of citizens to question the actions of their government are being tested. The general feeling seems to be that dissent is dangerous, that critical commentary erodes our unity and diminishes our resolve, that debates over the loss of constitutional rights is somehow a negative to the betterment of the nation. Perhaps such feelings are natural.

The state of our economy. the tensions of unemployment  as well as the outrageous larceny of some corporate leaders, indifference of political leaders and the stresses of high costs gas and other necessities can create levels of distress that can be unbearable. The tendency is to close down, circle the wagons, and lash out at all who may question. But real security doesn’t come from stifling debate or muting voices of dissent. In fact, dissent may be what we need most.

Dissent is the antidote for what social-psychologists call “group-think,” the tendency to rush to judgment. (Clearly demonstrated by the recent decisions disguised as thoughtful discussions). Group-think can become a kind of herd mentality. Dissent is a guard against this mentality, a check on the unbridled stampede toward the cliff.

For this reason, as President Eisenhower once reminded us, we should never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion. A democratic society depends on dissent because, at its best, dissent is an act of courage, a real test of patriotism. The ancient Greeks understood this. They used the term, “parrhesia” to refer to speech based on moral principle, voiced by a speaker with the courage to speak the truth in the face of powerful opposition. Such dissent, they believed, represented one of the highest ideals toward which a citizen could aspire.

The American Founders also understood the importance of dissent, which is why they crafted the First Amendment. As the nation evolved, dissent became an important feature in all government institutions and processes, from Congress to the Supreme Court. Even in the executive branch -- the one most feared by the Founders because of its resemblance to monarchy and its tendency toward imperialism – even here our best presidents have welcomed and honored dissent.

Today we see government officials, powerful public figures, even our friends and neighbors asking us to be silent. Once again we are told that protest is bad, that dissent is divisive and un-American. That for the betterment and solidarity of the community we must become silent. But it is not. We must not be misled from a central truth: Free and passionate debate is essential to self-governance.

To dissent, to break from the herd, to question and offer in many cases an alternative position, is to celebrate American democracy with a ferocity that no one should attempt to suppress.Unless we let them.