South Dade Matters

Looking at the World South of Miami: Palmetto Bay, Cutler Bay, Pinecrest, South Miami and Miami-Dade County.

Tag: Eve Boutsis

PB Guest Post by David Singer: Lucy, got some ‘splainin to do!

In what can only be described as spitting in the face of Palmetto Bay Council members and our new Village Attorney, Dexter Lehtinen, Village Manager Ron Williams met with individuals from Palmer Trinity to discuss concerns involved with the now seven-plus month old settlement agreement.

That in itself wouldn’t be an issue if the Council and the new Village Attorney were made aware that Mr. Williams invited Ex-Village Attorney Eve Boutsis to attend the meeting last Tuesday. Yes, this is the same Village Attorney who was terminated by the Village Council last year. I have no issues with Ms. Boutsis but there is zip, zero, zilch justification for her to attend a meeting with Palmer Trinity because she no longer represents the interests of the Village in any legal capacity. What could she possibly be doing there?

If I were Village Attorney Lehtinen, I would be outraged and demand an explanation from the Village Manager for his actions.

Once again, Ron Williams continues to act as if he answers to no one. His current behavior, along with other past events should not be defined as anything other than insubordination.

I may not approve of all the decisions Council members make, but I realize they were elected to represent Palmetto Bay constituents.

Village Manager Ron Williams, though, is a hired hand whose primary job responsibility is to follow direction provided by the Council and serve the needs of the residents of Palmetto Bay as defined by the Council. He serves at the pleasure of the Council subject only to his employment contract and the Village Charter. It’s not in his job description to go rogue on a personal whim. He does not have that latitude.

No matter how the Village Manager tries to spin it there was “NO” excuse for bringing Ms. Boutsis to a Palmer Trinity meeting without the Council’s approval and Village Attorney Lehtinen’s knowledge. As for Palmer representatives, I was told they were under the impression that Ms. Boutsis was there with Village Attorney Lehtinen’s blessing.

Of interest, is the fact that Darby Delsalle, Department of Planning and Zoning Director, who has been sitting on Palmer Trinity’s site plans for the last couple of months was not in attendance. Shouldn’t he have been in attendance since completion of the Palmer litigation is based on approval of Palmer’s site plans?

Ron William’s conduct in what should be construed as ongoing litigation is one more reason to terminate the Village Manager.

If the cities of Coral Gables and Doral can part ways with their City Managers why is it so difficult for the Village of Palmetto Bay to follow suit? Does the Council really feel Ron Williams has done such a great job in his position that they are willing to retain him after he has proven time and time again to be a liability to the Village?

It’s come to the point that any Council Member who doesn’t call for Ron Williams termination does not deserve to be elected this coming November. This includes my friend Patrick Fiore who is running for Mayor. Being a Mayor is not always pleasant and tough decisions are required. It’s time for Patrick to step up and prove he’s able to fulfill this commitment and responsibility by voting to terminate the Village Manager.

David Singer

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SDM Note: We have no idea if Mr. Lehtinen knew about this meeting. Nonetheless, it is shocking that he did not go to this meeting along with the former village attorney. We definitely need some new eyes looking at this tragi-comedy. And, why is it taking so long to bring this matter to a close?

 

Quick Bites

Joe Garcia Paid $50,000 to Disgraced Staffer

In case you missed it, South Dade Congressman Joe Garcia is reported to have “paid his former adviser $25,000 for consulting work months after he was fired amid an election-fraud scandal,” according to the Miami Herald. The story goes on to state that the money was requested in invoices conveniently dated between January 1 and March 31, 2013.

These consulting fees were to be paid on top of a “campaign win bonus” of $25,000 paid just a few months ago, according to the Herald.

So, let us get this straight: Garcia wins his election last November in the year 2012. In the summer of 2013, his campaign manager gets accused of an absentee ballot scandal that may implicate the good Congressman. Then in the fall of 2013, the generous Mr. Garcia turns around and pays his accused-staffer some $50,000. Hmmm…

SDM Wonders: Does anyone still believe this town doesn’t deserve its reputation for dirty politics?

Palmetto Bay’s Attorney Selection Mess

SDM spent some unproductive hours watching the October 16 special village council meeting where the sole topic of discussion was to review the recommendations of the village attorney selection committee.

For the record, the committee ranked former Village Attorney Eve Boutsis number 1 and the firm Gray Robinson as number 2. (The third ranked proposer didn’t bother to show up at the meeting.) Despite the rankings, the council terminated Boutsis and hired Gray Robinson on a temporary basis while the village goes out to bid again.

Huh?

SDM Says: The correct procedure, if you don’t get a sufficient number of responsive bids, is to throw the results out and re-bid. Terminating the village attorney and bringing in temporary counsel seems to SDM to be the worst of all worlds. Now, the village has to bring a new lawyer up to speed and hope that we don’t have to do the entire thing once again after the next bid comes in.  This council looks like the gang that couldn’t shoot straight.

FPL Offers Palmetto Bay A Rare Opportunity

Former Mayor Eugene Flinn reports in his newsletter and blog that FPL intends to convert its property into residential use. Flinn argues persuasively that the village ought to engage FPL for a park and fire station, which SDM thinks makes sense, though more could be done.

For instance, we have been told that our village budget is heading towards financial disaster soon thanks to the overspending of the village council and manager. As a tonic for their self-imposed deficit disease, the village wants to redevelop the Franjo Triangle to bring in more tax revenue – a plan SDM supports, but doubts will fix the problem.

Given our budget reality and the size and location of the FPL site, let’s toss another log on the fire. The FPL site is 25-30 acres, which means the village could allow about 40-50 homes to be built there. If the homes sell for $800,000 a piece, the village could see an increase of our property tax roll of around $40 million. Not taking into consideration exemptions, the village coffers could expect new property tax revenue amounting to about $98,000 per year.

But what if the village were to permit a six or seven story high rise with 200 condominiums? High end condos could average over a million dollars a piece with a bay view like this location offers. With a new $200 million development, the village could be looking at $500,000 a year in new revenue! (Given the fact that condos tend to have fewer parking spaces per unit, one might expect the car traffic to be similar single-family residential. That would make the village’s traffic consultant Joan Lindsay very happy. :) )

SDM Wonders: Are the Village People willing to be bold and take a positive step toward financial solvency? Or, will the negative nabobs at CCOCI keep us on a track toward higher taxes and fewer services?

Rubber. Meet road.

PB Guest Post by David Singer: Attorney Gets The Boutsis

At Tuesday night’s Village of Palmetto Bay Council meeting a vote was held to terminate the Village Attorney’s services within the next 30 days.    The vote was  3 – 2 in favor of dismissing Village Attorney Eve Boutsis and hiring law firm Gray Robinson to serve as acting Village Attorney until a new Request For Proposal is released for a permanent replacement.  Vice Mayor John DuBois, Councilman Tim Schaffer and Councilman Patrick Fiore voted for termination while Mayor Shelley Stanczyk and Councilwoman Joan Lindsay voted to retain Ms. Boutsis’ services.

Interestingly, it was not DuBois, Schaffer or Fiore who caused the Boutsis termination; rather, Stanczyk and Lindsay and Boutsis herself that bear ultimate responsibility for the end of a ten-year engagement. In fact, the seeds of her termination were planted back on May 4th, 2010 when, at Lindsay’s urging, Stanczyk moved to cap Palmer Trinity’s at 900 students when Village Staff recommended 1150.  Staff correctly made this recommendation based on a prior agreement with Palmer, but no one heard a peep from the Village Attorney.

It is also interesting to note that during the process on Tuesday night neither Mayor Stanczyk nor Joan Lindsay had the leadership qualities to stand up in defense of Ms. Boutsis to say that the Village Attorney had given them the correct legal guidance but they choose to ignore her advice.  When the Palmer Trinity shade sessions are eventually released I suspect that we will find that the Mayor and Councilwoman basically used Ms. Boutsis as a sacrificial lamb for they own political agenda.   Councilwoman Joan Lindsay basically admitted as much at Tuesday’s Council meeting.

Ms. Boutsis’ dismissal was preordained by her relationship with Mayor Stanczyk and Councilwoman Joan Lindsay.  Some may say it was politics that caused her dismissal. Some may say she got too comfortable in her position with the Village. Some may say she was the contributing factor as to why the Village’s litigation with Palmer Trinity has continued endlessly for the past five to seven years.   I personally like Boutsis, but having attended Council Meetings for the past year-and-a–half, I never saw her have the strength or sense of professional duty to speak up when the Mayor was wrong.  Boutsis didn’t even attempt to have the Mayor obey Roberts Rules which is required in the charter.

[SDM Note: Boutsis attempted to hold Robert's Rules training sessions, but the Mayor and Council balked. However, Stanczyk's failure to run a meeting makes everyone on the dais look foolish.]

I can assure you that the Council members who voted for the Village Attorney’s termination take no pleasure and are not celebrating the fact that the Village attorney who served the Village since incorporation has been fired.   They said this process was required and necessary to move the Village forward.

The residents of Palmetto Bay are tired of the political agenda of Mayor Stanczyk, Councilwoman  Joan Lindsay and the approximately 20 misguided residents that they represent to the detriment of the rest of us.   The residents I’ve spoken to are drained by the constant and costly litigation, the divisive Neighborhood Protection Ordinance (which it is not) and the negative tone with which the Village has been run for the last three years.

This termination should be a warning to Village Manager Ron Williams if he’s paying attention.  Mr. Williams take note: everyone is replaceable. This termination should also be a warning to the Mayor and Councilwoman Lindsay that the clock is ticking until they too are terminated in next November’s election. In the meantime there is lots of work to do to keep the Mayor and Councilwoman in check so that we can live in the Village of Parks and not in the Village of Insanity.

David Singer

PB: Unacceptable Attorney Games

When the village buys a piece of playground equipment for $25,000, an item goes before the village council containing just about every fact one could imagine about swing sets along with lots of documentation on how the choice was made. Many times, SDM has observed that the contract the winning bidder will sign is included in the agenda item.

But tonight when the village is about to engage an attorney who will cost somewhere around ten times as much on a recurring annual basis, we get…bupkis. No tally sheets. No copies of questionnaires or resumes or applications. No background on the selection team and their ties to the village. And, worst of all, especially in this case, no proposed contract or retainer agreement.

In a comment posted last week by David Singer he noted that Palmetto Bay attracted flies with this RFP. Are there only three firms willing to provide legal services to this chaotic little patch of Earth? Maybe we need to hold some exit interviews with the firms that bailed out so we can figure out why our pool of applicants was so thin.

SDM doesn’t really have a problem with Ms. Boutsis on balance. Sure, we think she needs to take some CLE courses on how the sunshine laws apply to pending litigation, but this objection is kind of piddling in the big picture.

What is unacceptable – and is a reason why this item should be deferred – is that nobody bothered to prepare a contract for the winning bidder. Are we serious here? Every lawyer executes a retainer agreement with her client and a lawyer that has served this municipality for 10 years ought to have a pretty good idea of the topics that should be covered. Vice Mayor Dubois ought to be outraged given his repeated commentary on this issue.

SDM Says: This village is a litigious mess and we are essentially signing a blank check for legal counsel. Shame on us if we let our village leaders adopt this measure in its present form without the Village People having seen the contract.

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Attention Glinda: We know you already know about the Palmer meeting, but for those readers who want more information, former Mayor Eugene Flinn posted the facts on his site South Dade Updates.

 

PB: Rumor Mill

Did Mayor Stanczyk file an ethics complaint against the village attorney?

More than one person has commented publicly and privately to SDM that the Mayor did in fact file a complaint against Village Attorney Eve Boutsis and the new council majority of Tim Schaffer, John Dubois and Patrick Fiore.

SDM Says: This has to be a joke. Now the Mayor is ratting out village staff? If true, this just proves someone needs to get a life.

Former candidate Peter England has announced for mayor, again

Peter England ran against our current mayor three years ago and lost despite garnering lots of support and losing by a narrow 82 vote margin. (Check out PB: When Winning is not Enough for a discussion of the 2010 clash.)

SDM Says: We appreciate your willingness to serve, Mr. England, but shouldn’t someone else have a chance? Maybe someone like David Singer, for instance?

David Singer feted by the Miller brothers

Keep an eye out for the latest edition of the Palmetto Bay News. SDM received an advance copy of the story (which was also covered by Eugene Flinn’s South Dade Updates) and they are treating Mr. Singer – rightly – as a potential savior for the village.

SDM Says: We have published several of Mr. Singer’s comments as full-blown posts because of his thoughtful analysis. We’re not ready to start tooting his horn until we learn more about his governing philosophy and plans for the village, but if he runs, SDM will be paying very close attention.

How to contribute to the Rumor Mill:

Send SDM your rumor by commenting on any story. Just tell us you want to be included in the rumor mill and that your comment is not for publication otherwise. SDM reserves the right to edit or not publish if we find the rumor to be out of bounds.

 

PB: Odds and Ends

The Village Council agenda is posted on the Palmetto Bay website. You can look through the agenda and the attachments by clicking here. (Remember: Once the meeting is over, these documents will be secreted away by the clerk never to be seen again, so you may want to save a copy of something that interests you.)

PB Leaders Discriminate Against Apartments and Condos?

One item on the village agenda next Monday night is to exempt singe-family remodeling and construction from the Art in Public Places tax. Bravo. Lowering taxes on residences should be on every council member’s agenda.

But why stop there? Why should the village raise the cost of condominiums and apartments by keeping the tax in place for those types of residences? Does this village just help wealthy single-family homeowners or do we care about regular folks, too?

Didn’t we just go through a long presentation and rigamarole on developing the Franjo Triangle where we want to see live-work spaces and other types of mixed-use development? Didn’t we all agree that this plan deserves continued focus and that we want to attract investment so that down the road we may see higher property tax collections?

Yes, we did. So why should we tax the heck out of multi-family remodeling and construction? Do we really need more flying fish monuments?

SDM Says: Please, someone: Talk some business sense into this council.

Pet Shop Boy

Vice Mayor John Dubois added a discussion item to the village agenda that proposes outlawing retail stores that sell dogs and cats as pets.

Now, SDM is sympathetic to this ham-handed idea. Our community is overrun with unwanted dogs and cats, so much so that the county is spending millions to construct and operate a humane shelter. You have to live under a rock not to have seen the emotional controversy over this subject.

But is this what we do in America? Presume that every pet store selling dogs and cats will be operated improperly? And what about the weekend sales of homeless dogs and cats (yes, you pay to adopt a dog at Petsmart on Saturdays)? Will this law create a situation where we outlaw pet adoptions?

SDM Says: We never expected Mr. Dubois to drop his alleged conservatism so quickly.

Tidbits from Village Attorney’s Report

  • Has Palmetto Bay outlawed door-to-door solicitation for politicians? Last month the council adopted an ordinance that prohibits peddling of goods and services door-to-door. Isn’t serving as SDM’s representative on the village council a service? Please tell SDM we can call the cops on political peddlers!
  • What’s with the ethics meetings? Ms. Boutsis reports twice that she has met with various ethics bodies, including the Florida Commission on Ethics. She also reports communications with Joe Centorino and Mr. Larry Liebowitz of the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust. Who’s being investigated now? Inquiring minds want to know.
  • Is FPL building houses in Palmetto Bay? The village attorney notes that she met with representatives from FPL on a possible “replatting and comprehensive plan amendment” for their property bordering Biscayne Bay. How very interesting…
  • Have we heard the last from the shade sessions controversy? Apparently, Ms. Boutsis will be asking the council for additional guidance on when the shade sessions are to be released. Wouldn’t it be easier just to release the hounds?

Bonus Bullet: Joe Garcia calls his colleagues terrorists

Apparently, South Dade’s most embarrassing Member of Congress wasn’t satisfied with getting himself crosswise with local police authorities for his absentee ballot scam. Now, this liberal “star” has decided to further embarrass his constituents by slandering his fellow members.

The Miami Herald reported this little piece of garbage on Tuesday:

Miami Congressman Joe Garcia riled conservatives Tuesday by taking to the U.S. House floor and blaming a partial shutdown of the federal government on “this extremist element, this Taliban.”

SDM Wonders: Does Joe Garcia know who the Taliban are?

Here is a famous photo showing what the Taliban are capable of doing. The woman in the picture was executed in a stadium after she was accused of adultery.

Taliban

SDM Says: Maybe Congressman Garcia should get out of his office and visit some of the brave members of our military who have battled the Taliban before he starts throwing around such foolish and ignorant comparisons.

 

 

Shade Sessions: SDM Was Right!

In August, SDM wrote PB: SDM Disagrees With Village Attorney Boutsis regarding the village attorney’s advice to the council on whether they could release the shade session transcripts before the Palmer litigation concluded:

SDM happens to agree with Ms. Boutsis that “the clear direction of the state legislature that you have this exemption through to the end of the litigation.” Where we diverge is on the question of whether the village has the option of releasing its transcripts whenever a majority of the council decides to do so.

Opining that the council must only release transcripts at the conclusion of the litigation violates the Sunshine Law’s basic principle that the public be granted the greatest access possible under our state’s constitution and laws.

Well, Attorney General Pam Bondi agrees with SDM. David Singer provided SDM a copy of an AG opinion letter dated September 12, 2013, which answers the question this way:

Therefore, it is my opinion that the Village of Palmetto Bay, as the collegial body to which it applies, may waive the exemption provided in section 286.011 (8), Florida Statutes, and release the transcripts of meetings held to discuss settlement negotiations or strategy sessions related to litigation expenditures prior to the conclusion of litigation. The waiver of this exemption would not constitute a violation of section 286.011 (3), Florida Statutes, as the early release of these transcripts would satisfy the requirement in subparagraph (8)(e) that the transcripts be made a part of the public record. (Emphasis added by SDM.)

SDM Says: The coast is clear. Release the shade sessions!

SDM will now attempt to deflate our already massive egos. :)

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