South Dade Matters

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

Tag: John DuBois

PB: Guest Post by David Singer (With SDM Comments)

The good guys actually achieved a well-deserved win during Monday’s [June 23, 2014] special council meeting when Councilmen Patrick Fiore, Tim Schaffer and John Dubois, voted down what could have been a disaster for Village residents, Churches, Private Schools and Daycares within Palmetto Bay.

It was a grueling experience watching the Monday’s council meeting, but with the exception of Mayor Stanczyk the remaining Council members attempted to reach a compromise on the Charter Amendment. This amendment would have eliminated all outdoor lighting for non-governmental, non-residential or non-commercially zoned properties.

[SDM Comment: We disagree with Mr. Singer's characterization. The proposed charter amendment would have prohibited outdoor lighting of recreational areas (except underwater swimming pool lights) owned by religious institutions, child care facilities, private schools,  and other non-governmental public assemblies located in residentially zoning districts.  We agree that the idea is crazy and will cover lots more lighting than we were told.]

During the meeting the Village Zoning Director confirmed my suspicions that if the amendment had passed it would prohibit all lighting; basketball, tennis, ground, pathway, landscaping, etc. The amendment would supersede any prior Village Ordinance.

[SDM Comment: Mr. Singer is hitting on why this measure and the code provision are so misguided. We've asked before: Does this mean a private school's pool could not have outdoor lights for the pool deck, stairways and pathways leading to it? Is everyone supposed to bring a flashlight? Why allow the underwater lighting in the first place if it cannot be used in any practical sense?]

Unfortunately, as we heard from Mayor Stanczyk the battle is far from over. After the vote was finalized she could be heard saying “We’ll Walk”. I would assume by her comment that she will lead various sullen individuals in an initiative to collect enough signatures to place the Charter Amendment on November’s ballot. Not exactly the Mayor’s responsibility to undermine the governmental process she’s been sworn to uphold, but then again she’s hasn’t shown herself to be very ethical while in office.

[SDM Comment: If you walk away, walk away, walk away, walk away... [SDM won't] follow.]

Maybe if the Mayor spent the time researching various municipalities within Miami-Dade County she would have found there are 19 cities, 6 towns and 9 villages for a total of 34 separate municipalities. These municipalities, along with Unincorporated Miami-Dade, represent 2.6 million residents.

[SDM Comment: What? Me? Do research? I'll tell you what you can do with your stinking research!]

None of the municipalities, including Unincorporated Miami-Dade County have their lighting code defined or guided by a City Charter. It’s just not standard or appropriate.

Could there be something that all the other Municipalities in Miami Dade County know that our Council doesn’t? Could what the Mayor is trying to pass be unconstitutional? Could it lead to more lawsuits for the Village of Palmetto Bay? Could the residents be footing the bill for more legal fees? Isn’t eight years of litigation enough?

What is really driving this venture into unknown and potentially very expensive territory?

Well for one thing, there is the location of Councilwoman Joan Lindsay’s home. Her house is approximately 100 feet away from the Palmer Trinity property line. Joan Lindsay was an original director, president and vice-president of the Concerned Citizens of Old Cutler, Inc. (CCOCI) for years. She has a serious conflict of interest and ethically shouldn’t even be voting on any issues related to Palmer Trinity.

[SDM Comment: This here would be an appearance of a conflict of interest, though not legally a conflict. Just FYI.]

There is also the fact that The Village of Palmetto Bay has spent over a million dollars in legal fees fighting Joan Lindsay’s and the CCOCI’s war against Palmer Trinity, which they would love to continue. Mayor Stanczyk, Joan Lindsay and the CCOCI all know that the Charter change will bring more litigation to the Village.

Unfortunately, we as residents have all experienced a history of Mayor Stanczyk and Joan Lindsay spending taxpayer’s money for Palmer Trinity litigation.

Simply put, all the Churches, Schools and residents in the Village have become collateral damage in a war that has nothing to do with us. Our hard earned tax dollars have become collateral damage. The Real Estate rights of Churches and Schools have become collateral damage, as seen by what happened to Alexander Montessori School when they wanted to expand. Alexander Montessori School has lost thousands of dollars in revenue due to a war which is raging between Mayor Shelley Stanczyk and Joan Lindsay and Palmer Trinity.

The passing of this Charter Amendment will commence a cycle of new litigation but this time it just won’t be with Palmer Trinity. It will be with the various churches and other educational institutions in the Village.

There are both Federal and State laws which prohibit the type of action the Mayor and Councilwoman are attempting. The Village Attorney has stated on record that this Charter Amendment could bring future litigation.

[SDM Comment: Mr. Singer is being a little misleading here and you know we can't stand such effrontery. The Village Attorney is quite comfortable that the proposed charter amendment was constitutional and permissible under RLUIPA and other statutes. He noted that anyone can sue, but he was clear that he believed such suits would not prevail, though he also stated such suits would not be frivolous. We're not sure Mr. Lehtinen is correct with respect to the level of scrutiny applied to the question: he says strict scrutiny would not apply, where we think it would under RLUIPA's statutory scheme. Anyone attempting to sue has a hard road, regardless.]

If anyone were to question the likelihood of future litigation please look no further than The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. When filed it will takes years to resolve, just as the Palmer litigation has taken years to resolve.

If asked to sign a petition respectfully decline and warn all your friends and neighbors who live in Palmetto Bay not to sign. If the petitioner tells you it’s about stadium lighting don’t believe them as they are not being honest. The Charter Amendment they are attempting to pass is written to prohibit all lighting at institutions which should be respected not discriminated against by the Village of Palmetto Bay.

[SDM Says: Right on!]

David Singer

PB: Stanczyk – And the mob will rule…or maybe not

Palmetto Bay’s village council took up a controversial measure proposed by Mayor Shelley Stanczyk on June 23rd, which would prohibit by charter any form of lighting to be installed on religious facilities, daycare centers, private schools and other nonpublic facilities.

Immediately upon her measure losing – even after a heroic effort by Councilman Patrick Fiore and Councilwoman Joan Lindsay to find a compromise – Mme. Mayor Stanczyk’s true reason for pushing the measure surfaced. After the vote went down 3 to 2, “we’ll walk it,” she said.

There you go. Incumbent Mayor Stanczyk, who has so far failed to report a single contribution for her re-election, has a re-election strategy of walking door-to-door to scare the public in person. We can only imagine what Mme. Mayor and her minions intend to say to the village people as they canvass unsuspecting residents.

We have sufficient reason for trepidation given the Mayor’s long questionable history regarding telling the truth to those who may wish to vote for her.

In a very recent effort, Concerned Citizens Of Cutler Inc. and Mrs. Stanczyk told hundreds if not thousands of residents that Palmer Trinity wanted to install “stadium lighting” on its athletic fields. This lie is most egregious since Mrs. Stanczyk knows that the code does not permit such lighting and would never be approved by a village council.

What also troubles us is the mob mentality that permeates village politics. Mrs. Lindsay and Mrs. Stanczyk claim that the village charter is the people’s document. Implicit in their statement is an acknowledgment that schools like Palmer Trinity are somehow excluded from the charter because of their non-person or non-taxable status (as former candidate Bev Gerald and village gadfly Warren Lovely shamelessly remind us at every meeting).

Mrs. Lindsay and Mrs. Stanczyk endorse the majority’s ability to legislate away the property rights of religious, nonpublic facilities. (If you doubt the master plan, note that both Mrs. Lindsay and Mrs. Stanczyk parroted the line that “hundreds of people sent emails” against the red herring stadium lights. Not much of a big deal given that the village has thousands of residents, but plenty for the purpose of scaring those who fail to pay attention to what’s really going on.)

Fortunately, three courageous members of the council (Mr. Fiore, Mr. Dubois and Mr. Schaffer) decided against placing on the ballot Mrs. Stanczyk’s divisive and politically motivated charter proposal.

SDM Says: Which leaves the decision up to us… If you think we should be zoning by charter and that we ought to create second class property owners based on religious or nonpublic status, then by all means open your door to Mayor Stanczyk. No doubt she will leave her re-election literature with you, too. However, if you think our village is being drawn once again into a state of perpetual strife, then you can tell Mrs. Stanczyk that you disagree with her plan to further divide this village and that you will be looking for different leadership this fall. You can also tell her to leave our dogs alone.

PB: Jigsaw COW Meeting Tonight

Vice Mayor John Dubois gives us a view into the workings of his mind tonight at the village’s Committee of the Whole meeting. The agenda shows a man who thinks in contingencies. If the answer to the question is A, then my next question is X. If the answer to the question is B, then my next question is Y.

For those who own their own businesses, such thinking will be commonplace. Business owners try to make decisions through a framework that allows them to consider all options. Successful businessman Dubois is bringing such thinking to Palmetto Bay and all SDM can say is Thank God!

Check out the agenda for tonight:

2.   Discussion concerning putting restrictions in place to prohibit the position of Mayor
from abusing the privilege granted under the charter to call for special council meetings.
(Vice Mayor DuBois)

3.   Discussion regarding Charter Amendments for the Ballot (Vice Mayor DuBois)
Specifically regarding the following questions:

a.   Number of other Cities in Miami-Dade, if any, that have lighting code requirements
superseded by and defined/guided by City Charter.

b.   If any exist, the level of detail required in the Charter in order to make it enforceable
and proper.

c.   Constitutionality of the proposed Partial Lighting Prohibition charter amendment set
for special council meeting later in June.

d.   Likelihood of being subject to litigation if the proposed charter amendment passes
and probability of plaintiff prevailing.

e.   Number of other Cities that have moved what are traditionally code related zoning
prohibitions for property improvements which are applicable to select members of a
zoning class but not to others within the same zoning class. If there are any, please
present such examples to the council before the vote on placing the partial lighting
prohibition on the ballot.

f.   If there are such examples from #e above and if the likelihood of #d is low, I would
like to direct the Village Attorney to prepare a companion charter amendment to go
on the ballot for an excessive noise prohibition to include ALL non-residential
property owners in residential areas, not just private schools and churches. This
companion Charter Amendment should be put on the Agenda for vote at the same
special council meeting as the Lighting Prohibition Charter Amendment.

 The item related to Mayor Stanczyk “abusing the privilege” to set special meetings is great. The code currently says that “[s]pecial meetings may be held on the call of the Mayor or upon the call of three Council members upon no less than 48 hours notice to the public or such shorter time as a majority of the Council deems necessary in case of an emergency affecting life, health, property or the public peace.” Sec. 4.1(A), Village of Palmetto Bay Charter.

The answer to Mr. Dubois’s question is that without a charter change the council is stuck with the Mayor calling special meetings willy nilly, as she has done for the special meeting scheduled for next Wednesday, June 23rd. (SDM will get into the items on the special agenda in later post, but suffice to say the Mayor’s argument for hearing the items listed currently is dubious.

The fix for the charter is to require a mayor to secure two additional signatures for a special meeting based upon full disclosure of the “emergency” item that she intends to introduce. Council Member should not be made to attend a bunch of extra meetings just because Mme. Mayor didn’t have the votes for her item. We elected a part-time council and our current mayor shows very little respect for her colleagues’ time.

Now, take a look at Item 3. You can almost see Mr. Dubois’s mind at work.  Do other cities limit lighting by charter? If so, how do they do it? Is the limitation proposed by Mayor Stanczyk constitutional? Will such a limitation lead to litigation? Do other cities have charter limitations on “religious” facilities based on their status? If so, name them. If we can create such limitations, Mr. Dubois wants to limit noise in the same way for all similarly situated facilities.

Here’s the fly in Mr. Dubois’s ointment: Getting the village attorney to opine that Mrs. Stanczyk’s charter proposal is unconstitutional or that it will not lead to litigation are two very difficult questions for any attorney to answer.

SDM agrees that we need the answers, but Mr. Dubois and his colleagues may feel like Harry Truman talking about economists: “Give me a one-handed attorney! All my attorneys say, on the one hand such and such, but on the other hand so and so.”

SDM Says: We wish all village decisions were given such scrutiny and analysis. Such contingency thinking if applied to the Palmer decision to limit the school to 900 students probably would have saved the village money and years of divisive politics.

PB: England’s Fightin’ Words

The Miami Herald published online a Soapbox letter from village mayor candidate Peter England. Most of you will see it in your Sunday paper, but SDM thinks you may want to preview it here:

Your June 8 story concerning the site of a new fire station in Palmetto Bay suggests that I might be unhappy with this outcome. Since my mayoral campaign identified the acute lack of Fire/Rescue coverage on the east side of our village as the greatest single public safety concern in Palmetto Bay, how could I be anything but pleased with the proposed 14200 Old Cutler Rd. location?
The issue my campaign raised was the lack of attention being given to this critical issue by the Palmetto Bay Village Council. At no time, either during a council meeting or council workshop, was this issue discussed, in spite of the fact that the Palmetto Bay Village Voice raised the concern at every council meeting.

During the presentation by the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department at the June 2 council meeting, the council received the same new information as I about this new alternative site. They were there as spectators, not leaders. I commend Miami-Dade Fire Rescue for their diligence on this issue, and will continue to demand not one but two new fire stations as a central theme in my mayoral campaign. Only two stations will provide complete coverage of the entire village.

By drawing attention to this crucial issue, my mayoral campaign has finally gotten the council to focus on this public safety issue after 11 years of neglect. Now that they have recognized the importance of this issue, It’s time for the Village Council to step up and get involved.

Peter England, Palmetto Bay

(Emphasis added by SDM.)

Eleven years? Hmmm… Let’s see, who was leading the village during the past eleven years? Answer:

Mayor: Eugene Flinn (2002-2010); Shelley Stanczyk (2010-Present).

Vice Mayor: Linda Robinson (2002-2008); Brian Pariser (2008-2012);John Dubois (2012-Present)

District 1: Ed Feller (2002-2010); Patrick Fiore (2010-Present)

District 2: Paul Neidhart (2002-2010) Howard Tendrich (2008-2012); Tim Schaffer (2012-Present)

District 3: John Breder (2002-2006); Shelley Stanczyk (2006-2010); Joan Lindsay (2010- Present)

You’ve covered a lot of territory there, Mr. England…pretty much every elected official to have set his or her backside on a Palmetto Bay taxpayer-funded chair. Not to mention Village Manager Ron Williams and his predecessors.

SDM Wonders: Are you all going take this lying down?

 

PB Guest Post by David Singer: Stanczyk as Nero

Mayor Shelley Stanczyk and Councilwoman Joan Lindsay fiddle while Village residents lose Property Value.

Property values have been increasing everywhere in Miami Dade County with the exception of the Village of Palmetto Bay. Real Estate increased an average value of 5.6% across Miami Dade County between 2013 and 2014 with Palmetto Bay at a stagnant 2.5%. Increases in other cities include Cutler Bay 4.8%, Aventura 5.8%, Doral 3.3%, Key Biscayne 8.5%, Pinecrest 3.7%, Miami Beach 8.9%, Coral Gables 3.5%, and Unincorporated Dade County 4.1%. In fact, Village of Palmetto Bay had the lowest rate of increase in real estate values as compared to 95% of Miami Dade County.

While our current Council Members, including Mayor Shelley Stanczyk and Councilwoman Joan Lindsay, continue to be obsessed with Palmer Trinity, NPO and lighting at Churches and Schools, the rest of the county is kicking our butts in economic recovery.

The majority of Village residents will use the equity in their homes as their nest egg in retirement. As most of us know, our homes contain the major source of equity that will eventually either be handed down to the next generation or used during our golden years.

Last year Palmetto Bay residents would have been better investing their home equity in a money market account than the return they received from Palmetto Bay’s housing recovery.

2013-2014 was not the first year that taxable values increased faster in cities like Pinecrest, Coral Gables, Doral, Aventura and Cutler Bay. Practically the same results were seen last year.

I find this unacceptable. We live in one of the nicest areas in Miami Dade County. I was assured during Village of Palmetto Bay incorporation that home values would increase at a faster rate than in Unincorporated Dade.

With the present leadership in Palmetto Bay this just isn’t happening.

The issue is that a couple of our elected officials continue to take their eyes off the ball. Mayor Shelley Stanczyk and Joan Lindsay have been so wrapped up with their hate for, and litigation with, Palmer Trinity that they can’t govern this Village properly.

John Dubois, Tim Shaffer and Patrick Fiore have had to play defense against frivolous ordinances and resolutions by Shelley Stanczyk and Joan Lindsay against dog owners, churches and schools distracting these Councilmen from accomplishing positive things in our Village. Mayor Stanczyk and Joan Lindsay’s actions could be costing you tens of thousands of dollars you need for retirement.

Which brings me to the resolution that Mayor Shelley Stanczyk is placing on the agenda tonight, Monday, June 2nd. It reads:

“Lighting shall not be installed or used for outdoor recreational areas, except for underwater swimming pool lighting, by religious facilities, private schools, child care facilities or other non-governmental public assembly uses in any single-family residential zoning district. This provision shall be self-executing and become effective upon the date of adoption by the electorate.”

Once again, as her ill-advised dog barking ordinance was (5 barks will cost you $300) a couple of months ago, her resolution is a pandering to the CCOCI and a few local residents who are bothered by lights. This resolution would not only make it illegal for tennis court lighting, basketball lighting but also for ground lighting in landscaping and along walking paths. We’re not talking about restricting 70, 80 and 90 foot light poles, we’re talking about every types of lighting. I remind you that all residential houses are permitted the same lighting that she is trying to eliminate at churches, schools and child care facilities.

This type of legislation is discrimination and idiocy at best. This type of ordinance will bring more litigation to the Village as it is unconstitutional. It is also extremely dangerous as lighting deters crime and helps to reduce “slip and falls.”

So there you have it, a Mayor and Councilwoman who are so worried about dogs barking, shining lights and their disdain for Palmer Trinity that they’ve lost focus on the big picture. Home values  - citizens’ nest eggs – are rising slower in our Village than almost anywhere else in Miami Dade County. Anyway you spin it, it’s a losing situation for Palmetto Bay constituents.

David Singer

PB Showdown: You Can’t Have It Both Ways

Three votes.

That’s all that separates Palmetto Bay from continuing down a path of anti-church, anti-private school and anti-day care alienation or down a path of reasonable accommodation.

Three votes.

The June 2 village agenda contains an item by Mayor Shelley Stanczyk that will place before the voters a measure designed to permanently bar by charter any use of outdoor lighting in recreational areas for non-public gathering places.

The very same agenda contains an item by Councilman Tim Schaffer that changes the village code to permit limited lighting on those recreation areas.

The two items cannot work together; they are mutually exclusive.

The village council breaks down as follows on these items as SDM reads the tea leaves:

  • Stanczyk item: For: Stanczyk, Lindsay; Against: Schaffer; Undecided: Fiore, Dubois.
  • Schaffer item: For: Schaffer; Against: Stanczyk, Lindsay, Dubois; Undecided: Fiore.

Based on our reading, village voters will get the chance to bar lights forever, unless the facility wants to install underwater lighting in a pool.

The curious votes here are those of Dubois and Fiore.

Vice Mayor John Dubois looks to SDM to be a populist. He notes his own suffering from loud music at Thalatta Estate, but he also was voted in by the opponents of the last cabal that ran this village. He insisted that Mr. Schaffer postpone the vote on his item, while at the same time proposing some (perhaps) reasonable amendments to it. We put him in the “no” category for the Schaffer item based on his very negative comments and seeming willingness to “love the bill to death.”

Councilman Patrick Fiore, also a candidate for Mayor, looks to SDM to be fence-straddling. His antipathy to anything Mrs. Stanczyk proposes is palpable to anyone paying attention. Yet, he joined the chorus in demanding that the Schaffer item be postponed. Mr. Fiore’s campaign is on life support already and his votes on these items will either seal his fate as a Stanczyk clone or set him apart as supporting non-public institutions. As SDM notes regularly in this blog, sitting on the fence just gives both sides someone to shoot at.

SDM Says: Make no mistake: these votes on Monday will be pivotal in deciding the character of Palmetto Bay going forward. We as residents cannot expect private property owners – especially those with religious foundations – to go gently into that good night when their rights are being trampled. Sure, Palmer may decide to take half-a-loaf today just so they can proceed, but that does not mean that other facilities will be so willing to meekly stand down. The larger question is whether those of us with kids who also work late should be able to use non-public facilities after sunset. Or, does a small group of neighbors get to decide that nothing happens after dark in Palmetto Bay? Mr. Fiore and Mr. Dubois will decide on Monday night.

PB: Guest Post by David Singer: Robin says “haters gonna hate!”

Tuesday night’s town hall meeting had the vigor of a rally where about two or three dozen local residents rallied in opposition to churches, schools, lights and traffic. It was like watching a room full of Donald Sterling’s yelling “not in my neighborhood”.

“Those lights, those lights, they shine through my window when they’re on at night!” Sorry, what normal household doesn’t see their neighbor’s lights when they are on? At times I have to close my blinds at night because my neighbor’s lights have a tendency to shine directly into my living room. Such is life when you live in a community with neighbors.

You want to complain about traffic, sell your car and take public transportation because you are part of the problem. If you don’t want to sell your car, stop the whining.

The issue isn’t actually about lights or traffic, it’s about hate. There are about 50 individuals who live in Palmetto Bay who just love to hate. They hate churches, they hate schools, they hate kids, they hate laughter and they hate traffic (well, who doesn’t?).

Two of those haters serve on the council and are up for reelection in November. Mention Palmer Trinity and you can feel the hate leaching through their pores. I actually believe “the hate” is probably the only thing keeping those two individuals alive.

Guess what, with the help of a councilwoman’s spouse they have now started conspiring how to take additional rights away from churches and schools because, as they repeat over and over again, they don’t pay into the tax base. Councilwoman Joan Lindsay has said herself that those institutions don’t contribute to the community and she’s here to protect everyone’s quality of life.

Not to disagree with the Councilwoman but there is more to contributing to a community than paying Real Estate taxes. Churches and schools serve a very important part in the foundation of society and the definition of quality of life is subjective. Can you imagine some people actually can appreciate churches and schools and hearing children’s laugher?

Jerry Templer (husband of Councilwoman Joan Lindsey) has now proposed placing a Village Amendment on the November ballot which would prevent any lighting associated with outdoor activities at all churches and schools even though lighting is permitted at Village Parks and residential homes. Doesn’t Mr. Templer’s proposal smack of discrimination?

Mr. Templer’s explanation for the discrimination is that Village Parks are open to the general public and churches are exclusionary. I may be incorrect but I didn’t realize churches were in the business to turn away parishioners.

Churches and schools are our neighbors that need protection as much as any individual resident. Whether Joan Lindsay or Shelly Stanczyk care to admit it, they also contribute to our Village in a meaningful way. The services they provide are vital to a healthy, prosperous community.

Our three remaining councilmembers, John Dubois, Tim Schaffer, and Patrick Fiore along with the remaining Village residents need to stand up and work together against these narcissistic individuals who stand against fair treatment of these institutions. Surely as a community we are better than the narrow-mindedness of the vocal few who seem to make the most noise to protect their own interests while robbing others of their rights.

David Singer

PB: Budget update – Dubois rattles cages; Robin chimes in

PB Budget Update

SDM watched the tape of last night’s budget workshop. The largest takeaway: The guys really wanted to get the meeting finished so they could watch the Heat game. Councilwoman Joan Lindsay was also uncharacteristically quiet, so maybe she wanted to escape early, too.

SDM did take note that the council is already looking to spend more money on the police department, so get ready for another Police pandering budget. The village manager reminded the council that PB police write lots of tickets, so Finance Director Chin gets a nice check from the county every month!

The rest of the budget discussion, which lasted about 30 minutes, was a snoozer until Vice Mayor Dubois spoke at the very end. Dubois said two things that caught SDM’s attention:

1. Vice Mayor Dubois reported that “the village will increase its operating budget by 22% this year.” (33:40) [SDM Snarky Question: BTW, did you shave before the meeting, John?]

2. Dubois noted that since the village is raising expenses so drastically, perhaps they ought to consider reducing their own salaries, which are set by charter. Dubois asked the village attorney if the council could reduce its compensation without amending the charter. The village attorney did not reply, but the answer is no. Here is the offending provision:

Council members and the Vice-Mayor shall receive compensation in the amount of $1,000.00 per month and the Mayor shall receive compensation in the amount of $2,000.00 per month. These payments shall be increased or decreased solely by amendment of this Charter. Sec. 2.6, Palmetto Bay Village Charter.

SDM Says: We are shocked the village is considering such a spending spree, Mr. Dubois. If the police expenditures are so important, perhaps we should be considering cuts to other departments to balance things out. On the salary issue, we like the way you are thinking, though we doubt Mme. Mayor finds you very amusing. :)

Robin Chimes In

David Singer (the Robin to SDM’s Batman according to one SDM wag) provided us a comment today that we decline to print. The allegations made are not sufficiently supported to warrant verbatim transcription here.

However, Mr. Singer makes an important point (also echoed by Councilman Tim Schaffer) that we have not discussed sufficiently in this blog. Namely, Palmetto Bay seems bent on retaining for another term its current auditor, despite a significant question about their handling of the Palmer litigation vis a vis the village’s annual financial reporting.

SDM claims no expertise on the question of whether the Palmer litigation should have been reported as having a “material adverse” effect on the village’s financial situation. But we agree with Mr. Singer that the issue deserves a serious review by a competent third party.

If you think this issue is nit-picky, consider that the City of Miami is (or was) under federal investigation for improper reporting of its financial status. Bonds are priced according to a municipality’s financial condition so if a city misstates its position, then investors might be taking more risk than they bargained for. In some instances, such a misstatement could constitute fraud.

Palmetto Bay is coming to the fork in the road with Palmer if the last meeting is any indicator. Either the village will find a way to settle the lawsuit or the council will roll the dice with our tax money. Under either scenario, those who invest in Palmetto Bay’s financial instruments ought to be told what the potential downside could be for the village’s finances.

SDM Says: The question of whether the village should retain its auditor should be partly decided on whether they stated completely the village’s financial condition…if not for the benefit of the village people, then at the very lease for the benefit of our creditors.

PB: Budget Meeting Tonight

4:oo pm Update: The village clerk created an agenda just after 3:00 pm this afternoon. Do they read SDM over at village hall?

There shall be an official agenda for every regular and special meeting of the council that shall determine the order of business to be conducted at the meeting.

-Sec. 2.47(a), Village of Palmetto Bay Code of Ordinances

You may be surprised to note that tonight the village council will hold its first budget workshop for the 2014-15 fiscal year. Why would you be surprised? Well, there is no agenda posted on the village website for the meeting despite the code requirement SDM inserted above. Nor are there any budget documents posted for the public to review, which is the real crime here.

SDM Note to Councilwoman Lindsay: Do you see that word “shall” up there? I guess there are lots of folks at the village who don’t know the difference between “shall” and “may.” It’s a good thing we have you to straighten us out.

Those of us who have watched the village can divine an agenda, however, so maybe Village Manager Hubris (VMH) doesn’t see the need to draft one. SDM has decided to take a crack at helping the village out.

  1. Welcome and Pledge of Allegiance (Mayor Stanczyk)
  2. Public Comment by Gary Pastorella (Discussion of Dubois v Pastorella lawsuit)
  3. Introduction to budgeting (Finance Department)
    • All is well, nothing to see here.
    • We get lots of awards.
    • We have lots of money in reserve.
    • Unless we spend money on the Downtown Redevelopment Task Force, we’re going broke in 5 years.
    • Global warming.
  4. Questions from Council.
    • Vice Mayor Dubois: I have some issues with your numbers. VMH: You don’t know what you’re talking about.
    • Councilwoman Lindsay: I just want to thank the Manager for an excellent budget.
    • Mayor Stancyzyk: Yeah.
  5. Adjourn to the Hole

SDM Says: Don’t look for much serious discussion at tonight’s meeting. You won’t hear that the village is plundering its reserves. Or that we’re not putting away money in case the Palmer case goes to hell. Or that Thalatta Estate Park’s revenue stream is likely to drop when wedding planners figure out they will be operating in a facility open to the public. Then again, you may not hear anything at all since nobody bothered to publish the mandatory agenda. You see, we only bother with “shall” when it suits CCOCI.

PB: He ain’t heavy…he’s exonerated!

Careful readers may have noticed a recent uptick in guest posts from David Singer and you would be correct!

Mr. Singer sends us comments in the form of posts and when SDM likes them we post them here for your reading pleasure…after some editing. (Mr. Singer has a couple issues with punctuation and the spelling of Councilwoman Joan Lindsay’s last name, but don’t tell anyone.)

Mr. Singer has been on a tear lately over Thalatta “Park.” (We are using quotations, because Thalatta has gradually become more of a commercial operation hosting spectacular weddings instead of the park it was intended to be.)

SDM Sidebar: There was a funny moment in the Monday council meeting at 3:04:45 where Vice Mayor Dubois takes note that “we have a noise problem in Palmetto Bay…I personally get exposed to a significant amount of noise from a disco nearby me…excuse me, Thalatta Park…” He was referring to the loud parties at Thalatta that he can hear from his bay front mansion.

Mr. Singer has been agitating at the council meetings for a couple months now, stating his belief that the village’s use of Thalatta violates the agreement with the State of Florida. Of course, Village Manager Ron Williams in his perpetually dismissive attitude essentially ignored Mr. Singer – a village resident – and said there was nothing to support his claims.

Well, SDM has seen a letter from Jerry Taber of the Florida Communities Trust (the entity that monitors the funds granted to Palmetto Bay for Thalatta) to Fanny Carmona, Palmetto Bay’s Parks Director, that proves Mr. Singer was on point.

Some of you who are unfamiliar with government may read the letter below, of which we have printed the main body, and misunderstand its seriousness since it is written in the gentle language of the career bureaucrat. Make no mistake, this letter says Palmetto Bay is not operating Thalatta as it said it would and the FCT is demanding they change:

While FCT greatly appreciates your cooperation and continued commitment to provide parks for your community, after reviewing the website for Thalatta Estate, it does appear that the park is being advertised as a wedding or special event venue. We realize the importance of generating some revenue during these challenging economic times and FCT does not have a problem with utilizing the Park to hold weddings and private events providing the Park is not closed to the general public during these events. You have indicated that you will extend the hours the park will be open to the public and will be closed on Saturdays and for all private events. After reviewing the calendar on your website, it appears that there is a total of 28 remaining events scheduled in 2014 and 2015 for days, other than Saturday, that the Park should be open to the general public. FCT would like a commitment that the Park will be open to the general public during the posted hours, except for the remaining events on your calendar, and will not be closed on Sundays or weekdays during normal hours for any other private events going forward.

Pursuant to the approved Management Plan, page 5, the 5th paragraph states “The project site will be identified in all literature and advertising as acquired with funds from the “Florida Communities Trust” and operated as a natural conservation area, outdoor recreation area or other appropriate descriptive language. It doesn’t appear that FCT or the project site is mentioned as being operated as a natural conservation area, outdoor recreation area or other appropriate descriptive language on the Thalatta Estate website. We would recommend that the website first be used to advertise Thalatta Estate as a park and museum with weddings as a secondary event, this would help in complying with the intent of the FCT program.

There is also a minimal amount of interpretative signage at the park, FCT would like to see more signage or a kiosk designed to educate visitors about the historical resources, native vegetative and animal communities that are unique to the area. FCT understands the Village is in the process of providing more signage.

Since the museum was completed in September of 2013, FCT understands that the Village is looking for partners to conduct the required educational programs. Please revise the Priority Schedule in the Management Plan to show when facilities were completed and an estimate of when the Village will provide the required 12 annual educational programs.

Please revise Section 4.0, Site Development and Improvement, of the Management Plan identifying the specific word changes […] on the affected pages of the Management Plan.

With these minor changes FCT finds that the Village is in Compliance with the approved Management Plan and Declaration of Restrictive Covenants. Please provide a response to our concerns by June 9, 2014.

SDM Says: Palmetto Bay now has a problem at Thalatta. Either the village opens the park to visitors during special events or it must make the weddings secondary to the park use. Whether wedding planners will continue to use the facility while party crashers wander the grounds is anyone’s guess. What we know for sure is that the grand plans of Mayor Stanczyk and Village Manager Ron “Hubris” Williams must be subjected to serious review by the council, especially since the both championed the improvements to Thalatta that were intended to make it a better wedding location. Thankfully, the last council, under intense pressure from former Councilman Tendrich, scaled back the wedding planner’s seven-figure fantasy or we would have wasted even more precious tax dollars on the Thalatta debacle.

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