South Dade Matters

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

Tag: Shores at Palmetto Bay LLC

PB Bonus Post: Just in case…

SDM commenters have been sharing a rumor about the shade session that led to the Shores at Palmetto Bay, LLC settlement. Ultimately, we won’t know if the rumor is true until the transcript is forcibly taken from Mayor Stanczyk’s iron grip.

But just in case the rumor is true, let’s establish Mrs. Stanczyk’s statement on the settlement as reported in the Miami Herald:

“I believe that the village would have prevailed” in court, said Stanczyk. “I believe that the original ruling that the council made was correct. … We had no choice with an incomplete application to go forward, and he had other questions to answer, not huge questions, but questions nonetheless. With either vote they would get their development.* There wasn’t any reason to settle.”

Close readers of this blog may recall this statement published here:

SDM Code Breaker: The council met in a shade session before the May 20th special meeting was called. While the council cannot vote at shade sessions, they clearly can have their temperatures taken regarding whether they want to continue to fight or accept a settlement. Logic dictates that at least three council members decided to terminate the lawsuit, which also probably means that at least three of them believe that cutting the village’s losses will be better than risking an expensive judgment. So, SDM will wager that Shores will get their votes and the project will go forward.

Hypothetically speaking, if a member of the council were to indicate in the shade session transcript that he or she supported settlement but later voted against settling when the matter came before the public at a council meeting, what might SDM call such an act? Hmmm…

*SDM placed an asterisk at the end of that sentence because we cannot understand what the heck it means. Ideas?

PB: Welcome Aboard the Village of Palmetto Bay

SDM watched in amazement the Village Council meeting last night as the Shores at Palmetto Bay, LLC lawsuit came to rest on a three to two vote with the remaining Amigas in the minority.

In fact, it was Marathon Man Tim Schaffer who held firm and voted to dispose of the lawsuit after facing the most petty nonsense from the usual village gadflies.

The arguments against settling the lawsuit at their well-rehearsed core amount to the following: “The developer should not have sued the village. Instead, he should have re-applied after he received a site-specific charter. We get nothing out of this settlement.”

Let’s just be real for a minute and dispose of the lie that “a site-specific” charter is required by the code:

Sec. 9-53. – Required information.

All public charter school facilities shall submit the following information to the village’s department of community development for review by the department and for consideration at a public hearing:

(a) Written information:

(14) A copy of the charter approved by the Miami-Dade County Public School Board.

According to the village attorney at the original hearing, the applicant satisfied all the criteria to hear the application. Mayor Stanczyk wanted to halt the application so she manufactured the alleged violation of the village code. Stanczyk’s hyper-political actions caused the lawsuit because she was forcing Shores – against the advice of her legal counsel – to follow a procedure that state law prohibits.

More importantly, does any rational, breathing person believe the village would have approved the Shores application had the developer merely re-applied and not sued? Of course not. The gadflies fail to mention that their plan all along was to wage a war of attrition against Shores. See Palmetto Bay Chutzpa Award dated March 26, 2013:

Mr. Templer also made sure to point out that he didn’t want to see soccer fields at Palmetto Bay park and that the existing green space should be maintained, which inspired his chutzpa: Templer said that to add more ball fields with lights, the village could go ahead and purchase 5 acres to the west of the park!

SDM Codebreaker: There are two five-acre tracts to the west of Palmetto Bay park and both are in private hands. One is owned by Miami Children’s Hospital and the other is owned by Palmetto Bay’s second-most-famous litigant-partner, Shores at Palmetto Bay. The Shores property was set to be developed into a charter school and commercial complex until Mayor Stanczyk and her cronies decided to kill off the project without a proper hearing. Thus, Mr. Templer is echoing a nutty idea – pushed originally by super-gadfly Marsha Matson – where Palmetto Bay shuts down the Shores project and then buys the property at a hefty discount.

Mr. Templer, who also happens to be the spouse of a sitting council member, testified last night against the settlement, which given his ulterior motive seems perfectly logical to SDM. What surprised SDM was when Templer began berating the applicant for having the temerity to sue the village. Mayor Stanczyk reined Templer in, but she didn’t apply the decorum rule to him:

All speakers must address their remarks to the mayor, speak in a dignified and courteous manner, and avoid admonishing individual members of the public, council and representatives of the village. Should a member of the audience become unruly or behave in an improper manner that is prejudicial to the dignified conduct of the meeting, the mayor shall have the power to require the person to leave the meeting and to be accompanied, if necessary, by a police officer. In the event the audience becomes unruly the mayor may either recess or adjourn the meeting. (Emphasis added by SDM.)

To paraphrase Pirates of the Caribbean, the decorum statement is more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules. Welcome aboard the Village of Palmetto Bay!

At the end of the day, the village elders (Dubois, Fiore, and Schaffer) overruled the Amigas, terminated the Shores litigation, and gave tax payers a break on future legal bills. SDM Says thank you for your leadership.

SDM Says to the Amigas Stanczyk and Lindsay: shame on you! Your re-election hopes should not be more important than what’s good for the village.  Perhaps it’s time for the serious people in this village to make you walk the plank, figuratively speaking of course.

PB: The Mayor Problem Strikes Again

Way back in December of 2011, this blog took Mayor Stanczyk to task for closing down a hearing for an applicant known as Shores at Palmetto Bay, LLC. We wrote back then:

You may not be surprised that the opposition to this application was pre-cooked. Insipid Mayor Stanczyk reminded the applicant repeatedly that she had offered him a six-month deferral but that he had committed to being “ready” by December 12.

According to Palmetto Bay, the applicant was not ready because he did not have a site specific charter. The applicant countered that he was ready and met the requirements of the code. Stanczyk demanded a motion for denial despite the Village Attorney’s statement that the council could hear the item.

Here is the language in the Palmetto Bay code that Stanczyk relies upon for her opposition:

All public charter school facilities shall submit the following information to the village’s department of community development for review by the department and for consideration at a public hearing…

A copy of the charter approved by the Miami-Dade County Public School Board.

Allow SDM to break the “code.” The applicant has a charter that can be applied to the site by administrative act of the school district. Moving charters around happens all the time because otherwise they would expire before the sites are ready. The Mayor knows this fact and also knows the Palmetto Bay code does not require a site specific charter.

On May 20th – FIFTEEN MONTHS after the fateful hearing – the village council will take up an agreement to settle the pending lawsuit that Shores filed against the village. Below is a direct quotation from the memorandum explaining the item:

The Application, if approved, would allow a concession to the Owner: the usable charter does not have to be produced at the hearing, but, must be produced prior to a building permit being issued for the charter school portion of the site.

So, our Mayor Problem did the following damage because of her little tantrum:

  • A village property owner’s developable downtown site has sat fallow for almost a year and a half;
  • A village property owner has been paying legal fees, taxes, insurance, maintenance and other costs for an extra 15 months for no reason at all;
  • Children, including some who live in our village, did not get the chance to enroll in an alternative to the local, traditional public and private schools for at least two school years; and
  • The village has been paying attorneys to defend against the lawsuit in exchange for zero benefit to taxpayers.

SDM read the agenda item to mean that Shores will appear at the next council meeting and either be approved or denied to proceed with its 2011 application. If the village votes against or alters the project, then the lawsuit continues unabated. If the application is approved, then the lawsuit goes away.

SDM Code Breaker: The council met in a shade session before the May 20th special meeting was called. While the council cannot vote at shade sessions, they clearly can have their temperatures taken regarding whether they want to continue to fight or accept a settlement. Logic dictates that at least three council members decided to terminate the lawsuit, which also probably means that at least three of them believe that cutting the village’s losses will be better than risking an expensive judgment. So, SDM will wager that Shores will get their votes and the project will go forward.

Bonus Prediction: Some very vocal residents will come out screaming bloody murder at the next council meeting. They will rant and rave about developers, how the school will wreck the village and their property values, and how traffic will be a nightmare, etc. At least one of the three council members who agreed to end the lawsuit will waver as the Mayor panders her backside off to this tiny minority of residents. The Mayor will vote no all the time knowing that the village must approve the application to avoid a disaster of her own making.

SDM Says: Being shameless and devious may get you elected, but it doesn’t make you a leader. If Shores isn’t resolved next month, you alone, Mrs. Stanczyk, are to blame.

Guest Post: David Singer Questions Palmetto Bay Financial Report

Something just doesn’t add up in the Village’s Annual Financial Report.

In my previous life for 7 or 8 years I was an auditor. An auditor is usually a CPA who reviews and verifies accounting records for public, private or governmental agencies.

I’ve had a the opportunity to review the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report that was presented to the Mayor, City Manager, and Council at the last Council meeting on April 1st . I found what seems to be a glaring and possibly material error in the way litigation is reserved and footnoted.

One would think that pending litigation would be material if the ultimate cost to the Village of Palmetto Bay was, say, a million dollars, but somehow the firm auditing the Village of Palmetto Bay did not find or may not have been given accurate information regarding pending litigation between Palmer and the Village, and pending litigation between Shores of Palmetto Bay and Palmetto Bay.

The direct quote by the auditor in the Report under the heading Litigation is : “The Village is involved in several lawsuits incidental to its operations, the outcome of which, in the opinion of management and legal counsel, should not have a material adverse effect on the financial position of the Village.”

I’m sure everyone is thinking, we know there is litigation occurring between Palmer Trinity and the Village, and Shores of Palmetto Bay and the Village, so what is the issue?

The issue is that Audits and auditors have guidelines to follow. These guidelines may be foreign to the lay person but are important because they require litigation to be handled in a specific manner on an Audited Financial Statement. (Not to get too technical, but the wonks among you might agree that public and government audits as they relate to litigation contingencies must follow SFAS No. 5, GASB No. 62 and GASB No. 10.)

So what if guidelines weren’t followed and the financials are misstated – then what? The Mayor and the Council should demand to find out why. First, was it the auditing firm that made the error? Was it the Village Manager or Finance Director? Was it the Village Attorney? The auditing firm, Cherry Berkaert, is only responsible for the information that is presented to them by various sources within the Village during the Audit. That’s why all Auditors require a Representation Letter to be signed by the Auditee, in this case, the Village of Palmetto Bay. Note that the auditor makes the determination that litigation is not material based on the opinion of management and legal counsel.

The Auditors are required to send out what is called an Attorney Confirmation to all law firms who have been paid during the year to find out what type of litigation is occurring in the Village and what effect it may have on the Finances of the Village. In this case, I would hope that our Village Attorney Eve Boutsis received and sent one back. If not the auditing firm has some, as Ricky Ricardo once said to Lucy, some serious “esplaining to do”.

With millions of dollars at stake should this information been handled differently on the Comprehensive Annual Financial Statement? Once again, did the Village Attorney fill out the Attorney Confirmation completely, honestly and accurately?

A Million Dollar judgment or settlement with either of these Plaintiffs does, in my opinion (and any sensible universe,) have a materially adverse effect on the financial position of the Village. Is the Village once again not being open and honest? Did the Village Staff, specifically the Village Manager or Village Attorney, mislead the auditors or is it just incompetence?

Regardless of the reason, the record needs to be set straight and if needed the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report corrected. I call upon the Mayor and Council to investigate as these are their Financial Statements. In the mean time it’s important that the Council set up a Board of Financial Advisors to keep this from happening again. Our Village, without a doubt, could call to service any number of financially seasoned resident-professionals to assist with the Financials and help the Village weave through numbers and guidelines to get the budget and reporting finally in order.

Palmetto Bay Chutzpa Award

The Palmetto Bay COW meeting last week reminded SDM of an old joke Ronald Reagan used to tell about the twin boys that had developed extreme personalities – one was a total pessimist, the other a total optimist – so their parents took them to a psychiatrist:

First the psychiatrist treated the pessimist. Trying to brighten his outlook, the psychiatrist took him to a room piled to the ceiling with brand-new toys. But instead of yelping with delight, the little boy burst into tears. ‘What’s the matter?’ the psychiatrist asked, baffled. ‘Don’t you want to play with any of the toys?’ ‘Yes,’ the little boy bawled, ‘but if I did I’d only break them.’

Next the psychiatrist treated the optimist. Trying to dampen his out look, the psychiatrist took him to a room piled to the ceiling with horse manure. But instead of wrinkling his nose in disgust, the optimist emitted just the yelp of delight the psychiatrist had been hoping to hear from his brother the pessimist. The boy clambered to the top of the pile, dropped to his knees, and began gleefully digging out scoop after scoop of the nasty stuff with his bare hands. ‘What do you think you’re doing?’ the psychiatrist asked, just as baffled by the optimist as he had been by the pessimist. ‘With all this manure,’ the little boy replied, beaming, ‘there must be a pony in here somewhere!’

Well, SDM’s personalities combine both extremes so we did find a pony in a meeting loaded to the ceiling with the nasty stuff, which leads us to announce this week’s Chutzpa Award winner – Jerry Templer!

Mr. Templer is a regular at the council meetings because his wife, Joan Lindsay, sits on the dais – or, maybe because he just needs something to occupy his time. If one watches a few council meetings, one will notice Mr. Templer leap to his feet to impart various nuggets of wisdom, which usually sound very much like the train of thought espoused by his lovely wife.

Last week’s COW meeting was no different. Templer got up at 51:14 to oppose the removal of the skate park from the Palmetto Bay Park master plan. His comments reiterated Ms. Lindsay’s suggestion that the council staff poll the neighbors causing SDM to wonder: If the staff actually polls the neighbors, who gets credit for the idea at Casa de Lindsay?

Mr. Templer also made sure to point out that he didn’t want to see soccer fields at Palmetto Bay park and that the existing green space should be maintained, which inspired his chutzpa: Templer said that to add more ball fields with lights, the village could go ahead and purchase 5 acres to the west of the park!

SDM Codebreaker: There are two five-acre tracts to the west of Palmetto Bay park and both are in private hands. One is owned by Miami Children’s Hospital and the other is owned by Palmetto Bay’s second-most-famous litigant-partner, Shores at Palmetto Bay. The Shores property was set to be developed into a charter school and commercial complex until Mayor Stanczyk and her cronies decided to kill off the project without a proper hearing. Thus, Mr. Templer is echoing a nutty idea – pushed originally by super-gadfly Marsha Matson – where Palmetto Bay shuts down the Shores project and then buys the property at a hefty discount.

Now, some might look at such a scheme as extortion, but what’s a little blackmail when it’s all for the children? Oops, the charter school would also be serving children by giving Palmetto Bay kids and others an alternative to the local school district monopoly. So, SDM guesses the real issue must be that some of the folks living to the east of the park just can’t stand the sound of kids playing softball near their homes.

SDM Says: Congratulations Mr. Templer on your shameless suggestion to use taxpayer money to pander to voters.

SDM Wonders: The only question is whether you are pandering on behalf of the good councilwoman — or for yourself? Hmmm….  Now that would really be chutzpa!

PB: Hello and Goodbye

Hello Tim

By now, most Palmetto Bay watchers know that John Dubois and Tim Schaffer were elected to the village council last night. Dubois’s victory was narrow, but a win is a win. Schaffer trounced Jim Araiza.

Before SDM says goodbye to Brian Pariser, let’s first say hello to Mr. Schaffer. SDM has called Mr. Schaffer the fourth amigo in the past, but SDM’s sources are not sure he will take Mr. Pariser’s spot in the ruling troika. The first indicator is that Palmetto Bay’s mysterious Marathon Man apparently spends a lot of time at the Hole in the Wall Pub. If true, then he is obviously too normal to be an amigo.

On the other hand, Mr. Schaffer was supported by the Stanczyk/Lindsay machine so SDM has to put him in that camp unless he splits from them. We are all going to have to wait and see what Mr. Schaffer is really all about. For today, SDM is giving Mr. Schaffer the benefit of the doubt while keeping an eye out for trouble.

Goodbye Brian

The good news from last night is that Palmetto Bay will say goodbye to Brian Pariser. Given the holiday season, SDM wishes to thank Mr/ Pariser for his service to the community. SDM was no fan, but props are due to anyone who sits on a municipal council.

SDM’s agenda

Mr. Dubois has been a steadfast critic of the three amigos and appears to have the intellectual capacity to challenge the surviving couplet. Assuming Mr. Dubois is up to the challenge, SDM has some suggestions regarding what he ought to do right away:

  1. Set a meeting with the village attorney; just the two of you. SDM wants to see the transcripts of the attorney-client sessions on the Palmer matter and you should be demanding that they be released or you should report to the community as to why they should remain embargoed. SDM can accept that there may be a good reason to keep the records under wraps, but we must be told why. If there is no good reason, then introduce a resolution to release the transcripts now.
  2. When you meet with the village manager, you must ask him whether he is trying to settle the lawsuit with Shores at Palmetto Bay, LLC. (This is the charter school project on Franjo Road.) The Mayor and her anti-school cronies should not be allowed to continue to interfere with a legitimate use of private property. Use your business experience to help the manager find a reasonable settlement so that this property owner can move ahead with his project.
  3. Speaking of settlements, please look into a settlement of the Palmer issue. Again, Palmer is here to stay and both sides need to find a way out of the mess the Mayor created. Maybe you will find that the village’s legal position is strong enough that there is no reason to settle at this point. If that is the case, then tell us why we should stop worrying about a potential $13 million liability.
  4. Hold a workshop on the future of the downtown area. Our community deserves to see a vibrant, exciting Franjo Triangle where businesses are welcomed, rather than shunned. Bring in the Palmetto Bay Business Association and the chambers of commerce and let them know that Palmetto Bay is under new management.

SDM Says: The beginning of a political career is a little like the birth of a child. One never knows for sure what this new person will turn out to be. SDM hopes Mr. Dubois and Mr. Schaffer turn out to be great leaders for our community.

PB: November 5th Agenda Quick Bites

Conflict of Interest Alert

Palmetto Bay is so concerned about conflicts-of-interest that it is proposing an ordinance to regulate sponsorships at village events. Here is the language that will be applied to future sponsors if the ordinance on the November 5th agenda passes:

In determining the appropriateness of a potential sponsorship relationship, the Village shall consider whether the relationship may undermine public confidence in the Village’s impartiality in the transaction and/or whether it may interfere with the efficient delivery of Village services or operations, including, but not limited to current or potential conflicts of interest between the sponsor and the Village and/or the sponsor and any of the Village’s employees, officials or affiliates. Item 12A. (Emphasis added by SDM.)

Too bad this provision wasn’t in place before the Village’s ten-year anniversary celebration. One “supporter” of Mayor Stanczyk’s mini-prom was a company called Kimley-Horn and Associates, an engineering firm that has received multiple contracts from the village over the years. Coincidentally – or maybe not – only a little over a month after the big shindig, Kimley-Horn is being recommended for a contract worth almost $80,000!

SDM Wonders: Does the contract have built-in fluff to cover the cost of the tickets to the Mayor’s coming-out party? Who solicited Kimley-Horn? Was Kimley-Horn threatened that it  would not get the contract unless it sponsored the event?

$44,000/month for legal fees? Mystery solved

If you ever sat around wondering why the Village’s legal fees are so high, SDM found your answer in Agenda Item 7A, the Village Attorney’s report. Witness some of the silly and dangerous matters occupying your lawyers’ time:

An ordinance amending section 2-49 of the Village’s Code of Ordinances, relating to Village Council meeting procedures – requiring the silencing of all electronic devices during council meetings by audience, staff, and council; and providing for the Police Commander to act as “Sergeant at Arms”… (Sponsored by Mayor Shelley Stanczyk).

[The Village needs an ordinance for this? Once upon a time, strong managers controlled their chambers. Apparently, Palmetto Bay's Manager needs an ordinance to manage cell phones.]

An ordinance relating to RLUIPA [Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act - federal statute], review procedures to require an administrative review process of any allegation of violation of RLUIPA, through a quasi-judicial hearing process, prior to file of a lawsuit relating to same. Proposed for a future first reading

[Just when SDM thought the litigation pipeline might be emptying a little, Palmetto Bay wants to open up the spigot. So the first level of challenge under RLUIPA will be whether the Village can graft an administrative procedure onto a federal statute? Why not? Palmetto Bay loves being on the cutting edge of municipal litigation so long as we fools pay for it.]

Shores at Palmetto Bay LLC v. Village of Palmetto Bay. Appellate action (certiorari petition filed) after denial of application by the Village Council on December 12, 2012. … The Village filed its answer brief on February 27, 2012. The reply brief has been filed. Parties awaiting order of court as to Oral Argument.

[As a taxpayer, SDM hopes the Village wins this lawsuit. If they don't, however, voters must hold Mayor Stanczyk and her cronies accountable.]

Recall Palmetto Bay PAC v. Village of Palmetto Bay, Case no.: 12-33876 CA 02. … No advertising allowed in Village event or publications. However, the site, Palmetto Bay Village Center, with consent of property owner, could provide a “booth” for Recall group, consistent with First Amendment law, including Parkland Republican Club v. City of Parkland, 268 F. Supp. 2d 1349 (S.D. Fla. 2003). Village filed a motion to dismiss on the remaining count on September 17, 2012. (Emphasis added by SDM.)

[Again, SDM hopes Palmetto Bay prevails but SDM can't help but wonder why we were given the impression that the Recall lawsuit was resolved. It sure sounds like this lawsuit is still alive.]

SDM Wonders: How can a Village like Palmetto Bay continue to afford legal bills of this magnitude month after month? What will the candidates do to stop the bleeding?

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