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CRESPOGRAM REPORT

JANUARY 6, 2011

If there is any governmental agency in Miami-Dade County that is looked on and expected to behave like upstanding adults, it’s the Miami-Dade Ethics Commission.  They are the ones that other governmental agencies and citizens turn to when seeking opinions on whether government agencies and officials are behaving ethically, dotting their I’s and crossing their T’s.

If there is any governmental agency in Miami-Dade County that is operating as a fraud and unworthy of respect and/or continued existence in its present form, it’s none other than the Miami-Dade Ethics Commission.

The Ethics Commission is not Ethical. That’s not an observation. That’s a FACT stated by one of its own employees - the tape which will be revealed as a portion of PART II of this series.

On January 4, 2011, I was the only “civilian” to attend the Special Board meeting called to discuss a report detailing the supposed investigation of Executive Director Robert Meyers questionable behavior with his Coordinator of Administration, Rodzandra Sanchez, to whom he had written a series of hand-written notes related to lunch dates. EVERYONE else in the room was either a board member or employee of the Ethics Commission.

I will be focusing on the purpose of the “investigation,” the report that was submitted at this meeting in detail in the subsequent parts of this series.

Today, this first part deals with an issue that was almost completely glossed over, but in many respects represents  a far more damming example of an insular, arrogant, out-of-touch and in-your-face screw-you public body that operates largely under the radar.

Lucky for me, and you,  I took a video camera.  In addition to the video I have a copy of the Commission’s audio recording of that meeting, along with copies of documents from both inside and outside the agency to document the allegations I make in this series.

Let’s start with the first one that sets the tone for how the Miami-Dade Ethics Commission games the law, and what that means for everyone who believes that the Ethics Commission should behave ethically.

LAW? WHAT LAW? WE DON’T PAY ATTENTION TO NO STINKEN LAW!

The ordinance that established the Ethics Commission is very clear on the makeup of the Commission’s Board of Directors and the term of service of the Chairman.

“Sec. 2-1071. Organization of the Ethics Commission.

The Ethics Commission shall elect one (1) of its voting members as chairperson who shall serve a term of two (2) years. No chairperson shall be permitted to serve two (2) consecutive terms.”

At the January 4, 2011 meeting, it was revealed that Chairman Kerry Rosenthal, who’s been on the board since 1998, had been the Chairman of the Ethics Commission Board for the last 11 YEARS!

Besides his own acknowledgement, this is verified by the letterheads of the Commission, going back to April 22, 1999, where Rosenthal’s name first appears as Chairman. (To view this collection of letterheads, click HERE.)

For clarification, the ordinance published on the Miami-Dade County website (LINK) spells out the term of Chairman to be 1 - 2 year term.  There seems to be some confusion within the Commission - and one has to ask who caused the confusion - that the Chairman might have been allowed to serve 2 -2 year terms, or 2 - 4 year terms.  At this point, I have chosen to go with the “Official Version” as posted by Miami-Dade County.

But, even if someone pulls out another version of the ordinance that allows for these other term limits, Rosenthal still screwed the pooch by holding on to the Chairmanship for 11 years.

11 YEARS!!! HOW DO YOU NOT KNOW YOU’RE BREAKING THE LAW FOR 11 YEARS?

How does someone restricted by law to a single 2 year term as Chairman of the Ethics Commission, end up serving a total of 11 CONSECUTIVE YEARS?

Equally important, how did the Board deal with this information when they did find out? 

Below is the portion of the Commission’s audio tape of the January 4th meeting that deals with this issue. Listen to how Kerry Rosenthal nonchalantly claims not to have known there was an “8 year” limit on being Chairman, without realizing that he’s either lying as a way to minimize the enormity of what he’s done, or perhaps even worse, he’s a complete moron and didn’t even know - or obviously care - that there was a 2 year limit.

When they finally got to dealing with this issue, It took the Board members all of 1:35 to discuss, allow Rosenthal to nominate a new Chairman, vote and jokingly move on. 

Not a soul opened their mouth to question how this could have happened, or to point out how this violation reflected on the integrity of the Board’s ability to tell others how to follow the law, except Judge Seymour Gelber who can be heard half-heartedly joking to someone about starting an investigation about this.

THE AUDIO TAPE OF THIS PORTION OF THE

MEETING IS AVAILABLE FOR LISTENING AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS ARTICLE.

WHO’S WATCHING THE WATCHERS?

This is what happens when a quasi-judicial body, empowered to rule over the behavior of everyone else is allowed to operate without oversight and/or supervision!

That this was allowed to go on for so long points to so many problems - legal and ethical -  regarding the actions of the Board as well as for the Board Members themselves; from a question of the legitimacy of the Board’s rulings, to a failure of the Board members to read and know the laws that govern them, to what has to have been a willful decision by at least some of the board members over the years to tacitly accept this situation being allowed to continue that one has to wonder on the legitimacy of this group and it’s continued existence without a severe revamping of the entire operation of this Commission.

If the political and civic leaders in Miami-Dade County have any commitment left to honest and accountable government this Commission cannot be allowed to continue to operate without some oversight and supervision.

THE BOBBY AND KERRY SHOW

It now appears that there was a “special relationship” between Kerry Rosenthal and Robert Meyers, the Executive Director, which raises extraordinarily serious and troubling questions.

As Executive Director, it was Meyers’ duty and responsibility to know the laws which governed his agency, and he cannot deny or claim ignorance in knowing that Rosenthal’s continued service as the Chairman over all those years was a flagrant violation of the law.

What was the quid-pro-quo that existed between these two men that would keep Meyers’ silent on this? Who was protecting whom?  How can an “Ethics Commission” behave with such a wanton disregard for it’s own laws, and not be considered little more than a scheming, untrustworthy clique who for years abused their public trust?  And consequently, what can then be said about the supposed “ethical” behavior and honesty of it’s Executive Director.

This revelation also opens a new window on articles that appeared in the Miami New Times in 2004, 2004, 2004, 2004 by Tristram Korten, including the last link which includes 2 letters of defense of Rosenthal and Meyers from a Morris Sunshine and none other than Michael Murwaski. the Commission’s Prosecutor.

The stories by Korten are significant because even in back  in 2004, Chairman Kerry Rosenthal was meddling in investigations, and covering Meyers’ back in a “political power play” against Christopher Mazzella, the Inspector General in charge of the County’s Office of Inspector General.

Here is the significant portion of Korten’s article alleging political interference by Rosenthal on behalf of Meyers:

Kerry Rosenthal, the chairman of the Commission on Ethics and Public Trust, which hired and can fire Mazzella, sent a sternly worded July 1 letter ordering the OIG to stop its criminal investigations. Mazzella is more likely to resign than concede to that.

"Particularly troubling is the fact your agency has taken on certain responsibilities traditionally reserved for law enforcement agencies, and I am at a loss to find the legal authority for the OIG to implement its mission in this manner. For example I am deeply disturbed when I read newspaper accounts of your office's involvement & 'arresting' alleged wrongdoers," Rosenthal wrote.

Instead Rosenthal, a real estate attorney in Aventura, insisted that Mazzella, a retired FBI agent, stick to number-crunching. "You will need to refocus agency priorities; that is, to focus more on audit and audit-related tasks and move away from criminal investigations," Rosenthal ordered in the letter.

To put this in perspective, the OIG has a 100 percent conviction rate for its criminal cases, all related to county employees or county money. Rosenthal's "concerns" are absurd. The OIG is doing too good a job catching people stealing public money?”

That Rosenthal continues to exert his influence on behalf of Meyers points at a minimum to a disturbing kind of clubby, insider, and insolent belief between these two men that their self-considered “moral” standing entitles them to behave as they do because they saw themselves the chosen arbitrators of what constituted ethical behavior in the community. 

Or, is there more here than meets the eye?  A question that cannot continue to be avoided is how did Kerry Rosenthal, this unelected “real estate lawyer in Aventura” garner so much unchallenged power?

Given what this incident now reveals about these two individuals - and in fact the entire Board of the Ethics Commission who sat silent all these years - the important thing that the community needs answers to is how did this behavior color their actions and decisions on ALL of the ethics cases that came before them, as well, if not more importantly, how did it impact on the internal management and operation of the Miami-Dade Ethics Commission during all these years?

To illustrate how duplicitous these people have become, here is the current language describing Rosenthal’s service as Chairman on the Ethics Commission website:

“Having served several years as Chair of the Ethics Commission...” 

Yeah, and Lindsay Lohan has taken several pills during her life.

When the head rots, what happens inside the body?

COME BACK TOMORROW FOR PART II:

“THIS IS NOT AN ETHICAL PLACE

THE MIAMI-DADE ETHICS COMMISSION
A FISH IS NOT THE ONLY THING THAT ROTS FROM THE HEAD
PART I

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