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CRESPOGRAM REPORT

JANUARY 14, 2013

REALITY SHOWS UP
SARNOFF FINALLY RECUSES HIMSELF” AND THE RESULTING MESS PUTS FRANCIS SUAREZ IN THE HOT SEAT

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Although I missed watching the show that took place at City Hall, all of the folks that I spoke with who were at the Commission meeting confirmed that it was a 3 Popcorn moment when Commissioner “Ethics” Sarnoff found himself forced to read out loud a letter written to the members of the City Commission by Michelle Spence-Jones’ lawyers.


At the beginning of the discussion, Commissioner Spence-Jones passed out the letter from her attorneys, and more or less forced Commissioner “Ethics,” who is now the Commission’s Chairman, to read it into the record. (The full letter is at the bottom of this story.)


Here’s a key paragraph in the letter that had laser beams coming out of Sarnoff’s eyes.

Imagine that!  My pal Punky was a “witness to a number of key events in the federal case.”


Who would have thunk it!


After Sarnoff finished reading the letter, the discussion quickly turned into a wrangle between Francis Suarez, Frank Carollo and Sarnoff over the $700 an hour that Richard J. Davis, the New York lawyer wanted to be paid.


Eventually Sarnoff, who had refused to recuse himself after he read out loud that he was a “witness to a number of key events in the federal case,” instead seized on the ensuing argument about paying so much money to the lawyer as an opportunity to position himself as a proponent of quality over cost, and used that argument to recuse himself.


Now that it has been firmly established that Sarnoff was probably up to his eyebrows in the scheme to remove Spence-Jones from her Commission seat, the question arises as to why he was not named in the original complaint which would have speeded up the process of his having to recuse himself?


I can only speculate, but I believe that once the discovery process gets underway and folks start getting hauled in for depositions, Sarnoff might very well get elevated from witness to co-conspirator. Sometimes the dramatic value of adding co-conspirators becomes like a magic trick, and Sarnoff is certainly the kind of magic trick worthy of being pulled out of a hat at an opportune moment.


Sarnoff is obviously not the only one who knows what he did during the period that this conspiracy was going on, and a lot of people believe that this scheme to unseat Spence-Jones goes all the way back to his 2007 memo to himself where he alleged that Spence-Jones had sought payments for her vote on the Mercy Hospital Project from the Related Group for her pals Barbara Carey-Shuler and Barbara Hardeman.

Very little in life or in politics occurs in a vacuum, and the notion that Regalado, Fernandez-Rundle and everyone else who played a part in the conspiracy to remove Spence-Jones from the City Commission just woke up one morning and decided that this was a good thing to do that day, are clearly delusional.


Nobody undertakes engaging in a criminal conspiracy - and make no mistake about it, this was a criminal conspiracy which is why the case was filed as a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) case - decides to do so without there being some shared feeling that they all thought, or had convinced themselves that they were acting on behalf of a greater good by going along with this scheme to get rid of Spence-Jones, who they obviously thought was doing stuff that warranted her being removed.


None of this would justify or excuse what these people did, and I write this because folks need to appreciate that motive will more than likely become an issue, if not a defensive strategy.


On the other side of the coin when you consider Sarnoff’s involvement you have to appreciate that Spence-Jones’ removal provided him the opportunity to take over control of the OMNI CRA.


So in the end it was just deductive reasoning, and nothing more that led me last month to conclude that Sarnoff was not only the “unnamed Commissioner,” but also, given his relationships back in 2009 with both Regalado and Fernandez-Rundle, that he was probably up to his eyeballs in this conspiracy.


After all of the back and forth about the New York lawyer and Sarnoff recusing himself, the most interesting sentence in the letter from Spence-Jones’ attorneys to the Commission is one that remains unanswered and dangling above everyone’s head.

For Regalado, those last 5 words could spell real trouble.


I’ll admit that when I first heard last month that the Mayor had not been served with a copy of this lawsuit I was surprised and puzzled. 


As this process has gone on though, I’ve tend to believe that Regalado probably asked - as a courtesy - that he not be served until he could try and get the City Commission to pick up the costs of his lawyer, and that Spence-Jones’ lawyers probably agreed.


At the same time, any agreement would have probably been predicated on an expectation of a time limit for all of this to occur, and Spence-Jones’ lawyers cannot continue to sit around waiting for the Dwarfs on the Commission to figure out what to do. 


Having gone over 45 days since the announcement of the lawsuit, Regalado might get served with the Complaint in short order, and then if he’s forced to hire Jose Quinon on his own so that Quinon can start complying with the legal requirements of responding to the lawsuit, the whole issue of whether the City will pay for him becomes moot.


At the very least, you could expect that Spence-Jones’ lawyers already have some sort of emergency motion prepared to challenge the City Commission’s decision if they do decide to pay for Quinon, or perhaps for any other lawyer for Regalado’s defense.


The one thing that I cannot see happening is that this lawsuit continues to linger because of the failure of the City Commission to fish or cut bait.


IT’S ALWAYS ABOUT MONEY


For Regalado, who like everyone else discovered last Thursday night that Francis Suarez raised a total of $433,775.98 for his PAC in the last 2 months of 2012, the on-going argument over who pays for his lawyer creates a real problem. 


If he’s forced to hire Quinon privately, he would also be forced to start raising money to pay him through a Legal Defense Fund at the same time that he has to knuckle down and start trying to raise the kind of money needed to counter Suarez’s campaign hefty war chest.


While there is every expectation that this year’s election for Mayor of Miami will set a record for campaign contributions, there is a finite amount of money floating around for Regalado to tap into, and even the maquinita owners could at some point decide that enough is enough, and see what kind of deal they can make with Suarez, if they haven’t already.


What’s really interesting, and why I like writing about it this story is that it provides a window to a lot of facets of how and why the City of Miami continues to bounce from one crisis to another, and to the character and abilities of those who would seek to lead it.


FRANCIS SUAREZ FAILS A TEST OF LEADERSHIP


Last year Francis Suarez was the Chairman of the City Commission, and on occasion you could see him and Spence-Jones playing footsie under the table.  Behind the scenes they were phone buddies, and there is no question that Suarez shared with her his plans to run for Mayor, and she in turn shared some of the highlights of her lawsuit as the year went on. Therefore, when the lawsuit was finally announced, it’s contents would not have been a surprise to Suarez.


On December 13th, when the discussion item by the Mayor was brought up regarding his request that the City Commission approve the hiring of Jose Quinon to represent him, Suarez woulda-shoulda known all of the salient issues involving the lawsuit and the issues related to the Mayor’s request for Quinon to be paid for by the taxpayers.


It’s a core part of being the Chairman to know all of these things, and even though City Attorney Julie Bru had already recused herself because of her involvement in this scheme, you can bet that behind the scenes all of the issues related to Regalado’s request had been hashed out before the Commission meeting began. 


For Suarez, this was a ready made opportunity for him to take the reigns and demonstrate that on an issue of such potential controversy he could manage the process for finding a lawyer to represent the City Commission in a way that would be free of even the slightest taint of partisanship or back room double-dealing.


Instead, once Regalado finished making his pitch for Jose Quinon being hired, Suarez wasted no time in turning to his pal Sarnoff so that he could nominate himself as a committee of one to go out and find a lawyer.


Even then Suarez could have demonstrated some leadership by asking Sarnoff directly whether he had any potential conflicts of interest in nominating himself to take on this task.


For a smart politician, leadership involves knowing when it’s important to take a stand on an issue of principle. This was such a moment, and Suarez failed the test dramatically.


That failure in turn led to the fiasco that occurred at last Thursday’s Commission meeting when Sarnoff revealed once again that when he’s given an inch, he’ll take a mile, and after he finally recused himself, Suarez was by default forced to assume the responsibility to go out and find a lawyer.


WAS IT INEXPERIENCE, OR WAS SUAREZ COMPROMISED


I’m sure Suarez supporters will argue that whatever mistakes or failures of judgment and leadership that he might have shown in this instance were ones of inexperience, and not ones of willful lack of good judgment, or worse of being Sarnoff’s sock puppet. Unfortunately, the facts won’t support that argument.


First, Suarez is a lawyer.  Secondly he’s had three years of on-the-job training as a City Commissioner to both learn and understand what it takes to be a City Commissioner. 


In those three years if he wasn’t able to figure out what constitutes a conflict of interest - something that any first year law student would have been able to figure out - then he’s not ready for prime time, and the City of Miami doesn’t need another lightweight,  bobble-head  as Mayor.


But it’s not just a question of leadership. What happened also raises a serious question of character.


The night before the December 13th Commission meeting Suarez was the guest of honor at a private fund raising dinner hosted by Sarnoff’s pal Jay Solowsky at his condo on Brickell Avenue, where the guests supposedly donated approximately $75,000 for his PAC, The Future Is Now.


Sarnoff was instrumental in arranging that fund raising dinner, and for it being held at his pal, Jay Solowsky’s condo.


It was a night of good food, good wine, and of some of the local Masters Of The Universe looking out at the glittering Miami skyline and marveling at their good fortune to have such a bright young guy like Francis Suarez willing to run for Mayor.


The next morning, as Chairman of the City Commission, the same bright young guy, no doubt still adding up all the checks he collected the night before, was faced with an ethical dilemma.


His benefactor, Commissioner “Ethics,”  nominated himself for a delicate and important task, yet, it should have been clear to even the most obtuse - I had even written about the conflict of interest on December 7th AND January 4th - that “Ethics” was the “unnamed Commissioner” and therefore had a conflict of interest.


What was Suarez to do.


Would he show leadership and character by challenging his benefactor and raise a question about any potential conflict of interest, or would he abdicate his responsibilities as the Chairman of the Commission, ignoring even a mention of a conflict of interest and let Sarnoff sally forth on his quest to choose a lawyer without even encouraging discussion on the simplest of guidelines for how that choice was to be made?


The answer, and the evidence is in what happened at last week’s Commission meeting when Sarnoff, instead of coming in with the names of several prospective lawyers that the other members thought was what he was going to do, showed up with the name of one lawyer from New York, who wanted $700 an hour, and who would, had he been selected, found himself also having to rule on whether Sarnoff was entitled to a lawyer paid for by the taxpayers over his own involvement in the conspiracy to get rid of Spence-Jones.


Does this surprise anyone?  I didn’t give Sarnoff the nickname “Ethics” because I thought he was ethical, and once again he managed to live up to my expectations that he’d screw a pig on the dais if he thought it would be in his interest to do so.


And so now after this embarrassing turn of events, Francis Suarez, who will announce that he is running against Tomas Regalado for Mayor of Miami in the next few days, is left by default with the responsibility of finding a lawyer who will advise him and the other 2 remaining Dwarfs on the City Commission as to whether the taxpayers will pay for Jose Quinon to defend Tomas Regalado’s against Michelle Spence-Jones’ lawsuit.


What’s really interesting as a sidebar to all of this is that Miami Herald reporter Kathleen Mcgrory, has already determined that Quinon is going to be Regalado’s attorney, which raises some very interesting questions as to how she would have reached that conclusion even before the City Commission decides on an attorney to advise them as to whether that’s even a possibility.


In her Sunday story - a brief one at that - she quotes Quinon as if he has every expectation of being approved and is upset that it hasn’t happened already: “We thought we would be able to get to work by now,” Quinon said, nothing that while the mayor has not yet been served, there is prep work to be done. “This puts us behind.”


Really? How does a comment like that get in the Miami Herald story without any qualifiers, like ‘Jose Quinon, who hopes to be appointed to defend Regalado?’


If it ain’t one thing it’s another, and none of it bodes well for Suarez.


If he finds a lawyer who in turn support’s Regalado’s request that the City pays for Jose Quinon, then you can expect Spence-Jones’ lawyers to go immediately to court and challenge that decision as a conflict of interest on the part of the 3 remaining Commissioners.


If he finds a lawyer who says that the City has to follow the policy that it has used in previous cases where the lawyer and the hourly rate is decided by the City Attorney, then you can hear cries coming from the Regalado camp that the fix was in, and this was a decision influenced by Suarez, Regalado’s opponent for Mayor.


At that point Jose Quinon AND Spence-Jones’ lawyers might both decide to challenge that decision.


It’s a no win situation, and it became a no win situation because Francis Suarez, when he had the opportunity to demonstrate leadership and do things the right way showed that he wasn’t up to the task.


You should never allow a boy to do a man’s job because 9 times out of 10 this is the kind of stupid shit that happens.


Francis Suarez is a boy, and a lot of sharp-eyed folks with money and schemes have come to that conclusion too, which is why they gave his PAC $433,775.98 in November and December of 2012!


HERE’S THE LETTER FROM SPENCE-JONES’S LAWYER TO THE CITY COMMISSION

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TALK ABOUT A PLOT TWIST

A Crespogram reader who has in the past provided me with valuable information and insights that have always proven to be true, called me this morning to offer the following prediction.


Francis Suarez will announce that in an abundance of caution he has to decided recuse himself from being the person who will search for a lawyer to represent the City - and hence will have the final say in the Regalado/Jose Quinon decision because he is running for Mayor and does not want to be perceived in any way as being unfair.


This will leave only 2 members of the City Commission able to discuss or vote on this issue.  Those two members do not represent a quorum.  Therefore, for a lack of a quorum, this issue will not move forward, and Regalado will have no choice but to hire Jose Quinon on his own.


How devious is that.  My source indicates that Sarnoff is behind all of this, which I’m not sure that I necessarily agree with.


But if it’s true, and little Francis does recuse himself, then it would be hard not to conclude that he is indeed Sarnoff’s sock puppet, and that Sarnoff in turn has double-screwed Regalado, who no doubt thought he had a deal with Sarnoff to  make sure he got Quinon as his lawyer in return for appointing him as the Chairman of the Commission.


You got to admit, this is one very sweet and devious plot twist, and now we’ll just have to wait and see whether or not it turns out to be true.


Either way, it’s the kind of twist that could only happen in Miami.


That’s why It’s Miami, Bitches!

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