Holiday season goodwill was not to be found last week between Mayor Matti Bower and the Miami Beach Police Athletic League as two former leaders of the organization lobbed a defiant rebuttal at the mayor for her recently-published slam against it and called for an apology.
“The PAL never did a program in their life to help anyone as long as I was here,” Bower is quoted as saying during the City Commission’s Dec. 14 discussion of alleged fiscal improprieties involving the organization. Her remark was published in a Miami Herald report on the meeting.
Commissioner Jerry Libbin was also quoted in the Herald piece: “The story just seems to be getting worse.” The paper added that Bower “said she has always questioned where PAL’s money is being spent.” The commission voted to ask the Miami-Dade Police Department to investigate whistle-blower allegations that some PAL board members and employees have misused PAL as a private slush fund.
But in a Dec. 21 joint message simultaneously emailed to the mayor and hand-delivered to her City Hall office, former PAL presidents Howard Gross and Kenny Stowe rebuked Bower’s comments as “ill advised and extremely inaccurate” and “disturbing and misleading.”
“Our organization consists of honorable people who have performed admirable tasks and programs for the children of our community for many years,” wrote Gross and Stowe. “This seemingly is contrary to your thoughts and memory. We kindly ask that you re-visit your remarks. We also respectfully ask that you retract your remarks, and issue an apology.” Their letter did not address the impropriety allegations.
Perhaps, the two wrote the mayor, “we can refresh your recollection” about her previous experiences with the PAL. They mentioned her meeting with PAL to tout the DNA LifePrint Child Safety Program, one that provides parents with tools and information for helping police find a missing child.
Bower, they said, was photographed with DNA “legacy kits” at the April 2008 meeting attended by the organization’s leaders, a School Board member, North Beach Elementary’s principal, and the city’s police chief, among others.
“At that time, you and others were very proud of this particular effort,” their message continued.
Listing 33 programs and organizations that PAL sponsors – from team sports and after-school tutoring to the Boy and Girl Scouts and PAL’s summer work program – Stowe and Gross chastised Bower that, “as the elected leader of Miami Beach, it is irresponsible to deny that these programs exist.”
“To the contrary, you should be proud that [they] exist, and that they impact our community in a positive manner.”
Citing the “future of thousands of children impacted by our programs and hard work,” the pair asked for a meeting with the mayor to “set the record straight.”
Accorded an opportunity to respond prior to the publication of this story, Mayor Bower had not done so by the SunPost’s deadline.