Politics: Mr. City Attorney: The Fibber In Your Office? Fire Him

Judge Victoria Sigler

And, Somebody’s Recall of the Old Days Sure Doesn’t Sync With Reality.

Darn right insultful.”

Those, the words of Judge Victoria Sigler in a county courtroom last week.

She was tongue lashing the Miami Beach city attorney’s office for its contempt-of-court violation of her prior order that the city turn over docs, photos, and tapes from the 2011 Memorial Day Weekend police-involved, 116-bullet shooting in SoBe that left suspect Raymond Herisse dead and four innocent bystanders wounded.

What poetic justice that at the time she was dressing down the Beach’s legal eagles, a “roomful of aspiring University of Miami law students” (according to the Herald) was present in the gallery, witnessing the spectacle with “amusement.”

She didn’t, but the judge could just as well have turned to the young, impressionable spectators in her courtroom and said this:

So you wanna be lawyers? Good for you. Just don’t practice law like these numbskulls. Oh, and they work for the City of Miami Beach, if you were curious to know.”

Thanks to the boneheadedness of two of our city’s attorneys, you and I now get tagged with paying the victims’ legal bills, leave aside for the moment their pending medical ones.

Way to go, Silly Hall. With each additional twist and turn, this case just keeps deteriorating into an ever-more sorry humiliation of the twits in the city attorney’s fourth floor offices and for the police department our city leaders are supposed to be keeping a parental, supervisory eye on.

TWISTS & TURNS THAT A POLE DANCER WOULD ENVY

Aleksandr Boksner is one of those twits. He’s the assistant city attorney who, the week before, had the mendacity to feed Sigler several conflicting tales, a hodge-podge of convoluted excuses that would leave even most legal experts cross-eyed. See if you can follow along:

First, he claimed that the tapes of the police dispatch chatter from the incident didn’t exist.

Then, second, that he turned over to plaintiffs’ attorneys all he had.

Then, third, that he didn’t think he had to turn anything over.

Then, fourth, that he did turn over the tapes.

And, somewhere in all of that, he even claimed that the tapes had been destroyed altogether.

The dexterity of Boksner’s 180-degree twists and turns before Sigler would make even a strip club pole dancer envious.

After he – incredibly – claimed he didn’t know that her order to turn over “visual recordings” also included photos, she reproached him in the no-nonsense style of a perturbed mother scolding her incorrigible youngster for trying to clear the peas from his plate by slyly scraping them into his napkin:

If somebody took a coloring book and colored some pictures of Mr. Herisse as he lay dead in the street, it is your obligation to turn them over.”

All the cunning confusion instigated by Boksner prompted a chagrined MPBD chief Ray Martinez to bypass him and the city attorney’s office completely and deliver the tapes directly to a plaintiff’s lawyer.

SHE WOULDN’T PLAY THE BLAME GAME

 Deputy city attorney Donald Papy is another of those aforementioned twits. At last week’s hearing before Sigler, Papy tried, with zero success, to pin the blame on Martinez for failing to produce his department’s tapes for the city attorney’s office.

It was your responsibility to carry out my order, chided the judge, refusing to play Papy’s blame game.

It now becomes Jose Smith‘s responsibility – provided he’s got the gumption – to mete out sanctions to his subordinates.

In the least, Boksner should get the heave-ho. For that matter, so should any other legal eagle on the fourth floor who had a hand in subverting justice in this investigation.

It’s one thing if you’re a city attorney and defend your client (the city) vigorously in court. But it’s a whole other thing if you take your attorney-client relationship to an extreme and lie to the court and impede a judge’s order.

Such arrogance shouldn’t – and mustn’t – be tolerated.

In addition to money, the Herisse case has already cost the city and its police department in terms of credibility and reputation.

Some in the community, I learned from a source this week, are concerned that city attorneys’ relationships with city, state, and federal law enforcement agencies may have been compromised by the way the Herisse case has been mishandled. The fear is “that investigations will be prejudiced and that whistleblowers may be retaliated against.”

DUPLICITY, EVASIONS, AND STONEWALLING

Just the other night, in an investigative report on the whole Herisse matter, CBS4 skewered both the MBPD and the city attorney’s office for bungling this two-year-old case.

Reporter Gary Nelson revealed to us, for instance, that the MBPD’s lead investigator wrapped up his report last year, but that it didn’t finally make it to its next destination – state attorney Kathy Rundle‘s desk – until four weeks ago. She’ll decide if any cops involved get charged or not.

He also told us that none of the dozen officers who took part in the shooting have ever made statements or been interviewed by investigators.

One, Derick Kulian, has since been fired. You may remember him. Particularly if I remind you that he was the drunk, on-duty Beach cop whose ATV, with a bride-to-be from The Clevelander on board, plowed over a couple on the beach one summer night in 2011.

How long can they delay justice?” asked one plaintiff’s attorney.

Indeed. How long?

And how much longer will those on Silly Hall’s top floor continue to look away, taking no corrective or punitive action whatsoever, as underlings in both the MBPD and the city attorney’s office trample the pursuit of justice and embarrass all of us in so doing?

The next move is yours, Mr. City Attorney. This is not how we expect our city’s legal reps to behave. Kick the liars and incompetents out; tell them to go hang their shingles elsewhere, but not at City Hall. Your subordinates insulted not only Judge Sigler but all Beach citizens. We’re the ones who’ll get stuck with the bill for their courtroom duplicity, evasions, and stonewalling.

Meanwhile, victims’ attorneys have asked the U.S. Justice Department to intercede and investigate any misconduct in the MBPD’s part in the shooting.

Good idea. How soon can you attend to that, Attorney General Holder? Our need is urgent. Evidently, our city leaders are too wimpy and wussy to embark upon this themselves, a shame that’s darn right insultful to all of us.

Campbell

UNCLE LUKE, NUTTY AS A LOON (AGAIN)

Not usually worthy of comment are the more-often-than-not racially-overtoned rantings of Luther Campbell in his weekly New Times column (which I have long maintained – even said so here – are actually the myriad cranial bullsh-t droppings of the NT‘s own staff and editors, who, rather than use their own names, instead rent the Campbell byline as the umbrella under which to shelter their delusional droppings).

So, what have Luke’s ghostwriters attributed to him this time?

Well, in his May 31 column, he (or they) yammered for a national black boycott of Miami Beach because attendees of this year’s (dist)Urban (the) Beach Weekend “don’t feel welcome” in a city whose police department “turned South Beach into a militarized zone.”

With age does not necessarily come wisdom. The Angry Young Black Man has evolved into the Angry Middle-Aged Black Man, and one suspects that he’ll remain as angry as ever when he finally crosses over into Old Fartitude.

Which can’t be too far off, because he sure seems to already be showing signs of early-stage dementia.

And why would you suggest that, Charles?

Well, friend, because of this particular passage in his May 31 diatribe:

I felt more welcome in the city when I was a kid going to school at Fienberg Fisher Elementary and Miami Beach Senior High. Back then, African-Americans had to leave Miami Beach by sundown.

Luke was born in 1960. He would have been a Fienberg student about 1966 to 1972, and graduated from Beach High circa 1978.

No Colored Allowed After 6 PM” signs were finally removed from city streets in 1965.

Do the math.

You are time-traveling or an outright liar,” one Luke reader posted online. “That was DECADES after such noxious mandates had long faded into history. You can presumably make your points without resorting to a fictional, imagined personal history.”

Touché! Couldn’t have put it any better myself.

Campbell and his ghostwriters have yet to account, either in print or online, for this version of “history.”

AND THEN THERE WERE 15

That’s how many candidates, to date, are registered to compete for the four Miami Beach City Commission seats up for grabs in November.

The grand prizes: the mayor’s office and three commissioner slots.

The contestants: ten men and 5 women.

Matti Bower, surprising few local political watchers with her late Friday afternoon gambit on June 7, became the fourth and latest entrant in the race to succeed Michael Gongora in his Group 3 seat.

Seeking to extend her 14-year-long City Hall tenure by another four years, the term-limited, 3-term mayor will have to best Joshua Dunkelman, Michael Grieco, and Sherry Kaplan Roberts for votes.

Though her past races may have been relatively easy feats, this, her seventh campaign for city office since 1995, is no slam dunk.

On the Monday following her official filing, Grieco fired a shot across Bower’s bow, charging that with her entry into the race she “now seeks to continue as an entrenched, career politician” on the city’s dais.

Continued Grieco: “Our residents are hungry for a new direction, fresh ideas, a completely different view on how government treats its constituents, and an end to the corruption and embarrassments we’ve had to endure over the past few years.

The contrast between my vision and message and that of Mrs. Bower is direct, clear, and measurable,” he declared. “We will prevail and realize a positive, new future for our city government.”

Labeling her entry “the worst kept secret in Miami Beach,” the former prosecutor-turned-criminal defense lawyer nevertheless welcomed her to the race, “as I’ve been waiting for her since I filed” shortly after the new year began.

OVER HALF LIVE IN SOBE

For much of this race, Group 2 incumbent Jorge Exposito looked certain to coast to an easy reelection. Until early May, that is, when he picked up a challenger, Miami Dade College speech and communication professor Kristen Rosen Gonzalez.

This is Exposito’s third campaign. He first ran for a seat in what seems a long ago era – 1991 – but lost to incumbent Martin Shapiro. He didn’t run again until 18 years later, winning a seat in 2009.

For the privilege of succeeding Jerry Libbin in Group 1, Elsa Urquiza and Dave Crystal have been joined, since May, by Micky Steinberg, wife of the onetime commish and state rep Richard, and by Mohammed Rafiqul Islam.

Even before the votes in the 2011 mayor’s race had been cast, Steve Berke vowed to run again in ’13. On June 12, he made it official. Now the mayoral race is five-man-strong: Gongora, David Hundley, Philip Levine, and Libbin round out the field. Libbin is the oldest, at 61; Berke, the youngest, at 32.

Other stats:

Eight of the 15 have run for City Hall before: Berke (0 wins-1 loss), Bower (5-1), Crystal (0-1), Exposito (1-1), Gongora (2-1), Libbin (2-0), Roberts (0-1), and Urquiza (0-2).

Each of the commissioner races is being contested by an equal ratio of men-to-women.

This is the first time since 2005 that no woman is vying for mayor.

The youngest candidate is Berke (32); the oldest, Bower (74).

South Beach is home to over half of the candidates (8). One (Urquiza) resides in the Venetian Isles. Five candidates (Crystal, Gonzalez, Islam, Libbin, and Steinberg) call North Beach home; all of those live in Normandy Isles. Just two candidates (Gongora and Levine) live in Middle Beach.

Of the mayoral candidates, Berke and Hundley reside in SoBe. Libbin calls North Beach home. Gongora and Levine reside in Middle Beach. The current mayor, Bower, is a SoBe resident.

SHOW ME THE MONEY

Gongora and Levine are leading the pack, so far, in campaign donations among the four races. Each man has already crossed over into six-digit-figure territory.

According to first-quarter treasurer reports filed in late March – the most recent period for which there are figures – Gongora had raised nearly $126,000 to date in his race for mayor. Levine reports a war chest of just over $100,000. Libbin has declared nearly $46,000 to date. Hundley reports having raised only $395. Berke has not been a candidate long enough yet to file a report.

The figures, however, aren’t necessarily a true reflection of the candidates’ fund-raising strengths.

You see, of the $100,300 that Levine has reported, just $300 is from public donations. CEO of a cruise industry-affiliated media company that connects luxury brands with cruise-vacationing shoppers, Levine is fueling his campaign with a $100,000 self-loan. So as to avoid being beholden to special interests, he has imposed a donation cap of $100 in his campaign.

Gongora, on the other hand, has loaned his campaign $25,000. The rest – a little more than $100,000 – comprises public donations.

Libbin reports his campaign income as all donations, no loans.

Hundley’s piddling amount – all $395 of it – has come out of his own pocket.

In the Group 1 race, Urquiza, who declared her candidacy way back in 2011, is far ahead of any of her challengers, having raised just shy of $31,000 thus far. Crystal reports a first-quarter take of over $4,800. Steinberg and Islam are too new to the contest to report yet.

Two-thirds of Urquiza’s take – $20,000 – is a self-loan. Crystal has lent his campaign $518.

In his bid for reelection in Group 2, Exposito has amassed over $19,000, a grand of which is a self-loan. Gonzalez, new to the race, has raised only $500, all of it a loan to herself.

In the Group 3 race, Grieco leads in donations, just shy of $79,000. Dunkelman follows with nearly $35,000. Roberts reports nearly $22,000. Bower has not been in long enough to file a report.

Grieco reports all his take as donations. Dunkelman’s reported take includes a $1,000 self-loan. Nearly half of Roberts’ take, $10,000, is a loan to herself.

There’s something to be said for getting in early: in the three commissioner races, the candidates who lead in donations (Urquiza, Exposito, and Grieco) are also the ones who were the first to file in their respective races.

Total loot declared by all candidates as of March 31? Over $463,500.

A little more than a third of that total comprises money the candidates have lent themselves.

By now, the total raked in in all city races combined has likely crossed the half-million-dollar threshold.

Anticipate the second-quarter reports soon, for that period ends on Sunday; reports are due in to the city clerk July 10.

IN OTHER CAMPAIGN NEWS…

…Gongora announced (June 20) he’d secured the support of auto magnate-cum-political kingmaker Norman Braman, whose endorsement he described as “humbling.”

…Hosting a June fundraiser for Sherry Roberts: commissioner Deede Weithorn and former Jorge Gonzalez aide Emanuel Mayer and his wife Maria, a corporate attorney with Carlton Fields who, herself, ran for the Commission in ’09, losing by 300-some votes to Exposito. Her other opponent in that year’s race? Roberts.

…Hosting June fundraisers for Gongora: Elaine Lancaster, state senator Gwen Margolis, Alton Road Homeowner Association president (and 2012 statehouse candidate) Adam Kravitz & his wife Joanna-Rose.

…Gongora, in his June e-letter to constituents, took a swipe at Libbin for making a motion at the May Commission meeting “to allow the boardwalk to be torn down behind the W Hotel on Collins and 22nd Street (which I similarly voted against).”

…Environmental protection and sustainability is an ever-growing quality-of-life issue here. The Libbin campaign has smartly recognized this, with email promos touting volunteer dune restoration efforts, beach cleanups, and this week’s pilot-project launch of 43 dual-purpose recycling bins along Lincoln Road. Gongora may have initiated citywide recycling in high-rises and multiple-unit dwellings, but when it comes to green politics, Libbin apparently isn’t about to concede the title of “Most Environmentally Friendly” to his fellow commish.

WE’RE DOOMED

What if a catastrophic disaster – say, a hurricane or climate change-induced sea-level rise – were to hit South Florida and wipe us out? Would the federal government – would anyone for that matter – come to our aid and help us rebuild?

That thought occurred to me just a few weeks ago following the Oklahoma tornado tragedies.

I feared I knew the answer. What I didn’t know was that somebody else was also contemplating the same thing.

That somebody would be Jeff Goodell. His excellently-researched and sobering article in the current issue of Rolling Stone (“Goodbye, Miami”) is one of the starkest guesstimates yet of how bad sea-level rise’s impact on us may be. And it ain’t pretty.

One disaster-impact expert, quoted by Goodell, offers this: “The view is, ‘Well, if it gets real bad, the federal government will bail us out.’ It is beyond denial; it is flat-out delusional.”

The same expert told of having spoken about sea-level rise at a regional planning meeting and being treated to a “15-minute lecture on Genesis” by an unnamed commissioner.

[The commissioner] said, ‘God destroyed the Earth with water the first time, and he promised he wouldn’t do it again. So all of you who are pushing fears about sea-level rise, go back and read the Bible.’”

Oh, if only some idiots among us could go to watery graves now.

Tea Party Republitards Slicky Ricky Scott and Marco Rubio – climate change deniers both – come off bruised in the magazine piece (Rubio is “still trotting out the tired old argument that ‘no matter how many job-killing laws we pass, our government can’t control the weather.’”)

Gongora gets ink, too (“Like most South Floridians, he believes sea-level rise is something that is going to happen slowly and that engineers will figure out a way” to head it off), but comes off a little too saccharinely optimistic that “we will figure out a solution” because “the people who own that property [$24 billion-worth of real estate] are not going to let it just be washed away.”

I don’t know, Commissioner. Somehow I sense that all the world’s financial assets combined are no match to the awesome might of 326 million trillion gallons of global ocean water and melting polar ice.

Goodell ends his sobering report by questioning a major construction project currently in the works:

Instead of spending a billion dollars to build a new tunnel for the Port of Miami, we should be spending that money to buy people out of their homes and relocate them to higher ground.”

One could substitute the phrase “to redevelop the Miami Beach Convention Center” for the part about the tunnel. In fact, Beach resident-environmentalist Capt. Dan Kipnis would.

Are we going to build a new convention center complex at a cost of over $1 billion to only see it flood 20 years from now?” he asked Jimmy Morales within days of the new city manager’s installation in April.

Retired engineer and city capital improvements adviser Dwight Kraai, a Kipnis comrade-in-arms on these issues, considers sea-level rise “the most important issue facing the city of Miami Beach.”

At least they have Morales’s ear, and that’s better than what they might get from the blockheads in the state capital.

I can tell you that even in my short tenure so far as manager,” Morales responded to Kipnis in April, “I already met with the officials in Tallahassee focusing on rising sea level issues. Frankly, we cannot wait for them since they are very much at the initial stages of their efforts. We will definitely tap the resources and individuals in our community to be part of the solution.”

KUDOS

…to the City of Miami Beach and the two rival design teams for their month-long display of the scale models of the convention center re-do that consumed a first-floor conference room at City Hall until last week.

The models, as well as plans and illustrations, were on display for public viewing in the late afternoon to early evening on weekdays, and also on Saturday afternoons.

All parties are to be commended for availing the public a convenient opportunity to review the two proposed versions. I stopped in one afternoon and was enthralled by both teams’ displays, spending the better part of a half-hour entranced by the scale models and the accompanying exhibits that lined the room.

What a shame just one version will ultimately be selected, for there are features of each that are appealing and attractive.

Thanks, C.M.B., Portman-CMC, and South Beach ACE, for respecting our right to participate, be kept informed, and remain included in this crucial process.

MARK YOUR CALENDAR

MIAMI BEACH – 2012 Community Satisfaction Survey results will be presented to the public. Tomorrow, June 28, 2:30 p.m. (1755 Meridian Ave., third floor training room)

MIAMI – Advanced Teen Driving Safety Program. Fri.-Sat., June 28-29 and July 5-6. This two-part program gives teens ages 16-19 skills and techniques to assist with real world driving situations. The Assessment Center at Miami Dade College (North Campus). To register: http://atdsp.eventbrite.com.

MIAMI BEACH – Brazilian Festival. Sun., June 30, 1-9 p.m. Samba, food, drinks, games. Free admission. (North Shore Bandshell, 72nd St. & Collins)

BAL HARBOUR – Special Village Council meeting on amending the red light camera ordinance. Tues., July 2, 6 p.m. (Village Hall, 655 96th St.)

CORAL GABLES – Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden free admission day. Wed., July 3 (9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.). Spend a day exploring 83 acres of tropical palms, flowering trees, and breathtaking vistas. Free tram tours available (10901 Old Cutler Rd.).

MIAMI BEACH – Coca-Cola Presents Fire on the Fourth free concert and fireworks. Thurs., July 4, 7 p.m. Nicole Henry again headlines the city’s celebration. Fireworks at 9 p.m. Free shuttles to and from North Beach. (Lummus Park Beach at 9th St.)

SURFSIDE – July 4th celebration. Festivities begin at 2 p.m. Residents, free; non-residents, $5. Pool will be open 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Live music, swim races, arts & crafts, games. Zambelli fireworks, 9 p.m. (Surfside Community Center, 9301 Collins)

CORAL GABLES – Annual July 4th Fireworks Spectacular at the Biltmore Golf Course. Grounds open free to the public at 5 p.m. BBQ, beer, live performance by the Greater Miami Symphonic Band. Fireworks show at 9 p.m. VIP tickets and tables available for purchase. (The Biltmore Hotel, 1200 Anastasia Ave.)

SURFSIDE – Public meeting on closeout of town’s water, sewer and drainage project. Mon., July 8, 7 p.m. (Town Hall, 9293 Harding)

SUNNY ISLES BEACH – Golden Era Movie: Hitchcock’s Cary Grant-Grace Kelly thriller, To Catch A Thief. Tues., July 9, 10 a.m. Free with SIB resident ID; $5 without. Movie-themed picnic lunch provided by Boston Market. Reservations required: 305-792-1706. (Pelican Community Park, 18115 N. Bay Rd.)

MIAMI BEACH – University of Miami Pediatric Mobile Clinic (by appointment). Wed., July 10 (City Hall). Free health care services to youth with no access or limited access to health care/medical insurance. Call for appointment, 305-243-6407.

SUNNY ISLES BEACH – Mount Sinai Medical Center’s monthly blood pressure and glucose screening, and twice-a-year cholesterol check. Thurs., July 11. (Government Center, 18070 Collins)

STOP CORRUPTION, REPORT WRONGDOING

Your cooperation is needed to root out corruption. If you suspect any wrongdoing by a government employee, report it anonymously to the FBI hotline at 305-944-9101.

…and please inform this paper or me about it, too.

The author is an independent columnist. The opinions expressed in this column are his own and not those of the publication or its editors and owners.

About Charles Branham-Bailey

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