The Miami Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust recently dismissed a “rude, boorish and tyrannical behavior” complaint against Vice Mayor Valerie Newman. The Letter of Instruction from the Ethics Commission admonishes her for bad behavior and states politicians are expected at all times to be “proper, honest, respectful and professional.” The two year old complaint was dropped due to a lack of resources.
Although Newman was unavailable for comment, Mayor Phillip Stoddard stepped in to address a case he believes ran too long and cost taxpayers too much. “The most remarkable thing about this letter is that it took two years and $100,000 to dismiss.”
Ethics Commission Outreach Coordinator Rhonda Victor Sibilia responded to the time frame and cost estimation by saying: “I don’t know where the figure came from but it did not cost our office nor Dade County taxpayers this fee. Delays are not unusual. Respondents ask for continuances, change attorneys, and depositions may be required.”
Former Mayor Horace G. Feliu states, “I had the displeasure of sitting with Commissioner Newman for two years and her embattling and embroiling behavior cost the city over $100,000 just in legal fees.”
Mr. Feliu also takes Mayor Stoddard to task for what is in his opinion a “rubber stamping of Newman’s agendas.” “In my time we had a more collegial style of working together. We moved forward with our missions and got many goals accomplished. We planted lots of trees and got the city clock in place as well.”
Mayor Stoddard reflected on his particular style of leadership as he concludes his two year term and contemplates running for reelection next fall. “You try to look out for everyone’s interest. They turn to you when they encounter problems. Sometimes I feel like a town dad with at times unruly teenagers eager to tell you when you get stuck. You hope you know what you are doing,” Mayor Stoddard said candidly.
The charges against Newman originated from complaints against her received at the Ethics Commission based on the current South Miami Code of Conduct. The Code of Conduct has since been repealed.
Mayor Stoddard observed, “she always tries to look out for the little guy. It’s the way she goes about it that can become problematic. AT&T put a giant box in front of a resident’s house and she was trying to fix it. In a separate case, an Officer was demoted and I agree that it was an unjust demotion but there is a proper way to address things and she over extended her enthusiastic public trust muscle.”
The larger question to Mayor Stoddard appears to be how to legislate morality with formal processes and codes of conduct that may be misused as a tool for potential harassment. “Most people know how to behave. It is only a small number of people who don’t have manners. A community discussion of what our values are may be appropriate.”
It seems to be a contrast between the bull in the china shop approach or the proverbial biblical judgment of Solomon with the two women claiming to mother the same child; verses that of a more dignified village elder empathically hearing all sides and making diplomatic determinations.
“As I get older I see myself changing from a more career driven professional to a now community oriented administrator. Like that of a village elder trying to take care of the entire community and attempting to move forward constructively. We are capable of using our imagination to find creative solutions for all.” explained Mayor Stoddard.