City should just release the transcript

Photo by: Xiaoqing Lu
Michael Miller, Publisher

On October 22, 2018, City Attorney Thomas Pepe called a meeting of the South Miami City Commission to meet out of the ‘sunshine.’

How do we know that he called it? Because at the beginning of the meeting that was held in the sunshine, Vice Mayor Bob Walsh said, “We’re here at the request of the City Attorney.”

After the City Clerk called the roll, Pepe said, “Yes. I asked to call this meeting to discuss the legal expenses in the case that you mentioned [Commission on Ethics case Cody versus Stoddard].”

The facts leading up to the October 22 meeting have been reported by this news- paper since February of this year. The Ethics Commission had lots to say about this case, when it said among other things… “Having found probable cause that Mayor Philip Stoddard violated the Citizens’ Bill of Rights when he refused, twice, to let a member of the public speak…” At that point, Stoddard could have admitted his guilt or he could fight it. Stoddard is choosing to fight.

In April, the City Commission initially approved paying for Stoddard’s legal fees. By the summer, the sentiment on the Commission had changed and the resolution saying the city would foot the bill was repealed.

Stoddard made a claim on the city’s insurance policy that requires the city to pay $75,000. Additionally, he wants to hire his own attorney and have the city and the insurance company pay for it, rather than the assigned lawyer that the insurance company would choose.

Stoddard’s attorney is Benedict Kuehne, a lawyer who has a positive reputation in the community. That being said, Kuehne is also expensive and probably charges way more than what the insurer’s approved counsel charges.

At the time this report was written, he hadn’t yet submitted his proposal, according to the City Manager Steve Alexander.

Based on sources, we reported that on Oct. 22 Alexander told the Commission that the city would be paying the $75,000 deductible. He wasn’t asking for its permission. He stated that it would be a fait accompli, and that the Commission would have no say over when Alexander drew the $75,000 from the city treasury.

At the Nov. 6 Commission meeting, Alexander was critical of the story we ran on the closed-door meeting. He told the commissioners, “What was written in the South Miami News was not accurate.” Alexander also demanded in an email that we retract the story. Community Newspapers posted his emailed message.

As things would have it, we attempted to get our hands on the transcript of that Oct. 22 meeting, but to no avail, as the city claims that it does not need to release it. However, we have a different opinion. Following the proposed no to our request, a public records lawsuit was filed on Nov. 2, demanding that the city issue the transcript.

We’ll see in the coming weeks when a Circuit Court judge takes the matter up quickly whether Thomas Pepe and Steve Alexander did the right thing.

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  1. When adding up all the legal bills, settlements and wasteful government spending, Mayor Stoddard has been an enormous liability. The silver lining is that South Miami’s “failed experiment” will be over in 14 months.

    • Mayor Stoddard came with baggage and everyone knew it. Yet, most voted for his re-election. I am saddened when I drive by the South Miami shops/sunset place area. He is doing nothing to revive that area. It is the heart of the City… the places we frequent with our families and its fading. He needs to take note from the City of Coral Gables and the City of Doral. They are doing great things for the communities there!

  2. Does anybody ever wonder why Michael Miller is so negative about the Mayor? His reporting is always an external view and he does not report the Mayor’s point of view. One wonders if he ever asks the Mayor for his perception of what is going on.

    • Kind sir. How about looking at the facts….. Feel free to review our archives over the past several years and then let us all know what you find.

    • Unfortunately our Mayor has a lot of baggage and its something that cant be overlooked any longer. He was re-elected and here we are. Our City is deteriorating as we speak. Businesses are closing at an alarming rate while neighboring cities like Coral Gables and Doral are flourishing. Mayor Stoddard should take a page out of their book and maybe learn something.

  3. Kind sir. How about looking at the facts….. Feel free to review our archives over the past several years and then let us all know what you find.

      • Michael Miller its refreshing to read your articles..telling it like it is. Some cant take it but the truth must come out. I did not vote for this Mayor and was praying he would not be re-elected. Here we are…this is what we have. Fourteen months can’t go by any faster. We are stuck! This is the Mayor who e-mailed me once after living in South Miami for over 20 years..told me “move out if you don’t like it”. I was having issues with people dumping their garbage in the corner of my house (I am in a corner lot). Once garbage was seen there I would be cited. The area belongs to the City …It doesn’t belong to me however I have to “police” it or else I will have a citation…NOT FAIR!

  4. I don’t support the Mayor on most of what he wants to do, but one project IS a resounding success: Flooding the city with male mosquitoes to suppress Zika-carrying bugs. As a result of this, I haven’t been bitten by a mosquito even once, not even in June, July, August and September.

    • Mr. Black I don’t know what area of South Miami you live in. I am off Red and Miller. We passed out mosquito repellent spray at my house for Thanksgiving…it was more popular than the turkey. Through the years we have switched out our plants and kept a watchful eye for any sitting water. Needless to say the mosquito problem is alive and well in my area.


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