Commission on Ethics: What are we waiting for?

Mayor Philip Stoddard

South Miami Mayor Philip Stoddard abruptly cut the microphone of Stephen Cody back in January of this year and then would not let him speak again in February at a public meeting of the South Miami City Commission. Cody filed a complaint with the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics. When it came up before the Ethics Commission in April, Stoddard’s attorney, Benedict Kuehne, was too busy, so the hearing had to be pushed off to July.

When the hearing finally happened in July, the Ethics Commission voted to find that there was probable cause that Stoddard violated Cody’s rights under the Citizens’ Bill of Rights in both the city and county charters.

In a normal case, the Ethics Commission and the accused take 30 days after the finding of probable cause to see if they can come to a settlement. Usually that means an admonishment or a reprimand from the commission with directions that the public official not repeat the offending behavior. Lacking that, the case proceeds to a hearing. 

Sources tell us that Stoddard has vowed that he will not settle the matter and is demanding to go forward. That, however, was before the city commission took away the funding for Stoddard’s defense. It remains to be seen whether Phil will be obstinate when he’s paying his own legal bills. 

In this case, the matter seems cut and dried. Stoddard had a dial at his desk that could turn off the microphone so that the viewers watching the meeting on the city’s government access cable TV channel couldn’t hear what was being said at the podium. Stoddard used that power to silence Cody — twice.

Both the city and county charters have a provision that gives “interested persons” the “right to be heard.” The city charter goes further, saying that if the Ethics Commission determines that an official intentionally violated a person’s rights, that official forfeits his or her office immediately. 

The stakes in this controversy are more than just Phil’s political payback against someone he feared would publicly criticize him. This case comes down to Phil’s fitness to hold the office of mayor. And it could have an effect on whether Stoddard will ever hold political office again. 

The hearing on Cody’s complaint shouldn’t take more than an hour or two. The Ethics Commission should review the video of the hearings. That alone could show them all they need to see. And Stoddard should offer any defense that he has.

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Grant Miller

At the probable cause hearing before the Ethics Commission, Stoddard laid the blame with the bad advice he got from South Miami City Attorney Thomas Pepe. The two of them should testify at the Ethics Commission hearing and point fingers at each other.

So far, the Commission on Ethics hasn’t moved the case forward. No depositions have been noticed. No final hearing has been set. At this pace, they might not set this matter down for a hearing until sometime in 2019.

This is a textbook case of where justice delayed is justice denied. If Stoddard can overcome the finding of probable cause, let him come forward with his evidence.

If Stoddard can’t, and the Ethics Commission determines that he acted with intent, then the remedy adopted by the people of South Miami should be allowed to go forward. In that case, Philip Stoddard should lose his job as South Miami mayor.

The delay of the case for more than a year from the date of the complaint does not serve the interests of justice, which demands a resolution that is both swift and complete.


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13 Comments on "Commission on Ethics: What are we waiting for?"

  1. One sided argument. Sounds like a personal vendetta against mayor stoddard of which I am not in favor of nor opposed to. So do your due diligence on other side (which you haven’t). You heard his counter, disprove it… otherwise it’s he said she said.

  2. Antoinette Fischer | October 4, 2018 at 5:41 am | Reply

    Mayor Stoddard was using the electronic device for an extended period of time. I noticed it on the dais when I was serving on the Planning Board, and my last term expired August, 2017. He used the device arbitrarily when I spoke. This was just plain flat out wrong. No elected official has the right to control a speaker’s voice to satisfy their own interests and individual opinions on how a speaker should sound. If a speaker is threatening in any way the Chair has the right to have an officer remove that person from the chambers. Mayor Stoddard has overstepped the boundaries of his authority time and time again by using the device.
    There is also a big problem with lack of transmission of our city’s meetings on the government channel. I spoke about this problem at the last Commission meeting, and comments from the dais were glib and ridiculous. There is an obvious intention to thwart any serious attention or real solution to this problem, which is evidential of a callous disregard for transparency and accountability in government. Those individuals have no respect whatsoever for the taxpayers who fund the contracts that are supposed to ensure that we can watch the meetings on television if we choose to do so.. We have suffered too long with horrible representation. Thank you, Grant Miller, for calling attention to many problems which plague our city.. The investigator from Ethics was in attendance at the last Commission meeting, and paying attention to every word.

  3. The first definition in my Merriam Webster’s Dictionary of “interest” is: right, title or legal share in something. Does Mr. Cody have a right, title or legal share in South Miami? Is he a resident? Does he have a business here? What are the facts? Was the “criticism” you say he was about to make of the Mayor time-wasting complaints or constructive? If they were constructive, why haven’t you written about them? If Mr. Cody was just venting for his own release of steam, how does stopping him hurt the proceedings?

  4. Antoinette Fischer | October 8, 2018 at 4:53 pm | Reply

    To Gabe G, I was sitting right in back of mr. Cody when the incident occurred. I saw and heard everything. Mister Cody’s complaint is legitimate regardless of any personal Vendetta. 4 out of 5 Commission on ethics members voted to proceed with an investigation into mr. Cody’s complaints after mayor Stoddard had appealed to the commission to drop the complaint. The commission on ethics has a new director and that may or may not have something to do with the prolonged amount of time that it is taking for a decision from the commission.

  5. There is a sentence left out of the reply that was just posted. Here’s what it should read:
    . . . Does he have a business here? Was he a registered lobbyist? What are the facts? . . .

  6. Antoinette Fischer | October 8, 2018 at 5:18 pm | Reply

    Any citizen has a right to attend any government meeting in Dade County and to speak in order to voice their concerns as per the citizens Bill of Rights.. our rights as Citizens supersedes any definition that you may find in Webster’s Dictionary

  7. Stoddard’s questions of Grant’s well written expose’ of facts is a transparent albeit ineffective way of deflecting guilt. Sad that Stoddard would think that everyone in South Miami is stupid.

  8. Antoinette Fischer | October 8, 2018 at 5:29 pm | Reply

    Will everyone please read mayor Stoddard email reply to mr. Grant Miller. Mayor Stoddard claims to have raise the volume on Steve Cody’s voice rather than turn it off or lower it. With that statement he has admitted 2 using the device, as I have heard him state that he has used the device many times. I do not believe that he has any right to use any electronic device to alter anyone’s voice in any way or to interfere in any way with the video or audio of any government meeting. This may be a violation of Federal Regulation that individuals may not interfere with anything on the airwaves. I would like to know the name of the person who supplied this device to Mayor Stoddard. That person may share some culpability in this matter.

  9. Bamm-Bamm Rubble | October 8, 2018 at 7:43 pm | Reply

    Lyin’ Phil Stoddard obviously knows he’s guilty, thus the need to stall. The reasons he’s stalling are numerous: 1) to complete the up zoning of the downtown and the CRA to 18 stories, 2) to complete the up zoning of the precedent-setting, Fellowship Church property to 4-story, multi-family, 3) to complete the sale of city hall for pennies on the dollar to FIU trustee, Wasim Shomar, owner of Lynx Companies, and 4) to wait until Florida Governor Rick Scott leaves office in 2019.

    Because the Ethics Commission likely has wide latitude in determining whether Stoddard “willfully” violated the citizen’s bill of rights and the city charter to effect removal from office — Stoddard absolutely needs to wait until Rick Scott leaves office. Because he will likely be found guilty but deemed to not have “willfully” violated Cody’s rights, Stoddard needs to be assured that Rick Scott can’t step in via executive order to remove him from office. Rick Scott while still in office can also order Florida’s Auditor General to audit the city to ensure that city taxpayers won’t be secretly billed for Stoddard’s attorney fees and other costs.

    PS. The charging party (Cody), if successful, is also entitled to recover his attorney costs from Lyin’ Phil. Ouch!

  10. Sharon McCain | October 8, 2018 at 8:25 pm | Reply

    Mayor Stoddard is a pathological liar, anyone who has watched him in action for the past 8years knows that. I understand after watching the last commission meeting that Mayor Stoddard was served, ONCE AGAIN, for an incident that occurred in his home, a Halloween party hosted by Mayor Stoddard and his professor wife, both employed at FIU, a party for “minors.” Unfortunately, one minor got deathly sick and was rushed to the hospital. Mayor Stoddard tried to cut off the speaker addressing this issue that is public record, any lie goes with Stoddard. Years ago Mayor Stoddard sponsored a resolution against the advice of one of the city’s attorneys at the time to band me again attending any commission meetings with specifics stating what time I had to be off city property. I was an activist at the time, Stoddard hated my due diligence and the presentation of facts during public comments so he decided to get rid of me. He failed. The Citizen Bill of Rights states all, not just residents, have the right to be heard, Stoddard was told at the time, but he didn’t care. I watched the meeting in question that Mr Cody attended, Mayor Stoddard is lying once again. He completely turned off the volume and did everything he could not to have Mr Cody speak, and got his city attorney back him (another employee who should lose his license to practice law). So Mr. Burro, it appears you are wrong, just one question, did Mayor Stoddard employ you to combat remarks in this paper, he has been known to due that in other media outlets including blogs. One thing I don’t understand, with the history of lawsuits filed against the Mayor, one wonders what FIU is thinking about….in my opinion, this man should never teach young adults. Is Mr. Rosenberg looking away for reasons that should be explained.

  11. Mr. Burro: The South Miami City Charter Bill of Rights, states everyone has a right to be heard. Stoddard knows that, Welsh knows that , and Liebman knows that, yet, documentation shows they have constantly gone to great lengths to limit people from speaking at public comments by making changes to the city’s ordinances. Another words they knowingly and willingly decided to go against the city charter,(when they got elected, they took an oath to govern by the city charter. Repeated rhetoric (public record) made by Mayor Stoddard and Comm. Liebman over the years shows them to say… “she/he doesn’t live here, she/he doesn’t have a business here, the lies that have come out of these mouths for years is enough to send them to prison. Yet, when Stoddard and company wanted solar ordinances and other ordinances passed to appease their developer friends, they would fill the chambers with people, wearing Solar Tshirts that don’t live or work in the city, yet not a word coming from the hypocrite lying mouth of Mayor Stoddard or Commissioners Welsh and Liebman. You can’t make this stuff up as to what goes on in the City of Cesspool Living (aka South Miami). Bottom line, “everyone has the right to be heard” and there is nothing Stoddard and company can do about it. Accolades to Mr. Cody for following this through. A penalty of what Stoddard did is removal from office. This needs to happen in addition to an audit of the city’s books because in my opinion, some city staff would be sprinting out the doors of city hall, never to return

  12. Antoinette Fischer | October 19, 2018 at 2:57 pm | Reply

    South Miami voters beware, beware, beware! At various times in the past commissioner Josh Liebman has attempted to reduce the number of minutes that we are allowed to speak at public remarks! I have heard him state that he intends to run for mayor. I have a witness who also heard him and most likely there are other people who are also aware of his ambitions. Judging by his desire to curtail our public remarks, we would have a very repressive mayor if Josh Liebman were to win. He has also expressed a desire to shorten meetings so that he can rush home to watch a sports game. Cutting down on our minutes at public remarks is one way to do that, and yet Commissioner Liebman took up 40 to 45 minutes of our time with a film and a presentation on the city of Medellin Colombia in order to have that City adopted by South Miami as our sister city. Presentations are not supposed to take up more than 10 or 15 minutes maximum. Liebman has been making trips to Columbia.Does he have a business, or possibly some Investments in that country that make it beneficial to him in some way for South Miami to have a permanent connection with Medellin, Colombia? There were many officials from Columbia in our Commission Chambers that night which demonstrates beyond the shadow of a doubt that this connection with Medellin was pre-arranged and for some reason the commission voted yes to have Medellin as a sister city. There had not been any prior discussion on this issue. Those officials spend money and time traveling to South Miami for this purpose. What interest do the people of South Miami have with Medellin, Columbia? This was driven by Commissioner Liebman for some reason which goes beyond the presentation that was made at the commission meeting. Commissioner Liebman is on his second 4 year term, so is commissioner Bob Welch, and vice mayor Walter Harris. Mayor Stoddard is on his fifth term much to the great misfortune of our city. Anyone who hasn’t figured that out yet must not be paying any attention, or stands to make money on the mayor’s high-density agenda.

  13. Antoinette Fisher: You are wrong about why Comasario Liebman rushes home. If you did your due diligence you would know he rushes home so he can catch the evening flight to Colombia, his primary address, and doesn’t return until the next commission meeting two weeks later and records of attendance also show sometimes he misses the next meetings and states he attends by conference but he is never in the microphone and the rest of the commission laughs it off behind closed doors. If anyone watched this scam Colombia sister city thing, watch Stoddard and city manager throw in their weight when it looked like people were asking too many questions. Comasario is a 40 something that can’t seem to secure a job, but how does he pay for two condos in Colombia? People in your city have a right to know how each commissioner makes a living with documentation, if not, they need to be turned into ethics, for various reasons. SO EVERYONE, SOMETHING SMELLS RANCID IN COLOMBIA AND AROUND LEIBMAN STODDARD AND ALEXANDER, TOO BAD THEY THINK THEY ARE ABOVE EVERYTHING, LOL,

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