Letter to Community Newspapers

85

Community News – Mayor Stoddard Wants to Give Stephen Cody a Forensic Colonoscopy, May 20, 2019

Grant –

I am quite disappointed with your recent reporting of Mayor Stoddard’s Commission On Ethics case (May 20, 2019). Either you have lost your touch as an independent journalist, or you have been played the gullible fool. Paraphrasing your own missive, you were, “at one time,” a respected community newspaper publisher.

My concern is that you allowed one of the contributors to your article to mislead you, in my opinion. If you had even looked at the subpoenas complained of by Stephen Cody, you would have noticed immediately that the very limited time period is “commencing January 1, 2016, and continuing through the present date:” I think you owe the readers of Community Newspapers to actually read the proposed Subpoenas. They are attached in the event you have the time or the inclination to know the truth about what is actually being sought in Mayor Stoddard’s defense of the frivolous ethics complaint. I hope facts still matter to you as a newspaper writer.

Your article says, apparently based on misinformation or worse: “Cody told me he got his first job as a Publix bagboy in 1974. The subpoena is so broad, it asks for every

tax return, meaning he’d have to reveal how many quarter tips he got in high school.” Since the subpoena asks for records from January 1, 2016 to the present, I can only surmise that Cody, a former lawyer “not eligible to practice law in Florida” because he was suspended for misconduct by the Florida Supreme Court in 2013 and has not been reinstated, cannot rely on serving as a lawyer to earn a living. Did you mean to suggest he was working as a bagboy at Publix currently and was too embarrassed to admit that was how he was earning his wages?

Since we have had professional contact in the past, and I have always endeavored to return your calls, I would have expected you to call me for a comment or clarification before you published an article attempting to falsely demean me and falsely describe the reasonable subpoenas that are designed to obtain timely, relevant evidence that the ethics complaint is nothing more than a misguided political attack ad against the Mayor.

My phone number and email address are below, and are the same as on my business card I personally handed to you at an educational forum not too long ago.

It seems readily apparent that your source for your article must have something to hide. Why else would a description of the subpoena requests be so false?

In any event, Grant, you know where and how to reach me.

Benedict P. Kuehne
Kuehne Davis Law, P.A.
100 S.E. 2d Street, Suite 3550
Miami, FL 33131-2154

 

Publisher Note

At the outset, I’d like to admit that Benedict Kuehne was correct in some small way. The subpoena does not state that it seeks a mass of documents and records, but only for a three-and-a-half-year period, not for more than 40 years.  I regret that error.

Even if the subpoena is only for three-and-half-years, it sure seems like an attempt to intimidate and bully a critic of the Mayor. If the Ethics Commission allows it in its current form, it will surely have a chilling effect on future whistle blowers.

But I stand by the rest of my opinion piece: It appears that South Miami Mayor Phil Stoddard twice violated Stephen Cody’s rights under the Citizens’ Bill of Rights of the City of South Miami and Miami-Dade County Charters when he wouldn’t let him speak.

Stoddard was in midst of a reelection campaign and couldn’t take the political risk that Cody might say something that could affect the election. What Stoddard ignored was that once he crossed the threshold into the Commission Chambers on those two nights, he was no longer a candidate. He was the Mayor.

Kuehne calls the two ethics complaints that Cody filed to be “frivolous”, but he ignores the fact that the Ethics Commission has already found probable cause to believe that Stoddard broke the law. That’s why the case is going to a full hearing.

I don’t object to Kuehne taking Cody’s deposition, but I do object to his heavy-handed tactics.

His letter says I should have picked up the phone and asked a few questions, so I’ll take that opportunity now: If possible can you provide Miami’s Community Newspapers the legal bills for representing Mayor Stoddard whether they are invoiced to the city or to the city’ insurance company?

Grant Miller, Publisher


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3 COMMENTS

  1. Very good question, Mr. Miller!
    I recall the Commission voted No on the question of paying the legal bills out of city funds. Subsequently,a Special Meeting was called by the City Manager, at which time he announced to the Commission that the Mayor wants the legal bills to be paid by the city, and that’s the way it will be handled. There is a $75,000 insurance deductible which must be paid by the city before the city insurance pays anything.
    I have not heard of any reply from the Commission to the City Manager’s /Mayor’s dictate that was announced at the special meeting. They have remained silent and passive. No questions, no concerns, no challenge to the City Manager’s announcement. They are a worthless lot and are not representing their constituents, in my opinion. We just observed a Commission meeting on Tuesday, and they sat, like lumps on a log, and didn’t even ask how much the atty. is charging per hour. They sat, stupidly mute, seeming to be brain dead, when our city has so many serious issues to deal with. They had an opportunity to ask our City Attorney questions and express concerns at the Commission Remarks section of the meeting. It was the most silent Commission Remarks of any meeting I have ever watched since the inception of the availability of meetings on video. I turned it off in complete disgust after the non-existent Commission Remarks. Not a one of them, including the Mayor, are worthy of holding office, and should never be considered or taken seriously if they dare to run for any future public office.
    If there are any updates on the financial burden of this fiaso that the public is unaware of, I would appreciate. Apparently, we have to pay the bill, and are being kept in the dark.
    By the way, if there is ever any well deserved criticism of the City Attorney and City Manager, it all falls back on the Commission that hired them and retains them year after year after year , with huge salaries and benefits.

  2. The very good question posed by Mr. Miller should have been asked by members of the Commission. If I am not mistaken, isn’t one of the key responsibilities of a city commissioner is to represent the taxpayer and prevent the illicit use of city funds? Will Mayor Stoddard be billed if he is found guilty? Who is going to reimburse taxpayers for losing the $1.5 million dollar lawsuit which was caused by Stoddard? Who is going to pay back the taxpayers for the illicit use of tax dollars wasted on the numerous personal lawsuits against Stoddard?

  3. Taxpayers deserve answers to the L.P.’s questions. I would like to know if Mr. Murawski won his legal action against Ben Kuehne’s subpoena against Mr. Cody .Does anyone know what happened at the hearing yesterday, June 6?
    Members of the Commission are not looking out for the best interests of the taxpayers by staying silent after the C.M. DICTATED to them that their vote doesn’t count, and Stoddard’s legal expenses will be paid by the City! Since the Commission has been mute on that topic since the C.M. made that proclamation, I think that raises a legal challenge. Does the C.M.have the legal authority to override a vote taken by the Commission???? If so, why bother with a Commission? We have a DICTATORSHIP RUNNING OUR CITY ! IT IS STODDARD/ALEXANDER! WHY DOESN’T THE COMMISSION MAN UP? WHAT A DISGRACE! OUR CITY GOVERNMENT HAS BEEN TRASHED AND THE COMMISSION AND CITY ATTY. HAS ALLOWED IT!
    Does anyone even care. or is the entire city in a catatonic state???

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