The Three Stooges form of government in South Miami has been the butt of jokes in Miami-Dade for nearly four years. Who would have thought that cities such as Sweetwater, Doral and Hialeah are now considered normal by comparison? No longer funny is the circus-type atmosphere, the lack of decorum and the many bad decisions that have led to a standstill in productivity and an unprecedented number of lawsuits and settlements.
Here are some examples:
• Last year, the city just about settled a lawsuit that resulted in a “Senior’s Affordable Housing” project getting the go-ahead to build a huge building right across from City Hall, forever changing the quaint character of the area. And yes, it cost the city big bucks when it was discovered that the City’s own words sealed the deal for the developer. Oh, I hear that there may be more bills headed over to City Hall.
• Former City Manager Ajibola Balogun was paid some $310,000 in salary and attorney’s fees as a result of a settlement. And since the firing of Ajibola in 2009, there have been a total of FOUR city managers, including the current one, Steve Alexander.
• Typical of slapstick comedy, after spending some $30,000 of taxpayer money for a city manager search three years ago, the commission decided not to choose any of the candidates that were suggested by the outside firm. Instead, Moe, Larry and Curly chose former Miami cop Hector Mirabile who was hailed as the savior of South Miami. That love fest, however, abruptly ended and that firing led the City to paying more than $70,000 in “consulting fees” to Mirable.
• And then there is the matter of the five-year contract that was given to now former Police Chief Orlando Martinez de Castro, which of course, soured after a couple of years. The City is now spending thousands of taxpayer dollars to defend itself and I hear that the police chief will probably win this one and get lots of big bucks for the balance due him on the remainder of his contract.
• Due to the large number of lawsuits, the City’s insurance company has raised the deductible from about $1,500 to at least $150,000, which means that the City must pay that huge deductible BEFORE the insurance company starts paying.
• Not to be outdone by Moe, about two months ago, Curley, aka Commissioner Bob Welsh, aka “Bobble Head Bicycle Bob,” sued two commissioners (the taxpayers paid for their defense) for slander. It seems that Commissioner Bob was upset over allegedly being called a “racist” after he distributed the infamous “40 acres and a pool flyer” in the predominantly African-American community.
• And then there was the embarrassing drama played out for all to see at a commission meeting, when a process server walked up to the dais and hand-delivered the lawsuit to Vice Mayor Liebman. A good leader to avoid disruption and humiliation might have asked the process server to wait for a break or until the meeting was over.
• As this shameful drama unfolded, a stunned citizenry was further baffled by the outcome of a resolution to ensure Bob for his antics and the vote to censure went down as follows: Against were Mayor Stoddard and Commissioner Harris and voting for were Commissioner Newman, Vice Mayor Liebman and voting to CENSURE HIMSELF was Commissioner Bob. Yes, Bob voted to censure himself. And yes, his two supporters on the dais were stunned and looked a bit humiliated.
• And then at a recent commission meeting, a female police officer was being honored and lots of elected officials were posing for photographs with her, when according to the vice mayor, the mayor placed one of this hands on the female police officer’s pony tail. Golly gee folks, right there at a public meeting. As Curly would say, “Nyuk, Nyuk, Nyuk!”…South Miami citizens, however, are yelling… Ouch!
The citizens of South Miami have a choice to continue along this path or vote for change. Voters can render their opinions via absentee ballot, or on Feb. 8 during early voting or on the last day of voting on Feb. 11 at City Hall.
Got any tips? Contact me at 305-669-7355, ext. 249, or send emails to <Michael@communitynewspapers.com>.