Something stinks in South Miami


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Grant Miller, Publisher

Anyone who grew up in the 1950s and ‘60s no doubt remembers Pepé Le Pew, an amorous skunk whose affections were never returned, largely because of his smell. The City of South Miami has its own Pepe – and how he was reappointed stinks just as much as the skunk on “The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Show.”

Thomas Pepe is the city attorney. His job isn’t to represent the city commissioners or the mayor or to do their political handiwork. Yes, he was hired by the commission, but his clients are really the 12,000 resident who live in the city. Pepe often forgets that.

In many cities, the attorney is a full-time employee of the municipality, based at city hall every working day. Pepe’s not a city employee. He’s a solo practitioner and neither is he a member of mega-firm. With just one lawyer, his is the micro-est of micro-firms.

Responding to a public records request, the city noted it pays Pepe a total of $262,920 a year. If Pepe were working 40 hours a week for 50 weeks a year, that would be $131.46 an hour. That seems like a bargain rate. It’s hard to get an attorney to staple together two sheets of paper for less than $200.

But Pepe doesn’t work for the city full-time. So, the city’s not paying that low a rate. Actually, it’s hard to figure out what Pepe’s effective rate truly is – since he’s not required by his contract to keep track of hours. For all the citizens of South Miami know, Pepe only puts in the hours when he’s up on the dais at a meeting. If so, then Pepe is reaping hundreds of dollars more per hour.

At one recent meeting, the commission took up a resolution to put out a Request for Proposals to search for a new city attorney. There would be nothing to prohibit Pepe from submitting a proposal, but it would give other law firms and lawyers a chance to submit their own proposals. Maybe some firm would offer a lower fee than Pepe. Maybe a firm would offer to do more.  Maybe there would be a firm that would do more for even less.

The City of South Miami is no stranger to issuing RFPs. Go to the city website and plug in “RFP” and other procurement words, and the search will yield a combined total of more than 200 recent bids.

The resolution to issue an RFP for the city attorney failed on a two-to-three vote. Stoddard and Liebman voted for the RFP.  Why? Many on the dais said it was because they had personal relationships with Pepe. Pepe is also one of the seated commissioner’s best friends, and he even did personal work for another one them. Others told how they felt free to call him on the weekends and evenings.

Apparently, the city commissioners aren’t very sophisticated. Ask any lawyer if he or she would refuse a call at any hour from a client paying over a quarter million a year and I guarantee you won’t hear a single “Yes.”

The city commission then did something odious. It took an add-on item on the agenda to extend Pepe’s contract through April 16, 2019 – for another $263,000. The discussion of the item took less than five minutes. The notice the city gave about the extension wasn’t sufficient and they didn’t even bother to ask if members of the public wanted to comment.

The truth is that mayor and commissioners don’t really care what the public thinks about this. They don’t want an independent voice to will tell them they can’t do something illegal, much less something unwise. The $1.25 million the city’s going to have pay out because Mayor Stoddard wanted to fire Police Chief Orlando Martinez de Castro without good cause is proof of that.

Thomas Pepe gets to dine at the public trough for another year. It’s a win for the South Miami Commission, a win for Pepe, and a loss for the citizens of South Miami.

Let’s see if we can hold our noses until the next election.

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  1. Officer Friendly: Too Bad you don’t have the spine to put your name but feel compelled to hide behind a fictitious name. That being said, you are correct, I no longer live in South Miami now known as the City of Cesspool Living, but do yourself a favor, get real, LOL. Just because I don’t currently live there now, doesn’t mean I won’t be residing there in the future, so what is your point, sir, hiding behind a fictitious name? Grow some, will ya?

  2. Nelly Hirschhorn were you able to file a police report after your assault? I’ve heard in the past people contact their local dealer and ask them to increase the insulation In their vehicle to prevent those random assaults. I’ve also noticed those boys and girls in South Miami too but they always seem to be accompanied by adults. Nelly, also having never been to brothel could you please describe a little more what they look like? I’ve never seen rooms at George’s but maybe you can give us some insight so the city can get to the bottom of this insulting behavior.

  3. Everyone develops their opinion from experience. As a business owner in South Miami I can tell you if we need something, we email Ms Kamali and it is fixed within a few hours. She has been responsive to us and has worked on every repair request we have had. She will even site visit and has walked the streets to talk to us. We can write emails to the other leaders and we do not even get a courtesy response. I have never seen such an awful administration When there is an issue the police are with us almost immediately. They are responsive and visit the businesses frequently to check on us. Again, all opinions are developed from experience and Ms. Kamali and the police department have been wonderful to the businesses in our area. We thank them for that!!! By the way, all the area east of Red Road in between Sunset Drive And Kendall Drive will be Coral Gables. These people wanted no part of the South Miami Annexation offer.

  4. TO L.C. I thoroughly agree with you 100 percent except for Shari Kamali and the police department. I hear there is such low morale in the Police Department, they are leaving, even though Chief Landa and city manager Steve Alexander love to give accolades but knowingly and willingly didn’t inform everyone that murders in the city are the highest in history of the City with Mayor Stoddard, Steve Alexander and Chief Landa. As far as Shari Kamali, don’t let the soft spoken voice fool you. She is Alexander’s puppet who is overly paid over six figures with benefits. She tries to do his work because he is out of city hall all the time, working at his lobbying firm. Code enforcement is under Kamali’s supervision and the city is a filty cesspool. You are right Comm Lieman, STODDARD and the rest have no business mind. I think the election was rigged. There was a reason why Stoddard had printed on his flyers not to vote absentee but go to city hall….voting machines are easy to fix, absentee ballots aren’t

  5. Get real “officer friendly” as we all know as well as you, it is a half a block from South Miami, let us not get crazy here.

  6. This is the tip of the iceberg. Look at the business district and it spiral downfall. This terrible leadership is why the area looks so bad and so many stores are closing.The money needed to fix up the business area is being wasted by the bad politicians and leaders of South Miami with lawsuits and bad decisions. Why were the incumbents re-elected this month? Is it because no one knows the truth? It’s one bad issue after another here. South Miami has been mismanaged for the last few years and we need new leaders with a VISION. When the business district is gone your taxes will go up, as 68% of the operating budget comes from businesses. We have a clueless Mayor and an obstructive Commissioner Harris who will not allow change. They were both re-elected ?? Except for a wonderful Police Dept. and Ms. Kamali, Assistant City Manager, there is little support for the City to make it better. The deterioration is obvious and the annexation of the upscale east neighborhoods are going to Coral Gables, where there is top notch leadership. Vote in all new leaders please and save this gem.

  7. I believe that the city should also look into what is happening on Sundays, at George restaurant on Sunset. Every Sunday, I drive by after mass and am assaulted by loud music, scantily clad girls, and boys, drink in hand, sometimes crossing the street with a drink in their hand. I have also seen kids standing there on the sidewalk, with them! Usually, there are two police cars parked as well, which means that they are aware this is not altogether right. And you have an elementary school not too far away. To me, it is insulting. Disturbing. Almost looks like the city is promoting a brothel.

  8. Mr. Johnson, guess you haven’t heard that Mayor Stoddard and his cohorts in South Miami just paid the ex chief of police over a million dollars for wrongful termination at the taxpayer’s expense. Not only that one of Mayor Stoddards fellow commissioners was sued and lost and settled out of court because of defamation of the same chief. Poor decisions but these commissioners had every opportunity to settle but refused because Mayor Stoddard feels he can do no wrong and above the law. They are extensive, additional lawsuits against the commissioners Stoddard, Welsh, and Harris all paid by taxpayers. Unfortunately Mayor Stoddard refuses to accept he is not the smartest man in the world and simply a professor in biology who is better at dissecting frogs in the lab than running a city,

  9. You oughta get a whiff of the stench coming out of the Village of Palmetto Bay Council. Palmetto Bay has twice the population of South Miami and pays it’s Village Attorney about the same as South Miami but most of those fees are to defend the Village from lawsuits due to poor decisions made by the Council.

  10. It is about time the Community Newspapers starts printing the real goings on at the City of South Miami but unfortunately, at no fault of their own (I think) there is an error as to the vote for an RFP.

    I don’t know if it is a cover up but many watched the 3.6.18 commission meeting. The resolution to put out an RFP was sponsored by none other, than MAYOR STODDARD but when the vote was taken it was a 5-1 vote against an rfp, not a 2-3 against. Mayor Stoddard was the last to vote for the resolution, Comm Liebman voted no, and Mayor Stoddard thru Comm. Liebman under the bus and voted “no” for an RFP?????????? Now why doesn’t put the Mayor to task and ask him why he voted “no” for an RFP when he sponsored the resolution and than voted “no.” It shows how far Mayor Stoddard will go to make himself look good at the end of the day, even throwing his cohorts on the dais under the bus. I have contacted the city clerk’s office to revise the reported incorrect vote not only in her minutes, but in the action summary. Even Comm. Liebman made a comment about how Stoddard voted. For all those that think Mayor Stoddard is so brilliant, somebody kindly clue him in on the fact that Mr. Pepe and the public know exactly how Stoddard feels about Pepe and wanting to get rid of him, so voting “no” at the last minute didn’t do a thing!!!! I am not a fan of Mr. Pepe, but it appears Comm. Welsh and Comm. Harris is and now we have new Commissioner Gil, next door neighbor of Comm. Welsh, voting “no” to an RFP after being I office for a New York minute. Yep, for once I agree with the Miller Brothers, something stinks at City Hall, but for more reasons than they reported. BTW, please inform Mayor Stoddard that it appears Mr. Pepe is more powerful that Stoddard is, he has (3) guaranteed votes to keep his job forever, even Mayor Stoddard doesn’t have that power. LOL


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