November 26, 2014

Public administration society asks Miami-Dade mayor to reconsider staff penalties over ad error

@PatriciaMazzei

When Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez found out this month that the county would have to reapprove its 2015 budget and property-tax rate due to an advertising error, he punished three high-ranking budget employees. They were suspended without pay, and the budget director was required to pay up to $12,000 out of pocket for a new ad.

Those penalties were excessive, the South Florida chapter of the American Society for Public Administration said in a statement Wednesday. The group took issue in particular with garnishing Budget Director Jennifer Moon's wages to cover the costs of printing a corrected notice in the Miami Herald. The incorrect ad that ran in September cost about $12,000; the new ad has been quoted at about $8,600, according to the county.

"A human error was made, and the personnel involved have accepted responsibility," said Glenn Joseph, the ASPA chapter's president. "To garnish the wages of an employee, without due process or a court order, greatly exceeds the bounds of fairness and equity in the workplace.

"We are respectfully requesting the Mayor of Miami-Dade County to rescind this unprecedented punitive action."

The group passed a resolution formally asking Gimenez to change his mind -- and asking county commissioners to "adopt legislation to protect" county employees from similar disciplinary actions in the future.

The president-elect of the South Florida chapter is Terry Murphy, a former commission aide who now works as a political consultant and represents several Miami-Dade labor unions, including ones that are at odds with Gimenez's administration over new contracts. All three employees punished by Gimenez are managers who are not union members.

In a memo informing commissioners about the advertising error last week, Gimenez said the mistake was not ill-intentioned but called it "unacceptable." Moon was also suspended without pay for a day, one of her deputies for three days and another one for five days.

Miami Beach, which made a similar error running afoul of Florida law, suspended its budget director for three days.

November 25, 2014

FSU shooting revives debate over guns on college campuses

Last Thursday’s shooting at Florida State University has spurred a renewed call for allowing guns on college campuses.

Among those leading the charge: Nathan Scott, one of three people shot and wounded last week when Myron May opened fire at the FSU library. Scott is part of a group called Students for Concealed Carry at Florida State, which on Tuesday asked state lawmakers to allow concealed-weapon permit holders to carry firearms on college grounds.

Their request may resonate in Tallahassee, especially with the powerful National Rifle Association echoing the call.

The NRA's Tallahassee lobbyist Marion Hammer said Tuesday that she hopes to have a "thoughtful, deliberative" conversation on the subject when the Legislature reconvenes.

"We're not going to rush into it emotionally, like a lot of people do after a tragedy," Hammer said. “But the reality is, there is a ban of guns on campus, and that did not stop an attacker. The law never stops the bad guy. It only stops the good guys from being able to protect themselves and others."

Read more here.

Miami commission candidate may have to resign to run

@NewsbySmiley

The only candidate so far to launch a bid for Miami’s District 2 commission seat in 2015 has been told she must resign her post on an important city board due to her candidacy.

According to a legal opinion issued Friday, Grace Solares’ decision to run for office means she must step down from the city’s newly formed charter review committee, which is tasked with recommending changes to the city’s constitutional document. The opinion from Assistant City Attorney Kerri McNulty doesn’t specifically mention Solares, but states that members of city boards must resign their positions once they’ve filed to run and appointed a campaign treasurer or begun to raise campaign funds.

Solares said she finds it hard to believe the opinion, issued four days after she filed to run, is a coincidence.

“I file on Monday and by Friday I had a legal opinion attempting to remove me?” said Solares, who noted that candidates sitting on previous city boards were allowed to run for office without resigning.

But that’s exactly why the opinion was sought, said City Clerk Todd Hannon, to whom the legal opinion was addressed. Hannon said the issue has been a confusing one ever since the commission voted in 2007 to insert language in a candidates’ affidavit creating new stipulations on when they must resign from city boards. He said he felt it was time for clarification.

“No one requested me to do this. It was of my own volition,” said Hannon. “It’s just good to get this all clarified now.”

Solares’ attorney and employer, Linda Carroll, rebutted the opinion Tuesday, stating that an attorney general’s opinion from 1982 refutes the city's legal opinion. If Solares doesn’t step down, it would be up to Miami commissioners to remove her, should they desire to do so, according to McNulty.

Commissioner Francis Suarez, who sits as chairman of the charter review committee, said he wants to wait and see if the attorneys can agree on what should happen before bringing the issue to the commission.

Solares was appointed to the committe by Mayor Tomas Regalado. The charter changes she is seeking include stricter term limits and provisions for a more powerful mayoral veto. 

Scott reshuffles press shop, hires new Cabinet aide

Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday announced Monica Russell as his new director of Cabinet affairs and made more changes to his communications shop in advance of his second term in January.

Russell, 31, is a University of Florida graduate who was communications director at the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) before leaving to work as surrogates director for the Scott re-election campaign. John Tupps, 30, will be deputy communications director. A University of Tennessee communications grad, Tupps joined the Scott administration in 2011 and had been serving as press secretary.

That post will be held by Jeri Bustamante, 29, who was campaign press secretary for Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera. She's a former associate producer for WSVN, the Fox TV station in Miami. The press secretary is the person who most frequently travels with Scott to events around Florida and the U.S. 

Scott earlier announced that Jackie Schutz, 28, his campaign press secretary, will be director of communications.

Other staff changes in the governor's office include the promotion of Frank Collins, 29, from communications director to deputy chief of staff; Dr. Kim McDougal from policy director to deputy chief of staff and legislative affairs director; Brad Piepenbrink, 28, from campaign political director to deputy chief of staff and external affairs director; Karl Rasmussen, 33, from chief Cabinet aide to deputy chief of staff; and Jeff Woodburn, 33, from deputy secretary at DBPR to policy director. 

All staff changes take effect Dec. 1.

The 2014 governor's race votes and ad spending by Florida media market

@MarcACaputo

The race for Florida governor was officially certified last week, so now we have final numbers. By our estimate, more than $103 million was spent on TV ads since March. 

All told, 6,026,802 Floridians cast ballots. Of them, about 53 percent voted early in person or by absentee ballot (1,878,537 absentees + 1,309,198 early votes = 3,187,735).

More people voted in the governor's race than any other contest: 5,951,561. Scott received 2,865,343 votes to Crist's 2,801,198. That's 48.14 percent to 47.07, a margin of 1.08 percent, or 64,145.

Scott's raw-vote margin was 4.2 percent bigger than in 2010, when his margin was 61,550 over Democrat Alex Sink. On a percentage basis, though, Scott did worse than in 2010, when his win-margin was 1.2 percentage points (the overall number of people voting in the governor's race grew 11 percent since 2010).

Here's how the 2014 votes broke down by media market, along with the ad spending:

Florida votes & ad spending

 

 

 

Lawyer Benjamin Crump's Half True claim about Ferguson, police shootings and race

Even before the grand jury in Ferguson, Mo., announced its decision in the police shooting death of teenager Michael Brown, the lead lawyer for the Brown family challenged the grand jury process.

Attorney Benjamin Crump said the ground rules were skewed in favor of police officer Darren Wilson. All one needed for proof, Crump said, was to look at the statistics.

"The process is completely unfair," Crump said on ABC’s This Week on Nov. 23, 2014. "Ninety-nine percent of the time police officers aren't charged when they kill young people of color."

We called Crump’s office to learn what statistics he relied on to back up his claim about 99 percent of police killings of minority youth. We did not hear back.

We contacted a number of criminologists and other experts in fatalities at the hands of law enforcement officials. All of them told PunditFact that the data don’t exist to prove Crump right or wrong. At the same time, they said his number probably has a measure of accuracy, even if it doesn’t show what he thinks it does in terms of racial bias.

Criminologist Candace McCoy at City University of New York said a simple fact dominates any assessment of Crump’s statement.

"It is very rare for an officer to get indicted at all, no matter what the race of a victim," McCoy said.

Turn to Jon Greenberg's fact-check from PunditFact to read more.

Flores to lead Miami-Dade Legislative Delegation

FloresThe Miami-Dade Legislative Delegation has a new leader.

Sen. Anitere Flores, a Miami Republican, was voted chairwoman Tuesday.

"My goal is for us to speak with as unified a voice as possible," she said.

Flores said she plans to concentrate on issues that affect all of Miami-Dade County, including transportation, education and infrastructure. She will also work to ensure Miami-Dade projects receive funding.

"We've had a great track record the past couple of years," she said. "I'm hopeful we'll continue in that direction."

Flores, who has served in the Legislature since 2004 and works as the president of Doral College, won the unanimous support of her colleagues.

Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami, said he expects her to reach across party lines.

"She always been inclusive of me, Dwight [Bullard] and Gwen [Margolis]," he said, naming the other Senate Democrats from Miami-Dade. "I'm happy to have someone from our Senate group to spread the unity to our entire delegation."

Flores replaces former Rep. Eddy Gonzalez, R-Hialeah, who could not seek re-election due to term limits.

Rep. José Félix Díaz, R-Miami, will serve as vice chairman.

The 24-member delegation from Miami-Dade is the largest in the state. 

Miami Commissioner Hardemon says Ferguson grand jury "sabotaged"

@NewsbySmiley

Miami Commissioner and former public defender Keon Hardemon took to Twitter Tuesday morning to blast the tactics of a St. Louis County prosecutor before a grand jury that declined to indict the white police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black teenager Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo.

The grand jury’s decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson, announced by prosecuting attorney Robert P. McCulloch during an 8 p.m. press conference, led to clashes between police and protestors on the streets of Ferguson, where Wilson shot Michael Brown, 18, following a scuffle.

Locally, Miami officials braced for potential protests Monday night. But all was quiet.

On Tuesday, however, Miami’s only African American commissioner -- and the son of a Miami police officer -- spoke out. He reacted to the release of details and transcripts from the grand jury proceedings by saying that the indictment was “sabotaged” and that “the grand jury was used.” He said McCulloch's presentation of conflicting testimony and the decision to allow Wilson to testify was telling.

Here are Hardemon's tweets, presented in order:

"#Food for thought:a prosecutor under normal circumstance would not present conflicting evidence to grand jury if he is seeking an indictment"

"A #prosecutor only puts on enough evidence to get an indictment. No more. No less. It's not about fairness. It's about the charge."

"Presenting the potential #defendant's testimony is a tactic used by prosecutors to have the jury rule against the indictment."

"Probable cause is the only hurdle at the grand jury stage. I hate to say it but the truth is the truth. This was sabotaged."

"The defendant doesn't have the right to testify to grand jury. He was allowed to create doubt. The grand jury was used."

November 24, 2014

Gov. Scott signs death warrant for 21st execution

Gov. Rick Scott on Monday signed the death warrant for Johnny Shane Kormondy, who killed a Pensacola banker and repeatedly raped his wife as the couple returned home from her 20th high school reunion in 1993. Kormondy is set to die on Jan. 15, 2015.

In a summary of the case, the governor's office said that Kormondy shot Gary McAdams in the back of the head, killing him, and was the leader of the attack on the McAdamses, having recruited accomplices, provided transportation and cased the neighborhood prior to the crime. Kormondy also threatened to kill witnesses who testified at his trial -- including Cecilia McAdams -- if he were released from prison.

Kormondy was convicted of first-degree murder and three counts of sexual battery. The jury recommended a death sentence by a vote of 8 to 4 and he received life sentences on each of the sexual battery counts. Kormondy, 42, has spent half of his life on Death Row at Florida State Prison in Starke.

Kormondy would be the 21st person to be executed since Scott took office as governor in January 2011. That would tie the number of executions ordered by former Gov. Jeb Bush, who served two terms for a total of eight years from 1999-2007.

Miami-Dade County commission elects first Haitian-American chairman

@PatriciaMazzei

Jean Monestime, who left Haiti alone at 17 to move to the United States and went from washing floors at a doughnut shop to running his own real-estate business, was elected Monday as the first Haitian-American chairman of the Miami-Dade County commission.

His colleagues chose him by acclamation, voting unanimously in what they said was a show of unity for a board sometimes pulled apart by ethnicity and race. Monestime represents one of the poorest commission districts, a Northeast Dade corridor that includes portions of Little Haiti, Liberty City, North Miami, North Miami Beach and Biscayne Gardens.

“What an honor this is,” the 51-year-old Monestime said, his voice breaking. In his two-year term as chairman, which will begin Jan. 1, he promised to “allow our diversity to strengthen our community, instead of divide us.”

Esteban “Steve” Bovo, 52, was elected — also unanimously — as the board’s vice-chairman. He represents areas of Hialeah, Miami Lakes and Palm Springs North.

“Our actions today show that the American Dream...continues to live on,” said Bovo, who is Cuban-American. “Many have come from abroad to establish themselves in this community.”

More here.