Former city commission whenever someone tried to criticize its members and its administration
FIGHTING ENTRENCHED BUREAUCRACY IN MIAMI BEACH
Jose Smith, the powerful city attorney of the City of Miami Beach, was provided with an opportunity to answer terminated fire inspector David Weston’s allegations about the involvement of his office in Weston’s wrongful termination on trumped up ethics charges after he persisted in reporting millions of dollars in what he called missing moneys.
Smith categorically denied any involvement of his office whatsoever although the public record easily available to him belied his statement.
Smith, apparently fearing exposure, contacted a third party, Kim Stark, the editor of the SunPost, a journal that does not employ the freelance author investigating the Weston affair, David Arthur Walters, in a characteristic attempt to discredit him with that editor, and implied that had also contacted the editor of City Debate, J.P. Morgan, who is the publisher of Sins of South Beach, with whom we are informed he went to high school. Morgan subsequently denied that Smith had been in touch with him. Smith also implied that he had discussed Walters with other members of the community, and that he had gotten a bad reputation.
Since Smith had already involved the SunPost editor, Walters did submit his exhaustive investigative report, ‘Saving Miami Beach Government from Hellfire,’ to the editor free of charge, as a public service. She was interested in it, but she did not run it, we believe, because she is more afraid of Smith than Smith is of her possible publication of the fair and balanced report.
That was the second time that Smith had contacted the SunPost to disparage him, Walters said. “I believe Smith’s behavior when criticized demonstrates a pattern of governance by insult and intimidation, and a tendency to greet any criticism of your official conduct with defamatory statements, including accusing me of defamation although I had said nothing at all or had stated the truth or mere opinions on the facts.
“Nowhere did I see an attempt on Smith’s part at conciliation, an attempt to win opposing talent to his side before trying to ruin them, a tactic well known to godfathers, or simply assigning them to do something on your behalf for the sake of the city.”
Walters recalled that his grammar school teacher assigned him to walk the kids around the block and take sick or unruly kids home to keep him occupied because he was restless. He said something called his reading level caused him to experience class as unbearably boring.
Some of Smith’s intemperate behavior was in response to a little note had Walters sent along to him with a copy of retired firefighter Jim Llewellyn’s formal whistleblower complaint. In that note, Walters said he did not know if it had been filed in court, but he had noticed that it included a complaint about officials similar to Weston’s.
“Mr. Walters: Please see attached,” Smith responded via email. “The complaint was dismissed by Judge Wilson as frivolous. The 3rd District Court of Appeal affirmed the dismissal (P.C.A. without opinion). The grievance was also denied. It was all BS. Weston never even bothered to file a grievance or a lawsuit. Have you confirmed if any of it is true? Keep digging. Keep trying. You’re developing quite a reputation in town. Maybe the National Enquirer will print our emails! Have you no shame? Jose”
“I do not know why Judge Wilson would dismiss a lawsuit that Llewellyn ‘never even bothered to file,’” said Walters, “or why the appellate court would bother to affirm a dismissal of a lawsuit that had not even been filed. The attachment Smith sent along was a memo to the commission stating that the matter had been dismissed on technical grounds: the statute of limitations had run out, and the plaintiff had exhausted his opportunities during the grievance process. The rules are complex, as he should know, those defenses are rather common in such cases, and are frequently successful. Nowhere in his memo to the commission did I see a determination that the complaint was frivolous and/or that the plaintiff and his attorneys were sanctioned for frivolity. I will ask the clerk at the court to pull the record to see if Smith is lying about that.”
Mr. Llewellyn reviewed Smith’s message to Walters about him, and sent Smith an email stating that Smith had resorted to insulting his inquirer instead of addressing the facts Llewellyn had asserted about public corruption. He asked why Smith had no shame, and how he could sleep at night, to which Smith responded:
Dear Mr. Llewellyn:
Thank you for your tirade about “public corruption”. To date, you have never provided proof regarding any of the allegations made in your “whistleblower complaint”. If you had any, did you ever bother going to the State Attorney’s office? Or the FBI? Or MBPD? Or to me? Why now, 7 years after you left the city. Are you still holding grudges?
What I did find interesting was a very telling “Grievance Reply Form”, dated March 31, 2006 from Linda Gonzalez, Labor Relations Director. It describes, in specific detail, why your grievance was denied and refers to numerous “personality” issues, insubordination, disruptiveness, hostility, paranoia, and “job burnout.”
It is hard for me to fathom how all the various city officials named in the report (including your own union representatives) were involved is some huge conspiracy to corrupt the fire inspection process. Why did you not appeal? Call me naïve but it just does not make any sense.
Remember, I was a City Commissioner during the time you made those allegations. You never spoke with me and I never heard about any of this until after you went to the New Times. During the 8 years I sat on the City Commission, I never heard of anyone pressuring a fire inspector not to cite a property owner. If I had, I would have gone straight to the FBI. So, yes sir, I do sleep very well at night, thank you very much.
Walters took Smith to task for his statements in a communication dated March 19, 2013:
Instead of addressing the facts Jim alleged in his complaint, you addressed your correspondent in an insulting manner, strewing red herrings to distract attention from your negligence.
Your reference to the personality issues published by the labor relations director on “a very telling” Grievance Reply Form, which appears to be a typical or formal assertion in many grievance cases, are very telling of what I feel is a goose-stepping tendency to deem anyone who criticizes government or fights city hall as criminally insane. Since medieval church clerics invented standard forms so the illiterate faithful could do business in a legal way, we all too often find professional “thinking” as well as prose limited to hackneyed forms. Indeed, your note to Mr. Llewellyn demonstrates that formal lack of intellectual ingenuity.
I have no doubt that if you had your way, I would be cast into a padded cell without pen, paper, internet access, and visitors. Solzhenitsyn had much to say about that approach under Stalin. I recall that a journalist named Savinkov wrote an article entitled ‘En Route’ which was published in a “professorial” newspaper. Because Savinkov was actually en route, the elderly editor was arrested. He was not charged with slander for the journalist’s statement that, "One has to be criminally insane to affirm seriously that the international proletariat will come to our aid." Rather, the paper was charged with and closed down forever for “attempting to influence people’s minds.”
It is no wonder if the editor of the SunPost feared publishing anything I wrote after receiving your tirades about me; she may not be familiar with the Soviet gulag but she is certainly aware of what happened under the Nazis, and may be wary of such a powerful bureaucrat like you, who either runs or is chief advisor of the administrative gulag, especially given the fact that your defamations include accusations of defamation, with implied threats to file SLAPP suits that might very well put the innocent paper out of business due to the expense to defend the suits the outcome of which could never be certain given judicial prejudices, a tactic employed by Montgomery, Alabama, Police Commissioner L.B. Sullivan et al in a nearly successful attempt to destroy the New York Times over a full page ad appearing in the paper Feb. 26, 1960.
And speaking of fascists and communists, have you no shame in saying to Mr. Llewellyn, “Why now, 7 years after you left the city. Are you still holding grudges?”
Should the Jews just forget the pogroms they suffered since the murder of a messiah on charges of blasphemy, including the recent burnt offering to the terrorist all mighty, the holocaust under the Nazis? Can an abused woman, child, slave, prison, or employee forget the abuse and harbor no grudges, after having memorials of abuse literally beaten into them, simply because a messiah advocates forgiveness and loving one’s enemies and going along with the Romans? Some rabbis say not, and even advocate hating enemies unto death unless they sincerely repent and make suitable amends, for to ignore evil is the greatest evil of all: He who ignores evil is good for nothing.
Mr. Llewellyn may not know that your office liaisons with law enforcement agencies. He certainly is not aware at this time that I myself on several occasions have brought to the attention of your office for investigation or forwarding to law enforcement information about what may have been criminal conduct including a suspected conspiracy to defraud the city of permit fees and its ability to regulate conduct to protect the public safety.
To the best of my knowledge, your office did not take up the issues with any law enforcement agency. My belief is based, however, on knowledge limited to the fact that your office was generally unresponsive with few exceptions: on one occasion you personally declined to inquire into corruption because it was an “urban myth”; on another occasion your office accused me of “misstatements” regarding my understanding of an official alteration of a building department record, yet did not respond to my rebuttal; at another time you offered to walk me over to the F.B.I., an offer I initially interpreted as a typical effort to treat people who complain about officials like criminal suspects.
Given the widespread “urban myth” about retaliation, I also feared that you might use your police liaison to retaliate against your critics, but dismissed that notion because of my faith in the greatly improved police department, and because I assumed that the attorneys in your office had consciences independent of your whims, and would not resort to unethical behavior to support your vindictive campaigns. Let me make clear here that I have admired some but not all of their representations of the city: Nothing is perfect, but practice may tend to perfection.
And you say you have difficulty fathoming how there could be a “huge conspiracy” when you yourself, as commissioner, together with other city officials had to settle a complaint filed in federal court alleging your conspiracy to deprive a local businessman of his constitutional rights, and then the settlement was referred to as a dismissal of an unwarranted complaint—did you say “frivolous”? The complaint quotes the Ethics Commission as saying its efforts to obtain information were frustrated, and that there was an appearance of impropriety at least. In common-parlance and non-euphemistic language, the impropriety would be called extortion. Oddly enough, given your frequent disavowal of your powerful role as the attorney whom the commission would appoint to represent the city, and your inclination to report misconduct when you were a commissioner, it was City Manager Jorge “Boss” Gonzalez who allegedly advised the businessman to sue you and the other conspirators, including the then current city attorney, and it appears that the businessman would have won that suit if. Indeed, this and other incidents make a mockery of your dismissive references to conspiracy theories and urban myths.
Now you have said that you would have, as commissioner, gone straight to the F.B.I. with allegations such as Mr. Llewellyn’s. It is very telling that you did not say you would do so as a city attorney. It appears that the role of a city attorney differs from that of a commissioner: that you are under no legal or ethical obligation as an in-house attorney, except in certain peculiar circumstances, to turn in your clients, the high city officials, or to investigate or advise them, as you have stated to me in writing, unless they ask for an investigation or advice. Instead, you are bound to defend them. As you know, I have objected to your interpretation of the Charter in that regard, and have urged you to be more proactive, to represent not the entrenched bureaucrats but the city itself.
Finally, you have presented Mr. Llewellyn with a copy of your and the interim city manager’s report to the city commission in response to the inflammatory New Times article that shed some light on the negligence if not the probable corruption of members of the previous administration.
I have offered additional information to the commission in respect to Mr. Weston: my Hellfire investigation along with a small portion of the file in support thereof. I have elsewhere stated my perspective that a clean break must be made from previous maladministration.
We now have a new city manager who has far more experience actually practicing law than you do, and he claims to have a far keener and broader “perspective” on the issues crucial to improving the administration of the city including the entrenched bureaucracy. We had some doubts because he seemed overqualified, someone who should run for a slot in the state or national legislature; further we worried that he is a political insider in the county, and that what the city needed was fresh blood from outside, not a homeboy who, as far as we know, went to school with you and some of the commissions. Of course local savvy, on the other hand, may be helpful, and the man has been out of town for a Harvard education and practice in the national capital and in the greatest of all cities.
“Perspective,” understanding moral and criminal corruption and entrenched bureaucracy, writing legislation, and heading committees is important, but who is going to actually enforce the laws and regulations, make sure that complaints are carefully investigated and if found meritorious acted upon instead of shelved under protection of the “discretion” of sovereign immunity, i.e. tyranny?
And who is going to get rid of the entrenched bureaucracy? Perhaps you can help the new city manager get rid of the entrenched bureaucracy. If you do, I may sit down and shut up.
David Arthur Walters