Monday, April 13, 2009

Cooper City's new Judge, Jury and Executioner

Cooper City Commissioners want to implement a Magistrate system in our city at tonight's commission meeting, apparently to “ensure compliance” per the direct quote of the City Manager. Funny…The Ordinance says it is to be “a more efficient, effective and inexpensive method”. Hogwash! They can do that now without a judge, jury and executioner deceitfully named a Magistrate. Take out the Code Enforcement provision and you’re pouring money into a black hole. This needs to be BID OUT. The law firm’s agenda is to be profitable. There is no reason to rush to implement this. Per experts, including the Clerk of Courts, this will cost the city more money and be paid out to the city attorney and the Magistrate and is not necessary in the time of a budget crisis.

Many have said to me that they believe the Ordinance was developed to funnel the new city attorney and his law firm more money in exchange for campaign donations and other ‘favors’. Their nickname apparently has now become 'Rainmaker', and the way the Ordinance was written, the contractor-magistrate will be held accountable to absolutely NO ONE! Not even the Commission. The city attorney will also be the Magistrate’s "legal advisor" along with having the title of 'city prosecutor'. Also, the way the Ordinance is written, any violations will be adjudicated by a city contractor-vendor who will be paid directly from the proceeds of his or her fines and assessment adjudications. Can you say “conflict of interest”?

The Special Magistrate is an attorney and member of the Florida Bar who is appointed by the majority of the City Council to preside over Code Enforcement matters. The Special Magistrate has the jurisdiction and authority to hear and decide alleged violations and exercise the powers of a Code Enforcement Board as provided in chapter 162, Florida Statutes.

The Special Magistrate also has the authority to subpoena people and records, hear cases involving suspected violations, order rulings on violations, assess fines and order liens to be placed upon property. There would be less of an appearance of impropriety with a Code Enforcement Board than a Special Magistrate. Accountability is so important to this city, and all of us campaigned on the issue, yet none of the other commission members have been accountable in their actions on this particular issue, more particularly accountable toward the residents.

Why do they think we need this? Cooper City used to have this system in place, and it was deemed to be bad for the city. Cooper City doesn't seem the type of city that is in need of such a hastily prepared legal ‘set up’, after all, that's why we all live here. We're basically a bedroom community with minor crime and code problems. Unfortunately, the rest of the commission supports this debacle with no solid facts or data to justify it, no valid or substantial cost-benefit analysis, no offered justifiable facts or data for reasons other than stated in the Ordinance and no set of valid figures on which to base a future review other than a 'best guess'.

We don't need this ordinance, and we don’t want it! Why potentially spend more money on more lawyers, and fix something that currently isn't broken? If it is broken, why hasn't it been delineated in black and white by the City Manager? If it costs less, then show me the cold hard cash. If it’s better, show me why, not just take the word of the City Attorney on the matter, with all due respect. If the County Court Judge’s aren’t doing their job as alluded to, why aren’t they being held accountable? Apparently, the “inform, warn and cite” practice that this city has supported for so long, will no longer be available to its shareholders upon passing of this hastily initiated Ordinance. This is another non-issue that's bad for the city, bad for our image, and bad for you...if you agree, show up Tuesday at the Commission meeting and voice your objections.

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