Friday, September 25, 2009

Cooper City Budget Comments and More...

The People are suffering in Cooper City. As of this month, there are over 360 properties either already foreclosed, or being foreclosed on. A Cooper City real estate agent recently reported in e-Foreclosure magazine that all the homes she has sold so far were either foreclosed or distressed. There are also numerous businesses being foreclosed on. The unemployment rate has also skyrocketed in our city, contrary to the belief of a few in city hall.

We’ve now adopted an increased budget and spending rather than a decreased budget and reduced spending. My proposal(s) to cut unnecessary and discretionary spending were either ignored by the staff and other members of the commission, or responded to with threats of proposed layoffs which may have created a crisis situation. I've never known of a city commission that didn't want to know the implications of their actions, until the new commission was seated. I simply attempted to lay a foundation and the groundwork for our city which needs to continue to move aggressively into the future at an affordable cost to our residents and business owners without raising taxes.

The adoption of a 23.2% increase in the fire assessment tax only illustrates the current governing body's inability to do the real work that is needed to bring Cooper City’s budget into reality mode. Absolutely no-one on the commission or staff did their due diligence and homework on the issue.

Also, the mayor is obviously not willing to lead the city into prosperity, nor is she willing to lead the way in cutting expenditures and has her head firmly planted in the sand. Being in a state of denial regarding the city and our residents is absurd, reckless and misguided. Cutting expenses more aggressively will leave a cushion of future reserves as well. This is not rocket science and as the old saying goes, “If you feed the beast, it grows. If you starve it, it will shrink.”

We are looking at several more years of extremely challenged times because of the unpredictable nature of the ad valorem tax base. Thank goodness there is one commissioner who places the city's residents and business owners as a priority.

Regarding the recent federal arrests of Broward politicians, public servants and civic leaders are supposed to hold the bar high on themselves before holding the bar high on others. A leader’s example is supposed to inspire and serve others. In my eyes, these public officials that were recently charged with public corruption sold us out for a pittance. Issues like this tarnish everybody who is in public service, even the employees. Sort of like the same way people generally think about lawyers. Thank goodness the FBI prosecuted them under the honest services fraud laws and then said "We are not done".

So what exactly is honest-services fraud? The typical case of honest services fraud is that the public is not getting what it deserves: honest, faithful, disinterested service from a public official. Honest Services Fraud is very broadly defined and encompasses any scheme to defraud citizens of an intangible right to honest government from public officials. A scheme to defraud is defined as "a departure from community standards of fair play and candid dealings” and/or “a willful act with intent to deceive or cheat."

I will also include that it is considered a deprivation of honest services as anything that encompasses the misuse of public office. Intent is all that is required to be found guilty. Concrete parameters outlining the duty of honest services should not be necessary in order for a person to be charged with violating this duty. The prosecution simply must show that the scheme would have deprived an individual of interests protected under the law. It all boils down to trust and betrayal.

A public official has a duty to disclose information regarding any personal interest that may affect his or her judgment and therefore undisclosed, biased decision making, regardless of tangible loss to the public, which constitutes a deprivation of honest services. How many times have we seen this violated in our own city business dealings? Not only are we required to disclose who we have spoke with on business matters, we are required to explain the substance of our communication, which is rarely, if ever done.

Public officials do not have to receive personal gain from their scheme. In general, courts have held that "The prosecution need not prove that the scheme was successful or that the intended victim suffered a loss, or that the defendant secured a gain. The gist of the offense is a scheme to defraud.” Need a summary? Here it is: "The loss of good faith services alone establishes the breach."

The city's sole role, according to the charter, is to protect the health, welfare and safety of The People and safety should be number one in my eyes. Our city government does not exist to promote business, economic development, or the welfare of selected public officials and their friends. In the terms of our own charter, the city government is supposed to be honorable.
Simple honestly is the core value of any system of government and ethics. The profound truth is that you cannot legislate truthfulness, fidelity, ethics or dedication. A public official is either honest or dishonest. If he or she is not completely honest in his or her dealings and decisions on behalf of The People, he or she will not be any more honest the day after a code of ethics is enacted than the day before.

Our residents and business owners want honorable, efficient and responsive local government. As such, I urge each and every person in our city to report to the proper authorities, any and all information regarding any personal interest that may affect the judgment of anyone on the commission, a staff member, an advisory board member, or vendor/contractor including any and all appearances of impropriety, no matter how small or insignificant, and whether in the past, present or future. Our government can only be ‘cleaned up’ and made completely honest with the help of The People that we are privileged to serve.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Cooper City Residential Burglary Alert!

Cooper City Residential Burglary Alert!
We have had an increase in residential burglaries on weekdays when homeowners are at work. Burglars pick empty driveways, knock on front doors to see if anyone is home then smash rear sliders to enter the home. Witnesses observed a dark compact vehicle and a tall, thin African-American male at two scenes. If you observe suspicious persons or vehicles in your neighborhood, please dial 911 immediately. Activate your alarm system and be extra watchful for vehicles or people that look out of place.

The more information you have the safer you can be. Registering for BSO's CyberVisor will enable you to receive e-mail or text messages from the Broward Sheriff's Office with information on criminal activity, traffic, events or other security concerns arising in your business or residential neighborhood. You may also sign up to receive important messages from Sheriff Al Lamberti or breaking news from our Media Relations staff. To get started, simply enter the required information below and choose one or more of the BSO-patrolled cities from which you would like to receive information. Once signed up you will need to confirm your e-mail address, so please keep your e-mail application open. You can register for BSO's CyberVisor HERE

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The 'Kingdom' in Cooper City

A long time ago, a King had a boulder placed in the middle of a roadway that was ancient Cooper City. Then he hid himself and watched to see if anyone from the town would remove the huge rock. Some of the king's wealthiest residents and merchants came by and simply walked around it. Many loudly blamed the King for not keeping the roads clear, but none did anything about getting the giant stone obstacle out of the way. Then, a mere peasant came along, who lived in the town for a long time, while carrying a load of fresh vegetables to market.

Upon approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his heavy burden of trying to make a living, and attempted repeatedly to move the stone to the side of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded. After the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a small, tied up leather sack lying in the road underneath where the boulder had been. The leather sack contained many, many gold coins and a note from the King indicating that the gold riches were for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway. There was also a prayer from the King that he would become the most respected person in the city. The peasant immediately learned what many of us, especially those in politics, never understand!

Every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve our immediate condition. The obstacle now in 'our path' is the cost of running your local government and the fact that ‘Together We Can’ does not apply any more to all of the residents and representatives that you elected, but only to a choice few who’s agenda is not that of the will of The People.

We need to move that levity approach to the ‘togetherness’ obstacle out of the way in order to improve the condition of our stakeholders; our residents and business owners! The only way for that to occur is if we work together to move the political and personal obstacles initiated on the commission dais out of our cumulative path toward success. I ask everyone to join together and help me in removing any and all obstacles in city hall that hamper your future success here in Cooper City.
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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Cooper City in the News...Again

Cooper City in the news…again

As you may or may not be aware, Cooper City has been recently battling a drug problem in our town. More particularly, we have been battling a certain pharmacy at the corner of Stirling Road and Palm Avenue that is sometimes labeled as a ‘pain clinic’. The Commission recently passed a law to deal with these types of pain clinics and illegal drug issues, along with the Florida Legislature. Kudos to both entities for strengthening our local drug laws!

Why am I blogging this? Because of this Sun-Sentinel newspaper article. This week I received an e-mail from our city manager regarding a previous newspaper article posted on the Sun-Sentinel website regarding a drug bust on July 23rd. The e-mail was forwarded to me by the city manager which emanated from the BSO public relations office.

Not knowing about, or being informed as to what the issue was, I searched the online version of the newspaper and found nothing. I subsequently asked the city manager what newspaper article he was referring to, which is when I was told that the article was promptly removed from the Sun-Sentinel website. Nothing further was thought about regarding this incident. It was simply an incident and drug bust between two Cooper City residents and BSO police officers in my opinion.

Let me give you a bit of additional information on this case. Last week, this story was on the Sun-Sentinel website for about 10 or 15 minutes before it was taken off. You may ask, why was it removed from the website? Apparently, because the complaint was originally made by the public defender’s office against a BSO deputy and not the alleged criminal.

The only problem was that the alleged criminal had not yet made any complaint to anyone other than the public defender’s office, and BSO had no knowledge of the issue before it went to press, therefore not having the opportunity to comment before the story was hastily posted on the Sun-Sentinel website. I have no idea if the complaint is legitimate or not, but I thought it was interesting that the Sun Sentinel would name someone as a drug dealer suspect without any hard evidence, or at that time, even a complaint.

I discussed this issue with Chief Hale on the phone this week in detail, and again at our budget meeting on Monday evening. I initially asked Chief Hale what the issue was all about and he informed me that it was about a drug bust, and that “the father” (allegedly Mr. Ronald Dwayne Sigers Sr., 40, of Cooper City) allegedly drove his 16 year old son to a drug deal and was subsequently arrested. I was also informed that the entire issue was based on the fact that that the suspect, Mr. Sigers, subsequently complained that the BSO officer grabbed him by the crotch. The Chief also informed me that originally, there was no mention of this incident or any complaint lodged by the alleged suspect; Mr. Sigers, until last Thursday.

Whenever the police arrest and subsequently frisk someone, they have to check their crotch, as this is the first place that drugs and weapons are hidden by criminals. It's not a pleasant thing to do, but it is an absolute necessity of police work and it is absolutely necessary in order for police officers to save their own lives. With that said, most of you would not even want to get near or even touch the alleged criminals that the police sometimes encounter, much less check their pants for dope and guns.

The formal complaint came apparently after the news of another BSO Deputy being charged with sexual assault was reported in the Sun-Sentinel, and hit the airwaves on CBS 4. Mr. Sigers filed a complaint of the un-named deputy ‘fondling’ Mr. Sigers and grabbing his crotch. I see a new trend…Getting arrested for a crime and subsequently claiming to be groped in the crotch by the police in the hopes of getting the charges dismissed.

Chief Hale also told me that someone from the state attorney's office contacted the Sun-Sentinel, not only discussing this incident with them, but giving the newspaper much more detail than was necessary on this matter before BSO was even aware of the incident.

My first question is why wasn’t the complaint filed immediately upon booking, and secondly, why did the state attorney contact the newspaper and give them information on this case, and thirdly, why did the state attorney say anything about this case to anyone outside of the immediate investigation team in the first place? The state attorney involved in this matter should be reprimanded for interfering with a criminal investigation at best.

"Because Mr. Sigers wrote a letter to the State Attorney, and the [Sun-] Sentinel forwarded a copy to us, Sheriff [Al] Lamberti felt that we should initiate an internal investigation to bring out all the facts," BSO said. "Since that process has started we are now prohibited from further discussing the matter." According to the Sun-Sentinel, Mr. Sigers stated in his letter to the State Attorney that "This experience left me horrified…"

I am not prohibited from discussing this matter, and what I have to say is this…

Mr. Sigers, your alleged drug deal in our beautiful city leaves me and many, many other parents, residents, business owners and children horrified!

A complete lack of discretion, and respect for our city and the law has again tarnished our good name. Now we have to apparently witness a deliberate and apparently frivolous attempt to tarnish the reputation of our fine police officers. Police officers who routinely risk their lives fighting gun toting drug dealers, who are simply doing their job, who are simply protecting their very lives and that of our children and families against criminals, drug dealers and possible carriers of weapons when they make an arrest. As such, in Cooper City, we have zero-tolerance for drug dealers. I hope that if anyone dealing drugs in Cooper City is ever found guilty and convicted, they throw away the key…