Beach Commissioner Ed Tobin and City Manager Jorge Gonzalez exchanged back-and-forth emails this week over the city employee corruption scandal rocking City Hall. Here is the email that kicked it off on Monday morning.
April 23, 2012
TO: City Manager Jorge Gonzalez
Subject: The Public and the elected officials have a right to know
For the entire term for which I have served, I have faced enormous hurdles whenever I sought information relative to mistakes, inefficiency, incompetence, overspending, waste, criminal conduct or lack of oversight. You have always fought hard and successfully to keep these matters strictly within your purview, citing your management privilege.
Commissioners only receive information through you. All hand-picked department heads and executive level employees for which you have long standing friendships guard this information, insuring information of any negative nature whatsoever does not go to a commissioner.
This culture trickles into every aspect of the city as employees consistently omit information to the elected officials or fail to perform basic due diligence that may suggest an alternate course of action different from that of their recommendation.
Of course we cannot exercise any effective oversight over management when any information that may tend to suggest mistakes, inefficiency, incompetence, overspending, waste, criminal conduct or lack of oversight by management is withheld from us (unless it reaches the Miami Herald). The most essential of information can no longer be kept from the public and their elected officials.
Specifically, as it relates to the pending criminal investigations, I want to be present with you and the mayor as a representative of my fellow commissioners for all matters relative to any criminal wrongdoing to insure that we receive all information unfiltered and that we provide all information unfiltered to the public at the appropriate time.
Without Commission access to all information in real time, we will never know:
What about our organization allowed this to happen? Did we see signs of wrongdoing? Should we have seen signs? Did we cover up or ignore matters that would have led to the discovery of wrongdoing?
These questions were never explored by the Commission in the building department corruption scandal because you managed the information.
City Manager Replies: “Corruption Happens, But I’ve Never Been Involved”
(Here is City Manager Jorge Gonzalez’s Monday morning reply to Tobin, sent within an hour of Tobin’s email.)
I am happy to share with you anything you wish. All you have to do is simply call me and ask (as you have done in the past).
As it relates to access to information, you have had a very good ability to acquire information. On several occasions you have asked me about matters that came to your attention from sources other than from me or through official administration sources. I have always researched and provided you with whatever I knew or found out. I will continue to do so. Oftentimes the information or rumors you were provided with turned out to be incomplete at best or inaccurate at worst. They were provided to you with particular agendas in mind. For example, the several rumors that were floated during the police chief recruitment alone were quite creative and bordered on absurd and worse yet [were] hurtful and divisive to our community. I know you were able to sort out fact from fiction.
Throughout my tenure I have worked to ensure that we provided honest and efficient service. I do not intend to stop now and will not allow anyone to suggest otherwise. Unfortunately, it appears that corruption has existed on Miami Beach for many decades – NEVER in anything I have been involved [in] or directed.
I have made many decisions over the years. Several of which have made special interests upset. Each of them have, I’m sure, used their self-interested agendas to subvert the efforts of the city and try to erode confidence in us. That is unfortunate but I cannot control that.
My efforts have been and continue to be pursuing the direction set by the City Commission – in the best interests of our residents.
Tobin’s Reply to Jorge: “Your Oversight is Lacking”
(Here is Tobin’s Tuesday, April 24, email reply to Gonzalez.)
You will shortly hold a press conference. You will display the Inspector General who I begged you to bring here in 2008 and 2009 when I and others supplied you with a litany of suspicious circumstances regarding construction projects but you refused.
At this press conference you will clothe yourself in the respectability of the Inspector General and others to deflect attention from the fact that you lost interest in managing the city years ago. Your publicity stunt will cast an additional shadow on our city that exists because you have failed to hold executives accountable for their performance. We have a strong city manager form of government. That means you run the city’s day-to-day operations. The Commission has very little say-so in regards to the day-to-day operations. Commissioners are not privy to ANY matters of employee misconduct or malfeasance. We get that type of information from newspapers, blogs and the rumor mill.
Commissioners have complained many, many times, even in our retreats, that you do not hold your executives accountable. We have complained that there are no benchmarks. I have complained that you do not do written evaluations of your executive team.
We pay our employees the best in the state and our benefits are the best. We must ask, Why do we have all this corruption? Corruption in this instance is a by-product of the lack of oversight and accountability. The waste and mistakes we have pointed out over the years is staggering. I must hold you accountable for a host of matters both in and out of the newspapers of late that bear on your ability to manage. I am sure that this latest scandal involving the code inspectors will NOT be our last. What will we say when the next scandal strikes? Who will we hold accountable?
I will not go into the list of matters for which I must hold you accountable at this time but will address your tempting tale of lucrative businesses, corrupt politicians and greedy unions.
1. Apparently, you and the mayor advised the Miami Herald editorial board that commissioners are taking campaign contributions for fixing code violations. Why was this never reported to the State Attorney? Your failure to report this is grounds for your termination for cause. To wait until a scandal and then use it to absolve yourself of culpability is wrong. Identify these commissioners, if they exist.
2. As for your suggestion that the Commission appeased the unions by killing the Robert Wennett clean Lincoln Road deal –
You were accused of potential wrongdoing in the no-bid method for which the deal with Robert was made. I therefore referred the matter to the State Attorney’s Office to determine if any wrongdoing had occurred. I was sure then that you had done nothing wrong and I am still of that opinion. To my knowledge the matter has not been closed by the State Attorney.
At a meeting while the matter was still being investigated, the union raised the issue of a no-bid contract. I always spoke in favor of Robert getting the job but I thought we all agreed that a multi-million-dollar contract should not be given on a no-bid basis. The bidding process is good government and that’s how we operate.
3. As for your assertion that you recommended an audit of the Code Department and we rejected the idea –
My memory differs from yours and I’m betting the matter is on tape. In fact, many of the residents wanted an audit and you suggested we wait a while since your Director, Robert Santos[-Alborná], was new to the job and by all accounts the department was doing well. The residents thought the unfounded rate was suspiciously high and you assured us no corruption existed. You were a strong advocate for no audit.
There is no justification for making up these matters to the editorial board. If you resign or if the votes are there to terminate your employment, I am certain everyone would give you as respectful and dignified a separation as possible. I believe I am duty-bound to hold you accountable. Engaging in this type of politics with the editorial board is beneath you and unfairly soils the city’s reputation. Stick to being an honest and good family man. Engaging in this half-truth innuendo politics is beneath you.
Sincerely, Respectfully, Regretfully,