Commissioner Jonah Wolfson addressed the Miami Beach Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club at David’s Cafe II on Lincoln Rd. this week, offering some of his first public comments since the April 11 public corruption arrests of seven city employees. Here are some of his remarks:
“There’s never been a more somber time to come before you as a commissioner, as an elected official.
“In the [last] year or so, I’ve been very critical of our city administration and I believe it’s been with good cause. About a year ago, I started noticing more and more that the administration has gotten further and further away from the people – from the Commission itself.
“You all know how I feel about this administration, that we need to move on.
“The building department scandal [from a few years ago], a series of arrests of people putting cash in toilet paper rolls, and some really bad hanky-panky….That really should have been a massive eye-opener for the administration as to what was possible, what could happen. And I think, to the [city] manager’s credit, up until then and around that time, he served with tremendous distinction.
“He’s a good man. Our manager and the people who work for our city at the highest level are good people. I believe they’re honest, I believe they have integrity. I believe they are trying to do what’s best for this community. I just think that it’s gotten out of their control, out of their hands, and it’s past them. It’s beyond anything that they can do to rectify or fix it. And around [the time of the building department scandal] is when I believe…they started to get out of touch.”
Wolfson then launched into a “litany of what’s happened,” mentioning recent scandals (the ATV incident involving an inebriated MBPD officer; police department overtime abuse; police shootings; the city’s “Ticketgate” brush-up with the New World Symphony over a $15 million grant; the Cynthia Curry hiring minus Commission consent; a Beach cop seen exiting his patrol car with a beer; the firing of the city’s procurement director, Gus Lopez; allegations of fund misuse at the P.A.L.; and the city’s human resources department hiring people with criminal backgrounds).
“Think about the manager’s job. He oversees people. [He's] responsible for those people. And my job, and my fellow commissioners’ job, is to be, in turn, responsible for him and for what his administration does. When these things happen and they pile up like this, it just is what it is.
“I’m not trying to be ugly or nasty about it. People want to redirect this to the Commission, but this is how the administration has, over the last year or more, mismanaged on these issues. It does fall on the Commission – so, yeah, the buck stops with us. [But] we have very limited powers. Most important is to oversee the manager. The most important job that we have is to make sure that the manager and administration are doing the right thing, running the city, managing people.
“What it comes down to is, it’s our job at this point to make a move. I have been resolute. In December I made the motion before the most recent arrests to dismiss the manager.
“The manager’s service is not without distinction. There are some amazing successes over the years because of Jorge Gonzalez. He’s a very intelligent, capable human being.
“Not very many casual outside observers could read what’s happened in the city in the last year and say, ‘oh, Jonah, you’re crazy for wanting to fire this guy.’
“I get the outrage. I’m outraged.”