Plagued With Lawsuits, Why Was WPB City Attorney Really Retained After Retirement?

One has to wonder why the City of  West Palm Beach suffer with so many lawsuits, in spite of having a top heavy law department, lead by City Attorney Claudia McKenna, prior to her retiring in mid April 2014? A city attorney’s main duties are to be the chief legal adviser of, and attorney for the City and all Departments and offices thereof in matters relating to their official powers and duties. The city attorney is suppose to give legal advice to minimize exposing the city to liability.

In a February 2012 workshop, Ms. McKenna disingenuously discussed ways to legally spend tax payers money, to finance personal opposition to the extension of State Road 7. Regardless of schemes, there was no legal way to spend tax payers money without taking the request to the commission for approval and budget the expenditure. Why didn’t she do her duty and advise the proper way to access the funding and spending of public money? The expenditure of public money for T-Shirts, Stickers and Charter Buses to transport pre-selected residents to an FDOT Public Hearing in March 2012 and only those residents with an opinion against the project, was illegal spending of tax payers money, biased and wrong.

Did Ms. McKenna not know the expenditure of municipal funds may be used only for a municipal purpose and only when properly budgeted? Or did she know the law and looked for ways to circumvent It?  Does Ms. McKenna know that her own current contract, as a personal consultant to Mayor Muoio for $4,800 monthly, for 32 hours per month has to be budgeted? Retaining Ms. McKenna is of  no benefit to the general public and should be a personal expense of the mayor. Ms. McKenna often sat in her legal position, on the dais, as public speakers rights were violated simply for referring to elected officials by name and she said absolutely nothing to address the violation for the purpose of protecting the city from liability and doing the right thing.  Surely a city attorney should know basic constitutional law and so should city commissioners but they are defiant of  applicable laws and reject oversight .

Another one of Ms. Mckennas Greatest Hits was when she offered the “Public Purpose” Florida Statue to justify a reimbursement of $7,325 to Commissioner Kimberly Mitchell to remedy a personal matter that clearly didn’t apply. Freshman Governmental law students from Northwood University or any other University would easily know that the commissioners personal problem with her home Comcast Cable had absolutely nothing to do with a public good or public purpose and Ms. McKenna had no justification to even suggest that Florida Statue. Her purpose was to make It fit regardless.

In September 2007, Ms Mitchell herself opposed tax payers paying Ms. Frankel’s attorney fees for her personal fight to withhold part of a Grand Jury Report from the public, saying, “My initial feeling is that is something that Mayor Frankel is financially responsible for,” so why wouldn’t her same reasoning apply to her?  When the city has square holes and need to accommodate round pegs,  making It fit was what was expected of Ms. McKenna and that is precisely what she did as oppose to stating the laws and ordinances, forcing the city to comply and avoid liability.

The city Commission was not even satisfied with just Ms. McKennas advice and entered into the expense of their own, hiring an on call attorney for second opinions so what would be the rational reason for retaining Ms. McKenna as a consultant to the mayor, after her retirement?

Is It because she is the one who drove the square pegs into the round holes on the Inspector General Lawsuit and the State Road 7 issue and she’s the only one who can further chisel the city’s way to victory on those matters?  What outside attorney could come in and maneuver through the maze of patchwork left by Ms. McKenna? Is there too much in the legal department to expose an outside attorney to and that’s why Ms. Rothenberg had to step up to the plate? With a top heavy administration, legal department, Internal Audit Department and Department heads, why does the city need so many consultants and study’s?

How many times have the current city attorney had to call Ms. McKenna regarding the piles under the rug? Jeff Green was an excellent Finance Director but when Ed Mitchell took to the sky in his golden parachute, Mayor Muoio did not scout for an outside administrator to come in to possibly look through files and under the rugs so Mr. Green was given Ed’s hat and no one knows how many times he might have been hung out to dry behind closed doors, by the mayor.  Tax payers should be outraged at this display of malfeasance and misfeasance by our city leaders because It is costly and If the public does not promptly snap out of the apathy mode, Gold will be cheaper than our city water and service fees to cover bad debt!

They Won’t Stay Gone.

It appears once again the residents lose due to the irresponsible running of the city by Mayor Muoio.

It’s a shame that Claudia McKenna’s services to the city, was so unreliable that the city commission hired their own attorney, again at taxpayer’s expense, to give them advice, on an as needed basis because they didn’t trust the advice they received from the City Attorney.


Claudia McKenna’s contract with the mayor is not in the best interest of tax payers and any public money spent by elected officials is supposedly for the benefit, and best interest of residents. Every failure of the city for the last twelve years or so has happened under Ms McKenna’s legal watch.

Ms. McKenna should have advised the city about Digital Domain with all of the evidence of failure available on any computer search engine. Google would have told the story of John Textor and Digital Domain, and saved the taxpayers well in excess of 2 million dollars.

Ms McKenna sat on that dais as the mayor and commission violated the First Amendment rights of public speakers, by turning off the microphones, having residents removed by the police, commissioners voting to remove residents from public meeting, and the mayor even threatening residents with arrest, simply for mentioning a commissioner by name, without Ms. McKenna once intervening.

Ms McKenna advised the city commission that it was proper to refund $7,325.00 to Commissioner Kimberly Mitchell for her abuse of power in her Comcast issue. The Office of Inspector General, which investigated the issue, and found it to be improper. On Sept. 27,2013 the OIG wrote their 4 page letter to the Mayor, and outlined their reason for their finding, with a recommendation 1: “The city commission should be re-presented with all of the facts in order to make a determination as to whether or not the reimbursement of legal fees totaling $7,325.00 to Ms. Mitchell met the legal standard.” 2: “If the city commission determines that the legal standard for reimbursement was not met, the City should move to recoup those funds” Mayor Muoio’s response was one line We will take it under advisement. To hear more on this issue, please read the story found on this web-site titled “WPB Officials Disrespect OIG” Hear City Attorney Claudia McKenna, challenge the OIG, and spend over 42 minutes saying absolutely nothing over and over again. Also take the time to listen to Commissioner Keith James, who is up for reelection in March 2015. He feels he owe’s no one an explanation, including the OIG. All 4 commissioners, Robinson, Moffett, James, and Materio, said they voted for reimbursement because they were following City Attorney McKenna’s advice. Listen to them and judge for yourself.

City Attorney Claudia McKenna led the charge against the OIG in a lawsuit, in my opinion to cripple Ms. Steckler’s budget and halt investigations. The lawsuit is still ongoing, but maybe with Claudia McKenna’s supposed retirement things will change now that there’s a new sheriff in town.
Ms. McKenna’s duty was to advise city officials and protect the city from liability and in my opinion, she was derelict in her duties as a city attorney. What benefit does the public receive from paying Claudia McKenna $4,800 per month? I see no bebefit at all.

HUD asking city to return $1.3 Million.

The Mayor of WPB has guided the city back into the limelight with a story in the PB Post with headlines that read “City on hook for HUD’s $1.3 million” Read the story HERE.

Once again Mayor Muoio has let down the residents she say she’s committed to helping, who are among the folks most in need of help, with her irresponsible leadership, placing people in management positions who constantly “drop the ball” and for reasons known only to Mayor Muoio continue to leave them in their position to do further harm to the city and it’s residents, with no consequences.

Read the HUD Letter

The WPB HCD (Housing and Community Development) have had eight full or part time directors in eight years, who have lasted approximately one year. The city constantly had major problems with HUD and this is just one more repeat of the problem, with HUD asking for repayment of funds the city neglected to spend on poorer neighborhoods. If the money wasn’t spent where intended, where was it spent?

With a recommendation from Deputy City Administrator Dorritt Miller, who oversees the HCD dept; suggested the mayor hire an outside firm named Community Redevelopment Associates, and they were given a three year contract with option for two more. The mayor fired them after two years, and my bet is on another lawsuit for Breach of Contract. The city is now nine for nine, managers and years worked.

Dorritt Miller, Deputy City Administrator, is the person the managers of HCD reports too, and Ms. Miller reports to the Mayor. With that said, why are managers resigning or being fired after one year of service, and Ms. Miller remain’s at her post. Soon there will be a number ten, and before they are even hired bet’s are being taken on how long they will last.

The PB Post in the last paragraph of the story reads “It’s not entirely clear whether the city will have until mid-June or early July to make its final arguments. Although the letter notifying the city of its 30-day window to respond is dated May 19, it was not received by the deputy city administrator until late last Friday.” Why didn’t the Post identify Dorritt Miller as the deputy city administrator, and is it possible the letter was received on May 20 or 21 but wasn’t stamped by the city until May 30. After all the city is notorious for changing dates on documentation.

I addressed the problem of Ms. Miller at the May 27,2014 City Commission meeting and mentioned if Ms. Miller wasn’t bringing these problems to the mayors attention, in my opinion, she should be replaced. If she is bringing them to the mayors attention, and Mayor Muoio does nothing about the situation, until the PB Post writes a story, then the mayor should be replaced.

WPB Residents Fight Back

There are now three legal challenges facing the mayor and city commissioners over their decision to allow development that goes against what they as a group previously passed as law. In February 2014 the Citizens for Thoughtful Growth filed a lawsuit on the planned condo on the waterfront of the Chapel-by-the-Lake with the city leaders ignoring their own city growth plans concerning height, density, & set back along with state statutes.

A resident of Waterview Towers is challenging the city for the planned 75 foot, 108 room Marriott “Boutique Hotel” measuring over 92,000 square feet, along with 2650 square feet of meeting room, 5000 square foot restaurant, and a three story garage, all on 1 1/2 acres of land.

The latest lawsuit is the massive Rybovich Marina which the city approved the project in April 2014. The six buildings which the city approved will be 25 to 30 stories tall, and will total 1,059 units or 2,118 new residents based on couples, along with 15,000 sq.ft.of restaurants, over 61,000 sq. ft. of office space, 10,000 sq.ft.retail space, beach club, boat dock, and the icing on the cake, six slips which will house mega yacht’s.

Mayor Muoio stated “We have very excellent planners who are very knowledgeable” This writer disagrees, and if they wish to keep their job, the planners better approve the city plan. Mayor Muoio also states “If you want services, we have to increase tax dollars somehow. Where is that money going to come from?” I have a suggestion. Instead of raising taxes why is city government not being prudent with the taxes they have.

For example, the city has recently cost taxpayers over 2.5 million dollars in lawsuits and settlements, and that does not include the cost of the city defending the lawsuits. (The above figure includes a lawsuit won by Matthew Ladd who won a judgement of $880,000.00 against the city, as the mayor brags of a cap of $200,000.00, the city is contesting the award. Mr. Ladd has filed a FEDERAL lawsuit and I believe Mr. Ladd will be victorious, and a FEDERAL lawsuit has no cap, so what the courts award, the city (taxpayer) will pay. William Mc Cray who won a lawsuit against the city and was awarded $230,000.00 dollars, the city contested the award, and ended up paying Mr. McCray $300,000.00. The city sure showed Mr. McCray, along with the taxpayers. Over five million dollars wasted on Open Sky Police Radio, 2.9 million spent on land in the south end to keep Walmart out of the area, 2 million wasted on Digital Domain, and again doesn’t include the cost of litigation to take back the land that was given to Digital Domain by a very generous mayor and city commission. $37 million wasted on the Advanced Wastewater Treatment facility, a system that never worked right, and has been quietly shut down after a few years.
The figures above amount to 49.4 million tax dollars wasted, and the mayor asked the question if residents want services where is the money to come from. I say the city had the money, but choose to squander it. If a private business ran the way the city does, it would soon be bankrupt. The city continues to spend money it doesn’t have, and continues to punish the taxpayer for their negligence.

No one is happy when a lawsuit is filed against the city due to the fact it will cost us tax dollars when the city loses, which it generally does. On the other hand, when the city is determined to do what they believe is best for the residents, and ram it down our throats, they leave no alternative but to involve the courts. With that said I applaud the residents who will not be pushed around by the city any longer and are willing to fight back. It only takes one person the say “enough” organize a group, and fight back.

Now if we could only have someone say “enough”, organize, and work to replace Mayor Muoio and City Commissioner Keith James, who are up for reelection in March 2015, a new mayor and commissioner willing to lead the city and represent the residents instead of the developers, WPB will be a much better, healthier, happier city.