Comm Keith James, City Attorney & Mayor Should Share The Same Hot Seat!

In reference to a PB Post article, “Opponent Files Ethics Complaint Against West Palm Beach’s James” , dated September 17th, written by Pat Beall & Eliot Kleinberg, there needs to be a couple more hot seats added to the complaint. Mr. James oponent is J. Alex Augustin, 2015 candidate for WPB Commission District 4 seat, currently held by Commissioner Keith James. The commissioner is a member of Redemptive Life Fellowship Church and was a registered agent for the church when the city of WPB provided federal money to Redemptive Life Urban Initiative Group, between 2004 and 2006, to build homes in the Coleman Park area.

Federal monies were misspent due to poor oversight and supervision of the city’s Housing & Community Development Department so the Inspector General for the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, has demanded the city repay $3 million dollars, saying the city has not been able to substantiate that Redemptive money was always spent appropriately.  The city has offered to settle by forgoing $1.46 million in HUD money in the next three years and on Sept. 2, the city commission voted that should it pay the $1.45 million, they would find it elsewhere in its coffers rather than cut money to low-income residents. Commissioner James participated in that vote without disclosing his relationship to the Redemptive Life matter. Mr. James told The Palm Beach Post on Sept. 8 that he didn’t disclose his relationship because the vote had nothing to do with Redemptive Life and that he would repay the city the $2,500 if that’s what it takes to remove the perception of a conflict of interest. He has since withdrawn as a registered agent for Redemptive Life as of September 12th.

My question is, what role does city attorney, Kimberly Rothenburg play in this reported violation that took place under her watch? The city attorney was present during this vote and she is a paid legal counsel for the mayor, commissioners and all legal city business.  The city attorney sits on the dais during public meetings and is responsible for advising elected officials, staff and city departments, on legal matters, therefore protecting the city from legal liability so what repercussions are there for her failure to advise in this matter?  Who is really behind this move of filing an ethics charge against Commissioner James? Was It planned to allow Mr. James to fall in that trap?  Being a professional, he should have known to err on the side of caution by disclosing and refraining from voting when a miniscule possibility of fault is present and with the disrespect shown to him on the dais lately, that should have been reason enough for him to be cautious. Regardless of what Commissioner James should have known, legal counsel should have been available to guide and advise him as part of her duties but Ms. Rothenburg failed to interject.  This move, It’s timing and the possible players involved should be a turn off to informed voters and backfire on the schemers. This whole issue is not personal to me, it is about what’s right, regardless of who is the subject of public scrutiny.

The Palm Peach Post interviewed Mr. James on this matter but didn’t report questioning City Attorney Kimberly Rothenburg about her failure to advise the commissioner, when she should have. Ms. Rothenburg attends mayor/commission workshops where agenda items are discussed prior to commission meetings and should have been aware of this agenda item and been ready to advise Mr. James. The mayor is responsible for these top positions and appears to avoid filling administrative positions from outside of city hall or the city, for fear of the city’s disorderly and less than honorable accumulation of past and present city business being revealed to someone not likely to conceal.  Why else would ex City Attorney, Claudia McKenna currently be on contract with the city, at the mayor’s disposal?

In the city’s July 7, 2014 City Commission Meeting, commissioners voted to start talks with Developer, Michael McCloskey, who plans a medical village at West Palm Beach’s long-vacant “tent site.” There were others who were vying for development of that property but commissioners decided against putting the property out for all bidders at the moment and decided to eliminate one of the last two developers and start talks, for 90 days, with the McCloskey Group. Representatives from area hospitals, including St. Mary’s attended the meeting, voicing their concern about possible competition the medical village might bring to their facilities.

Even though the mayor does not have a vote, she made comments on that agenda item, without disclosing her relationship with St. Mary’s Hospital, as a board member and should have. Her position as mayor and speaking from the dais is influential and she should have disclosed her association with St. Mary’s and refrained from joining the discussion.  Unlike Commissioner James, the city attorney might not have been aware of the mayor’s association with St. Mary’s Hospital but most everyone is aware of the Redemptive Life issue and those involved.

I would ask for more comprehensive reporting from all segments of the media and a desire for a greater effort towards unbiased reporting. When Mayor Muoio, who will be the CEO of the city’s proposed charter school, can be interviewed by a PB Post Reporter about children possibly entering the city’s school and refer to struggling children as “dummies” and not be challenged by the reporter or questioned about such a degrading remark about innocent children, that level of  reporting is missing a wheel.

According to the WPB City’s Website, their summary of the duties of their city attorney is as follows and according to numbers 2 & 8 of “Essential Functions”, Commissioner Keith James was not served by City Attorney, Kimberly Rothenburg in the September 2nd Commission Meeting!  So If one is on an honest  mission to shine the light on wrong, the whole of  West Palm Beach’s City Hall should resemble Las Vegas from space.

City Attorney

  • 101201
SUMMARY: Under general direction, oversees and directs the administration of the City Attorney’s Office and provides legal services to the City, including the Mayor, City Commission, City departments, and all City agencies, Boards and Committees.

ESSENTIAL FUNCTIONS: (Essential functions, as defined under the Americans with Disabilities Act, may include the following tasks, knowledge skills, and other characteristics. This list is ILLUSTRATIVE ONLY, and is not a comprehensive listing of all functions and tasks performed by incumbents of this class.) DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES: (Which are not in any hierarchical order)

  1. Performs duties of Chief Legal Advisor for the City of West Palm Beach.
  2. Advises the Mayor, City Commission and all City departments on legal matters.
  3. Oversees full operation of the department.
  4. Assumes full supervisory responsibility for the City Attorney’s office, staff, and outside counsel for all City legal matters.
  5. Drafts resolutions, ordinances and documents.
  6. Develops, prepares and administers City Attorney’s office budget.
  7. Represents City in all legal matters.
  8. Attends City Commission, and other meetings (internal and external) as chief legal advisor.

West Palm Beach Charter On A Foundation Of Sand

As the city moves forward with many plans and spending money in support of the City’s first charter school without a final vote from the commission,  is a clear indication of a done deal and public input through public meetings was and is a farce.

Mayor Muoio and Commissioner Mitchell continue to profess a plan to help struggling and underachieving children, Ms. Mitchell has often stated. It has been a vision of hers for years but frankly, tax payers can’t afford any more of Mitchell’s visions. If her passions are such a good and sure thing, then private investment is always an option for her as It would be for the general public.

According to a February 25, 2006 Sun Sentinel article, written by Education Writer, Scott Travis, Commissioner Mitchell was touting the idea of opening a charter school somewhere in the city’s downtown, that would serve pre-kindergarten and elementary students and would be open to people who live and work downtown. The article states Commissioner Mitchell’s vision is to create a world class school that would be a selling point for prospective industries which is a far cry from embracing underachieving children.

In a commission meeting, on November 25, 2013, Michael Connelly, CEO of Mosaica Education, made a presentation before the mayor and commissioners in hopes of running the city’s charter school. He was chosen by the city’s selection committee. Towards the end of his presentation, Mr. Connelly made several insensitive remarks when asked about his success with minority children. He talked about grade levels and their progress saying, “the children are too naive to know that they’re stupid” and shortly after says. “they’re too little to know that they’re not very bright”. Mr. Connelly was asked further by a commissioner, about his success with minority students and he mentioned a class that did very well saying, “everyone was surprised because their faces were dark”. Mr. Connelly was not chosen and I’m not sure why but I’m sure It wasn’t because of his demeaning and racist remarks about the very children he was to serve because neither the mayor or any one of the five commissioners outwardly reacted or questioned him about his disturbing comments. A lack of reacting to comments that warrants a response from city leaders who represent the public, means the language is socially acceptable when directed at a certain segment of our citizenry and It’s wrong.

Now It’s easy to understand why the mayor didn’t show outrage over Mr. Connelly’s negative comments about children because she made an equivalent comment herself and showed no second thoughts or concern about what she said on  On August 13, 2014, during the mayor’s weekly media briefing.  A Palm Beach Post reporter asked the mayor about a question that was asked of her at the charter school town hall meeting held at Rybovich Village. A member of the public asked her if the city would consider having all underachieving children in their charter school. The mayor told the reporter it was the worse suggestion she’s heard. She further talked about struggling kids and how heterogeneous children learn better than homogeneous children and “putting all of the dummies in one place is not how kids learn“.

For any adult, especially an educator, to refer to “any” children as “dummies”, because they are struggling and academically challenged, for whatever reason, reflects poorly on that individual. For city commissioners, as representatives of the public, to have no outward reaction when a prospective director of the city’s charter school insults the very children they claim to be targeting to help, is appalling and raises questions about their ability to effectively respond to children and their educational needs. Tax payers should be all too familiar with this road we’ve been forced onto. Our last ride was also centered around an educational vision and also spearheaded by Kimberly Mitchell until we hit a deep pothole. The demise of that dream came quickly but not painless for tax payers. After the clear failure of FSU Digital Domain, costing tax payer’s millions, both Mayor Muoio and Commissioner Mitchell vowed to do It again. It’s not only foolish to publicly state you’d repeat a failure but fiscally irresponsible to utter such arrogance.

The opening date for the city’s charter school has been a moving target since the original opening date of August 2013 was announced. When the city’s school will open is anyone’s guess. The creeping up of “fly by night”  charter schools, siphoning tax money from traditional public schools, is a threat to our Democracy because they will eventually force traditional schools to close and once they are closed, they are not likely to re-open.

Without a doubt, WPB City Leaders have been mediocre Jack’s of all Trades and Masters of very little! The city should further lend a hand to assist our already established public school system and abandon the opening of a city run charter school . Children all over the country are realizing the threat of charter schools to traditional public education and are protesting to save their schools. It is past time for Palm Beach County teachers and students  to flood the public square and city chambers of city hall’s everywhere to stop the country wide heist of traditional public education.

HUD, James & Redemptive Life

Once again the city of West Palm Beach has made the PB Post with the story on the front page, above the fold, and it concerns Commissioner Keith James and the Redemptive Life Fellowship Church, and the Redemptive Life Urban Corp. This story, along with many other’s show city officials and their many blunders that cost taxpayers and the poorest of the poor are the ones who suffer and pay the price for their inadequacies. Here is the list of players: HUD (Housing and Urban Development), Deputy City Administrator Dorritt Miller, City Commissioner Keith James, former Internal Auditor Imogene Isaacs, Harold Ray, Leader of Redemptive Life, and Mayor Muoio.

Long story short: HUD gave the city of WPB millions of dollars to be used for low income housing. Meaning the poorest of the poor. The city, in turn gave the millions to Harold Ray, Pastor of Redemptive Life. Here is where it all fell apart. The city did minimal follow-up, did not receive, or lost records and documentation. Who is in charge of the housing dept? Deputy City Administrator, Dorritt Miller, making over $200,000.00 a year in salary and “perks” and couldn’t be bothered to follow up on millions of Federal dollars.

Internal Auditor, Imogene Isaacs, worked for the city for 22 years, loved her job, and was very good at it. The Internal Auditor is the only department that does not report to the Mayor, but reports to the City Commissioners. Ms. Isaacs while auditing HUD and Redemptive Life found irregularities, and brought it to the attention of City Commissioners. In other words she did her job. The report was “leaked” to the PB Post who wrote a story on the results. Ms. Isaacs was “blamed” for the leak at a confrontational meeting between Ms. Isaacs and Commissioner James. On April 9, 2012 Commissioner James wrote a memo to Ms. Isaacs, which I invite you to read and pay particular attention to #3.  (Click HERE to read the memo.)
After Ms. Isaacs received the memo, she resigned along with the entire audit committee members.

On Sept. 8,2014 the PB Post wrote an excellent editorial, and I invite you to read it here. It is self explanatory. See: Working poor could suffer in HUD settlement

PB Post reporter Pat Beall who has written about HUD & the City and continues to investigate has written an excellent story which explains many facts. I invite you to read the story here. See: Official: HUD talk wasn’t conflict

Commissioner Mitchell questions why the city has to pay HUD 3 Million dollars when it was Redemptive Life who received Federal funds. DUH The money was given to the city, the city gave the money to Redemptive Life. The city is responsible for the funds. A better question for the commissioner to ask is why wasn’t Dorritt Miller more responsible with Federal dollars, and why does Mayor Muoio allow her to continue on staff?

It appears Redemptive Life is in financial trouble, so what are the chances of the city recouping 3 million dollars? I have a suggestion. According to the PBC Property Appraisers office Redemptive Life, Pastor Harold Ray has a home with a market value of $667,960.00. Start there.