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 He has since withdrawn as a registered agent for Redemptive Life as of September 12th.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

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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.