Still working the Budget

WPB still attempting to balance the city budget. Below are excerpts from a story written by PB Post Tony Doris. Entire story can be read below. My opinion in italic.
WEST PALM BEACH —” Amid protests from the public and commissioners, city officials struggling to overcome a $10 million budget gap have backed off plans to lay off dozens of park and library workers.”  Obviously this is what awakens residents to stand up and express their feelings to city leaders concerning layoffs and furloughs of city workers. Proud of everyone who spoke up with their opinion. Strength in numbers.

“Instead they will spread the pain among all departments except police and fire, with many of the cuts made by not filling vacant positions.”

The City of WPB, under the leadership of Mayor Keith James, has in his own way, defunded the Police Dept. by not replacing the missing 30 police officers needed to insure enough officers to keep the peace in WPB. How about cancelling the PSC Security $8 million dollar contract, hire the missing cops and the millions in savings can be used to help balance the budget. James could end his “security detail’ and put more cops on the street where they are needed. 

“An earlier iteration of the budget called for 30% cuts to the Mandel Public Library and the Parks and Recreation Department. That meant the library would lose 12.5 full-time positions and 12 “on-call” pages. Parks stood to lose 36 full-time workers. Members of the public, citing the importance of those public resources, urged the city to back off those cuts.” Since the pandemic and all the closings throughout the state, I missed the library closing more than any of the closings. When you can’t socialize you have a choice TV or read a good book. I receive my books from the PBC Library on Okeechobee because I have no problem parking and it’s free.

“Under a new proposal, presented to commissioners Monday by City Administrator Faye Johnson, the library instead would lose one full-timer and seven pages, while the parks department would loose about 11 full-timers and five on-call part-timers.” What the hell did the city do with the 30 million dollar “Park Bond” they pushed so hard for and voters gave them?

“But other cuts would have to be spread among various city departments to make up for that, Johnson said. In all, 48 positions would have to go, including five layoffs and 43 vacant positions that would go unfilled.” 48 positions eliminated. Shame on the city of WPB. Bet no “staff members” are included, just blue collar workers, not top earners. When James was first elected he promoted 3 staff members to Assistant City Administrators with a raise $180,000/year and rehired a previously fired employee as a Assistant City Administrator again at a salary of $180,000.00. He loves the figure and tried to use it to pay off an employee who is suing the city.

“She said the administration might have to come back to the commission for more cuts part-way through the fiscal year, if the budget crunch worsens.” With James in charge it will worsen.

“The city commission is scheduled to cast its votes to finalize the budget on Sept. 10 and Sept. 24.”  The city needs to open city hall for both meetings. Residents want to be heard.

“Commissioners asked whether that cost of living increase might be reduced, or furloughs imposed, to save money and avoid cutting jobs. Johnson and Mayor Keith James resisted, saying that many of the non-public safety employees earn less than $50,000.”   The people earning less than than $50,000.00 will be sacrificed. The very people behind the scenes who keep city hall running, blue collar workers.

“Making such changes, Johnson said, would “put some employees in the position where they’re going to have to choose between putting food on table” or paying utility bills. “The proposed budget absolutely hits the mark,” she said.”  Someone please explain to me how eliminating jobs will help people make decisions on putting food on the table or paying utility bills. Seems to me they wont be able to do either. Read the entire story below.

National Politics:
I am busy enough with city politics and don’t write much about County or National Politics but will make an exception with a couple of facts that have bothered me recently concerning book writers and a House bill passed in March 2010. Here are my thoughts:

Stephanie Winston Wolkoff the BFF (best friend forever) of Melania Trump recently published a tell all book on their friendship and of course the media is lining up interviews for Wolkoff. What bothers me is her admission that she secretly recorded their conversations which she used when writing the book. Here’s my first thought. Who secretly records a conversation between friends? My second thought, after her 15 “minutes of fame” would she have any friends left that would ever trust her again never being sure if over coffee they may have discussed problems with their spouse, kids, family maybe problems with their job and not worry about another book being written. Please God I don’t have a friend like Wolkoff.

Readers of WPB Watch are aware I have a problem with City Commissioners who take the advice of “Staff Recommend Approval” I fell they can’t be bothered to read and investigate whatever they are about to vote on which will change the lives of residents forever. In March 2010, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D) led the House to vote approval of Obama Care. When the press questioned her on what the bill contained she replied “But we have to pass the [health care] bill so that you can find out what’s in it.” She didn’t know what the bill contained so I assume House “staff” recommended approval. Obama, just like Mayor Keith James, wants approval so staff responds to what leaders want. Despicable.

The end

Campaign Promises Not Kept!

When Keith James was running for Mayor of WPB 2 campaign promises he made were to help the homeless (also a promise of Commissioner Lambert) and not raise taxes. James was sworn in April 2019 and 16 months later lets see how he kept his campaign promises.
Homelessness: Below are excerpts from the PB Post and the entire story can be read below.

“The last of the homeless population at John Prince Memorial Park’s “Tent City” could be moved out as soon as Friday, Palm Beach County officials have confirmed, offering hope to neighbors vexed by the encampment and generating fear among those living there who say they have no place else to go.

To make the forced removal legal, county commissioners invested $8.6 million in a homeless shelter at the former county stockade off of Southern Boulevard west of Florida’s Turnpike.

At the annex, on a 17-acre site next to the South Florida Fairgrounds, homeless people have access to substance abuse treatment and mental healthcare. From there, county staff members try to help homeless people move on to permanent housing.

The 125-bed annex, which the county is paying Gulfstream Goodwill Industries to operate, is part of a $8.6 million project to help address homelessness in the county.

Some of the first homeless people taken there said they initially were frightened by the barbed wire surrounding the facility, a throwback to its days as a jail. But they said they grew to appreciate the services and amenities, not the least of which was air conditioning.

“We are looking at a 90-day action plan that would involve potentially alternate locations,” Kerner told The Post in February”

The homeless were moved and now have AC; a bed, washer & drier; computer access; running water and refrigeration. Things many of us take for granted. Read the story below, and if you have a desire to send a thank you card send it to the  County Commissioners who made this happen. Grateful they didn’t wait for WPB Mayor Keith James to fulfill his campaign promises to help the homeless and not raise taxes.

2018 under former Mayor Muoio
WPB Debt: $7.79

WPB Operating: $507.00                              Fire Fee: $50.00

2019 under Mayor Keith James
WPB Debt: $7.55

WPB Operating: $524.56                              Fire Fee: $100.00

2020 (proposed taxes)
WPB Debt: $8.25

WPB Operating: $546.23                               Fire Fee: $100.00

Tell the voters what they want to hear, and do what you want after you are elected. Where are our tax dollars going? Here’s an example of wasted taxes while they talk of laying off and furloughing workers.

From Jan,29 2018- March 6,2020 travel expense for James and his Security Detail. FLOC(Florida league of Cities) NLOC (National league of Cities) Lobbying firm.

1/29/18- 1/31/18 Tallahassee Fl.   $1,003.07 FLOC

3/11/18- 3/15/18 Washington DC $2,685.27 NLOC

8/15/18- 8/19/18 Hollywood Fl.  $1,250.00 $7,877.76

11/7/18- 11/14/18 Los Angeles Ca. $2,935.93 NLOC

3/25- 3/27/19 Tallahassee Fl.         $1,138.81 NLOC

4/23-4/27/19 Lex Ky.                       $1,049.73

5/19- 5/22/19 Kansas City               $258.93 (invited)

6/10/19- 6/11/19 Wash. D.C.           $896.96
staff member                                       $865.96
staff member                                       $707.96

6/19/19 – 6/21/19 Philadelphia Pa.     $126.00 (invited)
Security Detail                                         $1,892.95

6/25-7/3/19 Honolulu Hawaii             $4,079.30
Security Detail                                         $5,768.27

7/31- 8/03/19 Columbia S.C.               $463.96
Security Detail                                         $1,814.92

8/14/19- 8/18/19 Orlando Fl.               $1,572.00
Security Detail                                          $1,178.40

9/19/19 9/22/19 Boston Ma                 $761.89 (Harvard Law)

9/24/19-9/25/19 Williamsburg Va.    $825.48
Security Detail                                         $1,056.02

11/11/19- 11/12/19 Tallahassee Fl.      $300.00
Security Detail                                        $636.00

11/12- 11/17/19 NYC                              $878.47
Security Detail                                        $3,410.05

11/20- 11/24/19 San Antonio Tx       $2,699.48

Security Detail                                       $2,421.80

1/21-1/25/20 Washington DC            $3,227.98

3/6-3/12/20 Washington DC             $3,746.65
Security Detail                                       $3,870.56


The WPB Police Department are short 30 Police Officers, but one is assigned to sit in the entrance to city hall along with 2 PSC Security Officers. Why isn’t this officer working the streets where he/she is needed?


Trip to DC cost taxpayers $3,227.98 and I got this swell pen.

WPB Desperate for $$$

Once upon a time the city owned the WPB Municipal Auditorium which sat on 72 acres of land located on 1610 Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard and Congress Ave. Originally built in 1965 it had a capacity of 6,000 and residents affectionally called it the “Leaky Teepee” due to the roof leaking when it rained. Many events with fond memories were held there.

In July 1997 Mayor Graham, elected the first strong mayor, and the City Commissioners decided to sell the auditorium to the Jehovah’s Witnesses for $12.5 million dollars. Now 23 years ago $12.5 million was a lot of money to a city who was having financial difficulties.

Staff Recommend Motion

“Recommended Approval”

The City Commissioners agreed to sell. Good deal? Let’s see.
After acquiring the 72 acres, new owners the Jehovah’s Witnesses turned around and sold off a large section of the property to the Home Depot who built a new store on the land. Home Depot paid $12.5 for the land. Jehovah’s Witnesses, a religious organization, along with other religions pays no taxes on property owned. Nice deal and it’s OK because staff “Recommended Approval.” Good deal for everyone except taxpayers and a perfect example of elected officials depending on staff instead of investigating the issue.

City Commission meeting to be held 8/10/2020. Part of the agenda below.
6. Resolution No. 220-20 finding that City-owned property located at 8111 South Dixie Highway is not needed for City purposes, declaring the property surplus, and providing the method of disposition.       Agenda Cover Memorandum No.: 23004
Staff Recommended Motion:
Approve Resolution No. 220-20.

The City hereby desires to make a determination of surplus of property located at 8111 South Dixie Highway, consisting of approximately 6.51 acres, as shown on Exhibit A attached. Given the significant interest for development of the property, City staff seeks authorization to issue a competitive invitation to negotiate with interested parties. This method of disposition will allow City staff to evaluate and negotiate proposals that will result in obtaining the best value and use for the Parcel. Highest and best use proposals will be presented to the City Commission for with a recommendation for final approval. Section 2-31(27)(b) of the Code of Ordinances of the City of West Palm Beach, Florida, requires that prior to the disposition of City property, the City Commission shall: (i) make a legislative finding that the City property is not needed for City purposes and declaring the property surplus; and (ii) select the method of disposition. City staff seeks authorization to issue a competitive invitation to negotiate with interested parties and bring one or more best value proposals to the City Commission for consideration. Commission District: The subject Property is located within Commission District No.5: Commissioner Christina Lambert.

“The latest contender is PGA of America. In March James gave PGA
exclusive rights to pursue its proposal to revive the 196-acre course as a nonprofit community course without adding housing.
He gave Seth Waugh 15 months to find donors to finance the proposal. Waugh said Monday he hoped to speak with James later this week on developments with his proposal and on the 8111 property sale, which he said he just heard about on Friday.

It’s 2020 and again the city finds itself in financial distress due to the Carona Virus, and poor management of taxpayer money with no oversite, and a mayor who treats taxpayers money as his personnel piggybank hiring and promoting staff with large pay raises, excessive travel, with police escorts which include the police accompanying him to private affairs. Talk of laying off or firing employees, who are always the first to be hurt. I’m not talking “staff” I’m talking the people behind the scenes who actually make city hall run. I have some suggestions and will use the figure of $30,000.00/year employee salary. The exception would be a salary of $95,000.00 paid to a supporter of James who was hired as a neighborhood liaison. 95K not to return calls or show up for meetings.

My suggestions:

City Commissioners receive a “car allowance” of $500.00/month or $6,000.00/year X 5 Commissioners = $30,000.00. That will pay for 1 employee.

James can roll back mayors salary from $125,000.00 to $100,000.00. James travel 1/29/2018— 3/6/2020 was $29,975.52 + security detail $23,622.89=$53,598.41. Another 2.6 jobs saved.

Faye Johnson, City Administrator, can return to the previous salary paid to Jeff Green of $240,000.00/year saving another employees job.
Cancel former City Attorney Claudia McKenna’s contract written on 5/13/2014 with a salary of $4,800.00/month + overtime compensation. $4,800.00 X12 =$57,600.00/year X 6 years= $345,600.00. Pay employee $30,000.00/year, another 11.5 jobs saved. Has McKenna’s contract ever been audited, especially the overtime stipulation?

State Road 7 extension. “Sep 19, 2017 – against the Army Corps of Engineers, Fish and Wildlife Service,  “West Palm Beach sues US agencies for approving State Road 7 extension  Preserve, the city of West Palm Beach has sued five federal agencies for approving the extension. West Palm Beach has spent years and more than $2.3 million fighting the extension.”   Stop this frivolous lawsuit and save 77 jobs. story below

If the city so desperately needs money how about selling the city property at 401 No. Flagler that is appraised at $12,050,272.00.
The city has for years rented this property to the Chamber of Commerce for $1.00/year, and the Chamber of Commerce endorses every politician sitting on the dais.
Dennis Grady, CEO of the COC has spoken before the commission and stated he, along with his board of directors have discussed a certain item on the agenda and they voted unanimously in favor and ask the commission to approve the item. They have their marching orders. Are you aware government owned land are not required to pay taxes?

One more suggestion: Yard waste
Code enforcement should be able to check the area south of Southern Blvd; where yard waste such as grass clippings and trees trimmed by private contractors on Monday and Tuesday knowing the city picks up on Wednesday. Contractors are required to remove the debris and take it to solid waste and there is a fee for dumping. When the work is done what is left is blown into the street where it blocks drainage. Code enforcement should monitor areas and when contractors are found leaving trash behind issue warning and then fines. When it cost them money, the abuse will stop.
Why are taxpayers paying the added expense.

Johnson memo to staff      If there are to be layoffs how about city hall start at the top and cut paychecks and benefits. Why should only one class of workers feel the pain?

State Looking at Mayor James

Those with a good memory can recall a complaint filed against then Commissioner Keith James over a home he rented in Andros Isle from Mr. James Brophy who is vice president of WGI. James voted approval for every WGI contract presented to the city. In the final findings the Palm Beach County Commission on Ethics found no probable cause. Read the story below:

Another complaint was filed against now Mayor Keith James concerning his awarding of the $7.9 million no-bid contract to his friend Willis Perez of PSC (Professional Securities Consultant) The difference with this complaint is it was filed with the Florida (state) Commission on Ethics, so residents may receive a fair hearing this time around. Picture shows James and his pal Perez socializing at the now closed Blue Martini. Double click to enlarge pic.

Below are excerpts from a story in the PB Post. Entire article can be read below.

“Investigator’s recommendation found probable cause that Mayor Keith James “misused his position to urge the award of a no-bid security contract to a company operated by one of his friends.”
“If James is found to have violated state ethics law, he could face fines of as much as $10,000 per violation or removal from office.”

If James violated state ethics law is the taxpayer responsible for paying the fines?

“Shortly after taking office in April 2019, the mayor canceled a bidding process initiated by his predecessor”
“James told the commission investigator that shortly after the commission had approved the no-bid contract, he learned that both City Attorney Kimberly Rothenburg and Procurement Director Frank Hayden had advised former City Administrator Jeff Green against proceeding without competitive bidding.”   Oh Pinocchio!

“A rival of PSC, Giddens Security Corp. of Jacksonville, sued the city, alleging favoritism, and filed the ethics complaint.”  I couldn’t find a picture of Adam Giddens from Giddens Security and James socializing so I assume none exist.

“I do believe that the mayor misused his position, tried to benefit his friend, by setting in motion that an existing contract be eliminated and that they rapidly do a consolidation, and that he failed to disclose that it was his friend,” said one ethics commissioner.

“It seemed like this mayor is a little bit out of control,” said another.

“Adam Giddens, chief financial officer for Giddens Security, said the probable cause finding was expected and deserved. The mayor continued treating the firm unfairly during the recent selection process, in which it went from being ranked first by city staff to last by the mayor and commissioners.”

“In our recent presentation to the mayor and commission, I thought it was strange and unfair that I was immediately asked by the mayor why we have not dropped the pending lawsuit that was about the same matter, as well as asked again at the end of our 10 minute time slot,” Giddens said.

“During the presentations by the five finalists, the mayor highlighted lawsuits against each bidder except PSC, even though PSC’s submission listed dozens of suits against it, Giddens noted.”
“This month the mayor and city commission again selected PSC to negotiate a contract.”
If James had mentioned PSC legal problems would that have made a difference in the commissioners decision to negotiate a contract with PSC? As usual “Staff Recommend Approval” Again I say we did not vote for staff, and the commissioners are not doing their homework but listening to staff who in my opinion recommends what James tells them to recommend. Shame on them.