WPB Still Cheat Election 2020

Election signs may only be displayed on Private Property with permission for a certain time within the election period. 

Election signs may not be displayed on Public Property owned by the government rather then by a private individual. Examples include: parks, streets, sidewalks, libraries.

Political signs are not allowed on Public Property and unless Mayor James has found a buyer for City Hall  it is considered owned by the public, that’s you and me.

As previously written the Chamber of Commerce rents Public Property and political signs are not allowed, although they do post them. After complaints to the city, the signs were removed.

The signs below, (Shoaf & lambert) were posted at City Hall before the last City Commission race. Please notice there are no political signs for Martina Walker and Steve Sylvester their challengers. Both ran a clean campaign and I had Steve Sylvester sign on my private property.

City Hall is at it again when James decided another press conference was called for with invited guests Former Mayor Lois Frankel and PBC Commissioner Mack Bernard. Both are up for reelection in Nov; and both know it is illegal to stand behind a Biden/Harris political sign as they have done (see below) Bernard has raised over $250K and his challengers have raised pocket change so he will win re-election. Frankel has a challenger named Laura Loomer, who has out raised Frankel and what I like about her is she can’t be silenced. Please take the time to Google her and learn more. Read the story and see the campaign sign below, all 3 knowing it’s illegal, but doing it anyway.

“It’s time for voters to plan how and where they’ll cast ballots, Palm Beach County leaders say”

U.S. Rep. Frankel, County Commissioner Bernard, West Palm Mayor James urge residents to make voting arrangements early for the Nov. 3 election, calling it ‘the election of our lifetime.’

 

Congresswoman Lois Frankel at West Palm Beach City Hall, flanked by County Commissioner Mack Bernard, left, and West Palm Mayor Keith James speak at a socially distanced news conference outside West Palm Beach City Hall on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020. They urged voters to decide how and when they will cast ballots in the Nov. 3 presidential election, which James called, 'the election of our lifetime. Generations will be affected.' [TONY DORIS/palmbeachpost.com]

The previous story concerning Mayor James and his taxpayer paid 2020 fully loaded Chevrolet, please know the taxpayers are also paying auto insurance,

The end.

 

WPB has a new Budget

I attended the final budget meeting and it was approved without loss of city employee furloughs or layoffs, although 5 jobs are on the line.

There is a new young group that attends the meetings and they are sharing their thoughts with the mayor and commissioners and are asking for an open government with full disclosure. Unfortunately for the mayor they wont be leaving anytime soon.

One speaker was upset with the report on police overtime and asked no raises be given to the police dept. in 2021. I disagree. You can’t hold an entire police dept. responsible for the failings of a few who took advantage of the system. It took the Internal Auditor to bring the issue to the city’s attention. Who really failed here?

1) A supervisor had to approve the timecards.
2) Gregory Key, Special Assistant to the Mayor ( Public Safety) is the liaison between the mayor and police dept. He didn’t notice?
3) Mark Parks, Chief Financial Officer for WPB. Why didn’t the finance department notice the abuse?

I requested, and received PRR (public records request) on city officials and “perks” they receive. Some I knew about some was a shock, and I am enclosing them with the story.

“Commissioners Discretionary Fund.” Each Commissioner receives $7,500.00 /year. I have a problem when commissioners contribute taxpayer dollars to the Chamber of Commerce, who has for many years rented city owned building and land at 401 No. Flagler Dr. for #1.00/year when the Property Appraiser has valued it at $12,653,733.00. 5 commissioners @ $7,500.00 = $37,500.00.
Read the report below:
Commission Expenses April to Sept 2019 (2)

“Car Allowance. Years ago a former commissioner complained about the paperwork involved in receiving reimbursement money he spent on gas in his private vehicle used for city business. So a resolution was passed and they voted themselves $500.00/month. My surprise was 4 other city officials who also received the benefit. So we have 9 people receiving $6,000.00/year= $54,000.00. Read the report below.
Vehicle Allowance ALL City report 9-23-2020

The real surprise to me came when Mayor James did not receive the Car Allowance. As City Commissioner he received a total of $48,000.00 over 8 years. The shocker was when I discovered the city purchased a 2020 Chevrolet Tahoe SUV Full Size 4×2 which is assigned to James. Another surprise was discovering Gregory Key, Special Assistant to the Mayor, was driving a city owned 2019 Ford Explorer SUV Mid Size. I find it hard to believe Mr. Key received a car (2019) before James (2020). I assume James had received the Ford and was not pleased with it’s performance and ordered the Chevy. What to do with the 2019 Ford? Give it to my friend Mr. Key. Does Mayor James has a city credit card he uses for gas purchases?
See the report below.
Copy of Take home vehicle list 09.24.2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now the city must double-down and get on with the business of a new contract with the firefighters and police departments.

The mayor’s job is to set policy, the commissioners job is to oversee the IA (Internal Auditor) dept. and vote to spend taxpayers dollars wisely.

If the City Commissioners refused to allow a contract with PSC Security or any other security company the city would have saved eight million dollars, enough to fund the police force, hire the officers needed to protect the city.

If City Commissioners stood together and refused to waste millions more tax dollars fighting the State Rd. 7 expansion that would take care of the fire fighters and build new firehouses and buy needed equipment.

Ending on a positive note. City Administrator Faye Johnson’s probationary period ended in July, and she was due to receive her 5% pay raise of $12,450.00. Ms. Johnson informed me she did  not accept the increase, and I thank her for her decision.
The end.

City of WPB vs IAFF part 2

2008 Former Mayor Lois Frankel gave us our first Fire Fee of $25.00 and the price was unchanged thru 2017. 10 years.

2018 Former Mayor Geri Muoio doubled the fee to $50.00

2019 Mayor Keith James doubled the fee to $100.00

2020 James says the $100.00 fee will not be raised.

I asked a real estate friend how many homes were located in WPB and received a number of 49,936. In fairness to the city I will use the figure 40,000 homes from 2008 thru 2017. That’s $1,000,000./year x 10 years = $10,000,000.00.

My next request was to the PBC Tax collector, below is their response.

Thank you for contacting the office of the Constitutional Tax Collector Serving Palm Beach County concerning a public records request. Below is the response prepared by our Finance and Budget Department.
West Palm Beach Fire Protection Property tax payments collected

FY 2018 $ 2,112,329.33
FY 2019 $ 4,043,560.38
12 years $16,155,889.71
2020 estimated 4 million more. With over $20,000,000.00 dollars collected for the “Fire Fee’ James, Johnson and City Commissioners need to explain why fire fighter’s are one of the lowest paid in PBC and why they must ask, with hat in hand, for a decent pay raise. They are on the front line for us and we should stand with them.

I have no reason to believe Mayor James and City Administrator Faye Johnson have negotiated in “good faith” when they tell city employees and the public that if the fireman get raises city workers will get laid off.

Below is a statement from a WPB Fire Fighter.
Request for Statement – Negotiations

Below is a short statement and they “ask the residents continue to call for a greater level of transparency and accountability on how this resource and how the freed-up general fund resources are being allocated” Personally I don’t believe they are asking to much, and hoping you feel the same.
Copy of Request for Statement – Fire Fee

After I posted part 1 of the WPB vs IAFF I received many responses from reader, but one stood out because she included her response to all city leaders.

To sandymac36@aol.com
Cc cfox@wpb.org, clambert@wpb.org, cneering@wpb.org, jpeduzzi@wpb.org, kshoaf@wpb.org, dmatty@wpb.org, fjohnson@wpb.org, kjames@wpb.org

“After reading this article, I must say that I totally concur with Sandy in her observations. This is an unprecedented time and calls for careful stewarding of our tax dollars. Again, my taxes are being raised, but I am not happy with how the money is being spent. My pension is no way near that of some of the city officials…especially the recent hires. Give those pay raises to those who serve and protect our city and its citizens! Cut the fat and put those tax dollars in places that benefit the ones who are paying the freight.”

A few weeks ago, at a City Commission meeting, I asked the mayor if it was true the city was negotiating with the PBC Sheriff’s office to turn our police officers into sheriff deputies. He denied it. It is my understanding the City Commissioner’s were contacted and asked if they would be amenable to the idea of a contract with the PBC Sheriff Office. Commissioners if I was given bad information please let me know so I can correct the story.

This story is about fire fighters, so why am I adding a paragraph about the police? Both are unhappy with the city’s impasse and if the police are considering a move, can the firefighters be far behind? James and Johnson has nearly destroyed the 2 most valuable assets the city has, cops and firefighters. They deserve better.

Message to the PBA and IAFF.
Mayor James has broken promises to both the police and firefighters and hopefully he will pay the price when he once again makes promises he has no intention of keeping while asking for their endorsement for a second term as mayor.

The end

City of WPB vs. IAFF part1

I want to start this story on a positive note so lets begin.

I attended the budget meeting held on 9/10/2020 and listened to the presentation. When finished the City Commissioners had questions and comments. The 5 commissioners share 2 clerks, and I’m sure they are kept busy between 5 commissioners. Let me break it down for you. One clerk works for 21/2 commissioners. It was suggested both clerks be furloughed. Commissioner’s Neering and Peduzzi both suggested they forgo their $500.00/month car allowance in order to keep the clerks jobs.

IAFF (International Association of Fire Fighter) and the City of WPB have been in negotiations over a new 3 year contract and the Mayor (James) and City Administrator (Johnson) have announced they are at an impasse.
The city claims the IAFF want to much. The IAFF claims the city wont give firefighters what they deserve.

What you are reading here is my opinion, but shared by many residents.
Part 2 will be the city’s, IATT and a firemen’s opinion.

When first elected Mayor James was like Santa Clause at Christmas time handing out promotions and pay raises like the well would never go dry. Traveling to cities along with his Police Security Detail spending thousands more.

The Carona Virus struck hurting the economy and the well started drying up. If James handled the city’s finances in a responsible manner from day 1 WPB outlook may not seem so dire that the only alternative the city could see was eliminate blue collar workers.

Residents protested and the city found another way. Fight the firefighters (IAFF) and police (PBA) union and deny them a decent wage.

If the sanitation department went on strike I would find that an inconvenience. If firemen didn’t show up for work (which I don’t believe they would ever do) who could residents depend on when they suddenly feel pressure in their chest, wake up in the middle of the night smelling smoke or a loved one is involved in a serious accident? I can’t afford to take these men and women of the fire department for granted and neither should the city.

Here is one example of the Mayor James generosity with taxpayer money.

“Verdenia Baker, PBC Administrator began her career with Palm Beach County in 1987 as a budget analyst. She was promoted to impact fee coordinator and eventually became a division director with the Financial Management Department. Verdenia’s experience in financial management was a prelude to her promotion to assistant county administrator and, within a year, to deputy county administrator. She served in that capacity for 15 years before being selected county administrator by the Board of County Commissioners in 2015.”

I placed a PRR to the county asking about Ms. Baker’s annual salary and received a response within 20 minutes.  After 33 years working for the County her salary is $298,513.28.

August 2019 James hired Faye Johnson at $220,000.00 annual pay.
October 2019 James named Assistant City Administrator Faye Johnson interim administrator.
Jan. 03, 2020 West Palm Beach Mayor Keith James formally introduced Faye Johnson as the new city administrator.
Jan. 13, 2020. City Commission Meeting: Establishing the salary and other compensation for the City Administrator and amending the pay grade information for the City Administrator job classification. Mayor is recommending to the Commission a starting salary of $249,000. Upon successful completion of a six (6) month probationary period, Ms. Johnson’s salary will increase by 5% to $261,450. After 11 months Ms. Johnson is at the top of her pay grade. All 5 commissioners voted approval. If I were in Ms. Johnson’s shoes believe me when I say I would have done all that is necessary to insure top pay and benefits for myself.

My question: Ms. Johnson’s increase from $249,000 00 after 6 months probation was due in July 2020. Did she accept the $12,450.00 raise?

I would once again recommend City Commissioners listen more to residents and less to staff. Please do your homework, as the city is advising you on their opinion and you need to listen to the other side of the coin. That would be the residents who’s life is impacted by your votes and decisions.

California, Oregon and Washington are ablaze with wild fires. Millions of acres burned, with loss of life. People are running for their lives while firemen run toward the inferno, risking their lives to try and save property and residents just like the Twin Towers where 343 fire fighters died and many more damaged inhaling the aftermath. Ask New Yorkers and residents of California, Oregon and Washington if their firemen are overpaid or deserve a raise then ask WPB officials what a firemen’s life is worth to them.

News just reported tropical storm heading for east coast of Florida winds at 35mph, may intensify. Please don’t worry about Mayor James keeping safe as he hunkers down at fire station #5 with a generator and full pantry.

Firefighters are always prepared. Shame the mayor isn’t.

 

 

 

 

 

How Important is the IA Department?

The city of WPB has problems that need to be fixed. In defense of the city they can’t fix problems they don’t know they have and this is where the IA Internal Auditor) comes in. The IA audits a department and the finished report is then presented to administration, City Commissioners and the head of the dept. audited.. There are 4 committee members who donate their time to the city and they work with the IA and approve the findings.  Now the city is aware problems exist. So fix them.

9/8/2020 8:30AM I attended the IA meeting which included the audit performed on the WPB Police Department and below are the findings.

Full disclosure. I admire and respect members of the police department. I will stand with them when they are in the right, and be critical when they are in the wrong. There are many police officers who should never be allowed to wear the uniform as they bring shame upon the good cops, and in today’s atmosphere the good ones are punished alongside the ones who disgrace the uniform.

The audit contained “Payroll and Overtime Audit” and keep in mind Keith James was elected Mayor of the City of West Palm Beach on March 12, 2019. When you read the auditors report keep in mind the police department is understaffed by 30 police officers. The city plans on hiring 15 police leaving the city short 15 officers which will force more overtime.

Effect: “long work hours cause fatigue, impair performance and can create a public safety concern” the IA lists 6 dangers that are possible when police are exhausted and can be read in the enclosed report. Below is part of the audit.

“The Police Dept. had a significant breakdown of controls and lacked adequate oversight surrounding hours worked by police officers. This resulted in excessive overtime that was not strategically managed. In 2019, 20 officers worked an additional 1,362 to 2,120 hours of overtime. In 2019 all top 20 earners of overtime made between $171,000 to $233,000 ea.. In other cases inappropriate payments were made to officers whose hours overlapped, meaning that they logged work hours for multiple locations at the same time.”

“Working substantial hours of overtime is not uncommon. During 2019 , Police Department personnel accumulated nearly 197,000 overtime hours with 115,000,hours paid for by the city, and 81,000 hours paid for by third-party vendors.”

“The following specific control breakdowns were noted. Taken as a whole, these problems create risk of abuse, potential thief of time, and require immediate change.” The IA lists 7 breakdowns which can be read in the entire report.

“Police Department PBC School Board Agreement Concerns.”

Condition “Not setting up policing initiatives with with other entities under a third- party agreement, creates financial disadvantages for the city.

The city and the School Board of Palm Beach County entered into an agreement to provide law enforcement presence for the two-year period ending in September 2020 to fulfill the effort to protect schools within within the City’s jurisdiction in accordance with the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas (MSD) Act and in accordance with the Palm Beach County Law Enforcement Agencies Combined Operational Assistance and Voluntary Cooperation Mutual Aid Agreement. Service is provided at five elementary schools and two high schools and the School Board reimburses the City at a current rate of $100.35 per hour.”
“The School Board agreement was not set up as an independent vendor contract and therefore, the payments received by the officers become pensionable. This increases the City’s long term pension benefit costs because the higher the rank, the higher the earnings, and therefore , the higher the City’s pension contribution.”

9/8/2020 5:00PM I returned to City Hall  to attend the City Commission meeting and as we all have learned the city has major money problems and trying to balance the budget on the backs of city workers. I listened as Commissioners Neering and Shoaf opposed the mayor’s plan on furloughs and eliminated city jobs and both commissioners let their opinions be known along with their request to the Mayor to return public comment from the end of the meeting to the beginning and Commissioner’s comments return to the end of meetings. I stand with them and applaud their action.

When I entered the Commission Chambers I was alone and right before the meeting a group of 7 or 8 people entered and took their seats in the back of the chamber all wearing masks.

I commented on item #9. Under “Background” “On December 10, 2019 WGI Inc; on behalf of HGT Banyon, LLC, submitted an application for an 8-story 94 unit affordable housing residential building at the northeast corner of Banyan Boulevard and Tamarind Avenue. The project is known as “Flagler Station” I assume taxpayers are footing the cost as Banyan Boulevard is under construction with more streets torn up. Getting it ready for the new apartment building?

When I read WGI here come the red flags. As readers may recall Mayor Keith James rented a private home in a gated community off WGI Vice President Jeffrey Brophy, and Commissioner lambert’s husband soon went to work for the company.

Commissioner lambert voted favorably for WGI contracts and stated the WPB Ethics officer told her she did not have a conflict of interest in doing so. I filed a complaint with the IG (Inspector General) and they booted my complaint to the COE (Commission on Ethics) and as expected they found “no probable” cause for a further investigation.

At the start of item #9 Commissioner Lambert stated she was told by “legal” to abstain from voting due to it being a “Conflict of Interest.” Took the wind right out of my sails, and I told her so.. I also asked her what the difference was between this vote and her previous votes. I guess she’ll get back to me.

Public comment started at 7:50 PM and ended at 8:12PM and the group that came to the meeting all made out comment cards and spoke on one subject “police overtime”

I must admit I was tired and couldn’t understand how they quoted the IA report almost verbatim. I was alone in the Commission Chambers during the IA meeting so where did this group come from with so much information? They watched the IA meeting on Zoom and they don’t like the direction the city is moving in. The younger generation had taken a major interest in city politics and are dedicated to bringing change to the city. No mayor has ever grabbed the attention of folks like James has done. Here’s the best part. They don’t live in gated communities and they vote. God Bless the younger generation.

I received a press release from the city concerning the impasse on negotiations between the police and their union over a new contract. I am attempting to gather the unions response to the city and will let readers know what I find. I ask you to consider two more things. How much overtime is credited to Mayor James having WPB Police accompany him when he travels from state to state and lets not forget Hawaii. Can the residents of WPB afford a police strike? No, I don’t think they would ever do that to us, but it’s a scary thought. Commissioners control the city’s purse strings and if they don’t like what they hear at the budget meeting tomorrow, don’t approve it and send them back to the drawing board. What’s the bully going to do-fire you, I don’t think so.

Read the entire IA report here:  Payroll and Overtime Audit Report Draft Report AUD19-04

The end

 

City Officials In Hiding?

City officials want to hear from you. Let’s see!

How meetings were held under Mayor Muoio.
1: Civility reading.
2: Consent Calendar
3: Comments from the public on non-agenda items. Allowed 3 minutes.
4: Regular agenda.
5: Comments from the Mayor and Commissioners

Meetings held under Mayor James.
1: Civility reading.
2: Consent Calendar This is where the city tries to sneak it’s approval on a number of items through without discussion.
3: Comments from the mayor and city commissioners, I was at the meeting when the regular agenda was over, it was late, people were tired and commissioners were to speak. When the the entire chamber stood to leave and Commissioner Lambert appeared shocked saying she had an important message for residents. Many of us continued to leave as we all have heard what a wonderful job she is doing. James moved Commission comments from last to beginning of the meetings. We will listen like it or not.
4: Regular agenda. I have seen the regular agenda run as late as 11:00PM when residents were concerned about an item and wanted their concerns heard.
5: Comments from the public on non-agenda items. Residents are allowed 3 minutes to make their point. Do you believe they want to hear from you when you may be making your point at 8 or 9 PM?

By reversing #3 & 5 residents are forced to listen to certain commissioners tell us what a wonderful job they are doing and they do it in as many as 6-9 minutes telling me their message is more important than ours. Residents are now the last to be heard when many will not be able to stay until the end of meeting when other obligations must be met. Public comment was generally heard within 15-20 minutes after the start of the meeting.

In my opinion if James can keep city hall closed and residents kept away until his first and hopefully last term as mayor is over he will do just that.

Below is how the county and some cities/towns hold public meetings

The Palm Beach County Commissioners have kept their meetings open to the public, and allow residents to speak.
Lake Park, FL Will begin public meetings on 9/16/2020
Wellington, Fl. Not determined, are discussing.
Boynton Beach, FL Public welcome Limited # of people.
Jupiter, FL Public welcome with social distancing.
Palm Beach Gardens, FL Public welcome with screening.
So, what’s wrong with WPB? My opinion, James is what’s wrong, and we have the ability to insure he is a one term mayor.

If you are unhappy with the new city agenda please note when I publish a story I always CC a copy to the mayor, city commissioners and city administrator. You can always “reply all” to send them a message.

FINAL City Commission Agenda _09_08_20 (1)

Do you recall early August the city treated the water system when a strong scent of bleach was noticed by residents for 8-9 days? I sent out an email to friends with dogs and advised they use bottled water for their pets. The picture below is located on Flagler, warns of contaminated water and was dated Aug.31,2020. So my question, is our drinking water safe? Flagler, the street that floods during heavy rain and high tide is getting worse because water is now moving into side streets. Flagler, where residents are asked to say “yes” for park bonds. Flagler, where residents are asked to complete the census so the city can receive more government money. Flagler, where residents are asked to re-elect city commissioners and in 21/2 years will be asked to re-elect Mayor James. Flagler, the street the city has refused to repair the flooding problem.

The end

 

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. https://www.palmbeachpost.com/story/news/2020/08/26/west-palm-backs-off-proposed-slashes-library-and-park-staffs/5634469002/

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”

https://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/20200820/county-to-clear-homeless-lsquotent-cityrsquo-out-of-john-prince-park

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.

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.

https://www.palmbeachpost.com/entertainment/leaky-teepee-west-palm-arena-had-circus-wrestling-elvis/HVBrAJQoaLAoAk82lFQF2O/

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.

Background:
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.

https://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/20200804/west-palm-may-sell-shopping-center-redevelopment-site-on-s-dixie-highway

“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

https://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/west-palm-beach-sues-agencies-for-approving-state-road-extension/uJCEHyfiU6LIbPNOc7DgGK/

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:
https://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/20190926/ethics-complaint-against-west-palm-mayor-hearing-scheduled-for-october

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.

https://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/20200731/state-ethics-panel-finds-west-palm-mayor-james-possibly-at-fault-in-no-bid-deal

 

Next Page »