City of WPB Falsifies Documents

10/5/2020 I attended the City Commission meeting and was interested in item #9. It reads.

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.
Commission District: The subject property is located within Commission District No.5: Commissioner Christine Lambert.

Below you will find a video and if you have no desire to listen to the entire meeting you can forward the clock to 1.25.28 when Commissioner Lambert states “I have emails and texts and phone calls from a number of residents in my district who want to see this move forward.”  Mayor James stated at the same meeting this land belonged to all residents of the city not just the south end.  I couldn’t agree more but what the city does with the land wont effect me or the people out west or in the northend. It will effect the people who live and pay taxes and vote in the south end. I’m looking at educated people with not 1 ounce of common sense.

Hear meeting below:

https://youtu.be/U3ndf0hcc_g

I wanted to read these emails from a “number of residents” and placed a PRR (Public Records Request) for emails only.

10/7/2020 My request reads: I am requesting to view all of Commissioner Lamberts email concerning the 8111 Dixie Hwy. that was discussed at the City Commission meeting held on 10/5/2020. I want the emails that were both for and against the project. Thank you in advance for your help. Please acknowledge request received.

10/13/2020 “The estimated or final invoice is attached. Please pay the amount due (Deposit Due or Balance Due)
If the invoice is an estimate, pay the deposit due (50% of estimated total) to proceed with the record search. The records are not collected until the deposit is paid. Then, the remaining charges must be paid before the records are released. The total actual charges may change the final invoice.”

10/16/2020 Total charge of the invoice $16.25. I choose not to pay a deposit but the entire invoice. Note how much the city charges residents per hour for records. Unbelievable! See the invoice below
invoice Lamberts email

Now I wait for the records, and told my request was forwarded to the IT (Information technology) dept.

10/19/2020 Below is the final response from the city.

Dear Sandy Matkivich,
RE: PUBLIC RECORDS REQUEST of October 07, 2020, Reference # R006665-100720
“The City of West Palm Beach received a public records request from you on October 07, 2020. Your request mentioned:

“I am requesting to view all of Commission Lambert’s email concerning the 8111 Dixie Hwy. that was discussed at the City Commission Meeting held on 10/5/2020. I want the emails that were both for and against the project.
Thank you in advance for your help. Please acknowledge request received.
Sandy Matkivich”

This email is to notify you that no records exist. Your request has been closed.
If you have any questions, please contact my office. Thank you for your attention.

Once again I have paid the invoice and received no records, or had them heavily redacted or received a response from a previous Administrator stating his salary was 1/2 of his actually salary.

10/21/2020 Sandy’s final response to the city.
Mayor James, City Administrator Faye Johnson, City Attorney Kim Rothenburg, City Clerk Hazeline Carson. Consider this a PRR for Commissioner Lamberts emails she received concerning 8111 So. Dixie Highway she claims to have received at the City Commission meeting held on 10/5/2020.

It would be a waste of time to contact the OIG (Office of the Inspector General) or the PBC COE (PBC Commission on Ethics) 2 useless forms of appointed officials. I am considering contacting Attorney Sid Garcia and suing the city, but the taxpayers would carry the cost but if the city leaves me no choice, then I don’t have a choice.

 

3 Politician’s Breaking the Law

What your looking at is a picture of Mayor Keith James, County Commission Mack Bernard (background) and Congresswoman Lois Frankel in front of city hall. James gave a press conferences on early voting. What’s wrong with this picture is they are standing in front of a “signed sealed delivered” campaign sign for Biden/Harris which is a no-no. Double click the picture to enlarge.

If you take the time to read the rest of the story you will read what WPB City Charter has to say on the issue, along with Florida Statues and an email from a concerned citizen.

Sec. 62-33. – Political activity by employees.
(a) No officer or employee of the city except as hereinafter exempted from provisions hereof, shall:
(1) Use his official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with an election, or a nomination of office, or coercing or influencing another person’s vote, or affecting the result thereof;

(2) Directly or indirectly coerce or attempt to coerce, command or advise any other officer or employee to pay, lend or contribute any part of his salary, kick back any sum of money, or anything else of value to any party, committee, organization, agency or person for political purposes; or

(3) Directly or indirectly coerce, or attempt to coerce, command and advise any such officer or employee as to where he might purchase commodities or to interfere in any other way with the personal right of such officer or employee.
The provisions of this section shall not be construed so as to prevent any person from becoming a candidate for and actively campaigning for any elective office in this state. All such persons shall retain the right to vote as they may choose and to express their opinions on all political subjects and candidates. The provisions of subsection (a)(1) of this section shall not be construed so as to limit the political activity in general, special, primary, bond, referendum or any other election of any kind or nature, of elected officials or candidates for public office in the state or of any county or municipality thereof. The provisions of subsections (a)(2) and (3) of this section shall apply to all officers and employees of the city whether elected, appointed or otherwise employed, or whether the activity shall be in connection with a primary, general, special, bond, referendum or any other election of any kind or nature.

(b) Any person violating the provisions of this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree punishable as provided in F.S. § 775.082 or F.S. § 775.083.

(c) Nothing contained in this section shall be deemed to prohibit any public employee from expressing his opinions on any candidate or issue or from participating in any political campaign during his off-duty hours so long as such activities are not in conflict with the provisions of subsection (a) of this section or of F.S. § 110.092.

A resident complained to City Administrator, Faye Johnson concerning the picture above which was included with a story by the PB Post. Below is Ms. Johnson’s response.

—–Original Message—–
From: Faye Johnson <fjohnson@wpb.org>
To: gailalevine@aol.com <gailalevine@aol.com
Sent: Wed, Sep 30, 2020 4:57 pm
Subject: RE: how ugly is it going to get?
Mrs. Levine:
The City Attorney has confirmed that the political signage on the podium could be viewed as a violation of the City Code. In keeping with the sign code, the podium was removed; albeit immediately after the press conference. This matter has been discussed with the Mayor who assured me that a repeat occurrence will not happen. Regards.
Faye W. Johnson, MPA
City Administrator
City of West Palm Beach
401 Clematis Street
fjohnson@wpb.org
561-822-1400 (office)

Ms. Johnson I believe you are smart enough not to take James at his word. You have received complaints previously concerning Commissioner’s Lambert and Shoaf political signs placed around city hall, and the mayors press conference was held on Sunday so hopefully you were at home and didn’t witness 3 politicians breaking the rules.

I am inundated with politics on my computer, TV and cell phone and what grabs my attention is when I’m told President Trump wants my Social Security check, which I have paid into my entire working life. I looked into it and here is what I discovered. We have Franklin D. Roosevelt, Democrat, to thank for Social Security.

“The Social Security Act was enacted August 14, 1935. The Act was drafted during President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first term by the President’s Committee on Economic Security, under Frances Perkins, and passed by Congress as part of the New Deal. The Act was an attempt to limit what were seen as dangers in the modern American life, including old age, poverty, unemployment, and the burdens of widows and fatherless children. By signing this Act on August 14, 1935, President Roosevelt became the first president to advocate federal assistance for the elderly.”

Below is a video that runs 4.25 minutes and I hope you invest the time to listen to it and then decide who protects your Social Security check.

In closing I will share with you my experience when I voted in the primaries last Aug. The Supervisor of Elections suggest you update your signature periodically. Your signature is that important and don’t sign your name on the back of the absentee envelope your vote wont be counted.
I walked in and showed my picture ID and voting registration card both containing my signature. Walked to the next table and received my voting card. Next table asked for my signature. Once again I am asked to sign on an iPad with my index finger. Followed instructions and showed the woman my signature card and my signature on the iPad. Told her they didn’t look anything alike. She actually agreed, and when I went to take a picture she said it was not allowed. The old system where you actually used a pen to sign was not broken, why change it? And people wonder why they don’t trust voting in America.
The end

 

Keith James has Another Committee

What you are about to read is (almost) ancient history. The City Commission is about to vote (10/19/2020) on another James committee namely “Task Force on Racial and Ethnic Equality”. Let’s look at the committee’s James has formed in the past.

Mayoral Candidate and City Commissioner Keith James Launches Neighborhoods First Initiative January 31, 2019

Keith James for Mayor

Keith James, city commissioner and mayoral candidate of West Palm Beach (WPB), today launches the Neighborhoods First Initiative.

“I am proud to announce my Neighborhoods First Initiative. It’s a plan to ensure each and every West Palm Beach neighborhood is listened to, their ideas are taken into consideration and that we are all working together to make our community a great place to live, work and raise a family,” James stated. “Our neighborhoods are the jewels that define our city and as Mayor, I am going to work to make sure neighborhood issues and projects are prioritized and getting done sooner. The advisory groups that are formed out of my Neighborhoods First Initiative will provide valuable feedback and ideas to help shape policy and direction.”

Media Contact: Jonathan Cooper Keith James Campaign

Read the entire press release below.

https://www.einnews.com/pr_news/475330248/mayoral-candidate-and-city-commissioner-keith-james-launches-neighborhoods-first-initiative

This sounded good for a man running for Mayor of WPB. Once elected the Neighborhood First Initiative went away, never to be heard from again, but was replaced with the “Transition Team”

“First order of business for new West Palm Beach mayor: Create a transition team to evaluate policies.

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — During his first weeks of Mayor of West Palm Beach, former city commissioner Keith James wants to take a close look at policies and procedures within the city, by creating a transition team that will examine several departments.

“Between 40 and 50 representatives of neighborhoods of businesses of nonprofits who are going to help us look at various policy issues and make some specific recommendations,” said Mayor James.
“We are already putting into place, me hiring what I call my public safety liaison, somebody who is going to report directly to me and help me as I begin assessing the performance and policies in our public safety operations that means police as well as fire, said James.”

First order of business was remove Police Chief Sara Mooney as Chief of Police and hire new Police Chief Frank Adderley and Deputy Chief Rick Morris. I never realized it took 2 men to replace 1 woman. Read the story below.

https://www.wptv.com/news/region-c-palm-beach-county/west-palm-beach/first-order-of-business-for-new-wpb-mayor-create-a-transition-team-to-evaluate-policies

Well the Transition Team sounded good too. Unfortunately the 40-50 folks who volunteered their time and effort to assist the mayor walked away disappointed because none of their suggestions were used. These good folks should have suspected something was amiss when James asked them to sign non-disclosure agreements.

African American Advisory Council
The African American Advisory Council’s purpose is to keep the Commission and staff informed about the needs and concerns of African Americans in the City of Hollywood Fl. The council is dedicated to promoting fairness and equality in economic, employment, housing, education and cultural opportunities.

If you are questioning why I included Hollywood Fl. in this story it’s because James disbanded the Council in WPB after attempting to campaign with African Americans the council suggested he ignored African American’s as a City Commissioner, what could they expect from him as mayor? Possibly the Mayor’s Task Force on Racial and Ethnic Equity is meant to replace the African American Advisory Council.

Aug 11, 2020 “During a press conference at West Palm Beach City Hall, Mayor Keith James announced the appointment of the Task Force on Racial and Ethnic Equality. The establishment of the Task Force comes on the heels of calls for both local and national change in the wake of recent incidents that ignited outrage, exposed deeply entrenched systemic racism in our country, and challenged the public’s confidence and trust in our system of policing and criminal justice.”    Read the story below:

https://www.wpb.org/our-city/mayor-s-office/mayor-s-task-force-on-racial-and-ethic-equality

Mayor Muoio hired retired Captain 25 year veteran of the Police Dept; named Wendy Morse as Director of the office of Public Life. James later changed the name to Community Outreach. Ms. Morse responsibility was to work with the police force and residents to challenged the public’s confidence and trust in our system of policing and criminal justice, and insure the community had a say in how public space was used. What  I’m told is Ms. Morse was doing a hell of a job, before James “laid her off” soon after he was sworn in.

City Commissioners Heads Up!

City Commission meeting to be held 10/19/2020 CONSENT CALENDAR (1-7) Consent Calendar is where the city passes item’s without much notice or comment. I ask readers please pay attention to item # 6, 10 &11. I have posted sections of the agenda #6, 10 & 11 and the entire agenda can be read here.

https://www.wpb.org/home/showdocument?id=2619

# 6 Resolution No. 284-20 establishing and appointing members to a nine (9) member Affordable Housing Advisory Committee, establishing the term of office and waiving conflicts of interest.
Staff Recommended Motion: Approve Resolution No. 284-20.
Background: The City of West Palm Beach receives annual allocations of State Housing Initiatives Partnership (SHIP) Program funds from the State of Florida for the creation and/or preservation of affordable housing. As a condition of receiving the funds and in accordance with Florida Statutes, the governing board of the city is required to establish an Affordable Housing Advisory Committee (AHAC)

The entire list of 9 names can be read in the agenda, but the 3 named below have business relationships with the City and may have a conflict of interest, which commissioners will be asked to waive. 

They are:

a. Thais R. Sullivan: The First Vice President of Valley National Bank is presently doing business with the City as a partner assisting with the City’s COVID-19 Business Loan Program;

b .Jeremy Morse: The Executive Director of Mental Health America presently doing business with the City as a social service provider and recipient of federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds assisting with on-street mental health services;

c. Terri Murray: The Executive Director of Neighborhood Renaissance Inc. presently doing business with the City as a non-profit developer receiving federal funds for the development of affordable housing.

The term of the committee is three (3) years, and each member will serve for the three-year period.

Norman Ostrau, the City’s Ethics Official, has advised that both state and county law provide that no member or their outside employer can sell goods or services to the city or have any employment or contractual relationship with any business entity doing business or regulated with the city or any contractual or employment relationship that will be a continuing or frequently recurring conflict between their private interest and public duty or impede their public duties. He is of the opinion that the relationships described above violate this law thereby creating a conflict of interest. He further advises, however, that both state and county law provide that the conflict can be waived by the city commission at a public hearing where the proposed member disclose the conflict and the commission waives the conflict by a vote of a majority plus one. Ms. Sullivan, Mr. Morse, and Ms. Murray have made the disclosure on the required state ethics commission form 4A, and the commission is requested to waive the conflicts by approving Resolution No. 284-20. 6″

Commissioners when in doubt—-Don’t wave conflicts of interest. They are in place for a reason, and if they can be waived so easily why have it in the first place? Norman Ostrau, the City’s Ethics Official is the guy who told Commissioner Lambert she could vote in favor of her husbands company WGI, who has multiple contracts with the city.

# 10. Waiver of conflict for two advisory board members of the Mayor’s Task Force on Racial and Ethnic Equity.

Background:
On July 7, 2020, the Mayor executed Executive Order 2020-13, establishing the Mayor’s Task Force on Racial and Ethnic Equity and has appointed its members. Mr. Bradley Alexander Hurbert who is also the President of The Community Foundation for Palm Beach and Martin County, (Community Foundation), and Ms. Julie Fisher Cummings who is the Community Foundation’s Board Chair are two of the Mayor’s appointees.

#11 Public Hearing of Resolution No. 149-20 authorizing acceptance of federal entitlement grants approving and authorizing submission of the City’s Five-Year Consolidated Plan (2020-2024), the One-Year Action Plan for Fiscal Year 2020-2021, and the Citizen Participation Plan and authorizing execution of all related documents.

Background:
As an entitlement community receiving U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) formula program funds, the City of West Palm Beach is required to submit a Five-Year Consolidated Plan that serves as the planning tool outlining the jurisdiction’s housing and community development needs. The Consolidated Plan is carried out through annual Action Plans which provide a concise summary of the actions, activities, and specific federal and non-federal resources that will be used each year to develop strong, sustainable, and inclusive communities. The City has established a Citizen Participation Plan to provide opportunities for citizen involvement in the process of developing and implementing the HUD-assisted programs. For Fiscal Year (FY) 2020-21, the City anticipates receiving a total of $4,707,736.

Previously the city had problems with HUD.
“A federal agency says it wants nearly $3 million back from West Palm Beach because of how poorly the city managed low-income housing grants. The Department of Housing and Urban Development says the city missed deadlines, kept poor records and lacked procedures to oversee the spending of federal money it distributed to an arm of the Redemptive Life Fellowship church. The city had hired the organization to build houses as part of a major effort to revitalize one of West Palm’s most down trodden neighborhoods, Coleman Park”  Want to read more? Google Redemptive Life. James was their attorney.
Read the story here:

HUD wants 3 million back from city

James Wants an end to Negotiations with IAFF.

On 10/13/2020 I sat in on a meeting at City Hall for a negotiation between the city and the IAFF new contract. The meeting was to start at 2:00 PM, and James entered at 2:10 PM, offered no apology for his tardiness, and the first words out of his mouth was “I told you last week you had my final offer, why are we here to negotiate again?”

At 2:11 PM I knew this meeting was going nowhere because the mayor had spoken. Unfortunately I was correct in my thinking.

The negotiations are largely formalities at this point. The city is required by PERC (Public Employees Relations Commission) to meet with Fire Fighter representatives and work out a new 3 year contract if they request it.

The representatives are making counter offers and it falls on deaf ears with the leaders of WPB. Firefighters are attempting to negotiate with the city James & Johnson) refuse.

The meeting split and city employees and IAFF leaders went to separate rooms and I was not allowed to hear negotiations for about 20 minutes when both sides met again, minus James who didn’t return to the meeting.

City Administrator, Faye Johnson did most of the talking and again told the firefighters the city didn’t have the money to make a new offer, and backed up her statement with threat’s of having to lay off and/or furlough employees in order to make that happen.

In a previous story I told readers the city had collected $20 million dollars in the “Fire Fee” where is that money and what was it used for? WPB has successfully perfected the shell game with tax payers money.

The last City Commission meeting, Commissioner Lambert gave a very nice shout out to the fire dept. with her story on her new home she had recently purchased.
Seems there was a very powerful storm, in the middle of the night when she and her husband were awakened with the thunder and lightning that brought down power lines which lit up the sky, while power lines danced in the streets. Imagine if one of the power lines landed on someone’s home, possibly starting a fire.

Lambert dialed 911 and the fire dept. responded, and according to her eliminated the danger.

Also at the last meeting James thanked Fire Chief Matty for writing a grant (on her own time) from the DHS (Department of Homeland Security), FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) The grant is for $8,007,597.36 and to be used “to hire 28 additional Fire Department firefighters”

Fiscal Note:
FEMA has waived the cost share requirement for this SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) grant since the submission of the application, saving the city $3,069,579.99.
City Commission approved Resolution No. 272-20.

 

 

 

 

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

 

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