Baitball Blogger's Journal
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Current location: Seminole County, Florida
Member since: Sun Mar 18, 2012, 10:16 PM
Number of posts: 15,828
Current location: Seminole County, Florida
Member since: Sun Mar 18, 2012, 10:16 PM
Number of posts: 15,828
I am interested in homeowner issues in Central Florida. What I have observed living in a Republican county is that a lot of what Republicans claim to support, is not how they live. For more information, see my website at www.keystoneworksite.com
You can't blame him. It takes a lot to suspend disbelief around here when you follow the political roster. For example, Crist works from the John Morgan law firm--the same John Morgan who President Obama visits whenever he's in town. In the same law firm you will find Frank Kruppenbacher, who was listed in yesterday's paper (Orlando Sentinel) as the 23rd most important person in Central Florida. He's the chair of the Aviation board, where he tried to push through hefty budgets for future construction plans. (I wonder who was going to benefit from all that construction money?) The O.S. reported on the matter, which I'm sure helped bring the budgets down considerably. Mr. Kruppenbacher is a known rainmaker for Republicans. Per the paper he is closely affiliated to Rick Scott. When Crist was Governor, I'm sure he enjoyed some of the donations from donors who responded to Mr. Kruppenbacher's meet and greet emails.
For many of us who have followed Mr. Kruppenbacher's trail of political decisions in the public sector, you can't help wondering if it is this close relationship to Democrats and Republicans that continues to buoy his career. Because seriously, there are some decisions that just boggles the mind.
Personally, my opinion is that this close association between political parties under the same legal roof is a terrible model for lawyers everywhere. It creates conflicts that constipates justice for the rest of us. For example, in a meeting where his client, the city, was wronged by a lawyer (Ross & the dueling Mall issue, '95), Mr. K, who was the city attorney, had to bring in a special attorney to review the matter because Mr. K said he knew lawyers in the same law firm. In other words, he would not personally file a grievance against a lawyer that wronged his client because he knew lawyers who worked in this lawyer's law firm. Do you have any idea what message that sends to the rest of us? It tells me that if a lawyer knows anyone on a directory of a law firm, he will not personally take action against a lawyer who wrongs his client! I don't remember seeing this on the list of rules for Professional ethics for lawyers.
I haven't been able to wrap my head around that one and I've had many years to try. Here's my quandary, if city attorneys aren't turning in questionable attorneys or corrupt elected officials because they have private business they're afraid to jeopardize, then who is left to clean up the corruption? Are they seriously expecting housewives with no financial resources to do all the hard work? No offense but, WTF!
See how crazy our world has become for us in Florida?
So, I'm sure you'll forgive us if many of us have the Chinatown syndrome with Crist, where we alternate between, "He's a Democrat, He's Republican, He's a Democrat, He's a Republican..." We really don't know.
Posted by Baitball Blogger | Mon Dec 30, 2013, 09:44 AM (0 replies)
It would help to find a lawyer to confirm my conclusions. Meanwhile, I continue to gather documents and that requires filing public record requests. I'm at the stage of needing a lawyer to take it to the next level.
A major step for me is to build a platform. This matter will need to go public before I have any chance in court. This case has several layers and involves a municipality which had a total government breakdown.
It cannot be summarized easily, but I will try, once again. Since the seventies, our local government violated many laws they felt were too intrusive, which is what you would expect from an area that was Republican and leans to the small government format. For example, they ignored state zoning laws and failed to file important documents with the state. One of those documents was an important blueprint for their city, called a Comprehensive Plan. Without this plan it gave the city way too much latitude to resolve conflicts through court settlement agreements, which was a process that usually excluded the public. It was re-zoning by court order. There was one settlement agreement in particular signed in 1991 or 1992, which would become the city attorney's downfall.
In the nineties the residential leaders of a 3500 acre P.U.D. began to organize in order to influence the city's arbitrary process. For example, in the early nineties they organized a massive protest and managed to stop the plans to a grocery store that was zoned by their own P.U.D. In the mid nineties they used the court systems to stop an exit to an overpass that would have connected an expressway with one of their main roads. They did this by hiring an attorney that also represented a private client who was in opposition with the city's agenda. And by 1996, the leaders of this residential area began to win elections. Once elected, they began to use what they learned about the city's corrupt process and would take it further. With the help of their private cronies, lies and/or misinformation were spread in the community to expedite projects that came before their commission. It was a legal mess that involved fraud and conspiracy.
The city attorney was no help because his failings were exposed in the spring of 1997. Once exposed, there was no moral high ground for him to work from. In fact, the mayor would essentially fire him at the end of that year.
Frankly, the city attorney should have faced disciplinary action for the way the city was run under his watch. As a city attorney, he should have counseled the city about the legal jeopardy they were in because they had no Comprehensive Plan to back up their zoning decisions. He was also in trouble because there were at least two major conflicts of interest that involved private clients. This is where he would look the worst (in my opinion), but the elected officials would be given enough rope to hang themselves and it would end up with a Mexican stand-off between him and the corrupt elected officials of that time.
Those elected officials and the community leaders were on shaky ground from the beginning, which makes it curious because they had attorneys they relied on for counsel. Let's just say it leaves room for a lot of speculation when you note that their counselors came from the same law firm as the attorney that the city would bring in as a special counselor. What seems to be obvious in retrospect is that their objective had no chance of prevailing in a federal court, but no one seemed to anticipate that the developer they were fighting against would opt for a federal judge and avoid the local process.
What the community leaders and elected officials were trying to do was exert their rights through the 1991 Settlement Agreement which gave the developer the right to build residential property along designated areas around his private golf course. In that agreement there were conditions that were established. One of them involved the tennis courts on the private Country Club. (And since it was a private Country Club, you can guess who was behind the opposition.) What seemed to be the disquieting factor for this group was the discovery that the settlement agreement was written in a way that gave the developer the right to remove the private tennis courts to build his new properties, but ALSO GAVE HIM THE RIGHT NOT to reconstruct them. And this is where the whole thing began to get nasty. For reasons that I can't explain, no one had picked up on this wording even though the 1991 Initial Settlement Agreement had an amendment change in 1994.
It is important to understand that this was not a David vs. Goliath story. What makes the opposition group less sympathetic, was a devious plan hatched in inside circles that intended to benefit from the developer's misfortune. So, at the same time that the elected officials were exerting their influence to delay the developer's projects, their cronies were taking the initial steps to look for local investors/partners to purchase the bankrupted property. The perception does not look good.
The course of events began in a Planning and Zoning board meeting held in November 1996. With the city attorney's knowledge, the board stalled the project with the excuse that they needed a legal opinion regarding various legal matters before proceeding. As the local leaders were waiting for that opinion, they were also organizing within the community. Most notably, a political HOA group was bringing in ALL the presidents from ALL the HOAs inside of their P.U.D. I couldn't tell you what they discussed in those meetings because my HOA president never called us in for a meeting that year. In fact, in 1997 we didn't even come together to vote in new officers.
From those meetings that were sponsored by the political HOA group only sign-in sheets remain. So I can tell you that our HOA president attended at least two of those President meetings, and another member of my community, ( a friend of the Mayor's), attended the meeting, identifying himself as a realtor.
The legal opinion that the city was awaiting would finally arrive in the spring of 1997 and it was obvious (to me) that it was a delay tactic. The opinion stated that the developer had to file state zoning amendments before they would even consider his plans. I mean, how could the city require these time-consuming filings, when it did not have a solid foundation of filing the proper paperwork with the state? The city had a small government mentality and had a track record of doing things their own way. It would have been easy to expose their arbitrary nature in court.
Everything began to fall apart for the city when the plaintiff's lawyer turned up in a city commission meeting that took place in April of 1997. He pointed out that the 1991 Settlement Agreement was a contract that essentially made the city and the developer partners because it was the city's responsibility to file any necessary filings. That was clearly stated. If there was any paperwork required, the city had the obligation to file it. This is something the city attorney should have known since he represented the city when the 1991 Settlement Agreement was put together. But all this time he had stayed mum about that fact, and in the meantime he had brought in law firm in after law firm as special counselors, and they would eventually become co-defendants with the city. With all these legal minds brought in to represent the city's side, this would later make it near impossible for any ordinary person to locate a lawyer in the area, who wasn't touched by this conflict. (A further complication was finding lawyers who would not volunteer the fact that they had a conflict of interest.)
In the case filed by the developer, a federal judge would render a ruling in the summer of 1998 which would be interpreted by the city's litigators that the plaintiff prevailed in making a case for estoppel. In other words, by signing that 1991 Initial Agreement the city had made promises to the developer, so now the city must be stopped from adding additional requirements and the commission should approve his projects.
All this would reflect badly on the city attorney, but he would not go down alone. He ratted out the elected officials, giving the litigators enough information to confirm there was a conspiracy perpetuated by the elected officials which had undermined the developer's rights. Before this information became public, the litigators quickly closed the case with a two million dollar settlement which also contained a confidentiality clause.
That confidentiality clause allowed the elected officials to complete out their terms and win their next elections. It also allowed their cronies to get away with "a story" that included fraud. That fraud involved one of the developments that the developer had tried to develop. It was the final phase of the development that I lived in. The Mayor's buddy, who lived in my development, had lied to us from the beginning and deprived us of our legal standing when the final phase of our development went up for city review in 1998--about the same time that the federal judge was making her initial judgment. Ten years earlier the Mayor's buddy had signed the papers that turned our Association over to us and gave us control of our own Association. But he kept this information to himself. Instead, he convinced us that we had no legal standing and that our best chance of winning concessions from the new developer was to forgo a replat of the property. He claimed that our leverage would come from saving the developer time and money. As it would turn out, the replat would have also exposed his fraud.
I am not naive. I know there were older residents in the community who must have known he was lying, but they kept this to themselves.
In other words, many of us were as much victimized as the developer who won a two million dollar settlement agreement from the city and its co-defendants.
Since then, the bonds between the co-conspirators have strengthened over the years, creating a dual society. One is bound to keep the secret, and is rewarded for that effort; and the rest of us are left to play the "I got mine, you get yours" game, or we live our lives short of the promises of the American dream.
Through every step of the methods they use in this city, you will find several examples that would support a case for RICO.
Posted by Baitball Blogger | Sat Oct 19, 2013, 01:19 PM (1 replies)
When you are trying to pin down the causes of corruption, you have to recognize the social dynamics that are peculiar to the region. There are factors that are peculiar to Seminole County that may not be found anywhere else. For example, here, in the mid eighties, a strong anti-government organization formed under the guise of property rights interests. Among them were lawyers and judges. They either owned land, or were developers, or some combination thereof. That had a major impact on the course of events that followed. Through their private, monthly barbecue meetings a good ole boy network was allowed to take hold in this place. In those meetings local key players were able to mingle with state congressional hopefuls. Perhaps this was the beginning of the meets and greets. Perhaps this was a vetting arena to determine who was a political friendly, and who was not. The point is, that it happened with little attention from the press. This was occurring through the eighties and nineties when the internet was not yet a factor, and camera phones were not as prominent as they are today.
Lots went on without attention from the press in those days. In my city alone there was an attempt to take on a developer who had a firm vested interest in a certain private property. It was property that a special interest group did not want to see developed. What happened would have been comical, if it weren't for the way it affected so many people in such a negative manner. The city, which never before paid attention to State regulations, suddenly wanted to use them to require land amendment changes that would have delayed and bankrupt the developer. That would have made the powerful local forces of the time, happy. The problem they had, was that good ole boy city attorneys didn't leave them much to work with.
I can see now why the case was quickly settled. Anyone who looked at the case closely and examined the evidence would have seen all kinds of implausible legal reasoning. The city's big legal strategy was to keep the venue to a county courtroom where they hoped to get a local judge that everybody knew was prejudiced in their favor. That's how good ole boys think. It's a lot of pseudo law mixed in with a lot of bravado. However, the whole case fell apart when the plaintiff sued them in FEDERAL court. When it became obvious that minor details, such as legal malpractice, was about to go public, everything was settled quickly with a two million dollar settlement and a confidentiality clause.
That confidentiality clause has wronged a great many people because it has kept them victimized by the local circumstances; as it has also allowed the wrong-doers to continue with careers that should have come to an abrupt end in the nineties.
So, again, I disagree with you. To pretend that all corruption is exactly the same, is to lose the small nuances that allow us to find a wedge where we can begin to open the tight shell that is giving them shelter. In my case, it might involve lawyers who have a stake in past wrong-doings. In another area of Florida, it might involve another kind of government collapse. In sum, I think it would be wrong to try to broad-brush these things, because it would have the negative effect of creating a feeling of defeat before we even get started.
Posted by Baitball Blogger | Fri Sep 6, 2013, 04:44 PM (1 replies)
In this community, cronyism has been institutionalized. The cross-over between the private and public sector is not just blurred, it's non-existent. In the past our city has promoted real estate ventures which have not followed the appropriate public airing, which means a select group within the community were following business ventures that most people in the community didn't even realize had government backing. It didn't help that many of them took leadership positions where they were in the best place to steer their neighbors in the direction that followed the city's agenda, without divulging too much information about the illegitimate ties.
This is what I noticed: Corruption, when it becomes endemic to a community, keeps the people who are part of that crooked network energized and engaged. For some, it keeps them looking young, though many of them are hitting their eighties. You would think that losing peace of mind would eventually sap someone of their strength, but I swear, it's like a youth potion for some.
Posted by Baitball Blogger | Thu Aug 29, 2013, 12:19 PM (7 replies)
was once the brilliance of the Constitution. It ensured that a small segment of the population was not discriminated against and overrun by the prejudices of a majority. The concept worked best during the Civil Rights Era. Think: Individual rights.
In principle our Constitution is based on the fact that everyone has an equal right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It's a pretty thought, but in actuality, it's not working because it appears that some of us have a greater right to life, liberty and a pursuit of happiness than others. During the era of regulation, government use to be the honest broker, ensuring there was a balance. But, no more.
I can see it mostly from a local level. We have community leaders and elected officials colluding with one another and it has undermined every aspect of our society. They cement their relationships through public-private partnerships which are hatched from pseudo government meetings. (think: illegal) By engaging in this form of conduct, government gives these programs "legitimacy" even when the programs are the product of secret meetings between the main parties. Anyone who tries to expose what they are doing wrong are bullied by the community leaders and ostracized by their supporters. It's government sanctioned racketeering.
When business owners become part of this ruse, the potential for corruption increases because they are the ones who can selectively reward new recruits with jobs offers. As the corrupt circle grows, it makes it easier to ostracize all those who are wondering what happened to "honest" government. Instead, we now have a "I got mine, you get yours" form of society.
Do not expect politicians to help you because they also feed at the trough by accepting donations from these unscrupulous people. In what should be the greatest shocker, many of these ruthless individuals are lawyers who work in public government. They are in the best position to look the other way when elected officials begin to conduct government business outside of legal, acceptable parameters. For example, a city attorney can look the other way as a commissioner breaks the dual office rule and takes on several leadership roles in county positions. In return, the city attorney can approach her at the county level, lobbying on behalf of his private client.
This is what actually happened to me. A city attorney did nothing to stop a city commissioner from accepting several county board positions. He then went before her at the county level to lobby a cause on behalf of his client. In the same year, she was busy using her county position to set up an illegal meeting that would bring together a developer and the rest of the city commissioners in an obvious breach of the Sunshine Laws. From there, things would snowball into an avalanche of fraud, conspiracy and cover-ups.
The law enforcement agencies knew about all this and did nothing. I, as a minority member, spent years trying to expose it and they all turned their backs because it would have exposed a corrupt network in this county. It crosses the line between public and private sector. So don't blame just government, since it's their collusion with the stalwarts in the private sector which is creating the inequities in our society.
The only person who bested them, did it in federal court. I think it cost him nearly half a million dollars in lawyer fees.
Trust me when I tell you that only a combination of federal attention and constant public outrage to spur them on to do their fucking jobs, will anything change.
Posted by Baitball Blogger | Thu Jul 18, 2013, 12:14 PM (1 replies)
The article is listed below my rant. It refers to a case that is going before the U.S. Supreme Court to consider whether the practice of opening city meetings with a prayer violates the Constitution. I might write them a Friend of the Court Brief to describe my experience with opening prayer. There is quite a bit of background to cover, so please bear with me. I seriously would consider mailing this to the Court.
I am putting together a historical document that will expose a city's corrupt past. It involves a Mayor and a veteran Commissioner who used their clout to sneak in a developer into City Hall on a Sunday where Commissioners and the Mayor were able to sit in on a sneak preview of development plans for a residential community that was still pending review of the Commission. This is a big no, no, in Florida. They would have all been kicked out of office if anyone had turned them in. But no one ever did, even though what they did was egregious.
Both the Mayor and the Commissioner had been around long enough to know better. What they did was an intentional attempt to commit the city into a promise of approval. If the City reneged in any way to approve the development after that meeting, the developer would have had a strong case for estoppel and could have filed a request with the court, requesting a specific performance to allow him to proceed with the development. To further commit the city, the Mayor and Commissioner EVEN posed at a groundbreaking that same day in November 1997. That groundbreaking took place two and a half months before the first public meeting took place.
This became a personal matter because the project was the final phase of my development. We weren't called in by our community leaders to discuss the developer's plans until a week and a half before the city meetings began in February 1998. I didn't have any previous experience with the city review process but it was impossible to remove the suspicion that something was terribly wrong. The process was a hot sloppy mess and afterwards, the more I looked into matters, the more I was convinced that the City was involved in malfeasance. I just didn't have all the paperwork or the legal references to prove it.
In late 2000, when I began to dig up information that put me on the trail that would have uncovered the deception, I hit a major snag in a Homeowner's Association meeting when the Mayor's Rotary Club buddies defamed and ridiculed me in an effort to head me off. One of them would send word that the Mayor claimed he had never even met with the developer outside of a Commission meeting when the project was up for a review. A photograph of the groundbreaking would surface years later proving that he lied. It was too late to make a difference in my life, because I was already marked as a dissenter and an outcast.
Despite being humiliated, I must have reached some people because the Mayor did something very odd a few months after that late 2000 Homeowner's meeting. In March 2001, he brought in a Catholic priest to a city meeting to provide a benediction for the covert project, which was finally brought to light as a Proclamation! So, using my example, this is why you don't allow priests to provide benedictions. People will see it as legitimizing a project, making it that much harder to point out that fraud and conspiracy were behind the way the city was handling the project behind closed doors.
Based on my conclusions, the background of the covert project is as follows: There was political pressure within the city for this development to sail through the city review process. It wasn't so much to favor the developer, as much as it was an attempt to keep the development out of reach from a previous developer who had fallen out of favor with the power elite of the community.
But the city leaders had a dilemma because they were dealing with a private development. So, in order to put it under the city's purview, they dressed it up as an economic development incentive called a sister city program. These sister city programs try to improve business relationships with foreign entities by taking on the name of the city the local government is trying to bond with. In this case, the entity was a city in Ireland. By naming the new development after the Irish city, the city co-opted the private development, bringing it under its wing for a public purpose.
Their big mistake was the method they used to officially adopt this program.
The timeline shows the highly irregular treatment: The private groundbreaking took place in November 1997; the public meetings took place in 1998 (In these meetings the city never publicly disclosed their intentions to make the development part of their sister city program, so many of us were unaware of the city's conflict of interest). The formal, public reveal of the sister city program wouldn't occur until March 2001. That's when it was officially introduced as a Proclamation with the benediction from the priest. In other words, before that date, there was no formal Agenda Item to show it had come up before the city where the Commissioners had a chance to formally vote for the measure.
That's why it was so hard to uncover. If you didn't already know what you were looking for, you would never have known to find it in the impromptu discussions that come up at the end of meetings where each Commissioner and the Mayor was allowed to bring up topics from "under their seat." It doesn't help when the minutes are sparse on details.
Because of the treatment I received in the Homeowner's Meeting of Fall 2000, I enrolled in a nearby university and began taking Legal Studies courses. By the time I completed the classes I had enough of a legal background to go back through the Homeowner's documents and confirmed what I only suspected before. In those meetings of 1998 we were told by the city and our community leaders that the Association was in control of the developer, so the city would not get involved with our concerns, nor did they treat us as if we had legal standing. Instead, we were encouraged to settle our differences privately with the developer. But after I read the documents again, this time armed with some paralegal-style training, I found a clause that stated that the control of our Association had actually been transferred to the homeowners in 1988. That was ten years before we were herded like cattle through the meetings of 1998.
During those 1998 meetings we relied on a neighbor who was introduced to us as a previous President of our Association and a golf buddy of the Mayor and fellow Rotarian. Everyone considered him an authority on our Association, which made it easier to gain our confidence. I would reach a different opinion of this situation when I found his signature on the 1988 document that turned our Association over to the homeowners. Another document signed the same date identified him as the Treasurer, Vice-President and Registered Agent, simultaneously. Yet, he not only failed to tell us that we had legal standing during those 1998 meetings, he did quite the opposite. For example, he encouraged us to forgo a demand for a replat. He said that if we did not push the issue with the city, it would save the developer time and money. We were led to believe that the developer would be more agreeable to meeting our concerns if we could show him that we were willing to cooperate with him.
In retrospect, the city should have demanded a replat to protect everyone's interest, including their own. If they had conducted proper due diligence, as required by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, they would have had to recognize our legal standing. A replat would have determined everyone's legal rights based on the title search. But the city didn't need to do even that much to recognized our vested interest.
1989 Timesheets that belonged to the primary city attorney revealed that he had reviewed the 1988 Association document that had turned over our Association to us. There was no good reason why this information was not passed on to the city attorney who was sitting in on those 1998 meetings, because both attorneys practiced from the same law firm.
You put all the intrigue of this community situation together and you can begin to see how it would diminish the life of someone who was raised to respect the government process. Because of the way the issue was handled it would become a mission to research the city's history to understand how things could have deviated down the wrong path. What I would learn gave me insight into the inadequacy of the "small government" process. Those observations will be shared in a future article titled, "Small Government, Big Cons."
Anyway, here's the article talking about prayer in general:
High court case may affect prayer at government meetings
In Deltona, as in most towns, cities and counties across Florida and across the country, City Commission meetings start with God, flag and country.
There is prayer — sometimes silent reflection, sometimes words from a commissioner or local clergyman. That's followed by the Pledge of Allegiance and, in Deltona, the singing of the national anthem.
But a change in the long-standing practice of opening a public meeting with prayer could be on the way in Deltona and across the country. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to consider whether the practice violates the Constitution. Depending on how the court rules, it could end or neuter the tradition, or enshrine it so government bodies need not worry about lawsuits.
Mayor John Masiarczyk says the system shouldn't be changed
Posted by Baitball Blogger | Sun May 26, 2013, 11:08 PM (6 replies)
He's running for a state office and I've been comparing the things that he says in the paper about himself to his actual track record. The disconnect is incredible. Except, of course, only his inner circle and I really understand the contradictions.
He was a Mayor for my City at one time, so where there are tapes there is a track record to follow. In the paper he says he believes in forging relationships with business organizations and creating partnerships. He also claims to be in favor of transparency. The two things, I believe, are mutually exclusive.
Here's a great example to point that out: In a Commission meeting someone from the Chamber of Commerce appeared to reveal that he was contacted directly by the Mayor to ask for support for an economic development program. The Chamber board members responded by appearing in that meeting to introduce themselves. You would think that this kind of relationship would be recorded, but the minutes omitted the names of the board members, or that the Mayor instigated this relationship. Transparency? I don't think so.
In the same meeting. THE SAME MEETING, there was a transfer of $4000 dollars through a Beautification Project to a private residential community where the Mayor's political cronies lived. I was never sure if it was sent as a token to show goodwill to Chamber members who lived there, or if it was used to buy the HOA's ARB approval for a house that belonged to one of the Mayor's supporters. Maybe he was killing two birds with one stone?
In a nutshell, this is what local politicians have become to us ordinary people: They are people who are given the political positions to undermine the laws to benefit their cronies who will be the first to benefit directly from any economic development schemes the City can come up with.
Make no mistake that this is not a victimless crime, since we all lose our rights when the City supports cronies in our community who are undermining our rights as homeowners in these Associations.
Posted by Baitball Blogger | Fri May 25, 2012, 10:26 PM (4 replies)
Anti-Government Corruption Probes – Why does Central Florida Keep Getting A Pass?
By the Baitball Blogger
Are the parameters for anti-corruption probes too narrow, leaving large areas exempt from scrutiny? In Florida I think the obvious answer is yes. Especially in Central Florida. I live in Seminole County and I’ve spent a good part of the last ten years researching a community development matter which never passed the stink test. It was something that should have caught the attention of the authorities, but never did. Since then I’ve tried to understand why, but like most things in Florida, it defies logic.
Around here, political witch hunts are the closest thing we have to anti-corruption probes and it’s just not enough. Instead of selecting politicians who have fallen from favor, what we really need is a good shake up which digs deep to get rid of the local operatives who use ethics like a bargaining chip. Until that happens the reality we live with is that it doesn’t take much to lower the ethical standards in our communities.
It’s easiest to witness at the bottom of the political spectrum through the actions of the officers who serve on Homeowner Association boards. Too often, their decisions have no legal foundation and no one seems to be concerned about getting slapped for breaches of fiduciary responsibility.
It’s not hard to see why they’re fearless. This kind of offense is considered small fry to legal authorities who expect homeowners to file a civil lawsuit to resolve these matters locally. It’s a crazy system that for a number of reasons, doesn’t work. Yet, the legal authorities won’t get involved even when the actions of the Homeowners board were influenced by government misconduct, which is what sometimes happens when the issue involves a community development matter.
Think of the impossible situation this creates for a homeowner if they now have this added hurdle to overcome through the civil courts. When a government body is involved, young attorneys are quick to recognize the potential career gamble. They not only have to face the Association’s attorney, but any politically connected attorney who plans to represent the city government.
Older and more seasoned lawyers have other problems that may create issues for the homeowner. Many people assume that a lawyer will disclose potential conflicts of interest, but this revelation may be discovered late in the process so the cost to start over puts the entire experience beyond the resources of an ordinary homeowner.
This is the reason why this kind of situation should be handled by anti-corruption units, but it never happens.
Let’s see where their attention has been directed:
In 2009 when Governor Charlie Crist requested approval for a 12 month grand jury corruption investigation, the Florida Supreme Court denied his request until he refiled and specified that it “…was necessary in response to a wave of corruption cases focused in South Florida.” (See Footnote 1)
And in 2011 the FBI began its own crackdown on government corruption, but its focal point was Tallahassee. Their explanation: “Since it’s the capital and the home of Florida’s Legislature and numerous state agencies, any public corruption there, has the potential to have consequences on a much broader scale than similar corruption in a smaller town or county.” (See Footnote 2)
I would have to disagree with that assessment. From a homeowner’s point of view, corruption which is closer to home causes more personal hardship BECAUSE nobody in authority is paying attention.
The best way that I can describe the effect of their omission is to compare it to a malpractice case that was published in a Florida paper years ago under the title, “Her cancer signs were ignored.” The patient experienced chronic distress but was called a whiner because the blood work came in within the acceptable, normal range. What everyone failed to notice was that the indicators were on the low end of normal, and steadily dropping. Those doctors didn’t just ignore the negative pattern, they also missed that narrow window of opportunity where they could have done something to prevent an absolute travesty from developing.
When the FBI concluded that the cancer which festers in small towns was not worth their attention, they committed the same kind of error in judgment which generally lands a physician in court due to malpractice. That kind of omission has consequences.
We all have seen the evidence. Without the FBI’s attentive presence and oversight, local government becomes lax, creating an environment where process and procedure gets bypassed to expedite personal agendas. Before you know it, everyone else catches on and understands that no one will come after them if they routinely cut corners. That’s how corruption becomes endemic in a community. That’s what inspires the kind of hubris we find on Homeowner Association boards where officers make self-serving decisions that have no supporting legal foundations.
When you allow this kind of thing to go on for too long, no one should be surprised when the unthinkable travesty takes place that catches the national attention. Case in point: the shooting of Trayvon Martin. Even though George Zimmerman pulled the trigger, as of this writing, it’s the Sanford Police Department which will be facing an investigation. That’s because no one can believe that a police department, and maybe the state attorney’s office, could have possibly overlooked so many procedural steps in a case that involved a shooting. Nobody, that is, except those of us who live here and have been decrying the state of our local government agencies for years.
So I petition the FBI to reconsider its position and find a way to help homeowners who live in small towns across Florida, by getting more involved in cases which involve government malfeasance. This is the kind of misconduct which stretches into our communities, often filtering in through our Homeowner Association boards. It’s hard to believe that no one has thought to take local corruption seriously before now, since it doesn’t just destroy our trust in our local leaders, it also lowers the quality of life for too many people. As Americans citizens, we deserve better from our local and state leaders.
Footnote 1: Josh Hafenbrack, Crist, state Supreme Court agree on need for anti-corruption probe, Orlando Sentinel, Political Pulse, December 3, 2009.
Footnote 2: http://tallahasseeo.com/2012/03/06/fbi-cracks-down-on-rampant-government-corruption-in-tallahassee-florida-needs-tips-from-the-public/
Visit www.keystoneworksite.com for the personal research used to support the position in this diary entry.
Daily kos link: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/03/29/1078945/-Anti-Corruption-Government-Probes-Why-does-Central-Florida-Keep-Getting-A-Pass-
Posted by Baitball Blogger | Thu Mar 29, 2012, 04:53 PM (2 replies)
This is something I wrote which is political, so I hope it works for this forum. I would appreciate feedback from anyone who can get through it.
Just about everyone has something to say about the differences between Republican and Democratic principles. We hear it so often that we shut down when an opinion begins to diverge from our own. Democrats will do it when someone goes off on a rant about wanting less government in their lives, and Republicans shut down when someone suggests raising
taxes as a solution to the problems we face in society. Me, I wish life were that simple again.
Where I live I’ve seen so many inconsistencies that absolutes are meaningless. I live in a community which consistently votes Republican, and though some things might run true to form, others require an entirely new perspective to understand.
To see things from my point of view, a politician would have to go beyond the rainmakers and campaign donors to come eye to eye with people who are living with the consequences of bad policies. This is difficult to do for many because the problems of ordinary people lack sparkle.
Try these words out to see what I mean: Homeowner’s Association meeting, (“HOA”), Architectural Review Board, Declaration of Covenants & Restrictions. This is the language of ordinary people who live in the growing number of community associations which are springing up across Florida. What local government can’t force upon a homeowner is possible to do through the HOA boards. So, if you want to see how policies are trickling down to the people who are most regulated, you wouldn’t do better than talk to someone who lives within the boundaries of a Florida HOA.
The needs of these homeowners have been so overlooked that they are in a prime position to be the next soccer moms or grizzly bears, or whatever trendy word you want to call a motivated voting demographic. One thing that will move things along faster is finding a candidate who can prove he or she understands their issues. They would have to be well-versed on the subject because not even homeowners fully understand where to pin the blame. The overall feeling, however, is that they’re at the bottom of the food chain, serving as one huge baitball that feeds the real estate industry. How this is allowed to stand unchanged is a lesson in local politics.
Because I live in a Republican community, my observations are best suited for Democrats who want to understand the inner workings of a red voting district. What I research and post on my website is based on an experience which began in 1998. Back then my city was operating under the philosophy of minimalist government so I had a sneak preview of the future which we now are all faced with. What the last fourteen years of research offers is a track record that helps to point out the kind of community that this form of government inspires.
In the end, the data will lead to the conclusion that a government that ignores its regulatory responsibilities leaves a vacuum which is filled by self-interested networks that exist to game the system. These societies are like Russian stacking dolls, where a government exists within a government.
It may take new homeowners years to understand that they moved into a community where decisions are influenced by a trip-wire society. And if that isn’t bad enough, the effect gets amplified when they realize that City Hall promotes programs which go head-to-head with their rights.
Having lived through one of these city supported operations I can tell you that the overall impression you’re left with is that nobody has your back.
The irony is that most Republicans would agree with me. No one wants to see their rights abused by a government supported program. So it’s hard to understand why Republicans work so hard to hamstring procedures which are meant to protect everyone’s rights; or why they don’t recognize that private interest groups are rushing in to fill the void they helped create. As a bystander, it’s like watching people strangle themselves in their sleep.
Today, the favored way to introduce these programs is through public-private partnerships or 3Ps as some people call them. On the surface, these projects have sparkle. Who wouldn’t support a plan which promises to create jobs or lower taxes because the private sector agrees to take the financial burden? I would support them too, if I didn’t have the awareness of what goes into making these programs appear successful.
Perhaps in a Democratically controlled precinct government agencies which promote 3Ps know how to keep everything transparent and how to follow a uniform process which ensures that everyone’s rights are protected. But such a process would be slow and laborious which is precisely why, in a Republican community, all of that becomes secondary. Instead, the priority is to minimize delays and remove road blocks for the business sector.
The impression one is left with is that the city takes shortcuts which are rarely beneficial to the homeowner’s interest. For example, with the community development issue I write about, city staffers failed to perform the due diligence to determine ownership of residential property so homeowners were left to feel like spectators when they actually had legal standing in the proceedings. Instead of conducting a legal review which would have cleared up the confusion, the city relied on word of mouth for their information.
On the same project, elected officials did not follow the Sunshine Law and met with the developer before the issue came before the board in a public forum. But because process was not followed, it took years before it was understood that the development received favoritism because of an economic development objective.
It’s a paradox that these things occurred in a community which is populated by people who claim to be in favor of law and order. But it does occur, which is why this minimalist form of government is failing homeowners.
These kind of governmental “slips” are documented on my website which can be accessed by pointing your browsers to www.keystoneworksite.com. It’s just a coincidence that the website carries the same name as the Keystone Pipeline. Though the two do not share a common origin, they do share this one similarity: They both offer lessons to what can happen to individual property owners when private interest is allowed to take on the power of government. In the case of the Keystone Pipeline, a foreign corporation attempted to eminent domain a homeowner’s property. As of the 9th of March, the owner prevailed. The Texas legislature, however, is considering an exemption that will make it easier for the corporation to succeed the next time it tries.
Something similar is happening in Florida. The state legislature continues to pass laws which causes hardships on homeowners. The trend is to delegate more power to local government even though the evidence indicates that local government has failed to be honest brokers where the interests of homeowners are concerned.
No one seems to take notice or care that homeowners are left to fend for themselves and don’t have the resources to match what they’re up against. Or maybe, that’s the point.
This should signal an opportunity for the party that can find a better way to achieve economic development objectives without encroaching on or usurping the rights of homeowners.
At a minimum, an effort should be made to show how the methods used in these Republican municipalities erode trust in government. When people see how their rights are being usurped by those who have a fiduciary responsibility to protect them, it will be easier to get their attention. It’s my hope that the website, and the issues I bring up in my blog, will be used by candidates who believe in putting fairness back into the government process, and that it will give them the edge they need to connect with voters they thought were beyond their reach.
Posted by Baitball Blogger | Tue Mar 20, 2012, 01:04 AM (4 replies)
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