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JUNE 1, 2014
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IT’S MIAMI: EVERYONE UNDER OATH LIED

I know that regular readers will recognize that I tend to repeat myself when it comes to writing about how I became fixated on the bad behavior of the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust back in January of 2011, after I attended my first meeting of that group. I do so because repetition is the only way I know to break through the noise clutter so that people really start understanding just how bad this agency is.


I walked away from that January meeting feeling that this agency not only  represented a questionable use of public money, but that it was largely a charade intended to promote the notion that in the midst of the wholesale public corruption that grips Miami-Dade County like a giant octopus in a horror movie, the Ethics Commission was the like the lonely sea captain on his rickety boat manning a harpoon looking to kill the octopus and protect the community, or as the kind of faux civic group that a Batman movie could use as a trope to convey just how corrupt Gotham City was. In fact, when I walked out the door I was convinced that the Ethics Commission was operating as little more than a gangster organization, the the last four years have not changed my mind.


In support of that belief I will never, ever forget how Chairman Kerry Rosenthal, when it was revealed that he had illegally served as chairman for 11 years, jokingly claimed the last time he had been elected had been “about 6 years ago.”


Nor could I get over the impassioned attack leveled against the Commission’s Advocate Michael Murawski by Christina Seymour, the Commission’s accountant, claims that I was able to verify by looking at the transcript of the deposition that she referenced, that Murawski’s behavior had been more contemptible than she had implied.


Since then, I have gone on to write 34 stories about the Ethics Commission and filed a total of 15 Ethics Complaints against Miami City Officials, in part because I believed their actions warranted a complaint being filed, and also in an effort to see how many different ways Murawski and the Commission could come with to either defame me, or demonstrate how willingly they were to ignore the law by twisting the process to justify dismissing my complaints, including the gross incompetence of investigators who often acted more like stenographers than trained investigators.


Here are just a few of the most recent examples - including one example from lobbyist Dusty Melton who has become convinced from his own experience that this group operates unethically - for those with nothing better to do on a Sunday morning: HERE, HERE, and HERE, so you can judge for yourselves.


Among the most egregious and revealing examples however - and these examples continue to get more egregious as time goes on - of just how little the Commission’s board members either know or care about the law came last September when three of them, including recently retired Circuit Court Judge Lawrence Schwartz, and University of Law Professor Carlton Copeland, engaged in a flagrant violation of Florida’s Sunshine Law by holding a private discussion during the public Probable Cause hearing on my complaint against Miami City Commissioner Frank Carollo for calling the Chief of Police on his cellphone after he was stopped for a legitimate traffic violation.


To no one’s surprise, after they broke the law by holding this private conversation, these three found no problem with my 40 year old criminal past being used to discredit me.

THE ETHICS COMMISSION DISMISSED THE COMPLAINT I FILED AGINST LUIS CABRERA AND OTHERS OVER THE HIRING OF CABRERA’S HALF BROTHER BY CLAIMING IT WAS “AWFUL BUT LAWFUL.”

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After my ethics complaint against these three had been determined to be to hot to handle by the Ethics Commission it was forwarded to the Office of the Miami-Dade State Attorney, Katherine Fernandez-Rundle and after 240 days the gang in the Public Corruption Unit refuses to charge these anointed protectors of the Public’s Trust with either a civil or criminal violation of the Sunshine Law.


Which brings us to the latest chapter in the saga about Ethics In Miami.


MAD AS HELL AND AIN’T GONNA TAKE IT N MORE!


Last September a woman named Yamilet Moreno stood before the Miami City Commission and went off on a rant about how the half-brother of Deputy Police Chief/Acting Assistant City Manager Luis Cabrera and his wife, who had recently arrived in Miami had gotten jobs with the City’s Parks and recreation Department, and how the Department showed favoritism when it came to hiring part-time and temporary employees, often doing so without providing public notice that the jobs were available.


Within days a half dozen or so other Park employees came forward with their own complaints, and at the next Commission meeting, the Commissioners ordered the Independent Auditor to conduct an investigation.


I had already been following this story and decided to jump in by filing an Ethics Complaint against Cabrera, Juan Pascual, the Director of the Parks Department, Danny Alfonso, Acting City Manager, Johnny Martinez, the City Manager and Tomas Regalado, the Mayor.


The Independent Auditor was supposed to submit a report in November, but he didn’t, and then he didn’t do so in December. By January of this year the rumors started circulating that Cabrera and Pascual has “lawyered up” and were refusing to cooperate in the investigation.


Those allegation regarding their initial resistance to cooperate were acknowledged in the Executive Summary of the Independent Auditor’s Report issued on April 25, 2014.

The inability of getting either Cabrera or Pascual to testify prompted the Independent Auditor and the City to reach out to the Ethics Commission who has subpoena power as a way to force these two to give depositions.


In all, between the Independent Auditor and the Ethics Commission the following individuals were either deposed or questioned in this matter.


City Manager Johnny Martinez - retired

Acting City Manager Danny Alfonso

Deputy Police Chief/Acting Assistant City Manager Luis Cabrera

Parks Director Juan Pascual - retired

Juan Cabrera - Luis Cabrera’s half-brother (refused 2nd interview)

Dayami Davila - Juan Cabrera’s wife

Lina Blanco - Parks Department Administrative Assistant III

Beverly Pruitt - Human Resources Director - quit the City

Maria De Cardenas - Acting Parks Director

Raphael Gonzalez - Superintendent of Parks - fired on March 24th

Lara DeSouza - Parks employee

Elier Paez - Parks employee and complainant

Mario Suazo - Parks employee and complainant

Willie Bennett - Parks employee and complainant

Yuner Trtuilo - Parks employee and complainant

Mario Carbonell - Parks employee and complainant

Oscar Adams - Parks employee and complainant

Jose Martin Arias - Parks employee and complainant


While there was a concern about Luis Cabrera’s brother expressed by most of the part-time park employees who were questioned, their overarching concern was the the process and procedures used by the City when it came to filling jobs.


Those issues seem to have been addressed in the Independent Auditor  in recommendations that included the noticing of all job vacancies within the Park’s Department, which now seems to have been implemented. All of that can be found in the Independent Auditor’s Report

HE AIN’T HEAVY, HE’S MY HALF-BROTHER


The real issue however, was the hiring of Luis Cabrera’s half-brother Juan - which is also the name of Luis’s twin brother - who, along with his wife Dayami Davila, had arrived in Miami from Costa Rica late in 2012, and who, based on who’s testimony you want to believe, showed up unannounced at the office of Park’s Director Juan Pascual, with application in hand, looking for a job.


Under oath, Pascual had stated that “in late January or early February 2013, he was contacted by L. Cabrera who asked him if there were any open positions with P&R.”


Cabrera on the other hand stated under oath that he “did not recall having any conversations with Pascual concerning available positions in P&R.  He did not recall having any conversations with Pascual concerning J.C. Cabrera or Davila. He did not recall seeing the RFT memo of February 21, 2013.”


Cabrera, who recently returned to the Police Department as the Deputy Chief demonstrated during this investigation that he suffers from a serious mental condition of forgetfulness, because in addition to not recalling any conversations with Park’s Director pascal, he also did “not recall,” the answers to 23 other questions he was asked under oath during his deposition.


Cabrera also claimed that the first time he heard that his half-brother was working for the City was 6 months after he had been hired:

“L. Cabrera claimed that the first time he heard about J. C. Cabrera being hired by the City was at the City Commission meeting where Yamilet Marreno (Marreno) made her presentation claiming that she was passed over for promotion so that L. Cabrera’s relatives could get their jobs.”

And just how did Luis Cabrera’s half-brother Juan learn about job openings at the City of Miami’s Park’s & Recreation Department?  In an interview conducted by the City’s Independent Auditor, Juan Cabrera stated that:

“He claimed he learned about the openings in the P&R Department from the internet. He went to the City’s HR website and learned of the openings.  He downloaded the application for the position and filled it out.  He noted that it took two days to fill out because of his limited English.”

How heartwarming to learn that thanks to the internet, this fellow was able to learn about a job, download the application, and by dint of who knows how much struggle, fill it out even though he didn’t know English.  It’s the kind of tale that would be the opening chapter in a Horatio Alger novel.


The only problem is that other than not knowing English, the rest of the tale is pretty much 100% BULLSHIT!


Here is a portion of the Ethic’s Commission’s analysis of all of these people’s statements.

“Interviews of J. C. Cabrera and Davila” (his wife) “conflict with the interviews of Klose” (Amy Klose, City’s HR Director) “and the statement of Pascual.  Both J.C. Cabrera and Davila stated that they learned of their respective job openings with P&R from the internet.  However, both Klose and Pascual stated that the city does not advertise openings for temporary positions on its website.”

And on it went.  Luis Cabrera couldn’t recall, Juan Cabrera and his wife couldn’t speak English, but they were savvy enough to understand not to answer the question on the City’s job application that asks, “Do you have any relative(s), either by blood or by marriage who is/are employed by the City of Miami?”


It was all a cluster-fuck. There were enough contradictions in the statements of other park employees and senior City officials to make you wonder how anything of consequence gets accomplished.


The former HR Director, Beverly Pruitt, when interviewed was asked whether there were “any situations/hirings you can recall that you felt uncomfortable about?” and she referenced the hiring a person who was hired for the Mayor’s Office only receiving “benefits, no salary and that Luis Cabrera had facilitated this.”


That person was the wealthy Coral Gables attorney Armando Bucelo Jr., that I did a story about last November.


The she was asked had she ever been asked to show favoritism, and she replied that “she was asked to appoint Mary Luckband to Assistant HR Director by Mr. Cabrera, but she did not agree.”  What wasn’t included as part of this answer was that shortly after Beverly Pruitt was no longer the HR Director.


So, the only two instance of possible inappropriate personnel meddling, recalled by the former HR Director came from Luis Cabrera.


ETHICS COMMISSION DOES WHAT ITS FAMOUS FOR DOING


At the end of the day however, Michael Murawski, the Advocate for the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust, did what he’s become famous for doing, he determined that even though all of the principals had lied, some of them under oath, there was “No Probable Cause.”


He even went so far during the closed door hearing to state that what had happened was what they in the office considered to be a case that the staff considered to be, “Awful but lawful.”


By far though was this admission that he gave about the truthfulness of Juan Cabrera, his wife, and the obvious guidance that they received in the process that led to their getting jobs with the City of Miami.

“I disagree with my colleagues here,” (referring to Cabrera’s lawyer and Assistant City Attorney George Wysong, who were in attendance at the closed door hearing), “by saying the only people I thought dishonest here were the two people who got the job, I think they were lying FLAT OUT...I don’t want to give the impression that the only people I didn’t believe were those two people applying for the job. They certainly were complicit and guided along through the process, there’s no question about it.”

So people “FLAT OUT LIED,” the process was rigged, and the Ethics Commission once again decided that after less than rigorous questioning, that there response to all of this was essentially to state, “Move along, there’s nothing to look at here.”


It’s Miami, Bitches!

ETHIC’S COMMISSION PROBABLE CAUSE MEMO