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AUGUST 2, 2014
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THE MIAMI CITY ATTORNEY IS SMILING BECAUSE SHE SCREWED A COLLEAGUE AND THE TAXPAYERS ROYALLY
CITY ATTORNEY VICTORIA MENDEZ PURPOSELY WITHHELD A BOGUS LEGAL OPINION FROM THE CITY’S INDEPENDENT AUDITOR IN ORDER TO SANDBAG HIS REPORT ON THE ULTRA TICKET INVESTIGATION

I’m seldom surprised by the levels of chicanery that I witness on an almost daily basis from some of the officials in the Regalado administration.


However, the actions of the Miami City Attorney’s office on Thursday afternoon after the City’s Independent Auditor issued his long awaited report on the Ultra Music Festival and the VIP Tickets that city employees like former City Attorney Julie Bru, Assistant City Attorneys Maria Chiaro and Veronica Diaz/Xiques, along with some of the members of the Bayfront Park Management Trust received to the 2013 and 2014 events was so transparently devious and blatantly intended to sandbag the Auditor’s report and mislead the public, that I believe over the next few months it might force people to rethink whether Victoria Mendez should be allowed to remain as City Attorney.


This is a serious story that pitted the efforts of the City’s Independent Auditor to investigate not only the allegations of wrong doing on the part of the individuals who received the Ultra VIP tickets, but also more serious questions about the contract crafted by the City that allowed the Ultra promoters to evade being audited and the question of the ticket surcharge that failed to recoup several hundred thousand dollars for the city.


Most importantly however, this is a story of the efforts by the City Attorney to provide cover for her three former colleagues in the City Attorney’s office, and how she sandbagged the reportage on the Auditor’s findings so as to create the illusion that the people involved in receiving the free tickets had done nothing wrong.


The facts and the law do not support the bogus legal opinion that the City Attorney’s office used to sandbag the Auditor’s report, and here’s why.


PART I - THE INDEPENDENT AUDITOR’S INVESTIGATION


Several weeks ago, I along with other bloggers, were provided by an anonymous source, a draft of a report that Ted Guba, the City of Miami’s Independent Auditor had prepared in response to a request from one of the members of the City Commission regarding allegations that a handful of the members of the City Attorney’s office and Board members of the Bayfront Park Management Trust had received VIP Tickets to the Ultra Music Festival each worth $849.95.


It was obvious that whoever distributed this report did so as an effort to discredit Veronica Diaz/Xiques, the former City of Miami Assistant City Attorney who was running for Circuit Court Judge.


None the less, it was a good story, and after verifying the information I along with Elaine de Valle each wrote a story about it. This was my story.


After I posted my initial story I did a second story on Diaz/Xiques and a separate Ethics investigation, and also tried to find out when the final version of the report would be released because I was by then receiving rumors about how the City Attorney was refusing to cooperate in offering a legal opinion on whether a portion of the City Charter that stated that the acceptance of “free tickets” by public officials was a misdemeanor.


On Thursday afternoon at approximately 3 PM, I was at the MRC picking up DVD’s of several meetings that I has submitted public records requests for, and decided to go up to the Independent Auditor’s office to find out when the report was going to be released.


I arrived as the Auditor’s staff was uploading the report on the City’s website, and I asked to look at a hard copy of the document, which I was provided. 


I leafed through the pages and immediately spotted this Recommendation and the lack of a Response by the City Attorney on the requested legal provided the Auditor before he issued the report. 

This confirmed the rumors that I has been hearing that the City Attorney’s Office had refused to provide Guba with a legal opinion for almost 2 months, and I asked Guba if a legal opinion would ever be forthcoming.


He diplomatically replied that he didn’t know, but that he had felt the need to release his report, and that it would be up to the City Commission to deal with the City Attorney on the issue of a legal opinion.


PART II - THE CITY ATTORNEY SANDBAG’S THE INDEPENDENT AUDITOR


Sometime within an hour or two after the Guba report was posted online, the City Attorney’s office miraculously released the legal opinion that she had refused to provide him before he released his report, and also Assistant City Attorney George Wysong, who wrote the legal opinion became available to provide reporter David Smiley with quotes for his story.


None of this happened by accident! This was purposely and calculatingly done in order to suck the oxygen out of the Independent Auditor’s report,  and to all but guarantee that the story that appeared in the Miami Herald would end up being slanted to clear the former members of the City Attorney’s staff from having done wrong in accepting tickets in violation of the clear and plain language of  Section 4 of the Miami City Charter.

MIAMI CITY CHARTER: Section 4. Form of Government; Nomination and election, (c):

So that’s the first part of this story. 


Miami City Attorney Victoria Mendez, who in the short period of time that she has been the City Attorney has demonstrated just how willing she is to lie, clearly lied to Ted Guba,  the Independent Auditor, by refusing to provide him a copy of the legal opinion before he issued his report, and then after he released his report dropped it on him just like a 100 pound sandbag falling out of the sky, in order to affect the news coverage on the report.


I can say this with 100% certainty because I have been able to confirm through a source knowledgable with the process and who became disgusted by this behavior that the legal opinion was written within the last week and that there was a strategy discussed on how to use this  legal opinion to divert attention from Guba’s findings.


PART III - THE BOGUS LEGAL OPINION


It should surprise no one that it was Assistant City Attorney George Wysong who authored this bogus legal opinion.


Perhaps the best short character description that I can provide about George Wysong’s behavior since I’ve been dealing with him is that he is a practiced liar and Commissioner Marc Sarnoff’s go-to guy in the City Attorney’s Office when the Commissioner needs something handled.


I think that that pretty much tell’s you just what a suck-ass and sleazy individual he is.


Here is his crappola of an opinion.

Wysong was cute in how he tied the 1921 Washington DC trolley scandal the Miami City Charter language, but cuteness only gets you so far.


Here’s what actually happened.


Around 1920-1921 in Washington DC, there was a scandal that irrupted when it was discovered that local politicians and bureaucrats were receiving free tickets to ride the trolley. You got to remember that this was back when trolleys were the first significant form of urban public transportation and when people actually got upset at politicians and bureaucrats using their official positions for personal gain.


The response to this scandal was that a change was made to the Washington City Code to make accepting free tickets to the trolley a crime.


Here is that change in the code.

Wysong goes on in footnote 4, that in 1921, the City of Miami bought a defunct trolley system and turned around and leased it to another company to operate.


What is obvious given the timing is that the City Fathers in Miami having become aware of the scandal in Washington over the politicians and bureaucrats getting free tickets on the trolley there, decided to try and stop it from happening here, so they basically lifted the language from the Washington code and stuck in the City of Miami Code.


There is a very big difference however in the language between these two respective City Charters that Wysong dared not point out in his legal opinion.


While the language in the Miami City Charter is in many ways identical to the language in the Washington City Charter, the City Fathers of Miami perhaps even then beginning to realize that the kinds of political chicanery by politicians and bureaucrats in Miami might be more extensive than just taking free trolley tickets, changed the language in a very significant way.


Here is the Washington language:

“No officer or employee, elected or appointed, shall receive from any enterprise operating under a public franchise...”

Here is the Miami language.

“No mayor, city commissioner, or other officer or employee of said City shall accept any frank, free ticket, pass or service directly or indirectly, from any person, firm or corporation...”

What the City Fathers in Miami did back in 1921 - to their credit -  was expand the definition of who public officials could not accept anything from to include “person, firm of corporation,” thereby making that portion of the City Charter as valid and relevant today as it was in 1921, and as relevant and valid as it will be in 2100.


As I said, the language change indicates that even back then the City Fathers were concerned with the politicians and bureaucrats accepting more than free trolley tickets, and as the years went by and the behavior of the politicians and bureaucrats in Miami degenerated into little more than using their offices and positions to engage in wholesale plunder, their concern has been more than justified.


Wysong’s attempt to dismiss this language as “archaic and outdated,” is not only grossly misleading given the comparisons of language, but underscores either his inability to read plain English, or worse, it represents an effort to purposely misconstrue the language and it’s implications so as not only to provide cover for his former colleagues at the center of this ticket scandal, but to actually recommend the removal of  this language from the City Charter as a way to strip away the most potent legal roadblock against the politicians and bureaucrats walking around with a gunny sack to collect whatever swag they could strong-arm from people looking to curry favor.


Recommending the removal of this language from the City Charter is no small thing. It’s like trying to claim that a statute that was created to punish the crime of murder back in the day when people only killed each other with rocks is no longer valid because people don’t use rocks to kill each other today. 


And what’s really a hoot is that none other than Commissioner Sarnoff is currently on a crusade to promote a streetcar system in Miami for the first time since the Great Depression, thereby making the the Charter language even more relevant and connected to the original reason why it was included in the Charter to begin with.


PART IV -  FREE TICKETS AND THE PUBLIC BENEFITS CLAUSE


Several years ago the Miami-Dade Ethics Commission went through twists and turns over free tickets received by Miami Beach City Commissioners and by a complaint that I filed against the Mayor and members of the City Commission for receiving free tickets to basketball games at the AAA Arena, a boxing match put on by Don King, and tickets to other events such as concerts at the Knight Center, which is owned by the City, but managed by a contractor. Many of these tickets were  openly solicited in emails from City staff that I included as part of my complaint.

- PhotoDonKing

Everyone at the table above was there because the tickets were solicited from the King organization by the Mayor’s assistant Lourdes Blanco.


Although my complaint was unfairly dismissed, the Ethics Commission in April of 2012 issued a General Letter Of Instruction to the City on how they should deal with the distribution of “free tickets,” and In the months that followed the issuance of this Letter, the agenda of the Miami City Commission started including the following item for discussion:

To my knowledge, the item was never discussed, and then one day, the item no quit appearing on the City Commission agendas. This was how the Regalado administration and the Miami City Commission dealt with the issue of “free tickets” and the Letter Of Instruction from the Ethics Commission.


Which brings us to the acceptance of the free VIP tickets by the members of the City Attorney’s staff and the members of the Bayfront Park Management Trust, and Wysong’s assertion in his legal opinion that, “Even if the Charter provision were to apply, which it does not,” (a claim that’s only valid in Wysong’s mind),”a full and proper investigation would be required in order to determine whether the acceptance of complimentary tickets to the Ultra event was appropriate.”


Such an investigation Wysong claims would have to “determine, among other things, whether the receipt of any such ticket is the subject of a “public benefit” analysis.”


That investigation is supposedly underway by the Ethics Commission according to news reports, and this time the Ethics Commission will be hard pressed to give these people a “reach around” as they so often have done in the past, because another part of the Letter Of Instruction they issued the City of Miami in 2012 included this:

In my first story about these tickets, I wrote that this had not been the first time that I’d come across the problem of the Bayfront Park Management Trust Board Members lining up to get free tickets, and the explanation that I had gotten then, and the one that was offered by Veronica Diaz/Xiques now, was that that was the only way that the City staff and the board members had to insure things ran smoothly.


That might be a semi-valid excuse if it wasn’t that all but one of these individuals didn’t just ask for 1 ticket for these events, but instead they all asked for 2 tickets, which means they showed up with husband/wife or boyfriend/girlfriend, and that a result of the highlighted section of the Letter Of Instruction written 11 months before the 2013 Ultra Music Festival and 23 months before the 2014 event, ALL of these “free tickets” should have at least been reported as “gifts” under FSEC 92-33 and C11-14.


This of course continues to ignore the larger question of whether according to the language of the City Charter the acceptance - or the solicitation of these tickets - because the individuals who accepted 2 tickets would probably have had had to ask for that 2nd ticket, should be charged with a misdemeanor under both the Charter and under the provisions of the solicitation statutes.


Of course, the person who should have been responsible for insuring that the information about reporting the acceptance of “free tickets” was widely circulated amongst the elected officials and city employees was none other than former Miami City Attorney Julie Bru, who herself was a recipient of a free ticket.


A classic case of the fox guarding the henhouse.


PART V - WHO WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE ULTRA CONTRACT


In the wake of all the attention focused by the Miami Herald on the bogus legal opinion and supporting misleading quotes uttered by George Wysong, no effort was made to amplify the remaining parts of the Independent Auditor’s report.


That’s unfortunate because Finding Number 2 in Guba’s report raised the troubling question of who on the city’s side was responsible for overseeing the contract that allowed the Ultra Music Festival promoters to get away without being required to allow the City to audit their books.


That would be none other than that legal rocket scientist, candidate for Circuit Court Judge and “free ticket” recipient, Veronica Diaz/Xiques, whose claim for accepting 2 free VIP tickets was to oversee her work product.

So, on top of everything else, the real crime that Veronica Diaz/Xiques committed was failing to “protect the City’s interest in ensuring compliance with all aspects of the Agreement including mitigating the risk of not obtaining ticket documentation that supports surcharge payments.”


In short, she let the Ultra promoters walk away with who knows how much money that should have gone to the City.  No wonder that the promoters were so generous with their campaign contributions to her campaign for judge.


IN CONCLUSION


The issues that the Independent Auditor raised were serious and merited  the attention of the public. That opportunity was thwarted by the actions of the City Attorney’s office and their efforts to smother the report by releasing their bogus legal opinion in a way that was intended to exonerate the former members of the City Attorney’s office from culpability for accepting these “free tickets.”


More and more the City of Miami is operating like an organized criminal conspiracy with the City Attorney and some of her underlings providing legal guidance and protection whenever one or more of the morons who are supposedly entrusted with looking out for the public’s interest or protecting the public’s money does something so egregiously stupid that it ends like this fiasco.


What’s different about this incident from any other story of this kind that I have written about is that in order to provide protection to her former boss and her fellow attorneys, Victoria Mendez engaged in a flagrant scheme to sandbag her colleague,Ted Guba, the Independent Auditor.


That’s something - and I’ve seen a lot in the last 4 1/2 years - that I have never witnessed before in the City of Miami.


Manipulating the press on the other hand is nothing new, but it used to be when the press discovered they had been had, they usually got an attitude about it, and made it a point to push back. In recent years the Miami Herald has repeatedly kept turning the other cheek every time that they’ve been bitch slapped by these corrupt politicians.


Lying to the Miami Herald has become so common place that at least one reporter that I know of personally decided to get in on the act, and not only published the lies, but then joked about it afterwards. 


When you couple that with a corrupt State Attorney who is more corrupt than the politicians she refuses to prosecute for public corruption then this community is knee deep in serious shit.


This is my story, I think I’ve supported my claims.


It’s now up to folks who give a fuck about what’s happening in Miami to start stepping forward and demand that the Miami Herald and the other news media start acting like a real new media; that the State Attorney start acting like a crime fighter and not an enabler; that the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust start behaving ethically and start looking out for the public’s trust, and that the politicians start thinking once in a while about doing something besides screwing the public and lining their pockets.



HERE IS THE INDEPENDENT AUDITOR’S REPORT