JULY 27, 2015

How did the Northeast entrance to Simpson Park go from a glowing, architectural rendering to an unsafe, rotten deck that’s been chained off and sealed for over 3 years?

It all started with the decision of Commissioner Marc Sarnoff to ignore the provisions of the City Charter and includes cameo rolls by City Managers Johnny “The Doormat” Martinez and Danny Alfonso, the City Attorney’s office and the Capital Improvements Department.


I first became aware of the problems with the Simpson Park deck in the summer of 2013, and by the time I wrote my first story on July 17, 2013, about the how the entrance and deck were a safety hazard, I was already late to the game.

In April of 2013, folks at the City’s Parks and Recreation Department had already started complaining the condition of the deck, which at that point was only about a year old, and that the problems were the “result of improper design and construction.”

An exchange of emails and a meeting between representatives of the Parks and Recreation Department with representatives from ENEA failed to solve the problem, and on May 1st, a Legal Services request was submitted by the Parks and Recreation Department to the City Attorney’s office seeking an assessment of the “professional liability of ENEA Garden Design and associated professional consultants, related to failure in design and construction of Northeast Entry Deck at Simpson Park.”

Here is that request along with the packet of documents that were submitted as backup material.  The actual request starts on page 3.

All of this was, and is flagrantly illegal.

What, you might ask,  does that really mean?

As a City Commissioner, Sarnoff was and is prohibited by Part I, Section 4(d) of the City Charter from directly involving himself in the operation or management of any department in the City, much less to go off on his own to solicit money, award no-bid contracts to companies and consultants, or to personally oversee the actual construction process on projects constructed on city property.  The punishment for doing what he did was spelled out in the City Charter, and includes being removed from office.

Of course, this is Miami, and neither the City Manager - who at the time was Johnny “The Doormat” Martinez - the City Attorney, or worse, the Miami-Dade State Attorney saw anything wrong or illegal with the Commissioner bypassing the City Charter, violating FS 287.055, and  ignoring the City Manager, the Capitol Improvements Department or the Parks and Recreation Department to issue his own no-bid contracts, and oversee the construction of projects on city property.

After my initial story about the condition of the deck at the entrance to this park in July of 2013, I wrote a follow up story on November 25, 2013, and a third story on February 21, 2014, and a fouth story on June 2, 2014.

In addition to writing stories, I also appeared before the City Commission on several occasions in an effort to bring attention to the failure of anyone in the City to take the required steps to fix the deck, and open the entrance to the public.

On December 12, 2013, the following exchange took place between Sarnoff and Mark Spanioli, then the Director of CIP, regarding the comments I had just made to the Commission.

If you visit the corporate website for the Miami branch of ENEA, the international landscape design company and go to their project page, you’ll find the following photo and caption as one of the public projects they designed in Miami.

This is a very big and fancy company, home based in Switzerland, and over the years they’ve managed to use both the above and below images above image as examples of how wonderful their landscape design work is.

Unfortunately, that’s not really how the Northeast entrance to Simpson Park looks like, nor does this image of the entrance looking toward’s South Miami Avenue look like this.

The photo below is how the above entrance really looks. It’s looked this way for several years because the gates to the entrance have been chained since 2013 and the decking has continued to rot during that time. I took the photo on Thursday, July 16th.

As you will see in the highlighted portion of the Legal Services request that I include below, the accusation that Commissioner Sarnoff’s illegal actions were at the center of the problems with this project, and that the failure to put the project out for bid by the City as well as the actual management of the was handled by Commissioner Sarnoff’s Office and not the Capital Improvements Department, the Park’s Department, or Public Works put both the City and the taxpayers in a dangerous predicament because the City it turned out had to recourse to force either ENEA or the architect Chad Oppenheim to make good on the shoddy design and materials used.

“It does not appear that there was any competitive bidding of this construction project, and the Department of Parks and Recreation played no active role nor had any control of, nor involvement with, or responsibilities for the means and methods of construction, or construction administration, which rested with ENEA Garden Design. Contracts for professional services and for construction also appear to have been administered and managed through the office of Commissioner Marc Sarnoff.”


In addition to the failure of putting this project out for bid and negotiating for the services of consultants in a non-public manner, Sarnoff also failed to comply with Florida Statute 287.055, referred to as The Consultants Competitive Negotiation Act, which is how the architect Chad Oppenheim got involved without an open process being followed.

Several months later Sarnoff repeated this illegal process by negotiating privately with the ENEA Garden Design to do the design work for the 1814 Brickell Park project, that I wrote about on May 23, 2012.

In this case I was able to discover an email from the local head of ENEA Design Garden acknowledging her direct negotiation with Sarnoff over the fee to design the 1814 Brickell Park which supports my claim that Sarnoff was acting in complete violation of the Charter.

This tape is of critical importance for two reasons:  First, you hear Sarnoff admit that he used public money - in this case “Quality of Life Funds” to pay for the architect that he personally selected in violation of FS 287.055, and secondly, you hear Mark Spanioli, then the Director of CIP acknowledge that the claims made by the Parks Department about the construction and condition of the deck were accurate, and that he was going to use money from his department to repair the entrance deck.

It should come as no surprise that that did not happen.

Instead, after I continued to harp about this issue during the budget hearings in September of 2014, a line item for $82,500 was inserted in the 2014-1015 budget for a new deck, that with the inclusion of a prior appropriation of $10,000 made the total of $92,500.

The budget was approved in September of 2014. This is now almost August of 2015, and nothing, not one single thing has changed, except that condition of the deck has gotten worse.

This is how the entrance deck looked on July 16th.

On July 22nd, I wrote to Christopher Rose, the Budget Director to inquire if the money for the deck was still in the budget, and this was his response.

In the same period of time that the entrance deck to Simpson Park has gone without being addressed, Commissioner Sarnoff has seen to it that upwards of $500,000 has been spent to redesign and redo the dog park across the street from his house on two separate occasions, and he has had millions of your taxpayer dollars spent on other projects intended to boost his favorability among potential voters as he pimps for his wife’s election to replace him on the City Commission.

Understand that the problems with the entrance deck at Simpson Park came about solely because Sarnoff, who tries to claim the mantle of Miami’s Park Commissioner, caused the problems at this park because he violated the City Charter and Florida Statute 287.055 in order to do things his way.

The unfortunate thing about all of this is that violating the City Charter by ALL of the City Commissioners is an every day occurrence that could be brought to a screeching halt if the Miami-Dade State Attorney decided to act like a prosecutor looking out for the public’s interest, instead of the enabler that allows this behavior to go unchecked with the resulting consequences of crap like this taking place.

Don’t forget this when you go to the polls, or when you fill out your Absentee Ballot,  because a vote for Teresa Sarnoff, is a vote for 4 more years of being fucked over by this corrupt asshole using his wife as a sock puppet.

It’s Miami, Bitches!