JUNE  27, 2016



This is going to be a tough piece, so if you’re like Jack Nicholson’s character in A Few Good Men, and “Can’t handle the truth,” or you can’t handle my language, then I’d suggest that you come back another day.


Keon Hardemon is a street hustler with a law degree and some very serious anger management and control problems. He’s also part of a family of hustlers who have played upon and exploited the Black community for decades, and who obviously look to their nephew not only as their meal ticket but also, after he got elected, to elevate their family to a higher level of respectability.

Ken Russell is a nice, sweet guy who loves his kids and parks, knows how to do Yo-Yo tricks, and while glib and articulate, is none the less a clueless amateur who walked into his office after being elected with less knowledge of what his real job and responsibilities were than if the voters had elected Elmer Fudd to be a Miami City Commissioner. 

Unfortunately, being clueless did not preclude him from taking on the same arrogant, bitch attitude as his predecessor, and there’s little doubt that this was encouraged and enabled by his even dumber and arrogant Chief of Staff Eleazar Melendez, who in positioning himself as Russell’s alter-ego and faux Deputy City Commissioner, has also managed to piss off enough people with his own bitch attitude since he’s been working for Russell that they’re now looking for ways to take it out on Russell because no one has seen such a dick employee like Melendez inside of City Hall in a long, long time. 

And contrary to the self-aggrandizing, myth-making that Russell and Melendez engaged in shortly after he assumed office, nobody at the DDA or anywhere else ever quivered when Melendez first walked in a room for fear that he was a business reporter who knew their secrets - and my source laughed when asked if this was true - because if any alarm was ever expressed it would have been over the fact that Russell had entrusted power to someone so inexperienced and ethically challenged  that he got fired from his last job as a result of a lack of professional ethics and a big mouth, because he couldn’t resist bragging to David Smiley at the Herald about working on Russell’s campaign while at the same time working for the South Florida Business Journal. Melendez is first and foremost a shameless self promoter, and in no way could or would ever be considered a modern day version of Woodward or Burnstein.

Keon Hardemon on the other hand was appointed as the Chairman of the Miami City Commission by Mayor Tomas Regalado last January, not because he had statesman-like qualities, or even for that matter because he had a sprinkling of gravitas that one would expect a Commission Chairman to have - his meltdown at the last Commission meeting shows that someone needs to stand by with a tranquilizer gun in case he really goes berserk - but rather because he has demonstrated, in no small part by the open way that his family has attempted to cash in on their nephew being a City Commissioner, that he was both sleazy and corrupt enough that he could be relied on by Regalado to be his sock puppet on deals like this Rickenbacker Marina RFP.

No one should minimize or ignore the fact that this Rickenbacker deal is only taking place because of the collusion between Tomas Regalado and the fraudster Stephen Kneapler who has been industriously working behind the scenes on behalf of the Christophs to get this deal approved.

If there is one really bad guy in this deal who is ultimately responsible for this RFP being issued, and for everything that has happened since, it is Tomas Regalado. Everyone else in this scheme is merely playing a supporting role to the real puppet master whose sitting in his office pulling the strings! 

For the last 5 years Regalado has considered both the Miami Marine Stadium and the Rickenbacker Marina as properties that could first and foremost become cash cows for his friends - remember that the Marine Stadium deal with the Friends Of The Marine Stadium blew up in part not only because of the amazingly Ponzi-like deal put together by Manny Alonso Poch, but because of the way that Hilario Candela and Jorge Hernandez - the front guys for the Friends of The Marine Stadium - had written themselves in for a $6 million dollar self-dealing payoff as the architects on the redevelopment of the property.

Regalado has always seen these properties as lucrative trinkets to give away, and it’s only been his choice of sleazy playmates that has stopped him from screwing the taxpayers by succeeding in giving these properties away.  (Here are all the stories I wrote on the Marine Stadium deal that support these allegations.)

The same now is true for this Rickenbacker Marina deal, where the fraudster Stephen Kneapler is the go-between between Regalado and City Manager Danny Alfonso and the Christophs, which given Kneapler’s history of being involved in schemes that have screwed the taxpayers of Miami should on it’s own be enough to tell you just how dirty this deal really is.

Hardemon’s appointment as Chairman was just one of the pawns that Regalado needed to put in place to move the deal along and now thanks in large part to Hardemon’s personal behavior, that decision is beginning to look like it could be another bad decision by Regalado.

In addition to Hardemon’s emotional problems, his and his family’s behavior in putting a proverbial cash register at the door of his office is creating concern and much discussion within some portions of the local political community over the fact that if anyone really needs to talk with him about any issue involving public money or any other issue of substance, they first have to hire his auntie’s company, B&B Professional Consulting, Inc., to assist in setting up a meeting. It’s either hire auntie Barbara to get you through the door to the Commissioner, or waste your time talking to Hardemon’s Chief of Staff, James McQueen.

Being street hustlers, finesse is not part of their game.

Russell on the other hand, is struggling to maintain his appeal to his base because his glib and facile ability to make apparitional speeches has begun to wear thin in no small part because in spite of his boyish charm he’s pretty much shown himself to be a clueless amateur when it’s come to the real heavy lifting that is at the heart of being an effective city commissioner, much less a leader.

Russell’s real problem is that he has demonstrated on several occasions that on really tough issues he’s easily rolled over by his fellow commissioners like a 3rd grader with his lunch money pinned to his shirt pocket who gets that money taken away by a couple 6th graders.

There are some folks who’ve taken offense at my making this claim, starting with Russell himself, but as I’ve said too many times, on too many occasions and to too many people: fuck you if you can’t take a joke. 

Only, I seldom joke, especially this time, because this Rickenbacker Marina RFP is the single largest deal involving public waterfront land in District 2 that will occur during whatever period of time Russell is a City Commissioner. 

This time, in addition to words, I have the advantage of a great piece of videotape to backup my assertions that Russell is not ready for prime time. 


The tape, which is at the bottom of this story is the portion of the Special Commission meeting on June 22nd, that starts when Russell makes his request to Call The Question.

It starts with Russell raising the issue of Calling The Question. He doesn’t declaratively demand that the question be called, but rather makes it more in the form of a question: “I’d like to see if we can Call The Question.”

In Russell’s defense, his request does contain enough specificity as to what he wants, that had Chairman Hardemon been dealing from the top of the deck - and not demonstrating as one person commented to me after the meeting that he appeared to be acting as just an another attorney on the Christoph team - he would have stopped the discussion that was then going on, said something to the effect of, ‘Commissioner Russell seems to be asking to Call the Question? Is that right Commissioner?’

Russell would no doubt have said yes, and then Hardemon would have been limited to one choice,  and that choice would have been to ask for a 2nd followed by asking for the Commissioners to vote, which, if 3 Commissioners had voted yes, would have ended the discussion, and then Russell’s next step - if he even understood what that step was, would have been to call for a vote on his motion to throw the RFP bid out and start with a new RFP.

So that’s how this tape starts.

What follows is that Hardemon ignores Russell’s request and allows Al Dotson, the attorney for the Christophs to start talking, and Dotson does, going on for 15 seconds before you hear Commissioner Willie Gort break in and say, “You know, I have to leave. I’m supposed to be at another place at 7 o’clock, and I have people waiting for me...”

I’ve already written what I think about Gort’s scummy behavior in doing this, because short of his wife and/or children dying in a hospital bed at that moment, there was ABSOLUTELY NO MEETING OR PLACE that Gort had to be that was more important than keeping his ass in his chair at this meeting, but there was a reason why Gort decided that he had to leave, and it’s doubtful that it was because “I have people waiting for me...”

And this is where Russell revealed just how clueless an amateur he was that night.

Russell should have demanded that Al Dotson stop speaking 3 or 4 seconds after he started, or even if he waited for the full 15 seconds until he did stop in response to Gort saying he was leaving, Russell should have turned on both Hardemon and Gort and said: 

            ‘Mr. Chairman I asked for a Call of the Question and you

            didn’t show me the respect to acknowledge my call, so I’m

            making it again, and Commissioner Gort, I don’t think that

            this is going to take a whole lot of time to Call the Question

            and get this over with, so I am asking you to wait those

            few minutes because this is important to me, to all of us

            here in this chamber and to everyone in the city.’

Instead, Russell kept his mouth shut, Gort got up, walked out of the room, and Al Dotson, like any good lawyer would, went right back to talking like nothing had happened.

Yes, I know, it’s always easy to come up with the right words after the fact, but smart elected officials, the good ones, the ones who show up prepped, equipped and ready to deal with whatever comes up are the ones who somehow always come up with the right words in real time, when those words can make a real difference.

The most telling part of this however was not whether Russell was able to come up with an eloquent response, bur rather his complete silence, like a deer caught in the headlights.

We can quibble over what he coulda, shoulda said, but not on the fact that HE SAID NOTHING!  NOT A WORD!  NOT EVEN A PEEP!

A fighter instinctively knows when to seize the moment, and either you have the instincts and the moxie to recognize those moments and take advantage of them, or you don’t.

Now, it’s not that you can’t acquires some of those skills, but to do so, you first of all have to work at learning the nuts and bolts of how the inside of the political business really works, and unfortunately, the evidence points to the fact that Russell has farmed out that effort to a largely amateur staff who themselves are clueless.

So instead of jumping in right away, it took Russell all of one minute and forty seconds before he decided to speak up - long enough for Willie Gort to get his ass out of the building - and then in a semi-whine he says: “I asked to Call The Question, Were we not going to act on that?”

At the end of the day, this is the clearest evidence that Russell while being a nice, sweet guy, is not a guy who can be depended on to take on the powerful moneyed interested that he claims he ran to stop from continuing to screw the taxpayers of Miami.

When Russell finally decided to assert himself, Hardemon by turns, decided to act dumb, confused, argumentative and after some back and forth between him, the City Clerk, Russell and finally the City Attorney, suddenly understands what the requirements are for Calling The Question, and makes a belated request for a Second to Russell’s motion.

Russell, by now realizing that the horse has left the barn, withdraws his motion to Call the Question.

It was enough to make you want to reach through the computer monitor and bitch slap both of them. Hardemon for being an obviously devious and manipulative asshole who clearly knew what Calling the Question meant, and who instead decided to ignore Russell in what became just one more example of the disrespect that he shown him now over the last several meetings, and Russell for being such a clueless amateur as to allow himself to be pushed around like dust mop.

But wait, there’s more, because as Russell withdraws his motion, Francis Suarez steps into the vacuum and takes over the direction of the discussion. Francis Suarez 2.0 is slicker and more focused and articulate than Francis Suarez 1.0, but sadly, to me at least, that only makes him more dangerous.

Now that doesn’t mean that I don’t like Suarez, because in fact in a lot of ways I find him quite likable, and I give him his props as the only City Commissioner whose never had a problem with providing me with what ever public record I’ve asked from him without questions or bullshit.

I’ve also been meaning to give him his props for being the person who drove the city’s involvement with the (dot)miami web address that has generated some respectable money for the city, a feat in generating money for the city that hasn’t been matched by any of the other commissioners.

But even though I like Francis, and can actually stand to be around him for longer than 30 seconds, I am never unmindful of the fact that I believe Francis has sold his soul, lock, stock and barrel in order to be able to please his father in an effort to become the Mayor of Miami so that the Suarez political dynasty can be cemented, and in the process he could turn out to be the most dangerous mayor of all time if the voters approve changing the City Charter to make him a strong mayor, thereby allowing Daddy Xavier to sit behind the throne pulling the strings.

But that’s another story for a day coming soon.

As Suarez started talking you could almost see the gears in his head shifting as he smoothly moved the discussion away from throwing out the RFP to talking about the Marine Stadium where he aligned himself with the remaining Grovites and concerned do-gooders in the audience, making sure in the process to let the folks in Key Biscayne know that he was concerned about them as well, and then moving further away from the immediacy of a vote to throw out the RFP by claiming that he was in “no rush” to reach a decision on this issue that night, and in fact wasn’t even ready to Call the Question.

And so after 7 plus minutes of talking everyone away from the edge of the cliff, and after a couple more minutes of stuttering and confusion by everyone else, the meeting came to an unsatisfactory end for just about everyone except those in the Christoph camp who believed, as they walked out the door, that the manner in which the meeting ended - it was adjourned and not recessed and/or continued, thereby making Russell’s original motion to throw the RFP out, dead - cleared the way for the City to start negotiations with them the following day. You can read about what happened the next day in David Smiley’s story, HERE.

For Russell however, whatever internal questions or doubts he might have harbored about his own performance soon went away, because while he still might be largely clueless about how the Commission’s Rules of Order works six months into his term in office, he’s never been clueless about exploiting every opportunity to toot his horn as to what a swell and courageous leader he is when it comes to standing up for the “little peeple.”

Before the night had ended, Russell, had salved his embarrassing performance and retweeted these two tweets that Miami Herald reporter David Smiley had posted earlier during the meeting.



“MY BOY,” indeed.