Your (North Miami) tax dollars hard at work. (UPDATED)

Tax DollarsIf  you watched the February 10, 2015 North Miami City Council meeting, you already know that the city finally  terminated its May 20, 2011 Property Management Services Agreement with Joe Celestin Civil Engineer & General Builder, LLC (see Tab E, page 3 of the Minutes).

The initial term of this Agreement was for four months, followed by “a month-to-month Term-basis, until terminated by either Party.”  As compensation for his services, Joe Celestin’s company was contracted to receive $19,500.00 per month, or $234,000.00 a year.

The City then entered into a Second Amendment to Property Management Services Agreement, Month to Month Agreement dated October 9, 2013*, to incorporate the new terms.

*UPDATED: A first amendment to the Agreement, which was dated October 9, 2012 (extending the term for one year and increasing compensation to $25,000.00 per month) had also previously been executed.  I will post a copy once I receive it.

On November 12, 2013, the City Council passed Resolution No. R-2013-141, which states that the Council had already extended the Agreement on October 9, 2012 for “a term of one (1) year at a cost not to exceed Twenty-Five Thousand Dollars ($25,000.00) per month,” or $300,000.00 a year.

That Resolution provided for an additional term beginning on November 1, 2013 and ending on October 31, 2014.

Despite the “month-to-month” terms of the Second Amendment, on December 1, 2013 the City entered into another agreement with Joe Celestin’s company entitled Second Renewal to Property Services Agreement, which added that an “additional Renewal period of one (1) year commencing on November 1, 2014, through October 31, 2015, may be granted with the Mayor and City Council approval.”

Interestingly, Resolution No. R-2013-141 MADE ABSOLUTELY NO MENTION of an “additional Renewal period.”  This language was mysteriously and gratuitously added to the Second Renewal to Property Services Agreement signed by the City and Joe Celestin’s company.

That’s the background of the arrangement between the City of North Miami and Joe Celestin regarding his management of Biscayne Landing, which was the subject matter of the council’s Resolution to terminate the Agreement.

Discussion on the proposed Resolution to terminate the contract began at minute 40:34 of the meeting.

City Manager Aleem Ghany began by referring to the original Request For Proposal RFP #46-10-11, which clearly advertised for a Property Manager to be hired until a developer for the site was obtained.

Mr. Ghany further stated that the original “Scope of Work” (described in Section 3.0) has changed “almost 80% on what is being done on the site by the Property Manager” since the original Agreement was executed.

Furthermore, Section 3.1 of the RFP specifically states that “Request for proposals to either purchase or lease the property is forthcoming.  Until the land deal is completed, the city is seeking to engage an onsite property manager to manage and oversee the day to day activities.”

In addition, Section 3.2 of the RFP specifically states that “the Property Manager will be required to work a minimum of five days a week for eight hours a day to provide subcontractors with access to enter an[d] exit the site.”

City Manager Aleem Ghany stated at the meeting that the work previously performed by Celestin was now being performed by the developer’s property manager and recommended that the contract be terminated.

In other words, Joe Celestin is being grossly overpaid for services that he is not performing and are not needed anyway.

During public comment a resident named Richard came up to the podium and said, “People, this is not rocket science.”

Rocket Science

He explained that when Celestin was first contracted “there was a list of a hundred things he was supposed to do until the developer took over the majority of those things.  Now there’s only one main thing that needs to be done, which can be either done with a city employee or a new contractor at a lot less money for one person instead of two people, and if you don’t terminate this contract and you extend it then he’s gonna be having a contract getting paid to do nothing.”

He’s absolutely right.  It’s not rocket science.

But, just as the Mayor was about to close public comment, Joe Celestin came running up to the podium to exclaim that it IS rocket science, and that he’s the only rocket scientist in the room.

Okay, that wasn’t an exact quote.  But he did have plenty to say.

Channeling his inner Frantz “I’m a Drama Queen” Pierre, Celestin began with, “I am so upset with all the lies that has been presented today by a member of the council.”

Celestin brought up the Channel 10 exposé about him and his partner Ricardo Rodriguez, Manager of RRR Z Developer, LLC, and how they “failed to obtain a permit to commence work filling” Lake Carmen in northwest Miami-Dade County.  The article noted that Miami-Dade County issued Civil Violation Notice Number B180227 to RRR Z Developer, LLC for “non-compliance with field notice to correct waste dumping violations dated 1/07/15.”

Photo: Local10.com

Photo: Local10.com

Celestin acknowledged that Rodriguez was also “a contractor at Biscayne Landing,” but that he “was terminated a year ago.”

Mr. Celestin further attempted to distance himself from Rodriguez by claiming that he was only contracted at Lake Carmen to draw up a set of plans for soil improvement and for a single family home, claiming he is not the developer.

Joe Celestin continued to berate Councilwoman Carol Keys for stating that “Joe Celestin and his partner was cited for dumping illegal goods into a lake.”  He demanded a retraction and an apology, and threatened a lawsuit.

Because demands and threats always work when you want to keep your job, right?

Councilwoman Keys had previously noted that Joe Celestin was associated with Ricardo Rodriguez, not only at the Lake Carmen project, but also at Biscayne Landing.

This association appears to be a direct and blatant violation of Paragraph 9.2 of the Property Management Services Agreement, which clearly states that “Property Manager covenants that no person under its employ who presently exercises any functions or responsibilities on behalf of the City in connection with this Agreement has any personal financial interest, directly or indirectly, with contractors or vendors providing professional services on projects assigned to the Property Manager, except as fully disclosed and approved by the City.  Property Manager further covenants that, in the performance of this Agreement, no person having such conflicting interest shall be employed.”

Obviously, Joe Celestin has a “personal financial interest, directly or indirectly,” with Biscayne Landing contractor RRR Z Developer, LLC.

Another interesting item of note is that while Celestin insisted that Ricardo Rodriguez’ company was “terminated a year ago,” sources advise me that his contract was terminated sometime between the time the Channel 10 story ran, which was February 4, 2015, and the council meeting of February 10, 2015.

If that’s true, it would appear that Celestin lied on the record.

Yes, we are shocked.

Yes, that was sarcasm.

Celestin continued with his completely irrelevant red herring rant for several more minutes before the Mayor lost patience and said, “We are injecting items for discussion that have nothing to do with the issue at hand … We are trying to terminate his relationship with the city because of non-performance.  Right?  So let’s stick with that issue, please!”

Fifteen minutes into Celestin’s tirade, the Mayor put his hand up and said, “We have heard enough!”

Celestin wrapped it up by claiming he was insulted by the insinuation that he received the contract as a political favor.

Because we all know that that kind of stuff just never, EVER  happens in North Miami!

“I responded to a bid where all the contractors in the universe had the right to submit a bid to do this job.  I was the lowest responsive bidder on the contract.  Everybody else’s price was higher than me to do the same job that was advertised.  They didn’t do me no favor.”

Celestin insisted that his contract doesn’t expire until October 31, 2015, which we have already established is NOT TRUE, and “demanded” that the city honor the imaginary seven months left on a contract that exists only in his own mind.

Councilman Scott Galvin then went on record about the details of the Celestin contract by questioning Aleem Ghany, who declared that the terms of the contract had not been fulfilled since its inception.

The City Manager noted that attendance logs are kept by the property’s security company.  He stated that “some of the times Mr. Celestin entered the site, based on the logs, were ranging from fifteen minutes to two hours, some extended to up to four hours.”

Mr. Ghany also stated that Celestin violated the contract’s requirement for insurance by not providing the city with an insurance certificate since April 19, 2011.

Finally, he also confirmed that Celestin has not provided the “forty reports” about the progress of the project, as required by the contract.

According to Section 7.1 of the Property Management Services Agreement, “If Property Manager fails to comply with any term or condition of this Agreement, or fails to perform any of its obligations hereunder, the Property Manager shall be in default.”

In a no-brainer move, the Council finally and unanimously voted to terminate the Agreement that had already expired on October 31, 2014.

HallelujahAnd that was an hour none of us will ever get back.

Here’s the thing.

After a decade-long stretch of corrupt politics and shady contracts given to Friends & Family, there finally seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel.

Ever since the council hired Aleem Ghany as the city Manager, North Miami has been moving in a positive direction.

Aleem has been making all the right moves, starting with the firing of Lesly Prudent, continuing with his request of a state audit of the city’s finances, and then recommending the termination of Joe Celestin’s free ride on the backs of the taxpayers.

City Manager Aleem Ghany’s next order of business should be to eliminate the corruption that’s been plaguing the North Miami Police Department.  He needs to force Police Chief Leonard Burgess to either stop protecting the bad apples or resign from the NMPD.

On second thought, Aleem should just fire his ass and give his job to the infinitely more deserving Assistant Chief Gary Eugene.

With the upcoming vacancy of Marie Steril’s seat on the dais, the last of the corruptocrats will finally be gone.

After those much needed changes are implemented, and Alix Desulme is elected in District 4, all of North Miami’s problems will be solved.

Then I can retire from blogging.

Just kidding.

We’ll always have Frantzie.

Stephanie Kienzle
“Spreading the Wealth”

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7 Comments

  1. Martin says:

    Mr. Ghany is a breath of fresh air in what has been a cesspool of corruption and mismanagement for years. Hopefully Alix Desulme will round out our council so that our city can be run by a group of people with their heads on straight and their morals intact. I like how the mayor is cutting out the shenanigans at the council meetings. The one thing left would be to get rid of this corrupt police chief. I met Assistant Chief Eugene a few weeks ago he was humble, intelligent and I was very impressed with him. I would definitely support appointing this man and removing the other one. We need to send the message to our council that we want qualified, ETHICAL people representing our city.

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  2. James Tracton,JD,PhD says:

    Aleem is a fantastic City Manager. I had to live thru several city managers who were very bad so I really am happy that my city has finally a very good city manager. I would also suggest that he fire the police chief. The chief will soon be the only bad city employee.

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    1. Stephanie Kienzle says:

      Dr. Tracton, I couldn’t agree with you more. Burgess has to go. Assistant Chief Gary Eugene is way more qualified to run the department and he should be promoted ASAP. Burgess has done nothing but ruin the reputation of the NMPD, and everyone knows it. As Chief, Gary Eugene could restore the department’s image and officer morale. He’d also have no problem getting rid of the “bad apples.” I hope Aleem will take your suggestion into consideration.

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    2. Stephanie Kienzle says:

      One more thing, Dr. Tracton. If the Chief reads your comment (and I know he’s doing just that), he may try to contact you, either personally or through an “emissary,” to try to convince you that he’s doing a grand old job. That’s exactly what he tried to do with me, but I know what he’s up to and didn’t fall for it. Don’t be fooled. He’s nothing but a political animal who will stop at nothing to spin the truth. It’s probably driving him crazy that he’s unable to shut me up. But I refuse to back down from bullies or stop telling the truth regardless of the consequences.

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      1. James Tracton,JD,PhD says:

        good girl

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  3. Martin says:

    I’m glad you’re not falling for his tactics or bullying. That chief is all about playing politics and schmoozing. One word best describes him and that’s fake.

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  4. […] When the North Miami City Council voted unanimously to terminate its contract with his company, Joe Celestin Civil Engineer & General Builder, LLC, he had a very public meltdown. […]

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