Happy Birthday, VotersOpinion!

YOU'RE ADOPTEDFive years ago this month, VotersOpinion.com was born.

Although no one is more surprised than I am at its success, I do know two people who are less than thrilled that I’m still in the blogging business.

If it weren’t for North Miami Beach’s former/fired City Manager Kelvin Baker and the former/ousted/arrested Mayor Myron Rosner, VotersOpinion might never have been created.  If you’re one of the dirty politicians I’ve targeted over the years, please direct your thank you notes – or something – to either one of these fine gentlemen.  I’m sure they’ll appreciate it.

It was the summer of 2010.  Myron and I had been having our ongoing and well documented battles for months.  But, Kelvin Baker got my attention when one of his employees, Public Services Director Martin King, was given a paid three month “vacation” as a “punishment” for doing something  wrong.  At the time, we had no idea what he had done or, especially, what was coming down the pike.  Nevertheless, I wrote a letter to the Miami Herald about this incident.

The Webmaster, who had just created VotersOpinion, posted the very first blog here by reprinting my letter.

I’m Fed Up With Corruption In My Town

June 28th, 2010
Commentary by Stephanie Kienzle

Scheduled for publication in the Miami Hearald on Sunday July 4th 2010  in response to an article written in the Neighbors section of the Herald. Stephanie is a long time resident of North Miami Beach, and an outspoken critic of her city’s government officials. (commentary below)

The Miami Herald published an article on Sunday, June 27, 2010, of yet another employee of the City of North Miami Beach who was living large on our dime. According to the article, Martin King, the former director of public services, was sent home to work on a “special  assignment” for three months, all the while collecting $24,536.00 of our tax dollars.  The article states, “Martin King’s homework: Write a report on how to be a better manager.”

His boss, City Manager Kelvin Baker, handed this (over)paid vacation to King instead of firing him.  How can I get a job like that?  For that kind of money and with that much free time, I’d be able to churn out The Great American Novel in no time flat, and still be able to spend a good chunk of my time off on a beach in Jamaica!

Apparently, North Miami Beach employees have it made.  A couple of years ago, Aris Eugene was able to help himself to over $64,000.00 of city dollars (plus God knows how much more that went unreported), none of which I bet he’ll pay back even though he was court ordered to do so.  In the meantime, Eugene goes Scott-free instead of doing any jail time, which he so obviously deserves.

Then you have our own Mayor Myron Rosner, who has pilfered an unknown amount of tax dollars by either not obtaining, or bullying code employees into just giving to him, proper licenses and variances for construction work he has done on his own residence.  The Miami-Dade County Ethics Commission not only found probable cause to prosecute these ethics violations, but last week Rosner’s Motion to Dismiss was unanimously denied by the Commission.  He goes to trial later this summer.

All this corruption in a hole-in-the-wall city like North Miami Beach is mind-boggling. I’m just wondering if it’s something in the water. I think I’ll stick with Zephyrhills.

Stephanie Kienzle
“Spreading the Wealth”

Granted, it wasn’t my greatest work.  But, you also have to remember that back then the Herald editor made us play nice with others.  He also didn’t approve of “colorful” language, so I was a tad stifled by those constraints.

Nevertheless, a couple months later, the antics of Myron Rosner and Kelvin Baker helped kick start my new found career as a blogger.

Kelvin Baker irked the hell out of me when he decided to play the race card at a budget meeting on August 25, 2010.  Sensing he was about to be fired for budgetary incompetence, among other things, he invited the NAACP to the meeting to witness his publicly accusing the city council of racial discrimination.

He also accused them of violating Sunshine Laws, which was just as ridiculous as his claim of being racially profiled.

For some odd reason, it didn’t occur to Kelvin Baker that the seven member council, consisting of three blacks and four whites, didn’t hire him because he was black.  They simply believed he was the best person for the job.

When they decided to fire him, it wasn’t because he was black.  It was because he was a screw up.

Baker was finally canned on September 13, 2010.

His legacy?  The same Martin King who received a taxpayer funded “summer vacation” was finally arrested the following February.  A November, 2010 audit of the city’s finances uncovered that Marty stole $2.2 million dollars slated for 254 manholes and 2,500 feet of sewer pipes that were never purchased.  King struck a plea agreement with prosecutors and is currently serving a 12 year sentence.

Also revealed after Mr. Baker’s departure was the fact that he had depleted the water department’s reserves in order to “balance” the budget.  This sleight of hand resulted in a downgrade of the city’s all important Fitch Rating.

I followed Baker’s “career” after he was run out of North Miami Beach.  He applied to several municipalities for the position of City Manager, including my new home town of Davie, none of which panned out.

And, yeah, I might have had a little something to do with that.

wink winkEventually, Mr. Baker and the scandal ridden City of Opa-Locka, found each other.  It was a match made in heaven, and the rest is history.

History continues to be made as Kelvin Baker continues to make headlines.

Aside from taking charge of the most corrupt police department in all of South Florida, and adding to the mix by hiring North Miami Police Department rejects Jeffrey Key and Peter Cruz, Baker also took on undie patrol, paid out over $3 million in liability claims, failed to close a $2.57 million budget deficit in 2013, faced a $2.4 million budget gap in 2014, and started out the new year in 2015 by not being able to cover the checks already handed out to employees for their December holiday bonuses.

But, no worries.  Kelvin’s got this shit covered.

Um, except for some new troubles on the horizon.

It seems that Opa-locka City Manager Kelvin Baker had to call a special meeting with the commissioners on Monday because he can’t close a $1.7 million dollar budget hole.

Surprise, surprise.

Equally less surprising are that three of the Opa-locka commission members are shocked – SHOCKED, I TELL YOU! – that their city is in such financial dire straights.

Never mind that both Terence Pinder and Timothy Holmes asked for and received approval from their colleagues for the total payment of $15,000.00 for legal fees, which they both incurred while in office.

Never mind that they all voted to give out $125,000.00 in city employee bonuses that were not budgeted for.

What’s painfully laughable is that Kelvin Baker proposed three “solutions” to the current mess, but none were acceptable to the Mayor and Commission.  According to the Herald, Baker suggested either “a voluntary early-retirement program, a salary reduction for all employees or a staff reduction plan.”

At the special commission meeting called by City Manager Baker, Mayor Myra Taylor refused to consider layoffs.  Despite the fact that she voted for both the holiday bonuses and the gifting of legal fees to her colleagues, the buck obviously whizzed right past her empty head when she emphatically stated, “This meeting was not called by the mayor, but the mayor gets the blame and gets very little credit.  Tonight I’m going to tell you what the mayor ought to do.  I’m going to create a financial task force of people who have no interest in this city whatsoever.”

Because throwing more un-budgeted money at the problem will surely fix everything, right?

Make it rainDuring the meeting, Vice Mayor Timothy Holmes, who was on the receiving end of $10,000.00 taxpayer funded legal fees, asked “Why are we here?”

Gee, I dunno.  Maybe because YOU RUN THE CITY?

It bears repeating that Holmes received those legal fees in order to defend a lawsuit against him for violating his own city’s charter by running for office after he was already termed out.

Because nothing says “good governance” to your constituents like “I don’t care what the Charter says, you can’t get rid of me!”

Commissioner Pinder, who got re-elected despite the fact that he’s a convicted criminal currently serving two years’ probation, also chimed in.

The Herald noted, “Commissioner Terence Pinder seamlessly shamed the commission for not picking up on the problem sooner.”

Distancing himself even further from all responsibility for the mess he helped create, Pinder said, “Back in December when we took a financial snapshot of the city, we knew this.  And now this has come into fruition.”

Yet, he has no idea what happened?

Is anyone else astonished by the incredible incompetence of the Opa-locka City Commission?  Or is it just me?

But the best part of all is that these three clowns were endorsed by … yep, you guess it … the Dade County Police Benevolent Association!

PBA OPA-LOCKA ENDORSEMENTHey, PBA.  Keep those endorsements coming!

When I said that Kelvin Baker and Opa-locka were a perfect fit, it was probably the understatement of the year.

Amazingly enough, VotersOpinion is now celebrating its fifth birthday.

OMGIn honor of this momentous event, The Webmaster told me he has some very special surprises in store for all of our loyal readers.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see what I do next!

Stephanie Kienzle
“Spreading the Wealth”

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24 Comments

  1. Dear VotersOpinion,

    I learned about you years ago when you started getting serious press about the Rosner case. Then we ran into each other at public events. Then I wrote guest columns for you. And finally, we teamed up to do some good in NMB.

    We’ve done a lot and the word is that we are just getting started.

    Thank you for all the great times and those more to come.

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    1. Stephanie Kienzle says:

      NMB look out! Let’s get that party started!

      Image and video hosting by TinyPic

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  2. Happy Birthday to the Blogger I hope to be.

    Love you madly and forever,

    Kevin

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    1. Stephanie Kienzle says:

      Thanks, Kevin. That’s so sweet of you. It also made me blush considering that I’m one of YOUR biggest fans!

      Love you madly back!

      Steph

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  3. Walter Ward says:

    Stephanie, I live in Hialeah but I am one of your ardent supporters. Keep up the good work and thank you

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    1. Stephanie Kienzle says:

      Thank you, Walter! You have been a great supporter and contributor. I am so grateful!

      Steph

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  4. Barbara says:

    Happy Birthday! So glad that you “are what you are”! If all cities had at least one person like you, maybe, just maybe…

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    1. Stephanie Kienzle says:

      It doesn’t really help all that much. The corruption still goes on. Every city needs a team of watchdogs!

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  5. Ellen says:

    NMB gave this guy 3 months pay for doing nothing. What about the cop in NM who got 8 months pay for doing nothing?
    WHERE ARE THE AUTHORITIES?

    Congratulations on your great work!

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  6. James Tracton,JD,PhD says:

    I do not understand why your blog reached me just after having my 88th birthday party. But happy birthday to you. Jim

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    1. Stephanie Kienzle says:

      Thanks and happy birthday to YOU!

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  7. Ellen says:

    Correction:
    The COP in NM got 8 months pay for doing nothing.

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    1. Stephanie Kienzle says:

      No one at North Miami City Hall cared about that, either.

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  8. Bruce Lamberto says:

    Congradulations Stef, nobody does it better. Thank-You for being the watch dog, and the pit bull, of our local area. Without you, much of the corruption you report would be unknown to the voters.

    Thank-You for what you do.

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    1. Stephanie Kienzle says:

      Thanks, Bruce. Years of being the town yenta finally pays off. 🙂

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  9. Barbix says:

    Happy Birthday! Thanks for what you do. And happy birthday to Jim above!

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  10. al crespo says:

    CONGRATULATIONS!!!! YOU’VE MADE A BIG DIFFERENCE!!!!

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    1. Stephanie Kienzle says:

      Thanks! Coming from you especially, that means a lot!

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  11. ernie says:

    Wasn’t Kelvin Baker a senior pastor running his own church in Pembroke Pines while allegedly working full-time as the City Manager of North Miami Beach? Isn’t he still holding down that senior pastor job while allegedly working full-time as the City Manager in Opa Locka?
    Check out Kelvin’s Senior Pastor job HERE.

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    1. Stephanie Kienzle says:

      He was, and obviously still is.

      I heard a few interesting stories about him and his church from a former city employee, who worked there when Kelvin was running the water department. When he was building that church he used to recruit his employees to “volunteer” their time to help build it. I was told this was while they were on duty being paid by NMB. I was also told that he took “surplus” materials from city projects to use for the construction of that church. But the worst part is that he only promoted people who joined his church.

      Unfortunately, I only heard these things after the fact (years later) or I would have been digging even more dirt. There is no way to prove any of this now without an audit of his church from the beginning. Even then, he could also doctor those books, and claim the materials were donations.

      So much for a “man of god.”

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  12. Frank says:

    Are you sure that you are remembering Mr. Baker’s service in NMB accurately? Because I just read about his NMB stint in his official Opa Locka bio, and it tells a different story:

    “Baker became the manager during a time when the restate [sic] market took its first downward turn that sent many agencies into a tail spin. The organization was faced with layoffs, pending union contracts, an all-time low morale with many uncertainties in the air. Baker quickly pulled together his team and went to work to bring about a balance within the organization. Mr. Baker activated his C.A.R.E. plan immediately and began to get employees to buy in with the understanding that the future of the organization rest [sic] in the hands of everyone participating and working together to keep the city financially sounds [sic] during the challenging times.”
    http://www.opalockafl.gov/index.aspx?NID=273

    There is no mention in the official bio of Baker being fired from NMB. There is also no mention of the theft of $2.6 million by his immediate subordinate. Can you please recheck?

    P.S. Did you know he is an Honorary Doctor of Divinity?

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    1. Stephanie Kienzle says:

      If you really want a giggle, check out these two websites:

      From 2010: http://icma.org/en/university/CalendarEvent/708/Turning_Employee_and_Public_Ideas_into_Big_Savings_and_Increased_Revenue
      Baker gave a seminar with Susan Gooding-Liburd, who also sued NMB for discrimination when she was fired for incompetence (http://www.examiner.com/article/naacp-investigates-termination-of-two-high-ranking-north-miami-beach-city-employees), and Kelvin’s next door neighbor and crony, Beverly Hobson. The other three presenters, Dr. An, Paulette Murphy and Esmond Scott, were the real experts on the panel.

      But even better, check out this article: http://www.sfltimes.com/uncategorized/baker-the-new-coach-as-opa-locka-manager

      Baker was hailed as the second coming when Opa-locka hired him in 2012! The article states:

      “The city is now on track,” [former Opa-locka City Manager Bryan] Finnie stated. “I think it will benefit from a new coach.” Baker is vowing to lead his new team of directors and staff in the city to winning seasons.

      I wonder how those “winning seasons” are working out for Opa-locka.

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  13. Karin says:

    and what an amazing five years it has been! I love the blog; most entertaining writing I have ever seen!

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    1. Stephanie Kienzle says:

      Thanks, Karin. I have to amuse myself somehow. Glad I could amuse you at the same time. 🙂

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