Poisoning the Well

I should be a lobbyistLast week, after four tortured years of trying, the North Miami Beach City Council finally voted to commence negotiations with the top-ranked bidder to outsource its sanitation department.

It’s been a difficult and highly emotional journey so far.  Opponents of outsourcing progress and reason have resorted to distortions and outright lies to stop privatization.

“The process was tainted,” they said.  It became their battle cry, as they all but accused Mayor George Vallejo and City Manager Ana Garcia of being crooks.

Well, the process was indeed tainted.  But not by the small army of registered lobbyists working on this issue for the trash haulers.  We know who they are.  As much as they’ve been vilified by the vociferous anti-everything cabal, they were at least playing by the rules and plying their trade in the open.

It turns out that the real source of the stench emanating from NMB’s garbage debate was much more clandestine, and infinitely more nefarious.

Last summer, the North Miami Beach City Council was considering a contract to privatize the sanitation department with the then-winning bidder, Waste Pro of Florida, Inc.   According to the Minutes of the council meeting dated June 17, 2014, Mayor George Vallejo, Councilwoman Barbara Kramer and Councilwoman Marlen Martell voted to negotiate a contract, per Resolution R2014-19.  The remaining four council members voted it down, and it failed 4-3.

The City Council decided instead to put the issue out for a bid again.  The proposal offered by the current winning bidder, Waste Management of Florida, Inc. is actually about $500,000.00 HIGHER per year than last year’s top-ranked proposal from Waste Pro.

On top of missing out on that HALF MILLION DOLLAR PER YEAR savings, since the Council didn’t move forward with privatizing sanitation in 2011 when it was first proposed, an additional THREE MILLION+ DOLLARS EVERY YEAR have now been flushed down the toilet.

Here’s the thing.

An individual by the name of Evan Ross was a registered lobbyist in North Miami Beach for three entities in 2013 an 2014.

None of these companies are in the business of garbage.  Therefore, Evan Ross was never legally permitted to lobby the council on behalf of any sanitation company.

Most of the council members said they indeed talked or met with Ross as part of their “Jennings Disclosure” requirements during a land-use hearing for one of his clients.

IF Evan Ross so much as whispered the words “garbage,” “sanitation,” or “trash,” even just once, to any of the North Miami Beach council members or their family members, he would have been engaging in UNREGISTERED LOBBYING.

Which is illegal.

Even more disturbing, although Evan Ross never registered as a lobbyist for any garbage company, he was secretly working as a “paid consultant” for the current top-ranked bidder, Waste Management of Florida, Inc.

How do I know this?

Jason P. Neal, the company’s top in-house lobbyist, who is registered in North Miami Beach, told me so in a phone interview.

WTF?

How much, if any, influence Evan Ross had on last year’s failed bid by his client’s competitor remains a mystery.

We will probably only know the truth – if the City Council demands of itself that they all come clean and disclose any and all contacts they and their family members had with Evan Ross about garbage in the last two years.  More specifically, if the words “garbage” or “sanitation” were ever uttered.

Or, even better, if an ethics or criminal probe is launched and the subpoenas start flying.

I also happen to know that last year almost all of the council members were on at least speaking terms with Evan Ross, if not in contact with him quite frequently to discuss various issues regarding North Miami Beach.

This year, not so much.

At the time, Evan’s client, CH2M Hill, Inc., a giant engineering firm, was seeking a piece of North Miami Beach’s water plant business.  Evan’s unsavory lobbying tactics on behalf of his client eventually cost him dearly with most of the council members, and with North Miami Beach’s administration as well.

My sources tell me that Ross wanted the city to circumvent the competitive bidding process for contracts over $50,000.00.  Any contract under that amount can be awarded unilaterally by the city administration, without a bid or Council approval.

CH2M Hill, Inc. was angling for a $100,000.00 consulting contract, so Evan engineered a scheme to have the total amount broken into separate $49,999.00 contracts, which he hoped would be approved without submitting to a transparant (and time consuming) bidding process.

Illegal?  Probably not.

Shady?  You betcha!

North Miami Beach administrators and several members saw through this ploy, shot it down, and Evan became persona non grata at City Hall.

Ross was dissed, and apparently pissed — especially with Mayor Vallejo, who immediately became the target of vicious lies and innuendos circulated by Evan Ross, all of which have since proven to be baseless and completely without merit.  But not before casting long shadows of doubt on the Mayor’s integrity.

As an aside, Evan Ross is also the registered lobbyist in North Miami for CH2M HILL, a company that has been contracted for various environmental remediation jobs at the property formerly known as Biscayne Landing.  More on this issue will be forthcoming.  (Memo to the North Miami Mayor and Council:  Caveat Emptor!)

The North Miami Beach City Council is scheduled to vote whether or not to privatize sanitation in September, assuming City Manager Garcia is able to negotiate a favorable contract with Waste Management.

In the meantime, Evan Ross is known for showing up at every single municipal event, large and small, in both North Miami and North Miami Beach, and surrounding communities.  He’s everywhere.  Like a skin rash that just won’t go away.

Evan is overly impressed with himself and prone to bravado.  He actually believes he knows all about running a city, even though he has no degree in public administration (or any college degree at all), and no real experience in politics.

That doesn’t stop him from buzzing around town in his shiny new Cadillac in search of lobbying clients, touting his many alleged connections and relationships, and insinuating himself into the lives of elected officials, their family members, city staffers and civic leaders.

Even if Evan meets you only once at, say, a Dade League of Cities reception, for example, you are now his “friend” and are automatically in a relationship with him that he will try to exploit.

And exploit he will!

Evan takes name dropping to a new, despicable, level.

Here are some more fun facts to know and tell.

Sources told me that at one time, Evan Ross had attempted to land Waste Pro as a lobbying client for North Miami Beach and North Miami, but Waste Pro turned him down.  My guess is that they saw right though him as their bullshit meter spun out of control.

In addition to their own in-house lobbyists, Waste Pro also hired two more for North Miami Beach – Rulx “Ringo” Cayard and Keith Donner, who duly registered as lobbyists with North Miami Beach last year.

Both Cayard and Donner went on to be trashed mercilessly as “agents of evil” in cahoots with certain “corrupt” Council members and city administrators.

Cayard and Donner are, admittedly, inviting targets.  They are certainly fair game for criticism and scrutiny.

But they also served as a handy distraction for people with impure motives on the outsourcing issue.

I have no doubt there were plenty of impure motives during last year’s contentious vote on Waste Pro.  Pettiness, revenge, opportunism, hypocrisy and sheer stupidity were all on display.

But those motives were certainly not driven by any REGISTERED lobbyists.

Since Waste Pro was the top bidder last year, it was in Waste Management’s best interest to start the bidding process over from scratch.  This is why Evan Ross working as a clandestine “paid consultant” for Waste Management is so disturbing.

Waste Management is now poised to be awarded a FORTY MILLION+ DOLLAR contract from North Miami Beach.

Now, this entire sordid affair probably wouldn’t be an issue if Ross wasn’t being paid by Waste Management as a “consultant.”

The problem for Ross, and possibly Waste Management, is that NMB’s lobbying laws are pretty clear, at least in this blogger’s humble opinion.  If you are PAID by a company to work on an issue that will come before the City Council, then you’re required to register as a lobbyist if you have any contact at all with city council members or their families.

As I already mentioned, Evan Ross is not and has never been registered to lobby for any sanitation company in North Miami Beach.

Period.

In the meantime, here are some things to think about before a final vote is taken on the Waste Management contract in September.

Isn’t the public owed an explanation from the Council members who were aghast by the “tainted process” and who attempted to smear the good names of Mayor Vallejo and City Manager Garcia?

How about an apology to taxpayers for wasting their money?  Can we at least get a few seconds of contrition?  Even a sad face would be appreciated at this point.

How many of them will admit to discussing, even casually or perhaps inadvertently, the topic of sanitation with Evan Ross?

If any of them feel used by Evan Ross, they might understandably be too embarrassed to own up to it.  The truth will eventually come out.  They should just admit it and get it over with.

If it helps, they should keep in mind they are not alone.  This is what Evan Ross does.  He publicly, shamelessly and constantly brags about his alleged close relationships with public officials, public employees, civic leaders, union members, police chiefs, their spouses, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, cats and dogs.

And, yes, even bloggers.

And he has the photo bombs to prove it!

I have no doubt that the terms of the contract with Waste Management will be very favorable to North Miami Beach, and potentially save the taxpayers millions of desperately needed dollars every year.

It’s just a damn shame that the well was poisoned the last time around, or those savings would have already been realized.

Stephanie Kienzle
“Spreading the Wealth”

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40 Comments

  1. Walter Ward says:

    The NMB council should check Waste Management from existing customers. They are horrible, not reliable, lie when something goes wrong.
    This from the president of a 79 unit condo.

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    1. Stephanie Kienzle says:

      I thought North Miami has Waste Pro, not Waste Management?

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      1. Not in NMB WM client says:

        My condo unit uses WM and they are incredibly expensive. You should dig deeper to find out if NMB is getting even close to it money’s worth.

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  2. Ellen says:

    North Miami got stuck with Waste Pro after 4 members of the city council voted, in a heart beat without proper bidding, to get rid of our wonderful city sanitation services. The residents wanted to keep what we had. I hope NMB has better luck than NM!

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  3. NMB Lady says:

    The fact that these big companies need to have expensive lobbyists on their payrolls is one of the reasons I continue to be against the privatization of public utilities, schools and police. Their first allegiance is to their investors, not the communities they serve. Because they are private companies, their books are generally not a matter of public record. I’m sure the city will save money in the short run, but having to deal with shenanigans of Mr Ross and his ilk makes my skin crawl.

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    1. Stephanie Kienzle says:

      Image and video hosting by TinyPic

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  4. Alonso the Arborist says:

    Evan Ross is the Mall Cop of lobbyists and political consultants.

    I’m not surprised by his amateurish actions.

    I am surprised that anyone in their right mind would ever give him the time of day.

    He is a train wreck in the making. You will end up having to defend yourself before the Ethics Commission or State Attorney.

    Maybe he has a referral arrangement with Ben Kuehne.

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  5. Stephanie Kienzle says:

    In the interest of fairness and full disclosure, Waste Management has been the service provider for the Town of Davie (where I live) since 1971. I have not had a problem with this company or any of its employees since I moved here. The workers who haul my trash are professional, pleasant and courteous, and they have not missed a pickup, nor have they left trash behind. I have no complaints.

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  6. Ruth says:

    I have been using Waste Pro in the City of North Miami at a commercial property because they are the waste haulers approved by the City. They have missed several of the weekly pickups. If my tenants did not tell me, I wouldn’t have known. They come any day that is convenient for them and not on the assigned days. I live in NMB and would hate to have to go through the same issues. I am also paying more than I did before I was forced to use them. I am stuck with them as long as they have a contract with the City. I was also told by code enforcement officer that I am not the only one with issues with Waste Pro. I am not sure that Waste Management would be any better.

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  7. Jonah says:

    This is why nothing ever gets done in our city.

    People, this issue isn’t up for debate if you look at the facts dispassionately.

    FACT: Outsourcing garbage saves a TON of money for taxpayers and provides the same or better levels of service overall.

    Every garbage route in the country probably has some glitches at some time regardless of whether its public department or private company.

    It seems the point of this blog is to cast light on the shadowy dealings of one particular lobbyist for one particular company.

    Another point is that the Council sure blew it by tossing out the lower-priced Waste Pro bid from last year.

    Nothing written in the blog changes the fact that any of the top-name garbage companies can’t do the job as well, for a lot less money.

    I would be willing to bet that going out to bid again will mean even higher costs than the half million more from last time. That would be a really dumb move.

    At this point, the city seems to have only two real choices:

    1. Discipline the lobbyist in question, hold your noses, and go with Waste Management.

    2. Toss Waste Management aside for allowing their agent to run amok and ask #2 Waste Pro if it will honor the same figures as Waste Management’s winning figures. If they will, then negotiate with Waste Pro. If not, then back to #1 above.

    A referral to the State’s Attorney also seems in order for both choices.

    Keep in mind that the Council has extremely wide latitude to do what it wants. Every company that bid for the business agreed to that in writing.

    I don’t sure what I would do if it was me who had to vote. I am leaning toward #2 but can easily be dissuaded otherwise.

    Most important is that they finally do something.

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    1. Stephanie Kienzle says:

      You do realize the State Attorney won’t do a damn thing, even if there was unregistered lobbying going on. Neither will the Ethics Commission. Until KFR is voted out, Miami-Dade County will be a hotbed of fraud and corruption.

      In order to find out if last year’s vote against Waste Pro was tainted, the council members would have to disclose the content of discussions about sanitation that they may have had with Evan or any other lobbyist. Not even a subpoena can force someone to disclose the details of a private conversation unless one of them confesses.

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      1. Sally the Soothsayer says:

        It’s not the fault of the council members who were lobbied illegally by someone didn’t register properly. They can’t be held liable. It’s like buying stolen merchandise at Best Buy. It’s perfectly reasonable to expect the merchandise to be legit.

        We also need to know about indirect lobbying by this unregistered lobbyist, via spouses and children of council members.

        This issue will never go away until everyone comes clean. There will be litigation and more litigation, forcing the city to go out to bid again and get stuck with even higher prices.

        Everyone just needs to come clean, then move on.

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        1. Stephanie Kienzle says:

          No one is blaming the council. Especially, if any of them were “friends” with Evan, and he never disclosed that he was a paid consultant for Waste Management, they might have simply assumed that whatever they discussed with Evan was just casual friendly chit-chat. You have to realize that Evan was all up in everyone’s butt in North Miami Beach, pretending to be a “friend of the city,” even at one point claiming he was going to buy a home in NMB. IF he brought up the topic of sanitation in an “innocent” conversation, the council members would have no way of knowing it was anything other than chit chat. However, IF Evan was doing that, he should have known better!

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          1. Sally the Soothsayer says:

            Yes. Exactly. The onus is on the lobbyist in this case.

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  8. NMBlady says:

    No, there is one more choice, DON”T privatize! Don’t use out sanitation fees to help pay a private waste management company ceo a 7 figure salary.

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    1. Sally the Soothsayer says:

      You think it’s fine to piss away more than $3 million of our tax dollars every year? I think it’s OK to ‘cut your city services to make up the difference.

      We will ignore your 911 calls, let you haul your own trash, deny you entrance to our parks, not landscape the right of way, etc. While we are at it, we will raise your property taxes 20-30 percent.

      Either come up with a real solution to this problem or stop the trolling.

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    2. Stephanie Kienzle says:

      Sanitation services are completely separate from education and public safety, both of which are paid out of property taxes. Since residents pay their garbage bill directly, it’s not paid by property tax dollars. Sanitation bills are completely separate from property tax bills. That argument really is moot.

      As for a CEO making a “7 figure salary,” (even IF that’s the case), are you going to tell someone who may have built a company from the ground up that he’s not entitled to earn his salary? Would you tell a doctor who spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on his education, not to mention the years he sacrificed without being able to earn an income, that he’s not entitled to profit from his hard work?

      Sounds like that ridiculous “You didn’t build that!” mantra, which is nothing more than class envy. Not to mention socialism.

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      1. Eastern Shores Resident says:

        …yeah, kinda like calling out people living in Eastern Shores.

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  9. Counting Beans says:

    Steph, with your indulgence, I feel compelled to provide a lecture on Municipal Finance 101. There will be a quiz, so everyone please pay attention.

    NMB’s garbage service has it’s own “enterprise fund”. Most other cities or counties have these for garbage, parking, and utilities like water, sewer. This is usually done so the enterprise fund can segregate a specific income stream for bonding/borrowing.

    This is how, for example, the City of Miami builds so many projects — via bonding through its parking enterprise fund parking revenues (one quarter at at time, hahahahahha).

    This means for STRICTLY ACCOUNTING purposes, an enterprise fund is entirely separate from the city’s “general fund” that runs most everything (police, parks, public works, etc.)

    Let’s say for the sake of illustration that the HYPOTHETICAL Township of Eternal Sunshine in Central Florida has a garbage enterprise fund, providing all services with city employees. This fund takes in $10 million in total revenue from all its residential and commercial customers. It’s total expenses are $9 million (AFTER funding reserves, pensions, making capital investments for trucks, etc.). The remaining $1 million “profit” is then transferred to the city’s general fund to defray other expenses/taxes of our HYPOTHETICAL city.

    Here at home, there are TWO vitally important points to keep in mind.

    First, until very recently our garbage enterprise fund never accounted correctly for certain expenses. These include liabilities from accidents, and expenses for maintaining trucks, for human resources, legal, payroll, etc. These expenses were incurred by the garbage enterprise fund, but carried on the books of the general fund. These accounting errors really only matter in helping quantify the savings for outsourcing. As far as I know, the garbage enterprise fund never borrowed against or bonded its revenues, so there are no legal issues with creditors such as banks, bondholders, etc.

    As a result, the true “profit” of the garbage fund has been inflated. Again, no biggie, other than causing a lot of misinformation, head fakes and non sequiturs during this whole garbage debate.

    Second, and most relevant, outsourcing produces at least $3 million every year in ADDITIONAL “PROFIT” for NMB’s enterprise fund.

    Let’s just say for the sake of argument that NMB’s garbage enterprise fund throws off $1 million in (true) “profit”.

    By OUTSOURCING its operations, this “profit” will grow to $4 million ($3 million a year in savings, per the various RFPs and most accurate financials from the garbage fund.)

    Now we have $4 million — $3 million more — available to transfer to the general fund for police, parks, public works, etc. In the alternative (WHICH IS MY PREFERENCE, IF ANYONE IS LISTENING) we also could LOWER our collective property taxes by $3-$4 million every year. (I really hope I live long enough to see a property tax decrease.)

    That’s everything you need to know about the financial aspects of outsourcing.

    I hope this was helpful.

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    1. Mariel Hemp says:

      ….But I LOVE my garbageman!!! You can’t do this to me!

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  10. Barry S. says:

    Why wasn’t there this much passion when the City of North Miami Beach outsourced their Fire Department, their lawn maintenance staff, and most of their janitorial staff? Why is there such a stink about outsourcing garbage?
    Do we have our own dumpster divers making money on this?

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  11. NMBlady says:

    Dear Sally, Expressing an opposing point of view is not “trolling”. The deal will be done. We have no say other than to crowd into crowded council chambers and voice our displeasure. Been there, done that.There will be no vote. Everyone knows if this resolution was brought to the people, it wouldn’t pass, but voters are ignorant and this is good for us, right? We shall see.

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    1. Stephanie Kienzle says:

      The people already voted when they elected the mayor and council. That’s how a representative, or republican, form of government works. Sometimes you will approve how they vote, sometimes you won’t. If you are unhappy with their voting record, vote them out next time. As for referenda, that is only necessary where required in the charter. Charter amendments are decided by referendum. If you brought every single issue before the voters, you’d have a referendum every month! That’s time consuming and expensive, not to mention ridiculous. Deciding who picks up your garbage is hardly a matter for a city wide vote! Your representatives are authorized, by the very fact they were elected, to make decisions for the benefit of the 43,000 residents as a whole. Saving millions of tax dollars a year is a no brainier.

      If you want to be able to vote on every stupid, minute decision, change the charter, do away with your representative form of government, and resort to anarchy. Just remember this: A democracy is defined as two lions and one sheep voting on what to have for lunch.

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  12. Sally the Soothsayer says:

    OK, I retract the trolling assertion.

    But its also insulting to voters that they don’t understand this issue, if you give them the facts and don’t lie or bullshit them.

    If you ask residents if they would prefer the status quo or save $3 million a year, we all know how that one ends.

    This is exactly why the garbage union has been very careful about not wanting to put this to a popular vote.

    Please don’t perpetuate the myth that Phyllis Smith and Frantz Pierre won because they oppose outsourcing.

    They won via extra legal means, in polite terms.

    Regardless, the bee lady said last meeting she is voting for the contract next time. Anyone stupid enough to believe anything she said during the campaign is a fool. Those are the truely stupid voters you referenced.

    Toodles.

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    1. Stephanie Kienzle says:

      Once Phyllis saw the actual savings, her eyes popped out and she said if it’s a good contract she will vote for it. We already knows she’s a liar and a panderer. Frantz tried to leave right before the vote so he wouldn’t have to make a decision. Marlen told him to sit down and vote, so he had no choice. He played to his “audience” the entire meeting because it’s what he does. He’s nothing but an empty headed showman. He knew he had nothing to lose by voting no.

      You’re also right that Phyllis and Frantz “won” their seats back by “extra legal” means. Translation: they paid for absentee ballots! Hopefully they will be doing perp walks real soon.

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    2. MaryAnn N. says:

      The only people who believed Phyllis Smith was against outsourcing in the past election were Moe, Larry and Curley, Curley’s fake wife, and Recycle Woman, all of whom campaigned for her on that basis.

      While our city can claim many low-information residents, the four above are the poster children for low-information campaigners.

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  13. NMBlady says:

    I think the council is very fortunate that 20,000 (strictly a guess) residents have no idea what is going on.

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  14. […] efforts to save the city almost three million tax dollars a year, at the July 21, 2015 meeting the five intelligent members of the City Council passed a Resolution authorizing the City Manager to negotiate a contract with a […]

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  15. […] Ross, however, does represent CH2M HILL, INC. in North Miami, and formerly in North Miami Beach.  This company “has been contracted for various environmental remediation jobs at the property formerly known as Biscayne Landing,” as I already pointed out last month in Poisoning the Well. […]

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  16. […] no secret that lobbyist Evan Ross and Joe Geller are connected at the hip.  In fact, Ross helped run Joe Geller’s campaign for […]

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  17. […] I reported in Poisoning the Well, during the long process to outsource the sanitation department in North Miami Beach, Waste Pro was […]

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  18. […] Dante Starks, North Miami’s Boy Lobbyist Evan Ross is also a “frequent presence at City Hall,” where he, too, “roams the halls, […]

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  19. […] to published reports, Evan Ross is no stranger to controversy over lobbying local government officials. A Probable Cause Memorandum issued by the Miami-Dade […]

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  20. […] applied to the City of North Miami Beach to be its attorney.  He was rejected.  Evan Ross is also persona non grata in NMB for his shady lobbying […]

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  21. […] Beach’s newest parasite, pulled a similar stunt in North Miami Beach a few years back when he covertly lobbied elected officials to accept a sanitation bid from Waste Management without disclosing that he was […]

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  22. […] 2013 an 2014, CH2M Hill was represented in North Miami Beach (as well as in North Miami in 2013) by Shady Boy-Lobbyist Evan Ross, whose sleazy attempt to circumvent the bidding process resulted in his being unofficially […]

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  23. […] uncovered that during a bid to outsource the North Miami Beach sanitation department in 2014, Ross secretly lobbied members of the city council without disclosing that he was a “paid consultant” for Waste Management, one of the […]

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  24. […] of time before the Shady Boy-Lobbyist would be the author of his own demise.  Between Evan’s unscrupulous lobbying tactics, nefarious campaign strategies, and libelous gossip mongering, we knew something was bound to catch […]

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  25. […] fact, because he has nothing of value to offer anyone, Evan’s only commodity is exploitation by schmoozing, using, name-dropping, photo bombing, sucking up to the politically […]

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  26. […] he got himself blacklisted in North Miami Beach for his unscrupulous attempt to circumvent the bidding process for CH2M Hill and for his […]

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