Or will it be business as usual in the City of Terminal Corruption?
The top pick on almost everyone’s list for North Miami city manager, Magalie Austin, inexplicably withdrew her name from consideration. In response to an email request for an interview with the Mayor and Council, on January 28, 2016, Ms. Austin responded that she was no longer interested in the job, thank you very much.
Can anyone blame her? This is a woman who is probably over-qualifed for the position in the first place. Beyond that, however, the North Miami government is so dysfunctional, it’s a miracle anything at all gets done. The infighting and backbiting among the council members, not to mention the interference run by the usual cadre of suspects, including lawyers, lobbyists and former politicians (some of whom also happen to be lawyers and lobbyists), continues to make North Miami the laughing stock of the county.
Sorry, Mayor Joseph.
This is a city where unwritten “rules of engagement” are whispered behind closed doors, child lobbyists hold vendors hostage, and everyone has his hand in the government till.
This is a city where nepotism and racism trump education and experience.
This is a city where there is madness in every method and suspicion in every motive.
This is North Miami.
The position of city manager will most likely be decided at the next council meeting on February 23, 2016. The Mayor and Council will most likely choose a city attorney next month.
As important as these two positions are, you’d never know it by the way everyone is behaving. The political jockeying by each of the contenders and their myriad of supporters (read: benefactors) is nothing short of obscene.
To make matters even more complicated, the official (unofficial) word on the street is that at least one of these two jobs must be filled by a Haitian.
Depending on who’s counting, North Miami is made up of somewhere between between 30% and 40% Haitian Americans. In a perfect world, the same ratio would be represented in the top positions at City Hall.
Ironically, in the North Miami Police Department, the Haitian population is woefully underrepresented.
At least at the top of the food chain.
Because Police Chief Leonard Burgess is NOT a Haitian American (and no, having a Haitian wife doesn’t count), he is obviously NOT sensitive to having more community representation in his Command Staff.
Out of fourteen positions in his Executive Command Staff (including his own), Chief Lenny has hired only ONE (out of 2) Assistant Chief, ONE Major (out of 5), and ONE Commander (out of 6) who are Haitian American.
Even worse, there are only TWO sergeants (out of about 19) in the entire police department who are Haitian.
Of all the law enforcement officers in the North Miami Police Department, Haitian Americans have less than 15% representation among those ranked sergeant or above.
Even worse, Assistant Chief Gary Eugene, the highest ranking Haitian American in the North Miami Police Department (and possibly the entire county), is STILL receiving the lowest salary of Chief Lenny’s entire Command Staff.
Including Commanders, who are TWO RANKS BELOW Mr. Eugene.
And even as the Mayor and Council are being pressured to hire a Haitian American as either the city manager or the city attorney, the silence about Gary Eugene is deafening.
I’m told that his requests to be fairly compensated have so far fallen on deaf ears. Chief Lenny, who could intervene on Eugene’s behalf if he wanted to, is blaming the Interim City Manager for not approving a pay increase. Arthur Sorey, in turn, is blaming someone else. Or something.
In any event, Assistant Chief Gary Eugene continues to be discriminated against for being Haitian.
The Haitian community should be demanding a halt to this blatant discrimination!
Since Magalie Austin removed herself from the candidate list, there is now only one Haitian American being considered out of a handful of top contenders for city manager, and that is Marie Woodson. I’m told she’s a very lovely and eager person, but is probably too nice for the job. If the Mayor and Council learned any lesson at all from their former city manager, it’s that North Miami needs a strong person in this position who will put the welfare of the city over politics. They certainly don’t need Aleem Ghany Version 2.0.
In a perfect world, the Mayor and Council would hire someone from the “outside” with absolutely no political ties to anyone in North Miami.
In my opinion, the top contender from the list of applicants is David E. Scott of Coconut Creek. This former assistant manager of both Pinellas County and the City of Delray Beach is a Licensed Professional Engineer with a Bachelors and Masters in Engineering, and has management experience with the cities of Baltimore, Highland Park (Illinois), Atlanta and Norfolk (Virginia). Mr. Scott also has extensive experience in the private sector, and is by far the most qualified individual on the list.
Unfortunately, this Mayor and Council seem hellbent on hiring a North Miami “insider.” If that’s the case, I suggest they choose someone who is well known, politically connected, has a proven track record, and just happens to be Haitian … Andre Pierre!
In all seriousness, as unlikely a candidate that he is, one of the top five contenders in the race for CM is the current Interim City Manager Arthur Sorey.
Aside from the fact that the new CEO of North Miami should be someone with absolutely no political ties to anyone at City Hall (and Sorey is very much an insider), there are serious questions surrounding this former Budget Director’s partaking in the North Miami Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) in order to buy a home.
For one thing, as I’ve mentioned before, even during his previous position of Budget Administrator, Arthur Sorey made way too much money to qualify for a mortgage, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Sources told me that HUD was very much aware of this violation, but refused to intervene because Stephen Johnson (*Correction: Johnson was assistant CM, but Russell Benford was still manager at the time), who was City Manager at the time, “signed off on the loan.” Isn’t that special?
For another, according to the public records of the Miami-Dade County Clerk of Court, in 2012 Arthur Sorey was sued in a foreclosure action by his first mortgage company. The case was eventually dismissed when Sorey was able to negotiate a Loan Modification Agreement with a loan servicing company, but this is not a good sign.
On top of that, in 2013 Arthur Sorey was sued by Capital One Bank (USA), N.A. for non-payment of a credit card bill in the amount of $1,997.95. The Court eventually ordered him to pay $1,800.44 of that bill, plus court costs of $210.00, which he was permitted to pay in two installments. This is also not a good sign.
In municipalities with a manager/council form of government, such as North Miami, the city manager is the most powerful employee on the payroll. He or she is considered to be the Chief Executive Officer of the municipality.
As such, the city manager is the single most important employee in the entire City of North Miami. The individual who fills this position must be experienced, intelligent, honest, of good character and sound judgment.
The city manager, who will be responsible for a multi-million dollar municipal budget, must be able to demonstrate a fiduciary responsibility to manage money.
By allowing his home to go into foreclosure, not to mention his being sued over a credit card debt of less than $2,000.00, only proves that Arthur Sorey does not fill that bill.
Anyone who claims otherwise, including – and especially – greedy lawyers and lobbyists, surely has a self-serving, hidden agenda that certainly has nothing to do with the best interests of the residents of North Miami.
Knowing all these things, any council member who believes Arthur Sorey is the right choice for city manager must surely have an ulterior motive, as well. This position should be autonomous. North Miami elected officials, however, have been known to hire city managers they can fully control for political purposes instead of someone who will manage the city with a free hand.
If the Mayor and Council are stubbornly (and stupidly) determined to hire someone from inside the city, then an infinitely better choice would be the current Finance Director, Larry Spring. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, this former Chief Financial Officer of the City of Miami, also “includes positions in the private sector, including Managing Director of a consulting company, Vice President and Controller of TotalBank from 1997 to 2003, and as Accounting Officer for Peoples National Bank of Commerce from 1996 to 1977. Mr. Spring also held financial positions in two banks in New Orleans, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Management at Tulane University.”
If an “insider” is going to be the next city manager, hopefully, the North Miami Mayor and Council will see the wisdom of hiring Larry Spring over Arthur Sorey, who has nowhere near the education, credentials or experience required of such an important position.
Another big question is who will eventually be chosen for the position of city attorney. As I mentioned above, if the new city manager is not Haitian, the pressure will be on to pick a Haitian American as the attorney.
The good news is that would finally eliminate the über-corrupt Joseph S. Geller from any consideration.
The bad news is, well, actually there’s no bad news.
Fortunately, there are plenty of excellent lawyers in the Haitian community to choose from if that’s the case. It all, of course, depends on which attorneys have applied for the job. Yesterday was the last day for aspiring city attorneys to submit their applications, and I do not have the final list yet. It could take several weeks for the personnel department, and then the Mayor and Council, to vet the applicants, so I don’t imagine the choice will be made as early as next week.
All eyes are now on the North Miami Mayor and Council to make a final decision in the quest for a city manager by next Tuesday’s meeting.
Will they finally do the right thing and pick the absolute best person for the job? Someone who will make the interests of the entire city a top priority?
Or will they continue in the North Miami tradition of quid pro quo politics, and chose someone who will only look out for the best interests of the elected officials and their favorite political proxies?
Yes, that was a rhetorical question.
“Spreading the Wealth”