A resident activist in the City of North Miami wrote to State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle about the alleged impropriety surrounding that city’s vote to privatize its garbage department and contract with Waste Pro of Florida, Inc. As I wrote in my recent blog, OMG! WHAT A COINCIDENCE!, the mayor of North Miami, Andre Pierre, and a council member, Marie Steril, received between them $4,500.00 in campaign donations for their respective bids for re-election from several principles of Waste Pro of Florida, Inc., Waste Pro Southeast, LLC and Waste Pro USA.
Any ordinary Joe or Jane Citizen would naturally be suspicious of what appears to be a blatant act of Council vote buying. Let’s face it. Here in the real world when you give someone your hard earned bucks, you usually expect something in return. Even if you give out of the goodness of your heart, you expect to get a warm and fuzzy feeling. And, no, I don’t mean heartburn. Whatever your reasons for giving something of value to another person, there is usually a payback, whether tangible or not.
Apparently in the political world (not to be confused with the real world), it’s not much different as long as everyone simply pretends that money changing hands is merely a “donation.”
Let me explain. The citizen activist received a response from one Jose J. Arrojo, Chief Assistant State Attorney, as follows:
Thank you for your electronic mail message to State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle regarding political campaign contributions to North Miami Beach[*] elected officials by persons affiliated with the various Waste Pro entities. As Ms. Fernandez Rundle’s Chief Assistant State Attorney for Special Prosecutions, she has directed me to review your e-mail and promptly respond to the concerns you have raised.
You should know that our office and our partner law enforcement agencies were aware of Waste Pro related campaign contributions to North Miami Beach[*] elected officials. However, Florida law does not prohibit a municipal vendor or service provider from making a campaign contribution to an elected official even when the official is considering the vendor’s or service provider’s item as part of his or her official duties. In order for such a transaction to be criminal, law enforcement and prosecutors have to prove that the donation was solicited or made to actually secure the elected official’s action or inaction, a quid pro quo exchange.
We have additionally consulted with our partners in the county ethics department and have confirmed that without such a quid pro quo exchange, there is likewise no county ethics rule that would otherwise prohibit the donation under these circumstances.
Please do not hesitate to contact me directly if you have evidence establishing these or any related transactions were money or anything of value in exchange for action or inaction by a municipal officer.
So let me get this straight. According to Florida Law, it’s perfectly legal to donate to your favorite candidate’s campaign even if you stand to benefit financially by getting that candidate elected or re-elected. Go figure. The thing is, the person “donating” the cash merely has to pretend there’s no payback whatsoever, while the person on the receiving end of the “donation” merely has to pretend not to wink. There’s no business like show business, eh?
Then again, who do you think actually writes and enacts Florida Law? Yep, you guessed it! Florida politicians – most of whom I imagine have had a lot of practice pretending not to wink during their political careers. Who says public service doesn’t pay?
Of course, the Royal “We”, Chief Assistant City Attorney Jose J. Arrojo and the mouse in his pocket, immediately “consulted with [their] partners in the county ethics department” (yeah, I know, hold the laughter) about the alleged shenanigans at North Miami City Hall. As a result, those geniuses at work deemed that in this particular case there was no “quid pro quo exchange” because they have been unable “to prove that the donation was solicited or made to actually secure the elected official’s action or inaction.”
Really? You fellas with all your fancy schmancy law degrees couldn’t connect those dots? REALLY?
[*The new "Let 'Em Go Joe" can't even figure out which city he's discussing. Hey, Jose! It's North Miami, not North Miami Beach!]
Then again, the job of State Attorney is an elected position, which makes the head honcho a politician herself (who, by the way, is up for re-election this year). I guess that means that Politician Katherine Fernandez Rundle’s job is to uphold the law that Politicians in Tallahassee enact. Yeah, I get it now. Unlike all those high paid lawyers in her office, I CAN connect dots.
What this all boils down to is that, unlike his nephew/campaign manager Ricardo Brutus, mayor Andre Pierre was smart enough not to be caught on camera taking the “donations” and give that crack squad over at the State Attorneys Office-slash-Commission on Ethics a reason to suspect any quid pro quo exchanging going on. Maybe if, say, a hundred thousand dollar Porsche mysteriously appeared in Pierre’s driveway … oh, never mind. Been there, done that.
In any event, the State Attorneys Office will not investigate this matter because they can’t prove a “quid pro quo exchange” took place. Dictionary.com defines “quid pro quo” as “something for something.” Wikipedia goes a step further and explains: Quid pro quo (“what for what” in Latin) most often means a more-or-less equal exchange or substitution of goods or services. English speakers often use the term to mean “a favour for a favour” and the phrases with almost identical meaning include: “give and take”, “tit for tat”, “this for that”, and “you scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours”.
Yep. Sure looks like there’s a whole lotta back scratching going on to me.
I’m just saying.
In the final analysis, Andre Pierre and Marie Steril got re-elected, Waste Pro got the contract, and the taxpaying residents of North Miami got screwed.
“Spreading the Wealth”