My lawyer can beat up your lawyer

LawyerTrying to get some new development in the City of North Miami Beach is harder than getting a starring role in a Broadway play.  It seems that any time a project is even contemplated, the usual suspects line up to threaten and/or file a lawsuit in order to stop anything from getting built.  The project formerly known as Marina Grande, now known as Marina Palms, has had its share of legal troubles from the very first blueprint in 2004.  Here it is nine years later and it looks like we’re finally getting what will hopefully be the first of many top-notch projects to class up our dreary little city.  And first class it will be!  Residents should be excited that North Miami Beach will finally be on the map and out of the shadows of Aventura.

Next up is a project called Braha Dixie, which is to be located at 17400 West Dixie Highway.  As expected, a lawsuit was just filed to try to stop the ten story project from being built.  The Petitioners, Errol Avery, Charles M. Baron, Shelly Clay and an ex-councilman Robert Taylor, sued the City of North Miami Beach in an attempt to stop the developers from going forward.  One of the Petitioners, Charles M. Baron, also happens to be the attorney of record who filed the lawsuit.  The lawsuit claims that the project will cause great harm to nearby Greynolds Park, and managed to get Channel 10’s Glenna Milberg to do a story on the affair, replete with video of “trees, birds, sky, bikers, hikers…and wild mangroves.”  There is also a Facebook Page called Save Greynolds Park, which shows a picture of the skyline from the “view of lagoon from historic boathouse,” claiming that “the proposed commercial towers would loom on the right” if the dreaded condominium does get built.


Only one problem.  The proposed Braha Dixie will be located well to the south and east of the Boathouse and will most likely not be seen from that site.

Proposed Development

Proposed Braha Dixie Site, 17400 West Dixie Highway

Of the four petitioners, Shelly Clay doesn’t live in or anywhere near North Miami Beach, or in Miami-Dade County for that matter that I can tell.  And while Errol Alvey claims to live at 2375 NE 173 Street, North Miami Beach, Florida, which is located one block to the south and west of Braha Dixie…

2375 NE 173 Street Map

2375 NE 173 Street

…it would appear that he’s more concerned about a ten story project being built so close to his apartment building than he is about Greynolds Park.

2375 NE 173 Street

2375 NE 173 Street, Street View

We already know that good old Robert Taylor lives at 1951 NE 157 Street, and nowhere near Greynolds Park.  But that fact certainly didn’t stop him from putting his two cents in.

Robert Taylor House

1951 NE 157 Street

In another irony, Charles M. Baron happens to live just north of Greynolds Park in an seven story condominium called Greynolds Park Condominium Club, which is actually much closer to the “sacred” Boathouse than the proposed Braha Dixie.  I call that “hypocrisy.”

Greynolds Park Club Condominium Map

17890 West Dixie Highway

Ironically, as close in proximity as it is to the heart of the park, the Greynolds Park Club Condominium doesn’t appear to bother park goers in the least.

Greynolds Park Club Condominium

Greynolds Park Club Condominium, Street View

In a side note, Charles M. Baron doesn’t even live in North Miami Beach, but that certainly doesn’t stop him from trying to tell us how to run our city.  Just saying.

The proposed Braha Dixie will be located on a main highway, just down the street from a six story apartment complex located at 16800 West Dixie Highway, and just over the train tracks from Biscayne Boulevard, where there is a plethora of development.

As far as I can tell, a ten story development, which will include a hotel, office space and retail stores, will in no way affect the serene beauty of Greynolds Park, and will only help North Miami Beach’s image and economic outlook.

Let’s take a look at other parks around the country and see how development has affected their serene beauty.  Skyscrapers looming in the background don’t mar the beauty of this gorgeous park in Denver, Colorado.

Park in Denver Colorado

Attendees at Delores Park don’t exactly seem bothered by the view of the San Francisco skyline.

Delores Park San Francisco

The spectacular beauty of the Royal Botanical Gardens co-exist splendidly with the view of downtown Sydney, Australia.

Royal Botanical Gardens Sydney Australia

Then there’s the most famous park in the world, Central Park in New York City, which is the most serene stretch of greenery in the country and completely surrounded by the highest high rises in the Northern Hemisphere.  Those buildings certainly don’t discourage NYC residents from enjoying the park’s beauty.

Central Park New York City

Closer to home, beach goers at Key Biscayne don’t even notice the condominium buildings lining the stretch of sun-bleached white sand.

Bill Baggs State Park Beach

If Mr. Charles Baron’s seven story condominium, which is just to the north of the Greynolds Park Boathouse isn’t a concern to the patrons of the park, surely a ten story complex further to the south, outside the main entrance to the park shouldn’t even be a blip on their radar.  As a matter of fact, in terms of pure distance as the crow flies, Mr. Baron’s condominium is approximately 1,000 feet from the Boathouse, or the equivalent of three and one third football fields, while the proposed Braha Dixie is 1,600 feet away – an additional two football fields away.

(A) Greynolds Park Club Condominium (B) Proposed Braha Dixie

(A) Greynolds Park Club Condominium
(B) Proposed Braha Dixie

Methinks there’s a lot more to the story than simply “ruining” the natural beauty of Greynolds Park.  Especially when one of the Petitioners is Robert Taylor, who has already earned the reputation of being one of the most anti-development residents in North Miami Beach.

As it stands now, we should be lucky any developer at all is considering building anything at all of quality in our city.  Even with all the fraud and corruption going on in our sister city to the south, North Miami, developers are falling all over each other to build there.  What’s stopping progress in North Miami Beach is its reputation for incompetent management and pain in the ass litigation filed by people who just don’t want any development whatsoever.  Ironically, those people are the first to scream about crime in our in our city.  What they don’t seem to get is that development brings new revenue, and new revenue brings more money for additional police protection, among other things.  No city can afford all the creature comforts of the idyllic life people demand without the ability of bringing in new revenue.  Duh!

If North Miami Beach doesn’t start welcoming quality development, easing the burdens for new businesses and encouraging responsible economic growth, the taxpaying residents might as well put out For Sale signs and get the hell out of dodge.

As it stands now, the devastating combination of (a) no cohesive building code or enforcement, (b) the dismantling of our police department, (c) the proliferation of third rate businesses (especially those Asian “massage” establishments, tattoo parlors, pawn shops, and the like) and (d) rundown apartment buildings-slash-crack houses, it’s a freaking miracle that anyone still lives here.  It’s even a bigger miracle that more criminals haven’t already moved in.

Upscale development in a city also increases the value of surrounding properties, making it that much more difficult for criminals to call a place home.  It stands to reason that if you discourage criminals from hanging their hats here, we’d have less crime.  I’m just saying.

In any event, if there’s ever a chance for North Miami Beach to make some forward progress in this county, we must get some new development here, and it must be done as soon as possible.  If these projects don’t get off the ground, and new ones don’t follow, we’ll be having this same discussion ten years from now.  Only by then crime will be even worse and our city will be even shabbier than it is now.  And that’s almost impossible to imagine!

Stephanie Kienzle
“Spreading the Wealth”


And another identity thief bites the dust!

press releaseU.S. Department of Justice


United States Attorney

Southern District of Florida

99 N.E. 4 Street

Miami, FL 33132

(305) 961-9001

March 1, 2013


Owner of North Miami Beach Dry Cleaner

Sentenced in Identity Theft Tax Refund Fraud Scheme

 Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, José A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CID), Miami Field Office, and Larry Gomer, Interim Chief, North Miami Beach Police Department (NMBPD), announce the sentencing of defendant Frantz Auguste, 53, of Sunny Isles, on one count of access device fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft in connection with an identity theft tax refund fraud scheme.   U.S. District Judge Donald L. Graham sentenced Auguste to 45 months in prison, to be followed by one year of supervised release.

According to documents filed in Court, law enforcement searched Auguste’s dry cleaning business in North Miami Beach on October 4, 2012, and found the following in a locked room for which Auguste had the only key:

·         Handwritten notes and lists with the personal identification information, including names, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers, of approximately 100 individuals.  Several of these lists appeared to have originated from a local nursing home and rehabilitation center.

·         Multiple tax refund checks in different individuals’ names.

·         Multiple tax returns in different individuals’ names.

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of IRS-CID and the NMBPD for their work on the case.  The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael N. Berger.

A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at or on



Campaign Season – Zombies Optional

zombiesYes, it really is that time of year when we can expect the littering of campaign signs across the fruited plains of North Miami and North Miami Beach.  As always, they become more and more creative with each election season.

Here in North Miami Beach, Jean Berrouet – the johnny-come-lately of the political scene – decided to use an existing speed limit sign to announce his arrival.

Berrouet sign

Guess someone could use a crash course in City Charter 101, specifically the Ordinances dealing with election advertising.  Just saying.

Over in North Miami, will someone please tell mayoral candidate Lucie Tondreau that the zombie was a nice touch, but Halloween is so last year.

Tondreau sign

Still, she gets an Honorary Mention for Special Effects.  Not sure what message she was trying to convey, other than “I’m an Idiot.  Vote for Gwendolyn Boyd.”

Also, just saying.

Stephanie Kienzle
“Spreading the Wealth”


Off to the Races!

Parade RingGotta love Hallandale Beach Blogger, David B. Smith, who circulated an email with the subject, “There is no such thing as voter ID fraud says Miami Herald Editorial Board… as paper prints yet another story about ballot fraud.”  He also included the full text of yesterday’s Miami Herald article entitled, The case of the phantom ballots: an electoral whodunit.

The great thing about blogging is that while most (if not all) of us respect the rules of journalistic integrity, such as protecting our sources, not publishing off-the-record comments, and the like, we are also not constrained by things like unbiased reporting the way so-called “real” journalists are supposed to write.  We get to be as opinionated as we wanna be.  We also get to point out the absolute hypocrisy of the so-called “real” media, such as the Miami Herald.  Good thing, too, or the public would continue to be hoodwinked into believing that the media never gets it wrong.  Unfortunately, far too many readers actually fall for journalistic hype, editorial opinions, and in the case of elections, they vote for whoever the [insert newspaper name here] recommends.  Bloggers at least give the voters a chance to learn what the Herald and others don’t publish.

For example, I first wrote about absentee ballot fraud on June 27, 2011 in How much is your vote worth?

In September of that year, bloggers Geniusofdespair and Gimleteye of Eye On Miami, broke the voter fraud story wide open, which I reported on in Cracking Down on Absentee Ballot Fraud.

In my column on November 29, 2011, Random Questions, I discussed a then current Miami Herald article Probe finds ‘unscrupulous’ absentee-voting practices at ALF (no longer posted online), where the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics investigated “questionable absentee-ballot practices at a North Miami Beach assisted living facility.”

Not surprisingly, said investigation went nowhere as no charges were filed after a nine month investigation despite overwhelming proof that fraud had been committed.

Also not surprisingly, it was alleged absentee ballot fraud at two North Miami Beach assisted living facilities that determined the “winner” of last August’s tight race for State House District 107, of which Barbara Watson was ultimately awarded the seat over Representative John Patrick Julien, despite overwhelming evidence of vote buying and fraud.  As I reported in We’re All Disenfranchised Now in August of 2012, dead people voted, and ballots were counted from voters who claimed they never requested an absentee ballot at all.  Evidence be damned!

On March 29, 2012, I reported in One Person, One Vote? that I found in just a small sampling of North Miami Beach voters thirteen instances of voters with two registration numbers, and fourteen registered voters in a one two bedroom, one bath home.

It was blogger Elaine De Valle of Political Cortadito who investigated and helped break open the absentee ballot ring of Hialeah, which led to the August, 2012 arrests of Deisy Cabrera and Sergio Robaina.

Of course, as reported by the Miami Herald on December 23, 2012 in Despite arrests, ballot brokers get ready for 2013 elections, “given authorities’ apparent lack of interest in investigating the cases, some of the Miami-Dade ballot brokers, known as boleteros, have already begun to coordinate the collection of absentee ballots for next year.  There will be elections in 2013 in 15 of Miami-Dade’s 35 municipalities…”

North Miami Beach is one of them.  Three of the seven council seats are up for grabs.

Meanwhile, I am still working on my own extensive, and continuing, investigation of North Miami Beach councilman Frantz Pierre since March of 2012 about the unusually high and rotating number of registered voters living in his home.  There were nine at last count.  (Just search “absentee ballot fraud” on this website to access all my columns about the P Man’s shenanigans.)

While L’il Frantzie P’s term doesn’t expire until 2015, or his arrest, whichever comes first, don’t think he’ll sit out this election.  Not by a long shot!

Vying for Group 2, which will be vacated by retiring councilman, Philippe Derose, are long time resident Anthony DeFillipo and someone by the name of Jean “Who Dat?” Berrouet.  Mr. Berrouet claims to live at 249 NE 166th Street, North Miami Beach, Florida 33162, an address which does not exist according to the Miami-Dade County Property Appraiser.

249 NE 166 Street

A search of Mr. Berrouet’s name, however, shows that he has a homesteaded property located at 240 East Drive, North Miami Beach, Florida 33162, which he has owned since May 15, 1997.

240 East Drive

This, of course, raises the question about where Mr. Berrouet really lives.

As if that weren’t enough of a red flag, Mr. Berrouet’s campaign manager is none other than the City Clerk of our scandal plagued neighboring municipality North Miami, where ethics and public trust are never violated.  Well, according to the Miami-Dade Ethics Commission, anyway.  Here in the real world, however, we all know what goes on in North Miami!

As if that weren’t enough of a red flag, word on the street is that Mr. Berrouet is also being assisted by none other than those fun loving Cherubin brothers, who are in bed with North Miami’s mayor Andre Pierre, and embroiled in the infamous Biscayne Landings/Petite Cayemite scandal, which I also reported on here, here and here.

The Cherubins are also “famous” in North Miami Beach for asking the city’s CRA to purchase land they own on Northeast 19th Avenue, just so that the CRA can give them back that same land to build a hotel.  As I reported in In Phyllis’ Chair, “On the agenda was the discussion of a piece of property for sale on NE 19th Avenue, which the sellers want to sell to the City for the purpose of building a hotel.  I’m not quite sure what the deal is, but it appears that the city will buy this land from the owners, give them CRA money to build a hotel so that they can run it.  Isn’t that special?”

It sure is!

With the exception of North Miami City Clerk Michael Etienne, who happens to be an intelligent, super nice and personable young man, I never met the mysterious Jean D. Berrouet or the “land specialists” Cherubin brothers.  Mr. Berrouet is pretty much off the radar (for now), but the reputations of the Cherubins precede them.  Just saying.

Rumor has it, though, that our own Mr. Pee-Air will be joining the Berrouet campaign for the purpose of handling the ABSENTEE BALLOTS!

Well, isn’t that special?

If the rumors prove true, it would appear that the shadiest of characters are all banding together to make sure Mr. Berrouet gets a seat at the table.  If the rumors prove true, this blogger has her work cut out for her.  I guess there will be no sitting out this election season, eh?

As David B. Smith, Hallandale Beach Blogger, so astutely put it, “There is no such thing as voter ID fraud says Miami Herald Editorial Board… as paper prints yet another story about ballot fraud,” if the Gadfly uncovers ballot fraud in the North Miami Beach 2013 election, you won’t hear about it in the Herald.

But you will read about it right here!

Stephanie Kienzle
“Spreading the Wealth”


Give it up for the NMBPD!


Our North Miami Beach Police Department was commended by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Internal Revenue Service for the bust of an identity theft ringleader, which led to a conviction.

Sgt. Rick Silberman stated, “Extra special thanks to Detectives Catlin, Festa, and Ochoa on this case. It started over two years ago when these three detectives made a traffic stop in our city and saw that the suspect possessed identity theft materials.  The Minnesota office of the IRS got involved and contacted the NMBPD.  They believed the point of compromise was at law firm here in North Miami Beach.  The suspect, Rodney Saintfleur, turned out to be an employee at a law firm and used his position to  utilize work databases to obtain and give out social numbers.”

According to a Miami Herald article published yesterday, Saintfleur stole the identities of about 23,000 prison inmates and then used their personal information to file fraudulent tax returns.  “Prosecutors estimate the fraud involved at least $11 million.”

Saintfleur obviously thought his brilliance would make him a millionaire.  All it did was earn the poor schmuck three hots and a cot for the next thirteen years.  I love it when criminals get their just desserts.

This is a HUGE bust for our Police Department, and all the officers involved deserve a standing ovation for outstanding detective work.

Stephanie Kienzle
“Spreading the Wealth”

U.S. Department of Justice

United States Attorney

Southern District of Florida

99 N.E. 4 Street

Miami, FL 33132

February 22, 2013


Broward Man Sentenced to 159 Months for Stealing

More Than 23,000 Identities in Identity Theft Tax Refund Fraud Scheme

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Kelly Jackson, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) in Minneapolis, José A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, IRS-CI, Miami Field Office, Larry Gomer, Chief, North Miami Beach Police Department, and Scott Israel, Sheriff, Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO), announced that defendant Rodney Saintfleur, 28, was sentenced today to 159 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release.  Saintfleur pled guilty on November 27, 2012 to one count of conspiracy to submit fraudulent claims to the government, one count of access device fraud, and one count of aggravated identity theft.

According to the Information, the defendant and co-conspirators agreed on a plan to use stolen personal identifying information of others to file fraudulent tax returns seeking refunds.  The defendant obtained documents that listed tens of thousands of names with corresponding dates of birth.

According to the factual proffer and statements made at sentencing, the defendant searched an online proprietary database and fraudulently obtained the Social Security numbers of more than 23,000 people whose names and dates of birth appeared on the documents in 2010 and 2011.  The defendant provided these Social Security numbers to co-conspirators for an identity theft tax refund fraud scheme.  Co-conspirators then filed fraudulent and unauthorized tax returns seeking refunds using the stolen personal identifying information provided by the defendant.

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of IRS-CI, the North Miami Beach Police Department, and the Broward Sheriff’s Office.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael N. Berger.

A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at or on



ATMA few years ago when the Alonzo and Tracy Mourning Senior High School was being constructed in North Miami Beach, there were several community meetings about what to name the school.  Some people felt that the name of the school should be historically significant, such as Rosa Parks Senior High, or that it should reflect something reflective of our community, such as Oleta River Senior High.  Almost everyone agreed that schools should never be named after living people.  The line of thinking was that if the person for whom the school was named should screw up somehow, the school would forever be tainted.  Here in South Florida especially, the odds of someone screwing up, and royally at that, are so high that there’s probably someone betting on it in Vegas as we speak.

Considering that South Florida is the psycho magnet of the country, and that we’re pretty much overloaded with wealthy celebrities and sports personalities flocking to South Beach willing to spend their fortune on any number of the hedonistic pleasures available to the rich, famous and self-indulgent, naming a school after one of the local hot shots is always a big risk.

Despite protests from the community, Miami-Dade County School Board District 3 Representative Dr. Martin Karp insisted on naming the new high school after now retired Miami Heat Super Star/Philanthropist Alonzo Mourning and his lovely wife, Tracy.  Hence, the name Alonzo and Tracy Mourning, fondly referred to as “ATM.”  Talk about the ultimate pandering for votes!

In one of those Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Moment times, Dr. Karp may be rethinking his brilliant suggestion.  The lovely Tracy has now found herself in a pickle.  And what a pickle it is!

Photo from Huffington Post

Photo from Huffington Post

As reported by NBC Miami, Mrs. Mourning was arrested yesterday morning for driving under the influence.

Ho hum.  Just another South Florida celebrity doing her thing.

The signs of trouble started long before this latest Mourning screw up, though.  According to Alonzo Mourning’s Wikipedia page, “In July 2011 Mourning was sued by Miami, Florida lawyer Spencer Aronfeld on behalf of Alberto Candoleria for crashing his car into another car and then leaving the scene of the accident. The Florida Highway Patrol later charged Mourning with leaving the scene of a car accident. The accident allegedly occurred after he left Chris Bosh‘s wedding in Miami Beach after 3:00 A.M. Candoleria had just been in an accident when Mourning struck his car. He did not know if he was in his car when Mourning hit him as he claimed to have amnesia.”

Ho hum.  Just another South Florida celebrity doing his thing.

Yeah, I’m thinking maybe the name Rosa Parks Senior High School would have been a much better choice.  At least her legacy will forever remain untainted.

Unlike Dr. Martin Karp’s legacy, thanks to his not so brilliant idea.

Stephanie Kienzle
“Spreading the Wealth”


A Principal Without Principles: “There are no gangs at NMB Senior High School!”

Yep, that’s exactly what former Principal Raymond L. Fontana told me when my daughter was a junior back in the spring of 2009.  He basically told me that my daughter was a liar when she complained about the violence at school.

Well, well, well, whaddaya know?  Here’s a trailer for a movie premiering on February 21, 2013 called NMB FIGHTS.





If that’s not graphic enough for you, take a look at this video recently taken, entitled North Miami Beach Beat Down.

But, Principal Fontana swore to me that there were NO GANGS at North Miami Beach Senior High School.

Welcome to my ‘hood.

Stephanie Kienzle
“Spreading the Wealth”


Clock’s Ticking, Dude!

Clock's TickingUPDATE:  According to the docket, Myron’s trial starts on March 5, 2013 at 9:00 AM.

Just a quick update on the felony trial of North Miami Beach EX-mayor Myron Rosner:

According to the docket, Myron’s trial started today at 9:15 AM before Judge Bertila Soto.  Judge Soto was just named Chief Judge of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida.  According to an article published on February 2, 2013 in FIU News, “She is the first woman, first Cuban-American and first FIU graduate to serve as chief judge of the circuit.”  You can also read about her list of accomplishments in a Media Advisory published on February 7, 2013.

As you all know, Myron was arrested last September, and charged with an impressive array of felonies and misdemeanors, including Grand Theft 3rd Degree.

Myron Arrest Charges

I’ll be keeping an eye on the courthouse news and keep y’all posted.

Stephanie Kienzle
“Spreading the Wealth”


Welcome to My Ghetto!

Ghet-ToesOn the Agenda for the February 5, 2012 North Miami Beach City Council meeting, Ordinance No. 2013-2 was voted down by a 3-4 vote.  This Ordinance was described as:


Especially targeted for enforcement are those unsightly properties littered with abandoned vehicles, construction debris, sanitary nuisances, dogs at large, etc.  Apparently, four of the seven council members either aren’t aware that these problems exist in our city, or they don’t care.  I can’t figure out which, but in order to enlighten them, I decided to give them a photo tour of our ‘hood, entitled Welcome to My Ghetto.  Sit back, relax and enjoy!

Who needs tires when we got...what the hell are those things anyway?

Who needs tires when we got…what the hell are those things anyway?

Quick, Elmer! Get out the tarp! Looks like a rain storm's comin'

Quick, Elmer! Get out the tarp! Looks like a rain storm’s comin’

Box lunch, anyone?

Get the truck outta the driveway, Earl. It’s box lunch time.

Cain't leave yet, Bubba.  Waitin' fer my clothes to dry.

Cain’t leave yet, Bubba. Waitin’ fer my clothes to dry.

Bins were on sale at the Big K. They make great picnic tables, dontcha think?

Bins were on sale at the Big K. They make great picnic tables, dontcha think?

Hitch up the trailer, Billy Bob.  It's chicken huntin' season!

Hitch up the trailer, Billy Bob. It’s chicken huntin’ season!

Boatyard in the 'hood.

Boatyard in the ‘hood.

If one boat's good, two's better.

If one boat’s good, two’s better.

Who needs to pay a fortune when you can build your own swing set by hand?

Who needs to pay a fortune when you can build your own swing set by hand?

And now, for the coop dee grass:

Ready for the big lawn party tonight!

Ready for the big lawn party tonight!


We don’t need no stinkin’ Code Enforcement.  Welcome to My Ghetto!

Stephanie Kienzle
“Spreading the Wealth”








Lawyer Barbie Strikes Again

LAWYER BARBIENorth Miami Beach City Attorney Darcee “Street Furniture” Siegel never met a law, statute or ordinance that she couldn’t “interpret” to suit her agenda.  That strategy might work well while trying to persuade a jury of some illiterate Joe Schmuck’s peers.  But it certainly doesn’t fly when she tries it on anyone who can actually read and write English with an above average level of comprehension.  Unfortunately for Darcee, in North Miami Beach, the latter far outnumbers the former.

Her latest attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of the Mayor and Council and all 39,000 plus of the residents of our city involves the development formerly (and fondly) known as Marina Grande, now known as Marina Palms.  As many of you already know, this project has been stalled and stopped and stalled again since 2006, hitting one roadblock after another.  Based on the latest round of Let’s Play Lawyer, it sure seems to me that Darcee would like to add one more roadblock to the mix.  One can’t help but wonder just whose interests she’s protecting here.  It certainly doesn’t appear to be the city’s.

This new brouhaha revolves around a legal document known as a Covenant in Lieu of Unity of Title.  In simplified terms, this document is used mostly when a large tract of land is contemplated for building a development consisting of more than one building.  Basically this document allows the title (ownership) of the different buildings, or phases, to be held in separate names, usually of related corporations, as opposed to a single owner of the entire property.  There are several reasons to do this, but the main reason is so that the owners will be able to obtain financing for each individual building as they need it.  Since the phases of a development are usually built one at a time, it’s easier to obtain a construction loan for each phase and pay them off individually as they are being constructed, rather than one larger mortgage that would require repayment immediately.  There is no reason to start paying a mortgage on undeveloped land long before construction is scheduled to begin.  That wouldn’t make financial sense!

Back in the 1980s, when condominium development was booming, I worked on several large projects in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties as a paralegal for lawyers representing developers.  A Covenant in Lieu of Unity of Title was one of the many standard documents that required execution and recording in order to get the projects off the ground.  The law firm I worked for considered this document a routine part of construction.  To my knowledge, this is still the case.  Among real estate lawyers, this is not rocket science.

In the case of Marina Palms, one of the attorneys for the developer wrote to Darcee on October 10, 2012 and asked her to discuss a proposed Covenant in Lieu of Unity of Title.  Darcee said she was out of town.  On October 19, 2012, an attorney sent the proposed document asking her to review it and call him to discuss.  On November 2, 2012, the attorney sent her a reminder email.  Darcee said she was out of town again.  On November 13, 2012, the attorney wrote her yet again, asking her to discuss the document, to which Darcee responded that she is waiting to hear from outside council, Charles Siemon, of the law firm of Siemon & Larson, P.A., in Boca Raton, Palm Beach County, Florida.  On November 14, 2012, Darcee wrote to the attorneys telling them that she will be speaking to Mr. Siemon on Friday, November 16, 2012 and that she will contact them after the phone call.  On November 21, 2012 (one week later), Mr. Siemon finally deigned to respond with his opinion that he is “perplexed” about the document and that even though “this approach to compliance with development approvals is established in the Metropolitan Dade County Code (for reasons we do not understand) and is apparently followed in a number of municipalities in the County,” he does “not understand how and why the Proposed Covenant advances a City interest.”

So, let me get this straight.  An attorney in Palm Beach County, who is allegedly an expert in land use and development, is “perplexed” and does “not understand” the need for a document that is commonly used and “followed in a number of municipalities in [Miami-Dade] County,” was hired as outside council by the City Attorney of North Miami Beach, which was located in Miami-Dade County last time I checked.

The first question is:  WHY?

The second question is:  HOW MUCH DID IT COST?

Glad you asked.  I have no reasonable or intelligent explanation for the first question.  For some inexplicable reason, Darcee decided to hire a Palm Beach attorney to review a project in Miami-Dade County.  Um, yeah.  Okaaaaay.

The second question is infinitely more interesting.  According to copies of Charles Siemon, Esquire’s legal bills to the City of North Miami Beach from June 1, 2012 through December 3, 2012, taxpayers doled out the sum of $27,744.54 to a “perplexed” attorney, who does “not understand” a Covenant in Lieu of Unity of Title.

That’s not chump change.

But, what has me even more “perplexed” and what I do “not understand” is why it took Darcee almost an entire month from the time she received the proposed Covenant (October 19th) before she finally decided to consult with her outside council (November 16th).

By far, however, the most “perplexing” thing about this entire fiasco, which I definitely do “not understand,” is whether or not Darcee even realizes that she is in violation of the Charter of the City of North Miami Beach.

Yes, that’s right, folks.  The City Attorney has decided that even though she is a lawyer and is supposed to follow the law, Darcee “Street Furniture” Siegel just keeps on doing whatever the hell she pleases.  Sorta like what EX-mayor Myron Rosner did.  (With Darcee’s help, of course!)

Article VIII, Sections 42 through 47 describe the entire scope of the duties and responsibilities of the city attorney and the legal department.  Section 45. Duties. specifically states:

“It shall be the duty of the city attorney to act as legal advisor to the city council, the city manager, and department heads in the City of North Miami Beach. He shall prepare all ordinances, resolutions or regulations submitted for consideration of the council. He shall examine and approve as to legal sufficiency all contracts, franchises, deeds or other undertakings of the City of North Miami Beach. He shall represent the city in bond validations, condemnations under eminent domain, and other legal proceedings in which the City of North Miami Beach is a party. Provided, however, the city council may, in its discretion, associate other counsel in any matter in which the City of North Miami Beach has an interest, and pay the compensation of such associate counsel. The city attorney or a duly appointed assistant shall prosecute cases in the county or circuit court. (Ord. No. 79-31, § 14, 11-20-79)”

Please note the sentence I emphasized in bold print, which clearly states that outside counsel may be hired by the city council, “in its discretion.”  It does NOT say, “in the city attorney’s discretion.”

Yet, in the manner in which she allowed EX-mayor Myron Rosner to “legally” violate our City’s Charter with his campaign sign bus benches, Darcee Siegel has decided that she’s also above the law.

Regardless of any of the legal issues surrounding Marina Palms, her less than timely response to the developer’s attorneys, and her uncanny ability to cover her own ass, the fact that she violated our City Charter should be enough to wake up the Mayor and Council and convince them that Darcee has got to go!

Stephanie Kienzle
“Spreading the Wealth”