Depress ctrl and + keys together to increase zoom/font size; depress ctrl and – keys together to reduce
A few items of interest today.
Yet another most interesting article in today’s Friday edition of www.thebluepaper.com, on the totally SNAFU’d local handling of the investigation of the Thanksgiving Day death of suspected homeless man Charles’ Emiers under Key West police officers on South Beach in the presence of many civilian bystanders and onlookers. Here’s the direct link to the article:
The blue paper rejected yet another of my submissions, the latest a report on how it went with several agenda items at last Tuesday’s city commission meeting. Given some of the other blue paper’s contributing writers’ articles, I’ve concluded I am not on the same planet with them, or with the blue paper, when it comes to writing style and topics, so I retreat back to where I started, which is where you are now, this website, where no political prisoners are taken, maybe because there are no politicians on my home planet. There, citizen are put in office by write-in voting, whether they want to be put into office or not. Campaigning for public office never even occurred to anyone on my home planet. Nor did worrying about pissing off anyone who got put into public office. It’s part of the planetary free theater.
So, I’m quite used to rejection notices on this planet.
Back when Dennis Reeves Cooper owned and published the blue paper,
I went to see him one day back in 2003, at the suggestion of a friend of his, which suggestion I told Dennis’ friend was not a good idea, but his friend was sure it was a good idea. When I knocked on the door of the blue paper’s office and Dennis opened it and saw me, he said, “You fuck! Get the hell out of here! I’m calling the police!” About what I had figured would happen. Taking leave of my senses, I got the fuck out of there, instead of sitting down and waiting on the police to come and save Dennis from me.
If the police came.
Dennis was beating the local police up in just about every issue of the blue paper. All-out war back then, between Dennis and KWPD. I had nothing to do with that. Anyone interested in knowing why Dennis was so nice to me, should ask him. Then, let me know what he said, and I will fill in the parts he did not tell you. Then, you will understand why he told me, “You fuck! Get the hell out of here! I’m calling the police!”
Be that as it all may, the blue paper, now published by Arnaud and Naja Girard,
whom I consider very good friends – I can’t help it if I’m not from their planet, nor can they help it – are the human reason the KWPD did not get clean away with the death of Charles Eimers.
But for Arnaud and Naja’s relentless, determined digging and investigating and publishing, Charles Eimer and his family would have passed quietly into the night. Just another Bum Farto-ish mysterious disappearance from this weird planet.
However, credit also must be given to some gals from my home planet, who caused enough loose ends and missing links and, frankly, miracles, to happen on Naja and Arnaud’s planet, to provide the evidence trail they needed to walk down and pick up the pieces and report them to the people of Key West and beyond, proving once again, perhaps inadvertently, that Key West is the city of one human family only if it likes you.
The other day, another good Key West friend suggested, if I just happen to toss my hat in the ring for mayor of Key West this year, then maybe I should get a bunch of bright-colored campaign T-shirts made up with “One Human Family” on the back, and “Sloan for Mayor” on the front, and give them to homeless people to wear around town, and get my photo taken with homeless people and me wearing the T-shirts, and splash that photo around town.
I said that would be hilarious, but not strategic. My earthling friend asked why? I said, if I was running to win, his strategy would alienate nearly everyone in Key West, given that homeless people are hated by nearly everyone in Key West. The better strategy would be to give the T-shirts to any human who wanted one. However, later, it occurred to me that every human in Key West is homeless, as far as the folks from my planet are concerned. So perhaps my human friend had it right to begin with, and I was sleeping at the switch.
Also not yet dawned on me, if I used One Human Family as a campaign slogan, it would seriously piss off the folks from my planet, who actually are One Human Family, so to speak. I doubt they would take kindly to my pretending to be part of the fake one human family on Key West’s planet. But then, maybe my home planet friends are into cosmic humor. Maybe they would think it was hilarious for me to have those T-shirts. I need to give that more thought.
I had the most bizarre string of thoughts come to me during one of my waking episodes last night, between dreams I was having on my planet, to help me get a grip on what is going on here on this planet. The most bizarre string of thoughts had to do with a running email rumble with County Commissioner George Neugent
over the past few days, regarding the county government hiring out Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority to sewer the Keys with as many grinder pumps as possible, although FKAA preferred gravity sewer systems wherever possible.
I realized between times on my planet last night, where thinking is straightforward and sensible, unlike on this planet, that I had been looking squarely in the face of what is so obvious that I was not able to see it through the fog which envelopes this planet pretty much all the time.
What I saw through that fog was George Neugent and his brother and sister county commissioners, and their engineer Kevin Wilson, their ramrod for the sewering of the lower Keys, REALLY FUCKED UP!
Pearl Harbor lookout
How they REALLY FUCKED UP was by not using grinder pumps everywhere in the lower Keys! According to them, grinder pumps and their transmission lines are cheaper than gravity systems. Grinder pumps work better and are more reliable than gravity systems. Grinder pumps cost less to maintain than gravity systems. Grinder pump lines are laid shallow in the right of way, while gravity lines are laid in the middle of the road, which requires digging up the road and burying the gravity lines, then filling in the hole and totally repaving the road at great expense.
What were George and his brother and sister commissioners and their ramrod Kevin thinking? Why would they use gravity systems at all, when robust, according to Kevin at the recent FKAA Board meeting, grinder pump systems were avalailble for a lot less money and trouble? Why would they use gravity, when George and his brother commissioner David Rice have said they wish they had grinder pumps at their homes in Marathon? Why would they use gravity, when by using grinder pumps everywhere, they could free up a heap more of the 1% infrastructure sales tax the voters passed a few years back, to pay for sewering the Keys, and fixing Keys bridges, and buying the really important things the Keys need, like privately own marinas, fixing up Seven Mile Bridge so pedestrians can continue to walk on it, etc?
Now, if I were from George and his brother and sister commissioners and their ramrod Kevin’s planet, and if I lived in the Keys and paid county taxes, I would be feeling a tad more than hugely upset right about now about all that money George and his brother and sister commissioners and their ramrod Kevin wasted by using gravity sewer systems in part of the lower Keys, instead of using the cheaper, better, longer lasting, more efficient, robust grinder pump systems throughout the lower Keys. I would be so tad more than hugely upset, that I would be passing out petitions to put a referendum on the ballot to recall the 1% infrastructure sales tax. I would be so tad more than hugely upset, that I would be passing out petitions to put a second referendum on the ballot to recall George and his brother and sister commissioners. As for their ramrod Kevin, I would give him an honorary degree in this kind of engineering to mount on his office wall.
Moving to another disturbance on George’s planet, from the Key West Citizen yesterday, my other worldly thoughts in italics.
HOB construction audit going nowhere fast
Contractor refuses to release receipts and records on $37M project
BY TERRY SCHMIDA Citizen Staff
The Monroe County School District’s audit of the Horace O’Bryant School construction project has ground to a halt with the contractor refusing to cooperate with the auditor.
The escalating dispute now seems likely to end up in court as the contractor, Coastal Construction Group of Miami, has so far resisted requests to open its HOB records to the auditor, McGladrey LLP of Melbourne.
Coastal’s refusal to cooperate on this issue is outlined in a Dec. 18 letter sent from the firm’s general counsel Michael E. Utley to school district attorney Dirk Smits. In the letter, Utley points out that last May the district undertook an attestation of the near $37 million project, and suggests that the contract with the school district does not provide for multiple reviews of the project.
“Based upon the fact that this exact review of Coastal’s records has been made and fully cooperated with by Costal and given further that the McGladrey request is identical to that of [attestation conductor] Pribramsky; Coastal must respectfully decline to provide multiple reviews of our project records by multiple consultants to the school board,” Utley wrote.
What, the school district already lost the records it already got from Coastal, which the school district had to get for Pribramsky,
because the school district didn’t have any HOB records of its own, or the school district’s records were in such shambled disarray that Steve and nobody from his planet could make any heads or tails or sense out of them?
The lawyer also objected to Smits’ law firm, Vernis and Bowling, being involved in the dispute, as the company had recently represented Coastal in other actions.
What, Smits and Venis and Bowling did not know they represented both sides? Smits and Venis and Bowling kept about the same splendid records as the school district kept on HOB?
The often fractious relationship between certain school board members and the administration of Superintendent Mark Porter
seems to have been placed on hold for the time being with a near-unanimous consensus forming around the need to pursue the matter in court.
Terrific human planet logic. Pay lawyers to ask a judge to order Coastal to give the school district what it already gave the school district, to which lawsuit Coastal counters, the lawsuit is frivolous and Coastal is entitled to punitive damages and attorney fees.
“We voted for an audit and from what I understand, Coastal is not cooperating with our auditors,” school board Chairman Ron Martin said.
“They aren’t complying with what is written in their contract. I guess we have no other avenue but to go to court to get the proper documentation, so that the auditors can do their job. It definitely will be talked about at our next meeting. The board is all on the same side on this one.”
Martin added that he felt the dispute may well obscure the fact that the job was completed on time and under budget.
“I don’t know why Coastal is snowballing us, but I don’t think they have the legal grounds to do so,” said Martin, who represents District 5. “They did a great job building a beautiful school. But let’s have this other little thing [the audit], and then close the chapter.”
Maybe Ron meant “stonewalling”? Whatever, as I recall, the reason for the audit was to find out what the fuck was going on in the school district’s accounting department, not what the fuck had gone on in Coastal’s accounting department, which Pribramsky and his team had determined was pretty much A-Okay. Looks to me the “snowballing”, or “stonewalling”, is the same as before: the school district is ignoring yet again that it has no records of the HOB construction, or no records anyone can make heads or tails or sense of, and this is yet another attempt by the school district, and by the school board, to try to blame Coastal for the school district not having any HOB records it can make any heads or tails or sense of.
Board colleague Ed Davidson,
of District 3, repeated many of the same concerns, though he also allowed himself a little dig at the superintendent.
“Remembering that Stuart Kessler
and I were officially and unanimously authorized by the school board to research the many irregularities with the HOB project, we would be in much better legal and financial shape if the administration had taken our recommendations and findings more seriously,” said Davidson, who has frequent disagreements with Porter on policy issues.
It was Davidson who discovered the school district had no HOB records that could be made any heads or tails or sense of, which led to the school district hiring Pribramsky, a former school board member, to see what he and his accounting team could find out by examining Coastal’s HOB records. Davidson huffed and puffed plenty about Coastal owing the school district money, and cooking the books in Coastal’s favor, but by the time Pribramsky and his team were finished, Davidson was left with nothing to huff and puff about but his huffing and puffing apparently was all for show and not for any dough.
“The top and the bottom line is that Florida law and the specific terms of the contract with Coastal Construction both designate and require that Coastal function as custodians of all the project records, just as though they were a public agency,” Davidson said. “In other words, every document and information of any kind related to the HOB project must be retained for three years, and be made available exactly as they would be if they were public agency records — no matter who asks for them, or how many times they are requested. It appears that we will have to explain the arrogant error of their ways to them, in front of a judge.”
What’s the judge gonna do? I know what I would do if I were the judge. I would ask the school district to give me the records it already got from Coastal, via Pribramsky, and then I would ask the school district to tell me what other records it wants from Coastal, and I would ask Coastal if it has those other records, and if so, to give them to the school district; and if not, I just might come down rather hard on the school district’s pocketbook for wasting Coastal’s time again, and my and my court’s time.
The attestation, which was performed by former school board member Steven Pribramsky, was not an actual audit, Davidson claimed, but rather an exercise to determine whether or not the records in question actually exist.
“The current McGladrey review is a full-fledged audit, which we are legally entitled to conduct,” Davidson said. “It’s that simple, and Coastal has refused to honor the specific terms of their own contract, as well as the clear requirements of Florida law. It is my understanding that amongst hundreds of other audits, McGladrey has never encountered such wholesale refusal to produce public records before.”
At the very least, McGladrey first should audit the school district re HOB, so the public can get a complete official view of how the district kept its HOB records.
Kessler, who serves as the chairman of the district’s Audit and Finance Committee, said that the contract with Coastal was for “a reimbursement of cost, and not just a fixed price.”
“This is all so unnecessary,” he said. “All along the company was supposed to be providing receipts and other records to the district as they went. The AFC made a unanimous recommendation to the board and administration that they obtain complete copies of all financial records before making the final payment. This audit could have been avoided if the financial records had been gathered all along.”
Sounds like malfeasance on the part of the school board members, the superintendent of schools, etc., for not timely obtaining records from Coastal, and for not keeping in good order the school district’s own HOB records, even without the AFC harping on same being done. With the AFC harping on it being done, it sounds like malfeasance-squared. Mark Porter was hired well into the HOB record-keeping fiasco and cannot be blamed for what happened before he was hired.
The final payment to Coastal was made on July 23.
Kessler said he sent numerous emails to Porter, advising him that the district was being negligent in collecting records as the construction work progressed.
“I have warning emails to the administration, telling them they needed to do this, and they didn’t,” he said. “And now we’re in a situation where Coastal is basically saying the district had 30 days to conduct an audit before making the final payment. A blind man could have seen that this was going to happen, and I’m very upset about it.”
Kessler is a former practicing lawyer, and I have zero doubt, if the school district sues Coastal, Kessler will be Coastal’s star witness against the school district. Pribramsky will the Coastal’s second star witness against the school district. Were I Coastal, I would subpoena Davidson and the other school board members as star witnesses for Coastal, too. I’d want the judge, and the Keys public, to see just how out of touch with the entire HOB reality the entire school board was, and how it ignored its own Audit & Finance Committee, which it had appointed to keep it apprised of financial goings on and irregularities in the school district. Dang, would that make fun reading in the daily comic strips down here in the Keys.
On Wednesday, however, Porter described Kessler’s version of events as “100 percent inaccurate.”
Kessler’s version of events just might get him elected to the school board this year, replacing Robin Smith-Martin,
who recently announced he was not going to seek reelection. Can’t help but wonder if what you are reading here today might have influenced Robin’s decision not to seek reelection.
“O.K., it’s true that our record keeping isn’t quite where we’d like it to be just yet, but McGladrey only wants access to Coastal’s records, not the school district’s,” Porter said. “I had this conversation with McGladrey, and they told me that in order for them to do their work, they have to go directly to the records from the contractor. That’s how this is done in this industry. This is the process that’s followed.”
Again, my recollection is, when the school board decided to do a real HOB audit, the real reason was the board felt that was necessary to get to the bottom of the school district’s side of the HOB accounting. What looks to me is happening is a repeat of the school board hiring Pribramsky, a former school board member himself, to do what Pribramsky already did.
Porter did say that he was “very disappointed” in Coastal’s decision not to cooperate with McGladrey.
“This isn’t an effort against Coastal,” Porter said. “Conducting an audit of this type is just a best practice in the public building construction arena. I don’t think McGladrey needs a lot from Coastal, just records. As the buyer, we’re certainly entitled to those records.”
Dang, Mark, did you lose the Coastal records Pribramsky already got from Coastal? Are their different Coastal records from those, which yo want? If so, why not just ask for those different records?
Porter added that he hoped the possibility of litigation would be enough to gain compliance from Coastal.
Given how much the school board, especially Ed Davidson, already pissed off Coastal, it would not surprise me if Coastal stonewalls the school distirct until hell freezes over, or a judge tells Coastal what to do, or not to do.
“I’m somewhat optimistic about this,” he said. “Perhaps the mere threat will do. I’ll defer to our legal counsel. I know that Mr. Smits has had a number of conversations with Coastal, but so far he hasn’t been successful in convincing them to do what I believe they are legally obligated to do.”
Porter himself is a lawyer. Maybe this is a good time to invoke the best way to kill all the lawyers? Stop using lawyers.
Porter, who has drawn the ire of district watchdogs for taking too long to comply with public records requests, acknowledged the irony of the current situation.
“It does feel a bit strange being on the other side of that issue now,” he said.
As you sow, so shall you reap, Mark. You know about that from your Bible studies.
Porter’s executive director of Planning and Operations, Pat Lefere, confirmed that the district’s legal experts will advise the school board to vote for a lawsuit.
The irony is, the school board has historically and systemically ignored the advice of its own appointed Audit & Finance Committee, which advice, if it had been followed, would have headed all of this off at the pass.
“The district’s legal counsel will be recommending to the board that they take legal action to obtain the records from Coastal,” Lefere said. “It’s unfortunate. It’s not like we’re even close to getting where we want to with this audit.
If the district’s legal counsel has a conflict of interest, it should not be advising the district about anything having to do with Coastal.
“At some point we hope to realize some gains and financial benefits, and the contractor we’ve hired to do that can’t do it until they see the records from Coastal. It’s a bit frustrating. Filing suit is a legal step we need to take to get things moving.”
The school board should instruct Smits to file suit against the school board, for malfeasance, on behalf of all county taxpayers.
Representatives of both McGladrey and Coastal declined to comment for this article.
Perhaps this amigo from my home planet sums it all up pretty well for today.
me at my Key West planetary “office”, Harpoon Harry’s