Florida Keys – various wings of The State Mental check in

There is a  pens, guns, boats and planes – the Battle of Key West …post today, 2/17/2013, at www.goodmorningkeywest.com.

cracked egg

Meanwhile, from the No Name Key County Commission wing of The State Mental, my sentiments expressed in italics

no-name-key.jpg

In The Key West Citizen today, 2/17/2013:

County to deal with power issues on Feb. 26

BY TIMOTHY O’HARA Citizen Staff

tohara@keysnews.com

Monroe County Mayor George Neugent has called for a special County Commission meeting later this month to discuss — and possibly vote on — bringing utilities to No Name Key and to a remote area of Key Largo.

Neugent’s request for the special meeting on Feb. 26 comes less than a week after County Commissioner David Rice encouraged the commission to vote on whether to issue No Name Key residents building permits, which would allow them to connect to power lines that Keys Energy Services installed there last summer.

The county has sued Keys Energy over the placement of the lines, as some of them run over county-owned conservation land. Also, utilities are “discouraged” on No Name Key, according to the county’s comprehensive land use plan, and are “prohibited” according to its land development regulations.

The special meeting also comes as the county is discussing allowing the Key Largo Wastewater Treatment District to run sewer lines in an area off Card Sound Road, where utilities are currently prohibited.

I told the county commissioners at a commission meeting in Marathon not all that long ago that the Key Largo Wastewater Treatment District running sewer lines out to Card Sound Road where utilities are currently prohibited was the same issue as running utilities out to No Name Key. I told them both moves would open the door to further development. The county’s comp plan DISCOURAGES development in both areas.

On Feb. 26, the commission will discuss the lawsuits, altering its land development rules and comp plan and granting the building permits to No Name Key residents to connect to the power lines, Neugent said.

“There are a lot of issues and we need to deal with them in their own meeting, without the distractions of a regular commission meeting,” Neugent said.

On this point, I agree with you, George. No Name Key has become a county commission meeting in and of itself, as it probably should have, given what all it represents and is at stake, in the No Name Key fallout sense, for the entire Florida Keys.

County Commissioner Heather Carruthers cautioned against granting the building permits on No Name, as it would violate the county’s land development regulations. If the commission wants to allow utilities in areas where they are currently prohibited, it should go through the process of amending the comp plan and land development rules, she said.

“We have a process in place and we need to let that process play out,” Carruthers said. “Overriding our own legal processes sets a bad precedent.”

The county is currently updating its comp plan and land development regulations and has discussed changing aspects that deal with prohibiting utilities in Coastal Barrier Resource Act zones such as No Name Key and rural Key Largo.

In calling for a vote on the building permit issue last week, Rice pointed out the discrepancy between the county’s comprehensive land-use plan and its land development regulations. Florida Statute 163.3194 states that when the comp plan and land development regulations are in conflict, the county must abide by the comp plan, not the land development regulations, Rice said.

Rice, Neugent and Commissioner Danny Kolhage have said the county has been discouraging utilities on No Name Key for more than a decade, so it has already met that requirement of the comp plan.

Actually, George, and David, for so long as the comp plan requires the DISCOURAGEMENT of utilities on No Name Key, you, as county commissioners who took a sworn oath to uphold the laws of the United States, Florida and Monroe County, must continue to DISCOURAGE utilities on No Name Key, which sworn oath you will violate if you vote to ignore the comp plan.

Commissioner Sylvia Murphy said she planned to vote against issuing the building permits.

She argued that bringing commercial power there is not about doing what’s best for the island, but increasing the property values of the people who bought homes there knowing they were not entitled to commercial power.

Bringing commercial power there also is about ENCOURAGING further development out there, which the comp plan says the county is supposed to DISCOURAGE. Commissioner Carruthers is correct, there is a process for amending the comp plan, which process it appears Commissioners Neugent and Rice intend to ignore.

The commission will meet at 9 a.m. Feb. 26 at the Marathon Government Center.

======================

From the schools wing of The State Mental, my sentiments experessed in italics:

school bus toon

School hotline may go away

BY TERRY SCHMIDA Citizen Staff

In the ongoing debate over the School District’s whistle-blower hotline, the hotline itself may become the latest casualty.

Har, Har, Har – the hotline was still-born, this is just the official burial announcement. The hotline was still-born because the School District and School Board never had any intention of it living; as time and events proved, the hotline was a public relations stunt, designed to trick the public into believing the School District and the School Board were serious about stopping fraud in the School District.

At Tuesday’s School Board workshop, taking place in Marathon on the same day as the district’s Audit and Finance Committee meeting, board member Ed Davidson put forward the notion that the validity of the hotline was so damaged as to be beyond repair, and that scrapping it has become the best option.

“The bungling of it has totally destroyed what little credibility there was,” Davidson said Thursday. “From the start, many people did not trust the promise of anonymity and confidentiality of the hotline, as evidenced by the fact that we should have had hundreds, or maybe even thousands of calls to it. People don’t trust it.”

The hotline, run by EthicsPoint Inc. of Oregon, was set up in the wake of the Monique Acevedo financial scandal to provide district employee whistle-blowers with an outlet for their concerns. Despite good intentions, however, the line has been beset with difficulties, including recent allegations that overseer Ken Gentile, director of finance and performance, allowed his intern assistant Amy Reno unfettered access to the online reports generated by the hotline, including those which involved Gentile himself.

The hotline has thus been a complete failure, according to Davidson.

“The real hotline is your newspaper, the Key West Citizen,” Davidson said. “That’s what people seem to be using, and that’s what I said at the meeting. Right now, this thing has cost us many thousands of dollars, $5,000 per year, plus the handling on our end, plus the lawyers. Call your board members and tell them to vote to shut it down. Expect to see a vote on that option on the agenda at the next meeting.”

By the “real hotline”, Davidson means Citizen Comments, the Citizen Blog and letters to the editor, however I don’t recall seeing much in the way of fraud complaints made on that “real hotline”.

Board Chairman Andy Griffiths, who is frequently at loggerheads with Davidson over board policies, said he agreed with his colleague on this issue.

“I would definitely be on that side of the question,” Griffiths said. “Who can trust [the hotline] after this latest fiasco?”

As an alternative to the line, Griffiths suggested that “credible people coming forward to lodge complaints” would be better.

Right, Andy. School District Finance Director, wasn’t that her title?, Cathy Reitzel reluctantly came forward in an environment well known to be retaliatory, and blew the whistle on the Acevedos, and you then voted to go along with Governor-appointed Superintendent Joe Burke firing Cathy, whose testimony was key to the State Attorney indicting and convicting the Acevedos. What school employee in his or her right mind would come forth and lodge complaints knowing what you had done to Cathy Reitzel? Who can trust anything you say on this topic, Andy, when it is common knowledge that you invented The Griffiths Rule: “Praise in public, criticize in private”?

Schools Superintendent Mark Porter, too, agreed that it’s time for the hotline to go.

“I would concur with [Davidson and Griffiths],” Porter said. “It was hastily implemented and somewhat poorly deployed, and at this point it utterly lacks credibility. I would hope that there are multiple avenues for people wishing to submit concerns, and many points of contact where people can come forward. I’ve personally had anonymous conversations with such people, so at this point, I don’t know if the hotline is a good way for us to be spending money.”

The cost of the hotline was peanuts compared to the myriad ways the School District has of spending money.

HOB parking lot

Also, at both the Audit and Finance meeting and the board workshop, the festering issue of the expansion of the planned parking lot at Horace O’Bryant Middle School was mulled, this time with a new twist: A spokesman for Coastal Construction, the contractor in charge of the project, estimated that at this point, the cost of expanding the lot is likely to be somewhere in the neighborhood of $600,000 to 700,000, about double the number bandied about previously. Coastal isn’t contracted for that part of the HOB project, and probably couldn’t make it happen while still meeting its June deadline for completing the rest of the school, the spokesman added.

This remark, and the estimate itself, brought a rebuke from Porter.

“That’s very disturbing,” he said Thursday. “I’d be somewhat surprised if Coastal walked away from the project before we can get a occupancy permit. I’m expecting that they’ll stay with us until the completion. We’re going to have to sit around a table and really sharpen some pencils on that one. There may be some interim measures we can use to allow the completion of the project.

“Priority No. 1 is that we have our students in the building in time for the start of the 2013-14 school year.”

Poor Mark, you inherited HOB, among heaps of other problems over which you had no say so. I told you at the meet and great the superintendent candidates gathering at First State Bank in Key West that you had no clue what was going on in this school district, and that if you got the job, you would have my sincere condolences.

==============================

Here’s something that passed between Larry Murray and me recently, re the hotline:

fraud investigationSt. George

Date: Wed, 13 Feb 2013 07:05:48 -0800

From: citizenlarry007@yahoo.com

Subject: The Fat Lady Has Sung

To: keysmyhome@hotmail.com

Sloan:

Please be advised that I have finally received the last Hotline report, just a few days short of my initial request. When I began my quest for the Hotline Reports on October 17, 2012, I really had no idea what I was going to find or what I was going to get into. Various people stated that I would find this or that, but there was no way to be certain without looking. My initial request was for the reports for the previous three months of the District Waste, Fraud and Abuse Hotline. I thought that those reports would give me an idea as to whether or not I needed to probe deeper.

Now that the fifty-odd complaints brought to the Hotline have been made public, we are aware of what a disaster that exercise has been. It was launched with great fanfare in the wake of the Acevedo affair and died shortly thereafter from lack of interest. The tale is a sad one about what might have been had the Internal Auditor, the School Board or anyone else taken the Hotline seriously. I will write you later about the many lessons that I learned through what proved to be an excruciating exercise with an administration that fought me at every turn. Were it not for the able assistance of Dennis Ward, there is no question in my mind that I would still be struggling.

Considering all that was revealed as a result of a simple Public Records Request, I find it ironic that the Citizen reports today that the recently elected County Clerk, Amy Heavlin, has launched a hotline in her office. I would have thought that such a hotline would have predated her election given the responsibilities of the Clerk’s office. I note that the Clerk’s hotline will be operated internally, that Ms. Heavlin has chosen not to hire an independent entity like Ethics Point, the School District’s contractor. I wish her well. She can certainly learn a lot about operating a hotline from all the mistakes made by the School District.

Larry

Dr. Larry Murray

Fiscal Watchdog and Citizen Advocate

I replied:

Hi, Larry – This looks like fodder for another installment in “Larry Murray, School District freedom fighter”, moreso if some of the 50 complaints were juicy, and true, and even more so, if they didn’t make it into the bright sunshine yet. I saw in The Citizen today that Tallahassee didn’t see anything wrong with Gentile’s resume. After the way it went with Ethics Point in the School District, perhaps a direct Fraud Hotline into the Clerk’s office monitored by a Clerk’s office employee and by Amy Heavlin might get better results. I would not feel comfortable with only Amy, or only one of her staff, monitoring that Hotline, nor should Amy or that staff person feel comfortable without backup. But who backs up the back uppers? I suppose it’s impossible to design, and perhaps pretty expensive and tedious to even try to come up with, a fool proof system. It really does matter, the character and diligence of the person(s) responsible for monitoring the Hotline, and following up on and reporting what is phoned in. Sloan

Larry replied:

Could not agree more. Other than the complaints about Gentile and one about Mike Henriquez, there is nothing juicy.

Also in The Citizen Today. my sentiments in italics:

Gentile not OK as CPA

BY TERRY SCHMIDA Citizen Staff

Monroe County School District Director of Finance and Performance Ken Gentile was wrong to list “CPA” among his credentials on his application for employment with the district, according to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR).

That finding contradicts a report filed earlier this week with the state Division of Administrative Hearings by Gentile’s lead counsel, Robert Cintron. That report states Gentile was cleared of the allegation and is free to use the CPA designation.

A “closing order” obtained from DBPR states that a notice to cease and desist using the CPA designation had been issued to Gentile’s lawyers on or around Nov. 8, 2012. The department indicated that it would be dropping its case against Gentile, assuming his compliance with the cease and desist order.

Cintron said Wednesday that he had not previously seen that order, and that he received notice from the DBPR that his client had been cleared of wrongdoing in the matter.

“When I filed that report, the statements that were made in that report were accurate based upon what we had been told by DBPR, both in writing and verbally,” he said. “Had I known that order was floating around, I wouldn’t have made that statement.”

Cintron’s order was filed with the Division of Administrative Hearings, which has been considering an appeal by Gentile of a five-day suspension imposed by Schools Superintendent Mark Porter in December, for allegedly using the CPA designation after allowing his New York CPA license to lapse.

Gentile’s appeal was placed in abeyance until earlier this week, when Cintron filed his report.

On Tuesday, the Division of Administrative Hearings scheduled a video hearing on Gentile’s appeal for March 20, in Marathon and Tallahassee.

In addition to the closing order, DBPR also provided The Citizen with a letter sent Nov. 8 to one of Gentile’s attorneys, reminding them of the department’s decision, and providing instructions on how to comply with the department’s policies.

“Please be advised the above referenced case against your client has been reviewed by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation,” the letter states.

“It has been determined that while the acts alleged constitute a violation of the provisions of Chapter 473, Florida Statutes, or the rules promulgated thereunder, the violation has been sufficiently corrected. Accordingly, the complaint is being closed. However, your client is advised that use of the title of public accountant is to be used only by licensed accountants.”

Following a phone conference with the general counsel for DBPR, Cintron said he intends to file a supplemental report with the Division of Administrative Hearings on Friday.

That supplemental report can be found on the Division of Administrative Hearings website, at

www.doah.state.fl.us/DocDoc/2012/003896/12003896_0_02152013_04150193_e.p….

Only a few days ago, The Citizen reported that Gentile had been cleared of any wrongdoing. Good digging, Terry Schmida. If you open and read the link to the supplemental report, maybe you will end up feeling like I feel about it – baloney, Gentile and his lawyer, Cintron, both knew Gentile had not been cleared when they made representations to the contrary.

Comments on the article at The Citizen Blog this morning:

“Credible people coming forward” in the sunshine

Submitted on Fri, 02/15/2013 – 9:22pm by Apples to apples

Really Andy?? That worked really well before…Amy Heavilin, the new Clerk of Court, and a real bonifide CPA, instituted a fraud hotline this week for the County. She said that, irregardless of audits and strict internal controls, the best way to detect fraud is through anonymous tips. That is because fraud is a deliberate attempt to circumvent existing controls. If someone wants to steal, they will find a way. But someone always knows and will report, if no retribution. Obviously the School District does not want to know about fraud. They want employees to take it to the newspapers, scream it from the mountaintops. Every MCSD employee I know is hunkered down and counting the days to retirement, and blind to what they see going on. They know they will be squashed like a bug if they say anything “credible.”

They will never forget what happened to Cathy Reitzel, who, I think, ended up suing the School District in Federal Court, that outcome not decided yet, as far as I know …

Swamped

Submitted on Fri, 02/15/2013 – 4:53pm by Also Tired

They obviously got swamped with calls/complaints. The hotline was just to temporarily show that they were proactive and interested in improving the organization.

Actually, they were not swamped, as Larry Murray proved by finally getting the Fat Lady to sing.

It was not the hotline that failed!

Submitted on Fri, 02/15/2013 – 11:41am by justiceforall

The ethics point program did exactly what it was supposed to do, what failed miserably was the highly paid executive! Get back our money we paid Gentile, and press charges. Does anyone seriously believe he is honest at this point? He was caught red handed covering up complaints against himself. Nothing ever changes with the school board!

Accountible yet?

Submitted on Fri, 02/15/2013 – 9:31am by kwkids

It doesn’t seem so. The board approves this poorly executed hotline. Great press for them, but again, no actual oversight on how it is put in place. Not only were actual dollars spent on the physical cost here, but if you total up an hourly cost for every meeting of personnel, the cost goes up. The board approved a construction plan. Did not, apparently, work the concept to the point that if additional funds were needed for…I don’t know…a major soil problem or silly little things like $600k in parking…which were both mistakes in the development, that the district would not have to incurr the costs. These things must be the teachers fault I guess. Please consider electing candidates with qualifications in the next election and not simply electing a familiar name. This is insane.

Well, somebody reelected Andy Griffiths to a 6th term, after he had served 20 years on the School Board. I said throughout my campaign for the seat Ed Davidson ended up winning, that the School District was terminally, dysfunctionally insane.

Unbelievable

Submitted on Fri, 02/15/2013 – 6:39am by wondering…

Well, now…this makes about as much sense as throwing away Randy Acevedo’s computer and Monique’s desk to solve the problems we had with them. Keep the hotline, put it in a prominent place on the website, not buried as it is now, send monthly summaries of issues reported to the Board along with progress on each, and replace the people who’ve caused it to become a bad joke with people who will do their jobs.

Actually, the hotline was at a prominent place on the website. The problem, not many people seemed to believe the hotline was for real, and the way the hotline turned out, the disbelievers were proven right. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

Sloan Bashinsky

keysmyhome@hotmail.com

About Sloan

That's what this website is about, also goodmorningkeywest.com and goodmorningbirmingham.com. If you can't get a publisher to take on your wacky musing, you do it yourself.
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