the people’s special prosecutor, Florida Keys and beyond

News in The Key West Citizen today of the Marathon High-Middle School principal being charged with sexual harassment by a female school district employee, and his being reassigned to the administrative offices in Key West pending outcome of the investigation. He has a wife and three school-age daughters. Chief Operating Office Theresa Axford and Chief Financial Officer Michael Kinneer assigned by Superintendent of Schools Jesus Jara to do the investigation. As if Michael has the time to do it, when he is overwhelmed with trying to stay on top of the school district budget’s errors and omissions.
 
Meanwhile, today’s post is yet another almost never-ending series of labyrinths and mazes, however if you stick with it, you might find some exciting rides.

TRADE
 
Tim Gratz to me, re the child sex trafficking movie “Trade.”Per Wikipedia, “TRADE” is based on this article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/01/25/magazine/the-girls-next-door.html?pagewanted=11

A very disturbing article to say the least.
I do believe the angels led you to watch “TRADE” and then you led me to it and to the NY Times article.

I replied:

Am chronicling two ex-lawyers discuss the TRADE at goodmorningbirmingham.com.

These two links, so far:

2 ex-lawyers discuss excellent sex trafficking and predation prevention video <

http://www.goodmorningbirmingham.com/?p=2406>two ex-lawyers continue their discussion of the TRADE: child sex trafficking <

http://www.goodmorningbirmingham.com/?p=2412>Tim replied:

 
We should sometime discuss that excellent NY Times article that was the basis of the film TRADE.
As we’ve said it was no coincidence that you “happened” upon TRADE during our discussions!
But I am now in Miami about to take a bus back to the Keys.
Can you attend a Coalition meeting Tuesday night in Marathon?
Threre will be a discussion of the role that sexual abuse plays in trafficking. I’ve met the speaker and he comes highly recommended by a representative of DCF.I replied:

 
Am feeling burned out on this issue, Tim. Feel burned out on lots of stuff. But for the angels poking my hind quarters with a sharp stick, I would go on strike.
 
Tim replied:
 
Totally understand. Connie and I thank you for all you have done.
 
MARTIN ZIMMERMAN
 
From Nasville J:
 
Sloan:
 
Let’s see now. This organization offered $10,000 for someone to kill Zimmerman, but not a peep out of Holder or Obama, Jackson, Sharpton. Now we want to do Zimmerman with a noose around his neck to sell more newspapers. You can’t make this stuff up.
 
 
I replied:
 
Maybe rednecks don’t have a monopoly on racism, ignorance, megalomania. Dumb shits keep this up, they might well create a white stampede toward Mitt Romney.Got so much on me right now, hard to get revved up over Martin-Zimmerman again after all I wrote about it, 14 posts, I think. Maybe it will come back around, meanwhile, just sitting here typing this to you is serious effort.

Nashville J replied:
 
No problem Sloan. Just passed it along as FYI. I will say that I believe that Zimmerman will be killed IF they can find him – I hope not – but some people can get incited.
 
KW has to be the most corrupt place in America – there is something shady going on there all the time. The plea deal is a beauty when put in context with the other incidents mentioned. It’s not WHAT you know, it’s WHO you know.
 
Get some rest!
J

Rest is not in the angels’ dictionary.

CITY PLANNER DON CRAIG’S PLEA DEAL

State Attorney Dennis Ward called me yesterday morning to tell me I am an accurate reporter. That had to do with the part of yesterday’s up to the gills,and plenty more post about the plea deal Key West City Planner Don Craig was given by Assistant State Attorney Cristy Spottswood, on which Nashville J commented unkindly.

Accurately reported yesterday, Dennis Ward told me a homeless man with no criminal record will get the same plea deal for throwing a rock at a Key West police cruiser, as Don Craig got for doing that.

I figure maybe 200 or homeless people in Key West do not have criminal records in the sense Don Craig had no criminal record when, dead drunk, he threw a rocks at several passing cars, one was a Key West police cruiser. I figure every one one of those 200 homeless people gets the same deal Don Craig got, if, dead drunk, or even cold sober, they throw rocks at several passing cars, one a Key West police cruiser. We have State Attorney Dennis Ward’s word on it. Ditto for everyone living in or visiting Key West, who has no more of a criminal record than Don Craig had when, dead drunk, he threw a rocks at several passing cars, one a Key West police cruiser. That’s a heap of rocks and a heap of dents in Key West police cruisers, Dennis. Don Craig’s plea deal still looks like a good idea to you and Cristy Spottswood?

HOMELESS MAN SEARCH

Received this from the man who wrote to me and others in the Key West area about his homless brother James Bernard, as described in yesterday’s post.

James

From: bernard.christopher@gmail.com
To: keysmyhome@hotmail.com
Subject: RE: James Edward Bernard (missing)
Date: Thu, 10 May 2012 08:16:42 -0400

Sloan

Thanks for your reply, so far you’re the only one who has gotten back to me and I appreciate it, as I will call all on the To’ list today.

I am unsure if Jimmy is in Marathon or KW, it shows arrested by KWPD so I assumed he was arrested in KW.

I will contact who you listed to also assist me.

Jimmy has delusional disorder but will not take his medication, he is a paranoid schizophrenic, and yes correct, he might not want to see any of the members of his family, nonetheless, he needs and we need to make sure he is receiving his benefits, years ago he was healthy and was receiving his money, the way he looks in the picture and also stating homeless as his address was listed as streets’ now might be the result of his not knowing he even has benefits, etc, if his disease has worsened.

I travel frequently, a lot to Orlando so I will be able to come down and see if I can assist, I made frequent trips, at least once a month to Orlando from NJ and CT to assist my parents when they got older so going to KW is not as issue, we also now have a personal friend who is a PI assisting us.

I have put the picture below and re attached in a different format.

Again, I appreciate the help and assistance.

Chris

I replied:

Morning, Chris.

Now thinking maybe I recognize Jimmy in the photo, perhaps have seen him around, which would be KW.

Suggest you contact SHAL (Southern Homeless Assistance League), which operates KOTS (Keys Overnight Homeless Shelter) on Stock Island (next island above KW), and ask them to show Jimmy’s photo to the KOTS staff, as he may be staying there nights. Lots of homeless stay there at night.

Am copying this email to Wendy Coles, Executive Director of SHAL, who has suffered through many of my harangues re KW homeless. Suggest you also forward mine to Wendy, in case I’ve been blocked out of that email address.

If Wendy can give you an email address for someone in administration of the St. Mary’s soup kitchen, you can send Jimmy’s photo to that person to show around the soup kitchen staff. They serve every afternoon and lots of homeless eat there.

Wendy knows other homeless help agencies under SHAL umbrella, where Jimmy’s photo can be shown around.

Also, you can contact Glad Tidings Tabernacle Church on United Street in KW, and get their email address and send them Jimmy’s photo, to see if they recognize him. They provide homeless with assistance, still feed them once a week, I think.

Do same with Donie Lee, KW Police Chief – you can get his email address off the City of Key West website. Donie has an upper echelon officer assigned specifically to homeless outreach, surveillance, control, who should recognize Jimmy, if he’s in the KW area.

I remain of the view, if Jimmy is entitled to Navy disability benefits, he probably is getting them. It is common down here for homeless getting benefits to get their check, blow it on booze or whatever the first two weeks, then spend the second half of the month penniless, begging, going to soup kitchens, etc.

Lots of homeless in KW area carry multiple diagnoses: post traumatic shock, bi-polar, schizophrenia, substance addiction. Most do not care to take medication, and I can’t blame them, having done a field residency in psychiatry myself, which nearly killed me.

Homeless down here carrying one or more diagnosis, most of them, carry deep soul wounding dating back to their early life. Typically, rooted in severe religious upbringing, sexual, physical, psychic child abuse, death of a parent or sibling. Layered on top of that in many chronic homeless down here is deep soul wounding from military combat service.

I have lived with chronic homeless, laughed, cried, fought and cussed with them, for a long time. I know them better than anyone who has not done the same, who is trying to help them. I often have told the KW City Commission and the various homeless help agencies only God can change street people, and all we can do for them is see to it they have enough to eat, clothes and shoes, medical treatment for infections, a place to bathe, and allow them to sleep at night, somewhere.

St. Mary’s soup kitchen’s mantra is, “It is our job to feed homeless people, it is God’s job to change them.” That soup kitchen was started and nurtured and brought to where it now is by Dorothy Sherman, now gone to her well-deserved reward. During her wake at St. Mary’s Star of the Sea, she was eulogized as a living saint, and it was asked who would step forward to take over for her? I cried my eyes out.

Fortunately, people did step forward at the soup kitchen she started, and it continues to serve good, nutritious meals every day.

Your concern for Jimmy is commendable, perhaps he will respond to you, if you come down here and catch up with him. Perhaps he just needs someone he knows, who loves him, to reach out to him. But if you come on preaching to him, odds are good he will not respond well.

Sloan

Chris replied:

Sloan

I am blown away by your response, and in your debt!

I will take your recommendations and contact the folks on this email, and I agree whole heartedly with our remarks and musings about the homeless, etc, I feel that in our case I will attempt to have someone talk to Jimmy first and perhaps make sure he is okay and also make sure as you said, he is receiving his funds and perhaps have them mention he has money coming to him from our Mom’s death, I am unsure how that should be done? Perhaps a shelter representative or father, priest, etc?

When I do come down, I would love to meet you in person and shake your hand and give you a hug,

Chris

I replied:

Hi, Chris. Debt I have plenty, as in karma. Like depth, debt is earned through experience. The rougher, the more earned. I do hope this is my last trip to this planet, at least as a homo sapien. It may be, if you come down here and shake my hand and give me a hug, you might catch something you don’t want to catch, or some joker might take a candid photo of the event and sail it all over the Internet and ruin your reputation eternally. You have my email address, maybe I can persuade you to stop off on Little Torch Key on your way down to KW. A bit more laid back here, lots less traffic, especially after you leave US 1, lots quieter, would say lots more sane, but then, I suppose that diagnosis is in the eye of the beholder. Sloan

Chris replied:

Ah, an old soul.

Having lived in Orlando twice I have yearned to live in KW or surrounding areas, my turns unfortunately led me to other paths, although it looks as if my brother and I are of same mind, just different ways there. Funny, he is living the life we all want, footloose and fancy free, though as is known, it all has its wicked edge.

You’re a wordsmith, and a friend, my mom would have baked you one of her famous cakes!

Chris

I met a few chronic homeless people who were okay with being homeless, seemed to like it even. The rest just endured. Unable to cope in mainstream, going back to that way of living was not really an option in their eyes. I went back to living in mainstream, and in its own way, it was rougher than being homeless. There is nothing healthy or good about adjusting to a dysfunctional society. In the angels’ eyes, humanity is dysfunctional and homeless.

From: Wendy Coles [mailto:flshal@comcast.net]
Sent: Thursday, May 10, 2012 11:34 AM
To: ‘Christopher Bernard’; sloan bashinsky
Subject: RE: James Edward Bernard (missing)

Chris and Sloan

I have sent your email to all the service providers in hopes that someone has seen James. Our records do not indicate that he has accessed services locally – including KOTS. I’m sorry, we will certainly keep on the lookout.

Wendy Coles, PhD, Executive Director

Southernmost Homeless Assistance League

305 292 4404 305 393 3666 cell www.shal.com

Chris wrote: We just obtained an address from a sympathetic soul at the VA, 3920 South Roosevelt BLVD in KW, are either of you familiar with this area?

I replied: At the top of Key West. Turn left when you reach KW after crossing Cow Key Channel, it’s about, hmmm, quarter mile on the left. If James is collecting Navy disability, he probably is checking in at that VA facility, as it’s the only one in the Keys, I think.

Chris wrote: I tried to Google map etc it but it does not come up correctly, what type of building is at that location? Is that a efficiency motel or a shelter or a VA facility.

I replied: It’s a VA facility, haven’t been on the grounds; as I recall, the buildings are white and there is a sign at N. Roosevelt entrance, saying it is VA something.

Chris wrote: Thanks, he must be using this as a mailing address.

I replied: Contact them and inquire about him. At the very least, they could pass along a message, even if they won’t admit he comes by there.

Chris wrote: Again thanks, looks like I am taking up your day today, lol Do you have a name for the facility?

I replied: No, and I see nothing in the KW phone directory for that location.

However, there is a Veteran’s Affairs on Truman Avenue, 305-296-3995- and I imagine they have info on the VA clinic. Call during regular office hours, week days. The number for the VA clinic they give on the answer phone does not work.

MY DEAL WITH THE ANGELS

Here’s the deal between the angels and me. I wake up and deal with what is in front of me. I go to sleep, dream, get some direction, then I wake up again and deal with what is in front of me. When there is nothing in front of me, or if I’m too stove up to do what is in front of me, I do what I want to do, if I feel up to it, which I seldom do.

I found myself thinking yesterday that the angels are doing all they can to cure me of ever wanting to return to this planet as a human being. I don’t know what an old soul is. My tolerance is zero. I am tired. Gravity is winning. Age is winning. Lots of things are breaking down. Why not? I’m 70 in October.

I do not advise anyone to offer his or her life to God for human service. Just ask God to give you what you need, and then deal with what life brings your way, in the holiest way you can muster in the moment, which some times will be less holier than other times.

THE STATE ATTORNEY’S SPECIAL PROSECUTOR

I reamed Sandy Downs out last night for calling me and unloading on me everything about Key West that was bugging her, as if I was her personal toxic waste dump. I told her I didn’t want to hear it, was up to the gills, to do her research and put it in a letter.

Well, she put it in a letter and sent it to a Key West City Commissioner before I had a chance to look it over. It’s nine miles long and somewhat repetitive. I can’t say I would wade though it all if I were this city commissioner, whom I know pretty well and have viewed as easily the sharpest, smartest and most ethical elected Key West city official since I started attending city commission meetings in 2001.

I suppose Sandy is covering all the bases, prelude to suing the city over everything in the email to the city commissioner, the only woman on that body.

Far as I know, all of what Sandy wrote to this commissioner was presented by Sandy to State Attorney Dennis Ward and one of his Assistant State Attorneys, who subsequently left that Office without notifying Sandy, who was meeting with him fairly regularly.

The one real conversation I had with Dennis about the Tree Commission, and why wasn’t he following through on his going after corruption campaign promise?, led to Dennis getting heated up and daring me to let him appoint me as special prosecutor to investigate the Tree Commission and Key West for public corruption.

I was astounded. Said no way could I be appointed special prosecutor. Dennis said sure, he could get it done. I said no way in hell, I don’t have an active law license even in Alabama, and no law license in Florida. Dennis said he could get it done anyway. He could get a judge to appoint me. I said no way in hell. Dennis said he would try his best to get it done. I could not believe my ears, and was convinced Dennis either was afraid to take on the City of Key West, or he was in the City’s fold.

Dennis told me day before yesterday that he likes to test his prosecutors, to see what they are made of. He said Cristy Spottswood is a good prosecutor, she has integrity. I didn’t see any integrity when Cristy did not decline to handle Don Craig’s case, which malaise got hashed out and beaten to death yesterday, and Dennis said I reported it accurately.

Okay, Dennis, I see no better test of Cristy Spottswood’s skill and integrity, and your pledge to the voters that you would go after public corruption, than for you and Cristy to take on the Key West Tree Nazis and their enabling elected, hired and appointed city officials, some, or a lot, of whom are chummy with Cristy’s prominent six-generation, isn’t it?, Key West Conch family.

Looks like I indeed am your special prosecutor, Dennis. Specially appointed by you, to prosecute you and your Office.

When on the phone the other day, you denied that you had extradited Robert Krutko from Ohio and jailed him for months; when you said it was Michael Halpern, not you, who did that; when you said I was afraid to take on Michael Halpern, I said the only thing I am afraid of is God. You said you were not convinced I even believe in God.

You had no clue what you invoked when you said that Dennis. You had no clue, but you are going to find out. I busted my butt helping you get elected in 2008. I publicly vouched for your integrity and skill. I have no choice but to be your special prosecutor.

You and Cristy Spottswood either are part of the solution, or you and she are part of the problem. To get you both off on the right foot, here is the email City Commissioner Teri Johnston received from Sandy.

KEY WEST AND ITS TREE NAZIS

Date: Thu, 10 May 2012 22:49:42 -0400
Subject: $150.00 per caliper inch….Millions
From: janesjunglework@gmail.com
To: johnston@keywestcity.com
CC: janesjunglework@gmail.com; keysmyhome@hotmail.com
 
Dear Ms. Johnston, 


I have not written specifically to you before, though I have voiced my concerns to many city officials. They all claim they can do nothing.

The Tree Commission is coercing illegal fines and permit fees out of homeowners.

The City Commission appointed and empowered the Tree Commission. The City Commission is responsible for with what the Tree Commission is doing as the Tree Commission only operates under authority given them by you., Several commissioners have been made aware of this problem, though none have chosen to attend a Tree Commission hearing and see what is going on.

 
The Tree Commissioners are mostly newly appointed and receive direction from the Chair Neils Weise, and counsel Assistant City Attorney Ron Ramsingh. The commissioners rely on them to interpret rules and set fees and amounts, etc. The Tree Commissioners have no real knowledge of trees and laws.
 
The Urban Forester acts as the “Code Enforcement” officer. What goes on in these Hearings is unconstitutional and illegal. The Assistant City Attorney has been acting as counsel for the Tree Commission and prosecutor for the Tree Commission at the same time, which is illegal according to the State of Florida Code Enforcement proceedings regulations. The CD of the February hearing where this took place, was destroyed by the City, and all recording of hearing erased or deleted from the hard drive. The Tree Commission is also making up rules at the hearings, which are not found in writing anywhere. These made up rules are used to coerce fines from unsuspecting homeowners, who are threatened if they do not accept the “settlement agreement” offered, and then told if they do not accept the agreement offered they will endure the next step of fines and penalties with the Code Magistrate. These city imposed fines are based on a fee that has never been approved by the State of Florida and is found nowhere in writing in the Key West Code of Ordinance and Land Development Regulations approved by the State. The fees cannot be adopted unless approved by the State. The City Commission must vote on changes prior to the State approval. The City Commission never voted on these fees. These fees are $150.00 per caliper inch required to be paid to the City of Key West before they will issue a permit to trim or remove a tree, and this fee per caliper inch is also used as a base for fine or settlement amounts.
 
These fees for a permit to trim or remove one tree can exceed $5,000.00, $10,000.00 or more.
 
This fee is illegal. This fee is not found in any ordinance. This fee was never approved by the State. The State does not know this fee is being imposed. 


Please consider my request that the City start complying with State Laws, and cease it’s violations of the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and stop discriminating against the poorer property owners. This will be my last request to the city.
I have repeatedly attempted for 2 years, to encourage the officials of the City of Key West to stop unlawfully charging $150.00 per caliper inch for tree removal permits. A fee which is NOT found in writing, nor has the State approved this fee as required by law under Statute 162. This fee is illegal.
 
The city has made millions off of the permit fees. This could be criminal, possibly considered extortion. City legal staff knows these fees were not approved by the State of Florida as required by law. Moreover these fees are not in writing, though the Tree Commission Hearing CDs repeat them over and over. How could a homeowner possibly know about unwritten rules and fees? Yet homeowners have individually paid thousands of dollars for not knowing about secret rules; collectively they have paid millions of dollars into the city coffers, either as permit fees or violation fees.

At $150.00 per caliper inch, the City of Key West “permits” cost in excess of thousands…sometimes as much as $10,000.00 per tree, and more.

 
This city coerced permit fee effectively eliminates many homeowners from maintaining their trees, or removing hazards of limbs or trees. It is the policy of insurance companies to not pay for damages caused by known hazards. With Google Earth explicit coverage of all properties, there can be no denial that a known hazard existed. Many homeowners are going to go through this hurricane season knowing they have hazardous conditions which could easily be corrected by hiring a tree company which they can afford. However, they cannot afford the permit to do the work, which costs thousands more than the work itself. The city has jeopardized the safety of all citizens by imposing fees that are illegal, and causing homeowners to be unable to afford the City’s permit fees; therefore they cannot maintain their trees or correct hazardous conditions. Many deaths will be attributed to trees when we get a Hurricane, and many deaths could have been prevented had the city not engaged in extorting the citizens of thousands of dollars for a permit to trim or remove trees or limbs. Is the city ready for that liability? The State ONLY allows rules that contribute to the health, safety and welfare of it’s citizens. The city’s own unsupported, yet adopted unwritten fees and rules destroy the health, safety and welfare of it’s citizens; in direct defiance and conflict of State regulations and rules.

The homeowners trees are unkempt in many instances because of the city’s burdensome permit fees. Per State regulation, the permit fees can ONLY be administrative costs, and cannot burden the citizens. The City of Keys West has burdened it’s citizens, with their own unwritten and illegal fees.
 
Not only that, the State does not allow for burdens to small businesses. Our tree companies are burdened by these fees, and only the rich can afford our services because of the thousands they must pay for a permit before they hire us.

THIS $150.00 per caliper inch permit fee IS IN VIOLATION of State of Florida Statutes which says ONLY an administrative fee can be charged, unless the State approves other fees. The State has approved NO such fee of $150.00 per caliper inch, NOR ANY other fee… other than the administrative fee they allow, for which a permit would cost approximately $50.00 or so dollars.
 
The City of Key West is violating State regulations in imposing a fee the State has never been made aware of, nor has the State approved this fee.
 
The Attorney General has rendered opinions in other cases that conclude what is being done in Key West is illegal. Moreover, the Florida Supreme Court has ruled Tree Commissions such as ours are unconstitutional. The City has ignored it all.

On the Tree Commission Hearing CDs, you can hear the $150.00 per caliper inch being coerced as payment for any homeowner who wishes to remove a tree, regardless of the reason. Even when the tree is a hazard and needs emergency removal, this fee is charged. Even when the homeowner has 10 times more trees per green space than is required by the Land Development Regulations, this fee is charged. The homeowner who planted and landscaped his property according to the city’s wishes which in ordinances and brochures state, “To encourage additional plantings in the city”, is now flabbergasted to find he must either replant more trees than his property can hold, more than is required by ordinance as well; or be forced to pay the rate of $150.00 per caliper inch for a permit.. The State has NEVER approved this fee. The money taken in is illegally obtained by coercion and extortion.

The homeowner who cannot afford this fee to obtain a permit must decide whether to take matters into his own hands to relieve himself of a hazard or unwanted and unnecessary tree,…or leave the tree to destroy his home and property and make his property worthless to him and unusable. The homeowners in Key West now have hazards in their yards, with no way to correct these hazards without paying $150.00 per caliper inch to the city for a permit which allows them to eliminate hazards, enjoy their property, bring their homes into compliance with insurance regulations, power line clearance, etc.

Homeowner who take matters into their own hands because they cannot afford these permits, or don’t know about these permits or the fees which are found nowhere in writing, find themselves hauled in for violations and are then forced to pay fines as much as $40,000.00-$100,000.00 or have liens placed against their property.
Homeowners who are poor are especially discriminated against, and are forced to keep trees that very well may kill them in a Hurricane or destroy the foundation of their property, their roof, etc. I am sure you see the discrimination against both the poor, and the zealous tree planters who thought they were doing the city a favor by over planting their properties only to find their properties can’t hold all that was planted, and now in order to remove some to keep their property usable and safe, they are required to buy back their own landscape at $150.00 per caliper inch.

The State of Florida ONLY allows an administrative fee to be charged for a permit; which insures the cost of the permit itself, does not pose an obstacle that prevents a homeowner from caring for his property. The State also recognizes the property rights afforded a homeowner by the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Bert Harris Act.


How does the City of Key West then justify charging a outrageous and burdensome permit fee that has never been approved by the State? What authority does the city claim, supports their $150.00 per caliper inch fee for a permit, when this fee is unwritten, not found in the ordinances and has never been approved by the State?

Tree Commissions established in cities and municipalities all over this country are there to protect city and public trees only, and to require landscape in new or redeveloped properties so they are not barren. In Florida native vegetation is protected, but no homeowner can be forced to have more than is required so that they share a disproportionate burden. This is prohibited in the State regulations. The City of Key West has no authority to force homeowners to keep trees when their properties meet the land development requirements, nor to charge a homeowner to buy back his own trees from the city at $150.00 per caliper inch, should he find the need to eliminate any trees that are in excess of the code (LDR) requirements.


Key West homeowners are outraged, but most have no idea how illegal this practice the city is engaged in is. 

Nor can most homeowners who do know, afford to mount a legal battle at their expense to challenge the city in a lawsuit…nor should they have to.
 
And why won’t the city stop this before a lawsuit comes? 


The City Commission can stop this practice, and should stop it. IF the City Commission refuses to stop this practice by the Tree Commission they appointed and have authority over , the commissioners might find themselves liable for the illegal takings of money and property that the State has never approved, the discrimination of the poor, and the deprivation and elimination of constitutionally guaranteed property rights of it’s citizens.

Instead of eliminating this illegal fee, the city extended it to include “trimming” trees as well; and homeowners are now forced to get tree REMOVAL permits to TRIM trees. The trimming “rule” was made up in the December Tree Commission Hearing by Chair Neils Weise when trying to find a rule that allowed them to fine a homeowner (Carol Dooley) for trimming a tree. This made up rule is on the CD of the hearing.


Instead of correcting the Chair’s error, the city then put this new made up rule on the front page of the Citizen newspaper on Dec. 19th. The city also refuses to correct this, and now has adapted this unapproved rule that you can’t trim a limb over 3 1/2 inches without a tree removal permit, as another means to extort money from homeowners desperately trying to remove hazardous trees and limbs, especially white-fly infested trees and limbs. White fly epidemic has spread throughout Monroe County, large in part due to the city printing their made up rule front page of the paper and burdening homeowners with another rule not found in the ordinances, accompanied with fees of $150.00 per caliper inch not found in writing or approved by the State.


In a February Tree Commission hearing, Assistant City Attorney Ron Ramsingh made up another rule….to charge the same for dead limbs as live limbs because he said by differentiating between the two (live and dead), the city was “shortchanging” itself. When I attempted to obtain a copy of the CD of the hearing, 10 days passed between my request and when the City announced the CD would NEVER be made available to the public and offered no excuse or explanation. Afterwards the City of Key West reported the hard drive was clean and the Hearing was not recorded as required by law, even though at the hearing that night the city confirmed twice that the hearing was being recorded. It certainly appears the city did away or erased the recording because of the unlawful conduct of the Assistant City Attorney. The Hearing minutes were then made up and altered to what actually took place at the hearing….wherein one gentlemen who had reached a compliance settlement was told he didn’t, and forced to get an attorney to argue the matter which cost him thousands.


So far:
1. Illegal and coerced permit fees of $150.00 per caliper inch; which has never has been approved by the State, and moreover is not found in writing anywhere
2. Assistant City Attorney acting as both counsel and prosecutor which is strictly prohibited in the State Regulations.
3. Destroyed evidence of recordings of the February Tree Commission hearing.
4. Citizens forced to pay fines for rules that don’t exist and are made up on the spot at the Hearings.
5. The City printing unlawful rules on the front page of the newspaper and refusing to correct the error.
6. Homeowners not allowed to correct liability issues without paying an extortion rate to the city for a permit to do so; thousands of dollars per permit.
7. Discrimination against the poor. Financially unable to pay for a permit that costs $150.00 per caliper inch when the State only allows an administrative fee to be charged so as to not be burdensome or discriminatory, the poor are forced to leave trees unsafe and untrimmed.
8. Homeowners encouraged to “plant trees” in all brochures and mission statements put out by the city; but never being told they will be forced to
“buy back” these same trees from the the city that encouraged them to plant them at $150.00 per caliper inch… should they ever wish to trim or remove them in the future.
9. Homeowners forced to share a disproportionate burden of landscaping than others, and more than is required by LDR. This is strictly prohibited by State law.
10. In many instances, the city has denied permits for removals even when the homeowner was willing to pay for a permit at $150.00 per inch. This deprives a homeowner of their right to their property use, and is a “taking” without compensation…….. a violation of the Constitution.
11. City of Key West perpetuating epidemics by making up rules preventing homeowners from treating or removing their affected trees without paying first an extortion rate to the city to do so. Thus, the white-fly epidemic was spread when the City prevented homeowners from complying with ordinance 110-259 which states: homeowners must remove or treat diseased or infested trees. There is no need for a permit mentioned. Non-compliance with this ordinance ensures you will be issued a code violation. Knowing this, the city imposed a made up rule and printed it front page of the paper that a homeowner had to get a permit before they could trim a limb over 3 1/2 inches from the white fly infested tree. The cost of a permit: $150.00 per caliper inch. The average cost of a gumbo limbo permit for several limbs: over $2000.00. Only the rich then could afford to comply with 110-259. No-win situation for the homeowner, either face a code violation or pay the extortion rate to the city that allows you to comply with the code 110-259.
Now the white fly epidemic has spread to trees once believed to be “immune” to infestation.
12. The City of Key West imposing fees for permits that are so burdensome, they undermine the health, welfare and safety of it’s citizens in direct conflict with the State of Florida prohibiting such abusive fees that compromise citizens safety, etc..

As if this is not enough….


The money that has been taken in for permit fees and fines by the Tree Commission for the past 10 years is missing. Millions of dollars are missing.


The spreadsheet given to reporter Sean Kinney shows $20,000 per year on average in fees and fines… little or none of the real amount of the fees and fines that are taken in by the Tree Commission….and the names I have checked on the spreadsheet are fraudulent according to those named themselves…one being Jimmy Weekley. C. Way Hoyt will confirm he was the expert witness for the City of Key West Tree Commission for years, and has seen many thousands go through the hands of the Tree Commission. One settlement alone he witnessed was $40,000.00. This settlement agreement is missing as well. The spreadsheet consists of addresses with no names in most cases, with bogus amounts such as $7.50, or $90.00, etc as fine amounts. In every case where there is a name that I have checked, all reports of fines and amounts are fraudulent.


***Real numbers for the fines and fees taken at the hearings and in emergency permits are always in the hundreds if not thousands of dollars. The spreadsheet is fraudulent, and the money it has taken is missing. Millions. It looks as if the City just chose names and/or adresses from the phone book and wrote trivial amounts of money next to them to come up with a spreadsheet to satisfy a young reporter. However, that spreadsheet does not show where all the real money is. Homeowners have reported they were told to make their settlement checks out as a donation to the city, or to make the check payable to the city of Key West itself instead of the Tree Commission. Some reports indicate checks were made out to individuals in the city and for this they were given a reduced amount. Further, it seems possible the money has been mingled with Planning funds to hide the money which was illegally obtained in the first place. That could put the entire city of Key West and all the officials in jeopardy of criminal violations if indeed, attempts were made to hide ill-gotten money. 


I am willing to cooperate with the city officials…and do not wish to bring a lawsuit. However, the city officials’ reluctance and refusal to address this situation has been frustrating to say the least. You can stop this racquet from further harming your citizens you were elected to protect. You can stop the illegal use of fees and the unlawful use of rules found nowhere in writing. You may not be able to find the missing money, but you can ensure no more ill-gotten money is collected. You can eliminate the need for lawsuits, criminal charges, and State oversight by merely stopping all of this. Or you can ignore my letter and leave me to believe you intend on keeping this RICO organization operating in your midst. Please let me know what you choose. I am tired of begging the city to stop this. Will you please assist me with this problem? 


Sandra Downs
 
I can be reached at 305-304-9303 or by e-mail at janesjunglework@gmail.com

 

And I, Sloan, can be reached at 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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