Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sunday August 31 2014 Racial Issues and the City of St. Petersburg



Racial issues continue to bubble in the St. Petersburg City Government.

Christopher O'Donnell has an article in the Tampa Bay Times, St. Pete orders sensitivity training and Kameel Stanly in the Tampa Bay Times, Black workers take concerns, complaints to St. Pete City Council.  Both are well worth your time to read

From the Stanley article:
"We have real issues here," said Robin Wynn, a stormwater worker who recently filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint against the city for what she calls discriminatory treatment. "This city promotes institutional racism."

The quote above, "This city promotes institutional racism," caught my eye.

I spent almost 30 years with the City of St. Pete, well over half of them as a manager, and my first reaction was: No, the City doesn't promote racism.

Then I reread it. "This City promotes institutional racism," I thought about the word institutional and my view changed.

Over my time at the City of St. Petersburg there were numerous studies on diversity, racial balance and a host of sensitivity training sessions and yet here we are still dealing with the issue.

Why?

The conclusion I have come to is: the reason nothing changed is because nothing ever really changed. Read that last sentence again. 

The people who perpetrate these acts never pay the price for their actions.

All of this brought me back to an experience in may early career as a manger with the City in the mid 80s when after promoting a couple of African American employees, a fellow manager stopped me in the hall and asked "you every gonna promote any white people?"

That spirit still exists as typified in this past week's events.

Studies are great they keep consultants employed, sensitivity training rarely produces any results and I have memories of laughing and mocking by managers and supervisors following this type of training.

In fact, if you set near the back of the room, you can just keep working away on your I pad and get a check mark on your HR form for sensitivity training.

When racial retaliation or discrimination occurs there must be a high price extracted from those who commit it because the victims are paying a high price.

What has been sorely lacking in the St. Pete government up to now is definitive action.

The will to actually fire people who commit racial acts no matter who they are, who they know, who their relatives are and  how long they may have been employed by the City.

Whether or not they may sue the City should not be a limiting factor on deciding someone who commits these acts should be fired if we really believe in equality.

And just moving these people to another job simply moves the problem. You probably would not want your doctor just moving the cancer from one part of your body to another.

From Christopher O'Donnell:
“Based upon the results, we’ll design a citywide cultural competence program,” City Administrator Gary Cornwell said. “That will take a little longer because of the process.”

Gary Cornwell was HR Director for decades before he became City Administrator, he and most of the longer term Directors and Mangers know where the problems are and who most of the bad apples are.

It's time to call some people in and just tell them they're through.  If they can retire so be it, if not they're simply unemployed. That will send the message and change the culture.

The Kriseman administration has already shown it's willing to act when given the facts.

They move a little slower at times than I would like, but you can't short them on their courage to act on what they believe is right and changing the racial culture at the City of St. Petersburg is the right thing to do.

E-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net. Or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Please comment below, and be sure to share on Facebook and Twitter and e-mail to your friends.
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No Tax for Tracks.
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Friday, August 29, 2014

Thirteen Elected Officials who openly Support Lying to the Public and Misusing Federal Funds


PSTA CEO Brad Miller
If you would like to meet 13 elected officials who openly support lying to the public and misusing Federal funds click here: PSTA Board of Directors
 
The actions of the PSTA Board of Directors mystifies the mind.

Ken Welch PSTA Board Chairman
The PSTA Board has a letter from a federal agency that clearly indicates there may have been civil and criminal activity by their chosen administrator. 

They give him and their Chairman a unanimous vote of confidence.

Not a "mistake" a deliberate violation of a grant in an attempt to promote the Greenlight sales tax referendum.

The total response of Miller and Welch, "we made a mistake it won't happen again". What they mean is they will more cautions so they won't get caught.

I thought you might like to get to know these people you elected so when you see them you can thank them for their service. Click here: PSTA Board of Directors

You might also want to remember these names the next time you seem them on a ballot.

There are two citizen members on the PSTA Board. The often ask good questions, seldom get any answers from their fellow board members or the administration. 

When politically hot items like this misuse of funds issue arise both have that deer in the headlights look, and it seems to me they know what they should ask, but also know if they ask their ride on the PSTA, dais will likely end. 

You can get contact information here: PSTA Board of Directors
 
Here are 13 really good reasons to vote NO on Greenlight. 

Just imagine what these people will do with a yes vote on Greenlight and $130 million dollars a year of your tax money to play with. 

Watch My Video Green Light - It's a Bad Law before you vote.

E-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net. Or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Please comment below, and be sure to share on Facebook and Twitter.
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Thursday, August 28, 2014

PSTA Board Meeting - Public Comment a Waste of Time



It became abundantly clear at the PSTA Board meeting that spending time and energy riling at the PSTA Board of Directors hoping for an epiphany is a waste of time.

You can hurl all the innuendos you want all they do is respond in kind through their chairman and everyone comes off looking petty.

All of these so called public servants jumped on the Greenlight train to support their CEO's outside the law actions and their Chairman's undying support for whatever Brad Miller may do.

Interestingly some of them don't know the difference between voting for something and raising their hands in approval.

Why all the unanimous votes? Simple. If you break ranks you will lose that nice plush seat on the PSTA Dias, that little bit of PSTA pampering that makes you feel soooo good, and a day away from your real work.  Don't think so? Ask Norm Roche former Pinellas County Commissioner.

Welch got little hot at the meeting need a fan to cool down.  Probably all that needs to be said.

Rather than go through this debacle again, which really accomplishes nothing, it is time to stay off the PSTA meeting agenda and focus on the street. All of the folks on the dais are voting yes to whatever Miller and Welch want and nothing will change their mind.

I am tired of seeing people attacked for what kind of car they drive, the opinions they have and the positions they take by people whose salaries they pay.

They love Brad Miller and Ken Welch.

The PSTA CEO can do pretty much whatever he wants

The lying will likely continue, the cheating will likely continue, using public funds to convince voters to vote yes will continue and there is not one person in a position of authority that will say or do anything about it.

So from now to November 4th let's just call it what it is.

Greenlight is a $2.2 Billion dollar boondoggle designed to take $130 Million a year and more out of the Pinellas County economy and give it to a public organization run by people you elect who don't respect you or your hard earned money.

If you're OK with that vote yes.

If you're not, get a No Tracks for Tax Yard sign, plant it in your yard and then tell them how you feel on November 4th at the ballot box.

Vote  NO.

That's one comment they can't hurl back in your face.

E-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net. Or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Please comment below, and be sure to share on Facebook and Twitter.
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Sunday, August 24, 2014

Did Brad Miller PSTA CEO Violate the PSTA Code of Ethics?

By: E. Eugene Webb PhD

Pinellas County, Florida - Brad Miller, PSTA CEOs' recent hasty return of Federal Grant funds misused to promote the GreenLight sales tax referendum has raised some serious questions.

In response to a series of  Public Records Requests, the Suncoast Public Transit Authority supplied the following information:

First Public Records Request:
1. Please provide an electronic copy of the PSTA Administration document requesting funds to reimburse Homeland Security CARES program- Community Awareness Results in Everyone's Security $354,000.

2. Please provide an electronic copy (PDF) of the check or wire transfer document or receipt returning $354,000 to reimburse Homeland Security CARES program- Community Awareness Results in Everyone's Security.

3. Please provide an electronic copy of the PSTA Administration document or e-mail formally approving funds to reimburse Homeland Security CARES program- Community Awareness Results in Everyone's Security $354,000.

PSTA Response:
Rachael Garofalo
To Me
Aug 15 at 10:38 AM
I emailed the files yesterday.  I’ve attached them again.  Note: these are the only two files responsive to your requests. 
Thanks, 
Rachael Garofalo, Executive Assistant
Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority
3201 Scherer Drive
St. Petersburg, FL 33716
Tel: 727-540-1806
Fax: 727-556-6506

What the Documents indicate:
On July 30, 2014 Marnie L. Maxwell prepared a Check Request Form (For Travel Advances, Miscellaneous Expenses by Employees and Payments to Vendors), for $345,090.67.
The Request was approved by PSTA CEO Brad Miller on the same day.

Note in the CHECK REQUESTED BY Section the entry is "IMMEDIATELY".

The PURPOSE FOR CHECK is stated as "Pay Back Grant Funds for Grant # 2011-RA-TO-0090".
Pay Back Grant Funds is not a category listed on the Form. 

 See the PDF from PSTA files.
DHS Check Request-073014.pdf


On July 30, 2014, PSTA Check Number 014004444 was issued to Department of Homeland Security for $354,090.67.

See PDF from PSTA files.
  DHS Check-073014.pdf


There is no Response to the third Public Records Request:
Document or Board of Directors Action approving the Request or the Check to pay back Grant # 2011-RA-TO-0090".

Apparently there was no formal authorization for issuance of the $354,090.67 check.

A fourth Public Records Request was sent to PSTA:
Please provide a copy of, or link to, the PSTA Charter Section, or PSTA Board approved Policy or Procedure that supports the issuance of the unbudgeted $354,090.67 check from PSTA funds to Homeland Security without approval by the PSTA Board.

PSTA Response:
Rachael Garofalo
To Me
Aug 19 at 8:56 AM
In response to your request for the PSTA Charter Section, or PSTA Board approved Policy or Procedure that supports the issuance of the unbudgeted $345,000 check from PSTA funds to Homeland Security without approval by the PSTA Board, please see response below from our General Counsel.  Also below is a link to the Board’s Rules & Regulations. 

The reference to the $100,000 spending limit, which is contained in Section 5.01 A of PSTA’s Rules and Regulations, is a limitation on the CEO’s “procurement of commodities and/or services”.  The decision to pay back the grant funds was not a procurement of commodities and/or services.  The PSTA Board previously had approved the procurement of the services that developed the ads in question.   This decision to return the grant funds was made pursuant to the CEO’s authority to administer PSTA’s departments, offices and agencies under Section 3.02 of the Rules and Regulations, which is included in the Rules and Regulations as well. 


Note here that the PSTA General Counsel does not dispute the claim that there was no formal authorization for the refund check.

Comment:

Section 3.02 Powers and Duties of CEO is reproduced below. To see the full Policy and Procedure Document please click the link above.

Section 3.02 Powers and Duties of CEO/ED –The powers and duties of the CEO/ED shall include the following:

A. The CEO/ED may employ such employees as may be necessary for the proper administration of the duties and functions of PSTA, and may determine the qualifications of such persons; however, the Board must approve the number of such positions and fix the budget for the compensation for employees. When he/she deems it necessary for the good of PSTA, he/she may demote, suspend or remove any PSTA employee or appointed administrative officer under the CEO/ED ʹ s jurisdiction, except as otherwise provided by law. Such action shall be in compliance with all applicable rules and regulations of PSTA.

B. Direct and supervise the administration of all departments, offices and agencies of PSTA except as otherwise provided for herein.

C. Attend Board meetings and shall have the right to take part in discussion but may not vote. See that all laws, rules and -12- regulations and acts of the Board which are subject to enforcement by the CEO/ED are faithfully executed.

D. Prepare and submit the annual operating budget and capital improvement budget to the Board of Directors.

E. Prepare and submit an annual capital program and all applications for federal and state grants.

F. Recommend changes to the fare structure and recommend changes to PSTA ʹ s service.
G. Sign contracts, deeds and other documents on behalf of PSTA pursuant to the provisions of these Rules and Regulations or as authorized by the Board of Directors.

 H. Develop and keep current a policy manual which shall set forth the policies adopted by the Board of Directors.

I. Provide such administrative assistance to the Board in connection with their official duties, and perform such other duties as are specified in these Rules and Regulations or may be required by the Board.

J. The CEO/ED shall designate a department director or other managerial employee who shall exercise the powers and perform the duties of the CEO/ED during the CEO/ED ʹ s temporary absence or disability. The CEO/ED shall notify the Board, electronically, who he/she has designate 

Comment:
There is no provision in this Section of the PSTA Policy and Procedures for the CEO on his/her own without Board of Directors authorization to cause any expenditure of  unbudgeted funds.

Even in its broadest interpretation there are no grounds for CEO Brad Miller to "Immediately" issue a check without PSTA Board approval to Homeland Security to cover his inappropriate and potentially illegal use of Federal Homeland Security funds. 

The refund request should have been brought to the PSTA Board for a full discussion and action. 

A fifth Public Records Request was sent to PSTA on August 20, 2014:
1. Request for Copy of Transmittal Letter that accompanied the PSTA Check (# 01440444) to Pay Back Grant Funds for Grant # 2011-RA-TO-0090.
2. Any and all correspondence either regular mail, FAX or e-mail from or to Home Land Security regarding the payback of Grant # 2011-RA-TO-0090. 
3. Copies of any agreements, releases, contract cancellations or other considerations that are or were part of the Grant # 2011-RA-TO-0090 payback negotiation or agreement.
4. Contact Information including person or person(s) name, physical address, e-mail address and direct telephone number for the Homeland Security person or persons that negotiated or agreed to the Funds Pay Back for Grant # 2011-RA-TO-0090.

PSTA Response:
1. Request for Copy of Transmittal Letter that accompanied the PSTA Check (# 01440444) to Pay Back Grant Funds for Grant # 2011-RA-TO-0090.
See PDF From PSTA Files:
 2 CFO Deborah Leous Transmittal letter.pdf


2. Any and all correspondence either regular mail, FAX or e-mail from or to Home Land Security regarding the payback of Grant # 2011-RA-TO-0090. 
See PDF from PSTA files:
1 PSTA Letter Unallowable Costs OCC edits and TSGP responses_arm_08 08 2014 _2_



Comment:
The Letter in the PDF above sets up the case for misuse of the FEMA funds. FEMA stated, "Through a review of the advertisements purchased and publicly disseminated, FEMA has determined that the advertisements purchased were not used in the manner in which PSTA expressly described in its application." Further, Based on the information summarized above, PSTA has violated the requirements of the 9/11 Act and the FY 11 Guidance that govern its grant agreement."

Miller approved the Grant along with the advertisement procurement and should have known the ads were not proper. 

Miller deliberately mislead the PSTA Board when brought the Homeland Security ad package to the Board for their approval.

His argument has been FEMA did not respond to requests for a review of the material, but the Grant clearly spells out FEMA's intention and Miller should have followed the Grant Guidelines.

However the most chilling statement may be in the last paragraph: 

"Please also note that even if the debt is paid in full, the United States does not waive its right to pursue any applicable civil or criminal remedies. In addition, the State will be held liable for penalties under the False Claims Act (Title 31 U.S. Code, Sections 3729 through 3733) or other applicable statutes and/or criminal penalties under Title 18 U.S. Code, Sections 286, 287, 1001, and 1002, or other applicable statutes for any knowingly false or frivolous statements, representations, or evidence made or provided. Unless prohibited by law or contract, the State will be refunded any amount paid or deducted from any Federal payments for the debt, if the debt is later waived or terminated."

These statements along with a desire to get this whole issue off the table  are likely key drivers in the decision to move "Immediately" to complete the grant pay back.

3. Copies of any agreements, releases, contract cancellations or other considerations that are or were part of the Grant # 2011-RA-TO-0090 payback negotiation or agreement.

PSTA responded there are no Documents Available.

4. Contact Information including person or person(s) name, physical address, e-mail address and direct telephone number for the Homeland Security person or persons that negotiated or agreed to the Funds Pay Back for Grant # 2011-RA-TO-0090:


PSTA Response:
Tamia Minor, Grant Program Analyst,Grant Programs Directorate,Preparedness Grants Division. T: 202-786-9581, F: 202-786-9920, Tamia.Minor@dhs.gov

Comment:
Apparently in their haste to sweep all of this under the rug as quickly as possible, PSTA sent the $354,090.67 Check to the wrong address. The e-mail exchange below was included the PSTA response:

See PDF PSTA Files
3 email following up on Check




Comment:

It remains unclear why Brad Miller is so intent on using his office and the organization he is charged with overseeing as a political tool to get the sales tax referendum approved. It becomes even more difficult to understand when you consider the massive amount of private money assembled to support the GreenLight Plan.

Why take these unnecessary risks?

Miller's continuing efforts to skirt the rules regarding PSTA political participation in the sales tax referendum have seriously eroded the credibility of PSTA.

There are a host of questions that need to be answered.
1. Why the need to move so quickly on the refund?
2. Did Brad Miller violate the PSTA Code of Ethics by issuing the Grant refund Check without approval?
3 If he violated the Code of ethics should he be terminated?
4. What role, if any did Board Chairman Ken Welch play in this matter?
5. What role if any did Greenlight Yes have in the decision to quickly repay the FEMA Grant?
6. Can an after the fact approval by the Board of Directors legally fix the problem?
7. Can PSTA funds legally be used to indirectly  pay for these Greenlight ads?
8. Can Brad Miller be trusted to run PSTA in a legal and ethical manner?
9. Should the Department of Transportation take another look at how PSTA is spending its funds?
10. Should the State Attorney General open a criminal investigation into Mr. Miller and his conduct with state and federal funds?

The PSTA Board of Directors must stop rubber stamping everything Miller and Welch bring to the table, get some back bone and take some responsibility.

It is time for a full blown independent investigation and audit of PSTA's, leadership and financial dealings. 

There need to be some changes at PSTA and they need to be made quickly. 

E-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net. Or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Please comment below, and be sure to share on Facebook and Twitter.
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No Tax for Tracks.
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