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It's Not My Job

It's Not My Job

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Miami Beach Building Official Mariano Fernandez Shirks Significant Responsibility
Miami Beach Building Official Mariano Fernandez Shirks Significant Responsibility

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Published by: David Arthur Walters on Apr 23, 2014
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved


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Sample of David Muhlrad’s many expired permits – 
Muhlrad was the city’s first Code Compliance head
Miami Beach Building Official Shirks Significant Responsibility
23 April 2014 by David Arthur Walters MIAMI MIRROR MIAMI BEACH
Miami Beach Building Official and Building Department Director Mariano
Fernandez has the power under Section 138 of the city’s code of ordinances not onl
y to permit signs but to remove the hundreds of unpermitted temporary construction and real estate signs that plague the city, yet he has shirked his responsibility to remove them when asked to do so because other officials neglect the law. Although the proliferation of unpermitted signs appears to be a superficial or trivial violation of law, the signs are in fact significant of a lax enforcement culture and contempt for law, signaling a high probability of far more serious violations. Section 138-
41 reads, “Permit required.
Except as provided in this chapter no sign, whether permanent or temporary, shall be erected, constructed, posted, painted, altered, maintained, or relocated until a permit has been
issued by the building official,” while Section 138
-11(c) provides for removals:
“The building official may initiate proceedings that result in the removal of any sign erected or maintained without a permit.”
 Fernandez was called upon to exercise his discretion because he has an implied duty to do so when others charged with enforcing the signage code fail to do so. However, he referred me back to Code Compliance, whose officers and their bosses shirk their duty to enforce the
signage code unless someone runs the risk of retaliation and complains about a specific sign, or unless they choose to enforce it against select persons. Long experience has taught locals that there are two things that can be counted on from Code Compliance: retaliation and selective enforcement.
Unpermitted real estate sign on construction site at 321 Ocean Drive
I contacted him on 3 April 2014 on the Subject of “
Half-Assed Compliance and Section 138-11(c) Removal of Signs
 Sir: As you know very well, our streets are plagued by scores if not hundreds of unpermitted temporary real estate and construction signs, because the Code Compliance Division of your Building Department does not enforce the signage code unless someone risks retaliation and complains. Mayor Philip Levine, when questioned at a Tuesday Breakfast Club meeting on this egregious policy that encourages scofflaws, said that the signage laws should be enforced. However, it appears that little or nothing has been done in that regard, as is evident by the proliferation of unpermitted signs as well as permitted signs that do not conform to code.
City Manager Jimmy Morales and former City Manager Jorge Gonzalez have denied that they issued any pragma to ignore unpermitted signs unless someone complains. It appears that Section 138-11(c) authorizes you to remove unpermitted signs:
“The building offici
al may initiate proceedings that result in the removal of any
sign erected or maintained without a permit.”
 The gross negligence of the city manager and compliance administrators is absolutely shameful. Attached you will find a partial record of my communi
cations on the subject, entitled ‘Half 
Assed Compliance with City Code.’
Please initiate proceedings forthwith. I know that all one has to do in South Beach is to proceed down nearly any street to discover unpermitted signs on nearly every block. Compliance officers pass them by regularly. If you need assistance, I shall be glad to document each one for a fee of $25 each. Fernandez answered as follows: There is no regulation for temporary real estate signs under the Florida Building Code which is my responsibility. Furthermore, the Building Department has only  jurisdiction in the properties and structures between property lines. This Code Enforcement of City Ordinances and Zoning Code is the jurisdiction of the Code Compliance Department. I will forward your concern to the Director.
I noticed that he seemed to limit his “It’s not my job” to real estate signs, whereas I had also
mentioned construction signs. As for the real estate signs, the code section just prior to the one authorizing him to remove all unpermitted signs referred to real estate signs:
Sec. 138-11 (b) Any sign previously associated with a vacated premises shall either be removed from the premises by the owner or lessee not later than six months from the time such activity ceases to
 Reading between the lines of his statement gave me the impression that he was shirking his duty, so I responded: Thank you very much, Mr. Mariano. Requests to the Code Compliance Division of the Building Department to take the initiative and enforce the code have been to no avail. I imagined that you as the Director of the Building Department are responsible for its division, the Code Compliance Division. The 2012-2013 Departmental

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