You are on page 1of 5

The Sphinx by Gustave M x Moreau

SOVERE EIGN IMMU UNITY & TH CULTIV HE VATION OF NEGLIGENCE F E BY DAVID AR RTHUR WA ALTERS

en, me O childre wailing loud, ye com with wish Well-kno own, not unk known; well I know that ye Are smitt one and all, with tai of plague ten, d int e, And yet t though smitt none tha taint of pla ten, at ague Feels, as I feel it. Eac his burden bears, ch n ther's; but m heart my His own and not anot for d f. Mourns f the state, for you, and for myself Oedipus Rex, Sophoc cles

Page1of5 P

PROLOGUE The City of Miami Beach like other cities is plagued by scandals from time to time, the most resounding one of late culminating in the forced resignation of its longstanding city manager, Jorge Gonzalez, in the wake of the arrest by the F.B.I. in April 2012 of five city code inspectors and two firefighters along with a Miami-Dade police officer on charges including drug trafficking and taking bribes to overlook code and tax violations. A Miami Herald editorial mentioned Miami Beachs most beloved mobster, Meyer Lansky, and opined that a deeply ingrained corruption precedent was prologue to the current arrests. City Manager Gonzales, Mayor Matti Herrera Bower, and several commissioners seemed shocked by the arrests, but the fact that the city was currently plagued by moral if not criminal corruption would have been no surprise to them if they had been listening to persons who dared to complain despite the fear of retaliation that causes most people in the know to keep their mouths shut. For example, whistleblower Jim Llewellyn did not hesitate to post his perspective on the breaking news: The April 13 article, Miami Beach inspectors, county cop charged in nightclub shake-down, drug-trafficking scheme, was no surprise. I was a firefighter and fire inspector on Miami Beach for almost 24 years. During that time I found an appalling and dangerous disregard for life-safety code by city management in their own buildings followed by an ongoing resistance to enforcement of safety code in politically connected commercial properties. As I persisted in my attempts to enforce life-safety codes, the backlash and retaliation from management and the private sector were unrelenting. Eventually, trumped-up charges were used to transfer and ban me from inspection duties, which resulted in my filing a whistle-blower lawsuit. Corruption comes in many forms, including that of managers willfully turning a blind eye to policy failures and red flags. Problems like the recent allegations will persist until government managers on all levels are held accountable. The many arrests and incidences of corruption in Miami Beach over the last few years make it clear that management has failed the residents by not providing honest government and allowing serious lapses in life-safety protection. (Miami Herald 4/22/2012) Several city officials, who said they were working closely with the F.B.I. after the arrests, solicited information from the public, but informants preferred to go directly to the feds rather than risk identifying themselves locally. Indeed, the plan to put a local cop in the F.B.I. office was criticized because that might put federal informants at risk of being locally identified. A man who attempt to bring information to the police department was run around the bush in the lobby of the South Beach police station by a deputy detective whose main concern was whether or not he was wearing a wire. However, it appears from news reports that local detectives conducted the investigation that led to the October 2012 arrest of former Miami Beach procurement director Gus Lopez and his wife, and his friend and business partner Pierre Landrin, Jr. Lopez knew he was being investigated yet he continued to take bribes because he figured that he had rendered himself immune, that law enforcement would never connect the dots. What he did not know was that Landrin was informing on him.

Page2of5

W.M. Tweed, Samuel Tilden, A. Oakey Hall by Thomas Nast

Corruption scandals present an opportunity for politicians to fight corruption for their own political gain. Samuel Tilden, Esq. became New York governor and nearly got into the Oval Office for leading the charge against the Tweed Ring, although he insisted his motives were altruistic. W.M. Tweed, Esq., the consummate fall guy, was the only member of the Ring severely punished. His mayor, Elegant A. Oakey Hall, Esq., whose election Tilden said completely organized and matured the Ring, was acquitted of wrongdoing. Mayor Hall had gotten control of appointing the department heads, thus rendering the Ring unaccountable to the voters. The New York Times said the public would never forget that the Democrats did not raise a finger in the greatest battle against corruption every to be waged in this country, wondering where Tilden had been for so long, denouncing him for not denouncing the Ring until it was no longer dangerous to denounce, which prompted him to write an extensive apologia, published in 1873 by John Polhemus, including a denial that he took any credit in the Rings downfall: I have been concerned in no attempt to appropriate to myself, or to any set of men, or to any party, the merit of having overthrown the Ring. As credit with the public was no part of my motives, but only a sense of duty, founded on the idea that every personal power is a trust, I have felt no sacrifice in awarding the most liberal honors of the victory to others. The Committee of the Bar Association will remember that, when they came to Albany with their memorial, the winning policy I indicated, was to do the work, bear the burdens, and bestow on others the honors. Likewise, Miami Beach residents asked the several city commissioners who finally denounced the city manager and demanded his resignation, Where were you while all this was going on? The commissioners were perceived as having been as arrogant and neglectful as their city manager. Wherefore a brand new slate of legislators was wanted by disgruntled residents. A clean sweep of all department heads under the former overweening city manager was also desired, and their replacement by outsiders was deemed necessary to eradicate the administrative culture of negligence and corruption. But that was not about to happen given an apathetic electorate. A community must have continuity, a culture, it was said. After all, only a few are corrupt: It is not fair to blame the whole bushel on a few bad apples. We have many loyal, honest, intelligent, and dedicated city officials. And how can the city possibly be managed well by outsiders who do not know what is going on?
Page3of5

Former City Manager Jorge Gonzalez, City Attorney Jose Smith, Mayor Matti Bower

Now Jorge Gonzalez, who was credited with many good works during the inflation of the real estate bubble, was a far cry from the likes of Mayor Hall and his head of Public Works, W.M. Tweed, and we hope that the damages worked by any ring or machine in these parts would be relatively innocuous in comparison. Still, this most glaring historical example of municipal corruption, which some historians say was an economic boon to many poor people in New York City until the bubble burst as usual, does bolster the notion that power held unchecked in a few hands eventually works to the corruption hence demoralization of the entire community no matter how widely the spoils are distributed. People who worship power and its trappings will follow the example of those who have the most of it, and what seemed wrong before will then seem right, and when challenged, they will say, I have done nothing wrong. Everybody does it. When public officials have gotten away with wrong for so long that wrong seems right, or have grown so arrogant and careless in their jobs that they simply believe they shall never be caught, they had better tear down their houses and build rafts with the debris, for the reckoning to reality called doom is nigh. That doom seldom entails an arrest, for only a small percentage of the corruption is strictly illegal, the rest is moral corruption. The fact that public officials are neglecting their duties, that they have contracted the habit if not enforcing the codes or enforcing them selectively, randomly, and negligent, is all too obvious to residents and merchants even without the occasional alarms about the blind eye sounded by whistleblowers like Jim Llewellyn. The sheer negligence is stupefying. When detectives say that 85% of what appears to be corruption is stupidity, they mean that only 15% or so is criminal corruption. Imagine, for example, that members of your family are killed because poorly trained building inspectors were grossly negligent in approving construction of your residence. Are the city and its officials liable for stupidity and negligence when someone is injured as a result of the negligent exercise of the governments policing power? I put the question to City Attorney Jose Smith. The city is NEVER liable, he said, citing the 1985 landmark case of Trianon Park Condominium v. City of Hialeah 468 So.2d 912 (1985). Apparently only a fool would bother to challenge this bedrock decision of the Supreme Court of

Page4of5

Florida, grounded in the archaic fiction that the King can do no wrong. Here again, when wrong is done long enough, wrong seems right, at least to the jurists who say their concern is with what the law is according to the decisions of the courts and not whether the decisions are morally right or wrong not to mention arbitrary or irrational. What more could be done by the highest court in the state to cultivate official negligence in Florida? Apparently officials of the City of Miami Beach, not to mention officials of other cities, have taken to heart the notion that sovereign immunity protects them from liability for their own negligence. I think not and shall say why not.

##

Page5of5