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SIGNS OF MIAMI BEACH CORRUPTION REFERRED TO ALLEGED REFORMER By David Arthur Walters MIAMI MIRROR True

SIGNS OF MIAMI BEACH CORRUPTION REFERRED TO ALLEGED REFORMER

By David Arthur Walters MIAMI MIRROR

True Reflections

4 October 2017

The selfexplanatory excerpts below from the author’s files indicating that a permit fixer doing business with major contractors and developers as Permit Doctor is exempt from City of Miami Beach sign permitting requirements has been referred to former federal corruption prosecutor Dan Gelber, who is expected to be elected mayor of the city this year absent disabling accident or damning revelation. He may agree that favoritism or noncompliance with minor ordinances may be a sign of major faults.

Permit Doctor is not the only permit fixer. An attempt by Jorge Gonzalez, former City Manager, to license and otherwise regulate permit fixers in order to at least minimize the appearance of corruption was stymied by vested interests upon whose good fortune the political elite depend.

Permit Doctor appears to be exempt from a city ordinance requiring permits for signs. It is practically impossible to ascertain by scanning the city permit indexes what permits were obtained by permit doctors because officials to not require that information to be revealed. Furthermore, the new city regime under Mayor Phil Levine, a wealthy real estate developer, implemented a software reform under the premise of “transparency” and “efficiency” to ensure that the permit records are no longer available to the public for anonymous online data browsing and analyses.

Numerous city officials including sitting commissioners and the mayor were addressed on the permit fixer issue in hopes a true reform would be made to curb corruption or at least reduce the appearance of impropriety, without response. I realize this publication is probably an exercise in futility. At least it will serve as an advertisement for Permit Doctor.

David Arthur Walters

“Temporary construction signage must be approved by the city’s planning department pursuant to a “design review process.” The fact of the matter is that few temporary construction signs are submitted to the planning department for review, including the large and often garish “wraps” one can see on construction site fences everywhere. Some conscientious real estate and construction companies and architects do buy temporary real estate sign stickers to place on signs mounted on construction sites, skipping the design review process. A company that does business as Permit Doctor and charges fees to conduct private inspections and to expedite permitting including signage permitting does not bother to get its own signs permitted unless someone complains. And people are disinclined to complain in Miami Beach because the prevalence of the primitive law of retaliation on the beach.” (3 February 2014 SIGNIFICANT MIAMI BEACH MALADMINISTRATION Signs of Official Ignorance, Incompetence, and Negligence on Lincoln Road by David Arthur Walters MIAMI MIRROR)

“The application was filed on April 6 and approved on April 20, such being the amazing speed of expeditor Rusty in getting plans and permits approved. Rusty is especially valued for having available an architect who will sign without much ado

onto plans drawn by permit seekers or their draftsmen. Again, it is form over substance: everything is permitted “as long as the paper looks good.”Expeditors, by the way, are unlicensed by the contractor’s licensing board. They do not have to put their names to the jobs they expedite. Former City Manager Jorge Gonzalez said he protested against the expedition business, but he said his objections were dismissed by vested interests. A public records request turned up no jobs permitted over the past five years for Permit Doctor, the major expeditor, but Rusty had made the mistake of putting his name down, as a contact, eight times. In fact, the intent was to complete the $1,000,000 Sunset Harbour contract as quickly as possible, and that is what Jihad, driven by cash flow, was bound to do come hell or high water.” (20 July 2012, GETTING AHEAD OF THE JOB CON AT SUNSET HARBOUR, Special to the SunPost by David Arthur Walters)

“Are Miami Beach expeditors agents of the Building Department? One major expeditor, Damian J. Gallo Associates, Inc., dba Permit Doctor, who rents space from the city and advertises the convention center as its client, goes so far as to advertise itself as the permitting authority: “‘Permit Doctor staff is ready to provide clear information about permitting regulations and the permitting process, inform homeowners about permit requirements for their specific projects, conduct plan reviews, and issue permits. All this is designed to make getting a permit as convenient as possible.’ We notice that other planning and permitting agencies throughout the country have their own expeditors to render the processes convenient. Tony Gonzalez and his director, Stephen Scott, did not respond to my recommendation that the City of Miami Beach hire its own expeditors to serve the public. Additionally, since complexity fosters corruption, revision of the codes may reduce the need for bribes to accelerate the processes.” (9 May 2012, EXPEDITING CONSTRUCTION AT THE BUILDING DEPARTMENT by David Arthur Walters. MIAMI MIRROR)

David Arthur Walters <miamimirror@gmail.com> Sat, Jun 2, 2012 at 2:40 PM To:

"Weithorn, Deede" Deede@miamibeachfl.gov Do you recall who stood in the way when Jorge opposed the corruption of Building by permit fixers like Permit Doctor? [NO RESPONSE] (Faux Opposition Series, Tobin v Gonzalez)

"It is with that hilarious definition of “phased permit” in mind that I contacted Morales for the sake of journalistic balance: 'I ventured to Permitting and asked about it,' I emailed him, 'but several people there had not heard of it, and one

contractor said it only applied to demolition. I also went to Permit Doctor next door and the gentleman there said he not heard of it. This week I asked a superintendent at a major construction site if he had heard of such a permit, and he said, of course he had: it was only for demolition. Planning Department staff said phased permitting did not permit actual construction; rather, it was a preliminary paperwork process, Since Mr. Perez was already pulling preparatory permits on this job, like for a fence back in 2012, so why is he not using the usual permitting process? The master permit says nothing about "phase." How can he proceed with construction when the permit is just applied for and not approved? And where is the fee balance due of $183,711.37?” (11 March 2014, GETTING TO THE BOTTOM OF PHASED PERMITTING The awful truth under the City of Miami Beach cornerstones by David Arthur Walters MIAMI MIRROR)

“We imagine this scenario in Weston’s case: someone said, “Good grief! Weston is in a boat slip business with the guy that owns and runs Permit Doctor. He doesn’t have an investment in the permit expediting company nor is he employed by it, but the fact that a fire inspector is associated with him in a completely different business still looks bad. It creates an appearance of impropriety regardless of what the ethics rules say. Besides, this fire inspector is too pushy, not minding the Fire Department’s business, nosing around the Building Department, complaining it’s not doing its job. Basta! We’ve got to get rid of him.” The man would have resigned. And he was right about a lot of things, and there was much more that Morales could have recommended and have done if he had carefully studied Weston’s rebuttal along with other information about “missing monies” instead of summarily dismissing it without discussing the issues raised. But it appears from the city manager’s response that it is going to be business as usual around here, perhaps accompanied by a game of musical chairs played by insiders from around the county.” (3 July 2013, NEW CITY MANAGER SWEEPS ALLEGATONS UNDER THE RUG by David Arthur Walters, MIAMI MIRROR)

‘I stopped by Permit Doctor on my way out. The company doing business under that name has on office next door to city hall, so it seems to be part of the Building Department. The business model: the Building Department is so sick that one must have a doctor to deal with it, to get permits, make inspections privately, and so on. Of course doctor charge and an arm and leg. “Hi. Do you have any information on fazed permitting?” I asked the man surrounded by stacks of paper inside.“What do you mean by fazed permitting?”“Someone in Building called it

early start permitting, good for demolition or foundation work.”“Oh, that. There is no such thing as a permit to start early. You can get a permit for demolition or something else, ordered to stop work, and you might be fined twice the permit fee for getting ahead of the permitting.” “Getting ahead?” The phrase was familiar to me. “Yes.” It dawned on me that fazed permitting must be the official way to do what owners, developers and contractors have done all along. In fact, I had written a series of articles on it, entitled, ‘Getting Ahead of The Job Con.’ The unlicensed general contractor—he rented licenses when need be but still ran the jobs and handled all the money—whom I featured in the series was angry. He said I was just reporting on what everybody does. Here is the refrain: “Everybody does it, everybody knows it, and nobody cares!”’ (2 March 2014 ON BEING FAZED, PRELUDE TO PHAZED PERMITTING, by David Arthur Walters, MIAMI MIRROR)

“One of the several employees mentioned in the New Times Article was a fire inspector by the name of David Weston, working as an unclassified professional employee of the city. He said he believed he was terminated two days after several arrests of building department employees, in March of 2008, simply to render him guilty by spurious association. Weston is presently employed by the company that owns Permit Doctor, the leading permit expeditor in the area. He is in the right business. New Times reporter Michael E. Miller noted that Weston’s old job as a fire protection analyst “suited his obsessiveness.” Heaven forbids that ordinances be obsessively enforced in a paradise where antinomian libertines tromp with virtual impunity. His engineering training, his long experience in the building industry, and his familiarity with the faults of the permitting processes can only be a boon to Permit Doctor clientele. He is also obsessed with cleaning up that process, and refuses to roll over for fear of further retaliation. Weston claimed that he had been fired from the fire department for insistently reporting “missing monies” to superiors, by which he meant millions of dollars of permit fees gone uncollected due to the gross undervaluation of properties subject to such fees. Although Weston’s curt letter of dismissal did not give any reason for termination, he said the pretext for his dismissal was the false accusation that he had violated a countywide ethics ordinance prohibiting conflicts of interest.” (Valentine’s Day 2014, SAVING MIAMI BEACH GOVERNMENT FROM HELLFIRE, by Walter Davidson aka David Arthur Walters MIAMI MIRROR)

“I followed up with city officials on his recommendation that the temporary sign permitting process should be handled online for the convenience of everyone

concerned. City officials did not respond. They seldom do directly respond to constructive suggestions. A realtor who declined to be named said that Permit Doctor, a permit expedition company annexed to City Hall, handles signage permits but the fee is high and realtors are cheap. A member of the Planning Department staff recounted how her real estate instructor had described how the sign permitting system could be gamed by placing an advertisement for one property on another building, owned by someone difficult to reach. By the time someone complained and the sign was taken down, a great deal of free advertising could be had.” (28 June 2014 MEMORANDUM TO: George Castell, Administrator, Code Compliance Department, Michael Grieco, Esq. Commissioners, CITY OF MIAMI BEACH, Re: Significant Sign Shuffle at 5th and Meridian)

HAPPY HALLOWEEN SIGN BY THE PERMIT DOCTOR October 4, 2014 Damian J. Gallo Damian J Gallo

HAPPY HALLOWEEN SIGN BY THE PERMIT DOCTOR

October 4, 2014 Damian J. Gallo Damian J Gallo Associates, Inc. dba PERMIT DOCTOR

City Hall Annex City of M iami Beach Subject: Happy Hallo ween

Dear Mr. Gallo: [NO RESPONSE]

Greeting s!

I though t of you wh en I saw y our Hallowe en sign on the fence i n front of 1 050 Washin gton Avenue, one of seve ral hotel st ructures bei ng renovate d on that c orner acros s from the p olice station. I noticed an other such H alloween si gn on 11 th S treet facing the police s tation. Ther e are many ot her kinds of signs and banners on the fences and hangin g from the buildings, n o less scary.

City Hall Annex City of M iami Beach Subject: Happy Hallo ween Dear Mr. Gallo: [NO

Notice b anners hangin g from the to p of the struct ure, which is a floor being ad ded

You may recall my May 2012 a rticle, exhib ited below, and our dis cussion wh erein you a greed with my view that permit ex peditors an d their co mpanies sh ould be lic ensed like other construc tion industr y professio nals. I prese nted our op inion to hig h officials o f the City M iami Beach al ong with a suggestion t hat the city require pe rmit applica nts to disclo se the nam es of expedito rs assisting them with p ermitting, t hat informa tion to be p osted to a s eparate data base field for several re asons, inclu ding statist ical analyse s to deter mine, for e xample, to what degree expeditors are actually facilitating the permi tting proce ss. That in formation might prompt efficiency st udies and in vestigations into wheth er any adva ntages gain ed are legiti mate or the re sult of mora l or crimina l corruption .

I receive d from city officials no response whatsoever to my sugg estions. Qu ite frankly, they were uni nterested in the opinio ns of an una pproved op inionator.

Permit Doctor Advertisement “The PERMIT DOCTOR staff is ready to provide clear information about permitting regulations

Permit Doctor Advertisement

“The PERMIT DOCTOR staff is ready to provide clear information about permitting regulations and the permitting process, inform homeowners about permit requirements for their specific projects, conduct plan reviews, and issue permits. All this is designed to make getting a permit as convenient as possible.”

Your firm is the most reputable expeditor in this market. As I have pointed out in the article, your office in the city hall annex and your Internet advertisement at that time stating that your firm issues permits gave the impression that Permit Doctor is a government agency or a preferred partner of the City of Miami Beach.

You certainly should be proud of yourself and the development of your business. I would recommend that the City Commission express the appreciation of the community for your contributions, if that has not already been done.

Your advertisement averred that, “Damian J. Gallo & Associates is built upon traditional values born in Miami Beach, Florida in 1990 providing fundamental building services enduring business success. Integrity, determination and professionalism are vital in the quest to maintain and enjoy longterm, mutually beneficial business relationships with their customers.”

These services were listed: “Certificate of Completion, Violations Remediation, Expediting Services, Inspection Management, Fire & Building Compliance, Special Inspections, Recording Services, Certificate of Occupancy, Expired Permit Exposure, Plan Review & Processing, Permit Administration, Occupancy Load Calculation, 40 Year Inspections, Special Events Permitting.”

I wage that your temporary construction signs as well as those of your clients at this

I wage that your temporary construction signs as well as those of your clients at this and other sites are not permitted by the Planning Department. Here I see that Kobi Karp and Hogan Brothers have gotten themselves $25 permit decals over at the garage for their signs, as if they are temporary real estate signs. I do not blame them, but they might want to examine the setback requirements of the code. All you need to get one of those decals is $25, no questions asked except your name and address. One realtor I know moves his sign with decal from property to property as needed.

I notice that Sign Permitting is not on the list of your services although one of your associates has told me that it is one of your firm’s specialties. If that is a fact, then with all due respect I must say that the integrity advertised is just pretty or specious in respect to signs because the reality does not match ideality, i.e. full compliance with the signage ordinances. Of course full compliance would save you from hypocrisy in advertisement, not only in respect to signage, but perhaps in regards to the services that you provide behind the signs.

According to the Signage Ordinance Scofflaw Theory, violations of signage ordinances signify the probable presence of far more serious code violations. Signage scofflawry has become a tradition in Miami Beach because the signage code is not enforced unless someone risks retaliation by filing a complaint because the signs are ugly, or because the parties responsible are disliked, or because the complainant is obsessed with the notion that everyone should obey laws or at least not openly flaunt disobedience, or because the complainant knows very well that government’s negligence in enforcement is a treat to the safety and welfare of the public. Actually, the motive for reporting violations should not matter.

Permit Doctor sign at 850 Commerce Street I noticed your sign at 850 Commerce Street some

Permit Doctor sign at 850 Commerce Street

I noticed your sign at 850 Commerce Street some time ago. My interest then was in the phased permitting the new city manager and his building official introduced because the city was incompetent to keep up with the workload so allowed construction to proceed without full permits provided it would not be held liable for the consequences, with inspections to be performed by private inspectors hired by the owners and developers. As you must know, some studies show that private inspections are inferior to public inspections, the reason being that private inspectors have an inherent conflict of interest. On the other hand, Plaza Construction’s ONE OCEAN superintendent, Bill Suarez, told me that private inspectors can be too meticulous when they are paid on a per inspection or piecemeal basis.

I see that your customers include Trump Grande, Greenberg Traurig, Starbucks, Victoria’s Secret, Siemens, Arquitectonica, Miami Beach Convention Center, among many other prestigious names, and Kobi Karp, one of my favorite architects because they at least buy temporary real estate sales or rental permit decals for their temporary construction signs. I see Kobi Karp is redoing the Plymouth Hotel at 336 21 st Street for Think Hotel Group—I wonder if Think is out of its mind for paying $18.25 million for a property appraised at $1.3 million. I strolled by there on the weekend. Lo and behold, there was another one of your Halloween signs along with the usual signage blight.

Mind you that I understand that companies have every right to be proud of their work,

Mind you that I understand that companies have every right to be proud of their work, and think if they throw up their signs everyone will rush to give them some more of it. The fact is that most people do not look at the construction signs though tourists might be interested in the hotelier’s or developer’s advertisement if tasteful—much is disgusting. This is blight plain and simple. Did you having the Planning Department permit this frightening blight for your client?

Mind you that I understand that companies have every right to be proud of their work,

State law requires commercial designers and contractors to place their license numbers on advertisements. Many of same seem to be ashamed of their license inasmuch as they print it in tiny font or not at all. Is Casa Conde & Associates licensed? If so, can we trust a designer who either ignores or is ignorant of that detail? What about DQMCORP? Project managers have been deemed contractors by regulators. Where is its license number? YHCE as an engineering company gets a pass on that by law.

There is a bottom line to all this, underlining and partly excusing the neglect of industry professionals and public officials: the signage code sucks. The whole shebang should be rewritten from top to bottom in such a way that it is easy to abide by and enforce, and the city manager compelled to have it enforced it or else. I recall seeing your firm defending itself at the Special Master “court” for a nitpicking signage violation in your own office window.

But city officials do not seem to give a damn about the whole shebang, and that cold shoulder or silent treatment is a scary sign of horrors to come. My suggestions to city manager, attorney, and commission have been greeted with utter silence.

For now all we have to rely on is the profession of integrity. If your signs are not permitted, I hope you will have enough of that to get them permitted or removed.

Happy Halloween!

Sincerely,

David Arthur Walters

EXHIBIT

EXPEDITING CONSTRUCTION AT THE BUILDING DEPARTMENT

May 9, 2012 By David Arthur Walters MIAMI MIRROR

The raucous Tuesday Breakfast Club on May 9, 2012, made it evident that the most vocal of Miami Beach residents are fed up with all aspects of the administration of “Boss” Jorge Gonzalez, which they feel has been an inequitable operation from top to bottom for a dozen years, particularly in the selection of favored developers and contractors for major projects, unfair permitting processes, selective enforcement of ordinances and codes, and retaliatory measures taken against anyone who complains.

Indeed, it seems the chief complaint was that no one with anything at stake would dare to complain. Fear and intimidation was the rule, at least until the FBI moved in with a few arrests. That and its continuing investigation have restored hope that justice would finally be done.

The members of the Tuesday Breakfast Club are anyone who wants to show up for meetings. They were patient to begin with, allowing the city manager to present his program for dealing with the corruption crisis: Create a partnership with the FBI; install an inspector general; get training from the Miami Dade County Commission on Ethics and Public Trust; appoint an independent auditor; consult with a former U.S. attorney; appoint a cop who is a lawyer as director of Code Enforcement; oblige city employees to rat on each other and officials.

Almost everyone was all ready aware of the reforms he would propose. A flyer handed out in advance deemed them a joke at best.

Instead of asking questions about his proposal, people started complaining about their bad experiences with the administration. David Kelsey, the moderator of the meeting, grabbed the microphone and demanded voluntary good order in lieu of appointing a sergeantofarms. A mainstream media outlet would later report that police officers were rushed in at that point to protect Mayor Matti Herrera Bower from tumult, but that claim, prompted by an attendee’s remark about her police escort, was absurd inasmuch as the mayor was casually sitting in the crowd, cheerfully chatting with her constituents, who were not about to lynch her. After all, she is just the mayor of a weak mayor system; they wanted at the city manager, to rake him over the coals, to grill and devour him for breakfast.

Mr. Kelsey insisted that any complaints should be aired at the commission meeting on the morrow, to be held on the subject of dismissing the city manager, and that the breakfast proceeding would be limited to asking questions; therefore no statements were to be made. But then a gentleman recognized on the floor began to make a nice statement; to wit, that the manager’s proposal made good sense. That did not sit well at all with the audience.

“Ask a question!” someone angrily shouted.

He was not to be shouted down. He reiterated his unseemly compliment, and then started complaining about the Building Department. To wit, he had been trying to get a permit to do something with his building but he was impeded by the Building Department’s wretched rules and procedures.

“What is the question? That’s a statement!” someone else exclaimed.

But he continued talking about the complexities of the Building Department. I could see that he wanted to drive a stake into the very heart of the corruption but was prevented from doing so because he felt he should play nice because he still feared the retaliation he referenced in gentlemanly fashion. I shall not mention his name here lest I somehow contribute to his failure to get the permit he desires.

“Ask a question!”

It occurred to me that the illustrious members of the Tuesday Breakfast Club had forgotten Professor R.G. Collingwood’s lesson, that the flip side of a statement is a question, and vice versa. Instead of complaining about the dirty laundry at the Building Department, the gentleman might have asked if the manager intended to install a clothesline in that department; which is the same thing as saying there is some dirty laundry there that needs to be washed and hung out to dry. Or he might just ask how to get a permit given the confounded situation.

“I will answer his question,” I loudly declared, and determined to do so even though someone immediately tried to shout me down. I felt I had a perfect right to answer the gentleman’s

question, put in the form of a statement about conditions, because I happen to be one of the city manager’s 90,000 assistant city managers.

“Sir, the answer to your question is that you have to pay an expeditor $25,000, and then you shall get your permit right away.”

The man turned to look me in the face, and I could see by his expression that he understood me perfectly well, as did everyone else in the room who had anything to do with getting permits from the Building Department.

Yes, it is true, an owner or developer or contractor could walk the documents he could not get the Building Department to approve over to a private expeditor, give him ample enough cash or a check for a substantial amount, and his permit would be approved with those same documents forthwith. Well, sometimes it might be necessary to substitute a single document with another one; for example, an expeditor substituted a plan for an already approved parking lot down the street for the owner’s plan, and collected $1,800 for this expeditious service; the parking lot permit application based on someone else’s parking lot plan was approved. Furthermore, do not worry about the inspectors: among other things, the private expeditor can take care of the inspection process too.

A private expeditor, who deals with a crucial aspect of contracting, and whose mistakes or misdeeds could definitely endanger the public, does not have to be licensed by any governmental agency. Tony Gonzalez, the new operations manager for the Building Department, agreed with me that expeditors should be tested and licensed. And I believe they should be bonded as well.

My concern with expeditors is the possibility of wholesale corruption and subversion of legislation intended to protect the public. Drug traffickers, for example, tell us that it is better to be a wholesaler than a retailer, because exposure to a greater number of people increases the risk of being apprehended. Similarly, two or three expeditors trusted by corrupt Building Department employees could pay out a percentage of the fees they collect from their customers to those employees with little risk of detection if the corrupt transactions were handled carefully. Their customers might even believe they were paying experts to deal with the notoriously complicated process, when in fact they were favored because officials were bribed.

In fact, that was the case in Mexico, where WalMart paid millions to expeditors or “gestores,” payments disguised as legal fees, to quickly get permits to build out their stores, an acceleration or subversion of the process they were not entitled to. WalMart officials in Mexico, who were eventually assigned to investigate themselves, knew the fees were in part used as bribes. One legal question raised, to determine if the payments were bribes, technically speaking, is whether or not the gestores were agents of the Mexican agents issuing the permits.

Are Miami Beach expeditors agents of the Building Department? One major expeditor, Damian J. Gallo Associates, Inc., dba Permit Doctor, who rents space from the city and advertises the convention center as its client, goes so far as to advertise itself as the permitting authority:

Permit Doctor staff is ready to provide clear information about permitting regulations and the permitting process, inform homeowners about permit requirements for their specific projects, conduct plan reviews, and issue permits. All this is designed to make getting a permit as convenient as possible.” (Emphasis added)

We notice that other planning and permitting agencies throughout the country have their own expeditors to render the processes convenient. Tony Gonzalez and his director, Stephen Scott, did not respond to my recommendation that the City of Miami Beach hire its own expeditors to serve the public. Additionally, since complexity fosters corruption, revision of the codes may reduce the need for bribes to accelerate the processes.

Another serious issue with unlicensed expeditors is that they may engage themselves in or themselves be deceived by a conspiracy of owners, developers, unlicensed and licensed contractors, to defraud the city of fees and subvert legislation designed to protect the public. For example, an unlicensed general contractor may conspire to rent the license and insurance of a licensed contractor, rent an architect’s signature, submit false affidavits, grossly understate the scope and value of projects, and otherwise make a fool of the Building Department and its inspectors.

I handed my card to the gentleman who wanted a permit as he was leaving the meeting. We exchanged knowing looks. I mentioned that $25,000 in a brown paper bag might do the trick. That would be for the cutrate expeditor. I do not expect to hear from him because he is a gentleman in need of expedition, and my name is Mud at the Building Department.

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