Lame-Duck Rodstrom Moves To Gut Ethics Law

BY BUDDY NEVINS

County Commissioner John Rodstrom is taking one last shot.

Although he is less than two months from leaving office, Rodstrom will proposed next week eviscerating a key provision of the 2010 county Ethics Law.

The law forbids commissioners from sitting on selection/procurement committees. The committee recommend who will supplies services and goods to the county government.

Rodstrom would put commissioners back on the committees.

“I think policy makers who are elected should make the decision,” Rodstrom says.

 

John Rodstrom: Shaking Up Government To The End

 

Here is how county government works:

Say a large group of firms want to provide services or goods.

A selection/procurement committee weeds through the proposals and/or bids. The committee then winnows the list of proposed vendors to a more manageable number.

The handful that are now “shortlisted” are ranked with a recommendation on who should get the business.  The recommendation then is sent to the county commission for final action.

Before the Ethics Law, a committee consisting of staff membes and county commissioners did the shortlisting. Now only staff sits on the committees.

Rodstrom believes it is wrong to allow unelected staff  to make important decisions like purchasing.

Supporters of the Ethics Law believe allowing commissioners on the committee gives lobbyists a greater influence on government through campaign contributions.

Until the Ethics Law was passed, the committees were a font of campaign contributions from lobbyists, who believed they had to pay to become shortlisted. A second contribution was given when the short-listed companies reached the county commission.

“These are two different issues.  Campaign contributions are a different issue.  Do they want public funding of campaigns? My calendar isn’t any less busy with lobbyists trying to see me now then before the Ethics Law,” Rodstrom says.

“I’m not a friend of the lobbyists,” he continues. “Look at Judy Stern.”

Rodstrom had a highly publicized break with lobbyist Stern. He accused her of bragging to clients that she had a lock on his vote and the vote of his wife, Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Charlotte Rodstrom.

The maverick Rodstrom has a long history as the Don Quixote of Broward government.  He strikes out publicly at what he believes is right, regardless of whether it is good for him politically.

And this move looks like political suicide.

But Rodstrom is leaving office.  And he is speaking his mind…like he has since the 1980s. This item is a long shot, Rodstrom says, since it would take six of the nine commissioners to approve it.

That doesn’t deter him:

“I just philosophically believe that the elected policy makers should make these type of decisions…It is just one of the loose ends I wanted to discuss before leaving office. When I was elected 30 years ago (to the Fort Lauderdale City Commission), I said I would get on my soap box and tell people like it is.  I’m still doing that.  I’m still at it.”

Here is an e-mail I received today, one of several:

Buddy,

 As a member of the now defunct Broward County Ethics Commission I am forwarding to you the email below in the hopes that you will react to this proposed ordinance as strongly as I have.

For background, you should know that the only governmental entity in the county that allowed elected officials to sit on selection/procurement committees was the County Commission.  All municipalities have prohibited it for the very reason the Ethics Commission sought to eliminate this blatant pandering to lobbyists for funds.  You will also note that this amounts to double dipping at the lobbyist fountain because first they get to vote at the procurement level and then it goes to them again at the commission level.

The Ethics Commission took testimony from both academia and state ethics panels before voting to prohibit elected officials from seating themselves on procurement committees.

This is an affront to the voters of the county and the will of the people.

Sincerely,

Ken Fink

 



24 Responses to “Lame-Duck Rodstrom Moves To Gut Ethics Law”

  1. Nick Sakhnovsky says:

    It is not correct to state: “For background, you should know that the only governmental entity in the county that allowed elected officials to sit on selection/procurement committees was the County Commission.” The School Board of Broward County — with the largest budget of any gevernmental agency in the county — had this practice for many, many years. It was only changed when one of its members (so far) ended up in prison.

  2. Buddy says:

    FROM BUDDY NEVINS:

    Below is an exchange between activist Charlotte Greenbarg and Rodstrom over this proposal. Rodstrom is replying to an e-mail not included in those sent to me:

    —– Original Message —–
    From: Rodstrom, John
    To: ‘Charlotte Greenbarg’
    Sent: Thursday, September 27, 2012 2:29 PM
    Subject: RE: Ethics Issue

    Dear Ms. Greenbarg – thank you for your email. I appreciate your concerns and want you to know why I am bringing this amendment forward.

    The Board of County Commissioners is charged with making decisions with regard to how County government operates. Part of this responsibility involves procurement. It is my opinion that the Ethics Commission inappropriately took away the responsibility of the Board to be involved in this process and thus hampered our ability to govern properly.

    I would ask, “Who would be the appropriate manager to make decisions regarding projects costing millions of County tax payers’ dollars: Staff? Department heads? Special Magistrates?” Additionally, “How is it unethical to be a part of such an important process?” Is this not what we were elected to do?

    I would respectively remind you that there are some members of the Ethics Commission that recommended the creation of the position of Strong Mayor. How is this recommendation which, by definition, centralizes control of crucial decision making, consistent with removing the ability of the Board to involve itself in the same decision making processes?

    I hope that, although we may disagree on this issue, this email serves to explain why I want to discuss this.

    Again, thank you for being involved in County government.

    Best regards,

    John Rodstrom

    John E. Rodstrom, Jr.

    Mayor

    Broward County Commission

    115 S Andrews Ave., Room 416

    Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33301

    (954) 357-7007

    —– Original Message —–
    From: Charlotte Greenbarg
    To: Rodstrom, John
    Sent: Thursday, September 27, 2012 2:51 PM
    Subject: Re: Ethics Issue

    Dear Mayor Rodstrom,

    One of the reasons why the ethics ordinance passed so overwhelmingly is that having electeds on selection committees was unacceptable and in fact resulted in corruption.

    It is blindingly obvious that vendors who donate to campaigns should not be selected by those to whom they donated.

    The majority of the Ethics Commission did not vote for a strong mayor. As I recall, the voters some years ago also defeated that proposition.

    I have not seen anything in the process as we voted it to be that has hampered any elected official’s ability to govern properly. It has in fact, made for much more open, honest government. But perhaps it all depends on how you define “properly.”

    I request that you remove it from the agenda.

    Charlotte Greenbarg

  3. inquiring mind says:

    Well said Ken Fink. No elected officials on Selection Committees. For years and years the same handful of well connected contributors to election campaigns were awarded contracts ft both the county (and SBBC).
    The voters approved the ethics referendum and hopefully a 5-4 vote from BCC will not overturn it.

  4. marlin mike says:

    Who cares what Ken Fink says??? This is the guy who lives in Tamarac and pretends that he is a “mover and shaker” in Coral Springs. Ask around the county, the guy is a no good P.O.S.! Ask him how him and his friends make money off of his so called “connections” in government.

  5. Oh come on says:

    I see that on Broward Politics blog there is a similar story to this one as well as a story on how super lobbyists like George Platt are raising money at a fundraiser for Charlotte Rodstrom for her City race tonight.

    Lets see… the Mayor has waht 2 meetings maybe 3 left. In light of this the lobbyists could care less about the Rodstroms. BUT stepping up to help the lobbyists who love the procurement system the way it used to be, could be seen as a sure way for Charlotte to raise good money while John is walking out the doot.

    Just sayin…

    FROM BUDDY:

    It could be more insidious than that. One source told me that Platt is behind the move to put commissioners back on S/N committees.

  6. Real Deal says:

    The only reason the county ethics law was needed was to stop the corrupt practice of commissioners serving on selection negotiation committees and exchanging their vote for gifts, favors and campaign contributions. It is the root cause of all that is corrupt in Broward. Rodstrom knows this better than anyone else yet he brings this proposal forward. It really is time for him to go. The sooner the better.

    FROM BUDDY:

    Remember that the one county commissioner convicted of corruption took a bribe. It had nothing to do with serving on a S/N committee.

  7. Real Deal says:

    Also it did not take Barbara Sharief long to earn her true stripes as a county commissioner. Loved her slush fund proposal. Welcome to Dade County!

  8. Independent says:

    Real simple, this is one of the major reason BROWARD COUNTY COMMISSIONERS needed this ethics law. Actually the BROWARD COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD DOES TOO.

    I would say that no one should ever vote again for a County Commissioner who supports this. And in Rodstrom’s case, his vote should apply to his wife too.

    The abuse County Commissioners used in getting campaign contributions for being on Selection Committees is what helped trigger ethics laws. It also led to a lot of very bad contracts for the county. But it kept them in office.

    Staff review and ranking, which is what I believe cities do, gets better contracts and fair reviews. Rather than giving it to their friends.

  9. actually says:

    That Commissioner the illustrious Joe Eggs took a bribe and got caught. To get the to the point of being that blatant with bribe having Chait pay for a golf memberhsip in cash one would think this was the tip of the iceberg. Look he never gave anyone up. Snitches get Stiches.

    Those who dont get stiches loyal followers put up dupes to not only represent them in court but run against the State Attorney at the same time.

    Even better your brother Andre who was accused of being in volved in bribes gets to be used to sing jingles for Judicial Candidates like Julio Gonzalez.

    Why again would a Judicial Candidate hire and have an Eggelletion on their campaign expendatures? I guess you can take the former judge out of Rothstiens office but you cant take the Rothstein out of the former judge.

  10. tax payer says:

    Where’s Chaz when we need him? This will not pass on dais by the BCC. Will of the voters and the arm twisting to OIG will see this does not get over-ruled. Sure a few were just re-elected (Wexler and Holness)so can sit pretty for 4 years but Gunzburger would never go for this. Willing to bet Ritter wouldn’t either.

    Vigilance is required here.

  11. What She Said says:

    “It is blindingly obvious that vendors who donate to campaigns should not be selected by those to whom they donated.”

    Great observation, Charlotte!! To be more precise, it’s blindingly obvious to those of us who are not elected officials or candidates – or maybe just to those of us who don’t go by the name John Rodstrom.

    Elected officials are NOT elected to make procurement decisions. Those decisions, Mr. Rodstrom, should indeed be made by staff. Then elected officials decide – either to spend the money as staff envisions, or to send the staff back to the drawing board.

    Note: Charlotte Greenbarg has already won the Best Political Activist – 2009 award from the Broward-Palm Beach New Times:

    http://www.browardpalmbeach.com/bestof/2009/award/best-political-activist-845585/

    The statement I’ve quoted above will hopefully win her a second award for 2012!

  12. NoseBleedSeats says:

    Why would we want professional staff to make unbiased and uninfluenced recommedations about contracts and procurement when we could have the political hacks do it instead? How can you feather your friends nests when they aren’t even on the short list? They ought to lay off the staff, save the money, and just give it to their friends directly. It would speed up the pace of business with the County by eliminating the current obstacles, I mean staff.

  13. The Answer says:

    Rodstrom: The county commission wields both legislative and executive functions which places it at huge ethical risk. When those duties are segregated, as in the case of a strong mayor/council type of government, then we have checks and balances of power and fewer ethical risks.

    For example, if under a strong mayor the Commission served on a selection negotiation committees (with the assistance of professionally certified staff) to recommend finalist vendors to the Mayor for his approval and selection, so long as the mayor could select them or override to pick someone else for cause, this would be an ethical arrangement.

    Not when the selection committee is a self-appointed sub-committee of the same all powerful committee makes all the decisions. Add the practice of accepting gifts, favors and campaign contributions, and you end up with an ethical nightmare. That arrangement inevitably leads to an appearance of impropriety if not a direct conflict of interest.

    Secondly county commissioners are not elected to make procurement decisions and are often not unqualified as certified procurement government specialists to make those decisions. Nobody elects a county commissioner based on their credentials as a procurement specialist. They are supposed to be policy setters not buyers of goods or services. There is no basis to suggest that the government procurement process requires the “special skills” of elected officials in order to work well.

    Rodstrom is simply trying to bring back the former “good old-boy” system this county evolved past, instead of moving the county forward.

    He is right in one respect.

    Strong Mayor is the answer to our problems. It eliminates this ethical problem because it distributes power among two branches of government. This is the key to our future prosperity and it is high time the county took that necessary next step in our evolution.

  14. Frankly says:

    It is apparent all these people with their panties bunched up in a wad have not been to a selection committee meeting in the past year at the County.

    Anyone who has sat through a selection committee in the past year knows that the system is broken. Broward County has staff people who are not accountable to voters making high level decisions. Furthermore the Staff are risk averse and therefore rarely ask in depth questions or challenge proposers in Q & A. One often wonders if they even read their backup materials for these meetings as the committee members often demonstrate little to no command of the issues at hand. When Broward County is dolling out millions of dollars for projects and there is little vetting of the issues there is something wrong.

    When commissioners sat on the Committees they asked tough questions and did not let vendors get away with evasive or incomplete responses. Voters put Commissioners on the Board because we trust them to make tough choices. Many of these are difficult decisions and need to get full attention. What the County ethics code did was grant more power to staff members who frankly do not seem to even want it.

    When a bad decision is made there is little to no recourse for reanalysis as the Procurement Department never admits their mistakes or provide a fair grounds for challenging decisions. County procurement is now a giant ship with no one at the wheel and except a mate that refuses to ever slow down or right its course.

    I hope Commissioners decide that these decisions are important enough to warrant their input. The ethics code was concocted by many who had their own reasons for thrusting this section into it. Many citizens were unaware that this was even in the ethics code at all. It may have had good intentions but the result has been disastrous as Broward has awarded some of its largest contracts in history over the last year with little to no serious vetting of the proposers or the issues at hand. What needs reform is the procurement process in Broward.

  15. Ha Ha Ha says:

    Hey Frankly, that’s a nice work of fiction you wrote. Too bad for you that nobody’s stupid enough to believe it, but nice try. Now go peddle your corruption-maximizing bullshit to some Third World country…

  16. just saying says:

    Frankly raises some interesting points – the current staff selection committee members are clueless w/3 or 5 at most ‘ranking’ A/E’s and GC’s/CM companies only to have “incompetence’ get the award. low bidder RC got the library glazing replacement which is now going to be a year longer in construction and over a million++ in change orders. yeah low bid and never did a 27 yr old replacement job like this before.
    Terminal 4 at FLL Airport – many A/E’s under the prime were on the hugely overbudget Terminals 1 and 2 awhile back. Short memory on that Selection Comm. of county staff.

    Now commissioners would do no better selecting their cronies and buddies, as they did for 20++ years, but at least they were commissioners who could be voted out.

    Lindsey (county construction honcho) gets promoted in spite of these fiascos and no construction office staff is ever fired.

    taxpayers loose either way, but can fire the elected official

  17. Ha Ha Ha says:

    Apparently there is in fact one person who really is stupid enough to believe Frankly’s bullshit. In addition, that one person is too stupid to notice that the County Commission actually voted on and approved all these projects, thus if there is a need to vote somebody out then the relevant County Commissioners are already on the hook! The County Commissioners also select the County Administrator, who is responsible for all staff, and they can replace the County Administrator as well.

  18. Crabgretch says:

    Guess we all should have known that Commissioner Rodstrom would not go without a fight………honestly!

    And what his wife is doing is a disgrace. I hope the voters send her a strong message, “She had her chance, and she blew it!” Do NOT re-elect another Rodstrom, let her experience how it is to search for a job along with the many unemployed!
    Thank you.

  19. Charlotte Greenbarg says:

    Thanks, What She Said. I think there should be an “Old War Horse” award for those of who gallop out of the barn every time we hear the alarm.

    Well said, Nick S. We know firsthand all about that caper. I did remind him in my reply to his reply about that school board committee.

    And I wouldn’t doubt for a moment that more than one lobbyist is behind the push. After all, if all one’s career has involved making money from government, one has to look to life after public office.

  20. just saying says:

    hahaha
    read the posts
    nobody’s believing anything just acknowledging points raised
    taxpayers loose either way
    its the same business as usual today as it was 10 years ago
    get over it as nothing will change

  21. Chaz Stevens, Genius says:

    Things can change, if you are courageous and not afraid of hard work.

    However, I have found, most folks mistake boisterous anonymous opinion for courage under fire.

    Unfortunately, there are very few Charlotte Greenbargs in the world.

    ***

    It took three years, and well the result was a couple crappy misdeamenor charges, but after nearly four decades in office, Poitier is gone.

    I proved, if there is a will, there can be a way. If you want it bad enough, that is.

  22. Buddy Nevins says:

    FROM BUDDY:

    Below is a continuation of the exchange between activist Charlotte Greenbarg and County Commission John Rodstrom. You decide:

    —– Original Message —–
    From: Charlotte Greenbarg
    To: Rodstrom, John
    Sent: Saturday, September 29, 2012 10:48 AM
    Subject: Re: Ethics Issue

    Given the sorry history of those that have been caught, I have no doubt manipulation of the selection process has happened, not only in the county, but in most cities. Corruption was so rampant and shamless that commissioners were voting openly for contracts that profited themselves and/or their families. We all know about the School Board and the selection process. That’s where the money is.

    I predict that those cities that opted out will eventually be making headlines.

    It’s all about quid pro quo, rampant especially in Broward. This particular responsibility is where the quid meets the quo, always. It’s play to pay time, unfortunately for the honest taxpayers who fund the games.

    Charlotte Greenbarg
    —– Original Message —–
    From: Rodstrom, John
    To: ‘Charlotte Greenbarg’
    Sent: Friday, September 28, 2012 11:28 AM
    Subject: RE: Ethics Issue

    Just a reminder that the voters did not pass anything related to the County’s Ethic Ordinance as it was passed unanimously by the Board of County Commissioners. In fact, where the voters have weighed in, they have diluted the Ethics Ordinance of their municipality, opting out of the section most pertinent to lobbying. I believe this has happened in three of our cities.

    As you speak of political corruption, I should say that, in cases where public officials were found to be guilty of crimes of corruption, serving on Selection and Negotiation Committees had nothing to do with their crimes. As an example, former Commissioner Eggelletion’s crime resulted from a land use matter, not illegal procurement. Former Commissioner Diana Wasserman-Rubin’s (alleged) crime was voting on the purchase of property under the Parks Bond which also did not involve her sitting on a procurement committee. Perhaps you can point out an example of when a commissioner sitting on a procurement committee was charged with an inappropriate action that would have criminal consequences.

    On the other hand, I feel that commissioners contribute significantly to these committees. I am not sure that the public realizes how much work and involvement goes into the selection process. I am proud to say that I and other commissioners on the Board took the decisions very seriously and spent hours preparing for and listening to presentations. Because we were involved, we could address concerns and questions as a member of the committee when the outcome came to the Board.

    I understand your mistrust of public officials, however, I do not feel that this particular responsibility should foster those misgivings.

    Regards,
    John Rodstrom

  23. Ha Ha Ha says:

    Rodstrom’s standard is not the clean standard (is there an “appearance of corruption”) but rather the scumbag standard (“did I get caught”, “found guilty”, etc.).

    Corruption hides like a thief in the night. It’s a wink here, a nod there, a contribution here, and a vote over there. Only rarely is it possible to put together solid evidence that will add up to proof beyond a reasonable doubt. That is exactly why the scumbag standard is unacceptable.

    Greenbarg rejects the scumbag standard and insists on the clean standard. By insisting on separation of powers and transparency, she brings us the sunshine which can disinfect the corruption that lurks and thrives in the shadows.

  24. if not outright corruption says:

    Ok giving the Mayor the accuracy of his comments what about this….

    “Just because it is legal,does not always make it right”

    Interesting that John talks of Judy Stern and Eggleltion. Was it legal for all those years for Stern to run the campaigns of County Commissioners while going to lobby them after the election or lobbying them if running for reelection.

    John, the Bob Norman article breaking what lobbyists were paid what by the Chaits, Stern was paid $5000 to set up a couple of meetings between you guys. Of course after she gets the 5k do you find some minor conflict so you couldnt vote.

    Cmon, John. “perception is everything”.

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