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Cooper City Government Issues

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Author johnbsims3
Admin 

#1 - Posted: 19 Oct 2006 21:22 - Edited by: johnbsims3 
Cooper City At It Again...Commission Destroys Property Rights

Article Courtesy of John Sims
Published May 20, 2005
 
"He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance"
(paragraph 12 of the Declaration Of Independence)

This statement from the document that our country was founded upon now holds true in the quiet, upscale town of Cooper City. Located in Broward County, the city has come a long way in the past 25 years, improving property values due to its citizens and their pride in their homes, not from the actions of the city lawyers who now wish to decry their oath of office and take away more property rights from those who feed their substance. Of course, the "corporation" (aka City of Cooper City) now seeks to make more profits and increase their "stock price" by forthcoming fines and liens by Code Enforcement against the very people they are sworn to support and defend. 

It appears that Cooper City is continuing to place liens on homeowners even though they are clearly in violation of Florida law and the Florida Constitution. Your County and City government can pass any ordinances that they want. The only restriction is that their ordinances may not be in conflict with a state law, and the ordinance must be for a "Valid Municipal Purpose". You can challenge ANY ordinance if it is not for a "Valid Municipal Purpose". This is something that you MUST pursue through the courts. You can do it yourself IF you get enough training so that you can avoid the traps: OR, if you can 'acquire' a 'mentor' who can 'counsel' you as you go. Otherwise, you will need an expensive attorney, not willing to "rock the boat" and bite the hands that feed him, who is willing to pursue this type of action and take almost every spare dime and possibly asset you own in the process to pay his exorbitant fees...all because you want to have a boat in your yard?

IMPORTANT POINTS at this stage of the game: Make sure that you post your property to prohibit trespassing. Allow NO ONE from the city access to your property without a 'PROPER' Search Warrant. Pictures that are presented against you, that could NOT have been made without trespass, are evidence of illegal activity by a code enforcement agent. Per the Florida State Attorney General in his Legal Opinion Number: 

AGO 2002-27
Date: April 4, 2002
Subject: Code enforcement, search of private property

Is a local government code inspector authorized by law to enter onto private premises to conduct inspections or assure compliance with local technical codes without the consent of the owner or occupant, or having first procured a warrant?

In sum:

A local government code inspector is not authorized to enter onto any private, commercial or residential property to assure compliance with or to enforce the various technical codes or to conduct any administrative inspections or searches without the consent of the owner or the operator or occupant of such premises, or without a duly issued search or administrative inspection warrant. Local code inspectors are the authorized agents or employees of the county or municipality responsible for assuring code compliance, whose duty it is to initiate enforcement proceedings of the various codes. No member of the code enforcement board has the power to initiate enforcement proceedings. Code compliance and enforcement proceedings may be initiated against any building or premises, commercial or residential, subject to the technical codes referred to in section 162.02, Florida Statutes.

Administrative searches or inspections conducted outside the judicial process without consent and without prior approval (as evidenced by an administrative search warrant) are not reasonable, unless it can be shown that the administrative search or inspection falls within one of the well-established exceptions to this rule. The protection from unreasonable searches provided by section 12, Article I, Florida Constitution, and the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, are extended to both business or commercial premises and to private residences.

In sum, it is my opinion that a municipal code inspector is without authority to enter onto any private, commercial, or residential property to assure compliance with or to enforce the various technical codes of the county or to conduct any administrative inspections or searches without the consent of the owner or the operator or occupant of such premises, or without a duly issued search or administrative inspection warrant. The procurement and issuance of administrative inspection warrants is governed by the provisions of sections 933.20-933.30, Florida Statutes. However, owner-occupied family residences are exempt from the provisions of sections 933.20-933.30, and a search warrant or prior consent and approval of the owner is required for a search of these premises.

Sincerely,

Robert A. Butterworth
Attorney General

###

Also, in Attorney General Opinion 074-292 dated September 23, 1974 the State Attorney opined that the city council may not constitutionally provide for the warrantless entry into and inspection of private buildings and construction projects within the municipality.

The city commission (spearheaded by Bart Roper) has passed, over strenuous objections by its citizens, a local ordinance to disallow boats at a residence if they are visible above a six foot fence. The city commission also threw in a bunch of new rules after public comment was taken, including registration of vessels and RV's in the city, all while the city attorney seemingly slept through the whole thing. Of course the bottom line is added revenue sources at the cost of your rights and freedoms. If they have illegally "outlawed" boats and RV's today, what's next tomorrow? How about motorcycles! Where will it stop? I wonder what the county and state would have to say in regards to drastic loss of RV and Boat license, registration and tag revenues from this despicable act. A message to all Cooper City residents, we at FHS are here to help. 

Write your representatives and urge them to stop this victimization of our fellow residents.

FLORIDA STATUTE CHAPTER 162 Part 1-LOCAL GOVERNMENT CODE ENFORCEMENT BOARDS

CHAPTER 162.09(3) Administrative fines; costs of repair; liens: "No lien created pursuant to the provisions of this part may be foreclosed on real property which is a homestead under s. 4, Art. X of the State Constitution. The money judgment provisions of this section shall not apply to real property or personal property which is covered under s. 4(a), Art. X of the State Constitution."

Protect yourself and your real property today. Don't wait for a code enforcement lien or a judgment to be filed against you or your real property!

Author johnbsims3
Admin 

#2 - Posted: 21 Oct 2006 08:44 - Edited by: johnbsims3 
MY CLOSING ARGUMENT REGARDING THE COOPER CITY 'BOAT' ORDINANCE

Honorable Commission members, good evening. My name is John Sims and I reside at XXXX. My only interest in this matter rests upon protecting the equitable rights of myself, my heirs and of this community.

The Florida Constitution provides that municipalities may perform any equitable power for municipal purposes, as provided by law. This constitutional provision expressly relates to the rendering of municipal services, which is not left to inference. It is well settled, that the limitation of authority of municipalities under this constitutional mandate, is that such authority be exercised only for a 'valid municipal purpose'.

The law distinctly defines 'municipal purpose', and in determining whether an activity has a valid municipal purpose, a review of the law regarding what constitutes said purpose is necessary. A 'municipal purpose' only comprehends activities essential to the health, morals, welfare and protection of the community. The Municipal Powers Act also requires that under this constitutional mandate, such authority must be narrowly exercised, with due care, and only for a valid municipal purpose.

A municipal ordinance is inferior to state law, and the law ultimately prevails. In case of conflict, an ordinance which restricts property rights, or prohibits property rights, must fail. The city may legislate any matter, so long as the ordained rule does not forbid what the constitution and the law have authorized, and licensed, or allow what the law forbids.

The law-makers of this state have licensed vessels and RV's, and have zealously protected and upheld the property rights of such owners.

In view of the pending decision to affirm this ordinance, the proposed ordinance bears no rational relationship to any valid municipal purpose. The proposed ordinance bears no rational relationship to any valid municipal purpose as applied to the constitutionally protected property rights in question here.

Where the result of the ordinance is unconstitutional, all that results therefrom is unconstitutional and inequitable. Indeed, the provisions of this proposed local rule have no equitable benefit to the city residents, and do not constitute a valid municipal purpose, pursuant to any reasonable interpretation of the term.

The burden of proof to prove a 'valid purpose' beyond a reasonable doubt rests on this honorable commission, not on the results of a committee report. This ordinance, should it be enacted, will be affirmatively enacted in bad faith.

My question to this board is this: What constitutes the valid municipal purpose of this proposed ordinance?

Thank you

Author johnbsims3
Admin 

#3 - Posted: 21 Oct 2006 08:52 - Edited by: johnbsims3 
Seizure law riles Cooper City residents

By Thomas Monnay
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Posted September 9 2006

COOPER CITY • The city has given itself the right to seize its residents' personal property for public use in an emergency.

And although commissioners say it would use its new law only in "an exceptional disaster," some residents are furious.

"These people, with their mindset, should be arrested and put in jail for even attempting to do something like this," said Tim Wilder, a mobile mechanic who owns emergency tools and equipment.

Commissioners on July 25 approved the law in anticipation of a busy hurricane season, to ensure the city could assist residents quickly. But they said they wouldn't enforce it unless there were no other options.

"There's always the possibility of abuse of power," Commissioner Elliot Kleiman said, "but it's not going to happen here."

Property that could be taken includes a truck to transport emergency workers or a building to shelter disaster victims.

Fort Lauderdale has had a similar law on the books since 2004. Mayor Jim Naugle said no one has complained about it because residents and businesses understand that governments must protect and assist them in times of disaster.

But he said, "We haven't had to exercise the authority. We try very hard to prepare ourselves for emergencies."

The state has the same power, but Mike Stone, a spokesman with the Division of Emergency Management, said he couldn't recall Florida ever using it. Still, he said, it's a necessary tool.

"You don't know what you are going to be facing," Stone said. "You don't want to limit your ability to render services."

Cooper City business owner John Sims owns two trucks, a 7,500-watt generator and chain saws. He said that despite the law, "I intend to not allow anyone on my property without a warrant. I'm going to use my equipment to protect my family prior to allowing the city to [take my equipment]."

Under the city law, once the city declares a state of emergency, officials would be able to regulate fuel and alcohol sales, close any place of public assemblage and prohibit public possession or display of firearms. In addition, they would be able "to confiscate merchandise, equipment, vehicles or property needed to alleviate any emergency condition."

Confiscated property would be returned within 30 days after an emergency ends. And the city must compensate an owner for using personal property, which would have to be returned in the same condition in which it was seized.

The plan was advertised in local newspapers for several days before it became law. Commissioner Bart Roper said only one resident complained during a public hearing, when the item was discussed and approved by a 4-0 vote.

Barry Butin, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union in Broward County, said there is no need to confiscate property because both the state and federal governments help cities after disasters.

"It's just political grandstanding," Butin said.

Weston has an emergency management law, but it doesn't allow the city to seize private property, Mayor Eric Hersh said.

"We certainly do not have any desire to infringe on people's personal property," he said.

Lorie Mertens, an assistant city manager in Hollywood, said her city uses its own equipment and makes service arrangements with contractors before a hurricane strikes.

Kleiman said Cooper City residents should be happy because their city has taken preventative steps to ensure their well-being.

Wilder, who owns chain saws, a 45,000-watt generator and several trucks, said the law is unconstitutional because city officials could take his property against his will.

"These clowns think they can come to your home anytime they want," he said.

Thomas Monnay can be reached at tmonnay@sun-sentinel.com or 954-385-7924.
http://video.sun-sentinel.com/global/video/popup/p op_player.asp?ClipID1=952204&h1=Cooper%20City%20re sidents%20angry%20over%20property%20seizure%20law& vt1=v&at1=News&d1=109067&LaunchPageAdTag=News&fvCa tNo=&backgroundImageURL=&activePane=info&playerVer sion=1&hostPageUrl=

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/local/southflorid a/sfl-sconfiscatesep09%252C0%252C5658448.story%3Fc oll%3Dsfla-home-headlines&rnd=25962561


http://keepandbeararms.com/news/nl/read_comments.a sp?nl=28910830000650&tmpD=9%2F11%2F2006

###

Posted on Thu, Sep. 28, 2006

Cooper City commissioners trim taxes, pocket big raise

BY TODD WRIGHT twright@MiamiHerald.com

It's not often that things get heated at a budget hearing where city offldals are lowering the property tax bills of their residents, but tempers flared at a Cooper City meeting Tuesday that almost drove the mayor to tears.
Residents blasted city commissioners for almost tripling their salaries. The mayor's salary would jump from $7,000 to $20,000 and commissioners' pay would Increase from $6,000 to $15,000.

The new salaries would not take effect until after the city's next election in March.

But it was resident John Sims' stinging and personal words directed at Mayor Debby Eisinger that punctuated the night.

He told Eisinger she should give her raise to the family of Lindsay Layer, a teenager who died in 2005 after attending a party at Eisinger's house. Eisinger has said she was out of town at the time.

Visibly shaken by Sims' comments, Eisinger walked out of the meeting. Commissioner Bart Roper kicked Sims out of the public hearing.

"I didn't say anything wrong or out of line," Sims said.

After Eisinger returned, the commission unanimously approved the budget.

The owner of a home valued at $250,000 who receives the standard $25,000 homestead exemption would pay about $1,255 in city tax. That's down about $25.

That figure assumes the homeowner has lived in the same house for a year and that the house's taxable value increased by the state's 3 percent cap on owner-occupied residential property.

But the focus on the night was on raises, which upset several on the commission.

"You are all complaining about one small item that amounts to $1 per tax payer in this city," Commissioner Elliot Kleiman said.

Author johnbsims3
Admin 

#4 - Posted: 25 Oct 2006 06:37 - Edited by: johnbsims3 
COOPER CITY KICKED ME OUT OF THE COMMISSION MEETING...AGAIN!

October 24, 2006

I was at the Commission meeting this evening and more than one concerned resident attended regarding the Cooper City Commission and Mayor drinking on the job and subsequently hosting the commission meeting and making major decisions heavily under the influence of alcohol. The bar tabs were allegedly paid for on a city credit card.

Questions were asked by one concerned citizen about the consequences and result of city employees and the policy regarding being under the influence. The full commission along with the Mayor and Police Chief (in uniform at the time) have been seen by many, including myself, consuming vast quantities of alcohol immediately prior to the commission meetings, and driving city vehicles to those meetings over the past 6 to 8 months. Even to the point of running red lights on Griffin Road to make the meeting on time...or was it because they were impaired?

The City Manager, Chris Farrell, refused to answer any questions in public by one citizen regarding the rules and consequences, but made a comment about "Landlubbers" when that establishment wasn't even mentioned. How coincidental!

The commission and members would not answer any questions at this point. The question was asked "Is there anyone else wishing to speak".

I then made the decision to submit a copy of the city rules and policy regarding alcohol and being under the influence for the record. I then lambasted the commission for making decisions and passing budgetary items while under the influence of alcohol and also made it known to the Police Chief John Hale that it was an abomination that he knew what was going on and did nothing about it.

I was previously kicked out of a full commission meeting when I mentioned an issue that the Mayor had been involved in regarding a death of our friend's daughter Lindsay Layer which was caused by alcohol. The unfortunate teen was killed in an alcohol related death after leaving an open house party at the Mayor's house. At that particular commission meeting, the Mayor was apparently under the influence of alcohol. She got up and walked out crying in the middle of the meeting. They kicked me out of that meeting and all of the police there escorted me out.

Commissioner Elliott Kleiman made a comment that he thought it was inappropriate or rude that I would bring up the issue. Well, Mr. Kleiman, I think it is inappropriate and rude that you and the full commission, including the Mayor and city manager are under the influence when driving city vehicles to, and having a public full commission metting and making decisions that effect me, my family's security, the public safety, health and welfare, and also my wallet.

My comment last night to the Mayor that aparently upset her was "Haven't you had enough in your life with alcohol?" The Mayor then said that I was defamatory and the comment was character assassination. My response should have been -- Mayor, truth is a complete defense to defamation, slander and libel.

I was appalled that three of our state representatives in our area showed up but left after the kids got their awards. When we asked if they would stay and listen to the real important issues, they left. Sen. Steve Geller as was Rep. Tim Ryan and both were a real piece of worthless rhetoric who wouldn't give us the time of day. He was too busy to stick around and deal with the issues even after we gave him a copy of the bar bill that the commissioners rang up on our tax dollars. He was too busy to stick around and deal with the issues at 9 PM on a Tuesday night.

The female representative Rep. Susan K. Goldstein couldn't wait to get away from the place. We had to get between her and her car just to talk to her and gave her a copy of the same bar bill paid for by you and I. She promised to bring the issue to the Governor's attention. We shall see if she is true to her word.

There was one fellow who I begged to stay (Evan Jenne, Broward Sheriff Ken Jenne's son, Florida State Representative Elect, District 100
) and he watched the whole thing. Whether or not something will be done is yet to be seen. I seriously doubt it. I guess if you say something that the commission doesn't like, even if true, you get thrown out.

Stay tuned and watch South Florida's Channel 4 News on CBS this next week for the truth, the investigative report and the video and audio of our Commissioners, City Manager and Mayor drinking, driving and hosting the commission meetings under the influence. The issue will be heavily promoted on CBS 4. The Governor has been notified and promised his legal team would investigate it.

We will post the dates and times that the investigative report will air. More to come...

Author johnbsims3
Admin 

#5 - Posted: 3 Nov 2006 22:43 - Edited by: johnbsims3 
Law and Disorder

City Officials in Cooper City say there's nothing wrong with getting together for drinks and dinner before city commission meetings, on the taxpayers' tab, but not everyone agrees. See I-Team Investigator Mike Kirsch's reports and decide for yourself.

View the complete special report by clicking this link - This is the initial investigative report:

http://cbs4.com/video/?id=25171@wfor.dayport.com

Law & Disorder

Mike Kirsch Reporting

(CBS4) COOPER CITY The CBS4 I-team has been investigating the pre-meeting dinners held by members of the Cooper City commission, and CBS4 Investigative reporter Mike Kirsch has caught on camera conduct which could raise eyebrows in the small Broward community.

CBS4 undercover cameras captured Cooper City politicians gathering for dinners before city commission meetings, dinners at which alcohol was consumed, causing some community activists to be critical of their actions.

Mayor Debby Eisinger, Commissioners Linda Ferrara, Elliot Kleiman, Bart Roper and John Valenti were all shown on tape, as well as City Manager Chris Farrell.

Some citizens confronted the mayor and commissioners about drinking before attending a public meeting, but commissioners did not talk about the topic.

Mayor Eisinger declined an interview at a commission meeting where the dinners were discussed, and did not respond to additional interview requests

Farrell sent an email to CBS4 investigator Kirsch stating "Nobody's ever gotten intoxicated at these events."

Commissioner Kleiman was quoted in The Miami Herald saying that the whole purpose of these events --events he admits are paid for by taxpayers -- are "to develop our image."

###

Law And Disorder: Governor Reacts

Mike Kirsch Reporting

(CBS4) COOPER CITY

This week we reported how for two months we secretly videotaped Cooper City's mayor, some commissioners and the city manager, billing taxpayers for their visits to local bars and restaurants. Immediately afterward they drove to commission meetings to vote on issues concerning taxpayers. On one occasion they were seen consuming alcohol before voting themselves a hefty pay raise.

Cooper City's leaders continue insisting they've done nothing wrong, but CBS4 News just received a copy of a letter sent by Florida Governor Jeb Bush to Mayor Debbie Eisinger. It requests an explanation for the issues raised in our news reports and for complaints from citizens after watching our hidden camera investigation.

Our reports showed angry citizens confronting commissioners about it at this recent commission meeting.

City leaders have since said they've had these pre-commission meetings for years and were not intoxicated. They were simply out—according to one commissioner—"to develop their image."

"Their poor image..what type of image are they going to develop," said Arthur Donovan, a citizen.

Some Cooper City citizens were picking up students at a school next to City hall. They gave commissioners a failing grade after seeing these hidden camera images from our report.

"I think they should resign or be removed from office," said Marie Dittebrand.

Following our report, city leaders have declined to meet with us for comment. They have previously insisted by email they did nothing wrong, and are not guilty of any crime. They have said, however, they will no longer hold these pre-commission meeting events.

"If they think they're guilty, of course they're going to stop it," said citizen Sheri Pollack. "What else you going to do?"

City leaders have gone to one newspaper dismissing the two citizens who questioned them at this meeting as activists with an agenda.

One of them is Cooper City resident John Sims.

"I think it's just a spin," said Sims. "I was never an activist. Now I'm an activist for the citizens of Cooper City. Yes, I'm an activist for doing the right thing."

See the full video report here:

http://cbs4.com/video/?id=25220@wfor.dayport.com



###


Jeb Bush enters Cooper City dining fray

BY BREANNE GILPATRICK
bgilpatrick@MiamiHerald.com

Gov. Jeb Bush wants Cooper City Commissioners to explain allegations that they gathered privately at bars and restaurants before meetings, eating and drinking at taxpayer expense.

In a letter today to Mayor Debby Eisinger, Raquel A. Rodriguez, general counsel for the governor's office, asked for detailed written information about allegations commissioners and city staff drove and conducted meetings under the influence of alcohol.

The letter also requested information on possible violations of Florida's Government in the Sunshine Laws, which generally bars commissioners from discussing city business in private meetings.

''The Governor will consider your response in deciding whether to request a formal law enforcement investigation,'' Rodriguez wrote.

The letter asks the city to respond within three business days.
Miami Herald news partner WFOR-CBS4 documented some of the dinner meetings in a two-month hidden camera investigation. All five city commissioners -- Eisinger, Linda Ferrara, Elliot Kleiman, Bart Roper and John Valenti -- City Manager Chris Farrell and other senior city staff members were shown on tape before commission meetings in local restaurants and standing around bars, some holding wine glasses. BSO District Chief John Hale, who was in uniform, also was shown, but he was drinking soda.

City leaders have said the dinners are a long-standing city tradition meant to develop relationships with each other and with county and state leaders. The city also has rejected claims that anyone at the dinners was intoxicated or discussed city business.

''At no time have I ever witnessed a violation of the Sunshine Law or seen any member of the Commission or staff members consume an inappropriate amount of wine or any other alcoholic beverage,'' Farrell, said in a form e-mail to angry residents.

Earlier in the day, city leaders received strings of nasty e-mails asking for resignations, apologies and taxpayer reimbursements for the ``city commission dinners.''

Four recent dinners cost taxpayers almost $1,000 in total, according to receipts from the city.

''I think they should resign, or they should come up with a good explantion for it,'' Cooper City resident Sonia Jones said.
Former commissioner Gladys Wilson said her phone was ringing constantly once residents heard the allegations Thursday night.

''I was contacted by about 10 different residents,'' she said. ``And they were all very unhappy about it.''
Wilson, who served on the commission between 1989 and 1992, said the dinners didn't exist when she was in office. Other former commissioners said the meals began in the mid-1990s, and they were in place before the current commission was elected.

But not every call or e-mail attacked city leaders. Some residents e-mailed to say they thought the allegations were ''biased'' and ``sensationalist.''

''As you know, you and I have not always seen eye to eye on every issue, but be assured that I respect you for your high moral character and solid leadership,'' said Steve Carl in an e-mail to Eisinger. Both Eisinger and Kleiman said only a handful of the e-mails they received today were negative.

Kleiman said he has told residents he would be happy to meet with anyone who is upset about the allegations. He said he isn't even considering resident demands to apologize and resign.

''If you don't do anything wrong, what do you apologize for?'' he said. ``I am sorry that they're upset. That's about as much as I can say.''
Eisinger said she won't let the scandal interfere with running Cooper City: ``I will continue to give my 100 percent effort. I will not let this in any way prevent me from performing my duties on behalf of the residents.''

###

COOPER CITY

Some Cooper City leaders defend billing meals to taxpayers
Cooper City commissioners were caught on tape drinking and eating together at bars and cafes before meetings.

By BREANNE GILPATRICK
bgilpatrick@MiamiHerald.com

CAUGHT RED-HANDED: Before a commission meeting Mayor Debby Eisinger has some wine with commissioners at a local bar. "

CBS-4

Check out their hefty tabs...
Cooper City commissioners voted themselves hefty pay raises and approved a $40 million budget -- all after wining and dining on the taxpayer's dime, according to a hidden-camera investigation by Miami Herald news partner WFOR-CBS4.

The two-month investigation, which was broadcast Thursday night, showed city commissioners and City Manager Chris Farrell at restaurants in Cooper City and Davie, having dinner and chatting while holding wine glasses and, in one case, what the report said was a beer bottle. Afterward, they drove to City Hall, where, before a room filled with residents, they passed laws and made decisions about expenditures involving taxpayer dollars.

After one such gathering, the television investigation showed, the commissioners voted themselves pay raises that will more than double their salaries next year.

All five of the commissioners -- Mayor Debby Eisinger, Commissioners Linda Ferrara, Elliot Kleiman, Bart Roper and John Valenti are on the tape, as well as Farrell. Ferrara and Valenti did not return phone calls Thursday. Roper declined to comment. Eisinger said the dinners have been a standard practice for years. Kleiman said the meetings are good for the city.

''As with any type of PR activity, it gets expensed to taxpayers,'' Kleiman said. ``The whole purpose was to develop our image.''
Farrell responded in an e-mail: ``At no time did any member of the commission, or any member of the city staff, ever consume an inappropriate amount of alcohol or ever become intoxicated at any of these dinners.''

For years, before most commission meetings, commissioners and city staff have been holding ''City Commission dinners,'' current and former commissioners said. CBS4 documented four recent dinner meetings between Aug. 22 and Oct. 3, which cost taxpayers nearly $1,000 in total. It wasn't clear if commissioners were discussing city business at the dinner meetings. If they were, the meetings would violate Florida's Government in the Sunshine Law, which requires commissioners to discuss city business in public.

And if they weren't discussing city business, some taxpayers are wondering why taxpayers are footing the bills.

''Why are we paying for that?'' Cooper City resident John Sims said. ``If indeed it is personal time, they should be paying for it.'' Even if the commissioners weren't intoxicated -- and there was no evidence they were -- Sims said any alcohol before a city meeting is too much. ''I don't care if it's one sip of beer or wine or hard liquor,'' he said.

During the CBS4 investigation, reporter Mike Kirsch followed Cooper City commissioners and senior city staff to restaurants. CBS4 then used hidden cameras to record the commissioners standing around bars and sitting down to dinner while talking to each other and to the city manager, BSO District Chief John Hale and other officials. Farrell and other commissioners were drinking wine and other alcoholic beverages, the report said, but Hale, who was in uniform, was drinking soda.

After a Sept. 27 dinner, the commission voted to raise the mayor's salary from $7,000 to $20,000 and they hiked each commissioner's salary from $6,000 to $15,000 a year.

One person who witnessed one of the dinners, Miami Beach police union president Bobby Jenkins said he saw the group on Aug. 22 while sitting at the bar at Landlubbers Raw Bar and Grill, in Cooper City.

Jenkins, who lives in Cooper City and has been a road sobriety test instructor for more than 20 years, said he was appalled: ``The fact that they were drinking, that was what shocked me more than anything. If I showed up to work that way, they'd fire me.''

Kleiman told The Miami Herald that the dinners were held to recognize employee accomplishments, which is why the meals were expensed to taxpayers. Eisinger said commission members and department heads have attended pre-commission meeting dinners for years.

''These dinners have been a customary practice of prior City Commissions in Cooper City for more than 15 years,'' Eisinger told The Miami Herald in an e-mail. ``I have been advised that these dinners are neither legally nor ethically wrong in any respect as no City business is discussed.''
Commissioner Kleiman's son, Scott Kleiman, a former city commissioner, confirmed the tradition.

''Maybe somebody had a glass of wine,'' he said of the meetings he attended. ``But nobody was sitting in a bar for hours drinking.''
The city no longer hosts these dinners, Farrell said in his e-mail. The most recent credit-card charge was for a $200 dinner on Oct. 3.

One Cooper City resident e-mailed Gov. Jeb Bush about the dinners. The governor's legal counsel is reviewing the e-mail. At an Oct. 24 meeting, two citizens, including Sims, asked commissioners whether they had ever drank alcohol before their meetings. Commissioners said they didn't feel the need to answer.

According to Cooper City's code of ordinances, ''drinking intoxicating liquors while on duty'' is a reason for termination for city employees. The recall of elected officials is left to voters, according to the city charter.

It is not clear from the tape what the mayor and other commissioners were saying during these dinners. But the Florida Sunshine Law bars elected officials from discussing city business with one another in private. The law allows professional staff members to talk to each other or commissioners, but they can't pass messages between commissioners.

Jenkins said he heard references to the ''agenda'' and ''revenue'' at some of these meetings but said he did not know if it was city staff or elected officials discussing these issues.

The law extends to any discussion of city issues by elected officials, said Dan Paul, a retired First Amendment lawyer. It does not prohibit personal meetings. ''You don't have to show it had been on the agenda or schedule for discussion or anything like that,'' he said. ``Most Sunshine Law violations are things that never show up on the agenda.''

Sunshine Law violations are considered a misdemeanor, said Sandra Chance, executive director for the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information at the University of Florida. Penalties include up to six months in prison, a $500 fine and removal from office. ''If they were talking about issues that affect the city, then I think that crosses over to discussions that should be held in the sunshine,'' Chance said.

Author johnbsims3
Admin 

#6 - Posted: 4 Nov 2006 09:15 - Edited by: johnbsims3 
Mike Kirsch

Investigative Reporter

http://cbs4.com/bios/local_bio_206112730.html

Mike is an investigative reporter and cameraman. He began his career in 1985 as a freelance journalist covering wars in El Salvador and Nicaragua. Since then, his assignments have taken him to Afghanistan, Albania, Bosnia, Haiti, Iraq, Kosovo, Kuwait and Lebanon, and to more than fifty other countries around the world.

His work has appeared on The CBS Evening News, 60 Minutes, 48 Hours, ABC News Nightline, NBC Nightly News, the BBC, CNN, and on dozens of international news programs.

Mike's aggressive style of reporting and his fly-on-the-wall camera work have earned him twelve Emmy Awards, two Edward R. Murrow Awards, a pair of Associated Press Investigative Awards and a pair of Rory Peck Honorary Awards.

He joined CBS4 in Miami in June of 2001. He was quickly dispatched to Afghanistan following the September 11th attacks on America. Mike was the first American journalist to videotape US Special Ops teams inside Afghanistan as they called in air strikes on Taliban forces during Operation Enduring Freedom.

Mike and CBS4 cameraman Rudy Marshall were the first American journalists to cross into Iraq with US Marines the night before the launch of Operation Iraqi Freedom. And they were the first American journalists to reach and report from the rescue site of American POW Jessica Lynch, before moving north to Baghdad to cover the fall of Saddam Hussein.

As a reporter, Mike has interviewed people from Tiny Tim to Charles Manson and serial killer John Wayne Gacy. As a cameraman, he has captured such dramatic videotape images as incoming 155mm artillery rounds roaring in at the frontline in Bosnia, to young drifters running along atop moving freight trains in Texas, to the dramatic rescue of a young couple in 150mph winds during Hurricane Rita in Louisiana.

Mike left CBS4 briefly in 2004 for a job as a correspondent based in New York for the NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw, during which time he returned to Baghdad to report on Iraq's deadly insurgency. Additionally, he reported on the homeland security debate to reroute deadly chemical rail tankers around urban areas, and on the first Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse court martial, among other stories.

Mike has also shot and directed several provocative television documentaries on subjects ranging from train hoppers, to carjackers, to people struggling to survive wars in Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Mike is a graduate of the University of Southern California with a degree in broadcast journalism and a minor in international relations. He was born and raised in Los Angeles. He is married and has a daughter.

If you have a story that needs investigating, please contact Mike: mkirsch@cbs.com 305 639 4551



The latest report on the story...

http://cbs4.com/video/?id=25220@wfor.dayport.com





The first video on the story...


http://cbs4.com/video/?id=25171@wfor.dayport.com
Mike Kirsch
Mike Kirsch

Author johnbsims3
Admin 

#7 - Posted: 4 Nov 2006 10:31 - Edited by: johnbsims3 
Law And Disorder: FDLE Called To Investigate

November 08, 2006

Sunshine Law violations or other misconduct...involving Cooper City Commission members and other city officials.

Florida Governor Jeb Bush--after watching our hidden camera investigation showing Cooper City political leaders drinking in bars on taxpayer's dime before City Commission meetings-has written to and directed the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to conduct a preliminary inquiry into possible "Sunshine Law violations or other misconduct...involving Cooper City Commission members and other city officials."

The governor's office is also now aware of what appears to be unsubstantiated statements made by Cooper City Mayor Debbie Eisinger in this letter to the governor, in which she claims "Channel 4 chose to ignore" her "email response" to our findings.

CBS4 never received an email response from Mayor Eisinger, nor does the mayor provide the governor with proof that she emailed CBS4 with her response.

Mayor Eisinger and other city leaders continue to deny any wrongdoing.

However, the Florida governor has now directed the FDLE to begin the initial stages of what could lead to a formal criminal investigation of Cooper City leaders.

CBS4 News will continue to cover this story. Many Cooper City residents have contacted us saying they plan on confronting their leaders about our findings at the next city commission meeting scheduled for Tuesday, November 14th.

###

Read the story and reply with your input at TOPIX from the Sun-Sentinel here...MAN! This board is getting HOT!

http://www.topix.net/forum/city/cooper-city-fl/TIO UJF3S05L569DRB

and here
http://www.topix.net/forum/city/cooper-city-fl/T6K SK3E4KCKANBQ8I

Author johnbsims3
Admin 

#8 - Posted: 4 Nov 2006 11:29 - Edited by: johnbsims3 
Here is the Governor's letter to the Cooper City Mayor

http://www.miami.com/multimedia/miami/news/cooperm ayor_doc.pdf
coopermayor_doc.pdfAttached file: Letter to Cooper City from Gov. Bush
 

Author johnbsims3
Admin 

#9 - Posted: 4 Nov 2006 19:00 - Edited by: johnbsims3 
Governor Investigating Cooper City Meetings

Dave Malkoff Reporting

See the video here http://cbs4.com/video/?id=25241@wfor.dayport.com


(CBS4) COOPER CITY Governor Bush is asking Cooper City's mayor to respond to allegations that several commissioners met in private and drank alcoholic beverages at various bars and restaurants before conducting public meetings.

General Counsel for Gov. Jeb Bush, Raquel Rodriguez, wrote to Cooper City Mayor Debbie Eisinger on Friday, asking for information to examine if any open records laws were violated by any private meetings. It also requested the mayor to explain whether staff drove city vehicles while under the influence of alcohol.

The letter also asked the city to respond within three business days. Bush will then decide whether to request a law enforcement investigation or take other action.

CBS4 I-Team Investigator, Mike Kirsch reported that the mayor, four other city commissioners, the city manager and other senior staff members representing Cooper City allegedly met in restaurants and bars before meetings. Some were seen holding wine glasses in the television report.

City leaders said the dinners are considered a tradition meant as a relationship builder with other political leaders. The city also has rejected claims that anyone at the dinners was intoxicated or discussed matters related to city business.

Florida's open records or "sunshine" laws call for commissioners, board members or other officials to make their governmental meetings open to the public.

CBS4's Dave Malkoff reported that the residents of Cooper City are outraged at these allegations and are writing, circulating petitions and coming together, demanding that local leaders be removed from office after they saw them allegedly drinking on the job.

Kirsch attempted to contact City Hall, but received only one email saying that his report on the allegations was insulting.

Author johnbsims3
Admin 

#10 - Posted: 5 Nov 2006 07:20 - Edited by: johnbsims3 
Download the Cooper City petition here:

Thank you for requesting and asking to sign the Cooper City petition. This is not a public office recall municipal petition, but a petition to show support to the Governor and the State Attorney, requesting that they immediately act on behalf of the residents of Cooper City, investigate the allegations and look hard at the evidence obtained by CBS 4 (WFOR), then take appropriate action or make recommendations to the citizens and the Commission.

I have attached the petition to be sent the Governor, and also the black letter law regarding municipal recall. Should the residents of Cooper City decide to initiate a municipal recall, the law must be followed to the letter.

Please forward to your e-mail list, print the petition, sign it, get others to sign it and return it to me before the November 14th commission meeting at 7:30 at City Hall.

Better yet, show up at that meeting and hand deliver it!

Let the Governor know you support him on this issue by e-mailing him at Jeb.Bush@MyFlorida.com He will personally respond.

See the video news story on this here:

http://cbs4.com/video/?id=25248@wfor.dayport.com
petition.docAttached file: Cooper City Petition
 

Author johnbsims3
Admin 

#11 - Posted: 5 Nov 2006 07:37 
Here is the black letter law regarding municipal recall.
Municipal_Recall.docAttached file: Municipal Recall Law
 

Author johnbsims3
Admin 

#12 - Posted: 6 Nov 2006 16:36 - Edited by: johnbsims3 
More spin by the Cooper City "ComIsh" Elliott Kleiman:

http://www.browardpalmbeach.com/blogs/?p=430

A message from Cooper City Commissioner Elliot Kleiman

THE TRUTH ABOUT THE COOPER CITY COMMISSIONERS

OR

innuendo and accusations carefully crafted by the Miami Herald and CBS4 to inflame you and to lead you to rush to judgment? The media's tactics are shameful and an affront to honest journalism.

TRUTH: At no time did any member of the Commission, or any member of the city staff, ever consume an inappropriate amount of alcohol or ever become intoxicated at the pre meeting dinners !

TRUTH: There has never been a violation of the Sunshine law by any member of the Cooper City Commission at any time anywhere!

TRUTH: The tradition of dinner before commission meetings has existed for about 15 years, long before your current commissioners were elected

TRUTH: At a public workshop in March of 2005, I ask the city legal counsel if there was anything wrong with having the dinner gatherings. He said there was not as long as no city business was conducted

TRUTH: Pre-meeting dinners have included special guests, such as members of the state legislature, representatives from the county, regional and state agencies, as well as to honor employees for special achievements. One purpose was to develop rapport and working relationships with the attendees.

TRUTH: Barbara Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation, a Tallahassee watchdog group, said that it is not illegal or unethical for two or more members of an elected body to socialize

TRUTH: The dinners were not clandestine, there was no bar hopping and I believe the dinners were paid for out of the public relations budget

TRUTH: Until the CBS4 questioned the practice there was never a complaint from anyone.

TRUTH: Due to controversies that have occurred in other cities, Cooper City no longer hosts these dinners and the practice ended prior to the CBS4 piece.

——————————————————————————–

The commission acted ethically, legally and with the intent to promote the best interests of Cooper City .

We are expected live to a higher standard. We must not even allow for the appearance of impropriety even if it appears so to only a handful of people. So to those people I do apologize and pledge to ensure that nothing in the future can be even vaguely suspect.

The media has made use of innuendos and misrepresentations to imply wrong doing in order to sell papers and to get TV rating points. They carefully stopped short of libel and slander. If any apology is due, maybe it should be from the media and the those who made the ludicrous accusations at the commission meeting.

I would encourage all of to pay closer attention to city business and when something distresses you, speak out or communicate it with us

If you wish to speak to me about this or any issue, please email your phone number and I will call you to discuss your concerns. My email is elliot@goodguy2005.com

Comment by Elliot Kleiman — November 5, 2006 @ 10:13 pm

Author johnbsims3
Admin 

#13 - Posted: 7 Nov 2006 09:01 - Edited by: johnbsims3 
The Governor has responded to the petition:

November 4, 2006

Sent: Saturday, November 04, 2006 10:18 AM
To: 'Jeb.Bush@myflorida.org'; 'Mayor_Eisinger@CooperCityFL.org'; 'Commissioner_Valenti@CooperCityFL.org'; 'Commissioner_Roper@CooperCityFL.org'; 'chrisf@coopercityfl.org'; 'Commissioner_Ferrara@CooperCityFL.org'; 'Commissioner_Kleiman@CooperCityFL.org'

Subject: Letter to Governor Bush and Cooper City regarding the CBS 4 investigation

Importance: High

Governor Bush,

Thank you so much for the time to respond to the CBS 4 (WFOR) investigative report. After viewing the investigative report on CBS 4 last night and the night before, I can only conclude that our city manager, the commission, and the Mayor, must step down and immediately resign from office to avoid further embarrassment of the City of Cooper City. They have tarnished the 'image' of cooper city, not develop it.

The commission and mayor have disgraced our town, the residents and children who live here before the entire south florida community. I am sure that I speak for a majority of those who have witnessed these crimes against the citizens of Cooper City. The commission and mayor should be setting examples, not being dishonest with the residents of cooper city at the public commission meetings and deceitfully denying the allegations, which we have all now witnessed first hand.

I have seen the entire video which was not able to be aired, and there was discussion regarding techniques on how to raise the revenue of the city. The New York CBS 4 attorneys apparently would not allow the airing of that portion of the undercover video due to the investigation, so I ask you to also investigate not only the criminal allegations, but the Sunshine law allegations.

The citizens of Cooper City demand a full financial audit and respectfully request that you, Governor Bush follow through with your promise of investigating the city, and request that the Broward County state attorney and the State Attorney General also investigate known and alleged sunshine law violations and violations of the motor vehicle laws, namely driving under the influence of alcohol and also the passing illegal ordinances, all while violating the due process rights of the Cooper City citizens and under the influence of alcohol.

We also demand that Mayor Eisinger, and the city officials immediately cease and desist and re-pay the city out of their own pockets. Mr. Farrell, the city manager, can obviously afford to treat the commission based on his ludicrous salary of $200,000. We also respectfully request that Chief Hale issue a public apology in regards to known drinking and driving of city vehicles, and we ask that the city's insurance company investigate the issues as the commission has not only jeopardized lives but have created extreme liability for the taxpayers of cooper city.

We also ask anyone with other serious and valid issues regarding Cooper City officials to come forward at this time without fear of reprisal, retaliation or intimidation.

Thank you.


-----Original Message-----
From: Newman, Rex [mailto:Rex.Newman@MyFlorida.com]
Sent: Tuesday, November 07, 2006 10:13 AM

Subject: RE: Petition to the Governor from Cooper City residents


Governor Bush received your e-mail and asked me to respond on his behalf.

Governor Bush believes that elected officials should adhere to the highest code of ethics when serving the public out of respect for their office and constituents. As you know, residents and media in Cooper City have made serious allegations that city commission members have breached the public trust and potentially violated the law.

Reports suggest that one or more members of the Commission may have driven city vehicles and conducted public meetings under the influence of alcohol after meeting together privately for informal discussions, without prior public notice, in drinking establishments with the Chief of Police. This suggests municipal officials may have violated state traffic and municipal laws such as Charter Sections 3.10(2) and 6.01.

In addition, the circumstances raise questions about whether the Commission is adhering to the sunshine law as incorporated in the City Code.

The Governor has asked Mayor Debby Eisinger and the Commission to provide him with detailed information in writing concerning each of these allegations within 3 days in compliance with Article IV, Section 1(a), Florida Constitution. The Governor is considering whether to request a formal law enforcement investigation into this matter.

Thank you for writing and rest assured the Governor will continue to monitor this situation and will take the appropriate action.

Sincerely,

Rex T. Newman
Citizens' Services

Author johnbsims3
Admin 

#14 - Posted: 7 Nov 2006 09:02 - Edited by: johnbsims3 
Channel 4 reported tonight Tuesday Nov. 7th at 6PM and hopefully again at 11 PM on new evidence regarding the Cooper City drinking scandal! Be sure to watch & spread the word!

Watch the latest video, including one of many bar tabs, here:

http://cbs4.com/video/?id=25356@wfor.dayport.com

Author johnbsims3
Admin 

#15 - Posted: 8 Nov 2006 08:09 - Edited by: johnbsims3 
The Miami Herald

COOPER CITY

Cooper City leaders met after big Happy Hour

One restaurant tab shows city leaders ordered a lot of drinks before one Cooper City commission meeting.


BY BREANNE GILPATRICK
bgilpatrick@MiamiHerald.com

Nov. 8, 2006

A group of about six Cooper City government officials bought about 20 alcoholic drinks in 45 minutes before a recent City Commission meeting, according to their bar tab and the bar owner.

An Aug. 22 tab from Landlubbers Raw Bar & Grill in Cooper City lists the drinks ordered by city staff members and commissioners. Because of two-for-one drink specials, the bill came to about $75, including the tip. The credit card receipt, obtained by Miami Herald news partner WFOR-CBS 4, was signed by the city's utilities director, Michael Bailey.

The city clerk's office could not say Tuesday whether Bailey submitted the receipt for reimbursement by the city. Bailey couldn't be reached for comment.

City Commissioner Elliot Kleiman said he wasn't monitoring the other officials at the Aug. 22 dinner, but he said he wasn't intoxicated.

''I know I had one drink,'' he said. ``That's all I can tell you.''

Commissioners Linda Ferrara, Bart Roper and John Valenti couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday.

The Miami Herald and CBS 4 have previously reported that four meals between Aug. 22 and Oct. 3 had been charged to the city, totaling about $1,000.

But those charges don't include the Landlubber's gathering, where the tab included 10 vodka drinks, two Manhattans, two glasses of wine, two beers and a Bloody Mary.

Landlubbers owner Chris Piacentino said he thinks about six people were with the group that night. And all the orders were made between 5:15 p.m. and 6 p.m., according to restaurant records obtained by CBS4.

Channel 4 last week broadcast the results of a two-month hidden-camera investigation documenting the pre-commission dinners charged to taxpayers. All five City Commission members, City Manager Chris Farrell and several department heads were shown on tape immediately before commission meetings in local bars and restaurants, some holding wine glasses.

CBS 4's hidden-camera footage did not include the Landlubber's gathering.

An attorney for Gov. Jeb Bush on Friday asked Mayor Debby Eisinger for a written explanation of the meetings. The lawyer also requested information on possible violations of Florida's Government in the Sunshine Law, which prohibits commissioners from talking with one another about city business anywhere except at a public meeting.

The city has until today to file that response, and the governor will use the information when deciding whether to request a formal investigation.

Eisinger said she wants to send her response to the governor before commenting.

Previously, city leaders have said the dinners are a long-standing city tradition meant to develop relationships with other local and state elected leaders. They have said no one at the dinners was intoxicated and commissioners didn't discuss city business. Kleiman said if the commissioners had been drunk at meetings, residents would have noticed.

http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/15956368.htm

(Note: it was actually 22 drinks including the 2 shots that were given with the Manhattan's on a bar tab of 4 people)

Author johnbsims3
Admin 

#16 - Posted: 8 Nov 2006 16:42 - Edited by: johnbsims3 
Governor Conducts Inquiry - Directs Fla. Dep't of Law Enforcement to conduct an investigation

The Governor has demanded a preliminary investigation into Cooper City Commission members and the Mayor prior to the Mayor's written response to the Governor, which will be posted here as soon as we receive it.

See the news story on CBS 4 here:

http://cbs4.com/video/?id=25427@wfor.dayport.com
20061108_FDLE_Inqu.pdfAttached file: FDLE Inquiry demand into Cooper City
 

Author johnbsims3
Admin 

#17 - Posted: 9 Nov 2006 08:04 
FDLE to probe Cooper City dinner allegations

The governor's office has requested that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement look at Cooper City's `commission dinners.'

BY BREANNE GILPATRICK
bgilpatrick@MiamiHerald.com

http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/news/local/st ates/florida/counties/broward_county/15965301.htm

Gov. Jeb Bush on Wednesday asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to examine allegations that Cooper City government leaders violated Florida's public meetings law or ''other misconduct'' at private dinners before City Commission meetings.

FDLE will conduct a ''preliminary inquiry'' to determine if a full investigation is needed to decide whether criminal charges should be filed, said Heather Smith, FDLE spokeswoman.

The governor's office has requested the preliminary findings as soon as possible.

Earlier Wednesday, Cooper City Mayor Debby Eisinger sent Gov. Bush a 12-page letter denying some residents' allegations that city government leaders drove under the influence of alcohol and violated Florida's Government in the Sunshine Law by discussing city business in private.

Bush's general counsel last week requested the Cooper City explanation after a hidden-camera investigation by Miami Herald news partner WFOR-CBS 4 showed city staff and commissioners gathering at local bars and restaurants before meetings for taxpayer-funded ``commission dinners.''

The broadcast shows several department heads and all five members of the Cooper City Commission: Eisinger, Commissioners Linda Ferrara, Elliot Kleiman, Bart Roper and John Valenti. Some were holding wine glasses and at least one was holding a beer bottle.

One bar tab reported that before the commission's Aug. 22 meeting about 20 drinks were ordered in about 45 minutes. Witnesses said about six people attended the gathering, which was held at Landlubber's Raw Bar & Grill in Cooper City.

The city clerk's office has not been able to confirm whether the roughly $75 Landlubber's tab was charged to the city. But four other dinners totaling about $1,000 were funded by taxpayers.

NO CRIMES SEEN

In her response to the governor, Eisinger wrote that the city dinners were a tradition and she had never seen any crimes committed.

''Rather, these dinners are held for the purpose of permitting department heads . . . and, in some instances, special guests such as employees who are being honored that evening for special achievements, to socialize with the City Commission,'' Eisinger wrote.

Eisinger also denied allegations that anyone attending the pre-commission meeting gatherings was intoxicated. Last week City Manager Chris Farrell e-mailed concerned residents a similar response.

''I have never been impaired or intoxicated in any sense of the word before or during any Commission meeting,'' Eisinger wrote. ``I agree with City Manager Farrell's statement in that I also have never observed any Commission member or staff member to have ever been intoxicated or impaired at any of the dinners prior to Commission meetings or at the Commission meetings themselves.''

'DISSIDENTS' BLAMED

She also said the allegations stemmed from ``dissidents with their own agenda.''

Eisinger also plans to make a public statement and hear 'citizens' concerns'' at 9 p.m. Tuesday at Cooper City Hall, according to the city's website. The commission also has a meeting scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

Eisinger could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Author johnbsims3
Admin 

#18 - Posted: 9 Nov 2006 08:07 
The Mayor Responds

Dear Fellow Cooper City Resident:

I'd like to thank you for sending your positive e-mail in response to the defamatory and slanderous news allegations reported by Channel 4 this past week. I am truly grateful for your kind words of support. Although it is true that the Commission, City Manager, City Attorney, City Department Heads and various guests have had a tradition of going to dinner prior to City Commission meetings, the allegations of overindulging in alcohol and violation of the State Sunshine Law are completely false. The tradition of going to dinner prior to Commission meetings was a customary practice of prior City Commissions in Cooper City for more than 15 years.

These dinners were held for the purpose of permitting department heads (who, by the way, are required to attend the evening Commission meetings) and, in some instances, special guests such as employees who are being honored that evening for special achievements, to socialize with the City Commission. I had been advised by appropriate City professionals that these dinners were neither legally nor ethically wrong in any respect as long as no City business is discussed. In light of the fact that these dinners raised concern among the residents of Cooper City, the City Manager has recently declared that they will no longer be held.

As you well know, I am an avid runner and extremely health conscious. I do admit to enjoying sipping maybe half of a glass of wine at dinners. However, for the media to insinuate that I was consuming any significant amount of alcohol is false and defamatory.

Today, Channel 7 conducted an exclusive interview of me on this issue and it will air on their 6PM & 10PM news programs. Additionally, anyone wishing to view my response letter to Governor Jeb Bush's letter regarding allegations, made by Channel 4 news and the two residents who encouraged this story, can log-on-to the Cooper City Website at: www.coopercityfl.org.

Again, I thank you for your kind and supportive email. If you so desire, please feel free to forward this email to any Cooper City residents that you feel may have an interest in this matter.

Debby Eisinger, Mayor

Author johnbsims3
Admin 

#19 - Posted: 9 Nov 2006 13:10 - Edited by: johnbsims3 
Here is the Mayor's response to Gov. Jeb Bush. My response is toward the end of this thread.
CC_Mayor_response_to.pdfAttached file: Cooper City Mayor's Response
 

Author johnbsims3
Admin 

#20 - Posted: 9 Nov 2006 13:53 - Edited by: johnbsims3 
Bush orders inquiry into 'dinner and drinks' by Cooper City commissioners

By Ken Kaye and Thomas Monnay
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Posted November 9 2006


Cooper City · Gov. Jeb Bush on Wednesday called for a preliminary inquiry into whether city commissioners improperly discussed official business or committed any other wrongdoing while having dinner and drinks before meetings.

Bush directed Gerald M. Bailey, commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, to report his findings to the governor's office "at your earliest opportunity."

"Recently, information has been brought to my attention, alleging possible Sunshine Law violations or other misconduct ... " Bush said in a memo to Bailey.

The Sunshine Law prohibits two or more public officials from discussing public business without proper notification. However, officials are allowed to socialize.

Bush's directive came on the same day that Mayor Debby Eisinger responded to the governor's request for a detailed explanation into why commissioners and other city officials gathered for drinks and dinner at taxpayer expense. Between late August and early October, the group spent almost $1,000 at various restaurants.

Eisinger said commissioners did so in keeping with a 15-year tradition of socializing before meetings as a means to build camaraderie among officials. She said it also rewarded city staff members after a long day and allowed them to mingle with city commissioners.

"It's important for team-building and social interaction," she said. "It fosters strong morale and better work productivity."

However, because some residents complained, the dinners have stopped.

Eisinger adamantly denied that commissioners discussed city business or that any official became intoxicated. She said those allegations were "flagrantly" distorted by CBS 4 (WFOR-TV), whose news crew secretly videotaped commissioners and staff members drinking at restaurants before the meetings.

Eisinger said the CBS 4 story was intended to "incite" the public to "condemn" and call for the resignation of commission members. She said she was repeatedly shown in the same video clip holding a full glass of wine in her hand "as if it constituted multiple occurrences or multiple drinks.

"Nowhere within the extensive secret filming over the extensive period of time is there portrayal of me even drinking a sip of wine or any alcoholic beverage," she said in her rebuttal.

She noted the gatherings were always held out in the open and said no "justifiable issues" were presented in the television report.

CBS reporter Mike Kirsch told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel he was "doing my job" and said he asked Eisinger and others to appear on camera with their side of the story, but they declined.

Kirsch said two residents, Tim Wilder and John Sims, initially told him about the pre-meeting gatherings. In her statement to Bush, Eisinger called the two men "a pair of dissidents with their own agenda" to damage her reputation and that of her fellow commissioners.

Wilder and Sims disputed that, saying they only want to see the city better run.


http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/local/broward/sfl -scooper09nov09,0,5390413.story?coll=sfla-news-bro ward


More at Topix:
http://www.topix.net/forum/city/cooper-city-fl/T54 9MGFQD711JQO67/p1

Author johnbsims3
Admin 

#21 - Posted: 9 Nov 2006 17:09 
Cooper City Mayor confronts accusations of alcohol consumption before city meetings

COOPER CITY, Fla. (WSVN) -- The mayor of Cooper City went on the record with 7 News, defending some serious allegations against herself and several Cooper City officials.

Mayor Debby Eisinger and other city officials have been accused of consuming alcohol before formal business meetings. The claims have rocked Cooper City, making local headlines and even drawing concern from the governor.

However, the mayor says these gatherings -- what she calls "dinners" -- have taken place for years. She is not admitting to doing anything wrong. "They're done at local community restaurants, in full public view, so I basically felt we were hiding nothing -- nothing," Eisinger said.

According to published reports, the mayor and City Manager Christopher Farrell were seen drinking on several occasions before conducting official business. These reports also raised the question as to whether the mayor drove a vehicle under the influence.

In addition, there was concern over whether or not city commissioners were intoxicated during meetings -- still, Mayor Eisinger stands firm. "Our commission meetings are in full view of the public, they're televised," she said. "We have the media here reporting. Never once have people contacted us and said people appeared inappropriate."

Another issue also brought up -- was city money used to pay for these social gatherings in which city officials consumed alcoholic beverages?

To that, the mayor admits some of the dinners were paid for by the City Manager. "Likely, OK, I will admit, yes, these have been reimbursed," she said.

Mayor Eisinger does add that reimbursement for these dinners is something the city does to build morale, valuable of city money. "It's not uncommon in any business," she says. "I think it's a nice plus -- it has been a nice plus -- but again, in view of the fact there's been concern, it's done. It's over with. It won't happen any more."

However, the mayor does want to make clear that official business was not discussed during the social gatherings. That, she says, is a criminal misdemeanor under Sunshine State Laws. When asked if there has never been a time when one city commissioner said, "Eh, I'm going to vote for this" or "Let's give ourselves a raise," Eisinger said, "That is a violation of Sunshine, and I'm going to tell you, no."

Mayor Eisinger reiterated the fact that no official business was spoken of in her written letter to the governor on Wednesday.

According to the mayor, coverage of the allegations made it out to seem as though she consumed several beverages in one sitting. "The way it was reported -- and distorted -- they tried to make it seem that I had multiple drinks," Eisinger said. "In all those news clips of me, there was one scene of me holding a glass of wine."

When asked whether she regretted drinking the alcohol at the dinners, the mayor says no. "You know what, I learn from experience," Eisinger said. "I take what has done and move forward. It's hard to say regret in anything. The past is the past. We learn and move on."

http://www1.wsvn.com/news/articles/local/MI32546/

Author johnbsims3
Admin 

#22 - Posted: 10 Nov 2006 07:14 
Corruption Chronicles

http://www.corruptionchronicles.com/2006/11/booze_ fancy_dinners_on_taxpaye.html

November 09, 2006

Booze, Fancy Dinners On Taxpayers

Commissioners of an upscale South Florida city are being investigated by state authorities for holding secret meetings at local bars and restaurants and having taxpayers fund the outings in which alcohol always flowed freely.

Besides passing on the tabs of these festive jaunts to taxpayers, Cooper City officials violated state open meeting laws and, this week, Governor Jeb Bush ordered the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to launch an investigation.

The violations were discovered last week when a local television station's hidden camera captured the mayor, commissioners and other city officials at a so-called "commission dinner" prior to an official meeting at City Hall. The broadcast shows several department heads and all five city commissioners holding wine glasses and beer bottles.

One bar tab, right before an August commission meeting, reported that 20 drinks were ordered in 45 minutes and other tabs reveal dinners totaling about $1,000, all paid with taxpayer money. Cooper City Mayor Debby Eisinger has denied any wrongdoing and said the city dinners were simply a tradition. She even took the time to write Governor Bush a 12-page letter justifying this expensive tradition that has undoubtedly cost the public thousands of dollars.

The restaurant and bar gatherings also violated the state's open records law since official business was often discussed in private. Florida's Sunshine Law is part of the state's statute and establishes a basic right of access to public meetings, boards, commissions and other governing bodies of state and local governmental agencies or authorities.

In fact, the Sunshine State takes great pride in its reputation for putting high priority on the public's right of access to governmental meetings and records. This kind of ongoing violation could bring serious punishment. Additionally, residents of Cooper City should be outraged that their public officials are dining and drinking on their dime.

Author johnbsims3
Admin 

#23 - Posted: 10 Nov 2006 07:40 - Edited by: johnbsims3 
Cooper City Charter - Grounds for Termination
Cooper City Policy - Grounds for Termination
Cooper City Policy - Grounds for Termination

Author johnbsims3
Admin 

#24 - Posted: 10 Nov 2006 10:51 - Edited by: johnbsims3 
Miami Herald Cartoon - Opinion Section, Friday, 11/10/06, Page 28A

Jim Morin
Morin, who has been at The Miami Herald since 1978, was awarded the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning. He was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 1977 and 1990. His cartoons appear in The Miami Herald five days a week.

http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/news/editoria l/cartoons/13407016.htm
Cooper City Commission Meeting
Cooper City Commission Meeting

Author johnbsims3
Admin 

#25 - Posted: 13 Nov 2006 15:13 
Citizen's Guide to the Sunshine Law
citizen_guide_Sunshi.pdfAttached file: Citizen's Guide to the Sunshine Law
 

Author johnbsims3
Admin 

#26 - Posted: 14 Nov 2006 05:38 - Edited by: johnbsims3 
Residents to press officials on dinner bills

By Thomas Monnay
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Posted November 14 2006


COOPER CITY · Residents are expected to flood City Hall tonight, hoping commissioners will explain why they enjoyed dinner and drinks at taxpayer expense, as the state investigates whether any officials got intoxicated or violated the Sunshine Law.

"We should get a packed house, standing room only," said John Sims, one of two residents who first accused commissioners of wrongdoing. Sims said he's leading a campaign to remove the city's five elected officials from office.

Steven Marhee, a member of the Embassy Lakes Homeowners Association and a commission supporter, said even he and other backers want to know if any laws were broken when commissioners dined together before their official meetings.

"I'm sure people will be there to get an explanation," he said.

Commissioners deny the allegations against them. They say the dinners, which were recently discontinued, stemmed from a long-standing tradition designed to help build mutual respect among commissioners and honor dignitaries and employees' contributions.

But Angel Palank, a former Cooper City commissioner, said she never attended because she believed they were inappropriate.

"I thought it was an effort to make disagreement uncomfortable," Palank said. "To me, it was fundamentally counterproductive to democracy. We needed to be commissioners, not friends."

But former commissioner Barry Warsch, now a Pembroke Pines resident, said he never witnessed any wrongdoing.

Warsch said he always had a beer during those meals.

"We had the dinners, but we didn't have drunken happy hours," said Warsch, who lost his commission seat to Mayor Debby Eisinger in 2002.

Marhee said everybody knew about those dinners and that Eisinger was never "inebriated."

"It's poor judgment, but absolutely nothing criminal," Marhee said.

The controversy arose at a commission meeting last month, when Sims and resident Tim Wilder accused Eisinger and commissioners Bart Roper, Linda Ferrara, Elliot Kleiman and John Valenti of consuming alcohol at pre-commission meeting dinners.

Sims and Wilder have been upset with commissioners since a law was passed last year banning boats on residential property.

Sims, however, said, "I don't have an agenda other than for them to do the right thing."

Acting on complaints and news media reports, Gov. Jeb Bush has asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to conduct a preliminary inquiry to determine whether city commissioners did anything wrong. Regardless of the inquiry's outcome, Sims said he would continue his petition drive to recall all five city commissioners. He was unable to say how many signatures have been gathered.

Tonight's meeting starts at 7:30 at City Hall, 9090 SW 50th Place.

Thomas Monnay can be reached at tmonnay@sun-sentinel.com or 954-385-7924.

Author johnbsims3
Admin 

#27 - Posted: 14 Nov 2006 05:50 
My Speech to the Cooper City Commission Members for November 14th, 2006 Commission Meeting

November 14, 2006 - John Sims

Good Evening Mayor, Commissioners, Chief Hale and the citizens who have taken valuable time out of their busy schedules to be with us here tonight. I know you will not answer my questions, but are you not here to promote freedom and to protect "Life, Liberty, Property and the Pursuit of Happiness" based on the oath of office that you all have all sworn to? Many deem it overly broad control to divert the citizen's attention away from the actions of the individuals on this Commission who are so desperate to protect us, that they are willing to literally spin the truth, and squander our money and personal property through non-constitutional ordinances.

The Declaration of Independence says this: "That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men..." What this means is that everything governments do, must be to "protect and maintain individual rights." The Supreme Court has held consistent with this principal that "The duty of this government, as is every government tribunal, is limited to defending and protecting the rights of the citizens and their property." Are the supreme justices, who "dissent" on issues at the highest level of government, anti-government dissidents? I think not.

To continue...every citizen of this city should have 'standing' not only to be fully heard, standing to be granted full and complete due process and the right to freedom of speech, but the right be fully heard before votes on critical issues are cast by this commission.

Ad homonym attacks by this panel and its members are classic diversion tactics usually employed by those under the influence of control. We all remember the Stockholm syndrome.

Did you know that the US Constitution that all of you've sworn to uphold and defend is locked away in vacuum tight box, out of direct sunlight and guarded 24 Hours a day, 7 days a week?

It is a historical document that this country was founded upon, preserved with the best technology we have at our disposal. However, the Constitution is more than just an old, faded piece of paper. It is an idea that blossomed in the late 18th century among the best minds of our fledgling nation. It was the experiment of self-rule that the philosophers and dream makers of this country devised to achieve the most just and free society that one could ever imagine.

The Constitution works because the people, not government, adhere to it. It is a symbol of unity and hope, because when it is allowed to work, everyone gets a fair chance, and fair treatment. In short, the Constitution is the heart of the American Dream, even right here in Cooper City.

But when leaders lie, when a corrupt government disrupts the very spirit of checks and balances for personal or political power, and attacks the citizens who fund and fully support and defend that same government as "activist", "dissidents", "anti-government", and being "out of synch with the mainstream," then it does not matter how well we protect the Constitution, it just becomes a worthless piece of old paper.

When the people in power no longer heed the Constitution or respect the ideas and laws embodied by it, when they blatantly lie about precepts for making new ordinances, when they fabricate and attempt to change opinion of the people for the sake of lobbyists and financial supporters, when that group can only scream about "un-American activities" and "un-patriotic", "dissident" adversaries, then the only conclusion a sane individual can come up with is the following:

That this group is an enemy of the Constitution and the laws of this country. That this group is killing the American Dream that we all work so hard to achieve. That this group has forsaken any vestige of morality it claims to uphold, and if allowed to continue in their path of lies and deceit, it will spell the end of the republic and Cooper City as we know it.

I have watched the politics of a dying republic all my life and I have wondered why we, as individual citizens, are allowing it to happen. How can the people of Cooper City be so blind to it? I have concluded that most people just want to bring home a paycheck, feed their family, and the realm of politics is what it always has been... a playground for the rich and deceitful.

The worst enemy of the republic has always been from within and with self-rule comes the threat of suicide of "Life, Liberty, Happiness and Property Rights". This commission has been blood letting this city, just as those surgeons in the late 18th century bled George Washington to death. Those surgeons thought they were helping the President. This commission, I can't say for sure, but I'd suspect only believes in helping themselves at the expense of the citizens of Cooper City and many years of democratic self rule.

In the end, this is going to be a city government for the people and by the people.

Good Evening, and may God bless Cooper City, its citizens, our police officers, firefighters and military who risk their lives daily for the freedoms of Life, Liberty, Property, and the Pursuit of Happiness that we all share here tonight.

Author johnbsims3
Admin 

#28 - Posted: 14 Nov 2006 13:37 - Edited by: johnbsims3 
Outburst: Where Broward goes to vent On Cooper City Commission members' private dinners before commission meetings:

Posted on Sun, Nov. 12, 2006

``One drink is too many. They had the mayor on, and she acted like it was no big deal. Well, if it was no big deal, then why did they stop it because they are not meeting anymore?''

``I'm outraged and flabbergasted at their arrogance in thinking they could have dinners and drinks before a commission meeting. Regardless if they were discussing the commission meetings or not, the look of impropriety of the whole situation and lack of remorse of what they did -- I just can't believe it. I have sent an e-mail to Gov. Bush.''

``If I lived in that city, I would want everyone of those people that were drinking before meeting thrown out of there. Everyone knows that if you have one drink, it will impair your vision and your mind. Get those people out of there, especially the mayor with that arrogant look on her face.''

``The Cooper City Commission and the mayor need to resign. How many people could sit and have two-for-ones for Happy Hour and get in a car and drive while police were watching?''

``I think all those Cooper City officials having dinner on the town should be thrown out totally. They were drinking. What else were they talking about if they weren't talking about city business?''

'CBS did a public service by reporting the drinking of city officials on company and taxpayers' time. It's another case of arrogance and above-the-law mentality.''

'All City Commission members need to be suspended immediately. They have shown poor judgment in their behavior and have certainly lost my faith. I am angered that they are taking this so lightly and think it is OK, that they don't see a problem with their behavior. I find certain commissioners' and the mayor's attitude arrogant, to say the least.''

``The media investigation was not a snapshot of Cooper City government at its worst, but an exposure of the everyday disregard for the fiduciary responsibility that they took oath and swore to uphold. While I sincerely hoped that there would be some extenuating circumstances that could justify this corruption, the truth is that these individuals are not maintaining the standard to which public officials are held to.''

Random rants:

``The School Board finally got something right in deciding to fill the superintendent [position] without public input. They made this mess by themselves, so let's see them fix it. We all know the circus around them on the school's start date. They are the board, they wanted to fire Dr. Till, so let them try to replace [him].''

'We have had six years of `pure' political hell. We now see a ray of hope. Let's hope we have open, responsive, honest and better government. Maybe there is now hope in Hollywood, where 18 of the last 20 years have been political hell, thanks to Mayor Mara Giulianti. Like George W. Bush and Carl Rove, she must go.''

Need to vent? We want your opinions on anything and everything. Call Outburst to a leave a message: 954-764-7026, ext. 5201. Or send e-mail to outburst@ MiamiHerald.com



###

Nov 9, 2006 8:44 am US/Eastern

Law And Disorder: FDLE Called To Investigate

Mike Kirsch
Reporting

(CBS4) TALLAHASSEE Florida Governor Jeb Bush--after watching our hidden camera investigation showing Cooper City political leaders drinking in bars on taxpayer's dime before City Commission meetings—has written to and directed the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to conduct a preliminary inquiry into possible "Sunshine Law violations or other misconduct...involving Cooper City Commission members and other city officials."

The governor's office is also now aware of what appears to be unsubstantiated statements made by Cooper City Mayor Debbie Eisinger in this letter to the governor, in which she claims "Channel 4 chose to ignore" her "email response" to our findings.

CBS4 never received an email response from Mayor Eisinger, nor does the mayor provide the governor with proof that she emailed CBS4 with her response.

Mayor Eisinger and other city leaders continue to deny any wrongdoing.

However, the Florida governor has now directed the FDLE to begin the initial stages of what could lead to a formal criminal investigation of Cooper City leaders.

CBS4 News will continue to cover this story. Many Cooper City residents have contacted us saying they plan on confronting their leaders about our findings at the next city commission meeting scheduled for Tuesday, November 14th.

Author johnbsims3
Admin 

#29 - Posted: 14 Nov 2006 13:41 - Edited by: johnbsims3 
Read Attorney Steven Verbit's Blog on Cooper City here:

http://nobleamericans.blogspot.com/

He tells it like it is!

Author johnbsims3
Admin 

#30 - Posted: 14 Nov 2006 13:46 - Edited by: johnbsims3 
FOCUS IN BROWARD

Corroding public confidence

BY WINGATE PAYNE wpayne@miamiherald.com

http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/news/opinion/ 15947133.htm

There are two little rules that South Florida politicians keep forgetting: Don't use your public influence for private gain, and don't treat the public's money as if it were yours.

Those who break these little rules corrode public confidence almost as surely as do those who break the big laws against bribery and embezzlement of public funds.

After nearly four decades of watching elected officials and candidates for public office in Broward, I can count on a hand and a half the number whom I suspected of seeking office -- the first time -- for personal gain.

But as years roll on, I've watched too many incumbents come to think of their public jobs as personal fiefdoms and, worse, think of themselves such fine experts in public policy that they seek employment that blurs the line between their public and private selves.

Which brings us to the scandals du jour unraveling in Hollywood and Cooper City.

The newest is from Cooper City, that quiet suburb that bills itself as ''Someplace Special.'' Seems that the City Commission was taking itself out to dine on the taxpayers' tab before commission meetings, with some commissioners liking a tot of wine.

Why on Earth would anyone think that this is an appropriate use of public money? A clear case of feeling entitled to just desserts for their work.

It's one thing to expect the public to pay for some entertainment required as part of the job, such as dinners at conventions, but regular feedings at the public trough just go too far.

If they're talking public business at these dinners, they're violating the open-meetings law. If they aren't, then these are social occasions and don't qualify for public dollars. Building fellow feeling over meatballs and red wine isn't a public purpose, either.

Those little scoops of public money add up over time; worse, the sense of entitlement can grow. We've seen Broward public servants eat $100 dinners when they're out of town, buy themselves designer office accessories with their public credit cards and, pre-9/11, insist that a daughter be allowed to leave her car curbside at the airport during a trip.

The Plantation City Council once got so carried away with its own importance that it handed out generous pensions and lifetime family health insurance for former members, far juicier benefits for a part-time job than the full-timers on the payroll.

As problematic as these practices are, they pale beside the flagrant practice in Broward of influence peddling. There is no other word for the lobbying work that some elected officials take up, representing clients before public agencies other than their own. Or of joining companies or being brought in on deals that require approvals of other public agencies. Indeed, the practice is so widespread that it's surprising that suspended Hollywood City Commissioner Keith Wasserstrom finds himself in hot water. He apparently thought he could lobby other cities on behalf of a sewage company bidding for a large Hollywood contract and pursue the issue with city utility executives as long as he abstained on the eventual vote by the Hollywood commission.

What he and other elected officials/lobbyists don't ask themselves is why their services suddenly become so desirable to their new employers? Wasserstrom hardly was an expert in sewage sludge before the company sought him out.

What these employers want is influence, and the elected officials have it to sell. If lobbyists or deal makers are legislators or county commissioners, they also have political leverage over commissions lower in the pecking order.

If the indictments are correct, Wasserstrom went further in peddling his influence than his fellow travelers.

But why should our ethics laws tolerate influence peddling at all? As the case against him unfolds, legislators should get a good glimpse of business-as-usual and finally find it distasteful.

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