I'm not really sure how we've ended up where we are today. It seems like we started writing about mortgage fraud years ago, then a few months back we stumbled upon the story of three tellers at a tag agency getting arrested for allegedly stealing tens of thousands of dollars from the tag agency. Through a weird chain of events we then found out that the tag agency was owned by the wife of the City of South Miami's police chief and oddly enough we found that despite the fact that the tag agency in question was no where near the City of South Miami, somehow the city still sent this tag agency it's business. Strange chain of events, huh?
Let's disregard how fucked up the case against the three tellers in the tag agency story is for a moment, as a matter of fact, let's just forget about the whole tag agency story for the time being. When we exposed the City of South Miami doing business with the police chief's wife's company, there seemed to be an air of impropriety around that business relationship, especially when the city could have gone ahead and done business directly with a county owned tag agency and saved themselves some money or at least done business with a tag agency that's within their own city limits. It just doesn't seem kosher for the city to be conducting business like this. It turns out that it's not only not kosher, but it seems to be against the city's own code of ethics!
Let's take a look at the language in the City of South Miami's own code of ethics ordinance Section 8A-1...
Designation. This section shall be designated and known as the "City of South Miami Conflict of Interest and Code of Ethics Ordinance." This section shall be applicable to all city personnel as defined below, and shall also constitute a standard of ethical conduct and behavior for all autonomous personnel, quasi-judicial personnel, advisory personnel and departmental personnel. The provisions of this section shall be applied in a cumulative manner. By way of example, and not as a limitation, subsections (c) and (d) may be applied to the same contract or transaction.
Definitions. For the purposes of this section the following definitions shall be effective:
The term "autonomous personnel" shall refer to the members of autonomous authorities, boards and agencies, such as the city community redevelopment agency and the health facilities authority.
The term "quasi-judicial personnel" shall refer to the members of the planning board, the environmental review and preservation board, the code enforcement board and such other individuals, boards and agencies of the city as perform quasi-judicial functions.
The term "advisory personnel" shall refer to the members of those city advisory boards and agencies whose sole or primary responsibility is to recommend legislation or give advice to the citycommission.
The term "departmental personnel" shall refer to the city clerk, the city manager, department heads, the city attorney, and all assistants to the city clerk, city manager and city attorney, however titled.
The term "compensation" shall refer to any money, gift, favor, thing of value or financial benefit conferred, or to be conferred, in return for services rendered or to be rendered.
The term "controlling financial interest" shall refer to ownership, directly or indirectly, of ten percent or more of the outstanding capital stock in any corporation or a direct or indirect interest of ten percent or more in a firm, partnership, or other business entity at the time of transacting business with the city.
The term "immediate family" shall refer to the spouse, parents, children, brothers and sisters of the person involved.
The term "transact any business" shall refer to the purchase or sale by the city of specific goods or services for consideration and to submitting a bid, a proposal in response to a RFP, a statement of qualifications in response to a request by the city, or entering into contract negotiations for the provision on any goods or services, whichever first occurs.
Ok, so far so good. This section defines who's who, let's move on to subsection C...
(c)Prohibition on transacting business with the city. No person included in the terms defined in paragraphs (b)(1) through (6) and in paragraph (b)(9) shall enter into any contract or transact any business in which that person or a member of the immediate family has a financial interest, direct or indirect with the city or any person or agency acting for the city, and any such contract, agreement or businessengagement entered in violation of this subsection shall render the transaction voidable. Willful violation of this subsection shall constitute malfeasance in office and shall effect forfeiture of office or position.
Could that be any clearer? According to what we just read NO ONE defined in paragraphs (B)(1) through (6) and in paragraph (B)(9) can do any kind of business with an entity in which that person or a member of that person's immediate family has a financial interest in! In other words, the City of South Miami can not do any business with the police chief's wife's company! And what's the penalty for breaking this code of ethics? From the same ordinance...
Willful violation of this subsection shall constitute malfeasance in office and shall effect forfeiture of office or position.
How about that? If you're a city employee and you're caught steering business to an entity that you have an interest in or worse that's owned by a family member, your ass will get fired!
So what now folks? Does anyone think anything will happen to the Orlando Martinez de Castro, the chief of police of the City of South Miami, for steering work to his wife's tag agency? I don't know, the word on the street says that there are some investigators from the county already snooping around to see what's going on...