By David Villano
By Jose D. Duran
By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Luther Campbell
By Frank Owen
By Allie Conti
Witness Against the Prosecution
Jim DeFede is getting to be quite the comedian. What a sense of humor! He sounds as though he expects something to come of [Dade State Attorney] Katherine Fernandez Rundle's political inquisition ("A Primer on Prosecuting Corruption," March 20). Ha! She caught Ronnie Book not with his fingers in the cookie jar but with his arm in up to his shoulder. He was guilty of violations of state campaign finance laws that would have landed the next guy in jail. But Ronnie only got his wrist slapped, and lightly at that.
At a public forum in late 1995, New Times editor Jim Mullin asked then-city manager Cesar Odio: "What do you have to say about the perception of many people that there is corruption at city hall?" Odio got red-faced, sputtered, and threatened to leave the meeting. Apparently the word never got to our state attorney.
As the years went by and Odio consolidated all the city's finances under that nationally known accounting wizard Manohar Surana, the state attorney didn't seem to mind. Meanwhile, the rest of this local world knew that "working for the city" meant being politically connected.
In most Third World countries, small bribes to government workers, train conductors, border checkers, bus drivers, and so on have been accepted fact for many years. Workers who receive very low wages from their government are thus able to feed their families.
In this country, where bureaucrats earn up to $100,000 (or in Armando Vidal's case, much more), what is the purpose of these bribes -- oh, sorry -- these gifts? Will our county manager sell his golf bag so he can afford bread for his children? Anyway, do not worry. It is unlikely that anyone as well connected as our county manager will be investigated by our honest state attorney.
I hope Mr. DeFede keeps looking. There is sure to be some poor druggie or businessman without connections whom the state attorney can prosecute.
John A. Brennan
Scumbags R Us
Accolades to Jim DeFede and New Times for the exposes of the seemingly never-ending shenanigans practiced by the scumbags (elected and appointed) who abuse their power in the City of Miami and Dade County governments -- unethically at best and illegally at worst. I look forward eagerly each week to reading the newest revelation. Keep up the good work!
North Miami Beach
Not in My Budget, Buster
This letter is in reference to Robert Andrew Powell's article "Ramón Doesn't Work Here Any More" (March 6), [a followup to Powell's February 20 article "They Owe It All to Odio"]. Mr. Powell stated that Mr. Ramon Conte's salary was funded from the budget of the City of Miami's Department of Community Development/NET. As a matter of truth and fairness, I respectfully request that the statement be corrected. Mr. Conte's salary was not funded from budget of the Department of Community Development/ NET, but through the general fund.
Elbert L. Waters, director
Department of Community Development/NET
City of Miami
Robert Andrew Powell replies: Ramon Conte was officially assigned to the Department of Community Development/NET. In fact, Mr. Waters's departmental assistant collected Conte's time sheets, completed his payroll information, and handed him his paycheck every two weeks. Furthermore, it was Elbert Waters himself who fired Conte immediately after New Times revealed him to be a ghost employee. But it is true that -- technically -- Conte's salary was drawn from the general fund and not directly from Waters's departmental budget.
Upper-Tier Municipal Amalgamation -- Now, That Will Warm Your Mittens
I just read Robert Andrew Powell's "They Owe It All to Odio" in a copy of New Times a friend returned with from Miami. An excellent piece, my favorite kind of reporting.
I'm hoping that the reason I don't see this type of investigative work (the kind that makes bureaucracy interesting to read about) is because it couldn't happen in Toronto. Or perhaps we aren't looking in the right places. We do, however, have plenty of stories about the amalgamation of smaller cities into an upper tier of government.
I'll keep an eye on Miami's adventures. I hope Powell's story gets an award.
Edward Joseph Drass
Teed Up and Teed Off
After reading Kirk Semple's article "How Green Is Too Green?" (February 13), I am compelled to respond, as a means of separating fact from fiction. The discussion of golf and the environment has been going on for years. Certainly this dialogue can be beneficial and healthy, but only when all parties present information based on factual data, not on emotion, innuendo, and hyperbole.
The vast majority of inaccurate media reports on environmental issues results from a lack of knowledge or background on the subject. In this instance, Mr. Semple dismisses more than $12 million of United States Golf Association research by noted scientists at the nation's most respected universities. It is unfortunate that none of these individuals or their studies was used to provide background. Readers would have learned that the effect on the environment of proper chemical application on golf courses is minimal to the point of being almost nonexistent.