Miami Beach Commissioner Says She's Being Shamed for Dating People

Miami Beach commissioners are already required to disclose if their spouses have any sort of stake in the items on which the members are voting. This is a standard government-ethics rule. But this Wednesday, the Miami Beach City Commission will discuss enacting a new law that will force commissioners to disclose if they've had a "dating" relationship with anyone related to the items on which they're voting. 

In case the phrase "dating relationship" wasn't a clear enough euphemism, a first draft of the bill used the word "sexual relationship" instead.

Though sponsor John Elizabeth Alemán has couched the bill as a common-sense way to make the city's ethics laws more transparent, fellow Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, a single mom, took to Facebook this weekend to blast Alemán instead. Rosen Gonzalez claims the bill's origins are much more nefarious: She says she's being forced to out her past boyfriends in an act of political revenge.

"It's so catty," Rosen Gonzalez tells New Times. "I'm facing this ridiculous disclosure ordinance, and it's obviously targeting me."

Alemán, however, disagrees and says the measure has actually been in the works since July.

"I was pretty blindsided by all that on social media," Alemán says.

But Rosen Gonzalez says she's being forced to out her past relationships after one of her ex-boyfriends, Kent Harrison Robbins, gave her some brief advice on a bill regarding Miami Beach's Shore Club. Alemán had supported the bill.

Rosen Gonzalez says she dated Robbins only briefly but turned to him to help get her head around a complex bill involving parking fees. She says she and the other commissioners do this often, but when she spoke out against Alemán's bill, she says she assumed Alemán got upset and sponsored the bill as an act of subterfuge.

"It was this one ordinance about off-street parking, and no matter how many times I read it, I couldn't get my head around it," she says. So she asked Robbins for some help. "When I figured out what it was, it was basically $1 million we were giving away to the Shore Club."

So at a meeting September 27, she spoke out against the bill. Now she says of the new ordinance, "I feel like this has to be in retaliation for getting advice from Kent. If I did have a personal relationship with Kent, it doesn’t influence the way I was going to vote."

In its current form, the bill would force commissioners to disclose "any personal relationship with any person who is directly benefited by the subject vote of the agency on which the public officer serves."

So what would constitute a "personal relationship"?

[A] close personal relationship such as a long-term friendship, or a dating or romantic relationship, that would cause a reasonable person to conclude that the public officer is likely to act or fail to act as relationship which appears to a reasonable person as inappropriate in the context of the proper discharge of the public official's duties in the public interest and gives an appearance of impropriety.

Alemán, meanwhile, says she had no idea the measure would offend Rosen Gonzalez. She says the entire measure has been in the works since midsummer. The measure, she says, is meant to make the city's definition of someone's "significant other" in line with relationship norms in today's world, where LGBT relationships (and other nontraditional pairings or groupings) have become more socially accepted.

On July 20, the city updated its lobbyist disclosure rules. According to the commission's official after-action report from that meeting, Alemán then asked the city attorney to take a look at the city's other ethics rules and figure out if any of the other personal-relationship rules needed an update.

"Commissioner Alemán asked staff to find any other relationships that should also be disclosed for
the record," the report says. "Office of the City Attorney to handle."

Alemán says the city attorney then drafted a new bill using one from Colorado as a reference. That bill also used the term "sexual relationship."

"Commisisoner Gonzalez, at the time, didn’t indicate that she had any issue with the request I made," Alemán says. "If I had known, I would have punted it down the road to a time that was less controversial."

Rosen Gonzalez began posting about her displeasure with the bill over the weekend. On Monday, Alemán and City Attorney Raul Aguila redrafted the ordinance and removed the word "sexual" from the law. Aguila then penned a letter apologizing for offending anyone:

After reviewing emails and on-line postings regarding the inclusion of the term "sexual" in the definition of "personal relationship," it's apparent that this term has caused concern among some individuals, specifically as to what type of disclosure would be required with regard to same.

Since my job as City Attorney is to ensure that any legislation considered by the City Commission be legally sufficient, the definition of the term "personal relationship" was based upon analysis in case law from the Supreme Court of Nevada, which withstood U.S. Supreme Court scrutiny, as well as ethics opinions and other similar legislation.

I take FULL RESPONSIBILITY for the drafting of this Ordinance and the inclusion of the word "sexual." At the time I drafted the Ordinance, I did not anticipate the confusion subsequently caused by the inclusion of the word in the definition of "personal relationship."
Alemán says she hopes the changes goes far enough to appease her co-commissioner.

"I feel bad about it," she says. "We have a long term together. We're one year into a four-year term, and I want some kind of good working relationship." But, Alemán says, because the Florida Sunshine Law prohibits commissioners from speaking in private, "we have to work that out on the dais."

But asked whether the change seemed like an olive branch, Rosen Gonzalez said she was still offended.

"This ordinance was meant for me to have to recuse myself on items, I’m sure," she says. "I would advise our city attorney to be more responsible when drafting these legislative items. He’s my attorney too."

But Rosen Gonzalez isn't the only single person on the dais — Mayor Philip Levine and Commissioner Ricky Arriola are also unmarried. They have yet to offer their opinions on this bill.
KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.