Corruption: Report corruption and we will publish verifiable claims on the site.
During my thirty years of working in local government I personally witnessed and experienced the abuse of power. The unethical breaches reared its head in various forms, ranging from subtle overtures and comments to outright visible actions. Occasionally, it could be simple favoritism for a specific vendor, developer or for the award of contracts. For a developer, a minor change in zoning could translate into millions of dollars. This topic is a consistent and ongoing discussion behind closed doors between local government managers. I will attempt to explain how I handled these matters, what other managers have told me in confidential interviews and how I think abuse of power and corruption can be significantly reduced in local government. And to that end, below I have created the "Randolph Tenants for the Reduction of Public Corruption." First, what is the origin of the term, "power corrupts"? The phrase was originally stated by John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton (1834-1902). Baron Acton was a historian and moralist and was known as Lord Acton. His words were stated in a letter to a bishop in 1887. The exact sentence from which the phrase was taken was written as follows:
"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Greatmen are almost always bad men."
Some mistakenly credit William Pitt, the Elder, and British Prime Minister from 1766 to 1778. One can understand the confusion as Mr. Pitt stated the following in 1770 in a speech given to the House of Lords:
"Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it"
Many of the Hallandale Beach city commissioners served a considerable amount of time on the commission and held numerous offices. As a result, I will refer either to the highest position they held, or if my memory serves me correctly the position they held at the time relevant to the current discussion. And, no, I am not turning this report into a kiss-and-tell drama story. Until 2004, the mayor was selected by the other members of the commission. In 2004, a referendum past that required the mayor to be selected by popular vote. Although minor, new problems are created when the mayor is elected by popular vote. This argument typically falls on deaf ears as the population is intent on selecting the mayor. However, the elimination of term limits for the mayor was the most significant action that could lend itself to problems in the future. Before the referendum, the mayor could not secceede himself after one term. Therefore, no one was capable of gaining sufficient personalized power. Personalized power is generally defined by psychologists and social scientists as the abuse of power for personal gain. Corrupt politicians have used their personalized power for financial gain, advancement of their careers or for the self interest of remaining in office. During the same referendum, the voters approved a change in the terms of office for city commissioners. Prior to the referendum, three commission seats were up for election every two years, with the top two the candidates receiving the highest votes serving a four-year term,and the third highest, a two-year term. Under the revised system, the election remains on a two-year cycle with three commissioners up for reelection in one cycle and two in the next. However, all commissioners now have a four-year term and there remains no term limits. If I am not mistaken, Sonny Rosenberg served on the Hallandale Beach commission for twenty- four years before he lost a reelection bid. During that time, he was able to garner considerable power and support from various community leaders within the city. Rosenberg and his associates created a community action group, "The Hallandale United Citizens", who supported his programs and candidates he selected to run for the commission. The United Citizens even had their own monthly newsletter with editorials written by Rosenberg blasting other commissioners that did not agree with him. Rosenberg and his cohorts would frequently discuss matters and decided their direction on key issues prior to the meeting. The practice of violating the Florida sunshine laws was a weekly if not daily occurrence. The Rosenberg group consisted of himself, Art Canon and Sam Waterman. Together, they formed the majority of the city commission. For the most part, Canon and Waterman were decent human beings and other than the consistent sunshine violations, there were few if any other breaches of ethics and I am unaware of any crimes they may have committed. In the early part of my career, I would simply exit the room when a sunshine violation occurred which was difficult, because most of the violations occurred in my office. On occasion when they would ask me where I was going, I would reply that the conversation was in violation of the Sunshine Laws. My subtle approach appeared to only have an effect on Canon. Rosenberg and Waterman typically ignored me. Periodically Waterman, would give me lectures about how the law was ridiculous and impossible to enforce. After approximately three years, Phil Cohen was elected to the commission and supported by Rosenberg. I held workshops for new commissioners and invited the city attorney to explain applicable laws. Cohen, immediately began interfering with the staff, and complained incessantly about not having a private office. The commissioners utilized two offices and rarely had appointments. This situation existed for twenty years without a complaint until Cohen was elected. He was able to convince the other commissioners to add on a section to the City Hall building and construct offices for each commissioner. All of the commissioners were retired, save for Waterman who was an attorney and semi retired. When the offices were completed, two to three of the commissioners were there most of the day. And of course, the general discussions centered around city business. Eventually, I confronted the commissioners individually. These meetings occurred after I consulted a friend of mine who was an attorney. I had considered going to the state's attorney but decided to talk with my friend first. Essentially he told me I was wasting my time and that it would end up being a "he said -- she said" situation. The meetings with art Canon and Nat Cutler were productive, but there was tension and considerable anxiety in the air with the other three commissioners. Cohen even told me I was out of place and had no right to judge the commissioners. As my attorney friend suggested, I stressed to each of them, if they were going to violate the law please refrain from doing so in my office or when I am present. Approximately one week after the meetings, Cohen asked me to go to lunch with him. During the lunch meeting, he informed me that Rosenberg was very upset and was going to come after me. At this point in time, both he and Rosenberg were still friends and I knew they talked on a daily basis. Cohen attempted to ingratiate himself with Rosenberg at any cost. Anything I told Cohen would be the same as telling Rosenberg. As a result, I informed Cohen that I was well aware of the consequences and made sure my documentation was in order. His expression indicated he was upset with the fact I was documenting sunshine violations. Several years later, Rosenberg filed a complaint with the state's attorney office for sunshine violations against Gilbert Stein and Hy Cohen. They were found guilty of what is referred to as a technical minor violation. These are violations that typically are unintentional and simply occur during the course of a day in the office. When commissioners are in the office and there are hundreds of issues pending before them, it's difficult to not unintentionally mention or ask a question in regard to these matters. However, with Sonny Rosenberg the violations were intentional. Although I never could convince Canon who was fearful of Rosenberg, to come forward, on several occasions he informed me that Rosenberg called him to ensure he was going to vote the right way or to convince him to support certain issue(s). To reiterate, crossing ethical boundaries encompassed a wide breadth from a simple comment to out right actions both behind the scenes and others taken formally by the commission.
More to come
1.Organizational structure: The structure of the organization includes: 1-A form of government 1-B the power and authority of the mayor 1-C the mayor's membership status on council 1-D elected official involvement in administrative processes
2. Term Limits:
3. Mandate Controls for Lobbyists: Certified or license all lobbyist
In order to remain in office, elected officials often adopt a philosophy and approach of "self-interest". Simply stated, they take the actions necessary to remain in office. Don't interpret this to indicate that all actions are unethical or illegal. However, in many cases the actions do not serve the public good. These actions exist in many forms but include, the necessity to maintain support of strong political allies, the ability to acquire a substantial political checkbook for campaigns and take actions to support certain interest groups or organizations. The current debate over the health care issue is an excellent example of a politicians responsiveness to political self-interest.
And belief it or not, organizational structure of a local government significantly impacts the potential for corruption. Local governments managed by politically elected officials are more apt to become corrupt. This pattern occurs for several reasons, however, two consider further explanation. The Concept of Self-Interest: In order to remain in office, elected officials often adopt a philosophy and approach of "self-interest". Simply stated, they take the actions necessary to remain in office. Don't interpret this to indicate that all actions are unethical or illegal. However, in many cases the actions do not serve the public good. These actions exist in many forms but include, the necessity to maintain support of strong political allies, the ability to acquire a substantial political checkbook for campaigns and to seek support certain interest groups or organizations. While one will rarely read in newspapers and blogs noting the concept of self interest as rationale for why some politicians are corrupt, the concept has existed Since the 17th century and is written about extensively by scholars, researchers, and more importantly, Political philosophers. Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) who created the paradigm of "self-interest" is universally regarded as one of the few elite political philosophers. Written in 1651, 'Leviathan', Is considered his politically philosophical masterpiece. Hobbes theory was man was motivated, personally, socially and politically by self-interest. He purports that we all seek to constantly improve our lot with more power, money and seek a higher station. As we reach certain levels of our self-interest, we are momentarily content but soon our self-interest will once again need to be fed. John Locke, (1632-1704) A well respected political philosopher, later countered some theories of Hobbes, as he believed human nature was characterized by reason and tolerance. However, Locke conceded that human nature did permit men to be selfish, especially when it pertains to money. While self-interest may not be the driving underlying motivation for every vote, it's ugly head is evident throughout conflictive Democratic politics. responsiveness to political self-interest. The entire legislation is in disarray due to a potpourri of The Decades old debate over the health care issue is an excellent example of a politicians' self-interests. Democrats representing liberal districts, are concerned, the legislation does not go far enough and those from conservative areas, are concerned their constituents do not support the legislation. In this case, the constituents of liberal Democrats match their personal beliefs. The blue dog Democrats, from middle to conservative districts, are trying to fend off competing forces for their vote. They philosophically agree with most of the legislation, but are concerned their constituents do not support those beliefs. On one hand it is not in their self-interest to go against party lines and on the other, their self-interest with constituents leaves them melding in confusion. And a third force of party alienation or special interest group support is tugging on their shoulder. Those receiving significant campaign contributions from the medical and/or insurance industry,Will be reluctant to vote against their self-interest. For the most part, Republicans represent conservative districts that are typically opposed to national health care. And as such, will not support a public option, as it conflicts with their self-interest to remain in office. Further, they risk alienating the support of their party should a member support the democratic position. In the end, nearly 40 to 45 million Americans may not have medical insurance. Health care On the hit list page, several local government elected officials are highlighted. In almost every case, their corrupt actions can be tied to self-interest. They sought personal gain through illegally using their office and position to acquire property, money, power and influence with local power brokers. So, how is self interest affected by organizational structure of local government? It is a statistical fact, that Mayor-Council forms of government have a considerably higher record of corruption than the strong city or county manager forms. Table-One provides a statistical analysis of government structure in relation to corruption. The Power and Authority of the Mayor or Chief Elected Administrative Official: Within Mayor-Council form of government,The Mayor is typically the chief administrative and executive officer and responsible for the day-to-day operations of the organization. The vast majority of elected mayors had no prior administrative or management experience, especially in large complex organizations such as local governments. Some, such as Gurwitt, who writes for Governing Magazine would have you believe the Mayor-Council form can more expeditiously deal with complex problems. He suggests that an elective executive, "can assembled the political authority to grapple better," with specific problems. (Gurwitt, Governing magazine, July, 1993) However, he may be a quality writer but lacks the knowledge of the inner workings of local government. In essence, his comments are superficial and have been challenged by many professionals and educators. Terrell Blodgett responded to Gurwitt In the January 1994 issue of "Public Management," in the following manner. "In contrast to the council-manager form of government, the strong mayor form relies on a single, powerful leader who often forges coalitions by exchanging benefits for support and uses his or her power to gain leverage over opponents." (Terrell Blodgett, is Professor Emeritus in Urban Management at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, Austin.) He has written numerous books and articles on the subject of local government. Others have also noted that leadership that requires coalitions or power to be effective is generally responsive to their own needs instead of the community. Blodgett correctly points out that often "political leadership in strong mayor governments encourages conflict among elected officials, which, in turn produces political gridlock and reliance on short-term coalition building." While there are many variations of the Mayor-Council form, the Mayor is typically the most powerful elected official. The Mayor form of government innately carries several negative elements. First, Council members become weaker as the mayor form increases in power. In other words, when council- manager forms of government convert to the strong mayor form, council members typically lose power. And in the larger cities, mayors even have considerable detail power that further leached toward political coalitions and deal making. When all of the components of the strong Mayor form are blended together, a strong recipe for corruption begins to unfold.
2. Term Limits: On the subject of term limits, we are somewhat divided on the site as to whether they should exist. (3-2-2008) There are two distinct camps a philosophy on the issue of term limits. The first,"there should be term limits," is typically the most common and centers around a few poignant methodology. The term limit camp stresses the fact that long-term elected officials become entrenched, have developed a core contingency and relationships with the big financiers that help fund their campaign. They further note that new blood and ideas is good for any organization. A important consideration in fact that cannot be overly emphasized, is that most convicted corrupt officials have typically served ten years or longer.In fact, during the period of the Table-One study,we chose five states at random,Including, Alabama, Wisconsin, Maryland, New Mexico, and Michigan. Why only Alabama is typically in the top 10 of the most corrupt states, the average years served in elective office for all five states, was thirteen years and seven months. In no case, was an elected official convicted with less than six years in office. Wow this simple analysis may not be the foundation to factually and emphatically state that longer-term elected officials are more corrupt, it does have at least a modicum of validity. The second group that opposes term limits, are typically, higher income and considerably higher educated. Let us stress that they do not personally a oppose term limits but their feelings are less stringent regarding a mandate for same. The survey results can be viewed by clicking on this link. After considerable thought and debate, we have concluded the following in regards to term limits for local government officials. Should the officials serve a term of two years, our compromise position is for a term limit to take effect after five terms or ten years in office. Our logic herein is that every two years these officials are subject to public scrutiny and therefore have a greater likelihood of losing a bid for reelection. For officials to serve a term of four years, we recommend no more than two terms or eight years.