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  • Sunday, November 05, 2006


    Cooper City: Crisis Mismanagement

    As a result of the disclosure of the City Commission and City Manager treating themselves at taxpayer expense to expensive food, wine, and liquor just before City Commission meetings, Governor Bush had his General Counsel, on November 3, 2004, send a letter to Mayor Eisinger demanding an explanation within three business days. This letter, for what it's worth, was also cc'd to Broward State Attorney Mike Satz, as well as the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

    In addition, some Cooper City residents are circulating a petition. I have not seen this petition yet, so I am unclear as to exactly what it asks for.

    In my opinion, the City Commission and the City Manager are taking exactly the wrong approach to managing this crisis. I believe, in general, people are very understanding and forgiving. If you make a mistake, telling the truth, apologizing, and making amends are the most effective way to put the mistake behind you.

    History has shown this is true when mistakes are made at the highest levels of government. For example, if President Clinton had simply admitted what he did with Monica Lewinsky and apologized right away, it is unlikely there would have been nearly as much momentum as there was for impeaching him.

    The City Manager's public response of denial and righteous indignation at "innuendos" that City Commissioners were intoxicated before City Commission meetings is very similar to President Clinton's angry denial that "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky." No one believed President Clinton then. No one believes the City Manager now.

    Moreover, in my opinion, the City Manager's public statement misses the point. I feel it is none of my business if City Commissioners and the City Manager feel the need to fortify themselves with steak or pasta dinners and a few glasses of wine just prior to Commission meetings. But when they do so at taxpayer expense, that is when it becomes my business.

    In theory, you don't serve on a city commission to make money or for any kind of financial rewards. Even with the hefty pay raises the Cooper City Commissioners voted themselves, they still don't make what anyone would consider a living wage. It is supposed to be a part-time job for people who want to "give something back" to the community in which they live. In my opinion, the essence of the problem is as follows: wining and dining at taxpayer expense shows the City Commissioners taking, not giving back. (This is especially true to the extent that some of the establishments at which they wined and dined were not even in Cooper City.)

    The City Commissioners and the City Manager have reacted to the public disclosure of their activities with arrogance, anger, and self-righteous indignation. Their attitude seems to be "how dare anyone question our activities?" The way they are handling this crisis is only making it worse, for them and for the City. Personally, I am embarrassed for the City Commissioners, the City Manager, and their families, that they seem unable or unwilling to face this crisis in a more intelligent and politically less disastrous manner.

    Here is CBS 4 Miami's latest report on the situation:

    (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.
    Cooper City residents are rallying for these officials to be kicked off their
    posts for their actions.

    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

    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

    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.

    (© MMVI, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

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