Here we are in the dog days of August, an excellent time to do a little summer re-reading. On the Juice's beachside reading list is the Grand Jury Report released in 2007 on the "Pay to Play" scandal in West Palm Beach. A Grand Jury was convened three years ago, due to pressure from local neighborhood activists and nonprofit organizations, to look into the question of how campaign contributions were affecting development contracts in West Palm Beach, and also into the blue ribbon "ethics comission" established by Mayor Lois Frankel. The report was published in two parts, because both the mayor and House Rep. Mary Brandenburg fought to have one section redacted (Section B); that section was publicly released a year later. Here follow 7 good reasons to revisit this old news:
1. Because Mayor Lois Frankel is seeking to undo the charter that would limit her to two terms, and perhaps run for a third term as Mayor (the Grand Jury's final conclusion: "Under the strong mayor format of government, there are virtually no checks and balances to the mayor's power. There is no independent recourse to address grievances under this form of government.")
2. Because candidates are already throwing their hats into the ring for the 2011 West Palm Mayoral race, including commissioner Jeri Muoio and most likely commissioners Kimberly Mitchell and Molly Douglas. We've also heard whispers about County Commish Jeff Koons and Rep. Brandenburg herself as possible candidates (Brandenburg is on vacation in the mountains, we hope to confirm this with her when she returns in early September).
3. Because the citizens of West Palm Beach have never been satisfied that the construction of the new City Center was financially feasible, much less legal (see the section of the report about the West Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce's slush fund to pay for the fight against citizens initiatives).
4. Because Mayor Frankel is even now attempting to contravene building heights limitations established in the original City Master Plan (this bears on the development issues cited in the report).
5. Because the Grand Jury report cites numerous instances where developers "bundled" campaign contributions in hopes of currying favor with the Mayor, and those same developers are not coincidentally the big players in downtown development.
6.Because the report cites instances of city harassment of small businesses and developers in attempts to bully them into giving up property or plans for their property. ("Employees of the City of West Palm Beach have acted unethically by targeting residents, causing inconvenience, financial losses, and loss of property.")
7. Because the report also calls for the formation an ethics commission in West Palm Beach made up of independent citizens NOT handpicked by Mayor Frankel, and such a commission has never been formulated (although the county has recently endorsed plans for a countywide "corruption commission.")