In the summer of 2008, Joe Kessel was facing a predicament all too common to South Floridians: He was struggling to make his mortgage payment. Fortunately for him, he had some uncommonly generous friends -- like former Hallandale Beach City Manager Mike Good.
Juice has received a copy of a desperate email that Kessel, a real estate agent, sent to Good in which he begs the then-city manager to finalize an agreement through which Kessel could receive up to $36,000 for vaguely worded "consultant" services to the city.
It was a considerable favor, not just because Good was sharing taxpayers' largess but because the contract appears to be a violation of the city's charter.
The email from Kessel and much more after the jump.
It's evident that by July 2008, Kessel and Good had already agreed that Good would use his position as city manager to give Kessel a consulting contract. But it's also evident that Good, who was notoriously hard to reach for anyone looking to do business with the city, had been slow to act on that contract.
Because on July 12, 2008, Kessel emailed Good a note, flagged as "high" importance, with the subject line "JOE KESSEL URGENT." The email itself was in all caps. The full text:
I HAVE A MATTER OF THE MOST URGENT NATURE. UNLESS I GET STARTED ON THIS PROJECT AND START MAKING SOME ADDITIONAL MONEY THIS WEEK WE WILL NOT BE ABLE TO KEEP OUR HOME. I'LL EXPLAIN THE DETAILS WHEN WE SPEAK. CAN WE PLEASE MEET TODAY AND FINISH OUR AGREEMENT? PLEASE CALL ME BEFORE YOU GET AWAY.
Kessel, who may have become acquainted with Good while serving as president of the Chamber of Commerce, had made his personal financial crisis a matter that was a crisis for the City of Hallandale Beach.
And that's exactly how it was treated by Good. In fact, Good acted so quickly that the contract was finalized July 11, 2008 -- a day before Kessel sent his desperate plea. (Wild guess: The two actually signed the contract on that very day, July 12, a Saturday, but back-dated the contract for the closest business day.)
Good could not be reached for comment. Kessel refused to answer questions, saying "I'm tied up right now." He declined to say when he would be free to discuss his dealings with the city in more detail.
In past conversations, Kessel has declined to explain exactly what he did for the city in return for the money he received.
The contract called for Kessel to be paid $3,000 "for work performed during any one month." Since it was a 12-month contract, it was worth $36,000. And the city charter clearly establishes that the city manager must get City Commission approval for expenditures in excess of $25,000. Good did not tell the commission about the contract with Kessel, not even disclosing it when Kessel spoke at public hearings.
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Another email from Kessel to Good confirms that the contract was a home-saver. On July 29, 2008, Kessel wrote: "I'm trying to arrange financing so we can keep our home and I would like to include our agreement on the application. Please let me know as soon as you can as our timing is critical."
Kessel may not have received the full $36,000 through the contract; city records show he was paid just $4,200.
But then that's just a fraction of what Hallandale gave Kessel. More on that later.
Good, of course, was forced to resign in May, though commissioners claimed it wasn't based on learning about the Kessel contract. They said it was due to Good's failure to show up for work. They also cushioned the blow by giving him a generous severance package.