By Mayor Joy Cooper
Hallandale Beach - Another investigation once again puts Hallandale Beach in a negative spotlight
Over their summer break, we received some very significant letters. One was from the Office of the Inspector General of Broward County. Our City was aware of the public records request from their office that included documentation on PCAC Palms Community Action Agency, the City and CRA. PCAC is an agency set up to provide job training and placement. Our CRA provided a three-year grant to the organization that provided partnership with training at Sheridan Vocational School, they also were one of the agencies that monitored jobs at work sites to ensure the community benefit program was being fulfilled.
The origins of PCAC began years ago when Chief Tom Magill worked with the Department of Justice and our Police Department to apply for a Weed and Seed Grant in 2006. The Weed and Seed targeted crime in the Palms Section of our City. At that time, they cleaned out a lot drug trafficking and criminal activity. The additional resource sent the message that we are serious about cleaning up the neighborhood and making it safer.
The other component is Seed, which focused on creating opportunity for everyone in need within the targeted area. This included training programs, gang resistance training, volunteer clean ups and ways to create jobs. A steering committee was established with Hallandale Police, Hallandale Commission and volunteer community member and partner agencies including faith based organizations, one of which was Higher Vision Ministries. This was an independent board that worked on the strategy to weed out criminals and seed with opportunity. Linda Cox who has since passed away was Chair in the beginning.
From the steering committee, there were two organizations established Palms Action Coalition and PCAC. PCAC has been working on the mission of job creation. Since receiving the letter from the OIG, which is a preliminary finding, there has been an issue raised between the relationship of High Vision Ministries, of which Commission Anthony Sanders is a Pastor. I have not read the entire report. I do understand the sensitivity of this matter and I understand that Commissioner Sanders has hired an attorney to respond to the letters and findings.
THE INVESTIGATION IS TAKING TIME
This investigation is a process. The public record request was made over a year ago. What will take place next, is a response and then either it will be referred to further agencies or not. I am not surprised, but disappointed that negative political attacks and exaggerations have already begun. Commissioner Sanders for the time that I have gotten to know him, has always dedicated himself to the community and making it better. The last investigation where he was questioned for the sale of his property, his good name was cleared and I hope the same result will happen again.
The second letter, was a letter to the Pension Board from City Manager Carlton. The entire city commission was copied on the letter. In June, the pension board acted to move to begin to repeal the application of the $95,000 pension CAP that was negotiated by the City. They also were acted to reopen drop benefits. Both changes are estimated to cost the City an addition $700,000 dollars, annually.
The Pension Boards Attorney had recommended their actions based on various case laws. Simply put, that cities cannot unilaterally take existing benefits. Two weeks ago, our Attorney met with the board to contradict his position that would wreak havoc on the pension and make it unsustainable.
In City Manager Carlton’s letter, he points out that the board is in fact interfering with collective barging. The CAP of $95,000 with the possibility of 8 cost of living increases over the future years was adopted through the most open negotiations I have ever seen in 16 years. The CAP was presented by the actuary in an open forum. This was unusual, because typically, negotiations are done out of the sunshine. We as a commission, did not want any surprises coming out of the closed-door sessions. The contract was ratified by both unions. The drop was negotiated out, a onetime guaranteed 8% interest rate was changed and we also set up a second tier for new employees.
This change was adopted during the recession to address the pension’s unsustainability. The Police and Fire Pension’s are comprised of both contributions from the Officers, the City and the State Insurance Funds. The changes helped to save money and address the concerns of many residents that were upset about officers leaving with more monthly pension benefits than their existing salaries.
The City Manager’s letter made two suggestions to repeal the changes they adopted in June or go back to the negotiating table. It also suggests that if either does not take place, the only other alternative is a legal battle that will only cost us all money.
I am in hopes that level heads will prevail. We worked so hard for changes to make sure we could preserve the plan. Our Police and Fire Fighters work high risk jobs. I have and will always remain committed to sharing that risk by supporting their defined benefit plan. We must work together to realize with tight budgets that their needs to be balanced. Any money to chase a long drawn out law suit would be better saved and this money could be used to invest in the pension.
Please visit our City's web-site at: www.cohb.org for more information on all of our meetings and meeting agenda material.
As always, please feel free to contact me anytime with your questions/concerns and ideas at my office: (954) 457-1318. On my cell/text at: (954) 632-5700. Or e-mail me at: email@example.com.
I also welcome the opportunity to come to your next meeting to review our budget and other City issues, anytime. Call the above number to schedule an appointment.
• Please be advised that we are officially in Hurricane Season. We need to make sure that our plans are organized and in effect. Please make sure to follow the proper protocol. Remember, it is important to not wait until the last minute. Here are some things to remember to help be prepared:
Make sure to stock up on: Water, 1 gallon per person, batteries, a battery operated radio, non-perishable food items, flashlights, a non-electric can opener, candles, make sure to get all of your medications filled with at least 2 refills in case of power outages. Make sure you have an up-to-date First Aid Kit containing Isopropyl Alcohol, Hydrogen Peroxide, bandages, bandaids, medical tape, Neosporin and Bug Spray. Also, make sure to fill up all gasoline tanks and keep extra gasoline in a safe, non-flammable area that will be protected against the elements in case of an emergency. If you are in an evacuation zone, make sure to find out where the closest shelter is to you and if you have pets, make sure that you either have a reservation set up with a pet friendly shelter, or a family member and/or vet that can care for them, if a pet friendly shelter is not available in your area. Make sure to also have any ATM withdrawals made within 72 hours of a Hurricane Advisory as ATMS will not be available during a storm and Gasoline Stations will be flooded with people who waited until the last minute. You can also look forward to our City's Hurricane Preparedness plans and you can always get more, up-to-date information by visiting our City’s web-site at: www.cohb.org.