When you attempt to ask Village Council members, or even Village officials questions the odds are that you will be told that either they don't do questions and answers, or that the law says that they don't have to do whatever it is that you asked them about.
Take for instance last week's Council Meeting, where several issues were discussed that I felt merited both comments and/or questions.
I'll get to Councilman Zelkowitz in due order, but first I want to once again address the issue about the refusal of Council members to answer questions, especially questions that would go a long way towards providing the kind of transparency and communication that they all talked about practicing during the last election campaign season.
One of the items discussed at last week's meeting was an item that required the Village to create a new plat for the piece of the parking lot behind the office building on 97th Street where the new pumping station was built as part of the sewer project. The Village was required as part of the construction process to turn over the land under which all the various parts of the sewer system are situated to the county, and this was the explained as part of that process.
Because I have previously written about the problems associated with the sewer project, and because in response to my story several folks had commented on Facebook, or to me personally about the problems that they had encountered in their efforts to open a new business, and also because I had become aware that none of the storefronts have yet been hooked up to the sewer system, I thought it relevant to ask whether this action by the Village Council represented the last step in this lengthly process.
The question was one that I thought was not only simple and straightforward, but also one that would provide some information to anyone attending or watching the meeting and who had an interest in seeing the this project finally completed.
Here is what I asked, and the answer I got.
Yes, it's true that I could ask my questions before or after a Council meeting, but one of the purposes of a Council meeting is that it is a public meeting where information is supposed to be conveyed to the residents about the activities going on in the Village.
Given that the process involving the installation of a sewer system goes back to at least 2013 - and probably further back - and that the residents have already had several million of their tax dollars spent in paying for the system to be installed, any information provided by the elected officials and/or someone such as the Village Manager answering a question as to whether the vote on this item represented some sort of finality to the required steps leading to the store hookups, I think was not only warranted, but worthy of an answer.
And just so that we're clear, there is no legal restriction that says that elected officials cannot be asked or answer questions during the course of a public meeting.
Let me emphasis that. There is no law in Florida that says that members of a public body during the course of a public meeting CANNOT answer a question.
Which brings me to Councilman Zelkowitz, and his refusal to answer a question as to where he lives.
At the end of the meeting, during public comments I stood to speak on two issues. The first was a letter I had written to the Council members recommending that they pass a Resolution to authorize an audit of the company that has the country club/golf course lease. The Village has never conducted an independent audit of the books of this company in all the years going back to 1990, when they originally got the contract, and I thought, and think that it's way past due to have an audit done so we know just what kind of money this company actually makes from "our" golf course. (If you're not aware of the $585,980.60 loss of revenue that we incurred after the Village Manager and Village Attorney Attorney renegotiated the contract, you can read my story HERE.)
The second issue I spoke about concerned a second letter I had sent the Council about the unethical behavior exhibited by Councilman Zelkowitz when he cast an illegal vote on behalf of a company that he and his law firm were under contract to as "consultants" getting a contract from the Village, and the issue of his not living in the Village since August of 2016, when he signed over all rights to his house as part of a divorce settlement.
Here is the portion of the video of the Council meeting - that I've edited - that I addressed to Councilman Zelkowitz directly about his residence in the Village.
THE VILLAGE BY THE BAY
AT THE LAST COUNCIL MEETING, COUNCILMAN STEVEN ZELKOWITZ WAS ASKED WHERE HE LIVES. THE MINUTES OF THE MEETING FAIL TO REVEAL THAT HE WAS ASKED THAT QUESTION, AND REFUSED TO ANSWER, WHICH IN TURN REPRESENTS JUST ONE OF SEVERAL PROBLEMS WITH THE WAY THAT THE VILLAGE COUNCIL CONDUCTS BUSINESS IN THE 21ST CENTURY
MAY 24, 2017
A CRESPOGRAM SPECIAL SERIES
Below is the portion of the official minutes of the Council meeting that reports on the public comments.
You will see that while I am credited with speaking about "the County Club lease agreement - and not about about the Village Council authorizing an audit, there is absolutely NO MENTION about the issue I raised about Councilman Zelkowitz not living in the Village, or telling me - and in the process telling all of the residents - that where he lived was "None of your business."
While It's true that official minutes of public meetings do not have to be verbatim transcriptions, the fact of the matter is that when you have a Village government that refuses to address legitimate questions raised by citizens at public meetings, engages in behind-the-scenes efforts to evade the Sunshine Law - and yes, that is going on, and I've been told how it is being done - and chooses to provide less, and not more information about any number of issues, then there is ample reason to believe that something shady is going on, because nobody spends $15,000, $20,000 or $30,000 - even if it's largely other people's money - to get elected to a $1 a year position, that comes with no staff, no office, no phone, and no obligation to be honest and truthful if there isn't the possibility that there are hidden agendas at play.