The following is a fairly complete transcript of City Commissioner Bruce Roberts' dramatic Nov. 17, 2009 speech calling for the removal of George Gretsas as Fort Lauderdale City Manager. Many of Roberts' comments are based on his experience as Police Chief under Gretsas. He makes it clear that, from his vantage point inside the Gretsas Administration, he didn't like what he saw. You can watch his dramatic talk in the accompanying YouTube videos. — Cal Deal

 Time: 9:58
 Time: 8:16

TRANSCRIPT

[Addressing audience packed with Gretsas fans:] The fact that I might come out on the other side of this issue does not mean I'm not being fair, does not mean I'm not trying to do the right thing. I served this community for 35 years. I've been shot at, beat up — that kind of thing — in the streets. [voice cracking] I'm not about to make the wrong decision.

What I'm really upset about, too, is: I don't think the end justifies the means. You can have all these good things that happen, but how you get there, to me, is more important. ...

Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Bruce Roberts

GRETSAS DIDN'T CUT SPENDING
— ALAN SILVA DID IT

It was mentioned before that the City Manager is the one who came in and saved us all this money. That's not what happened, people. That's not what happened. Was he astute enough in how to use it and doing some of the right things? Well of course! You, you, you, me and anybody else up here could have done the same darned thing!

Alan Silva came in here as a City Manager who was paid nothing for a year and he cut things to the bone. He cut things out like crazy. ...

 

GRETSAS RACKED UP $91 MILLION
IN UNUSED TAX DOLLARS

You take a look at the money that came in — like I said, Silva cut to the bone, we had a building boom. ... We had increased assessments. We had an increase in the tax rate, as Charlotte mentioned before. We had vacant positions that were fully funded in the budget every year. Anybody could have saved that money!

When we came to our annual report ending September 30th of 2008, we had 91-1/2 million dollars of General Fund balance. 91-1/2 million dollars! That's too much money that we taxed you for and didn't do anything with. ...

And I don't want to sound negative, but I will be getting into some negative aspects because I have a different — I have a longer experience and track record, not only with the city but with this current City Manager.

 

GRETSAS VERBALLY ABUSES
& MISTREATS CITY STAFF

And I did meet with the City Manager soon after being sworn in. ... We went over two-and-a-half pages of goals and objectives. One of those primary goals and objectives — which was even a sore point in those discussions in what I wanted to accomplish — was I was talking about interpersonal relationships. Staff development, and how you treat all people with dignity, respect and courtesy.

And the reason that was so important to me — because as a Police Chief I saw other members of the staff being — I thought — verbally abused and mistreated brutally and incorrectly by the City Manager. And he would have disciplined, and demanded that I disciplined — and rightfully so — any member of my staff or any member of any other department that treated you, the public, that way. But no — that was OK for him to do that.

So I said, let's go ahead let's put the primary goals we're going to work on. Well, you know, it didn't work like that, OK? It didn't happen.

 

Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Bruce Roberts and George Gretsas

 

GRETSAS MISTREATS CITY AUDITOR,
SWIMMING HALL OF FAME CEO

Previous to that experience, by the way, our City Auditor was berated in different meetings with the City Manager. Treated disrespectfully. It was brought up by Commissioner Charlotte Rodstrom, not a couple of Commission meetings ago, that Bruce Wigo [CEO] from the International Swimming Hall of Fame, in a meeting with another member from the public, was mistreated [by] ... the City Manager.

 

GRETSAS BERATES CITY CLERK
'FOR EMBARRASSING HIM'

And then ... several Commission meetings ago, I bring up, on the dais, in Commission reports ... and I was saying, you know, we get our package to prepare for [Tuesday] Commission meetings — it was getting like Friday night, sometimes Saturday morning, because it was so long. ... We've been dealing with almost 100 [agenda items] all the time. That almost translates into about 1800 pages of documents you have to read to prepare for every particular meeting. And I wanted to have those at least a day or so earlier. ... And I was just asking for 24 hour in advance. And we asked staff to work on that. Well the City Manager goes and berates our City Clerk for embarrassing him and bringing up a problem in public like that. That's not what it's about. Transparency. Let's discuss the issues. Let's work toward a solution.

 

GRETSAS' TOP-DOWN CONTROL
STIFLES CREATIVITY

Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Bruce RobertsPeople will make mistakes. Allow people to make mistakes. ... When it's done for the good things or ... reasons of the heart, people shouldn't be berated, shouldn't be embarrassed and shouldn't be made to feel that they're doing the wrong thing. After a while people — they don't do things. I contend that the morale in the city right now is — People are doing primarily what they're told to do. I'd like to see the change and go back to some of the earlier days ... many years ago, many years ago, where we had people who would exert creativity and initiatives of their own. ... The people doing that work — they're the ones who know what needs to be done. We need to get that kind of feedback and feed it up. We don't get that nowadays. It's top-down. It's top-down, and we need to go ahead and change that.

 

GRETSAS TIGHTLY CONTROLS ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT;
'PEOPLE WHO DO NOT PLAY ARE CALLED TROUBLEMAKERS'

Other issues that I think we need to talk about some more, and that has to do with economic development of neighborhoods and businesses. Besides public safety, that's a huge factor — in fact, they go hand in hand. You have public safety working for economic development; economic development creates public safety. If you build it, you create issues where people come and live and recreate, and you keep the criminal aspect out. That's the goal, to do both of those at the same time. But right now, ... we don't get there. We get a certain amount of economic redevelopment — and a lot of those who spoke tonight have been benefactors of that. But there's a lot that we haven't had a chance to look at because the entire process has to start with the City Manager. We don't even get a chance to take a look at anything. Before it even goes to DRC, it's approved of by the City Manager. I know the processes. It needs to be more open and more transparent. And people who do not play that game with the City Manager are called troublemakers and they're not team players.

I've had issues with my own particular district getting something covered like, I've asked for a Knoll Ridge traffic study plan. I haven't had that since I've been the Commissioner for eight months. ... They've been talking about this for months and actually years before I even got into elected office.

 

GRETSAS BOTTLES UP
NEIGHBORHOOD DEVELOPMENT

Neighborhood Development Criteria Revision ... we've asked to have that done. We've had big town hall meetings on what's going to be done with that. We're supposed to have another big town hall meeting in November. We're already passed November. We didn't get there. And that's because it may not meet the certain criteria, or what the Manager wants to see. It's not what the people want to see and what the Commission wants to see. It's not being done in the openness.

 

'UNETHICAL, AND BORDERLINE ILLEGAL'
CONDUCT IN FEDERAL COURT

Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Bruce RobertsAnother issue. A lot of people talked about integrity issues. It was an Assistant Chief who came up here, who retired. Yeah, it's another P.D. issue, and I'm proud to be a member of the Police Department, that integrity is such an important aspect of what we do.

During that OAS conference that was brought to this city ... It was a big thing for the city. Organization of American States, the first time in 25 or 30 years that the conference was going to be held in the United States. Twenty-six heads of state come here. Huge! Puts Fort Lauderdale on the map. We were tasked ... to develop this plan for public safety. ... Part of that whole process is you have to provide a free speech area for demonstrators. ... You have to provide an area for them to give free speech. ... It was going to Federal Court because the ACLU and other members who wanted to speak felt that they were being pushed off to the side. They wanted to be someplace visible, where the diplomats and the leaders from other countries ... could see the demonstrators. ... But you know, in doing that, ... we were actually asked to go to Federal Court and tell them we thought it should be something different that what we thought it was. That's unethical, and that's borderline illegal, as far as I'm concerned.

 

USE OF GRANT MONEY — WHERE'S THE HONESTY?

Fast forward to ... what's going on here. One of the first issues this Commission dealt was with the police video issue and cameras in the car. One aspect of that had to do with Congressman Klein's $400,000 technology grant. Three Commission meetings we had to deal with whether this thing could be used for other items or it had to be used specifically for the video cameras in that program. Finally, finally we were able to pull out the fact — and our Mayor was the one who knew this and was able to pull this out towards the final, third meeting on that — that the money could be used for other technologies. It didn't have to be used for that specific program. We're the transparency? Where's the honesty in that? And I subscribe to the integrity issues in that, too.


 

SECOND VIDEO BEGINS

 

GRETSAS ADMINISTRATION DAWDLES
ON FIRE ALARM OVERPAYMENT ISSUE

The alarm fees. We talked about that ... a couple of Commission meetings ago. We had alarm fee issues as far back as November 2008 where there was some legal issues, ... We were charging the inappropriate amount for the alarm response fees. ... I think a newspaper article came out that made it transparent that we better deal with this type of thing. The city administration is sitting on top of this for over a year, and then by the time we deal with it, it's after the budget has been adopted. ... Now we may have some potential impact with the new budget of several hundred thousand dollars, ... a loss on that. ...

I don't know what we don't know, and that's what my problem is up here.

 

MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR COST OVERRUN
IN SOUTHSIDE SCHOOL PROJECT

Southside School is another example. That started out as a $3 million renovation. I support historic renovation, but what's supposed to be 2 to 3 million dollars is now, in my understanding, ... 9 to 10 million dollars. That's way over budget. Where are we going with that type of direction? We should be discussing that all the time. ... We as a Commission shouldn't have to bring up these issues and go hunting for these problems. They should be brought to our attention and we should be able to deal with them in the open and in the public and in the sunshine. ...

 

GRETSAS ADMINISTRATION FAILED TO DEAL
WITH $2.5 MILLION HUD PAYBACK DEMAND

I had a different take on this whole issue on the HUD. ... We had to pay back 2-1/2 million dollars of the money that was awarded to the city. ... But you know what? This city administration knew about it through 2007, 2006, and it was finally dealt with when we got called to the table on that.

 

Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Bruce Roberts

Roberts holds up an email distributed by the Gate Mile president.

 

'A LOT' OF GRETSAS' PUBLIC PRESENTATIONS
'TO ME ARE MISREPRESENTATIONS'

I applaud everybody for being here and understanding how the City Manager operates and works. A lot of that does have to do with his presentations that he makes to the public. But a lot of those presentations, to me, are misrepresentations. A case in point that I became aware of fairly recently was when he made a presentation to, I believe it was a men's club on the Galt and maybe some other presentation. But anyway, he's talkin' about pension issues and police/fire pensions. Yeah, it's a big thing. We're working toward pension reform and changing that because cities can't afford to do that and keep that cost up. I agree with that. The unions agree with that. But that presentation was made where they took the example of one Assistant Chief from the Police Department, with some special circumstances — or two Assistant Chiefs — that they left with a half a million dollar pension and all this big payout. When you look at what the police officer gets, they're pay is about a half or a third of what that Assistant Chief got. The insinuation is made that ... overtime or sick time goes toward those things. That doesn't happen folks. Overtime is not pensionable in the City of Fort Lauderdale's Police amd Fire Pension Plan. Sick time is capped, and it's not a pensionable issue. The employees in the City ... pay 7 percent of their pension costs. The state pays none of that. ...

 

Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Bruce RobertsGRETSAS IGNORED CITY COMMISSION'S
HIRING FREEZE ORDER

We as a Commission wanted to have hiring freezes. One of our first orders of the day was to hold off on the budget and have a hiring freeze. Somewhere down the road we found — well, there's been a little changes in there, we've hired a few people like that and we had to discuss that. But did that come to us from the City Manager saying, "Well I had to do it for this reason?" Give us a heads up — that's why it was done? No. He went on about his business. I guess that's up for us to find out the hard way.

 

PUBLIC RECORDS REQUESTS
GET STONEWALLED

And I can tell you, from working within this organization one time, public records requests made by the media, made by individuals are stonewalled, and if you don't ask the specific, right question, you're not gonna get what you ask for. That's not government in the sunshine.

 

CHANGE 'IS NOT GONNA HAPPEN'
WITH GRETSAS AT THE HELM

So we talk about integrity and those types of issues, and I have a totally different viewpoint of what goes on here. And I'm concerned about the future. I really am concerned about the future. ... We all campaigned for change up here. ... We all got elected. ... And I don't think we can have that campaign for change with the current management up here. It's not gonna happen. It's just not gonna happen.

GRETSAS HIRED INEXPERIENCED PEOPLE
FOR KEY JOBS

And the other issue I just want to talk about a little bit: There's a lot of inexperienced staff that was brought on board. ... And God love 'em, they're great — they're good individuals. I like 'em as people, but they do not have the experience to be an Assistant Manager in charge of Operations. They didn't have the experience to be the Assistant Manager in charge of public safety. These things were brought in. And that's not a proper way to run a government in the sunshine.

 

Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Bruce Roberts

 

EITHER AGREE WITH GRETSAS 'OR YOU'RE OSTRACIZED, YOU'RE PUT DOWN'

When I was the Police Chief, I wanted to surround myself with people who disagreed with me. I didn't want to be the emperor with no clothes. That doesn't take place here. You have to agree or you're ostracized, you're put down. And that's within the government, ... and that's within the public sector too.

 

CITIZENS ARE AFRAID
TO SPEAK AGAINST GRETSAS

And there's a lot of people out there who, quite frankly, are afraid to come here and speak the other side tonight. I received a lot of those emails. Because ... they don't want to be completely cut out of the processes.

 

'NOW IT'S TIME TO MAKE THE CHANGE'

Somebody [Gretsas-Hugger Romney Rogers] talked about you can't change a captain of a ship in the middle of an [economic] storm. Well Patton changed commanders in the field when they weren't doing the right thing and being aggressive enough. You can make those changes. I'm confident that with this Commission, and I confident with the staff that we have, where when we free them up to do their job, we're not going to have anything to worry about, people. We're going to come through this. And we're in a good position. Now's the time to make the change if we're going to make the change. And I think now is the time to change.

 

Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Bruce Roberts

Roberts quiets a shouting member of the audience.

 

GALT PRESIDENT'S EMAIL
'DISINGENUOUS' IN TOUTING GRETSAS

Furthermore, misrepresentation — God bless you, Pio [Ieraci, Galt Mile president], you got your people here, and I know George was involved in that too — I mean the staff was involved. Not specifically George. I know how this works anymore, because you gotta rev all these things up and get everybody on board. [Reading an email] "Galt Mile residents" — this is from Pio to his Galt people — "Galt Mile residents did not suffer" — that's "did not" in caps — "municipal millage increase because George successfully implemented a reserve fund over the objections of Commissioners that wanted to spend the money as fast as it was collected." C'mon. That's disingenuous to say the least. This Commission is not going to waste any money.

[Man shouts from audience] ... It was a previous Commission. It happened in two thousand [inaudible]

MAYOR SEILER: Uh hold on. Hey, hey. Listen, no one interrupted anybody, let's —

MAN: He's pointing to —

SEILER: 'Scuse me. Hold on. No one —

ROBERTS: Well your email is dated on October 28th, 2009 and it doesn't say anything in the entire email, and I'll pass this around to the Commission. Anybody in the public who wants to read this, I'll send it to anybody. It doesn't say anything about the previous Commission. And that's what you used to get your people here.

MAN: Commissioner —

ROBERTS: Don't — Look, I'm not going to argue with — you spoke. I'm speaking now, and I feel very passionate about what's being done up here, and I think it's wrong. And that's why I talk about integrity, and the end does not justify the means here.

 

WRONG! WRONG! WRONG!

Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Bruce RobertsI cannot support a City Manager who does not reflect the values of this city and this Commission and will not implement the policy of this Commission. I am not going to support a City Manager who is going to do his own policy, stonewall things. ... He tells people we set policy, but he's the bureaucracy and he will determine how that policy is implemented. Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! The way it was spoken tonight, we might as well all go home. You only need one Commissioner up here — you need the City Manager. Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Things are out of skew. Things need to be put back in place. In fact, I'd like to make a motion that we not renew any contract with the City Manager.

[Applause] COMMISSIONER RODSTROM: I'll second the motion. [Motion later passed 3-2 with the support of Mayor Seiler.]

 

 

 

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Cal Deal
1317 SE 2nd Ave.
Fort Lauderdale 33316

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