Thursday, May 21, 2020

covid-19 disaster pay lines Florida Keys county government deep state bubba pockets

Florida Keys county government bubba deep state covid-19 $$$ benefit bonanza was unearthed by my dear friends Naja and Arnaud Girard, who publish status-quo-boat-rocker Key West the News Paper. The first part of their report, below, exposes the bad boys and gals. Then is link to the entire report. Then are seriously agitated reader comments, several by me.
by Arnaud and Naja Girard
One month after the Keys shut down due to the Covid-19 epidemic, residents were stunned to learn that Monroe County was about to pay 1.5 million dollars in bonuses to its staff. At the time hundreds of businesses had shut down and thousands of residents were out of work.
Caught in the spotlight, county officials scrambled to provide an explanation. The story was that the declaration of emergency had automatically activated the county’s emergency response pay policy. Under county resolution 146-2013, there was no choice but to pay double-time-and-a-half to staff members who had performed Covid-19 related work even if it was regular desk work.
The City of Key West also declared a state of emergency but when we asked City Manager Greg Veliz whether Key West had to activate its emergency pay plan he said, “The city has an emergency pay policy, however at no time was it activated. We did attribute approx. $17,000.00 in straight overtime, to rank-and-file, hourly employees in response to the emergency.”
So how did 489 Monroe County employees become eligible for a bite at 1.5 million dollars in one month; some of them claiming tens of thousands of dollars on top of their normal salary? According to County Administrator, Roman Gastesi, there’s really nothing to worry about because FEMA and the State of Florida will be reimbursing 87.5% of it.
We decided to look into it. We obtained internal memos, emails, minutes of meetings, spreadsheets.
This is what we found ...
Clink this link to see what ELSE they found: 
NJ Marinaro
"61 low level employees were later furloughed without pay," rice, gastesi, and a slush fund. Is this how we take care of each other, david?
Bob Clark
More corruption in Key West. What a surprise.
Deb Thurston
I lived there in the 60s & no change after all this time. What was that - total power courupts total y?
Sloan Bashinsky
Did Mayor Carruthers and the other 3 commissioners who caved to this consider resigning?
Anna Hillman
Cates fo Monroe County Mayor.
Deb Thurston
As an 'emergency responce worker' for FEMA's CERT, I am bloddy pissed! I am a ZERO paid - other than my ALMOST $15,000 YEARLY navy widow's SS benefite. Who the %*@? do they - at over $100,000 ALREADY are? They are suppopsed to CATCH the crooks, not BE the crooks!!!
Paula Furey
I hope FEMA sees this article. Maybe they will.
Christine Russell
HOW does this keep happening? Everytime we turn around (over the years) we find the county or city doing something totally stupid, if not illegal - that costs the taxpayers a fortune, and it usually is The Blue Paper that has to uncover and report the story. Oh they always have excuses! Like FEMA will pay for it - do they forget those are our tax dollars too! The ONLY solution is to CLEAN OUT the HOUSE - start with department heads and managers that accepted our hard earned tax dollars for sitting on their asses and doing nothing for an additional $1.5 million! Then let's move up to elected officials who ultimataly are the ones resonsible for the POLICIES & PROCEDURES and the BUDGET! Let's not forget Mr Bryan Cook in HR - get rid of that idiot! Let's move on up to the "professional" leaders - there must be some serious problem in the legal dept if they didn't catch this - hell, they probably wrote the policy! And over the years The Blue Paper has caught alot they didnt seem to see or understand. We need new legal leaders! And as for Roman he is the director of country business and he has failed miserably - and it's time for a change anyway, we need new ideas and obviously someone who can think and manage at the same time. So who's left? Well, thank you Craig for standing your ground and representing the taxpayers. And lastly I would give a big promotion to Kevin Madock - as new County Administrator! He is smart, ethical, honest and very hardworking - more than I can say for many (not all) of the people mentioned in this article and certainly more so than the embarassing humans who accepted the obscene overtime they know the county & taxpayers could not afford and money they had not really earned. God help the county when the big hurricane hits! WHEN will the taxpayers get tired of this inept governance, and employees who have no regard for others, only themselves. GREEDY self-centered losers taking moneywhen 61 of your fellow employees were furloughed, struggling WITHOUT PAY.
Christine Hurley, and Liz Lustberg, were amoung those individuals with ethics and we thank you and the others not accepting what they did not honestly earn.
Is there anyone out there with half a brain, a little intelligence, can read a little, but with ethics and honesty - pls run for Commission, we will elect you!
Sloan Bashinsky
I ran 3 times for county commission, Christine, and in your back yard you told me I was not a serious candidate.

If the gang of 4 commissioners who caved to this, and their underlings who got rich from other people's misery, are not prosecuted by State Attorney Dennis Ward, then how about they are shunned in the old-fashioned way by every person who knows them until they resign and move out of the keys.
Christine Russell
Sloan Bashinsky I recall telling you that people did not take you seriously Sloan. But I knew you were paying attention to the issues and did have some creative solutions. And just so you know - I voted for you more than once! Probably a lot of people now wishing they too would have voted for you :-)
Sloan Bashinsky
Christine Russell I got so mad at you that I got up and left the gathering in your back yard, and I don't recall you telling me you ever voted for me, or encouraging me to run for county commission, mayor of Key West, or school board, Quite a "government deep state fights change to the death" education for a guy who detested politics, and still does.

Anyway, I already proposed in two reader comments under this article that the 4 county commissioners and the underling county employees who perpetuated and/or profited from this high seas piracy be shunned henceforth by everyone else in the Florida Keys. I made that "creative solution" suggestion, beause all else I see is ciitizens accusing, waliing, and handwringing, and the bad boys and gals and the state attorney dodging and weaving..
Gma Auten
44 gave up their golden parachute.... I wonder whom else is on the total list.
!!! Publish everyone’s name over $ 100,000. Why not? It should be public record! Transparency is not in the County Admins vocabulary.
489 employees. Hmmmmmm. Did this include the 61 that were kicked to the curb? Scraping together the rent? Eating donated food? How despicable. Makes me ill! I work at the clerks office. I love my job for the past 24 years. Due to age, Governor's order and thusly County order,, AND DIRECTLY BECAUSE OF COVID-19, I was sent home on 3/18. Been here ever since working from home on a co
unty computer with scanner. 7.5 hrs a day - five days a week. I scanning super old files from 1990!!! I actually like it at home. No phones, no customers at counter. 10 file boxes a week. >At my regular pay mind you.<
Safe at home- And I’m more efficient! I’m appalled that Gastesi is confident in his proclamation of “FEMA will refill the coffers”. I think he should print bumper stickers with this on it! And sell them!
Key West the Newspaper (The Blue Paper)
We were unable to upload it when first published (techincal issue) but the spreadsheet is now linked in the article...
Gma Auten
Key West the Newspaper (The Blue Paper) I see now the spreadsheet that was linked . Thanks. BUT this only has a few numbers on it . ?? Where are the names of all 489 OR those names over 100k and above.?? Maybe this is being kept quiet as per MC request publicly last week to “”question publishing names that took the special pay and those who gave it back “”... she also said “ I want to make sure employees are protected!””???????
Maybe this is for another report that you will publish SOON??
Again thank you KWBP for delving in and digging. Awesome daily reporting.
Key West the Newspaper (The Blue Paper)
Gma Auten On my computer when I click on the link the spreadsheet is automatically downloaded and it has all 489 employees listed... Not sure what you are seeing..

Also, keep in mind that employees were told they must keep track of hours that were spent on anything COVID-19 related. The decision to apply a hurricane pay policy and pay for those hours at double-time-and-a-half was a managment decision. When it comes to disaster pay there are systemic issues that need to be addressed at the very top level.
Gma Auten
Key West the Newspaper (The Blue Paper) ok I’ll check again . Thanks !!
Gma Auten
Key West the Newspaper (The Blue Paper)
ANYTHING ? Covid related? Hmmmmmm.... like going to every store to try to find masks and hand sanitizer.... Well that can be a vast list of items, etc. I did find how to expand the spreadsheet and I thank you !
Christine Russell
Key West the Newspaper (The Blue Paper) Those so-called "MANAGERS" should all be fired for failure to perform their duties. It was THEIR DUTY to 'manage' their employees and 'manage' their budgets - they FAILED to do so. Every time we turn around the county is doing something stupid that costs us a great deal of money!
Gma Auten
Christine Russell
Gastesi's term was up this mid 2020 year but I recall some noise about him wanting another term so he could enter DROP?? Can't find the article.
Richard Boettger
Great analysis.
Nothing will change--they have no shame.
In a couple of years, they'll get Craig on board. Danny got tired of his futile, 1-versus-4 efforts for any fiscal propriety.
Gma Auten
And..... the ‘F’ word “ FIX” should >never ever< be used in government, finances or when you are handed a traffic citation !!
Larry Murray
Could not agree more!
Randy Whitesides
I believe that the Officials (elected and Employees) who Promoted this scam can be prosecutd under the Price Gouging during a declared emergency Laws! They charged the Taxpayers a 250% Premium for doing the same, or less work, with ZERO risk. Gastesi should resign immediately, and any Commisioner who supports this Theft of Taxpayer Money should be recalled or voted out of office. This is the second abuse of the law that the 4 Commisioners have overseen. Once is too many, twice is Criminal.
Sloan Bashinsky
Looks to this once upon a time Alabama practicing attorney that the Florida price gouging during emergency law was meant to apply to the private sector:

501.160 Rental or sale of essential commodities during a declared state of emergency; prohibition against unconscionable prices.—

(1) As used in this section:

(a) “Commodity” means any goods, services, materials, merchandise, supplies, equipment, resources, or other article of commerce, and includes, without limitation, food, water, ice, chemicals, petroleum products, and lumber necessary for consumption or use as a direct result of the emergency.

(2) Upon a declaration of a state of emergency by the Governor, it is unlawful and a violation of s. 501.204 for a person or her or his agent or employee to rent or sell or offer to rent or sell at an unconscionable price within the area for which the state of emergency is declared, any essential commodity including, but not limited to, supplies, services, provisions, or equipment that is necessary for consumption or use as a direct result of the emergency. This prohibition is effective not to exceed 60 days under the initial declared state of emergency as defined in s. 252.36(2) and shall be renewed by statement in any subsequent renewals of the declared state of emergency by the Governor.
Larry Murray
Very well done! It appears that the whole issue began with County Administrator Gastesi's thoughtless email.
Jerry-Jeanmarie Mack
absoulty CORRUPT govt! And the crook says, 'don't worry about it, the Govt will reimburse us. We all pay fed taxes so we are just getting screwed on somwhere else!
Sloan Bashinsky
A Key West businessman friend sent me the Keys Weekly report on this deep state county government enrich the bubbas bonanza. I replied to my friend:

"Thanks, read all about it covid-19 county employees extra pay in the blue paper, which tipped off everyone else? Dennis Ward said it's on his radar, but he might not get involved. That must really comfort the people who got paid so much more for doing about the same or less work. Looks to me the only way to actually get the attention of the 4 county commissioners who gave it a pass, and Gastesi and the county employees who kept the extra pay, is stop having anything to do with any of them socially, they are not welcome in local establishments, let them socialize and work with each other. I said something along that line in a comment under the blue paper article."


  1. As bad as this current issue might be - 'Stupid' is the way Christine Russel put it - it will pale in comparison to what's lurking just down the road.
    The County MUST balance its budget. Since salaries are an expense, they MUST be balanced by receipts. When recipt totals are recognized to have crashed, there will be a grossly unpleasant impact on the Personnel Department's budget. They're not going to have much latitude in their range of responses. It's going to hurt a lot of still employed people.
    No mattr how pure their motives or how 'smartly' they try to administer the impending crisis, they've got to have money to do anything meaniningful. Without sufficient income they will not, alredy don't, have the underlying capacity to act - at all.
    Things are going to get ugly and stay that way until the Keys' customer base up North reacquires the disposable income levels that will allow them to budget their next vacation in Paradise.
    That could take years. Regrettably, only then will the County regain the capacity to do the right thing. The underlying reality is way more pervasive, more damaging to Keys people, than any clever stunt 'Bubba' could ever dream up.
    later, Sloan

  2. Sloan, I hope this doesn't duplicate an earlier comment that disappeared into ozone because i'm computer illiterate.
    The gist was: Even though this current County personnel screw up may be, at best, 'Stupid' as Cristins Russel put it, what's ahead for County employees will be more impactful for more prople than any clever stunt 'Bubba' could have dreamed up.
    County receipts pay for County payroll. If tourism remains on the ropes, there is no way County Personnel will be able to avoid further layoffs. Less money in means fewer or smaller paychecks out.
    Worse: Expecting the customer base up North to recover their pre Corona levels of disposable income as soon as the Keys reopens fully is not a high probability scenario. The big problem, the lasting one in the Keys is and will continue to be, way more damaging than any self serving 'Bubba' stunt.
    Sloan, I'd like to say something positive but all i see right now is a years-long Tunnel filled with unemployed Keysians, and no visible Light anytime soon.
    If the County continues to face continuing severe income losses, what can they really do? They can't print money... can they?
    Wait! Let's ask Bubba! That would be Right up his alley.

  3. Good morning, Paul -

    Received both of yours. Cities and counties across America have same problem, but not as bad as where tourism so important. Unlike keys businesses, keys municipalities still have tax revenues coming it, although not as much as before red China's gift to the world. I think you are right that Americans, and Canadians and other foreigners, in the main, can't afford to vacation in the keys, and that's gonna become clear after the keys reopen on June 1. I imagine Miami area people will flock to the keys, and some of them will bring red China's gift and there will be a spike in infections and will that lead to another shut down? How about the county government, in order to survive (cut costs), fires the county manager and the bubbas he gave 2.5 times regular salary for doing same work? When those bubbas run out of money, they can use food banks, rob fishermen's traps, panhandle, fish off of bridges, spend nights at KOTS - oops, it's already at capacity, so they camp in parks and on beaches until law enforcement puts them in the sheriff's detention centers - oops, they are nearly at capacity due to housing federal detainees and homeless people. Maybe the bubbas jump in their boats and hijack a passing cruise ship and turn it into a bubba refugee camp. Maybe the bubbas get a good lawyer and sue red China like Missouri did.

    Over and out.



    "Crypto Bubba legal osprey from Alabama Jack's snatches Keysians from dire economic straits." Story in three words: "Sue Red China."

    Guess all those clams y'all spent passing the Bar Exam wadn't such a complete waste after all. Rest, now. You must be exhausted!