Saturday, June 18, 2011

Prediction: Centorino gets post

No wonder there seems to be little activity on the loud and outraged accusations of bribery, usury or mortgage or tax fraud against one of the mayoral candidates or on complaints about absentee ballot fraud: Assistant Miami-Dade State Attorney Joe Centorino, chief of the public corruption unit, has one foot out the door.

Centorino is one of three finalists announced Thursday for the executive director's position at the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust. The three were narrowed down from a list of seven, which was narrowed down from 39. They included former assistant attorney general Lucretia Pitts, retired prosecutors Abe Laeseer and David Waksman, former ethics commissioner and assistant attorney at the city of Miami Erica Wright and Miami-Dade Assistant Public Defender Madeline Acosta. The final sevenwere interviewed by telephone by a screening committee made up of three of the five commissioners -- Dawn Addy, Charlton Copeland and Nelson Bellido -- and four staff members, lead investigator Mike Muawski, Ardyth Walker, Sylvia Batista and Rhonda Victor-Sibilia, the community outreach coordinator. They are charged with finding a replacement for Robert Meyers, who resigned after an internal investigation into claims that he was engaging in a "questionable personal relationship" with an aide. Which, frankly, unless some money or favors for corrupt friends were involved, is none of our beeswax (even if he is married, people, that is their problem) and certainly doesn't warrant an investigation ordered by the former recalled mayor who was embarassed by some of the commission's inquiries and findings. Because it doesn't affect his ability to judge when ethical breaches have been made and to direct his staff in the investigative process.

However, Meyers has been the director of the commission since it was created 13 years ago. He himself did not expect it to be this long and said he wants to do other things. It is time to have someone else steer that ship.

All three finalists will meet with the full five-member commission and the agency's staff Wednesday after the regular ethics commission meeting. But while critics say Centorino ignores cases that will make him sweat to prove, Ladra says he's a shoe-in. The other two are just not in the same league:

  • Ladra doesn't blame Esther Jacobo, director of Children’s Legal Services in the Department of Children & Families statewide, for wanting to do something else. Defending the agency's actions in their many mess-ups (like in the wake of the death of Nubia and abuse against her brother at the hands of their adoptive parents) must be exhausting. And I am sure she is a nice lady who started out with good intentions. But covering up for DCF's ineptitude, which is exactly what her job is, ain't the kind of experience we want in the top county watchdog for ethics in government. Is it?

  • And Former Circuit and County Court Judge David Young, an attorney and mediator, was funny and an important pioneer in equality as the first openly gay judge to have a TV justice show (he did small claims), which is a nice thing to have on your resume, even if he had to act like a campy stereotype. The tagline -- adapted and changed a bit from Judge Judy's "Justice With An Attitude" -- was "Justice With a Snap." I love his commentary on facebook, even the sophomoric jokes. But it's not becoming of a director of an ethics agency to make double entendre one-liners about politicians caught, literally, with their pants down. How does that help promote ethical conduct and penalize those who corrupt the public trust? We don't want the ethics department to be treated as a joke. Where's the gavel? Court dismissed.

So, Centorino really is going to be the best of this bunch. And why does the person have to be an attorney? Really? An attorney has to head the ethics commission? Seems wrong. People like Merrett Steirheim or former Commissioner Katy Sorenson might be better at it. Even Scott Hiaasen or Manny Garcia from the Miami Herald would be great options. They sometimes investigate better than the agencies. Maybe some of our federal and state law enforcement officers that are retired.

But at least with the experience Joe has at the SAO -- and the institutional and historical knowledge he has about people who we just know are going to get in trouble again -- this might just be the right move for him at the right time.

And the right move for us, because someone fresh could head public corruption at the SAO and that couldn't come at a righter time.


  1. David Young would be the best choice. The humor was for his TV show audience, he is a very smart and serious guy. Judge Young was the trial Judge for the drunk America West pilots and his stiff sentence was up-held on appeal. The guy knows his law and is a very ethical human being. I vote for Judge Young.

  2. Joe Centorino has declined to prosecute numerous public corruption cases despite overwhelming evidence of wrongdoing (Pepe Diaz, Dorrin Rolle, Roosevelt Bradley, and Rene Rodriguez are just some of many glaring examples).

    The last thing we need at the the ethics commission is another milquetoast director who is afraid of his own shadow.

  3. still waiting on centorino to charge julio robaina for agreeing to give a county job to pierre rutledge in exchange for luther campbell's endorsement.


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