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MIAMI MIRROR TRUE REFLECTIONS

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HAPPY HALLOWEEN SIGN
BY
MIAMI MIRROR TRUE REFLECTIONS

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THE PERMIT DOCTOR

October 4, 2014
Damian J. Gallo
Damian J Gallo Associates, Inc.
dba PERMIT DOCTOR
City Hall Annex
City of Miami Beach
Subject: Happy Halloween
Dear Mr. Gallo:
Greetings!
I thought of you when I saw your Halloween sign on the fence in front of 1050 Washington
Avenue, one of several hotel structures being renovated on that corner across from the police
station. I noticed another such Halloween sign on 11
th
Street facing the police station. There are
many other kinds of signs and banners on the fences and hanging from the buildings, no less
scary.
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Notice banners hanging from the top of the structure, which is a floor being added
You may recall my May 2012 article, exhibited below, and our discussion wherein you agreed
with my view that permit expeditors and their companies should be licensed like other
construction industry professionals. I presented our opinion to high officials of the City Miami
Beach along with a suggestion that the city require permit applicants to disclose the names of
expeditors assisting them with permitting, that information to be posted to a separate database
field for several reasons, including statistical analyses to determine, for example, to what
degree expeditors are actually facilitating the permitting process. That information might
prompt efficiency studies and investigations into whether any advantages gained are legitimate
or the result of moral or criminal corruption.
I received from city officials no response whatsoever to my suggestions. Quite frankly, they
were uninterested in the opinions of an unapproved opinionator.
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Permit Doctor Advertisement
The PERMIT DOCTOR staff is ready to provide clear information about
permitting regulations and the permitting process, inform homeowners about
permit requirements for their specific projects, conduct plan reviews, and issue
permits. All this is designed to make getting a permit as convenient as possible.
Your firm is the most reputable expeditor in this market. As I have pointed out in the article,
your office in the city hall annex and your Internet advertisement at that time stating that your
firm issues permits gave the impression that Permit Doctor is a government agency or a
preferred partner of the City of Miami Beach.
You certainly should be proud of yourself and the development of your business. I would
recommend that the City Commission express the appreciation of the community for your
contributions, if that has not already been done.
Your advertisement averred that, Damian J. Gallo & Associates is built upon traditional values
born in Miami Beach, Florida in 1990 providing fundamental building services enduring business
success. Integrity, determination and professionalism are vital in the quest to maintain and
enjoy long-term, mutually beneficial business relationships with their customers.
These services were listed: Certificate of Completion, Violations Remediation, Expediting
Services, Inspection Management, Fire & Building Compliance, Special Inspections, Recording
Services, Certificate of Occupancy, Expired Permit Exposure, Plan Review & Processing, Permit
Administration, Occupancy Load Calculation, 40 Year Inspections, Special Events Permitting.
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I wage that your temporary construction signs as well as those of your clients at this and other
sites are not permitted by the Planning Department. Here I see that Kobi Karp and Hogan
Brothers have gotten themselves $25 permit decals over at the garage for their signs, as if they
are temporary real estate signs. I do not blame them, but they might want to examine the
setback requirements of the code. All you need to get one of those decals is $25, no questions
asked except your name and address. One realtor I know moves his sign with decal from
property to property as needed.
I notice that Sign Permitting is not on the list of your services although one of your associates
has told me that it is one of your firms specialties. If that is a fact, then with all due respect I
must say that the integrity advertised is just pretty or specious in respect to signs because the
reality does not match ideality, i.e. full compliance with the signage ordinances. Of course full
compliance would save you from hypocrisy in advertisement, not only in respect to signage, but
perhaps in regards to the services that you provide behind the signs.
According to the Signage Ordinance Scofflaw Theory, violations of signage ordinances signify
the probable presence of far more serious code violations. Signage scofflawry has become a
tradition in Miami Beach because the signage code is not enforced unless someone risks
retaliation by filing a complaint because the signs are ugly, or because the parties responsible
are disliked, or because the complainant is obsessed with the notion that everyone should obey
laws or at least not openly flaunt disobedience, or because the complainant knows very well
that governments negligence in enforcement is a treat to the safety and welfare of the public.
Actually, the motive for reporting violations should not matter.
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Permit Doctor sign at 850 Commerce Street
I noticed your sign at 850 Commerce Street some time ago. My interest then was in the phased
permitting the new city manager and his building official introduced because the city was
incompetent to keep up with the workload so allowed construction to proceed without full
permits provided it would not be held liable for the consequences, with inspections to be
performed by private inspectors hired by the owners and developers. As you must know, some
studies show that private inspections are inferior to public inspections, the reason being that
private inspectors have an inherent conflict of interest. On the other hand, Plaza Constructions
ONE OCEAN superintendent, Bill Suarez, told me that private inspectors can be too meticulous
when they are paid on a per inspection or piecemeal basis.
I see that your customers include Trump Grande, Greenberg Traurig, Starbucks, Victorias
Secret, Siemens, Arquitectonica, Miami Beach Convention Center, among many other
prestigious names, and Kobi Karp, one of my favorite architects because they at least buy
temporary real estate sales or rental permit decals for their temporary construction signs. I see
Kobi Karp is redoing the Plymouth Hotel at 336 21
st
Street for Think Hotel GroupI wonder if
Think is out of its mind for paying $18.25 million for a property appraised at $1.3 million. I
strolled by there on the weekend. Lo and behold, there was another one of your Halloween
signs along with the usual signage blight.
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Mind you that I understand that companies have every right to be proud of their work, and
think if they throw up their signs everyone will rush to give them some more of it. The fact is
that most people do not look at the construction signs though tourists might be interested in
the hoteliers or developers advertisement if tastefulmuch is disgusting. This is blight plain
and simple. Did you having the Planning Department permit this frightening blight for your
client?

State law requires commercial designers and contractors to place their license numbers on
advertisements. Many of same seem to be ashamed of their license inasmuch as they print it in
tiny font or not at all. Is Casa Conde & Associates licensed? If so, can we trust a designer who
either ignores or is ignorant of that detail? What about DQMCORP? Project managers have
been deemed contractors by regulators. Where is its license number? YHCE as an engineering
company gets a pass on that by law.
There is a bottom line to all this, underlining and partly excusing the neglect of industry
professionals and public officials: the signage code sucks. The whole shebang should be
rewritten from top to bottom in such a way that it is easy to abide by and enforce, and the city
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manager compelled to have it enforced it or else. I recall seeing your firm defending itself at the
Special Master court for a nitpicking signage violation in your own office window.
But city officials do not seem to give a damn about the whole shebang, and that cold shoulder
or silent treatment is a scary sign of horrors to come. My suggestions to city manager, attorney,
and commission have been greeted with utter silence.
For now all we have to rely on is the profession of integrity. If your signs are not permitted, I
hope you will have enough of that to get them permitted or removed.
Happy Halloween!
Sincerely,
David Arthur Walters


EXHIBIT

EXPEDITING CONSTRUCTION AT THE BUILDING DEPARTMENT

May 9, 2012
By David Arthur Walters
MIAMI MIRROR
The raucous Tuesday Breakfast Club on May 9, 2012, made it evident that the most vocal of
Miami Beach residents are fed up with all aspects of the administration of Boss Jorge
Gonzalez, which they feel has been an inequitable operation from top to bottom for a dozen
years, particularly in the selection of favored developers and contractors for major projects,
unfair permitting processes, selective enforcement of ordinances and codes, and retaliatory
measures taken against anyone who complains.
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Indeed, it seems the chief complaint was that no one with anything at stake would dare to
complain. Fear and intimidation was the rule, at least until the FBI moved in with a few arrests.
That and its continuing investigation have restored hope that justice would finally be done.
The members of the Tuesday Breakfast Club are anyone who wants to show up for meetings.
They were patient to begin with, allowing the city manager to present his program for dealing
with the corruption crisis: Create a partnership with the FBI; install an inspector general; get
training from the Miami Dade County Commission on Ethics and Public Trust; appoint an
independent auditor; consult with a former U.S. attorney; appoint a cop who is a lawyer as
director of Code Enforcement; oblige city employees to rat on each other and officials.
Almost everyone was all ready aware of the reforms he would propose. A flyer handed out in
advance deemed them a joke at best.
Instead of asking questions about his proposal, people started complaining about their bad
experiences with the administration. David Kelsey, the moderator of the meeting, grabbed the
microphone and demanded voluntary good order in lieu of appointing a sergeant-of-arms. A
mainstream media outlet would later report that police officers were rushed in at that point to
protect Mayor Matti Herrera Bower from tumult, but that claim, prompted by an attendees
remark about her police escort, was absurd inasmuch as the mayor was casually sitting in the
crowd, cheerfully chatting with her constituents, who were not about to lynch her. After all, she
is just the mayor of a weak mayor system; they wanted at the city manager, to rake him over
the coals, to grill and devour him for breakfast.
Mr. Kelsey insisted that any complaints should be aired at the commission meeting on the
morrow, to be held on the subject of dismissing the city manager, and that the breakfast
proceeding would be limited to asking questions; therefore no statements were to be made.
But then a gentleman recognized on the floor began to make a nice statement; to wit, that the
managers proposal made good sense. That did not sit well at all with the audience.
Ask a question! someone angrily shouted.
He was not to be shouted down. He reiterated his unseemly compliment, and then started
complaining about the Building Department. To wit, he had been trying to get a permit to do
something with his building but he was impeded by the Building Departments wretched rules
and procedures.
What is the question? Thats a statement! someone else exclaimed.
But he continued talking about the complexities of the Building Department. I could see that he
wanted to drive a stake into the very heart of the corruption but was prevented from doing so
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because he felt he should play nice because he still feared the retaliation he referenced in
gentlemanly fashion. I shall not mention his name here lest I somehow contribute to his failure
to get the permit he desires.
Ask a question!
It occurred to me that the illustrious members of the Tuesday Breakfast Club had forgotten
Professor R.G. Collingwoods lesson, that the flip side of a statement is a question, and vice
versa. Instead of complaining about the dirty laundry at the Building Department, the
gentleman might have asked if the manager intended to install a clothesline in that
department; which is the same thing as saying there is some dirty laundry there that needs to
be washed and hung out to dry. Or he might just ask how to get a permit given the confounded
situation.
I will answer his question, I loudly declared, and determined to do so even though someone
immediately tried to shout me down. I felt I had a perfect right to answer the gentlemans
question, put in the form of a statement about conditions, because I happen to be one of the
city managers 90,000 assistant city managers.
Sir, the answer to your question is that you have to pay an expeditor $25,000, and then you
shall get your permit right away.
The man turned to look me in the face, and I could see by his expression that he understood me
perfectly well, as did everyone else in the room who had anything to do with getting permits
from the Building Department.
Yes, it is true, an owner or developer or contractor could walk the documents he could not get
the Building Department to approve over to a private expeditor, give him ample enough cash or
a check for a substantial amount, and his permit would be approved with those same
documents forthwith. Well, sometimes it might be necessary to substitute a single document
with another one; for example, an expeditor substituted a plan for an already approved parking
lot down the street for the owners plan, and collected $1,800 for this expeditious service; the
parking lot permit application based on someone elses parking lot plan was approved.
Furthermore, do not worry about the inspectors: among other things, the private expeditor can
take care of the inspection process too.
A private expeditor, who deals with a crucial aspect of contracting, and whose mistakes or
misdeeds could definitely endanger the public, does not have to be licensed by any
governmental agency. Tony Gonzalez, the new operations manager for the Building
Department, agreed with me that expeditors should be tested and licensed. And I believe they
should be bonded as well.
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My concern with expeditors is the possibility of wholesale corruption and subversion of
legislation intended to protect the public. Drug traffickers, for example, tell us that it is better
to be a wholesaler than a retailer, because exposure to a greater number of people increases
the risk of being apprehended. Similarly, two or three expeditors trusted by corrupt Building
Department employees could pay out a percentage of the fees they collect from their
customers to those employees with little risk of detection if the corrupt transactions were
handled carefully. Their customers might even believe they were paying experts to deal with
the notoriously complicated process, when in fact they were favored because officials were
bribed.
In fact, that was the case in Mexico, where Wal-Mart paid millions to expeditors or gestores,
payments disguised as legal fees, to quickly get permits to build out their stores, an acceleration
or subversion of the process they were not entitled to. Wal-Mart officials in Mexico, who were
eventually assigned to investigate themselves, knew the fees were in part used as bribes. One
legal question raised, to determine if the payments were bribes, technically speaking, is
whether or not the gestores were agents of the Mexican agents issuing the permits.
Are Miami Beach expeditors agents of the Building Department? One major expeditor, Damian
J. Gallo Associates, Inc., dba Permit Doctors, who rents space from the city and advertises the
convention center as its client, goes so far as to advertise itself as the permitting authority:
Permit Doctor staff is ready to provide clear information about permitting regulations and the
permitting process, inform homeowners about permit requirements for their specific projects,
conduct plan reviews, and issue permits. All this is designed to make getting a permit as
convenient as possible. (Emphasis added)
We notice that other planning and permitting agencies throughout the country have their own
expeditors to render the processes convenient. Tony Gonzalez and his director, Stephen Scott,
did not respond to my recommendation that the City of Miami Beach hire its own expeditors to
serve the public. Additionally, since complexity fosters corruption, revision of the codes may
reduce the need for bribes to accelerate the processes.
Another serious issue with unlicensed expeditors is that they may engage themselves in or
themselves be deceived by a conspiracy of owners, developers, unlicensed and licensed
contractors, to defraud the city of fees and subvert legislation designed to protect the public.
For example, an unlicensed general contractor may conspire to rent the license and insurance
of a licensed contractor, rent an architects signature, submit false affidavits, grossly understate
the scope and value of projects, and otherwise make a fool of the Building Department and its
inspectors.
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I handed my card to the gentleman who wanted a permit as he was leaving the meeting. We
exchanged knowing looks. I mentioned that $25,000 in a brown paper bag might do the trick.
That would be for the cut-rate expeditor. I do not expect to hear from him because he is a
gentleman in need of expedition, and my name is Mud at the Building Department.
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