Sep 7, 2022 - News

Miami-Dade Ethics Commission to host meeting in Surfside after complaints

Surfside mayor Shlomo Danzinger in a blue suit and red tie.
Surfside Mayor Shlomo Danzinger during the one-year commemoration of the collapse of Champlain Towers South on June 24. Photo: Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

Following numerous complaints by Surfside residents against their elected officials, the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust will host a public meeting in town Wednesday night.

  • The meeting will discuss topics including "exploitation of official position" and "putting public interest above personal interest," according to a flyer for the event.

What's happening: Surfside Mayor Shlomo Danzinger tells Axios that the county ethics commission is holding the forum to educate residents about what constitutes an ethics violation versus a disagreement over policy.

  • Danzinger said he sometimes receives hundreds of copies of ethics complaints daily — and that he believes they are prompted by a few disgruntled individuals who are riling up others via social media.

Julio Rumbaut, who helped found Telemundo's WSCV-TV in Florida, is among the Surfside residents who've filed complaints recently. Rumbaut tells Axios that he believes the city's commission has a "business-driven, special interest-driven agenda" since four of its five members were voted in during an election in March.

  • He noted that this summer, as commissioners considered an ordinance on new rule changes, including allowing hotels to have more beach chairs, residents circulated a petition opposing the measure.
  • Petitioners fear increased commercial activity on the beach would change Surfside's quiet character and interfere with sea turtles.

Of note: The proposed ordinance received preliminary approval but will face another vote.

Rumbaut also said he and other residents share concerns over:

  • Allegations that commissioners vote on matters in which they have conflicts of interest, and that
  • The mayor frequently interrupts speakers. He recently had one resident removed from the podium by four officers.

What they're saying: Danzinger said the number of chairs hotels could have on the beach had been restricted previously because of beach erosion. But now the city commission is trying to find a "happy medium" to increase the number after the Grand Beach Hotel filed a lawsuit against Surfside over beach chairs.

  • Danzinger said such legal action could threaten the control the town has over its beach, which is primarily regulated by the state.

Danzinger also acknowledged that he runs meetings strictly, and said it's because of the way the prior slate of commissioners acted: "They'd literally flip each other off at the meetings. We had commissioners yelling at residents."

  • If people are unhappy with his policies, Danzinger said, they should vote him out during the next election.
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