Monday, January 29, 2007

Good Luck, Manatees!

This is a "heads up"-- or maybe it should be a "heads down!" to all manatees reading this blog. Through some slick maneuvering of a rule that keeps commissioners from chairing the same committee for more than two consecutive years, your nemesis Commissioner Natacha "I want my water-- and apparently yours too" Seijas is back chairing the committee that supposedly looks out for you. And "look out" are the operative words here, my corpulent aquatic vegetarian. Of course you know she is famous for dissing your kind wondering out loud on the dais why you're even necessary. So, you may be asking, how did she circumvent the rules? Just change the name of the committee. Once it was known as "Land Use and Infrastructure Committee." Now it's called the "Governmental Operations and Environment Committee." So be careful my obese friend because for some reason she has it in for you. Maybe it had something to do with an unhappy childhood encounter with one of your kind while swimming in the canal behind her house. Who knows? Who can explain how the Seijas mind works. Just remember this: You might be cute to some, but for others like Seijas they believe, to paraphrase Randy Newman, short people and manatees got no business living.


Lupe Luis said...

It's uncanny how you figured out the source of Nutzy's (Natacha's childhood nickname) manatee vendetta. While growing up in Cuba, I was Nutzy's "bestest" friend. On one very hot summer's day, we decided to go swimming in the canal behind her house. Within moments, a manatee was on top of her and trying to mate. Maybe it had mistaken her for one of its own-- Nutzy was always big for her age. In any event, Nutzy kicked him in its groin (where ever that is), broke free and screaming, swam to shore. She ran into her house and came back with her father's shotgun. She walked purposefully across the lawn up to the edge of the canal, took aim and unloaded both barrels into the back of the manatee's head. As blood filled the canal, Nutzy started jumping up and down and turning around in circles as if she were some Commanchee dancing around a campfire. She raised her shotgun in the air and swore in a shrill voice that when she grew up she was going to become a county commissioner and eradicate, expunge, and generally eliminate all manatees from the face of the earth "so help me God!" It was then that I began smiling weakly and slowly backtracking across the backyard before turning and running toward my own house crying for my mommy.

Frank Abignale, Jr. said...

Originally published by Miami New Times 2007-02-01
©2005 New Times, Inc. All rights reserved.

Wicked, Part 2
Need some advice on a no-show job? Just ask the commish.
By Francisco Alvarado

Seijas: It's fun to work at the YMCA

Miami-Dade Commissioner Natacha Seijas earns $52,499 a year as vice president of public policy and government/community relations for the YMCA of Greater Miami. That's a handsome salary and a lengthy title for someone who doesn't have to put in a 40-hour work week.

In fact Seijas's duties and responsibilities are a mystery.

Neither the commissioner nor YMCA spokeswoman Charlotte Donn would comment, but this much is certain: Seijas rarely steps foot into the administrative offices at 1200 NW 78th Ave. She admitted that during an October 7, 2005 deposition. This raises questions, because many companies that do business with the county also contribute to the YMCA.

She was being grilled by Robert Pelier, criminal defense attorney for Nilo Juri. The perennial Hialeah mayoral candidate is charged with four felony counts of election fraud allegedly committed during Seijas's 2004 re-election campaign. Prosecutors say Juri reimbursed people with cash for campaign contributions to Seijas's opponent, Jorge Roque. The case is pending.

Pelier was interviewing the commissioner because she had tipped off investigators. Asked about her employer, she said she goes to the YMCA as "frequently as I'm needed." Seijas could not recall if that meant more than once a month. She affirmed that her salary is unrelated to time spent at work. She said she does not keep a calendar of her appointments or meetings related to the YMCA.

The commissioner couldn't even recall the last time she attended a meeting at the organization's office. "Not that I can remember right now," she said.

So several weeks ago, Miami New Times attempted to find out where she does go every day. On January 12, we spotted Seijas at an anti-strong-mayor rally at the AFL-CIO's headquarters in Doral, where she was the guest of honor. Two hours later, we phoned the YMCA. The president's executive secretary, Carter Parsley, confirmed that Seijas does not maintain a regular schedule. "You're better off leaving her a message at her commission office," she said. Around 3:00 p.m., Seijas's gold Lexus hybrid SUV was parked in its assigned space at her Miami Lakes condo. Calls to her home phone number went unanswered.

At 6:30 a.m. January 16, New Times set up surveillance at Seijas's condo. She never emerged through the front door. Her Lexus didn't leave its parking spot, but three hours later, Seijas was chairing a committee meeting at county hall. At the YMCA, Parsley again suggested we call county hall to find her.

The following morning, Seijas traveled to Tallahassee for the special legislative session. She returned January 18. At 6:00 a.m. the next day, Seijas's SUV was in the same place it had been all week. New Times made several phone calls to her house. At 9:49 a.m., she answered. "Why are you calling from a private number?" Seijas grumbled. New Times inquired about her vehicle. "It's a hybrid, that's why I like it," she said. New Times stayed outside until 11:00 a.m. She never left home.

On January 23, Seijas underwent surgery on her broken arm and spent the following day in recovery. No office time on those days.

Is it possible the YMCA employs a county commissioner only to assure that it continues receiving annual grants from Miami-Dade County, as well as to attract private donations from construction companies and developers that do business with county government? Certainly no law exists barring lobbyists and county contractors from donating to a nonprofit that employs a county commissioner. But it sure doesn't seem ethical.

Since 1996, the YMCA has received $1,706,028 through the county's federally funded community-based grant program. In this year's county budget, which Seijas voted for without disclosing her conflict, the nonprofit received $89,500 to provide before- and after-school care. In addition, the organization took in $2.7 million from the Children's Trust, which opened in 2003.

Seijas served as a trust board member in its third year, but never voted on any funding allocations for the YMCA, according to spokeswoman Emily Cardenas. "Everyone on the board knew she worked there," Cardenas said. "It's not like she could twiddle her thumbs and not disclose her conflict." Furthermore the commissioner has never lobbied the trust on the YMCA's behalf. "We deal directly with their program directors and grant writers," Cardenas said.

The YMCA also relies on the generosity of some of Miami-Dade's most prominent citizens. Among them: real estate moguls Masoud Shojaee and Pedro Adrian. The pair gave $40,000 to the YMCA for its 2006 annual gala. The builders also gave $19,000 to Seijas-sponsored political action committees. Neither man returned calls seeking comment.

Developer Sergio Pino put up $26,000 for two pro-Seijas PACs and contributed $15,000 to the YMCA in 2005. He also didn't return New Times's calls seeking comment.

Only Odebrecht Construction CEO Gilberto Neves defended his personal and professional contributions to Seijas and her employer. Neves was chairman of the 2006 gala and has twice donated $500 to Seijas's re-election campaigns. In 2005 and 2006, his firm — which built the overbudget Carnival Center for the Performing Arts and has contributed to problematic airport construction — donated $80,000 for the galas.

"Our company's contributions have absolutely nothing to do with the county commission," Neves said. "It's a community service. I even donate my own free time because it is the right thing to do."