Riviera Beach council fires consultant

By WILLIAM COOPER JR.
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 21, 2007

RIVIERA BEACH Although Bernard Kinsey knew his fate before walking into Tuesday's city council meeting, the consultant stood before his critics and didn't go down without a fight.

Just before the council voted 4-1 not to renew his contract as lead negotiator on the city's $2.4 billion waterfront redevelopment, Kinsey, using a Power-Point presentation, defended his contract and character. The West Palm Beach native, who now lives in California, was hired in May, and his $3,000-a-day contract has been kicked around like a political football since its inception.

"It's always been about rubbing my nose in something," Kinsey told the council. "It's hurtful."

Council Chairwoman Ann lies and council members Liz Wade, Vanessa Lee and Jim Jackson opposed the contract renewal. Councilwoman Norma Duncombe was the lone dissenter.


Kinsey

Kinsey reminded the council that no development deals existed when he arrived in May. By December, he had negotiated a $280 million deal with builder Dan Catalfumo.  On Dec. 18, the council approved the deal, allowing Catalfumo to lease the city's 11-acre beach for 50 years in order to raze the Ocean Mall on Singer Island.  Catalfitmo plans to build a 28-story Marriott condo/ hotel and 60,000 square feet of shops and restaurants.  Since then, however, the Public Beach Coalition, a grass-roots organization consisting primarily of Singer Island residents, won a court battle that could kill the project. Residents will vote on March 13 whether to limit any beach lease to 50 years and keep buildings on the oceanfront property to five stories.

The battle over Kinsey's contract exposes the rift between Mayor Michael Brown and councilwomen Iles, Wade and Lee. All four are up for reelection in March. Brown has fielded a team of candidates to oppose the three council incumbents.

At Tuesday's meeting, the mayor said the Ocean Mall agreement would not have happened without Kinsey.  He reminded his colleagues that Kinsey brought his experience as a former Xerox executive, co-chair of Rebuild LA and international consultant to countries such as as Israel to the table.

Brown acknowledged that Kinsey had an uphill battle because his rivals worked to undermine his efforts.  Iles, Wade and Lee rejected Brown's claims.

"I'm disappointed this decision has been made, but not surprised," Brown said.

Last week, sitting as the CRA, the council voted 4-1 to end Kinsey's contract. The council had to vote under both hats because his contract was paid by both boards.  It also had to hold a special meeting Tuesday night because Kinsey's contract contains a clause that required the council to make a decision by Feb. 20.

So far, Kinsey has been paid $361,321, with $141,088 in pending invoices. His current contract with Riviera Beach ends May 19.

Those council members who opposed his contract denied that their vote was personal. They said the contract heavily favored Kinsey because it was signed without any negotiations with the city.

Lee said she spoke with Kinsey in December and explained that if she continued to support the contract it would have to be renegotiated. She was willing to do that after first rejecting a renewal of the current contract.

"I just wanted to end this particular contract," Lee said.

Iles said her vote had nothing to do with politics.   Despite Brown's comments, Iles stuck with her mantra, calling Kinsey's contract a "dumb document."

"I did all I could to keep my colleagues from signing it," she said.

Iles then implied that Kinsey's return might be inevitable.

"Once the mayor gets his people up here," Iles said. "They're just going to rehire
him."

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Riviera adviser at center of debate

RIVIERA BEACH A move to oust the consultant hired to lead negotiations between developers and the city in its $2.4 billion waterfront redevelopment is exposing the deep political rift between the mayor and city council.

As campaigns for the March 13 election start to heat up, the council has called for a special meeting 6 p.m. Tuesday at city hall essentially to rubber stamp its vote not to renew consultant Bernard Kinsey's contract - acting in its role as the Community Redevelopment Agency board. Kinsey, a native of West Palm Beach and former Xerox executive, was hired in May.

 

With less than a month to go before the election, the three incumbent council members running for reelection are taking bold steps to distance themselves from Mayor Michael Brown, who brought Kinsey to the city and is also seeking reelection.

The vote on Kinsey's contract also will come as the council awaits word on whether State Attorney Barry Krischer will convene a grand jury in response to a state audit critical of Riviera Beach's bookkeeping and use of consultants during the 2004-05 budget year. The state's Joint Legislative Auditing Committee asked Krischer to look into the matter.

Although Kinsey's contract doesn't end until May 19, the council must vote on whether or not to renew it 90 days before it expires. The board had to call for the special meeting in order to avoid an automatic renewal because it missed the deadline.

In May, Brown pushed Kinsey's hiring through because the ceremonial mayor had support from three of the five council members.

On Wednesday, however, sitting as the CRA board, Vice Chairwoman Vanessa Lee and Commissioner Jim Jackson voted with CRA Chairwoman Ann Iles and Commissioner Liz Wade, who have opposed Kinsey's contract from the start.

Only Commissioner Norma Duncombe, a Brown supporter, voted against not renewing Kinsey's contract.

On Friday, Brown said he wasn't surprised by the move because politics seemed to be driving the council's decisions lately. He also said that the group is willing to sacrifice Kinsey in favor of protecting longtime CRA consultant PSA Constructors, an Orlando-based firm that has worked for Riviera Beach on its redevelopment since 2002.

Motives questioned

"They obviously have a special relationship and they feel compelled to continue to pay PSA," Brown said. "They are looking for anything they can that deals with consultants in order to divert attention away from PSA."

In response, Lee said she reversed her vote because Kinsey's contract wasn't good for the city. She felt the contract benefited Kinsey more than the city.

"I think we entered into a contract that we probably should have looked at the details a lot more," said Lee, who was the swing vote in May when the council narrowly approved Kinsey's contract 3-2.

As for Brown's claim that she changed her vote for political reasons, Lee denied it.

"I'm not doing this to gain or lose any votes," Lee said. "He (Kinsey) knew if I was going to be supportive, there were going to be some changes in his contract."

Kinsey said it is premature to make any comment. He plans to attend Tuesday night's meeting.

Since May, Kinsey has received $361,321 from the city and the CRA, according to interim Finance Director Jeffrey Williams. Kinsey recently submitted an additional $141,088 in invoices, Williams said.

If approved, it would bring his total amount of money paid him to $502,409.

Jackson said he changed his vote because Kinsey negotiated a deal with builder Dan Catalfumo to redevelop the Ocean Mall on Singer Island, knowing that he opposed building a 28-story Marriott condo and hotel on the beach.

Jackson, who represents Singer Island, was the lone dissenter when the council approved the agreement with Catalfumo in December.

"When I supported him, he knew I was against that 28-story building," Jackson said. "I just think that it's time for a change."

Behind the scenes, Kinsey and PSA have battled because, as lead negotiator, the California consultant examined the firm's work and deemed it not of value to the redevelopment effort. Since May, Kinsey has incrementally reduced PSA's role in the redevelopment effort, cutting its monthly invoices from a high of about $110,000 monthly to less than $40,000 per month.

Overall, since being hired by the CRA in 2002, PSA has received more than $2.1 million in contracts. It is now asking the CRA to pay the company another $831,755 in payments that were deferred when the redevelopment agency was strapped for cash.

Kinsey's contract has been controversial because of his $3,000-a-day fee and other conditions such as the city paying for his rental car, phone bill and office supplies. Iles and Wade have been his most vocal critics, using council and CRA meeting to rail against his work.

They contend that the contract was done with little negotiation and solely based on Kinsey's terms.

However, Kinsey did help the city finally ink on Dec. 18 its first major redevelopment deal within the CRA - the Ocean Mall project.

The deal also gave black residents a clear stake in the Ocean Mall project because Kinsey was able to get Catalfumo to agree to a package that guarantees blacks will receive work as contractors and salespersons on the $280'million project.

But the deal with Catalfumo is now up in the air because Singer Island residents formed the Public Beach Coalition and won a court battle weeks ago to have two critical questions regarding the project on the March 13 ballot. The city has appealed Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley's ruling in favor of the coalition to the 4th District Court of Appeal.

Kinsey has turned his sights to closing the city's biggest redevelopment deal with Viking Inlet Harbor Properties. In September 2005, the council chose Viking as its master developer to turn 400 acres along the Intracoastal Waterway into a dazzling waterfront filled with shops, restaurants, condos, a hotel, an aquarium and marina.

Continuing the project

But the deal stalled after the city lost the right to use eminent domain to take land as result of the Florida Legislature changing the law last year. Viking halted its work on the project and is considering a scaled-down version due to the loss of eminent domain and a saturated condo market.

With the political season heating up, Kinsey appears to be a casualty as Iles, Lee and Wade campaign to keep their seats.

Iles, Lee and Wade have tossed their support to PSA. But a recent audit by the state auditor general concluded that the CRA had paid consultants for work that had not been supported by invoices.

Two weeks ago, against the advice of interim CRA attorney Michael Haygood, CRA board members Iles, Lee and Wade voted to reach a settlement with PSA for $831,755 in deferred bills.

Haygood and CRA Executive Director Floyd Johnson told the board that records did not support paying PSA. The two failed to find documentation that showed the CRA board actually approved deferring any payments.

On Friday, Johnson said he and Haygood were still negotiating with PSA. They expect to bring a possible settlement back to the board at its Feb. 28 CRA meeting.

Brown, meanwhile, said that what this board does is going to be moot. He predicts the March election will usher in a new council.

"When they get defeated, the new council will retool itself," Brown said.