Deadbeat City

A Letter to the Editor. Appeared in the March 17, 1999 edition of The Miami Herald.

I wonder if the SEC investigators and Moody's Service ever read City of Miami v. Bell , 634 So. 2d 163. A decision of the Florida Supreme Court of March 3, 1994. The following language appears in the decision:

"Holding the City liable for (past offsets from pensions) would require a reallocation of municipal services and subject today's taxpayers to yesterday's fiscal obligations."and:"... but to rquire back benefits for prior years would be fiscally unjust to the taxpayers of the City of Miami"

What happened was the City used an ordinance which violated State law to take pension reductions and kept the money. This was exposed in Barragan v. City of Miami, 545 So. 2d 252 (Fla. 1989). When the pensioners asked for the money that the City had illegally taken from them since 1973, the City hired former Supreme Court Chief Justice Arthur England to represent the City. Justice England convinced the Florida Supreme Court that the City didn't have the money to pay back all the sums it had illegally taken so the Supreme Court decided that if the City had past obligations it would be unjust to make today's taxpayers responsible for those past debts.
I guess a bond is the equivalent of a past debt. So if the City now says that it's past bond operations were fraudulent and money was lost and the City really doesn't have the money, the city under Bell could avoid paying the bondholders because that would be unjust to today's taxpayers.
As a matter of fact, this decision would apply to every entity in Florida that issues bonds or incurs debts or steals from it's pensioners.
I'd like to hear a response from Mr. Tew, the SEC and Moody's to the question, How do you make the City pay back a debt if the City doesn't want to pay?

Mark Zientz
9130 S. Dadeland Blvd. Suite 1619
Miami, Fl. 33156
(Co-counsel for Paul Barragan in Barragan v. City of Miami.
Also represented three respondents in City of Miami v. Bell .
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