Update from Mayor Latham on former City Manager Lewis Velken’s FRS Case

Dear Residents –

The Village has been notified of an additional ruling in the years-old case involving the Florida Retirement System (FRS) and the problematic employment of former village Police Chief and Village Manager Lewis Velken, part of the failed pre-2018 leadership in our city.

You may recall that pre-2018, when North Bay Village was still plagued from persistently subpar management, the previous administration, led by former Mayor Connie Leon-Kreps and her fellow commissioners, hand-picked a number of staff that proved to be under-qualified and in some cases self-servng, including Mr. Velken.

Mr. Velken was first named Police Chief after the controversial and in my opinion unwarranted firing of previous and current Chief Noriega (who we reinstated in 2019). Velken was then named Village Manager by former Mayor Leon-Kreps and that Commission, despite having virtually no experience as a village manager or in any field involving management or urban planning.

Immediately after I was elected Mayor in November 2018, we found a number of irregularities regarding Mr. Velken’s employment, including the fact that the village was paying the City Manager of another local city to advise him on how to do the job. An even more questionable arrangement called for the village to pay Mr. Velken’s salary directly to a third party rather than to Velken himself.

That raised many questions and red flags for us, specifically regarding Mr. Velken’s eligibility to work for North Bay Village under Florida Retirement System rules, which according to the FRS ruling were allegedly not followed or perhaps internationally disregarded by previous elected officials and/or previous North Bay Village staff.  

I personally reported this potential breach of FRS rules to the state administrators as soon as I became aware of it, by January 2019.

FRS has been looking into the issue for some time, with minimal interaction with the village. They have now found that Mr. Velken’s relationship did allegedly violate their rules, and ordered he forfeit a payment that had already been made to him of approximately $700,000. It appears FRS then apparently entered into a closed door negotiation with Mr. Velken, excluding the village from that process.

It seems that a deal was struck with Mr. Velken – one of the principal persons at fault in this mess – to pay back only half of the amount owed by him – money he has already pocketed — while holding the village accountable for the balance. This is an outrageous outcome which holds taxpayers responsible for Velken’s bill while enriching him, especially when the violation was self-reported by North Bay Village in attempt by our new Commission and administration to clean up village hall in the wake of the many difficult issues we inherited from the pre-2018 Commission.  

Nevertheless, FRS has now sent a letter presuming to collect from NBV nearly half a million dollars related to Velken’s alleged wrongdoing, under the leadership of former elected officials and staff who have long since been shown the exit from our city.

This is grossly unfair to the taxpayers of North Bay Village.

My goal now is to transparently advise the public of these latest events, and assure you that we will advocate to exhaust every option to hold those responsible accountable, both financially and legally, rather than causing further expense to be borne by North Bay Village taxpayers.

While I speak only for myself, I feel strongly that the current Commission will feel the same way. Taxpayers have already paid out many hundreds of thousands of dollars in settlements to right wrong doing and bad administration from the pre-2018 regime.

Enough is enough.

Rest assured that Mr. Velken and his facilitators, and not the taxpayers of North Bay Village, will pay the cost of any wrong doing in this case.  

Additionally, I want to take the opportunity to thank you for your trust, and thank the current Commission, and today’s professional village staff for their continued hard work, as we remember the desperate situation we’ve come from in this city, and compare that to where we are today, and where we’re going.

Respectfully,

Mayor Brent Latham

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