Month of January 2010

 
 

Watchdog Report Vol. 10 No. 33 January 24, 2010 – Haiti Disaster Issue

CONTENTS
Argus Report:
How will the horror and destruction of Haiti and its people affect South Florida? blowback expected here but 2010 Census must not be forgotten in wake of the tragedy

Florida: Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Platzer denies emergency injunction for suspended Miami Commissioner Spence-Jones, jurist’s net worth $273,414 through 2008

Miami-Dade County: BCC votes 6-4 to expand Omni CRA but not without some sharp verbal exchanges on the dais

Broward County: Ethics debate heating up with key meetings this week coming up; will county commission go for the gold and follow Miami-Dade’s example?

Palm Beach County: West Palm Beach man busted for impersonating federal ICE agent

Duval County: There he goes again; Gov. Crist issues 34th suspension of elected leader since Jan. 2007

Alachua County: Gov. Crist appoints Alachua County Judges Victor L. Hulslander and Mary Day Coker of Gainesville to the Eighth Judicial Circuit.

Collier County: Gov. Crist appoints Lee Ann Schreiber of Fort Myers to the 20th Judicial Circuit Court.

Monroe County: Emergency Management Haiti earthquake relief assistance sites

Miami-Dade Public Schools: Audit committee meets, Friends of WLRN audit and finances looked at including operating and legal relationship with school board

Public Health Trust: Commissioner Heyman wants focused approach to medical aid to Haiti; all area hospitals pitching in, will PHT be financially slammed?

City of Miami: As of last week all registered Miami lobbyists are out of compliance, have not completed 4-hour certified ethics course

City of Miami Beach: Beach Fire Rescue search teams go to Haiti, part of regions vast response to disaster and devastation in the country

City of Coral Gables: With Biltmore Hotel owing $2.4 in back rent, negotiations seem to be slow going; will the courts get involved?

Town of Surfside: Ethics complaint against city leader dismissed

Village of Bal Harbour: Ethics commission dismisses allegations about past officials

Community Events: Downtown Bay Forum – Jackson Hospital leaders: President Roldan, M.D., & PHT Chair Copeland

Editorials: U.S. Sen. win in MA should not have Republicans cheering, both parties are feeling wrath of independent voters in 2010

Letters: Reader on WLRN interview & Reader on MLK’s Birthday & Haiti relief

Sponsors - Publisher’s mission statement & Subscription information is at the bottom of this issue

>>> Just because you do not take an interest in politics does not mean politics will not take an interest in you. –Pericles (430 B.C.)

knight foundation>>> The Watchdog Report publisher would like to thank the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation www.knightfoundation.org for funding the University of Miami’s Knight Center of International Media http://knight.miami.edu within the University’s School of Communication www.miami.edu assistance to rebuild my web site www.watchdogreport.net that is now on line again, since the previous one was shut down in July 2008. Past reports will continue to go on line in the future, potentially as far back as May 2000.  This institutional support is a major break through for me, and I am deeply appreciative of the help these two substantial international institutions have given me at a time the site was an unbudgeted expense and to keep the Watchdog Report a community education resource, while also being a decade old news service.

>>> I was on Topical Currents, hosted by Joseph Cooper, WLRN/NPR 91.3 FM, Jan. 11 and to listen to the show go to http://204.13.1.19:81/

>>> If you think it is important to have someone watching your public institutions consider becoming a supporter or sponsor. For there is no trust fund and I do have to live. A convenient form is at the bottom of this week’s Watchdog Report with all the instructions on how to support this decade old newsletter and news service soon to start its 11th anniversary on May 5.



ARGUS REPORT – Heard, Seen on the Street

>>> How will the horror and destruction of Haiti and its people affect South Florida? blowback expected but 2010 Census must not be forgotten in wake of the tragedy

“People will not stay in their homes;” Haiti now gets earthquake aftershock, at least 200,000 Haitians dead, water, food needed now, but also tents and other shelters when the rains arrive said, Didier “DJ” Fabien Wednesday at the Miami-Dade Community Relations monthly board meeting. Fabien who knows all the religious and government leaders in Haiti and just back from the country said in Port-au-Prince, when he arrived there two days after the Tuesday 7.2 magnitude earthquake on Jan. 12. There were no immigration or customs officers “and the airport was wide open,” he said. He along with a WSVN Channel 7 www.wsvn.com reporter were the “first to get to Carrefour,” a town outside of the Haitian capital and he found people “dropping off bodies in front of a family house.” He said a four-story school filled with children collapsed entombing the kids in the rubble and the stench of death hangs heavy in the air. Fabien said getting “masks are very important” to mitigate this “odor” and all important government offices including the city hall and post office “are down.” He said before the earthquake people would ask for money from strangers and tourists but now “nobody asked for money, only food and water.” Fabien, chair of the Haitian American Emergency Relief Committee said what is needed is not just cash, but non-perishable food, water, energy drinks, medical supplies, soap, towels, outdoor camping equipment such as tents, sleeping bags, and tarps.

The story of Haiti and its people’s connection with South Florida has been a double edge sword for decades as its people watches Cubans coming to America and getting special immigration treatment versus themselves over the past years. In the early 1980s dozens and dozens of Haitian bodies washed ashore on the state’s beaches after their ramshackle boats sank and that scene has been repeated over the future decades. The nation is the first Black democracy in the Americas, after gaining independence from the French Jan. 1, 1804 and since then. The country’s people seem to never get a break, with corruption, violence and poor political leaders the hallmark of the small nation of around 9 million. Further, the heavily deforested nation was hit by four name hurricanes in 2008 that had left the nation reeling, but this disaster topped any of that misery and loss of life, and also revealed the shoddy building code of even government buildings and any new reconstruction must include the use of rebar to reinforce the concrete structures. >>> Haiti Independence Day Haiti Independence Day, Fatcs About Haiti And The Haitian Culture On nbsp January 1st nbsp 1804 Haiti made history On January 1st 1804 Saint Domingue ceases … http://www.haitibio.com/index.php/2675 >>> Neighbors 4 Neighbors is collecting funds and assisting with donation logistics.  Please go to this site to see how you can help www.cbs4.com/neighbors  Right now, it is all about money, and medical.  You can donate online, by check, or at any BankAtlantic branch in Florida.  Just tell them you want to donate to Haiti Relief and it will go into the Neighbors 4 Neighbors Haiti disaster relief account.

What about helping the orphans?

South Florida has the highest concentration of Haitian Americans in the nation with many of them holding elected office. The 2000 Census stated there were 95,669 Haitian-Americans in Miami-Dade and it will be here many of the “hundreds of thousands” of orphans come too “which is likely to result in a large and rapid influx of Haitian orphans and other children needing assistance into our community,” stated a resolution being sponsored by County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson last week.

Could the disaster have political ramifications here in the future?

The Haitian community after that last census later in 2001 and 2002 made a big push to get a seat on the Miami-Dade commission during the redistricting process but they failed in that effort. However, the new redistricting activity is set to begin again in March 2011 after the 2010 Census figures have been tabulated. And with the now larger number of Haitians here, even before the earthquake. It will be seen if they have the political clout to create a commission district seat that could elect one of their own to the 13 member county legislative body in the years ahead.

>>> What about the Obama administration granting Haitians TPS?

Press release: U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, (D-FL): “This is the right thing to do.  Haitian immigrants already in the U.S. will not only be able to make money to support themselves, but also to send remittances to their suffering families back in Haiti.” – U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson >>> STATEMENT FROM HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY JANET NAPOLITANO

“As part of the Department’s ongoing efforts to assist Haiti following Tuesday’s devastating earthquake, I am announcing the designation of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitian nationals who were in the United States as of January 12, 2010. This is a disaster of historic proportions and this designation will allow eligible Haitian nationals in the United States to continue living and working in our country for the next 18 months. Providing a temporary refuge for Haitian nationals who are currently in the United States and whose personal safety would be endangered by returning to Haiti is part of this Administration’s continuing efforts to support Haiti’s recovery. “At this moment of tragedy in Haiti it is tempting for people suffering in the aftermath of the earthquake to seek refuge elsewhere. But attempting to leave Haiti now will only bring more hardship to the Haitian people and nation. The international community has rallied to deliver relief to Haiti. Much has already arrived and much more is on its way.  The Haitians are resilient and determined and their role in addressing this crisis in their homeland will be essential to Haiti’s future. “It is important to note that TPS will apply only to those individuals who were in the United States as of January 12, 2010. Those who attempt to travel to the United States after January 12, 2010 will not be eligible for TPS and will be repatriated.

“The Department of Homeland Security continues to extend sympathy to our Haitian neighbors and support the worldwide relief effort underway in every way we can. Four Coast Guard cutters have arrived in Haiti, in addition to a variety of Coast Guard assets that were already in the area to support military air traffic control, conduct damage assessments and rescue people in need of assistance. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) continues to work closely with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the State Department—the lead U.S. federal agencies in the response—while coordinating the deployment of state and local Urban Search and Rescue Teams from across the country to Haiti and standing by to provide food, water and other resources as requested. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has provided aircraft to support response efforts. “Haitians in the U.S. who are eligible to apply for TPS should go to www.uscis.gov or call the toll-free USCIS Forms Hotline (800) 870-3676.”

What about the U.S. 2010 Census in April?

While the horror, death and destruction of Haiti is bad enough with a massive global relief program spearheaded by the United States ongoing. There will be an impact on South Florida, and it must be minimized when it comes to the once in a decade U.S. Census. The national count last done in the spring of 2000 at the height of the Elian Gonzalez custody battle in Miami had Miami-Dade County experiencing a major undercount of residents depriving the community of just under $300 million a year in federal funding since then, and reduced political clout and representation in the federal legislative halls of Washington D.C. for more information on the Complete Count 2010 Census go to www.2010census.gov .

>>> New Census office opens: Get To Know Your Local Census Office in Downtown The United States Census Bureau is preparing for the grand opening of its Miami South Local Census Office (LCO). OPEN HOUSE: When: Wednesday, January 20, 2010   5:00 – 7:00 PM, Where: 1390 Brickell Avenue, Suite #270  Miami, FL 33130, Pacific National Bank Building >> This office serves the communities of Key Biscayne, Miami, West Miami, Virginia Gardens, Miami Springs, Coral Gables and Medley. 2010 is Census year, an accurate count is critical in the apportionment of seats in the House of Representatives, drawing of state legislative districts, and distribution of nearly $400 billion in federal, state, local, and tribal funds.  These funds provide street repairs, neighborhood parks, additional schools, and resources, such as, fire, and police services. The results of the tabulation counts from the U.S. Census affect every aspect of this community which includes business like yours.  The demographic and economic census data can be used to locate retail stores, advertise, and improve business strategies. >>> Our Open House gives the community an opportunity to see the office and meet the staff that will diligently work to ensure that our community is counted, and counted correctly.  It also provides the community with the reassurance that the information acquired in the 2010 Census is regarded as Title 13 information as is restricted from disclosure for 72 years, under penalty of prison and fine as outlined in the U.S. Code. Confidentiality is not just a Census Bureau standard of behavior – it’s guaranteed by law. For further information contact: Sophia Donegan at 786-314-7543 Or e-mail us at aa.lco.2938@census2010.gov

>>> Press release: Zogby Interactive: Two-thirds of U.S. Adults Plan to Give to Haiti Relief Survey Also Finds 65% Say Dr. King’s Goals Achieved, but only 43% Think Race Relations on Right Track

On the day when the nation celebrates the sprit and service of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a new Zogby Interactive survey finds two-thirds of U.S. adults (64%) have given or plan to give to relief efforts following the earthquake in Haiti. Thirty-three percent have already made a donation and another 31% plan on doing so. That result is part of a Zogby Interactive survey of 2,003 U.S. adults conducted from January 15-18. The poll has a margin of error of +/-2.2%, with larger margins for sub-groups. Eighty-one percent of African-Americans have donated or plan to, including 47% who have already done so. Among whites, 61% will give, including 32% who have already given. Please click the link below to view the full news release on our website: http://www.zogby.com/news/ReadNews.cfm?ID=1797

>>> Press release: Zogby Interactive: One Year In, Majority of Likely Voters Believe Nation is on the Wrong Track

40% say Obama has done worse than expected, 13%, say he has done better: As the nation marks the one-year anniversary of President Barack Obama’s inauguration, a majority of likely voters believe the nation is on the wrong track (54%), a new Zogby Internactive survey finds.  Included among that 54% are nearly all Republicans (91%), a majority of Independents (61%) and one-in-five Democrats (18%). Only 13% of likely voters say President Obama has done better than they expected, including just 27% of Democrats.  Forty percent of respondents believe the President has done worse than they expected while 45% say his performance has been near to what was expected. Thinking back on President Obama’s first year in office, would you say he has done:

Overall DEM IND GOP
Better Than You Expected 13% 27% 7% 4%
Worse Than You Expected 40% 17% 47% 63%
Near What You Expected 45% 53% 46% 33%
Not Sure 2% 3% 1% 1%

Please click the link below to view the full news release on our website:
http://www.zogby.com/news/ReadNews.cfm?ID=1800

>>> Check out Sunday’s WPBT Issues show hosted by Helen Ferre >>> Issues – A Production of WPBT2 Issues has responded to the community’s need for in-depth representation of local concerns for almost 30 years, bringing together local leaders and …http://channel2.typepad.com/issues/ – 46k – Cached

>>> See what was said about the Watchdog Report in the Miami New Times 2003 — Best of Miami — BEST CITIZEN  — Daniel Ricker –

watchdogreport1@earthlink.net

Three years ago, we said Ricker was our Best Gadfly. Given his dedication and perseverance, this new honor, Best Citizen, is well deserved. Ricker goes to 2500 mind-melting meetings annually, from the Public Health Trust’s purchasing subcommittee to the Efficiency and Competition Commission to the Alliance for Human Services’ nominating council to the school board’s audit committee. Sometimes he’s the only public observer. Object: to be the Public Citizen for all those out there who can’t attend, and to connect and serve as an information bridge among the special-interest-dominated Miami-Dade governmental institutions that seem so problematic and indifferent to the democratic process.

This month his e-mail newsletter, The Watchdog Report, celebrates its fourth anniversary. In a former life Ricker made a handsome living as an international salesman of heart pacemakers. As the hard-working publisher of Watchdog Report, though, he’s struggling financially — this despite the fact that his weekly compendium of meeting summaries, analysis, interviews, and commentary has become essential reading for anyone involved in public affairs. What his written work may lack in polish, it more than makes up for in comprehensiveness. So raise a toast to the man whose official slogan says it all: “A community education resource — I go when you cannot!”


FLORIDA

>>> Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Platzer denies emergency injunction for suspended Miami Commissioner Spence-Jones, jurist’s net worth $273,414 through 2008

The  hearing this past week in front of Miami-Dade County Circuit Court Judge Victoria Platzer to get an emergency injunction on the suspension of Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones was denied and the case will come back before the jurist on Feb. 12. The attorneys from both sides submitted what looked to be about three inches of documents with some being received just earlier and the judge needed more time to review and digest each sides arguments. Attorneys from the state Attorney General’s office argued that Gov. Charlie Crist had the authority to suspend any elected leader when they are charged with a felony or misdemeanor (Remember Miami Commissioner Johnny Winton). But opposing lawyers argued otherwise saying the suspension was not valid, since the crime she is charged with occurred before she was in elected office and is not an indictment.  www.miamiherald.com.

In the courtroom there were a couple of dozen Spence-Jones supporters as she sat passively reading from what appeared to be the scriptures before the hearing with one supporter next to her on a front bench. She is accused of diverting $50,000 in public grant funding by the state attorney’s office. She says she is innocent and is fighting the suspension and charges. She also is asking the Miami Commission to not fill her vacant seat on Tuesday. Further, former local U.S. Attorney Kendall Coffey is quoted in The Herald story that her case is not all that far fetched when it came to the governor’s ability to remove through suspension charged elected leaders and the veteran prosecutor believed it might go all the way to the Florida Supreme Court for a final decision. And if the Court ruled that power given to the state’s executive officer was overly broad. That suspension power could be possible be modified or rescinded by the judicial body.

What do we know about Judge Platzer’s finances?

Platzer, a former Miami Beach police officer had a net worth through Dec. 2008 of $237,414 and she lists $25,000 in household goods. Her home is valued at $550,000, there is $32,380 with Equi-Vest, and two ING accounts have $87,496 and $19,431 in them. She lists liabilities of $289,192 on a GMAC mortgage, the Bank of Florida is owed $131,577 and the College Foundation is owed $31,124. The judge’s income for the year was $145,239 as a judge, she got another $6,000 from the University of Miami along with the financial disclosure, she filed her 2008 IRS 1040. She lists receiving no gifts over $100.00 in value during the year. For more information on Platzer go to >>> http://www.jud11.flcourts.org/about_the_court/judicial_photos/default.asp?offset=15


MIAMI-DADE COUNTY

>>> BCC votes 6-4 to expand Omni CRA but not without some sharp verbal exchanges on the dais

The county commission last Thursday passed 6 to 4 legislation that expanded the Omni CRA to include Bicentennial Park and Watson Island and was necessary to keep the global deal between the county and city of Miami alive. Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado speaking for the first time in front of the commission as mayor told them while he was not happy about having to do this expansion, especially since it involved helping financing the new Florida Marlins Baseball stadium going up on the old Orange Bowl site in Little Havana. However, since it was a city obligation now he said he was honoring past leaders decisions, though half jokingly asked if there was any way he could get out of the deal. The new ballpark expected to be completed in the years ahead will ultimately cost $2.4 billion after the 40-years of bonds and interest costs are paid off. Commission Chair Dennis Moss gave the newly minted mayor a break when it came to the discussion and lifted the requirement that all questions “must go through the chair.” A refrain spoken often by Moss since he assumed the leadership position in late 2008.

>>> Will Hope VI housing project actually break ground Feb. 5, Commissioner Rolle tired of waiting!

At a recent commission committee meeting Commissioner Dorrin Rolle got the county administration to say the groundbreaking for the Hope VI project was going to be Feb. 5 and he is waiting anxiously for he has heard that before. It has been a decade since residents were taken out of their existing homes, and over the years. I have gone to the project for different reasons but the time has come to get this project off the ground and the community will watch if this deadline is met.

>>> Press release: Miami-Dade County Commission passes Vice-Chairman Diaz’s new ordinance creating “child safety zones” to prevent loitering by sex offenders

On Thursday, January 21st, Vice-Chairman Jose “Pepe” Diaz won unanimous approval from his colleagues on the Miami-Dade County Commission after the final hearing for a new ordinance that would create “child safety zones” prohibiting registered s… o… from loitering in places typically frequented by children. The approved item will amend the County Code to place additional restrictions on s… o…, banning them from loitering or prowling within 300 feet of schools, parks, daycares, and bus stops. “I thank my colleagues for passing this item, which I have been working to get approved for a long time,” said Vice-Chairman Diaz. “Miami-Dade needs to limit as much as possible s… o… access to children. We currently have laws in place to restrict the proximity of offenders’ residences to schools, but I wanted to prevent any prowling where children normally gather, especially during the day. Our children’s safety is the utmost priority.”

S… o… found loitering and prowling in designated child safety zones are subject to arrest. The child safety zones would be in addition to already imposed laws, which restrict s.. o… from living within in a certain distance of schools. However, the new ordinance seeks to find a balance between the welfare of children and better placing s o into residential areas, as current municipal ordinances disproportionately cluster s… p…/o… into few neighborhoods. Vice-Chairman Diaz proposed making this law uniform countywide at a distance of 2,500 feet, as County, State, and municipal statutes all have varying distance requirements. The ordinance will go into effect 10 days after the date of enactment unless vetoed by the Mayor.  If vetoed, it will become effective only upon an override by the Board. For more information, please contact Vice-Chairman Diaz’s office at 305-599-1200. >>> Editor’s note: I shortened some words because these would kick up content filters.

>>> County Inspector General report: 
OIG Investigation Results in Sentence of Former Circuit Court Judge Davis, Ref. IG03-75, January 15, 2010.

>>> Miami-Dade Ethics Commission summary of recent meeting

Press release: The president of a small local company that is currently working on the design and closure of landfill cells for the Miami-Dade Solid Waste Department wants to serve as a subconsultant to a bond engineer that would conduct an evaluation of the entire solid waste system.  In response to a Request for Opinion (RQO 09-46), the Ethics Commission ruled that Westhorp and Associates may serve as a subconsultant, as long as the firm does not perform any duties related to landfills.

>>> In a different request (RQO 10-01), the Ethics Commission was asked if an elevator contract specialist with the Miami-Dade Transit Department may perform similar duties for his private company.  Marcos Bermudez is responsible for evaluating and inspecting the work of contractors who install and maintain elevators and escalators at the County’s transportation facilities.  As president of All USA Elevators, Bermudez provides safety inspections in privately-owned buildings.  The Ethics Commission ruled he may continue to do so, as long as he does not compete for contracts or inspect the work of any vendors he supervises in his public capacity.  But, Bermudez must request approval before submitting a bid or quote for maintenance or repair work to make sure he’s not competing with County vendors, and he must submit a semi-annual report of all his outside inspections to both the Transit Department and the Ethics Commission.

>>> An employee who retired from the Transit Agency a little over a year ago asked the Ethics Commission if his new private company could provide driver training and transportation consulting services to the County.   In RQO 10-08, the Ethics Commission determined that County Code prevents Joseph Tomlin from bidding for work with the Transit Agency because his wife is employed there in a supervisory capacity.  Mr. Tomlin was told he could ask the Board of County Commissioners for a waiver to the Code, but he may not lobby anyone in the County for at least two years after his retirement date. >>> The Ethics Commission was created in 1996 as an independent agency with advisory and quasi-judicial powers.  It is composed of five members, serving staggered terms of four years each.  Through a program of education and outreach, the Commission seeks to empower the community and bolster public trust.


BROWARD COUNTY

>>> Ethics debate heating up with key meetings this week coming up; will county commission go for the gold and follow Miami-Dade’s example?

Broward Commissioners need to go for the gold when it comes to having an ethics commission and an inspector general, and the argument that an IG could go rogue is a canard if the right selection and oversight is in place. Broward and Palm Beach Counties should look to Miami-Dade as a model in this area and there is now over a decade of institutional experience. The Miami-Dade county ethics commission and IG have survived the turbulent and political world of Miami- Dade. And that is no easy task in the scheme of things but it shows that it can work and should be Broward leaders’ template. In the coming week, a number of meetings are being held to discuss the final legislation and interested Broward residents should attend these important meetings. For more information go to http://www.broward.org/ethicscommission/welcome.htm

>>> BROWARD TITLE ATTORNEY, MORTGAGE BROKER AND REAL ESTATE AGENT CHARGED IN MORTGAGE FRAUD CONSPIRACY

Jeffrey H. Sloman, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Michael K. Fithen, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Secret Service, Miami Field Office, and Al Lamberti, Sheriff, Broward County Sheriff’s Office, announced that Jerry Arthur Riggs, Jacqueline Lopez, and Novelette “Faye” Hanse, all of Broward County, Florida, were charged in a nine count Indictment in connection with their participation in a mortgage fraud scheme.  The case has been assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth A. Marra in West Palm Beach, Florida.  The defendants made their initial appearances this morning before U.S. Magistrate Linnea R. Johnson. More specifically, the defendants are charged with conspiracy to commit fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371; three counts of mail fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1341; four counts of wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1343; and one count of making a false statement to a government agency, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1001.  If convicted, the conspiracy and false statement counts carry a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment.  The mail fraud and wire fraud counts carry a maximum penalty of twenty years’ imprisonment.

According to the Indictment, the defendants engaged in a scheme to enrich themselves by fraudulently causing real property in Broward and Miami-Dade Counties to be bought and sold through straw buyers, using identities that had been stolen from unwitting individuals.  In order to obtain mortgages on these properties, the defendants allegedly submitted and caused the submission of fraudulent documents to the mortgage lenders.  Based on these false documents, the mortgage lenders issued approximately $2,000,000 in loans to the defendants and their co-conspirators. Mr. Sloman commended the investigative efforts of the U.S. Secret Service and the Broward County Sheriff’s Office.  This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Laurie E. Rucoba. An Indictment is only an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty. A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

>>> Press release: Governor Charlie Crist today announced the appointment of Michael A. Usan of Fort Lauderdale to the 17th Judicial Circuit Court.

“Mike’s integrity and commitment to his community epitomizes the spirit of a public servant,” said Governor Crist. “His extensive courtroom experience, including his legal service with the U.S. Air Force, makes me confident he will serve the people of the 17th Judicial Circuit well.” Usan, 47, has been a sole practitioner since 1999. Previously, he practiced privately with Murawski and Usan from 1994 to 1999 and with Barrett and Usan from 1993 to 1994. Between 1992 and 1993, Usan served as an assistant state attorney in the 17th Judicial Circuit Court. Additionally, from 1988 to 1992, Usan served as a Judge Advocate General in the United States Air Force. He earned a bachelor’s degree from University of Minnesota and a law degree from the Wake Forest University School of Law. Usan will fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Linda Vitale.

>>> Press release:  Gov. Crist today announced the following appointment: Early Learning Coalition of Broward County

Laura Gambino, 45, of Cooper City, business development representative, Waste Pro USA, succeeding Jeffrey Dwyer, appointed for a term beginning January 22, 2010, and ending April 30, 2011.

>>> Thank you for using the Broward County Commission Agenda E-mail Notification System. A new Broward County Commission Agenda is available. Point your browser to http://www.broward.org/commission/welcome.htm to view the new agenda.


PALM BEACH COUNTY

>>> West Palm Beach man busted for impersonating federal ICE agent

Press release: Jeffrey H. Sloman, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Steven J. Mocsary, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Office of Professional Responsibility, and Sheriff Ric L. Bradshaw, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, announced that defendant Newman Lowe, 49, of West Palm Beach, FL, surrendered today to ICE special agents on an outstanding arrest warrant.  The arrest warrant was issued in connection with an Indictment, which charges Lowe with impersonating Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection agents, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 912. If convicted, Lowe faces a possible maximum statutory sentence of three (3) years in prison.

U.S. Attorney Jeffrey H. Sloman stated, “Impersonating a federal agent is a serious offense that can undermine the public’s confidence in a badge.  Citizens can rest assured that we will aggressively investigate and prosecute individuals who pretend to be agents, but are not.” “Impersonating a federal agent undermines the confidence people have in their government when information from imposters proves not to be true,” said Steven J. Mocsary, Special Agent in Charge of ICE’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR). “Impersonation in the law enforcement arena further poses a serious threat to public safety and will not be tolerated.  ICE-OPR will continue to criminally investigate and charge individuals who impersonate DHS ICE agents or officers.” An Indictment is only an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty. >>> Mr. Sloman commended the efforts of ICE’s Office of Professional Responsibility with the assistance of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney William T. Zloch. A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.


DUVAL COUNTY

>>> There he goes again; Gov. Crist issues 34th suspension of elected leader since Jan. 2007

There he goes again; Gov. Crist suspended City of Jacksonville councilman after the city leader got hit with a real estate charge and it is the governor’s 34th suspension since taking office in Jan. 2007. The council member was representing that he had an active real-estate license when he did not. This suspension number does not include Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones second suspension recently that she is challenging in court. But Crist continues to suspend elected leaders after they have been charged at a brisk pace and if I was an elected leader. I would be very careful and think again, before straying over the line of corruption and illegal behavior. >>> John Meserve booked in Duval County jail on real estate charge … 19 Jan 2010 … Suspended Jacksonville City Councilman John Meserve was booked in the Duval County jail today, a week after State Attorney Angela Corey said …http://jacksonville.com/news/metro/2010-01-19/story/john_meserve

>>> Press release: Gov. Crist announced the appointments of Thomas M. Beverly and Don H. Lester, both of Jacksonville, to the 4th Judicial Circuit Court.

“Tom’s record of professionalism and his dedication to justice will help him serve fairly and responsibly from the bench,” said Governor Crist. “I am confident he will serve the people of the 4th Circuit with distinction. “ Beverly, 51, has served as the Assistant General Counsel for the City of Jacksonville since 2004. Previously, he practiced privately with Bedell, Dittmar, DeVault, Pillans & Coxe from 1988 to 2004, and with Gentry and Phillips from 1986 to 1988. He also served as an assistant state attorney from 1984 to 1986. Beverly earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Notre Dame and his law degree from the University of Florida College of Law.

“Throughout Don’s career, he has demonstrated fairness and a commitment to justice,” said Governor Crist. “His thorough knowledge and his desire to uphold the law will help him be an excellent contribution to the people of the 4th Judicial Circuit.” Lester, 56, has practiced privately with Lester & Mitchell since 1995. Previously, he practiced with Shafer, Lester & Jones from 1994 to 1995; with Mahoney, Adams & Criser from 1987 to 1994; and with Selber & Selber from 1984 to 1987. He also served as an assistant state attorney in the 4th Judicial Circuit from 1983 to 1984. Lester earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland and his law degree from the University of Florida College of Law. Beverly and Lester will fill the vacancies created by the death of Judge Peter J. Fryefield and the retirement of Judge Michael R. Weatherby.


ALACHUA COUNTY

>>> Press release: Gov. Crist appoints Alachua County Judges Victor L. Hulslander and Mary Day Coker of Gainesville to the Eighth Judicial Circuit.

“With four years of experience as a county judge, Vic has demonstrated respect for the law and for every person who enters his courtroom,” said Governor Crist. “In addition, 30 years of practice in both criminal and family law make him a welcome addition to the Circuit Court.” Judge Hulslander, 63, previously practiced with Hulslander and Griffis from 2000 to 2005. He was a sole practitioner from 1985 to 2000 after practicing with O’Connell and Hulslander from 1977 to 1985. From 1975 to 1977, he was an assistant public defender in the Eighth Judicial Circuit. He earned his bachelor’s degree and law degree from the University of Florida.

“With over two decades of experience in both the public and private sectors, including five years as a county judge, Mary is a legal intellectual with a breadth of knowledge of our judicial system,” said Governor Crist.  “I am confident she will serve with fairness and integrity.” Judge Coker, 54, has served as Alachua County Court Judge since 2004.  Previously, she practiced with Scruggs and Carmichael from 1995 to 2004 and was a sole practitioner from 1991 to 1995.  She served as an assistant state attorney with the state attorney’s office in the Eighth Judicial Circuit from 1984 to 1990 and staff counsel with the United States Department of Agriculture from 1983 to 1984.  Coker earned a bachelor’s degree from Florida State University and graduated from Georgetown University College of Law. Judge Hulslander will fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Frederick D. Smith, and Judge Coker will fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Stan R. Morris.


COLLIER COUNTY

>>> Press release: Gov. Crist appoints Lee Ann Schreiber of Fort Myers to the 20th Judicial Circuit Court.

“Lee’s passion for justice and her community, along with her experience in the 20th Circuit, has prepared her to be an excellent judge,” said Governor Crist. “I am confident she will serve with integrity and wisdom that will benefit the people of the 20th Circuit.” Schreiber, 51, has served as the General Magistrate for the 20th Judicial Circuit since 2005. Previously, she practiced privately with Thompson and Schreiber from 1985 to 2005. Schreiber earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida and her law degree from the University of Florida College of Law. Schreiber will fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Lawrence D. Martin.


MONROE COUNTY

>>> Press release: MONROE COUNTY EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT HAITI EARTHQUAKE RELIEF ASSISTANCE

Monroe County Emergency Management is coordinating relief efforts for the victims of the recent earthquake disaster in Haiti. Monroe County Government Administration, Divisions and Departments personnel are actively involved in this effort, as the magnitude of this disastrous event calls for an overall humanitarian effort to assist those in need. Several County locations were identified as the “drop-off” sites and Monroe County Public Works personnel will transport all donated goods to designated sites in Miami-Dade for deployment to Haiti. Public Works will continue the pick-up and transport until January 29th, 2010. Citizens interested in donating towards this effort may do so at the following County locations Monday – Friday 8:00 am – 5:00 pm:

Key West                                                Marathon

Gato Building, Conference # 3           Monroe County Government Center

Harvey Government Center                        Monroe County Government Annex (63rd Street)

Key West County Library                         Monroe County Library

Big Pine Key                                    Islamorada

Big Pine County Library                 Monroe County Library

Key Largo

Murray Nelson Government Center

Monroe County Library

Recommended Items: Cereals, bottled water, canned juice, soda, powdered milk, dry food, canned baby food, diapers, clothes, blankets, towels, socks (only items in good condition will be accepted), candles, flashlights, batteries, aspirin, band-aids, gauze, hygiene products, and calling cards. NOTE:  Items with expiration dates prior to April 1, 2010 will NOT be accepted. Monetary donations can be made at all First State Banks of the Florida Keys eleven locations as well as the  American Red Cross PO Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013, or by calling 1-800-REDCROSS, or to the Keys office at 5450 MacDonald Ave. #11, Key West, FL 33040. Donations can also be made online at www.floridakeysredcross.org For additional information contact the Monroe County Emergency Management, Ms. Alary Luttazi (305) 289-6018 or at luttazi-alary@monroecounty-fl.gov

>>> The board of directors and staff of the Early Learning Coalition wish to extend our thoughts and prayers to the people of Haiti as they work to rebuild their communities and ensure the safety of their residents in the aftermath of such a tragic earthquake. We are particularly concerned about the welfare of Haiti’s children who are undoubtedly most vulnerable at this time.  We are working closely with our state partners and will keep you posted as to our role in assisting children brought over from Haiti. We ask all of our friends and colleagues to please do whatever you can to assist our neighbors. If you wish to assist with a secure monetary-gift to help the children affected by the earthquake in Haiti, you can visit our website, www.elcmdm.org, and click on the UNICEF button.  The U.S. Fund for UNICEF is absorbing all associated administrative costs so that 100% of every dollar you give will support UNICEF’s relief efforts for children in Haiti.  If you prefer to send your donation by mail you can print a form or call 1.800.FOR.KIDS (1.800.367.5437) to donate by phone. Thank you for your help. Sincerely, Evelio C. Torres, President & CEO, Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade/Monroe


MIAMI-DADE PUBLIC SCHOOLS

>>> Audit committee meets, Friends of WLRN audit and finances looked at including operating and legal relationship with school board

The school board Audit Committee is meeting Tuesday at 12:30 p.m., on the ninth floor in the main administrative building downtown and the citizen board that includes one school board member is the community firewall when it comes to the oversight of the nation’s fourth largest school district’s finances. This group that includes CPAs, tax attorneys and others read through the sometimes 10 to 15 inches of documents that are being reviewed and it is one of community’s most important boards when comes to managing how around $5 billion in public dollars are being spent.

Some of the issues on the meeting agenda are the audits and financial statements and the operating and legal relationship between Friends of WLRN, WLRN and the Miami-Dade County Public Schools board that actually owns the station’s broadcasting license. Another issue is the over 80 Charter Schools the public district funds and one school, Excel Academy North has “significant financial issues.” Further, another two charter schools have closed, Charter on the Beach Middle and Tree of Knowledge Learning Academy as of June 30, 2009.

>>> Press release:  Miami-Dade County Public Schools students, staff and supporters continue to respond with overwhelming generosity to assist people in Haiti following last week’s devastating earthquake. “It’s truly impressive to see our people responding to the needs of our neighbors in Haiti,” said Superintendent of Schools Alberto M. Carvalho.  “Their kindness and responsiveness in this time of need is truly awesome.” Collection sites, which have been established at each public school, have received an abundance of medical and first-aid supplies, bottled water, and camping supplies—the items most in need to assist victims during the crisis in Haiti.  As of today, 21 boxes of medical supplies,187 boxes of non-perishable food,1,000 cases of water, and five boxes of camping equipment have been collected by school sites to assist in the relief effort. Over the weekend, 40,000 pounds of water collected by the district was flown directly to the island for distribution. >>>The district also is receiving monetary donations through its website, www.dadeschools.net. The district also is accepting checks made out to “The Foundation for New Education Initiatives, Inc.,” with “Haiti Earthquake Relief” indicated in the memo section of the check.  Checks should be mailed to 1450 N.E. 2nd  Avenue, Room #776, Miami, Florida 33132.

School district administrators are making special arrangements to register newly arrived children for school upon their arrival at Miami International Airport, if the airport is designated as an intake center.  Administrators also are addressing the possibility of providing immunizations to students immediately upon arrival at the airport, to expedite their start date at school.  New students, who may not have paperwork or identification with them because of the disaster, will be placed in age-appropriate classes.  Curriculum for the new students will focus on literacy and acculturation.  As of Tuesday, Jan. 19, 60 new students have been enrolled. Special teams are currently assigned to 15 schools that serve the Haitian-American population to do a dual purpose: welcoming and accommodating new students, as well as assisting with crisis counseling for those current students and staff, who may have been affected by the earthquake. A Homestead hospital facility that is owned by the school district is being considered for use as a residential/educational/health facility, if the need arises.  The building contains dozens of former patient rooms with individual restroom facilities, which could be easily adapted for use as intermediate-term living quarters for new arrivals.

Through a collaboration with local elected officials and community partners, the District has requested financial support from the federal government by means of a predetermined spending level that would address the educational, psychological and social needs of these students. “The District’s level of readiness can only be enhanced through the strategic collaboration of federal, state and local entities, both public and private,” said Carvalho.  “Our experiences following the Mariel Boatlift and Hurricane Andrew, as well as the nation’s experience after Hurricane Katrina, have taught us that now is the time to finalize our plan of action.  This is no longer a question of whether children will come to South Florida, but when they will come, and in what numbers.”


PUBLIC HEALTH TRUST

>>> Commissioner Heyman wants focused approach to medical aid to Haiti, all area hospitals pitching in, will PHT get slammed?

Miami-Dade County Commissioner Sally Heyman huddled with local hospital representatives in the commission’s walkway outside the commission chambers after an ensuing discussion on the dais on how to help and aid Haiti during this time of tragedy. Currently, medical personnel from practically every hospital in south Florida is doing something to help out the hundreds of thousands that are maimed and sick with a wide range of medical issues, that has many hurt just dieing on the street. Miami-Dade in the coming months will be ground zero for many of these patients and they are already starting to arrive. Heyman wants a focused effort by the many hospitals that includes Baptist Health South Florida, Jackson Memorial System, the South Florida Hospital Association and the University of Miami’s Miller Medical School that had teams of surgeons on the ground in the early days after the disaster.

Further, Jackson officials were asked to up-date commissioners after some 40 dialysis patients at a contracted dialysis center lost that option, though they could come to the hospital’s Emergency Room where they would be fast tracked to the proper care since the hospital already had a file on them. But, the commission discussion with PHT CEO and President Eneida Roldan, M.D., also touched on the tight financial straits the institution is facing while having an $80 to $85 million monthly payroll while giving $525 million in charity care in the course of last year.  >>> The PHT is having its monthly board meeting Monday Jan. 25 at 3:00 p.m., and it is being held at the Ira C. Clark Diagnostic Treatment Center on the second floor, room 259 and it is televised on the county cable channel.

>>> Press release: Commissioner Sally A. Heyman organizes collection of medical supplies for Haiti

In an effort to expand coordinated collection of necessary items for Haiti, Commissioner Sally A. Heyman, on behalf of Miami-Dade County, is expanding her appeal for donations of medical supplies and equipment.  Hospitals and medical practitioners in particular are encouraged to donate any items that could assist with treating injuries caused by the devastating earthquake that hit Haiti last week. Since January 12th, hospitals, medical staff and rescue personnel have made and continue to make significant contributions.  Commissioner Heyman has been working directly with Dr. Barth Green and Project Medishare. Your donations of medical supplies and equipment will be packaged and sent to Haiti on daily flights through a coordinated effort for immediate distribution and use.  The public is asked to donate medical items, as well as water, non-perishable food, tents, gloves of any kind, and surgical masks.  Donations can be left at County and municipal police and fire rescue stations and County public libraries. For additional information, contact Commissioner Sally Heyman’s office at 305-787-5999.


CITY OF MIAMI

>>> As of last week all registered Miami lobbyists are out of compliance, have not completed 4-hour certified ethics course

The devil is in the details when it comes to the newly instituted ethics training course required for lobbyists passed by the city commission and as of the middle of the week, any person registered with the city of Miami is out of compliance, and that fact could result in any contract approved might be pulled from the vendor since that is one of the penalties in the new ordinance. Mayor Tomas Regalado and Commission Chair Marc Sarnoff pushed for this new legislation in November, and it was passed by the three-member commission, with newly minted Commissioners Frank Carollo and Francis Suarez getting their first opportunity to vote on the dais, that had lacked a quorum.

The mandatory four-hour ethics course for elected officials and department directors is being done by the Miami-Dade County Ethics and Public Trust Commission but for lobbyists. They were supposed to get the course through FIU at the Metropolitan Center under Dario Moreno’s direction, but the classes are not available at this time. City lobbyists since then have been scrambling because there is a Special Commission Meeting Tuesday at 4:00 p.m., where commissioners are expected to pick a replacement for suspended commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones. There is also a regular commission meeting Thursday and the agenda has 26 planning and zoning items listed. A tentative class is expected to be held Tuesday at the FIU location and Moreno along with assistant state Attorney Joe Centorino and ethics commission director Robert Meyers will teach the course, said the ethics maven Friday afternoon. Upon completion of the course, the people will become certified Miami lobbyists. Further, the commission on Tuesday is expected to come-up with some modification of this issue that currently has every previous registered lobbyist out of compliance of the new city law.

What about the commission District 5 appointment?

The four-member commission, still one short, has to appoint someone to the District Five District if they are not to run afoul of the city charter calling for another special election, if they do not name someone by midnight. If the legislative body fails to do so, a second election must be held with its attendant costs (about $175,000), and possible suspended Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones could run again a third time. She repeated her Nov. victory on Jan.12 when she got 53.5 percent of the vote, that had 2,043 voters or absentee voters supporting here once again. The second runner up was Rev. Richard Dunn, II and he garnered 15.7 percent of the vote. Possible candidates that might get appointed by the commission to the seat could be Dunn’s along with Patrick Range, II, to name just a few of the names that might be proffered.

What about any new federal request for documents?

Mayor Regalado told the Watchdog Report Friday that additional requests for documents and records have come in from federal officials. He said the request involved the Miami Omni Community Development Agency, which has an oversight board of commissioners that was chaired by Spence-Jones. Already the city has been dealing with the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) probe regarding documentation related to Miami selling municipal bonds back in 2006.

>>> Commissioner Wilfredo “Willy” Gort was sworn-in Tuesday, family, friends, and supporters packed the event held at city hall and a number of officials and candidates attended the affair. Gort left the dais in Nov. 2001 when he ran for mayor along with nine other candidates but failed to get into the runoff between Maurice Ferre and Manuel “Manny” Diaz who ultimately prevailed in the race. Gort in the current campaign faced eight other challengers but won with 55.5 percent of the vote with him garnering 2,368 ballots, many of which were absentee ballots. Some people attending the swearing-in were Miami-Dade Property Appraiser Pedro Garcia, Jr., and state senate candidate and former county Commissioner Miguel Diaz de la Portilla.

What about Commissioner Gort’s finances?

The Watchdog Report pulled up Gort’s financial disclosure forms for 2001, when he left office, and the more recently one, when he filed to become a commission candidate. The last year he was on the commission his total net-worth through June 2000 was $185,000 and he lists $25,000 in household goods. Back then his home was valued at $70,000, a mobile home in Tavernier was worth $80,000 and he lists $35,000 in cash. At the time, he owed Ocean Bank $2,500. In his current Form 1 submission filed with the clerk’s office Dec. 2. He lists his job as an investment banker, but no amount of money earned is listed. He also gets money from a pension with the city and state of Florida as well as social security payments but no amounts. He also has property in the Key’s and Lake Haven Florida. He has a CD account and savings account with Ocean Bank, and an IRA account but no amounts are listed. His only liabilities are with Sallie Mae and Bank of America. Gort also owns an older Chevy Trail Blazer.

What is going on with former Mayor Manny Diaz?

Diaz has returned to practicing law but he was spotted a few weeks ago getting out of the back seat of a car that had commission Chair Sarnoff sitting in the front seat. The two must have had some sort of meeting, and the mayor and administration first shunned the commission chair when Sarnoff first won the office but the relationship changed later after he was elected again to a full term.

What about senior management changes?

Manager Pedro “Pete” Hernandez told the Watchdog Report Friday when I asked about any changes in his office. He said David Rosemond; the NET director is gone along with another senior official in the administration.

What about outdoor feeding of the homeless in Miami?

Mayor Regalado and Miami Police Chief Miguel Exposito attended Friday’s Miami-Dade Homeless Trust monthly meeting and the mayor told the Watchdog Report afterwards that the 60 or so organizations already involved with the sanctioned indoor feeding program that began in 2005 would be exempt from having to qualify with the new legislation that is working its way through the commission. Since the indoor feeding program for the homeless first started, almost 1 million meals have been served from about five designated sites that also have restrooms, proper sanitary conditions and food refrigeration.

>>> Anything new in the Grove?

Ron Nelson, a senior aide to Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff is going to work at the local NET office in Coconut Grove. It is unknown when he will begin this new assignment but it appears to be soon. He knows the Grove like the back of his hand, was an activist for decades, and has been on the Coconut Grove Village Council.

>>> Commissioners should review how members are selected on important Civil Service Board, three members including Chair de la O leaving

The city’s Civil Service Board members are changing and current chair Miguel M. de la O is stepping down after years in that capacity along with two others and it is a great opportunity to review how people are selected on this important board where there is no screening nominating structure like with many other city boards. With the changing economic times, having a top notch board hearing these complaints brought by the administration and employees that also potentially impact the city’s general funds would be a good thing. And commissioners should create some qualification criteria for people that might apply for this important hearing board. >>> Clerk’s office: CIVIL SERVICE BOARD EMPLOYEE ELECTION, Pedro G. Hernandez, City Manager, has announced that on Thursday, March 4, 2010 and Friday, March 5, 2010, an ELECTION will be held for the City of Miami Civil Service Board Click here for more information

>>> TWO MIAMI RESIDENTS SENTENCED ON TAX PREPARATION CONSPIRACY

Jeffrey H. Sloman, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Daniel W. Auer, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division, announced that defendants Allen K. Smith, and co-defendant Mark Thomas, both of Miami, were sentenced today by U.S. District Court Judge Ursula Ungaro for their participation in a tax preparation conspiracy.  Each defendant was sentenced to 21 months’ imprisonment, to be followed by 3 years of supervised release. Both defendants previously pled guilty to conspiring to defraud the United States for the purpose of impeding the Internal Revenue Service, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371.  As part of their plea agreements, each defendant agreed to pay $380,057.00 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service.

According to court documents, from approximately 2001 to 2005, Smith and Thomas conspired to defraud the U.S. by preparing fraudulent tax returns that contained fictitious or inflated deductions, often for medical expenses.  The individuals for whom Smith and/or Thomas prepared false returns had legitimate Forms W-2, 1099, 1098 or other documents evidencing income and legitimate deductions.  On virtually every return Smith and/or Thomas prepared, the taxpayer claimed a refund that was exactly equal to the withheld amount.  Smith and Thomas often represented to their clients that the clients could receive refunds equal to the amount of taxes withheld. >>> Mr. Sloman commended the investigative efforts of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division.  This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Rosa Rodriguez-Mera. A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

>>> The following e-mail was sent  to (now former) Mayor Manny Diaz using his e-mail address on his extensive city web-page on Sept. 13, 2008 at 9:38 a.m. and to date there has been no answer from the mayor.>>> “Mayor Diaz, I wanted to ask you in the chamber today but not in front of Chair Joe Sanchez. My question is where did the extra $400,000 in the 2007 disclosure form come from? I will run what ever you respond unedited but I would appreciate closing this issue, as I am sure you do. Sorry but I have to ask.  Best to all. Dan” >>>> The Watchdog Report through Dec.7 has yet to get a response or catch-up with Miami Mayor Manuel Diaz on where he got the extra $400,000 in cash listed in his 2007 financial disclosure forms. To see what CBS 4 reporter David Sutta’s take on this issue and the other city leaders financial disclosures go to cbs4.com Blogs . >>> Readers should stay tuned and catch the meeting on the city’s cable station channel 77. >>> Stream Channel 77, for all City of Miami meetings, (Commission, Village Council meetings, Waterfront, Zoning, PAB, Code, etc. hearings)    http://videos.miamigov.com/


CITY OF MIAMI BEACH

>>> Beach Fire Rescue search teams go to Haiti, part of regions vast response to disaster and devastation in the country

Press release from Commissioner Jonah Wolfson – HAITI – The City of Miami Beach is coordinating Haiti Earthquake Relief efforts alongside Miami-Dade County and other municipalities and local organizations. We would like to commend the brave actions of eleven members of the Miami Beach Fire & Rescue Department, who flew to Haiti on January 19th, 2010, to volunteer their time and expertise to aid in this catastrophic event.  We want to wish them all a safe return and express our sincere appreciation for their act of courage. >>> The American Red Cross, one of the largest international relief organizations, is accepting financial donations.  You can donate $10 to the American Red Cross – charged to your cell phone bill – by texting “HAITI” to “90999” or contribute on-line to the American Red Cross, by visiting their website: www.american.redcross.org/supporthaiti.  Donations by check can be mailed to: American Red Cross of Greater Miami, 335 SW 27th Avenue, Miami, FL 33135. The donation items that are being accepted at the present time are: water, non perishable food, camping tents, gloves (surgical & work). >>> Collection sites in the City of Miami Beach are as follows: City Hall, Office of the City Manager and Office of the Mayor and Commission, 1700 Convention Center Drive, 4th Floor (8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.); All Fire Stations (7 days per week/24 hours per day); Police Department, 1100 Washington Avenue (7 days per week/24 hours per day); and the Miami Beach Regional Library, 227 22nd Street, (Mon.–Thurs. 9:30 a.m.- 9:00 p.m. & Fri. and Sat. 9:30 a.m.- 6:00 p.m. Sunday 1:00 p.m. -  5:00 p.m.). >>> From Commissioner’s Gongora’s newsletter: Important City Meeting: January 23, 2010- Land Use and Development Meeting.


CITY OF CORAL GABLES

>>> With Biltmore Hotel owing $2.4 in back rent, negotiations seem to be slow going; will the courts get involved?

As a follow-up to my past story in the Watchdog Report about the Biltmore Hotel being in the rears with the city to the tune of $2.4 million. I contacted by e-mail city manager Pat Salerno and the elected leaders asking for any comments and I have received no reply by any of them by deadline. However, one reliable source said he thought the administration should try to work more with the historic hotel to help it get back on its financial feet rather than ending up in court. The hotel and golf course built in 1926 is a jewel for the city but is also a maintenance nightmare given its historic status. The Miami Herald in Sunday’s Neighbors section www.miamiherald.com did a follow-up story on the issue, and the battle seems to be what hotel documents will ultimately be made public and one of the contentious items is the release of W-2 records for employees. Readers should stay tuned and see how this plays out in The City Beautiful.

>>> City’s web page: Saturday, January 16 marks the beginning of the Coral Gables Farmers Market, to be held every Saturday until March 27. The Farmers Market takes place on the street between City Hall and Merrick Park and is the place to be if you like to buy the freshest produce, gourmet foods and delicious baked goods.  Free Tai Chi sessions begin the activities at 8 a.m., followed by gardening workshops (9 a.m.), cooking demonstrations (10 a.m.) and children’s activities (11 a.m.).


TOWN OF SURFSIDE

>>> Press release: M-DC Ethics Commission: Complaint against city leader dismissed

The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust today dismissed a complaint (C 09-34) filed against Surfside City Commissioner Howard Weinberg alleging violations of the city charter and exploitation of official position.  A citizen complained that the commissioner accepted $500 per month from 2006 through most of 2009 as expense reimbursements.  The complaint was found not legally sufficient because the Ethics Commission has no jurisdiction over municipal charters.  Even still, an investigation found that the Surfside City Commission had passed several resolutions providing the $500 monthly expense stipend and additional reimbursements were allowed if approved by the town manager.  The town manager stated that all of Commissioner Weinberg’s expenses were approved because they were associated with official business.


VILLAGE OF BAL HARBOUR

>>> Press release: M-DC Ethics Commission: Complaint against city leader dismissed

A complaint (C 10-01) filed against a dozen current and former elected officials, employees and attorneys of the Village of Bal Harbour was also dismissed because it was found not legally sufficient.  A resident had alleged violations of the municipality’s election code related to the residency of a councilwoman as well as improprieties associated with homeowner assessments and the issuance of a title and building permits for one property. The Ethics Commission has no jurisdiction to enforce municipal election law and found no violation of the Code of Ethics in the other sections of the complaint.


COMMUNITY EVENTS

>>> The Downtown Bay Forum www.downtownbayforum.com INVITES YOU TO OUR LUNCHEON MEETING ON WEDNESDAY JANUARY 27, 2010–11:30 AM >>> JACKSON MEMORIAL HOSPITAL -  HOW WILL IT SURVIVE? -WHERE WILL THE FUNDS COME FROM? >>> SPEAKERS:  ENEIDA O. ROLDAN, MD, MPH, MBA, PRESIDENT & CEO PUBLIC HEATH TRUST & JACKSON HEALTH SYSTEM – JOHN H. COPELAND, III, CHAIRMAN OF THE PUBLIC HEALTH TRUST – MODERATOR: HELEN FERRE- CHANNEL 2 TALK SHOW HOST >>> MARRIOTT HOTEL–1633 N. BAYSHORE DR., MIAMI, $5.00 Valet Parking Available at Marriott Hotel Call ANNETTE EISENBERG (305)757-3633 Fax (305)754-2015 >> RESERVATIONS REQUIRED >> Membership Application &/or Luncheon Reservation (please print clearly) Name: _________________________________ Business:    _____________

Address:    ________________________ Phone No: _____________E-mail ___________________ Fax  No. ______________$30 Membership     ­­­___ $22 Lunch, member w/reservation   __ $52 Membership & Lunch   __$26  Non-Member or Member without reservation if space is available  ___$250 Table of 10 DOWNTOWN BAY FORUM   P.O. Box 371633, Miami, FL 33137-1633


EDITORIAL

>>> U.S. Sen. win in MA should not have Republicans cheering, both parties are feeling wrath of independent voters in 2010

The victory of state Sen. Scott P. Brown, R-Wrentham over his Democratic Party challenger Martha Coakley for the U.S. senate race in Massachusetts filling the seat held for 46-years by Ted Kennedy is the continuance of voter rage over the way things are going in Washington. And while it looks too many that the Republican Party is making a comeback with recent wins in Virginia and New Jersey, both political party’s better beware because voter discontent is blind after both groups leaders have been going on a taxpayer-spending spree for the past decade. Voters, especially the no party affiliation independents is the fastest growing party here in Florida and these elections have these folks using their ballot to signal both parties to get down to business, that includes bringing down the nation’s all time high debt, rampant unemployment over 11 percent here in the Sunshine State, terrorism, and finally were appalled at the new federal healthcare legislation that came in at over 2,000 pages.

Political deals seems to be the currency of the day with even Nebraska getting a sweet deal on the national healthcare bill, while the other 49 states are left out and even that was not considered out of line and that is what sends people through the roof. Voters, when they voted for change in 2008 thought with President Barack Obama he would break some of that insider Washington Beltway mold but that has not happened and the national healthcare bill appears to be dead in its present form that confused experts, much less the average citizen. The nation has many challenges ahead and it behooves both political party elected leaders that as an incumbent. Your seat may not be as safe as you think if a viable challenger emerges in 2010 and over the past months a number of Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress have announced their intention to step down, that for a few included leaving office prior to the end of their elected terms like former Sen. Mel Martinez and a local South Florida Democratic congressman. Further, the rise of people having tea parties protesting is just a symptom of the much larger issue that also includes rampant government waste with Medicare fraud the poster child of this problem locally and  nationally but it just keeps going on. No one said being a Republic was easy when our nation’s Founders crafted the constitution but it is the best form of government with freedoms only dreamed of for many people throughout the world. However, now is the time elected leaders to step-up, show true leadership and offer solutions for some of the most vexing problems we all as Americans face. For if there ever was a time to consider what Mohandas Gandhi said for the good of the nation that is now. “Make it the strength of your argument and not the stridency of your voice,” he said.


LETTERS

>>> Reader on WLRN interview & Reader on MLK’s Birthday & Haiti relief

>>> Enjoyed your interview on Topical Currents today. Yes, it is too bad investigative journalism and journalism/newspapers/printed matter in general has declined…especially due to the Internet. As an undergrad, I remember taking a great course in Propaganda.  I suppose we have a lot of that today. I also grew up when the news was news and not entertainment…sad that the lines have blurred. Paddy Chayefsky was so right in the 60′s…so was Isaac Asimov and George Orwell. Can some responsible journalism professionals take back control?

>>>>Today our family honored Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and remembered his legacy of freedom from oppression and equal justice.  We reflected on Dr. King’s belief that the world could be made a better place through community involvement and service.  In the wake of the devastating earthquake in Haiti, Dr. King’s words have been suddenly and violently brought to the forefront: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”  The outpouring of support from our community to help the people of Haiti has displayed a charity and generosity reminiscent of Dr. King’s spirit, but relief efforts are far from over.  If you have not done so already, please consider making a monetary donation to Operation Helping Hands (a joint project of The Miami Herald and United Way-Miami), Catholic Relief Services, the American Red Cross, or visit a drop-off location listed on The Miami Herald Web site and donate much-needed items to one of the many organizations across South Florida that are taking collections for Haiti.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s passion serves as an inspiration to us that the efforts of one person can change the course of history.  Join us in honoring Dr. King and the spirit of compassion he embodied, by making a difference in the lives of those in need today.

Jorge Luis Lopez
Miami

>>> Publisher’s Statement on the mission of the Watchdog Report and the special people and organizations that make it possible:  Government Subscribers/Corporate Subscribers/Sustaining Sponsors/Supporting Sponsors

***** LIFETIME FOUNDING MEMBERS & Initial sponsors since 2000

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***** Watchdog Report supporters – $2,000 a year

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***** Watchdog Report supporters – $1,000 a year

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LINDA MURPHY: Gave a new laptop in Oct. 2001 to keep me going.

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***** Public & Educational institutions – subscribers at $1,000 or less

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The Watchdog Report covers a few of the meetings attended weekly. It remains my belief that an informed public will make better decisions. Therefore, I go to meetings, make the presence of an informed citizen known, and bring the information to you.   The Watchdog Report is in the fourth year of publication and it has been an honor to be able to send this information to you. It is sent to readers in Miami-Dade, Florida, the U.S. and the world. The Watchdog Report is sent to thousands free and while readers have been prodded to subscribe the results have been mixed. Over 250 reports and Extra’s have been sent since May 5, 2000 and over one million words have been written on our community’s governments and events.  The report is an original work based on information gathered at public meetings, interviews and from documents in the public domain.


LETTER POLICY

I welcome letters via e-mail, fax, or snail mail. Letters may be edited for length or clarity and must refer to material published in the Watchdog Report.  Please see address and contact information. Please send any additions and corrections by e-mail, fax or snail mail. All corrections will be published in the next Watchdog Report. If you or your organization would like to publish the contents of this newsletter, please contact me. Please send your request to watchdogreport1@earthlink.net

Daniel A. Ricker
Publisher & Editor
Watchdog Report
Est. 05.05.00
Copyright © of original material, 2009, Daniel A. Ricker

>>> Watchdog Report is expanding as a new service and this content is now available to other news media, no longer exclusive to The Miami Herald

The Watchdog Report is no longer exclusively with The Miami Herald, and excluding the one story a week that is printed in the paper on Monday in the Metro & State section by me. The rest of the 20 or so news stories weekly sent out Sunday in the Watchdog Report are now available to television stations web pages, and all the newspapers and other media in South Florida if the publishers have an interest to run part or all of the stories. Further, in 2000, I used to have some paper’s running the report in the Spanish press, that option is available again, and publishers should contact me.  The news content will not be free, but you can pick and chose the stories of interest, edit them if necessary but you must still keep the general story intact.  If you are a news outlet and would like to learn more about, the Watchdog Report and this offer contact me at watchdogreport1@earthlink.net for further information.

>>> Here is what past newspapers have written about the Watchdog Report publisher including a survey and regional study done by the U. North Carolina at Chapel Hill on the media in the southeast United States.

>>> The Miami Herald and Orlando Sentinel & Sun-Sentinel articles on the Watchdog Report publisher over the years.
Published on September 9, 1999, Page 1EA, Miami Herald, The (FL)

CITIZEN ADVOCATE’ KEEPS TABS ON POLITICIANS
Published on January 3, 2000, Page 1B, Miami Herald, The (FL)

MIAMI-DADE WATCHDOG WILL BE MISSED
Published on January 20, 2003, Page 1E, Orlando Sentinel, PAPERWORK TIGER, Miami’s citizen watchdog piles up government files in his quest to keep the “little people” informed.

>>>Watchdog Report publisher named ‘Best Citizen’ 2003 by the Miami New Times  –The publisher would like to thank the weekly alternative paper Miami New Times for bestowing their 2003 Best of Miami, ‘Best Citizen’ award to me and I am honored.  Thank you. To read the full story go to http://www.miaminewtimes.com/issues/2003-05-15/citylife2.html/1/index.html

From the spring of 2003:  U. North Carolina, Chapel Hill:  Southeast U.S. Media Report lists Watchdog Report publisher as leading Florida commentator >>> Selected excerpts from the report on Florida’s media sources –Those who do read the newspaper in Florida have a bevy of options for state government and political coverage. The dominant newspapers in the state are Knight-Ridder’s The Miami Herald (Acquired by The McClatchy Company in 2006) and the Poynter Institute’s St. Petersburg Times. Both papers endorsed Gore in 2000 but split on the 2002 gubernatorial race, with the Herald endorsing Republican incumbent Jeb Bush and the Times backing Democratic challenger Bill McBride.

Daniel Ricker of The Miami Herald also writes an influential column as well as an email newsletter called the Watchdog Report that goes out to more than 100,000 subscribers. FEBRUARY 2004 – Florida: Columnists in Abundance –ERIC GAUTSCHI, graduate student, School of Journalism & Mass Communication, UNC-Chapel Hill – D) LEADING COMMENTATORS – Resource Commentator Organization Type Web site –Steve Bousquet St. Petersburg Times Column www.sptimes.com/columns/bousquet.shtml -“First Friday” WPBT TV (Miami) TV Show www.channel2.org/firstfriday/issues.html –Lucy Morgan St. Petersburg Times Column www.sptimes.com/columns/morgan.shtml –Daniel Ricker Miami Herald/Watchdog Report Newsletter -www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/news/columnists/dan_ricker/ >>> Readers who would like to read the complete University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill Southeast United States Media Report go to view the complete report or download all the data used in this study. >>> Watchdog Report Editor’s note to the NCU/CH study: The subscriber number referenced is incorrect and applies to readership. The Southern Media Landscape (PDF)  Daniel Ricker. Miami Herald/Watchdog Report Newsletter. www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald … circulation, 134,269. Dan Hoover leads the. publication’s ..www.unc.edu/~davismt/SouthNow.pdf – 574k – View as html

General subscriber’s names will not be published in the Report. To subscribe to the Watchdog Report please use the form below as a subscription invoice.

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Watchdog Report Supporters Invoice-Form

NOTE: Invoice is for Yearly supporter/sponsorship Rates: Thank you.

Supporting Sponsors $5,000

Sustaining Sponsors $2,000

Corporate Sponsors $1,000 (All levels above will be listed in the report with web-site link if desired)

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Daniel A. Ricker/Watchdog Report

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-To contact the Publisher please e-mail to watchdogreport1@earthlink.net