Month of July 2010

 
 

Watchdog Report Vol.11 No. 12 July 25, 2010 – Est.05.05.00 – I go when you cannot!

Argus Report: High profile CPA & Atty. Freeman gets 8 ½ years after embezzling $2.6 million from others accounts

Florida: Gubernatorial candidate Scott finding out campaigns can be verbally tough in the trenches, easier to try to win by TV, but voters want a real person

Florida Supreme Court: Justice Polston in the spotlight, Gov. Crist tapped appellate judge in 2008, had $297,000 net worth through Apr. 2010

Miami-Dade County: 2010-2011 Budget books for $7.3 billion county operation a must read, narrative that goes from bad to worse in the out years

Broward County: Commissioner Lieberman in the spotlight, veteran politician but has mixed record, net worth through Dec. 2009 was $261,000

Palm Beach County: Commissioner Vana in the spotlight, elected in 2008 after commission purge, had $65,378 net worth through June

Bay County: Gov. Crist appoints Fishel of Panama City to the 14th Judicial Circuit Court.

Monroe County: Rep. Ros-Lehtinen says county is now eligible for SBA disaster loans

Miami-Dade Public Schools: Public hearing on $4.27 billion whopper of a budget, $321 million goes to debt service, will you attend?

Public Health Trust: Financial graphs from June 2008 carried financial alarm to community, but fell on deaf ears at the time

City of Miami: Test pilot Yeager & Mayor Regalado both push the limit in doing something, one breaks sound barrier, the other a zoning speed record

City of Miami Beach: PAST WDR: Litter, litter everywhere, beaches, and parks must be kept clean through education and zero tolerance enforcement, says Libbin

City of Coral Gables: Civics in action with big turnout to hear charter school issue, back Biltmore Hotel rent

Village of Key Biscayne: Council Member Kelly found to have no conflict when it comes to Sonesta Hotel rezoning vote

City of West Miami: Former West Miami Mayor Carasa Convicted in Ethics Violation Case – Sought to Have City Remedy Cell Phone Charges

Sunny Isles Beach: Former government employee okay to speak in public if not compensated, says county ethics commission

Community Events: Meet county commission candidates for Districts 8 — >>> Press release: Please join us for the long-awaited unveiling of the Julia Tuttle statue on Wednesday, July 28th at 9:30 a.m. at Bayfront Park in downtown – Miami Birthday Celebration July 28th at AAA — UM School of Communication Knight Center for International Media and the Discovery Channel Networks Planet Green present the U. S. television premiere: ONE WATER narrated by Martin Sheen

Editorials: Independent experts must review collective debt of Miami-Dade and its 35 municipalities and recommend a course of action

Letters: Reader points out their own mistake of the week at county commission

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.)

>>> If you wish to be deleted, just e-mail me with that message and you are free to e-mail this on to friends.

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.

>>> 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 newsletter and news service that started its 11th Anniversary on May 5.

ARGUS REPORT – Heard, Seen on the Street

>>> High profile CPA Freeman, gets 8 ½ after embezzling $2.6 million from others accounts

Lewis B. Freeman, 61, the colorful personality, highly respected attorney and accountant was sentenced to 8 ½ years in federal prison Friday for the theft of $2.6 million of other people’s money, that he was entrusted with. The federal prosecutor in documents wrote Freeman diverted ‘$7 million from 14 fiduciary accounts over the past decade, violating the trust of victims and the courts,’ state’s The Miami Herald. However, 277 friends, community leaders and others wrote letters in support of a reduced sentence to U.S. District Judge Paul Huck for all his community and philanthropic deeds, and it swayed the jurist to sentence Freeman to the lesser time, not the 12 to 15-years under the federal sentencing guidelines www.miamiherald.com . Freeman was profiled in numerous news stories as the go-to guy when it came to forensic audits and finding hidden assets. He even did an analysis of the Miami-Dade Public Schools when Merrett Stierheim was the superintendent seven years ago, that Stierheim essentially called an inaccurate study, blasted it and would not pay the study’s bill. Freeman also employed a number of politically connected people including Miami Commission Chair Joe Sanchez for years, and he was the politician’s campaign treasurer including when Sanchez ran for mayor in Nov. He also for a shorter period employed Miami-Dade County Commissioner Joe Martinez in the early 2000s in his office.

The paper says he was taken into custody after the sentencing hearing with Huck and it ends a man’s once proud career professionally and within the community, but with the Ponzi scheme going over a decade. One has to wonder how he could deal with the duality and hypocrisy of what he was doing, especially when friends and institutions over the time are heaping praise and honors on you and while many know him better. I did get to know him over the past dozen years and he offered to help pay for the flight to my mother’s funeral in 2004, that I ended up not needing but the offer was appreciated at the time. Since this story first broke with the raid of his office by the FBI in Coconut Grove, the whole affair has only gotten sadder with one person going to federal prison and others scammed out of their own nest eggs.

I last saw Freeman at a Grove restaurant a few weeks back and he asked how I was doing? I told him I had almost passed in February, but after two major surgeries, I am continuing to heal. He remarked, “That’s how I feel” about almost dieing and we walked away. His comments in court papers seem to sum up this sad tale. ‘Using my education in accounting and law to help others is my greatest accomplishment. Breaking the law is my biggest disgrace,’ he is quoted saying.

>>> Press release: RECEIVER SENTENCED TO 121 MONTHS FOR THEFT OF FIDUCIARY FUNDS

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and John V. Gillies, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), Miami Field Office, announced that defendant Lewis B. Freeman, was sentenced today by U.S. District Court Judge Paul C. Huck. Freeman had pled guilty in March 2010 to a one-count Information charging him with conspiracy to commit mail fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1349. The Judge sentenced Freeman to a total of 121 months’ in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. Restitution amount is to be determined within the next 90 days. According to the Information and statements made at the plea hearing, during at least the last 10 years, Freeman had been appointed as a fiduciary in federal and state courts in numerous matters, including receiverships, liquidating trusteeships, and assignments for the benefit of creditors. In all of these matters, Freeman was entrusted with safeguarding and protecting the assets of others he obtained by virtue of his appointment. However, Freeman engaged in a long-term scheme to misappropriate funds from the matters he was appointed to oversee.

According to his plea, after receiving these fiduciary appointments, Freeman would establish bank accounts into which he would deposit the funds belonging to the related entity. In handling these fiduciary matters, Freeman retained his forensic accounting firm, Lewis B. Freeman and Partners, Inc. (“LBFP”), with offices in Miami and Plantation, to assist him in performing his duties. Freeman was president and sole shareholder of LBFP, and was the only person with an ownership interest in the company. Freeman admitted during his plea that from at least June 2000 through August 2009, he misappropriated funds from fiduciary accounts by writing unauthorized checks to himself or to his company, LBFP. The unauthorized checks were deposited into LBFP’S operating account, and the funds were subsequently withdrawn by Freeman and used to support a lavish lifestyle, including paying for extravagant vacations, clothing, and expensive home renovations and redecorating. Some of the money was also donated to charity to promote Freeman’s business, LBFP.

A portion of the misappropriated funds were also used to pay back at least one individual from whom Freeman had misappropriated funds in the mid-1990′s. Freeman misappropriated funds from this victim when he was managing his retirement account at his accounting firm. Freeman used some of the money from unrelated fiduciary accounts under his control to repay shortfalls in the depleted fiduciary accounts by moving funds, in a Ponzi-like fashion, into the depleted accounts. Freeman also instructed other employees at LBFP to falsify financial reports by omitting the unauthorized checks that were issued, thus falsely inflating account balances for the respective fiduciary accounts. Many of these false financial reports were mailed as part of official reports that were submitted by Freeman to the courts overseeing Freeman’s fiduciary appointments. In this manner, Freeman issued approximately 162 unauthorized checks, misappropriating at least $6 million from numerous matters to which he had been appointed fiduciary, resulting in at least $2.6 million in losses to affected fiduciary matters. >>> Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI. The matter is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew K. Levi. 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 www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

>>> White House Press release: Today, President Obama nominated Judge Charles Bernard Day and Kathleen M. Williams to United States District Court judgeships. “These candidates have distinguished records of service, and I am confident they will continue to serve the American people with integrity and an unwavering commitment to justice, ” said President Obama.

>>> Judge Charles Bernard Day: Nominee for the United States District Court for the District of Maryland

>> Judge Charles Bernard Day serves as a United States Magistrate Judge for the District of Maryland, a position he has held in the Court’s Greenbelt Division for 13 years. Judge Day began his legal career in 1985 as an Assistant State’s Attorney for Montgomery County. From 1989 until his appointment to the court in 1997, he was a civil litigation attorney at Sherman, Meehan, Curtin & Ain, P.C., where he became a partner in 1995. Judge Day received his J.D. in 1984 from the University of Maryland School of Law, his M.S. in 1980 from American University, and his B.A. in 1978 from the University of Maryland.

>> Kathleen M. Williams: Nominee for the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida

Kathleen M. Williams has served as the Federal Public Defender for the Southern District of Florida since 1995. She previously served in the same District as Chief Assistant Federal Public Defender from 1990 to 1995 and as an Assistant United States Attorney from 1984 to 1988. Ms. Williams has worked in private practice as an associate in the Miami offices of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius from 1988 to 1990 and of Fowler, White, Burnett from 1982 to 1984. From 2002 until 2008, Ms. Williams was the Chairperson of the Federal Defender Advisory Group and the Defender representative to the Defender Services Committee of the Judicial Conference. Ms. Williams received her J.D. in 1982 from the University of Miami School of Law and her B.A. magna cum laude in 1978 from Duke University.

>>> ZOGBY Poll: Zogby Interactive: Obama Approval Rating Slips To 45%; GOP Holds Slim Lead In Congressional Generic Ballot -On Issues, Obama’s Positive Ratings Are 32% for Economy, 27% for Afghan War

President Barack Obama’s approval rating among likely voters slipped to 45% this week, his lowest rating ever in a Zogby Interactive poll. Obama’s positive ratings are even lower than his overall approval on a number of questions about handling of issues, including 32% on the economy and 27% on the War in Afghanistan. The July 16-19, 2010 interactive survey of 8,487 voters and has a margin of error +/- 1.1%. The poll also found that: Republicans lead Democrats, 43%-41%, on the question of which party’s Congressional candidate respondents intend to vote for this year, which is identical to a similar poll done on June 28. A total of 56% of voters say the U.S. is headed in the wrong direction with 35% choosing right direction and 9% not sure. This is an improvement from the June 28 poll that showed 60% choosing wrong direction, and a return to the mid-50% levels we have found throughout the year. Please click the link below to view the full news release on our website: http://www.zogby.com/news/ReadNews.cfm?ID=1878

>>> If you believe it is important to have someone watching your public institutions consider supporting the Watchdog Report for no money came in over the last week and I do have to live, thank you! The report is also shorter and with less real content because I am still weak and do not have my past energy level that allowed me to write all day Saturday and Sunday as in the past almost 11-years that I have been doing this. I ask for my readers understanding during this time. >>> Further, I have been honored over the years by being named a WFOR-4 Hometown Hero in 2000, being profiled in a major way by The Miami New Times, The Miami Herald, and the Orlando Sentinel which ran as a nationwide story on me in the Tribune papers on Jan. 2003 and UNC Chapel Hill naming me one of the top columnists in Florida in a multi-state study of the media back in 2004. I also thank Joseph Cooper for the opportunity to be on the WLRN/NPR showTopical Currents on www.wlrn.org since 2000, including yearly election coverage since then, and also the opportunity to be on Helen Ferre’s show Issues on issues@wpbt.org numerous times over the past decade.

>>> 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

>>> Candidate Scott finding out campaigns can be verbally tough in the trenches, easier to try to win by TV, but voters want a real person

Rick Scott, the insurgent outside candidate challenging Bill McCollum, the Florida attorney general for the Republican Party’s nod in its closed primary to be its champion for the gubernatorial election in November is taking some political knocks of his own www.miamiherald.com . Scott has been touring the state meeting with the electorate and while some of his stops have wooed future voters. He continues to be dogged about his role with Columbia/HCA as its CEO that had the private hospital chain later paying the federal government $1.7 billion penalty because of Medicare fraud over years. Scott, in his separation from the company got severance and hundreds of millions in stock options that later paid off. He is using a massive television ad campaign for months now trying to define McCollum with some party voters as a career politician, lobbyist, and the personification of what is not needed in Tallahassee.

McCollum has fought back with e-mails and ads of his own but the former congressman and two time losing U.S. Senate candidate is short on cash in comparison to Scott worth $218 million. McCollum has also moved to receive over $20 million in public campaign funds in the future to combat this media assault that has Scott leading the attorney general in the polls. However, McCollum’s request for public financing help from state coffers has raised some eyebrows since the state is in a major financial slump, with a over $7 billion shortfall in state funding during the next budget year, that is aggravated by the Deepwater Horizon catastrophic oil spill, and some insiders question if it was wise of him to request public financing given the tough economic times.

>>> House Speaker Larry Cretul, R-Ocala shot down Gov. Charlie Crist’s demand for a Special House Session Tuesday after opening and concluding the session as was required by law in less than an hour, and with no discussion allowed. Crist had called the session to approve legislation for state voters to consider in November banning off shore oil drilling. Critics note such legislation is already on the books, but last year there was a move in the House to get that legislation changed to allow a more liberal drilling policy, that after the Deepwater Horizon is totally out of the question politically. Critics also challenged the governor’s sincerity and timing since the language had to be done by Aug. 4 to be added to the state ballot. State Sen. Jeff Atwater, R- North Palm Beach, the Senate President was more inclined to allow the session to go forward but after the speaker’s maneuver. He ended the upper body’s session after a few hours, and legislators returned home having achieved nothing.

What do we know about Cretul & Atwater’s finances?

>>> Cretul through June 2010 had a net worth of $412,000 and he lists $35,500 in household goods. His share of a family trust is valued at $325,000, an auto is worth $29,500, there is $12,000 in a checking and savings account, and his home is worth $172,000. He lists liabilities of $11,200 for the auto, and owes $150,000 on a mortgage. His income for the year was $42,072 as a legislator and $24,000 came in his capacity as a real estate broker.

>>> Atwater through Dec. 2009 had a net worth of $1.55 million and he lists $27,000 in household goods. There is $952 in an IRA, A Northern Trust account has $222,000, and his home is worth $267,000. The senate president owes $53,543 and $35,404 on mortgages, and income for the year was $41,903 as a lawmaker, Northern Trust kicked in $11,262, Riverside Bank contributed $82,208 and Bank of America provided $29,427 for the year.

FLORIDA SUPREME COURT

>>> Justice Polston in the spotlight, Gov. Crist tapped appellate judge in 2008, had $297,000 net worth through Apr. 2010

Ricky Polston, the Florida Supreme Court Justice is in the Watchdog Report spotlight this week and Gov. Charlie Crist appointed the jurist Oct. 2008. He was an appeals judge prior to being elevated to the state’s highest 7-member court, and has many adopted children.

What do we know about his finances?

Polston through Apr. 10, 2010 had a net worth of $297,000, his home is worth $650,000, and he has a $3,375 asset with FSU. He lists liabilities of $500,000 and owes Regions Bank $25,044 and his only income was $160,000 as a Supreme Court judge. The jurist lists no gifts over $100.00.

>>> Justice’s web page: Justice Ricky Polston -Hometown – Graceville, Florida Spouse – Deborah Ehler Polston -Children – Ten (Adoptive parents of sibling group of 6) Degrees – J.D. with High Honors, Florida State University, 1986; B.S., Summa Cum Laude, Florida State University, 1977; A.A., Chipola Jr. College, 1975. Offices and Positions – Justice, Florida Supreme Court, October 2, 2008-present; Judge, First District Court of Appeal, January 2, 2001-October 1, 2008; Private Law Practice 1987- 2000; Adjunct Law Professor, Florida State University 2003-present; Certified Public Accountant 1978-present; Public Accounting Practice 1977-1984. … >>>Office Information: Justice Polston’s phone number is (850) 488-2361. His judicial assistant is Tamara L. Adkins, and his staff attorneys are Diane Cashin West, Diane G. DeWolf, and Denise Mayo. The mailing address is 500 South Duval Street, Tallahassee FL 32399-1925. >>> Attorneys or law students interested in clerkships in this office should check our Law Clerk Recruitment Page. There also is information on Internships.

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY

>>> 2010-2011 Budget books for $7.3 billion county budget has a must read, narrative that goes from bad to worse in the out years

County leaders, the administration and elected leaders staff and the public need to read the 19-page county manager narrative of the coming year 2010-2011 proposed budget. For many of the questions being asked at commission meetings would be reduced, and the quality of the discussion would go up given a familiarity of the comprehensive narrative in the first book of the three volume budget documents. The county’s proposed budget is $7.3 billion, of that $4.71 billion goes to direct operating costs and another $2.63 billion is funding for capital projects. The Unincorporated Municipal Service Area (UMSA) with over 1.07 million people of the county’s 2.46 million residents has its own budget breakdown and $2.18 billion is allocated to this unincorporated area and accounts for 46 percent of the total operating budget.

I thought about this issue after listening to the Jul. 20th commission meeting concerning the budget and one of the things these budget books highlight is future county debt payments that after 2012 seem to soar through the roof in payments owed on financed obligations. Water and Sewer has major payments in debt obligations in future years, the transit department and MIA also have the same issues and while many say this has to be done to keep up and maintain infrastructure across the board. The size of the county’s looming debt obligation in the coming years offers a warning to all in Miami-Dade that we as a community are financially overextended, and it is only getting worse in the out years. >>> These are substantial numbers and everybody in the community that cares should take a look at the numbers for some are grim in the years ahead. Further, the budget documents can be found in a number of places such as www.miamidade.gov , and are available at the county’s public library system.

>>> Commissioner Souto invokes the “Parade of Horribles”

“The Parade of Horrribles,” is what they call it in Tallahassee when it came to limiting spending or taxes said Commissioner Javier Souto, a former state legislator. “Kids will die, grass is not getting cut” and he believes that sentiment is “not true,” he said at Tuesday’s commission meeting. Souto when it comes to selling more bonds believes the county is maxed out, and “we failed to reserve money during the boom times and in this case with the bonds.” Someone has to pay for this and it is our grand children,” he thought. However, in the boom times, he went to the county trough for funding as well and only in the past few years has he decided to raise the fiscal alarm.

>>> The commission voted to retain the three federal lobbyists on the existing contract but expires in early August to a month-to-month basis, and a final vote on the new proposed four firm contracts is expected in September

>>> Commissioner Barreiro says Apple store has new App for county’s 311-call center and it is free

Commissioner Bruno Barreiro during a break in Tuesday’s commission meeting because of a lack of quorum did a quick public service announcement. He said the Apple app store now has a free download to get to the county’s 311 department that can be downloaded and allows residents to send potholes or other issues, with photos “directly into the 311 call center.” He looks forward “to using it a lot” or “maybe not,” if only a small number of such issues in his district come to his attention, he said. Joked chair Commissioner Dennis Moss, Barreiro is “the Techie” on the dais when it comes to using these hand held devices.

>>> Budget workshops after Aug. 25 primary elections, start Aug. 25

The Commission of the Whole will be meeting for budget workshops on Aug. 25, 26, 27 and possible Monday and Tuesday later if issues have not been hashed out yet. Commissioner Katy Sorenson is the point of the spear in the budget talks since she chairs the budget and sustainability committee. In the past, the body goes over the proposed budget with the administration and works to tweak the document to reflect the needs in their respective districts, including social services, money provided to the arts, and other issues that might be of concern or benefit of local constituents.

>>> Community Periodical Program funding is lined out in proposed budget

The county’s Periodical Program, that funds dozens of local newspapers to run county and commissioner stories and public announcements, that in the early 2000s made the elected leaders look like they had supernatural powers almost, that funding has been zeroed out in the county budget. Funding will still be available for money to run ads that are propriety to a county department but the almost $1 million in funding, unless the commission changes this lack of appropriation. The program will be cut. The program was reorganized in 2003 after a critical county audit found six papers that did not exist, had received around $20,000 from the county during the year looked at. The Watchdog Report has watched this program over the years since I get around $1,350.00 a year from the county in support and I actually produce something.

>>> County IG Report: Arrest of Former Tax Collector’s Office Employee for Defrauding the Florida Housing Finance Corporation, IG10-15, July 15, 2010.

>>> Press release: M-DC Ethics Commission: Public Reprimand issued to former Mayoral official; New Ethics Commissioner installed

As part of the settlement agreement approved last month with Miami-Dade Police Sergeant Denis Morales over charges he exploited his official position when he was chief of staff for Mayor Carlos Alvarez, the Ethics Commission today issued him a Public Reprimand. Morales has been demoted from his previous position and remitted a fine of $1,500 for the misappropriation of 40 hours of paid leave in March of 2009, while he was earning outside income teaching in Panama. Morales pleaded no contest to allegations in Complaint 10-25 that he violated the County’s Conflict of Interest and Code of Ethics Ordinance by citing earned leave for overtime work long after it expired, exempting himself from standard leave procedures and destroying payroll records. In mentioning the violations, the Reprimand notes, “Nothing serves to undermine the public’s trust more than arrogant government officials acting as if the laws and rules do not apply to them.” The letter calls Morales’ scheme “petty and shameful” and reminds him, “…his job is to serve the public and to safeguard their assets, not to exploit his position for his own benefit and financial gain.”

>>> Probable cause was found to a complaint (C 10-23) against an official of the Miami-Dade Animal Services Department for failing to follow the agency’s rules for her own pet. Raquel Cruz-Pino, a Code Enforcement Collection Manager, is accused of using her position to cancel citations for failing to vaccinate and obtain a license tag for her dog. She is also accused of violating the Conflict of Interest and Code of Ethics Ordinance for continuing to use a county pool vehicle as a “take home” car after being instructed to turn it in. The case may proceed to a public hearing or result in a negotiated settlement.

>>> The newest member of the Ethics Commission took the oath of office from the Chief Judge of the Eleventh Circuit, Joel Brown, before considering today’s agenda. Nelson Bellido is a partner in the Coral Gables-based law firm, Concepcion, Sexton & Martinez, P.A., and previously served with the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office from 1993 to 1997. Bellido said he had a strong commitment to public service and was honored to be appointed to the post. >>> 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, outreach and enforcement, the Commission seeks to empower the community and bolster public trust.

>>> Press release: GMCVB will host the 1st Miami Spice Kickoff Event & Fundraiser on Saturday, July 31, 2010. Held at the Miami Beach Convention Center in Hall D from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., the event launches the much-anticipated 9th Annual Miami Spice Restaurant Program. Come enjoy a sampling of delicious culinary specialties from Miami Spice participating restaurants. A VIP reception, hosted by Miami Spice presenting sponsor American Express, and official sponsors Moet Hennessy USA and Stella Artois will take place from 6 to 7 p.m., and will include an open bar and complimentary valet service. Advance tickets are priced at $35 for general admission; $75 for the VIP reception. (Tickets available at the door, will be priced at $50 for general admission; $100 for the VIP reception.) A portion of the proceeds will benefit Share Our Strength and Madison’s Wish. Kickoff schedule: 6-7 p.m. VIP access; 7-10 p.m. General admission, information at www.iLoveMiamiSpice.com. Also enjoy the Miami Spice Kickoff After Party, happening from 10 p.m. to midnight at the Parisian-inspired Louis Bar at Gansevoort Miami Beach. For details, click here.

BROWARD COUNTY

>>> Commissioner Lieberman in the spotlight, veteran politician but has mixed record, net worth through Dec. 2009 was $261,000

Long serving Broward Commissioner Ilene Lieberman is in the spotlight this week and she has cruised to reelection over the years and has been in municipal and county government for over two decades. Lieberman, an attorney whose husband works as a lobbyist also engages in that activity, though diminished from the past level of activity she did in that capacity in the mid 2000s. Lieberman and I have interacted over the decade and it was a verbal lashing she gave me that started my policy of always recording elected leaders comments about something I might have written about in the past. In her case, I took exception with her using her maiden name when she worked as a lobbyist and she claimed I just had a problem with lobbyist in general which is not the case. I question it only when it applies to an elected leader in that capacity.

What do we know about her finances?

Lieberman through Dec. 2009 had a net worth of $1.31 million, down from $1.33 million in 2008 and her assets include $267,000 with Charles Schwab, there is $855,000 in Michelson Holdings stock, Bank of America has $6,262 and $3,063, a condominium in Miami is valued at $179,000 and there is $299,000 in the Florida Retirement Fund. Her listed liabilities are $26,141 with Lexus, two mortgages are owed $116,000 and $189,000 and there is another $1 million loan with B of A. The commissioner’s income for the year was $91,615 as an elected leader, $14,000 came in from an IRA, there is $1,380 in a money market and $2,645 in the bank, and her husband’s law office chipped in $8,960.

>>> Commissioner’s web page: Broward County Commissioner Ilene Lieberman has had an influential and well respected political presence in Broward County since she became a Lauderhill City Council Member in 1984. In their endorsement of her for County Commission, the Sun-Sentinel’s Editorial board stated that “she has been a dynamic, high energy and high-accomplishment political leader with a capital L ever since she first took office.” When she was elected to the County Commission , it is said that she added a whole new dimension. Commissioner Lieberman’s accomplishments in the political arena as well as her commitment to community service have been well recognized. Commissioner Lieberman is Vice-Chair of the National Association of Counties’ (NACO) Large Urban Caucus steering committee, the Vice-Chair of NACO’s Housing subcommittee and a member of the organization’s Community and Economic Development steering committee. She is the 2nd Vice President of the Florida Association of Counties, as well as a member of their Board of Directors. Commissioner Lieberman is a past President of the Florida League of Cities and currently and also sits on the Board of Directors. She was Chair of the Florida Association of Counties Urban Caucus and Chair of Florida’s Complete Count Committee. She is on the Board of Directors of the Boys and Girls Club and maintains memberships with numerous service clubs and community organizations that benefit from her involvement. She is the Board of County Commission appointment to the Resource Recovery Board, the South Florida Regional Planning Council, which she chairs, the Management and Efficiency Study Commission, and the Broward County Value Adjustment Board. Commissioner Lieberman is a member of the VisionBROWARD Executive Board. VisionBROWARD was launched when the Commissioner served as the Mayor of Broward County in 2003-2004. A mother of three, Commissioner Lieberman attended and graduated Summa Cum Laude from Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad Law Center in 1989 and was the class Valedictorian. http://www.broward.org/COMMISSION/DISTRICT1/Pages/Biography.aspx >> Broward County > County Commission > District 1 – Ilene Lieberman

>>> 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

>>> Commissioner Vana in the spotlight, elected in 2008 after commission purge, had $65,378 net worth through June

Commissioner Shelley Vana is in the spotlight this week and the former state legislator was first elected to the commission in 2008. She is a long time teacher in the Palm Beach school district and is part of the new compliment of commissioners after the feds indicted and sent to prison a number of other commissioners on the body back then.

What do we know about her finances?

Vana through June 2010 had a net worth of $65,378 and she lists $75,000 in household goods. Her home is worth $137,000, another is valued at $23,000, there is $69,000 in an IRA, a car is valued at $9,000 and there is $2,500 in cash. She lists a $500,000 and $130,000 liabilities on a mortgages, and there are two smaller loans. Her income for the year was $94,590 as a county commissioner.

>>> Commissioner’s web page: Shelley Vana was elected to serve as Palm Beach County Commissioner District 3 on November 4, 2008. She was sworn in and took office November 18, 2008. She was first elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 2002. She represented Florida State House District 85 which included various cities in Central and Western Palm Beach County. She served as Vice Chair of the Palm Beach County Legislative Delegation from 2007-2008. Commissioner Vana was born in Rochester, Pennsylvania. She attended Indiana University of Pennsylvania and received a BA in psychology. She is married and has two children and a granddaughter. Shelley has been a teacher in Palm Beach County for 24 years, teaching at the Dreyfoos School of the Arts, Jupiter High School and serving as a resource teacher for the County. As President and CEO of the Palm Beach County CTA, Shelley has served on the School District Audit Committee, Education Commission, Education Foundation and the Charter School District Advisory Board.

Commissioner Vana has been involved with Public Television and Radio for the past ten years as on-air talent. She hosted AIDS 101, the first weekly public affairs TV show addressing the AIDS epidemic. She also hosted and produced First Issue, a weekly public affairs radio program. As an elected member of the Florida House of Representatives, District 85 Shelley Vana was appointed to serve on the Education K-20 Committee, Education Appropriation Subcommittee, Education PreK-12 Subcommittee, Health Care Committee and the Health Care Standards Subcommittee. While serving in the Florida Legislature, she continued to perform her responsibilities as CTA President and her work with both Public Television and Public Radio. During her years of service, Commissioner Vana has received many awards from organizations :
301 North Olive Ave. Suite 1201, West Palm Beach, FL 33401, (561) 355-2203 -877-930-2203, (Toll Free outside the West Palm Beach calling area) E-mail Commissioner Vana >> Board of County Commissioners

>>> Press release: Miami man charges in Palm Beach mortgage fraud scam

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, John V. Gillies, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Miami Field Office, Henry Gutierrez, Postal Inspector in Charge, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, J. Thomas Cardwell, Commissioner, State of Florida’s Office of Financial Regulations, Amos Rojas, Jr., Special Agent in Charge, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and Alex Sink, Chief Financial Officer, Florida Department of Financial Services, announce the July 6, 2010 filing of a criminal information against defendant Stanley Gabart, 29, of Miami, FL. The defendant surrendered on Thursday, July 8, 2010, and made his initial appearance in West Palm Beach federal court. The two-count information charges defendant Gabart with conspiracy to commit bank fraud and making false statements on loan applications to Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A., in connection with the purchase of various properties.

If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum statutory term of imprisonment of 30 years on each count. Among the properties listed in the information are 3586 Royalle Terrace, Wellington, Florida; 10475 Trianon Place, Lake Worth, Florida, and 540 West Avenue, #1414, Miami Beach, Florida. According to the allegations in the information, Gabart conspired with others to submit loan applications for the properties that contained false information about the applicants’ employment, income, assets and intention to live in the homes. In addition, Gabart allegedly recruited straw purchasers and paid the straw purchasers a fee for participating in the scheme. The fraud scheme resulted in more than $7 million in losses to several banks. >>> This case is the result of the investigative efforts of the multi-agency Palm Beach Mortgage Fraud Task Force. Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI, U.S. Postal Service, State of Florida’s Office of Financial Regulation, FDLE, and State of Florida’s Department of Financial Services. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ellen Cohen. An information is merely an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until 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.

BAY COUNTY

>>> Press release: Gov. Crist taps John L. Fishel of Panama City to the 14th Judicial Circuit Court.

“John’s extensive experience as a mediator and in practicing before the circuit court has prepared him to serve on the bench with fairness, common sense and a strong knowledge of the law,” said Governor Crist. “He also possesses the work ethic and integrity that will make him an invaluable asset to the people of the 14th Judicial Circuit.” Fishel, 47, has been a sole practitioner with the Law Offices of John L. Fishel since 2007, and was a partner with Boggs and Fishel from 1996 to 2006. From 1988 to 1995, Fishel practiced with Harrison, Sale, McCloy and Thompson. He received his bachelor’s degree from the Georgia Institute of Technology and his law degree from Florida State University. Fishel will fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Richard Albritton.

MONROE COUNTY

>>> County is now eligible for SBA disaster loans, says Rep. Ros-Lehtinen

Press release: Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a senior member of the Florida Congressional Delegation, issued the following statement upon learning that Monroe County is now eligible for SBA disaster loans. Statement from Ros-Lehtinen: “This decision is the correct one by the SBA as the economy of the Florida Keys is dependent on commercial and recreational fishermen, tourism and related businesses. The perception that oil has washed up on Keys beaches has caused much economic harm to area businesses. Many businesses, local leaders, community activists and I have been lobbying for this designation as we have seen firsthand the litany of cancellations from tourists who wrongly believe that oil has affected the beautiful marine areas of the Florida Keys. Also, BP must continue to streamline its claims process and efficiently expedite all legitimate claims. There should be no reason whatsoever to deny these claims.”

Ros-Lehtinen had sent several letters to Florida Governor Charlie Crist asking him to request that the US Small Business Administration (SBA) declare the Florida Keys as a disaster area. This would allow affected businesses to file claims for the economic losses they have incurred as a result of the Gulf oil spill. For more information on how affected businesses can apply for these loans, please visit www.FloridaSBDC.org or www.sba.gov/

MIAMI-DADE PUBLIC SCHOOLS

>>> Public hearing on $4.27 billion Whopper of a budget, $321 million of that goes to debt service; will you attend?

The school board is holding its first public budget hearing on July 28 at 6:00 p.m. at the school board’s administrative building at 1450 N.E. Second Ave, in the Board’s chambers to discuss setting the proposed budget expenditures for fiscal year 2010-2011 and the advertised funding number is 2.8 percent higher than last years operating expenditures. The public school district is advertising a $4.27 billion budget next year, with $2.08 billion allocated for instruction, there is $474.5 million for facilities, and $321 million goes to debt service for the year. The district after almost having no reserves in 2008 has set aside $75.6 million in undesignated reserves and another $177.4 million is in designated reserves. Further, the board will consider a measure to impose a 1.55 mill property tax for capital outlays, and is above the 6.314 mills proposed for operating expenses and this extra millage allocation will generate $304.2 million for the distinct, if the body passes such a measure. The public can speak at the public hearing that is generally not televised and one year, almost a decade ago, no one signed up to speak during the public hearing portion. And I actually spoke because I could not believe how on auto pilot this activity had become for elected officials at the nation’s fourth largest public district that at the time was mired in scandals.

>>> School Board IG Report: Three Indicted in Connection with Southside Elementary School Modular Classroom Addition Construction Project Ref. IG09-10SB, July 1, 2010.

PUBLIC HEALTH TRUST

>>> Financial graphs from June 2008 carried financial alarm to community, but fell on deaf ears at the time

The Watchdog Report has been running the graphs below since PHT CEO Marvin O’Quinn presented the information to the Miami-Dade County Commission in June 2008 and I run it again as a reminder of what the health trust faces everyday, now aggravated by the worse economy since the Great Depression. Jackson Health System has dropped off the community radar the last few weeks after almost going over a cliff financially a few months ago when its cash flow dropped precipitously. The institution, the safety net public hospital blows through about $4.5 million a day in cash and why cash on hand is such a critical component of the institution’s own financial health.

>>> PHT Nomination Council meets Jul. 28, Chair Moss will preside, with Rep. Zapata representing legislative delegation

The PHT Nomination Council headed up by Miami-Dade Commission Chair Dennis Moss will have its first organizational meeting, that will include the approving the running of public notices ads for trustee applications. The council this year will be made up of Moss, Commissioners Katy Sorenson, (the mayor’s appointee) and Sally Heyman, state Rep. Juan C. Zapata, R-Miami (the Legislative delegation chair), and John Copeland, III, the PHT board chairman. The meeting will be held July 28 at 2:00 p.m., in the second floor conference room in the Stephen P. Clark governmental center and it is open to the public. There are five trustee openings on the 17-member health trust board that includes two voting county commissioners. The board members terms are 3-years, the meetings are televised, and it is the highest profile citizen based board the county has ever created, and provides oversight to Jackson Health System. A public hospital enterprise that is around $1.8 billion in size with an $83 million plus monthly payroll.

CITY OF MIAMI

>>> Test pilot Yeager & Mayor Regalado both push the limit in doing something, one breaks sound barrier, the other a zoning coup

Legendary test pilot Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier when it comes to getting somewhere fast in 1947, the new Miami Marlin’s stadium took almost a decade to approve and appears to be built in a few years on time and on budget, but in Miami, it only takes Mayor Tomas Regalado a week to push a multi story,1,600 space parking garage, capped by two separate gigantic media towers incorporating LED billboard walls with two sides each of LEDs doing the advertising through the Miami commission on Thursday by a 5 to 0 vote. The Miami Herald covered the meeting and project www.miamiherald.com but the paper’s parent company McClatchy owns the property located near the Arsht Performing Arts Center. The property in question was put on contract by a developer that was dubbed the Wal Mart on the Bay project at the site, already approved by a previous city commission a few years ago. In this case, Regalado over the past few months was working behind the scenes with the developer and city staff and the velocity of the plan working through city hall is breathtaking, and commissioners would not consider a 30-day delay on the vote last week, allowing more studies to be done on the impact of the billboard lights, something like in the Ginza section of Tokyo, on the surrounding neighborhoods here in Miami.

At the commission meetings, many spoke in favor of the extra light since it would reduce the amount of crime and homeless people that populated the area at night. They also believed it would jazz up the whole area, make it more vibrant for the many young people that are moving into the new condominiums that Commissioner Marc Sarnoff predicted will be sold off by the end of the year. He believed one catalyst for this was the Miami Heat picking up two high profile players recently that had Regalado likening the recent trades and the team’s games to “42 Super Bowls” when it comes to fan turnout when the Heat plays at home at the AAA.

However, there is also the question of the structures legality and the developer and his attorneys have the job to ensure it is legally compliant with all, county, state and any other laws that might apply to such a structure. From the Watchdog Report’s standpoint, I am surprised that in a city where it can take up to a year to get a pothole fixed. For the zoning legislative process to move so quickly, regardless of the merits of the project does not make good public policy. Further, the second reading for the deal is scheduled for July 29 and the city clerk’s office had them already printed out with the media towers operating agreement the subject along with other legislation language needed to get the project passed. And I for one am going to watch how this whole project plays out in the months and years to come.

Anything unusual happen?

A grey haired long time Miami developer who helped bring the Rouse Company to build Bayside decades ago, dressed in a dark blue suit and looking quite confident and content after speaking in front of the commission in favor of the media tower project. He looked down at me sitting in the lobby, gave me a wink of the eye, like the project was all taken care of, and I almost suggested he see a physician about his eye issue, but demurred.

>>> Fired Miami Attorney Jorge Fernandez was spotted at Thursday’s commission meeting and he has already cost the city about $250,000 in attorney’s fees since his sudden departure after a scandal, and a state attorney investigation.

>>> Marc Sarnoff seems to have resigned himself to the fact he will not be seeking any higher elected office. “I won’t go any further in politics than right here,” he suggested. He then went on to say his wife did not want to him to say this but when they arrived at the AAA to celebrate the arrival of the two basketball super stars. They witnessed a homeless woman after she had just eaten. “Drop her pants and do a number two, if you will,” something he had not seen before and wondered how tourists from Brazil and other countries might keep that act in their mind when they think of Miami, he mussed.

>>> Comment of the week

At the Miami Sports and Exhibition meeting last week, my cell phone went off and I rushed out of the room. However, my tape recorder was still there and Mayor Tomas Regalado joked “That’s [Miami-Dade] county calling” me which in a way was true. The caller was telling me about the conviction of the ex West Miami Mayor who racked up a huge cell phone bill, and tried to get it paid on the public dime.

>>> Next week the Watchdog Report will cover what is going on with the Volvo Ocean Race coming to Miami in the spring of 2012, its impact on the economy and how much money the organization is asking for from the city of Miami. For more information go to www.volvooceanracemiami.org

>>> 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. It currently goes to his new e-mail address.>>> “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

>>>PAST WDR: Litter, litter everywhere, beaches, and parks must be kept clean through education and zero tolerance enforcement, says Libbin

Litter, litter everywhere but with all the budget shortfalls hammering counties and municipalities who and how is all this garbage on beaches, parks and along road ways ever going to get picked up in this “new normal” when it comes to public entities finances. A small group of people, less than a dozen at the county along with Miami Beach Commissioner Jerry Libbin met in a 10th floor conference room in government center Friday afternoon to discuss what to do about the issue. Jack Kardys, the Miami-Dade Parks and Recreation director said when it came to litter at the parks and beaches. It is unbelievable what these visitors leave behind. He noted some of the worse offenders were high school and college age kids and they just refuse to pick up after themselves. A suggestion is to activate these students to help through education and perhaps as community services projects, or part of trips to these destinations to participate more in the effort, that has to be free since government does not have the money.

Libbin has been an pick-up the litter advocate on Miami Beach and has held numerous beach clean-up details and a new public relations blown-up photo depicting trash on the beach asking people to pick it up is on buses and other city vehicles in South Beach, that includes a large sign on the highway going into the Beach noting the city’s litter laws, and the fact these are enforced. The commissioner has pushed for education, but also “enforcement” and over 400 citations have been written since the crack down. He also said the city gives out biodegradable trash bags for people to use and suggested the county use the same type in their effort for a drastic clean up, possible first to be tried this summer at Haulover and Crandon Parks beaches. Further, given Libbin’s new gig as CEO of the Miami Beach Chamber, this clean up also makes good business sense and is a win-win for him in his new capacity of business cheerleader. However, beaches and parks are living environments with all kinds of creatures nesting and any clean-ups must also be environmentally sensitive to the living habitat these areas provide for multiple species. >>> Here is further information about the county’s park and recreation department and programs during the summer break.

Jack Kardys – Director Miami-Dade County’s Park and Recreation Department – Phone: 305-755-7800, Mission: To create outstanding Recreational, Natural, and Cultural experiences to enrich you and to enhance our community for this and future generations. www.miamidade.gov

CITY OF CORAL GABLES

>>> Civics in action with big turnout to here charter school issue, back Biltmore Hotel rent

Civics was in action Monday night when the commission had a Special Commission Meeting to try to resolve the number of students at a new charter school and the back rent owed by the Biltmore Hotel. The Watchdog Report has not seen this kind of resident turnout in a decade and it shows the vibrancy of Democracy in Coral Gables. In the case of the school, local neighbors objecting wore their buttons and the school’s supporters wore their own patch of support. When it came to the media, it was there in spades and for many reporters it might have been their first time in the confined commission chambers, when participant numbers swelled like it did that night.

I did not stay for the meeting but did chat with Mayor Donald Slesnick, II and Commissioner Maria Anderson before they went in and they were bracing for what turned out to be a long meeting. However, I was gratified that people got involved in such a way, the media was all over the proceedings and while in the case of the school, litigation appears to continue it was democracy in action and when it becomes robust as in this case. That is a good thing.

City OF WEST MIAMI

>>> Press release: Former West Miami Mayor Carasa Convicted in Ethics Violation Case – Sought to Have City Remedy Cell Phone Charges

Last night, a criminal court jury convicted former City of West Miami Mayor Cesar R. Carasa of 1 count of Exploitation of Official Position, in violation of Miami-Dade County Code. The jury convicted Mr. Carasa of having directed or requested City of West Miami officials to have Sprint to waive or reduce cell phone charges presented to the City for which he was personally liable. The criminal investigation was jointly conducted by the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office and the Miami-Dade County Commission on Ethics and Public Trust after allegations surfaced that then-Mayor Carasa had run up approximately $70,000 of telephone charges on his city issued cell phone intended only for city business. When faced with the prospect of paying such a large bill, he sought the city’s direct intervention with the telephone company. This criminal violation of the Miami-Dade County Ethics Code carries a misdemeanor criminal penalty.

“It is bad enough for a public official to use his city tools, in this case his cell phone, for personal use, But trying to have the city eliminate a personal debt only compounded this misuse of office and justifiably outraged the people of the City of West Miami,” commented Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. “The highly professional work by the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust’s investigators laid a solid foundation for the prosecution of this case.” “Due to the collective efforts of the State Attorney’s Office and the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust, an unethical public official has been convicted of abusing his power,” commented Robert Meyers, Executive Director of the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust. “This conviction should serve as a reminder to all local public servants that intentionally violating local ethics laws may result in criminal prosecution, in addition to fines, public reprimand and loss of respect.”

VILLAGE OF KEY BISCAYNE

>>> Council Member Kelly found to have no conflict when it comes to Sonesta Hotel rezoning

A Key Biscayne Village Council Member sought an official opinion (RQO 10-20) whether he has a conflict of interest in attempts to rezone the site of the former Sonesta Hotel, as the owners allege. Dr. Michael Kelly lives in one of 55 single family homes immediately west of the beach front land and has proposed restrictions that would reduce the density from what is currently allowed, if a different site plan is submitted. Several high-rise buildings are also adjacent to the property, and the number of nearby residents totals approximately 1,500. The Ethics Commission opined that Councilman Kelly does not have a conflict and may vote on the rezoning because he doesn’t have a relationship with those involved in the redevelopment and he will not be affected by the vote differently from the general public.

SUNNY ISLES BEACH

>>> Former government employee okay to speak in public if not compensated, says county ethics commission

Is public testimony by a recently departed official in a quasi-judicial proceeding a violation of the so-called “two year rule” limiting lobbying by former employees? That was the request for opinion (RQO 10-19) on behalf of Robert Solera who left as Director of the Community Development Department in Sunny Isles Beach a little more than a year ago. Solera was called as a witness by representatives of Temple B’Nai Zion during debate over its possible historic preservation designation. Solera is not associated with the Temple and is not being compensated for his testimony. The Ethics Commission ruled that, under County law, former government employees are NOT lobbying when they testify in publicly noticed quasi-judicial proceedings, and therefore, would not violate the prohibition on appearing before the same government within two years following their separation. The Sunny Isles Beach lobbying ordinance differs from the County’s, and a separate request for opinion would be needed to address its applicability.

>>> Ethics commission 2008 report on compensation and benefits: The City of Sunny Isles Beach’s Mayor receives a salary of $16,110 yearly. Council Members receive a salary of $12,888 yearly. Council Members and the Mayor each receive a yearly expense allowance of $4,405. The allowance is not treated as taxable income, and officials are only reimbursed upon providing receipts for the expenses. Council Members and the Mayor do not receive a vehicle or allowance, though they are reimbursed for mileage and legitimate expenses. The City does provide cellular phones for elected officials, officials said.

COMMUNITY EVENTS

>>> Press release: Please join us for the long-awaited unveiling of the Julia Tuttle statue on Wednesday, July 28th at 9:30 a.m. at Bayfront Park in downtown Miami. The ceremony will take place in the southern end of the park, adjacent to the children’s playground, not too far from the entrance to the Intercontinental Hotel. It will be held in an air-conditioned tent with light refreshments; there will be a program and then the actual unveiling of the statue. Everyone is encouraged to use the metro mover to get to the park. Kindly RSVP to the Downtown Development Authority at 305-579-6675 or at info@miamidda.com.

>>> July 28 – 6:00 PM -City of Miami – 114th Birthday Celebration This special event will feature the sights, sounds and tastes of Miami at the exciting American Airlines Arena’s center court. There will be delicious food tasting from 20+ restaurants … and much more! American Airlines Arena – 601 Biscayne Blvd Tickets for this extraordinary event will be sold at $25 each through the American Airlines Arena website with 100% of ticket sales going to several local charities.

>>> Press release: SAVE THE DATE! SET YOUR RECORDERS! >> The University of Miami School of Communication Knight Center for International Media and the Discovery Channel Networks Planet Green present the U. S. television premiere: ONE WATER narrated by Martin Sheen With captivating music and stunning images, ONE WATER is the story of the many ways water touches human lives around the globe and the struggles some endure for this valuable resource. Airing on the Planet Green Channel, ONE WATER, will be a featured program in “Blue August,” a month of programming focusing on our oceans, seas and critical water issues. Monday, August 2 at 12 a.m. & 9 p.m. E.D.T. Tuesday, August 3 at 4 p.m. E.D.T., Saturday, August 7 at 1 a.m. and 10 p.m. E.D.T. If you are in the Miami area: Comcast offers Planet Green on channel 113. DIRECTV subscribers tune into channel 286, also available in HD. DISH Network offers Planet Green on channel 194, HD (coming soon). AT&T U-verse subscribers tune into channel 465 of 1465 for HD. Please check your local channel lineup if you are outside of the Miami area.

>>> WEDNESDAY, JULY 28TH -Meet Your County Commission Candidates for District 8 and District 10, General Membership Breakfast, Miami Marriott Dadeland, 9100 South Dadeland Boulevard, 7:15am

EDITORIALS

>>> Independent experts must review collective debt of Miami-Dade and its 35 municipalities and recommend a course of action

Debt is not a sexy issue and when it comes to public debt, many people in the community give a big yawn but here in South Florida we are a microcosm of the nation’s debt problems, and future financial obligations. A commission of experts needs to be assembled to deal with the problem here in an aggregate way from Miami-Dade County on down to the 35 municipalities that make up our community. At the city of Miami, commissioners got a wake up call when they had to vote for a slight tax increase when it came to the $255 million GOB interest payments last week and more of this will come from other cities as well. At the county, the proposed 2010-2011 budget book has also a five year outlook in many aspects and the numbers in the out years become potentially unmanageable, and when you add the debt of the cities, the years ahead present real challenges when it comes just servicing the interest due and the problem needs to be addressed now.

After decades of continued growth throughout the state of Florida, local public institutions got used to always getting extra money and project after project have been added on, over the years. But now questions are also being raised if there is public money to maintain and provide programming in the future and with another few years at the least being down when it comes to real estate values. Public institutions must come together and address the issue collectively for it is too large of an issue to try to address in a piece meal fashion. Miami-Dade has a rich history of creating board’s to look at critical issues vital to the county from healthcare issues, to new schools, or facilities at the Jackson Health System and the Watchdog Report believes now is the time to take on this community time bomb while it can still be defused over a considerable amount of time but the problem must be addressed. Growth and development in South Florida has changed, and many die hard fiscal assumptions have been turned upside down but the “beat goes on” as County Commissioner Javier Souto pointed out last week when the commission approved another set of bonds to be sold. However, these debt instruments have to be paid back, and many of the elected leaders in office or running the different administrations will no longer be there, and is why an outside look of this issue is so necessary. For, the collective number I suspect is in the tens of billions of dollars and there is only so much debt capacity available within the community as a whole. And only by looking at the issue in its totality, will one see magnitude of the problem and why it must be addressed now, and not later for it is like a community cancer that is only is growing in size.

LETTERS

>>> A reader’s mistake of the week

The mistake of the week: Miami-Dade Commissioner Sally Heyman offering up some of her office funds to support the Cancer Awareness project at the Health and Public Safety Committee (a worthwhile cause) but then stating “no taxpayer funds” are being used. Is she reaching into her own pocket and funding her office budget? Doubtful. Just another example of a politician using our money and claiming it’s from them.

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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

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Watchdog Report

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Copyright © of original material, 2010, 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.

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)

Large Business Supporters $500

Small Business Supporters $250

Individual Supporter $150

Student Supporter $ 75

Any amount $

Name & Address

Please make checks payable to: Daniel A. Ricker

Send to

3109 Grand Avenue, #125

Miami, FL 33133

Fax 305-668-4784 -To contact the Publisher please e-mail watchdogreport1@earthlink.net