Month of May 2011

 
 

Watchdog Report Vol. 12 No.3 May 22, 2011 Est.05.05.00 – Celebrating my 12th Anniversary

WATCHDOG REPORT

Miami-Dade, Florida                                                                                                            

Vol. 12 No.3 May 22, 2011

Daniel A. Ricker, Publisher & Editor 

Est. 05.05.00  I go when you cannot & A community education resource & news service

www.watchdogreport.net  & Former Miami Herald independent news columnist

 

CONTENTS  

 

Argus Report: Farm Share hits $500 million milestone in food assistance to roughly 460,000 S. Florida families

Florida: Republican majority leader state Rep. Lopez-Cantera says $69.7 billion budget tough because “not enough money” to cover growth in “Medicaid and education”

Miami-Dade County: Negative mayoral candidates attack ads hit the airwaves, how low will these go, getting ugly with 48-hours to go to Election Day

Miami-Dade Public Schools: Critical six-page parent’s letter transmitted to internal audit dept. & IG to investigate allegations against A& M school owner Alonso Poch

Public Health Trust: BCC Chair Martinez gives thumbs down on not televising FRB meetings at commission chambers

City of Miami: Miami wants to float new $140 million bond, $50 million pays off bridge loan for new Port of Miami tunnel, what is the commission’s appetite for new debt?

City of Hialeah: Two men sentenced to extensive prison time for identity theft and credit card fraud scheme 

City of Miami Beach: Commissioner Tobin gives MPO & BCC “new found respect” given the county’s much larger transportation workload level 

City of Coral Gables: Commissioner Anderson says city is meeting budget challenges “head-on” though tough with shrinking tax base

City of Doral: City begins 90-day warning period for red light camera safety program

>>> Other stories around Florida

Broward County: Financial advisor is sentenced 63 months for stealing more than $1 million in client funds

City of Ft. Lauderdale: Former founding partner of Ft. Lauderdale law firm pleads guilty to $837 million investment fraud scheme

Palm Beach County: Lake Worth MD arrested on 55 counts of illegal distribution of Oxycodone at local clinic  

Duval County: Democratic Mayor Brown’s victory stuns local Republicans, Is the tide turning with key swing independent voters? 

St. Johns County: Gov. Scott taps Gary R. Chartrand to the State Board of Education. 

Monroe County: Residents meeting schedule with Rep. Ros-Lehtinen changes for the Keys

Editorials: Let “would anyone from the public like to speak,” ring out throughout South Florida at trusts, boards, and authorities, these bodies should humor public — PAST WDR:  A brief history of the Watchdog Report over the past 12 years, but an odyssey that really started in late1997 when waste, fraud and public corruption flourished in South Florida

Letters: Reader thinks voter apathy makes the community the “biggest loser”

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.

>>> 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 to financially support and maintain my webpage.

 

>>> 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. I almost did not write this week because of my financial condition. And while I as so many others are facing tough times. I hope you or your organization will consider helping in a small or larger way and help keep another voice on line and in the media. 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 is celebrating its 12th Anniversary.

>>> I was on WLRN/NPR 91.3 FM on Wed. May 18, to discuss the mayoral race and Miami-Dade Charter Amendments on the May 24 election day ballot. I was on Topical Currents hosted by Joseph Cooper and included Herald editorial board columnist Jackie Bueno Sousa and former charter review member and attorney Jorge Luis Lopez. To hear the show go to: http://www.wlrn.org/radio/programs/topical-currents/archive/  -

>>> CORRECTION & CLARIFICATION: In last week’s WDR, I incorrectly wrote that Miami-Dade Commissioner Lynda Bell voted to approve $245,000 of Commissioner Natacha Seijas office funds be released to a variety of organizations March 15. She was not one of the two commissioners that did vote yes, but the item failed at the time. Further, while 88 percent of the voters that turned out did vote to recall Mayor Carlos Alvarez and Seijas. That turnout was only 17 percent of the 1.2 million Miami-Dade voters and the story did not make that clear.

ARGUS REPORT – Heard, Seen on the Street   

>>> Farm Share hits $500 million milestone in food assistance to roughly 460,000 S. Florida families

 

Farm Share, the South Florida not-for-profit food bank established in 1991 hit an all time high of having given out $500 million in food since the organization’s creation, said Patricia Robbins, the chair of Farm Share’s board. The organization is seeing people applying for food assistance jumping by 64 percent and about 460,000 families are receiving food assistance this year. Miami-Dade with an unemployment rate over 12 percent is creating more demand for this food than can be handled, but Farm Share is a remarkable success story that has a wide range of supporters and sponsors including www.wpbt.org and the operation is run on a financial shoestring and small staff. For more information go to Farm Share, non-profit food-bank, for recovery and distribution of … Acknowledging the importance of the problem of hunger in Miami-Dade County, Commissioners voted unanimously to fund Farm Share and save the Indiviual …

http://www.farmshare.org/  - 30k – Cached - Similar pages

>>> Investigative reporter Norman joins WPLG Channel 10; station gets a coup

Bob Norman, the award winning long time investigative reporter for the Broward/Palm Beach New Times is starting with www.wplg.com a Washington Post company in South Florida in the coming days and he has been a tenacious hard working investigative reporter in Broward and nailed Scott Rothstein early on before the high profile attorney went into Ponzi scheme meltdown last fall. Norman also is seen periodically on television, especially during elections and does a solid job and he will bring that knowledge and presence to the screen. The Watchdog Report gives Bob a Tip of the Hat for a job well done, but unfortunately Broward elected leaders are now breathing a little better but they shouldn’t, because I suspect he will just use his hard-hitting coverage style blended with a camera to keep his eye on any Broward wayward officials that catch his attention. For the station’s announcement go to>>> Award-Winning Journalist Bob Norman Joins Local 10 News Apr 29, 2011Award-Winning Journalist Bob Norman Joins Local 10 News. Local 10 is proud to announce that one of South Florida’s most respected journalists is joining the team. Bob Norman has worked for the Broward Topic: News

>>> Press release: U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, made the following statement recognizing the 50th anniversary of the Department of State’s Operations Center: “Over the last 50 years, the Operations Center has been one of our nation’s most critical and effective lifelines in connecting and working with the rest of the world. As the State Department’s first responder to major events across the globe, ranging from natural disasters to political strife, the center provides non-stop operations that help manage international crises. “I congratulate the Operations Center’s success in furthering our national security efforts, and thank all the watch officers for their service and for organizing and providing crucial assistance during crisis situations.”

 

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

 

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!

>>> Repeat of national Tribune paper profile, a blast from the past of Watchdog’s life back in Jan. 2003, not all that much has changed financially

The Watchdog Report is going down memory lane again, during the past moving process, and here is a national profile and story done by Maya Bell in the Orlando-Sentinel, but ran in all the Tribune papers around the nation on Martin Luther King’s Birthday back in Jan.20, 2003.  After she spent about six weeks, off and on, experiencing the world I was living in back then, and she nicely captured the reality of my life, that in many ways continues to today, which I wish was otherwise after now 12-years.

 

>>> `I Go When You Cannot’ – January 20, 2003|By Maya Bell – Orlando Sentinel – Miami Bureau Chief

Sometimes Dan Ricker lives in the dark so others may live in the light. It’s not by choice. Miami’s self-anointed citizen watchdog depends on the people he writes for and about to finance his quixotic quest to attend nearly every government meeting in Miami-Dade County. That’s a lot of mind-numbing meetings — as many as 2,500 a year — but not a lot of income. So Ricker teeters on bankruptcy. He dashes to his post office box daily, hoping subscribers to his weekly Watchdog Report have finally mailed their checks.

Among them are managers with Florida Power & Light, the utility that regularly cuts power to Ricker’s Coconut Grove home, most recently while he was attending a legislative delegation meeting last month. But what Ricker, once a successful international sales executive, lacks in financial stability, he makes up for in credibility. When he walks into Miami-Dade’s government center, the county manager salutes him. When he runs into Miami’s first Cuban-American congresswoman, she greets him with a kiss. “He knows where the bodies are buried,” said U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami. “He knows the people behind the curtain. He knows the real wizard of Oz.” >>> To read the section’s large front page story, but without the photos and smart box graphics, go to: `I Go When You Cannot’ – Sun Sentinel 20 Jan 2003 … Sometimes Dan Ricker lives in the dark so others may live in the light. … to his weekly Watchdog Report have finally mailed their checks. … http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2003-01-20/news/0301190341_1_ricker-school-board-president-miami-s-first-cuban-american

>>> All photos in the Watchdog Report are taken from public government sites, and the Report goes on line at www.watchdogreport.net  on Monday sometime during the day usually. >>> If you believe it is important to have someone watching your public institutions consider supporting the Watchdog Report for I am a low cost news service yet I do have to live, thank you! 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 numerous times over the past decade.

FLORIDA

>>> Republican majority leader state Rep. Lopez-Cantera says $69.7 billion budget tough because “not enough money” to cover growth in “Medicaid and education”

State Rep. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, R-Miami (net worth $1.75 million) spoke at the Elephant Forum luncheon Monday at the Rusty Pelican and he reviewed the recently completed Florida Legislative Session that approved a $69.7 billion budget but faced a $3.8 billion revenue shortfall for the coming year starting July1. Lopez-Cantera, elected in 2004 to the House after losing an earlier first run is the GOP majority leader in the body, and he and his family live in Coconut Grove. He said the session and budget was “probable the toughest in the State of Florida’s history” and “there just was not enough money to cover the growth of Medicaid, Education and the Criminal Justice System,” he said. The legislator said while Republican Gov. Rick Scott (Net worth $218 million) had wanted greater tax breaks for business, which wasn’t possible given the fiscal challenges, they did give a tax break to companies’ whose profits that are “less than $25, 000,” he said. (Scott is expected to make some $1 billion in budget cuts, insiders say). He noted the delegation was able to secure $55 million for “the tunnel dredging and that should create around 30,000 new jobs,” and will “double the cargo capacity by 2020.” He also said residents would get a break on their taxes since the Water Districts taxing capacity around the state was reined in and is one of the taxing districts on peoples property tax bills sent from the county they live in.

Lopez-Cantera said Medicaid had to be reformed, especially in South Florida where “We are the Medicaid and [Medicare] fraud capital of the nation” and having a “more stringent process is better for the state” and “it will be a managed care” HMO model. And Medicaid fraud accounts for about $3 billion in lost revenues in the state per year and the Miami area is where fraudsters try their Beta sights and perfect the scam that once proven, is exported around the state and nation.

What about the end of the session?

He said while the discussions between the House, Senate and Scott were intense during the sixty day session with many ups and downs, “we were able to pass a balanced budget without raising taxes,” and we are “living within are means,” he closed. However, insiders noted there was some dissension within the Miami-Dade Legislative Delegation and there was not one meeting of the whole delegation during session, something never seen before now.

What about his future political plans in 2012 when he is termed out?

The Watchdog Report asked Lopez-Cantera if he had any plans to run for office in 2012 after he noted he looked forward to being in Miami in the spring with his family in the coming years. He said “no” to the question, but his involvement with Norman Braman on the recall of Mayor Carlos Alvarez (net worth $1.74 million), and now charter reform changes will keep him in the public spotlight as these political dynamics play out locally in the months ahead and he should not be counted out in any future political races.

What about the shout out to state Rep. Diaz?

 

Lopez-Cantera gave a shout out to a freshman legislator, state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami, an attorney for his hard work during the almost 24 hour conference sessions at the end on the controversial budget reconciliation between the House and Senate. The majority leader said Diaz’s “tenacity” and diligence during the process left “Miami-Dade better off,” while other state legislators from around the state tried to push their own items in the budget, and the session could have been worse for South Florida. For more on the legislative session go to Miami-Dade lawmakers scored legislative wins in Tallahassee – Political Currents – MiamiHerald.com

>>> Press release: Governor Rick Scott today announced the appointments of Allan G. Bense and Joseph R. Gruters to the Board of Trustees, Florida State University.

Bense, 59, of Panama City, is the president and chief executive officer of Bense Enterprises Inc.  He succeeds Leslie Pantin and is appointed for a term beginning May 18, 2011, and ending January 6, 2016.

Gruters, 33, of Sarasota, is an accountant with Shinn and Company.  He succeeds Derrick Brooks and is appointed for a term beginning May 18, 2011, and ending January 6, 2016. The appointments are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY

 

>>> Negative mayoral candidates attack ads hit the airwaves, how low will these go, getting ugly with 48-hours to go to Election Day

With the clock ticking until Election Day May 24, candidates are working the public meetings, and television airwaves but for the perceived front-runners, Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina (Net worth over $8 million) and former county Commissioner Carlos Gimenez (Net worth $871,000). They seem to be saving some of their campaign war chest for another day, like the runoff race that is expected June 28 since there are 11 candidates in the field. The Watchdog Report on Friday went to a number of the larger early voting sites and at the West Miami-Dade Library around noon, a fairly steady stream of voters were coming to the polls and supporters for Robaina, Gimenez, former state Rep. Marcelo Llorente, R-Miami and former county Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Cancio were in force at the site, but nothing in the way of supporters from the other seven mayoral candidates.

Political pundits say the real race begins this Wednesday with the runoff race and political ads are expected to escalate in frequency and stridency as the two candidate’s left, face off in this last sprint to Election Day June 28. Insiders say it will be Robaina and Gimenez but voters are all over the place and outsiders like Llorente and Luther Campbell are getting a look see and in the case of the former rap singer and front man for 2 Live Crew. He is getting media attention from a number of outlets, including the Miami New Times where he writes a featured weekly column.

>>> Here are the updated financial contribution reports for the candidates as of Apr. 22

Mayor 2011 Wilbur ‘Short Stop’ Bell ( Active- Qualified) NOP $26,211.00   $3,215.24
Mayor 2011 Roosevelt Bradley ( Active- Qualified) NOP $10,225.00   $3,158.74
Mayor 2011 Luther ‘Luke’ Campbell ( Active- Qualified) NOP $6,425.26 $500.00 $3,012.68
Mayor 2011 Jose ‘Pepe’ Cancio ( Active- Qualified) NOP $170,650.00 $1,650.00 $16,367.71
Mayor 2011 Carlos Gimenez ( Active- Qualified) NOP $450,018.00 $7,219.39 $380,761.14
Mayor 2011 Farid Khavari ( Active- Qualified) NOP $4,500.16   $2,912.51
Mayor 2011 Jeffrey Lampert ( Active- Qualified) NOP $3,000.00   $2,768.20
Mayor 2011 Eddie Lewis ( Active- Qualified) NOP $3,470.00   $2,721.57
Mayor 2011 Marcelo Llorente ( Active- Qualified) NOP $402,831.00 $700.00 $238,953.34
Mayor 2011 Gabrielle Redfern ( Active- Qualified) NOP $10,710.81 $1,500.00 $4,573.50
Mayor 2011 Julio Robaina ( Active- Qualified) NOP $767,075.00   $287,987.53

 

>>> Rumble in Dist. 7 commission race pits Suarez against Robaina, how low will they go?

The race for the county Commission District 7 race vacated by Carlos Gimenez when he announced he was running for county mayor in March has former Miami Mayor Xavier Suarez facing off against former state Rep. Julio Robaina, R-South Miami. Suarez ran for the seat in 2004 using public campaign money for part of his losing race but in this current race. He has no fund raising problem given the $249,000 in his campaign war chest, though he has spent $207,000 of that money. Robaina, a former South Miami mayor started late in the race but he has jumped from around $6,500 to $74,000 in the past campaign contribution cycle, he is an affable guy and is retired from Bell South. Suarez however has past political baggage and a judge removed him after his last stint as mayor in the 1990s because the election was tainted by voter fraud and had one man, Mr. Yip voting even though he had been dead for a number of years and Yip was the poster child of this wild west and persistent ballot fraud occurring in the city at the time. www.miamiherald.com

Suarez an undergraduate and Harvard trained attorney also ran a failed bid for Miami mayor in 2001 and he did not make the runoff back then which pitted Manny Diaz (Met worth $1.8 million) against Maurice Ferre (Net worth $2.7 million), and Diaz prevailed. Friends of Suarez say he has mellowed out and is not so self absorbed as in the past and he showed up at a recent debate almost on time, and did not make the usual grand entrance to the event after he got out of his light blue BMW Z 3 convertible but was still on his cell phone. Robaina, who lost a tough race in 2010 for a state Senate seat now held by state Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami and while Robaina is trailing in the polls. His supporters say the more moderate Republican is well liked and should not be counted out, even though Suarez has engaged some big political guns including the support of Norman Braman and Lincoln and Mario Diaz- Balart’s in the race. 

Voters will get a do over in 2012

However, whoever wins the mayor’s or commission race will face voters in September 2012 and the candidates should remember that fact if they win. For voters are all over the place and one political flavor may be in vogue now, but that may not be the case in a year, just as Republicans bounced back in 2010 after the party was considered all but dead after the 2008 election that had Democrats in the driver seat in Congress and the White House.

County Commission 07 2011 Julio Robaina ( Active- Qualified) NOP $74,177.00   $56,719.75
County Commission 07 2011 Xavier L. Suarez ( Active- Qualified) NOP $249,425.00 $233.70 $241,008.85

 

>>> Heyman recused from discussion on food trucks, owns Coffee Brake truck

When it came to county commission legislation concerning mobile food trucks that have become very popular in South Florida and are a long way from the proverbial roach coaches that still ply construction sites throughout Miami. Commissioner Sally Heyman (Net worth $425,000) last week had to recuse herself from the commission discussion and vote since she owns such a truck called Coffee Brake and goes to development sites and charity events with the vehicle. Recently, when she was talking to Carlos Migoya at county hall, they both suggested they sit down and have some coffee together and Heyman joked she had that covered, though Migoya was not familiar with her side business at the time. She sells coffee, smoothies and baked goods and her web page is www.mycoffeebrake.com and for a story on her business http://blogs.miaminewtimes.com/shortorder/2009/06/dade_county_commissioner_sally.php 

Heyman

>>> Chief Lorenzo & DERM Director Espinosa say sayonara to public service

The Miami-Dade Commission Tuesday honored two long serving county directors when they retired last week, Fire Chief Herminio Lorenzo and DERM Director Carlos Espinosa. Both men have served with honor and done a yeoman’s job and in the case of Lorenzo. He led a team of county fire rescue members after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and the team got there even before FEMA said county Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz (Net worth $164,000) at the ceremony. However, Diaz was driving one of the trucks said commissioner Barbara Jordan (Net worth $1.97 million) and “Pepe drove the van like a Humvee and [in her case] I started praying very hard,” she told commissioners from the dais.


Jordan

Diaz

>>> Commission gives Souto shout out for pushing bus bike racks

Commissioner Javier Souto (Net worth $790,000) got a shout out for his pushing putting bike racks on Metro buses and the number of people on bicycles has shot up dramatically. Commission Chair Joe Martinez (Net worth $245,000), at Thursday’s MPO meeting mentioned it while trying to get a quorum and Souto said a reporter from Miami New Times once accompanied him on one of his trips and found out it could be done.

Souto

>>> CRB Chair Artecona warns there are ethnic “tensions bubbling out there,” need to be “vigilant because people are mad and frustrated”

Mario Artecona, the Chair of the Miami-Dade Community Relations Board established in the 1960s to help give the diverse peoples of the county a safety valve where people and government agencies can work together to try to solve ethnic, racial or religious tensions in the community. The CRB board chair spoke to the County Commission Tuesday he said in the field many people believe that they “are over promised and underserved” when it comes to the results and changes in their community. Artecona noted that there is “tension bubbling out there in the community” and suggested to commissioners that residents “are on edge,” he said. “We need to be vigilant” because “people are mad and frustrated and are looking for someone to blame,” he concluded.

>>> Press release: Election Ready – Absentee ballots have been mailed for the May 24 Special Election.  Early voting will begin on Monday, May 9 and end on Sunday, May 22.  Make sure to be Election Ready. > Sample ballot > Early voting schedule >

>>> GMCVB press release: RECORD HO$PITALITY JOB$…JOB$…JOB$:  GREATER MIAMI’S LEISURE AND HOSPITALITY JOB$ INCREASE TO RECORD HIGH IN APRIL 2011

In April 2011, Greater Miami’s Leisure and Hospitality Industry employment increased +4.1% compared to the same period in 2010. This is the 11th consecutive month of increased employment in Greater Miami’s Leisure and Hospitality industry. In April 2011, an average of 112,000 people were employed in Greater Miami’s Leisure and Hospitality sector compared to 107,600 for April 2010.

GREATER MIAMI LEISURE AND HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY JOB$

April 2011 April 2010 % Change
112,000 jobs 107,600  jobs + 4.1%

 

>>> Press release: The Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), the agency responsible for transportation planning in Miami-Dade County, will participate in the City of Miami’s “Miami Bicycle Summit”, which will provide a forum for discussion on improving bicycling in Miami-Dade County. Staff from the Florida Department of Transportation, the City of Miami and Miami Beach, Miami-Dade County, and the Miami-Dade MPO will speak about recent developments in bicycle transportation, and listen to concerns and ideas from the public about improving bicycling. What: Miami Bicycle Summit When: Thursday, June 2, 2011 at 5:30 – 9:00 PM Where: The Gove Spot, 3324 Virginia Street, Coconut Grove, FL 33133 To learn more about the Miami Bicycle Summit, please call (305) 416-1022 or email cworth@miamigov.com – If you would like more information about the MPO’s Bicycle/Pedestrian Program please call (305) 375-4507 or visit our website at www.miamidade.gov/mpo

MIAMI-DADE PUBLIC SCHOOLS

 

>>> Critical six-page parent’s letter transmitted to district’s internal auditor & IG to investigate allegations against A& M school owner Alonso Poch

The Arts & Mind Charter School on Commodore Plaza in Coconut Grove was the non-discussion of the day at the school board’s audit committee Tuesday.  Dr. Helen Blanch, the Assistant Superintendent of School Operations, because of “the length and depth” of the allegations and governance issues regarding the school said the scope of the investigation “rose to levels beyond the scope of our office”, involves statutory issues, and is not just about “the scope of a contract” with a charter school. She said her department has forwarded the six-page parents letter written May 3 on the charter school, as was reported in past Watchdog Reports, to the internal audit department and the district’s inspector general for further investigation. She also noted at this point these “are allegations” and it was “inappropriate” to discuss the matter in public until the “formal investigation” is completed. School Board Attorney Walter Harvey concurred regarding any public discussion but did say the letter from the parents is being “taken very seriously,” he told the audit committee members.

Parents and the schools PTA members attended the meeting and one of them spoke briefly to audit committee members about their concerns with the school’s owner Manny Alonso Poch who owns the building where he founded the school that gets $69,000 in monthly rent from the public school district. This is a “related transaction” as it is known within the school district and the Watchdog Report flagged it back in 2004 when the charter school was first formed. However, the overall discussion misfired since the issues are now part of an active investigation and Frederick “Buck” Thornburg,  the audit committee chair said “I blew it,” allowing the issue to be discussed, where school board Chair Perla Tabares Hantman had not even seen the letter from the parents and she was visible annoyed that board members had not seen the document, (though most of the time the board is unaware of such complaints and the matter was working its way through the district administration). Thornburg cautioned during the truncated discussion of A&M that it was important to “ferret out what is fact or allegation” because some of these “allegations involve criminality” and why he was wrong in allowing a verbal report on the matter to be put on the agenda “and it should not have been on the agenda in this fashion,” the attorney said.


Hantman

Feldman

Regalado

Anything unusual happen?

 

School Board member Raquel Regalado, an attorney, elected in 2010, whose district includes A&M in the Grove spoke to the school’s parents during the meeting and she explained there were limits of what the school district could do in this matter. She is not officially on the audit committee and she went on for a few minutes before the chair and other board members who wondered why she was speaking on the issue to actual parents in this dispute that is sensitive in nature cut her off. Further, Regalado knows Alonso Poch because he is a good friend of her father’s, Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado (Net worth $5,000) and Poch; an attorney is part of a group of people trying to reopen the Miami Marine Stadium, and he is pushing for a Maritime Museum on some of the land. The stadium is an iconic landmark that has fallen in disrepair on Virginia Key, but if the money can be found, could be rehabilitated in the coming years and Poch attends many of the city’s internal meetings on what to do with the city owned parcel of land and how it should be developed in the decade ahead.

 Mayor Regalado

Anything else?

Isaac Salver, the current treasurer of The Children’s Trust of Miami-Dade and an elected municipal official at the end of the audit committee questioned the role of school board members on the community firewall body and while School Board member Lawrence Feldman is a voting member on the 10-person board. The other school board members are allowed to sit in at meetings but generally, over the years would rarely speak. And Salver is right to question whether it is appropriate to have so much school board interaction at these meetings given their responsibility of being the $4.3 billion district’s citizen’s independent watchdog. That had the audit committee in the 1990s being a much more politicized board than now, had the same chair, Hank Mack for a decade, before he was finally forced to step-down for a medical issue around 2003 after the Watchdog Report wrote a story detailing him making a Sunshine Violation in emails to other audit committee and school board members.  

 

PUBLIC HEALTH TRUST

 

>>> BCC Chair Martinez gives thumbs down on not televising FRB meetings at commission chambers

A brief discussion Thursday about whether to ask Miami-Dade Commission Chair Joe Martinez if the commission might consider passing that the Financial Recovery Board (FRB) monthly board meeting not have to be televised was discussed and it was brought up by FRB member Joe Arriola. Marcos Lapciuc said there was a trade off in asking for such a request just for “efficiency” and the televised meeting was done to maintain board “transparency,” something Lapciuc the FRB chair personally supports he said. Assistant county attorney Gene Shy also chimed in that the commission chambers were chosen last year because when the meetings were held in the Ira C. Clark Diagnostic Treatment Center. There was “a chilling effect regarding the public meeting,” he said.

However, later in the day I ran into Martinez and asked about the issue of not having the FRB meetings televised and he said that was a non-starter and there was no way he would support such a change. The issue of televising PHT board meetings was one of the Watchdog Report’s major initiatives back in 2002 and 2003 since all the meetings were being held in the West Wing boardroom and not seen by a wide swath of the county residents. It seemed incredible that local municipalities, significantly smaller than Jackson were on television and why not the PHT board meetings and I railed in stories and editorials why this should be changed and finally was.

Back then, County Commission board Chair Barbara Carey-Shuler when I discussed the issue with her said, “Yeah, why should we have all the fun.  They need to televise their meetings and allow the county’s inspector general’s office” to have a satellite office on the sprawling campus as well and that is what happened after the county commission subsequently passed the legislation. Since then the meetings were televised but at a PHT site that required people to check in with security, but conflicted with an aspect of the Florida Sunshine Law and about a year ago the location was changed and is now held in the county commission chambers and is fully televised.


Martinez
    

Lapciuc

What about the FRB meetings?

 

With only six of the seven members of the FRB on board, meetings and discussions last week are happening at a much faster rate and discussions are actually ending early. However, these public meetings are being well attended and there should be a provision to add more chairs in the room so no one has to sit on the floor.

>>> Ethics opinion on FRB member del Cueto and his association with a union

“Dear Mr. del Cueto: Although the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust has no formal legal authority to issue opinions under the heightened conflict of interest standard – outlined by the County Attorney in his May 5, 2011 memorandum to the Board of County Commissioners – I want to point out to you that the County Attorney considered stakeholder conflicts as reasons against appointing individuals to the Financial Recovery Board.  The memorandum identifies one stakeholder conflict to be an appointee who was officer/member of a union that has entered into collective bargaining agreements with the Public Health Trust.  Pursuant to the authority vested in the President of the South Florida Chapter of the AFL-CIO, you were appointed to serve on the Financial Recovery Board.  The question is whether your past affiliations with unions would bar you from sitting on the Financial Recovery Board.

When the County Attorney refers to concerns about perceptions of conflicts associated with the appointment process, I read this to mean current associations, or possibly associations of the recent-past.  In your specific case, your activity with a labor union ended in 2008.  Therefore, I am of the opinion that no perception of conflict of interest exists and there is no impediment to serving on the FRB. If you have any questions, please contact me at your convenience,” wrote Robert Meyers, Executive Director, Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust.

 

>> Here is del Cueto’s letter asking for an opinion: May 19, 2011, Mr. Robert Meyers, Miami Dade Ethics and Public Trust Commission

“Dear Mr. Meyers, The Miami Herald ran an editorial piece on Monday the 16th where they wrote that my appointment to the Financial Recovery Board is “ethically challenged”. As per (Resolution R-392-11) the standard that FRB members are being held to shall be a heightened standard according to the Conflict of Interest Code. I am therefore requesting a written response from your office with regards to any conflicts regarding my appointment to the FRB.  Thanking you in advance for your response on this matter, wrote the FRB member.

>>> To read the final Hospital Governance Task Force for Jackson Health System – go to http://www.miamidade.gov/auditor/library/Hospital_governance_Taskforce_Final_Report.pdf

>>> Miami Commissioner Sarnoff added to PHT meeting distribution list, both he and Migoya deny asking the leader to be added

The Watchdog Report noticed in public meeting announcements from the PHT that a new name was added on May 12th and it is Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff (Net worth $2.12 million). Sarnoff said on Friday night he did not know who added his name to this distribution list and PHT CEO Carlos Migoya, 61, also said he did not know how the commissioner’s name got on the list. But Sarnoff who had dinner with Migoya May 13 said he was glad he is getting them now that Migoya is running Jackson Health System. I went back through past meeting announcements and Sarnoff was not listed May 5 or May 10th but popped up on the May 12 distribution list on the public announcement, and since both men deny asking for the email address inclusion – it is a mystery how Sarnoff’s name got there.


Sarnoff

Migoya

 

>>> Press release: Holtz Children’s Hospital at the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Medical Center is among the country’s elite, according to U.S. News & World Report’s Best Children’s Hospitals rankings published today online. The rankings recognize the top 50 children’s hospitals in 10 specialties.

Holtz was ranked in seven specialties this year: 25th in neonatology, 26th in nephrology, 41st in diabetes and endocrinology, 42nd in urology, 43rd in both cardiology/heart surgery and gastroenterology, and 49th in cancer. In addition, U.S. News also ranked the University of Miami Health System’s Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in ophthalmology and the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Medical Center’s ear, nose and throat program as part of their 2010-2011 “Best Hospitals” rankings. Both programs support Holtz in providing child health services. The Best Children’s Hospitals rankings pull together clinical and operational data from a lengthy survey completed by the hospitals. That survey asks hundreds of questions about survival rates, nurse staffing, sub specialist availability, and many more pieces of critical information. Data from the survey are combined with recommendations from pediatric specialists nationwide on the hospitals they consider best for children with challenging medical problems.

“This important honor reminds all of us of the outstanding medical expertise and compassionate care that Holtz provides to children every day,” said Carlos A. Migoya, president and chief executive officer of Jackson Health System. “We congratulate the medical team at Holtz Children’s Hospital and the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine for their commitment to excellence.” “To be recognized for seven of our pediatric specialties is a testament to the high quality of our physicians and nurses who devote their lives to helping sick children become healthy and lead productive lives,’’ said Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., senior vice president for medical affairs and dean of the Miller School.

“I am very proud of the tremendous collaborative successes between Jackson Health System and the University of Miami Health System at our Holtz Children’s Hospital,” said Steven E. Lipshultz, M.D., professor and chairman of pediatrics and associate executive dean for child health at the Miller School and chief of staff of Holtz Children’s Hospital. “The considerable efforts of our complex, multifaceted, integrated teams have enabled us to reach the highest levels in child health care for our region through better systems thinking, interdisciplinary linkages and alignments, along with improved clinical-academic integration.”

Holtz Children’s Hospital is one of the largest children’s hospitals in the southeast United States. In 2010, Holtz had more pediatric specialists selected as Best Doctors in America® than any other children’s hospital in South Florida. Through its experienced medical and support staff, including some of the top pediatricians in the nation, the facility provides research and treatment for a wide range of pediatric medical specialties. The rankings can be seen online at www.usnews.com/childrenshospitals and will also appear in the Best Hospitals print guide on newsstands Aug. 30.

CITY OF MIAMI

 

>>> Miami wants to float new $140 million bond, $50 million pays off bridge loan for new Port of Miami tunnel, what is the commission’s appetite for new debt?

The Miami Commission on Thursday will be voting on whether to issue $140 million in bonds to payoff a $50 million bond sold in 2010 for the city’s part payment to the $1 billion Port of Miami Tunnel. However, the city is also being investigated by the SEC regarding how past bonds were floated and whether these were fairly represented when it came to their repayment ability by Miami. Only a portion of the aggregate amount of this new bond will cover the one-year $50 million note from Wachovia Bank and was a bridge loan because the city was required to put up the money that is part of a Global deal with Miami-Dade and the state and one project in the deal was the new port tunnel expected to cost about $1 billion and should be completed in 2014.

However, another project in this Global deal is the new Florida Marlins stadium with the enclosed roof costing around $600 million, but when financing is added over the coming decades comes to $2.4 billion when all is said and done. The controversial stadium is still creating political blowback, especially since new financial information about the team shows in fact the professional team is making money and the depiction of the team financially struggling turned out to be a canard to get significant tourist tax dollars to finance the project approved by both the Miami Commission and the Miami-Dade Commission a few years ago.

 >>> 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, PAB,CIP, Code, etc. hearings)    http://videos.miamigov.com/  

CITY OF HIALEAH

>>> Press release: Two men sentenced to extensive time for identity theft and credit card fraud scheme

       

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Michael K. Fithen, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Secret Service, Miami Field Office, announced today that Jose Cruz, 28, and Lisandra Cruz, 19, both of Hialeah, were sentenced to 75 months and 48 months in prison, respectively, before U.S. District Court Judge Jose M. Martinez.  Their co-defendant, Yuremys Marchante, 30, also of Hialeah, was sentenced to 57 months in prison on April 19, 2011.  All three defendants were convicted at trial on all four counts in the indictment, charging conspiracy to commit access device fraud, unauthorized use of access devices, and aggravated identity theft, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1029 and 1028A.  A fourth defendant, Alexis Toledo, was sentenced on April 8, 2011, after pleading guilty.  All of the defendants have been ordered  to pay restitution in an amount to be determined at a later hearing.

According to evidence presented at trial, between April 30, 2010 and May 29, 2010, defendants Jose Cruz and Yuremys Marchante recruited Toledo to skim credit card numbers from customers at a Flanigan’s restaurant in Hialeah, where Toledo was employed.  When unsuspecting customers would use their credit cards to pay for a meal, Toledo would swipe their card through a skimmer provided by Cruz and his girlfriend Marchante.  Those stolen credit card numbers were then later used by Cruz and Marchante to make dozens of fraudulent purchases from a Target store in Miami Gardens, where Lisandra Cruz, Jose’s sister, worked as a cashier.  The transactions were recorded on video. At today’s hearing, U.S. District Judge Jose E. Martinez concluded that defendants Jose Cruz and Yuremys Marchante were each responsible for a loss amount between $120,000 and $200,000, in fraud and also imposed a two-level increase in determining their sentencing guidelines, after finding that both were leaders and organizers of the conspiracy. >>> Mr. Ferrer commended the U.S. Secret Service and the Miami-Dade Police Department for their work in the case. This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Olivia Choe.

CITY OF MIAMI BEACH

 

>>> Commissioner Tobin gives MPO & BCC “new found respect” given the county’s much larger workload level

Commissioner Edward Tobin revealed last Thursday that given all the material that had to be reviewed before a Miami-Dade Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) meeting.  He said he was blown away with how commissioners do it given all the information since he has only the Beach to worry about regarding transportation issues. “I was skeptical when I first became a public official three-years ago” about the county commission, “but I have new found respect for the Miami-Dade Commission” because of the “tremendous amount of work” you all have to do on a much larger basis and “I have only a small amount,” like Deco Bike to deal with. He said when it came to the new rental bike program where people rent a bike for $15.00 a day and they leave it at another location. He was leery about the program at first but now “20,000 to 30,000 trips per month” are being reported and “everyone is using the Deco bikes” and you see them throughout the Beach, he said. He also noted this not only reduced vehicular traffic but is “bringing in new revenue” needed in these tough economic times. 

CITY OF CORAL GABLES

>>> Commissioner Anderson says city is meeting budget challenges “head-on” though tough with shrinking tax base

 

The Watchdog Report last week contacted Mayor Jim Cason and some commissioners asking how things were going, the challenges and the success for the City Beautiful and Commissioner Maria Anderson, elected in 2001, wrote back. “Like most cities we are working to generate revenue from an ever-shrinking tax base.  This extended downturn has presented challenges we have met head-on and made progress.  We have made good inroads in pension reforms and increasing our reserve balance.  [And] there is an opportunity to renegotiate our existing debt and leverage that back into much-needed capital projects that have been on hold for way too long.  I remain hopeful that our City Manager will move our priorities along in a fiscally conservative manner and keep our renowned city services at the levels people expect,” wrote the veteran commissioner.

CITY OF DORAL

>>> Press release: Doral begins 90-day warning period for red light camera safety program

In an effort to prevent dangerous accidents resulting from drivers running red-lights, the City of Doral announced that its intersection safety cameras will begin taking photos of red-light runners at designated intersections beginning on Friday April 1, 2011 and issuing warning notices during a 90-day period. These cameras will capture still images and video of red-light running violations. During a 90-day warning period, a warning notice will be issued to the vehicle’s registered owner. There will be no fine for this warning notice during this time. However, at the completion of the warning period, citations will be issued. Red-light running is the leading cause of urban crashes according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Deaths caused by red-light running are increasing at more than three times the rate of increase for all other fatal crashes, and more people are injured in crashes involving red-light running than in any other crash type.

The first safety camera will be located at the following intersection: Southbound on 79 Avenue and NW 36 Street. Throughout the following weeks, 10 additional safety cameras will be installed in the following intersections: Northbound NW 87TH AVE @ NW 36TH ST / DORAL BLVD; Eastbound NW 36TH ST / DORAL BLVD @ NW 87TH AVE; Westbound NW 36TH ST / DORAL BLVD @ NW 87TH AVE; Eastbound NW 36TH ST / DORAL BLVD @ NW 79TH AVE; Westbound NW 36TH ST / DORAL BLVD @ NW 79TH AVE; Northbound NW 97TH AVE @ NW 41ST Street/ DORAL BLVD; Southbound NW 97TH AVE @ NW 41ST Street/ DORAL BLVD; Westbound NW 41ST Street / DORAL BLVD @ NW 97TH AVE; Eastbound NW 41ST Street / DORAL BLVD @ NW 107TH AVE; Westbound NW 41ST Street/ DORAL BLVD @ NW 107TH AVE: Additional cameras could be added in the future. >>> The warning period will give the Doral community an opportunity to become familiar with the system. Drivers in Doral are encouraged to slow down and definitely stop on red before the actual citations begin. This is a public safety program, and the City of Doral’s goal is to deter red-light runners and prevent collisions and deaths resulting from these violations. Cameras will operate 24-hours a day and capture images of every vehicle running a red-light at the intersection. Warning signs alerting drivers to the intersection safety cameras have been installed prior to the warning period. The program is administered by American Traffic Solutions, Inc. (ATS) with each violation reviewed and approved by the Doral Police Department prior to being issued. Red-light running is the leading cause of urban crashes according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Deaths caused by red-light running are increasing at more than three times the rate of increase for all other fatal crashes, and more people are injured in crashes involving red-light running than in any other crash type. Intersection safety technology is just one way the City of Doral will make local streets safer for everyone. For more information on the City of Doral’s Road Safety Program, visit www.CityofDoral.com.

>>> OTHER STORIES AROUND FLORIDA

BROWARD COUNTY

>>> Press release: Financial advisor gets sentenced 63 months for stealing more than $1 million in client funds

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Michael K. Fithen, Special Agent in Charge, United States Secret Service, Miami Field Office, Duncan Foster, Chief of Police, Coral Springs Police Department, and  J. Thomas Cardwell, Commissioner, State of Florida’s Office of Financial Regulation, announced today’s sentencing of defendant Shawn Roberts, 52, of Parkland, Florida.  U.S. District Judge James I. Cohn sentenced Roberts to 63 months in prison, to be followed by 3 years of supervised release.  Roberts was also ordered to pay  $1,135,292 in restitution to a former client. Roberts pled guilty on February 11, 2011 to a criminal Information charging him with one count of mail fraud involving the theft of a client’s monies.  According to the charging document and statements made in court during today’s hearing, from 2005 to April12, 2009, Roberts was a financial advisor at Applied Benefits and Concepts, Inc., in Coral Springs, Florida.  In this capacity, Roberts handled investments for clients, and misappropriated more than $1,135,292 from a client.  Instead of investing  the client’s funds as directed by the client, Roberts converted the funds to his personal use.  To hide the fraud, Roberts prepared and mailed letters to his client, falsely  reflecting that the funds had been invested as directed. >>> Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the United States Secret Service, the Coral Springs Police Department, and the State of Florida’s Office of Financial Regulation.  This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey H. Kay. 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

CITY OF FT. LAUDERDALE

>>> Press release: Former founding partner of Ft. Lauderdale law firm pleads guilty to $837 million investment fraud scheme

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, announce that defendant Michael J. McNerney, a founding partner of the Ft. Lauderdale law firm formerly known as Brinkley, McNerney, Morgan, Solomon & Tatum, LLP, pled guilty on May 18, 2011, to a one count criminal Information charging him with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud in connection with a scheme to defraud investors in the Mutual Benefits Corporation (“MBC”).   As part of his plea agreement, McNerney agreed to be responsible for $837 million in restitution to the investors who were victims of this fraud. Sentencing has been scheduled for August 26, 2011 before U.S. District Judge Adalberto Jordan.  At sentencing, McNerney faces a maximum statutory sentence of five years in prison.  

For almost ten years, from about October 1994 through at least May 2004, McNerney was the lead outside lawyer for MBC, and participated in a scheme through which MBC sold investment interests in viatical and life settlement insurance policies to the general public, raising more than $1.25 billion from approximately 30,000 investors worldwide.  A viatical settlement is a transaction in which a terminally ill person sells the death benefit of his or her life insurance policy to a third party in return for a lump-sum cash payment, which is a discounted percentage of the policy’s face value.  A life settlement is similar to a viatical settlement, except the seller is not terminally ill, but is a senior citizen.  In the sale of viatical or life settlements, an investor would realize a profit if, when the insured dies and the policy matures, the policy benefit is more than the price paid for policy.  Any profit realized would be decreased by additional out-of-pocket costs, such as premium payments.

As charged in the Information, McNerney, as outside counsel for MBC, made and caused others to make, knowingly misleading representations concerning such matters as the management of MBC and its related entities and the sufficiency of the funds set aside to make premium payments on the investors’ policies.  For example, among the misrepresentations made to investors, MBC’s sales agents falsely promised a “fixed return” on investments and falsely represented that MBC had a strong track record of accurately predicting life expectancies.  In addition, McNerney and his conspirators concealed from investors and regulators the fact that Joel Steinger, a convicted felon, was the key decision maker at MBC.  Through these and other misrepresentations, MBC engaged in an unsustainable Ponzi scheme, in which it used new investors’ monies to pay previous investors. United States Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer stated, “Attorneys hold  a position of trust in our society.  As such, they are expected to deal honestly and truthfully with their clients and the general public in the exercise of their duties.  This attorney breached that duty and defrauded investors by providing “legal cover” to what was essentially nothing more than a Ponzi scheme.  McNerney abused his position of trust and used his law license to help commit this massive fraud.  Such abuse will not be tolerated…” >> 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.

>>> 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

>>> Press release: LAKE WORTH MD arrested on 55 counts of illegal distribution of Oxycodone at local clinic

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Mark R. Trouville, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Miami Field Division, announce the indictment of Cesar Deleon, 65, a doctor from Lake Worth, for his participation in the illegal distribution of pain killers.  This prosecution is part of Operation Pill Nation, in which DEA and local law enforcement agencies are investigating rogue pain clinics, known as “pill mills,” in South Florida, for illegally distributing oxycodone and other controlled substances. The indictment charges Cesar Deleon with fifty-five counts of illegally distributing oxycodone.  Dr. Deleon was arrested on May 17, 2011. If convicted, Deleon faces up to twenty years’ imprisonment on each count and up to a $1,000,000 fine. 

According to the indictment, Deleon operated his clinic, Trinity Medical Center, located in Lake Worth,  as a pill mill that offered patients prescriptions for highly addictive oxycodone and other controlled substances without a  legitimate medical purpose and outside the usual course of professional medical practice.  The indictment alleges that Deleon prescribed oxycodone without appropriate documentation establishing a valid medical need and in excessive and inappropriate quantities, and failed to conduct complete physical examinations.  Deleon also prescribed additional oxycodone and controlled substances to patients who were willing to pay him higher fees.  The indictment also alleges that Deleon engaged in sexual activity with female  patients at the clinic and, in exchange, would write these patients prescriptions for oxycodone and other substances, and give these patients free office visits and money. U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer stated, “Demand for oxycodone has grown to epidemic proportions in South Florida and other parts of the United States, where drug dealers can sell a 30 milligram pill on the street for $10 to $30 and more.  Operation Pill Nation is part of our concerted effort to keep South Florida from drowning in pill mills. We will continue to work with our state and local partners to shut down doctors, clinic owners and operators who deal drugs while hiding behind a medical license….” >>> U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the DEA, as well as the many other state and local agencies involved in Operation Pill Nation.  The federal case announced today is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Shaniek Maynard.  An indictment is merely an accusation and the defendants are assumed innocent 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

DUVAL COUNTY

 

>>> Democratic Mayor Brown’s victory stuns local Republicans, Is the tide turning with key swing independent voters?

The City of Jacksonville, a hard core Republican bastion is reeling from the election of Democratic Party mayoral candidate Alvin Brown over Republican candidate Mike Hogan Tuesday and the city is the largest in the state and could be a warning to the GOP that the electorate is starting to chaff under some of the party’s policies and legislation now that the state Legislative session is over and over $3.7 billion had to be trimmed from the state budget. www.miamiherald.com  Gov. Rick Scott spent a fair amount of political capital trying to get Hogan elected and there was strong tea party support behind the Republican candidate. Hogan also took a page out of Scott’s playbook and did not court the press or attend editorial board interviews, but in this case, this strategy did not gel into victory. Brown garnered 97,057 votes to Hogan’s 95,521 and while close, it did not qualify for a recount since Brown won by eight-tenths of a percent.  However, his defeat is not being laid at Scott’s feet but at the past legislative session where Republicans had super majorities in the House and Senate and for moderates and independents, they seem to have changed their support after some of the choices made by the legislature. Brown called himself a “pro-business centrist” states the St. Petersburg Times story done by Adam C. Smith and ran in The Herald www.miamiherald.com  Saturday and he got some major Republican support including the CEO of the St. Joe Company, Peter Rummell.

What did former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Sink say about the victory?

Congratulations to Alvin Brown, Mayor-elect of Jacksonville!  Alvin is a leader who has proven that he can bring together Democrats, Republicans, and independents.  Together, they will create a vision to build a 21st century community focused on a strong, diversified economy and an even better quality of life for all the citizens of Jacksonville. Alvin campaigned with me in Jacksonville last fall, and I enthusiastically supported him in his tireless effort in the mayor’s race.  He never gave up against great odds.  I saw firsthand that he will be a strong leader for Florida’s largest city, wrote Alex Sink 

>>> Press release: Gov. Scott today announced the appointment of Margaret “Lynn” Pappas to the Board of Trustees, University of North Florida.

 

Pappas, 59, of St. Augustine, is a partner with Pappas Metcalf Jenks and Miller.  She succeeds Edythe Abdullah and is appointed for a term beginning May 18, 2011, and ending January 6, 2015. The appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

PINNELLAS COUNTY

>>> Press release: Gov. Scott announced the reappointments of John B. Ramil and Debbie N. Sembler and the appointment of Stephen J. Mitchell to the Board of Trustees, University of South Florida.

Ramil, 55, of Tampa, is the president and chief executive officer of TECO Energy Inc.  He is reappointed for a term beginning May 20, 2011, and ending January 6, 2016.

Sembler, 54, of Pinellas Park, is a community volunteer.  She is reappointed for a term beginning May 20, 2011, and ending January 6, 2016.

Mitchell, 68, of Tampa, is a partner with Squire Sanders and Dempsey LLP.  He succeeds Margarita Cancio and is appointed for a term beginning May 20, 2011, and ending January 6, 2016. The appointments are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

ST. JOHNS COUNTY

>>> Press release: Gov. Scott taps Gary R. Chartrand to the State Board of Education.

Chartrand, 56, of Ponte Vedra Beach, is the executive chairman of Acosta Sales and Marketing.  He succeeds T. Willard Fair and is appointed for a term beginning May 16, 2011, and ending December 31, 2014. The appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

MONROE COUNTY

>>> Residents meeting schedule with Rep. Ros-Lehtinen changes for the Keys

Press release: Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is announcing an important change to her staff’s Constituent Service Days for the Florida Keys. Starting in June, Ms. Kim Sovia-Crandon, Ros-Lehtinen’s Congressional Aide in Monroe County, will be available to meet with constituents on Tuesdays in Key West, Key Largo and Marathon. Ms. Sovia-Crandon will be in Key West on the 1st Tuesday of every month from 10:00 am through 3:00 pm at the same locale, the Gato Building located at 1100 Simonton Street, Suite 205. For Upper Keys residents, Ros-Lehtinen’s aide will be meeting with constituents on the 2nd Tuesday of every month, located at the Murray Nelson Government Center, Suite 211, Bayside at MM 102, Key Largo. On the 3rd Tuesday of each month, Ros-Lehtinen’s aide Ms. Sovia-Crandon will be in the Marathon office, located at the Marathon Government Annex at 490 63rd Street, Ocean Side, Suite 100..  Office hours remain the same, 10:00 am to 3:00 pm. 

Ms. Sovia-Crandon will be available to discuss any issue involving Social Security, veterans affairs, housing, immigration, Medicare, Military Service Academies, visits to our nation’s capital as well as White House tours, and any question regarding a federal issue. Constituents who wish to meet with Ms. Sovia-Crandon on any federal related issue can either visit these assigned offices on the designated Tuesday OR call 305-304-7789 to schedule an appointment.  You may also contact Ms. Sovia-Crandon via email at Kim.Sovia-Crandon@mail.house.gov. Constituents are also encouraged to call our Miami District office at 305-668-2285.

EDITORIALS

 

>>> Let “would anyone from the public like to speak,” ring out throughout South Florida at trusts, boards, and authorities, these bodies should humor public

Linda Zilber, a former municipal mayor and Chair of the Miami-Dade Citizens Independent Transit Trust (CITT) reminded the Watchdog Report of something at the end of the trust’s monthly meeting recently. Her last order of business was to ask if there was anyone from the public that wished to address the Trust board, and that act, which is crucial to developing public trust must be replicated at all trusts, boards and authorities throughout the county. At some meetings this is done for awhile but then drops by the wayside, many times because people don’t actually get up and speak that often but these board members should humor the general public and at least ask if anyone would like to speak.

At the Public Health Trust meetings for example, now supplanted by a Financial Recovery Board a few years ago the chair would ask, if there were any public comments but that has not been happening the last couple of years consistently, though there is a way for the public to request to speak, but requesting is different from a open opportunity to speak openly and in the 1990s before the Watchdog Report. When I tried to speak many people on board’s or the county commission were fearful of me and did what they could to limit any comments I might want to make. And that should not be happening, for even the appearance of chilling discussion in today’s world of process and public transparency is unacceptable. And allowing residents to speak-up is a small price for these people on volunteer boards looking after the taxpayers dollars to pay, especially given empirically over the last 15-years, so few people actually do speak-up. 

>>> PAST WDR:  A brief history of the Watchdog Report over the past 12 years, but an odyssey that really started in late1997 when waste, fraud and public corruption flourished in South Florida

In 2000 when I first started the Watchdog Report using a purple IMac armed with the power of the internet, my only goal was to create a public nervous system of information about what was going on at all the public institutions in South Florida in an attempt to reduce waste, fraud and abuse, while also trying to connect the general public with their public leaders and institutions. The decision to make the Watchdog Report free back May 5, 2000 was a conscious effort on my part and the fact I was single with no children also freed me up to do this on a full time basis, using roughly $500,000 of my own money over the years, everything I had. I also made the report free because I did not want to create a group of people, with inside information, but to make the public knowledge available to all, and when it comes to the Watchdog Report’s readership, that has been achieved. Since that time one of the unanticipated advantages of doing this is the people I have gotten to interview and ask questions too over the years. Ranging from current President Barack Obama (When he was a U.S. Senator), Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, Mikail Gorbachev, Gov. Jeb Bush (who I actually almost saw weekly since he was from Miami) and hundreds of other people and events over the years.

When I have been on WLRN/NPR radio listeners from Palm Beach and other places ask why they don’t have a Watchdog in their community as well, and they may in the future but it takes an odd set of circumstances for someone to have the guts to try this. And in my case, it was a number of events including when federal officials extracted the young Cuban boy Elian Gonzalez that left the community in ethnic flames, combined with the widespread use of the internet back then, along with political corruption flourishing in the 1990s. Including some of these powerful people saying some really contemptible things, like “You little people, we are going to f….. crush you,” said one top political operative back then to me who later died from a heart anomaly. Though a number of people asked if I had killed him. I said no, I just told him when it came to long serving Miami Commissioner J.L. Plummer getting reelected after 29 years in office that it was going to be a tough race. Further, having lived in Japan, Sydney and spent extensive time in China and the rest of Asia where democracy sometimes is in short supply. It seemed here in South Florida there was a need for enhanced high definition transparency at public meetings and I attempted that assignment when no one else wanted to do it.

Now I am starting my 12th year as the editor, publisher, and I again thank all that believed in what I was trying to do, and actually financially supported me in this activity that really began back in 2007 but morphed in 2000 into a news service and community education resource. Further,  People ask me all the time what and why I have the Argus Report section, and it is in honor of former Miami Herald Publisher Alberto Ibarguen who when I became a independent editorial columnist for the paper back in the summer of 2000. He told me to be the “community Argus.” At the time I emailed back, he and I were probable the few people who knew the Argus was a Greek mythical colossus with 100 eyes that protected the fawn Io, and would later morph in symbolism to the peacock’s feathers used by NBC for their logo. And I have tried to fulfill that Watchdog role in a small way, in this diverse and exciting community that I refer to as “colorful,” but is likely not to be repeated when I am gone and why for me, publishing solo for these dozen years with over 100,000 readers is a milestone, that I thank my readers and supporters to allow happen, and while it has not been easy. It was necessary for someone to have done it, I just did not think it would have to be me, but here we are today.

LETTERS

 

>>> Readers thinks voter apathy makes the community the “biggest loser”

Greetings WDR: As always, enjoyed the latest edition of the WDR. In reading the piece on Norman Braman, the following caught my eye: for we are “trying to empower the people” who want “constructive good governance” like what occurred when 88 percent of voters “resoundingly voted” to remove Alvarez and Seijas.  The quote would be a lot more accurate if he said: “…when 88% of the voters, that bothered to show up, resoundingly voted…”

Only 17% of registered voters came out. NOT 88%. That is horrendous. In my humble opinion, instead of making Mr. Braman a deity, we should ask him to spend his money where it would do the most good, and with a lasting legacy: Address the chronic, crippling voter apathy in our county. The so-called “lousy politicians” we have in this town are our fault, our responsibility. We get all giddy when 40% of the voters show up for a ” big election”; We should not consider our voters sufficiently engaged until we routinely get 85% of the voters to SHOW UP and vote, in each and every election. Mr. Braman can afford to spearhead a comprehensive study and campaign to make civic involvement as much a part of our lives as rooting for the (fill in team of your choice). I think that any future recall attempts should be governed by a new law which would state that the recall effort is null and void should less than 50% plus one of the registered voters come out to the polls for  a recall vote.. Address the real problem: Our electorate has become the gym equivalent of the biggest loser: fat, dumb, and not so happy.

RP

 

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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, 2011, 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 >>> >>> To read the full section large two page front page story, but without the photos and smart box graphics, go to: `I Go When You Cannot’ – Sun Sentinel 20 Jan 2003 … Sometimes Dan Ricker lives in the dark so others may live in the light. … to his weekly Watchdog Report have finally mailed their checks. … http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2003-01-20/news/0301190341_1_ricker-school-board-president-miami-s-first-cuban-american >>>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 – http:///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.

 

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