Month of December 2011

 
 

Watchdog Report Vol.12 No.33 December 18, 2011 Est.05.05.00 – I go when you cannot – M-DC Homeless Trust issue

CONTENTS

Argus Report: 97-homeless people perished on the Miami-Dade streets, up from 77 last year, breaking past downward trend

Florida: Fissure expands within South Florida on destination gambling, debate continues but what of Tallahassee?

Miami-Dade County: Redistricting 8th map comes to BCC, hot debate expected in public, Monestime putting on verbal “boxing gloves” for his first commission fight on issue

Miami-Dade Public Schools: Board Chair Hantman lays down the law when it comes to Perez’s out of line comments on dais

Public Health Trust: UM AOA discussions with PHT continue, but question of “partners and competitors,” dog talks, says FRB chair Lapciuc

City of Miami: Homeless population hot topic, reduced countywide from 7,000 in 1992 to 789, but more must be done says Trust chair Book

City of Miami Beach: Commissioners Wolfson and Weithorn fire a shot over Mgr. Gonzalez’s bow, will he be out in March?

City of Coral Gables: Charter school mitigated expansion passes, Biltmore Hotel agreement teed up for Monday at 10:00 a.m., says Mayor Cason

City of Hialeah Gardens: Local police officer found guilty by feds for trying to steal computers and obstruction of justice, could get 25-years in the Big House

>>> Other stories around Florida

Broward County: IG Scott releases first investigative report, many more over the years are expected, especially since 31 municipalities are in the mix.

Palm Beach County: Woman popped by feds for preparing bogus tax returns

Orange County: Gov. Scott taps John M. Martinez as County Commissioner.

Hillsborough County: Gov. Scott names Judge Nick Nazaretian, of Tampa, to the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit Court.

Alachua County: Gov. Scott selects Judge Robert K. Groeb, of Newberry, to the Eighth Judicial Circuit Court.

Editorials: Redistricting process always painful for some politicians, Miami-Dade maps are what they are based on 65 percent Hispanic population

Letters: Ethics director Centorino fires back at Miami Herald story on Miami Commissioner Sarnoff – Reader on WDR and I-Team Miami Herald story on Charter Schools – Reader on more need for Watchdogs in community

Sponsors – Publisher’s mission statement & Subscription information is at the bottom of this issue — Scroll down for all the headline stories text

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>>> The Watchdog Report publisher would like to thank the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation www.knightfoundation.org for funding by the Knight Foundation with technical support from the Knight Center for International Media http://knight.miami.edu within the University of Miami’s School of Communication www.miami.edu to maintain my webpage. The Watchdog Report webpage is free, has no ads, pops-up quickly and is just the news in a mainstream reporting manner.

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ARGUS REPORT – Heard, Seen on the Street

>>> 97-homeless people perished on the Miami-Dade streets, up from 77 last year, braking downward trend

The Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust held its yearly Homeless Memorial & Vigil Friday afternoon for the souls that died on the county’s streets over the past year, and it was up from 77 people to 97 that perished living outdoors. The Trust while reducing the number of homeless on the streets from over 7,500 in 1992 to where there are 785 men and women still on the streets the past homeless census count concluded. The organization and its many community partners (who have raised some $95 million from the private sector over the years) are still trying to reduce that number and end panhandling that is estimated to be around $30 million in donations to the homeless and is contrary to Trust policy. Ron Book, the long time Trust chair told the board he had spoken to one of the organization’s partners, the Miami Commission Thursday. Where he relayed the history of the Trust and how it has evolved through the past two decades since it started to get a percentage of the local food and beverage (F/B) tax paid by consumers and tourists. Currently that tax brings in about $14.1 million and another $20.7 million in funding came in from U.S. HUD dollars, (It should be noted that F/B tax of $1.8 million goes to provide Domestic Violence services through the DV Oversight Board that has 46 beds available for this use in the DV shelter). The Trust in its case has 1,593 beds available and currently is busting at the seams and has a few dozen homeless families living in local hotels at reduced bed rates.

Miami Commission Chair Willy Gort called the situation in downtown Miami regarding the homeless a “crisis,” at the commission meeting and wondered if “the large population of mentally ill,” found in the area was because the county’s “Doral facility had closed?” He told Book when it came to this issue of people living on the street. “We have to work as a team,” on this problem and is exasperated by the high mental illness rate found in Miami-Dade, that used to be around 9.3 percent of the community’s population. But 2010 Census data suggests that older number is to low and may in fact be around 11 percent.

>>> White House press release: Salazar Lauds Proposed Early Restoration Projects Under Deepwater Horizon National Resource Damage Assessment ~ Eight projects – first set to come of $1 billion agreement with BP to fund early restoration – expected to help restore Gulf Coast’s environment and strengthen economy

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today commended the Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) Trustees for proposing an initial set of restoration projects in the Gulf Coast region as part of the agreement with BP to fund $1 billion in early restoration projects. The first phase of projects – made available for public comment today – is comprised of eight projects in four Gulf Coast states that total more than $57 million and include initiatives to restore oyster beds, marshes, dunes and nearshore reefs. “These initial projects demonstrate our determination to hit the ground running when it comes to restoring the Gulf of Mexico after the catastrophic Deepwater Horizon spill,” Secretary Salazar said. “We know that this is just a beginning of what will be an important process to ensure that those responsible for the spill are held fully accountable, and this is a solid start to our restoration efforts.”

Salazar made the comments while touring the P&J oyster company, a family-owned business that has been harvesting oysters in New Orleans’ French Quarter for 130 years. Salazar noted that one of the two projects proposed for the state of Louisiana is approximately $14 million for an oyster cultch project that involves the placement of oyster cultch onto approximately 850 acres of public oyster seed grounds throughout coastal Louisiana, as well as construction of an oyster hatchery facility that would produce supplemental larvae and seed. “By restoring oyster beds, we are ensuring a way of life continues along the Gulf Coast and bolstering the local economy that was hard hit by the Deepwater Horizon spill,” Salazar said.

Today’s announcement builds upon efforts by the Obama Administration’s Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force that is working to develop a comprehensive, long-term strategy to return the health and strength back to the Gulf Coast’s wetlands, beaches, reefs and other habitats, and to address the decline to the region’s natural resources in decades past. Following the announcement, Salazar met with local community leaders in New Orleans to discuss the challenges and potential solutions for developing the Lafitte Corridor Greenway and Revitalization Project, a proposed pilot site identified under the Urban Waters Federal Partnership. Additional information on today’s NRDA Trustee announcement is available HERE.

>>> Press release: Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, released the following statement after the House passed legislation to fund government operations through Fiscal Year 2012:

“While I am disappointed that language authored by Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart dealing with Cuba travel was taken out of this bill due to President Obama’s insistence, I am pleased that one harmful provision that would have economically benefitted the Castro regime was removed, and that another was prevented from being included in the previous version. Both were attempts at easing financing restrictions on the Cuban regime, and both would have given the dictatorship a concession it is seeking.

“Like most legislation, this bill is not perfect. However, I believe that it is an important bill which, while neutral on Cuba, prevents our government from shutting down and takes significant steps to get spending under control and spur job creation.” NOTE: The two provisions that were not included would have allowed the Castro regime access to U.S. financial institutions and would have removed restrictions mandating that the Castro regime pay cash in advance of U.S. goods reaching Cuba.

>>> Press release: Looking Back on 2011 – By Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz

As the year draws to a close and we look back at all that 2011 brought us, there is much to be thankful for this year, despite some of the challenges we’ve faced.
To start off with a significant accomplishment, a report released in December shows that an additional 2.5 million young people now have health insurance as a result of the Affordable Care Act. And in Florida, parents have been able to keep some 78,000 young adults on their insurance. Additionally, seniors are seeing more benefits this year as a result of the health care reform law that passed last year. In South Florida, we have more than 120,000 seniors on Medicare, who now have access to free annual preventive care services, including mammograms, colonoscopies, and annual wellness visits. The Affordable Care Act also caps out-of-pocket expenses, even for private insurance plans, and works to close the donut hole completely over the next nine years, saving seniors more than $3,000 a year in drug costs. We’ve been fighting to make sure that hard work pays off for middle class families and that everyone has a fair shot at the American dream.

We’ve seen some progress, for example the jobless rate fell to 8.6 percent in November from 9 percent in October. Job creation was steady, adding 140,000 private sector jobs, making it the 21st straight month of private sector job growth, with 2.9 million jobs added during that period. These are good numbers, but there is still much more to be done. One effort I supported in Washington to help turn our economy around and boost job creation was the American Jobs Act. Earlier this year, I met with three local independent small business owners from Hallandale, Miami and Hollywood to talk about a specific piece of legislation in the American Jobs Act that would help 98 percent of all small businesses in America by providing much-needed payroll tax relief and deductions for buying equipment and hiring veterans.

To help our Florida veterans who are looking for employment and to help small businesses find the workers they need, Rep. Ted Deutch and I hosted a Veterans Jobs Fair at the Fort Lauderdale Armory on Dec. 3 and we had a great turnout from businesses, veterans, and active duty guardsmen. The event happened shortly after the passage of new tax credits for employers who hire unemployed veterans. With so many of our troops returning home to a difficult economy after serving bravely in Iraq and Afghanistan, this event provided some of our servicemen and women with an opportunity to meet with local employers interested in hiring a hero. As we end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we are redoubling our efforts at home by rebuilding the American economy and restoring the American dream for our children. We must ensure that our returning veterans can get jobs, housing, and the health care they deserve after honorably serving our country and making America safer and stronger.

In 2012 I’ll continue to work hard on behalf of the people of South Florida, both in Florida and in Washington. I’ll continue to stand up for our school children, whether it’s fighting against cuts to their education or making sure that law enforcement has the resources they need to protect them from online predators. I’ll continue to champion the interests of small businesses and meet with owners and employees regularly at events like my yearly small business workshops and roundtables so I can hear directly from them about their concerns, challenges, and successes. I am proud to be an advocate for South Florida, and my office is always open to you. You can reach us in Pembroke Pines at 954-437-3936, in Aventura at 305-936-5724 and in Washington, DC at 202-225-7931. I’m also available online at http://wassermanschultz.house.gov, on Facebook, and Comcast-on-demand customers can stay up to date with my work for you on channel 890.

>>> National profile of the publisher in The Tribune papers Jan. 2003 & UNCCH 2004 media study that cites Watchdog Report having 100,000 readers weekly
To read a national story run in the Tribune papers on my life and how this all began done by Orlando Sentinel featured reporter Maya Bell go to: 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 >>> And to read a University of North Carolina Chapel Hill study on the media in the Southeast United States that mentions the Watchdog Report with 100,000 readers weekly, done back in 2004 and to read the Southern Media Study go to: 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 … – - Cached.

>>> 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, twice in 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. Further, I am a frequent guest on WWW.WPBT2.ORG on Helen Ferre’s show Issues, and have also appeared on Eliott Rodriguez’s show News & Views.

>>> See what was said about the Watchdog Report in the Miami New Times 2003 — Best of Miami — BEST CITIZEN — Daniel A. 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 2,500 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

>>> Fissure expands within South Florida on destination gambling, debate continues but what of Tallahassee?

The Beacon Council held an all day forum Monday on the issue of destination resorts and casinos that Genting Group Malaysia is trying to build on The Miami Herald site and the Omni building on the bay, with a host of other corporations trying to make their play for a deal as well. A wide range of speakers including U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, D-FL who questioned and was concerned with the impact of large scale gambling would have on other industries coming to South Florida. Since we are trying to develop a biomedical industry, said Beacon Council head said Frank Nero to a county commission committee later in the week. The issue of gambling, though proponents say it is already being done statewide and note there are racetracks, pari-mutuels and the Florida Lottery for example.

But critics say this is opening the door to an explosion of the activity and a gambling bill is filed with the Florida Legislature and being sponsored by state Rep. Erick Fresen, R-Miami and state Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Ft. Lauderdale (She did not attend the forum on Monday). However after Genting in November represented the project would add 100,000 jobs and called the state’s lower number of money generated in the endeavor at a senate committee meeting saying it was “bullsh…” That comment that did not sit well with the state senators at the committee and had Bogdanoff backing down some in her support of the bill and the projects proposed size that Genting now says can be scaled down.

Genting has been greasing the wheels by hiring 100 lobbyists said Nero and money is flowing into different political PACs and when it was first proposed. The Watchdog Report thought it would be passed in the state capital, but that certainty is being diminished as major community leader’s step forward and voices their concern to what is a major change of the local community fabric and Florida as a whole. The community debate will continue, but depending on what happens, what is decided could be one for the century in the Sunshine State.

>>> State Rep. Rogers in the spotlight, probe into past vote, had $103,158 net worth through May

State Rep. Hazelle “Hazel” Rogers, D-Lauderdale Lakes is in the spotlight this week and the former Lauderdale Lakes council member is being investigated by state and federal law enforcement agencies concerning her lobbying for a joint $6 million city and county community center and her receiving $20,000 from the builder, but was not divulged when she voted for the project back then. She was then elected to the Florida House in 2008 and is termed out in 2016. She represents House District 94 in Broward County, and has declined to talk about the issue with the press.

What do we know about her finances?

Rogers through May 2011 had a net worth of $103,158 and she lists $75,000 in household goods. Her home is worth $150,000, another house is valued at $30,000, there is $28,000 in savings, raw land is worth $18,000 and her total assets are $226,000. She lists liabilities of $26,000 and $66,200 on mortgages, a home equity loan is owed $44,400, a student loan has $9,400 owed, an auto loan wants $26,900 and there is $21,300 and $3,437 owed on credit cards. She lists $29,990 in income as a state representative and has a 50 percent interest in Premier Group Enterprise but no value listed. Here is a story on the probe

http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2011-12-08/news/fl-hazelle-rogers-investigation-20111208_1_rogers-city-commissioner-potential-conflict

Rogers

http://www.myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Representatives/details.aspx?MemberId=4434&SessionId=70

>>> Press release: STATEMENT FROM GOVERNOR RICK SCOTT REGARDING THE RACE TO THE TOP EARLY LEARNING CHALLENGE

“It is unfortunate that the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services decided not to award Florida the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grant which would have gone to the benefit of at-risk children.

“When Florida’s application was submitted for the grant in October, we made it clear that we would not accept grant money with strings attached, additional state spending obligations, or requirements that created new burdensome regulations on private providers. We stuck to our principles, and unfortunately our insistence against irresponsibly using one-time dollars for recurring government programs did not win the favor of the administration in Washington. “Creating a world-class education system that prepares students for the workforce is my top priority. We will accomplish this goal for the benefit of our current students and generations of Floridians to come without sacrificing responsible spending.

“Last week I announced my budget recommendations for next fiscal year, and I have asked for $1 billion in new funding for education. I have traveled the state and listened to the people of Florida, and it is clear that education, and its correlation to quality jobs, is the top issue facing our state. I will continue to work every day to ensure that every Floridian has the opportunity for a good education and a job.”

>>> Press release: Governor Rick Scott announced the reappointment of Toni K. Crawford and the appointment of Dr. Steven Wallace to the Children and Youth Cabinet.

Crawford, 71, of Ponte Vedra Beach, is a community volunteer and current chair of the Early Learning Coalition of Duval Inc. She is reappointed for a term beginning December 16, 2011, and ending August 27, 2015.

Dr. Wallace, 59, of Jacksonville, is the president of Florida State College at Jacksonville. He succeeds Donna “Gay” Lancaster and is appointed for a term beginning December 16, 2011, and ending August 27, 2015.

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY

>>> Redistricting 8th map comes to BCC, hot debate expected in public, Monestime putting on verbal “boxing gloves” for his first commission fight on issue

When it comes to Miami-Dade County Commissioner 2012 redistricting, forget the reference about making sausage, it is politicians fighting for their turf, tempers flare, but hopefully it comes out with a semi successful conclusion in the end. Some County Commissioners met Wednesday and again on Friday morning to review what had been accomplished to date after five public meetings on the subject, and a eighth proposed map of the 13 districts that must have roughly 192,000 residents with less than a 10 percent deviation of the population, that is based on the 2010 Census will emerge at Monday’s commission meeting where the new districts, after “the process,” and the public speaking on the maps, will be voted on and approved by the commission. Amendments and changes to the proposed map can be done at the meeting, but only if a majority of the commissioners agrees.

Randy Duval, an assistant county attorney who has been involved with the redistricting process for decades under the Miami-Dade County Home Rule Charter. He said the process was different from the state since the Fair District Amendment, passed by state voters in 2010, does not apply to Miami-Dade where state legislators in a number of cases will be “pitted” against themselves. He said there was no problem with creating a district “protecting the incumbents” since these people “know their district like the back of their hand and represent shared interests,” and drawing these type of districts create “a community of interest and the courts have acknowledge that,” he told commissioners. He further noted cities like Hialeah “have no right to [ask] not to be parceled up,” when it came to the number of commissioner districts that might be in the municipality or any other city in the county.

Commission Chair Joe Martinez had hoped to have ironed out the wrinkles over the week before this public and televised meeting. Martinez said at a Wednesday morning Sunshine meeting on the issue that now any disagreements will be televised and we “have to air it on the dais and [he] had hoped for congeniality,” though acknowledged it might get ugly. The body’s chair also said given the population increase to 2.5 million “everything cannot stay the same” when it came to the new districts. Commission Vice Chair Audrey Edmonson and chair of the redistricting sub committee where earlier maps were reviewed “Thought more commissioners would be interested in this [redistricting meeting],” that also had Commissioners Rebeca Sosa, Bruno Barreiro and Esteban Bovo Jr., in attendance. Bovo was pushing to have more of Hialeah in his district trying to reduce the number of commissioners representing the area, and Sosa said frankly she thought “the changes are small,” in the maps in the scheme of things. Further, the overall challenge is 65 percent of Miami-Dade is Hispanic and getting the correct number of people per the 13 commission districts, while trying to give other ethnic candidates a chance to hold office as well is the challenge.

Cartographer Guillermo Olmedillo, hired as the redistricting consultant has kept the district maps similar from 2002, the last time districts were redrawn, but these new maps are still generating controversy. He said the goal was to have “closer to zero deviations,” on each districts population saying the smaller the variation, the “better it is.” At Friday’s subsequent public meeting between Commissioner Jean Monestime and Barbara Jordan in the morning. He carped that his inner city District 2 is the one taking all the hits when it came to “exchanges and changes,” of his district and he noted the area drawn was none of which he had asked to be changed. Jordan noted she had given some 260 residents from her District 1 back to his district but for both of them this is the first time they had done redistricting, and Monestime is girding up for a fight at the upcoming commission meeting. I am new at this and I “want to do this with civility,” but I am adamant and “this will be my first fight” with fellow commissioners. And I am “going to go out after this meeting and buy some boxing gloves and get ready for my first fight,” for the anticipated controversial meeting. And while a vigorous discussion by commissioners is expected Monday, given the overall make-up of the commission. If any changes to the current proposed eighth maps are made. The changes will be very small in nature the Watchdog Report predicts in the scheme of things. To watch the commission meeting go to www.miamidade.gov


Jordan

Monestime

Martinez

Edmonson

Bovo

Sosa

Barreiro

>>> M-DC to float another $820 million in bonds this summer, CFO Marquez tells Wall Street reps Marlins stadium bonds was “good bond transaction”

The Miami-Dade is planning another big county bond sale and the lead investment firms were picked last week by the Managers Finance Committee meeting chaired by Vice Mayor and CFO Ed Marquez. The committee is made up of a wide swath of people including the CFO of Miami-Dade Public Schools to a representative of private enterprise. The 22 people in the 29A conference room included some of the top investment firms from Wall Street and the topic was the selling of $600 million in transit bonds to help pay for the needed Metro-Rail trains and another $230 million in bonds were to retire past bonds issued in the late 1990s. However, with a U.S. SEC ongoing investigation regarding the selling of bonds to fund the $2.5 billion Miami Marlins when the final payments after 40 years is completed. There was an undercurrent at the meeting that more effort in the educating bondholders might be necessary. Though, on the plus side Marquez said, when it came “to the Marlins bonds,” and “the SEC, we have nothing to hide and it was a good bond transaction,” said the county CFO.

Part of the transit bond money is to pay off a $100 bond anticipation note and to fund “the purchase of new rail cars and the transit systems infrastructure renewal program,” said Marquez. He anticipates the deal will go to the county commission at their “July meeting.” And when it comes to the refunding securities, the bonds and the funding stream, which is the county’s Convention Development Tax revenues, and in attached documents it notes. The bond security request “is somewhat unconventional as it is essentially a special tax on hotels.” And the revenue stream “may not be as easily understood by investors as other more generic revenue pledges.” Further, the analysis written by an outside financial firm’s representative dated Sept. 21, 2011. He states in his opinion that explaining the technical flow of the “funds, which likely will not be readily understood by investors without careful explanation and premarketing efforts,” must be considered. The committee after a short discussion picked JP Morgan to be the lead firm for the transit bonds and Citi Group Capital Market was tapped to lead the refunding of the older bonds securities sales.

>>> Multiple Union agreements, some at impasse are on the Dec. 19 BCC agenda and county PBA President John Rivera is requesting four-hours at the commission meeting to argue his case. To review the agenda go to http://www.miamidade.gov/govaction/commagenda.asp?cmbmeetdate=3155&file=true&changes=true

>>> Press release: Statement from Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners Chairman Joe A. Martinez

It is disappointing; to say the least, for a project with full support from the Board of County Commissioners to not take place at the Homestead Air Reserve Base. Although I respect the reservations the United States Air Force may have about hosting this event on its airbase, I don’t agree with the Air Force’s position. The Miami International Air Show will highlight not only Miami Dade County but North America and the aeronautical industry, as well as stimulate job growth and revenue in these tough economic times. As Chairman of the Board, I thank our congressional delegation, especially Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen for the hard work and effort they put into trying to make the Miami International Air Show at the Homestead Air Reserve Base proposal a reality.

>>> County Ethics Commission press release: Ethics Commissioners ruled that a database manager for the Miami-Dade Park & Recreation Department may continue outside employment assisting developers of affordable housing with financial and environmental analyses under certain conditions. In RQO 11-30, Zafar Ahmed stated that he may be asked to assist the Parks Dept. in a joint initiative with the Miami-Dade Housing Agency, but that he will not provide technical support for developers who have been selected for the public housing agency projects. The Ethics Commission opined that as long as he has his supervisor’s approval, Ahmed may continue his consulting work, but he cannot work with any firm that is seeking grant or other technical assistance from the Parks Dept., must submit a list of his clients to his supervisors annually and may not meet with county staff about any client.

>>> M-DC Ethics Commission: The Ethics Commission presented a plaque to Staff General Counsel Ardyth Walker in recognition of her 13 years of service to the agency. Following her resignation from the post, effective tomorrow (12/15), her responsibilities will be assumed by other staff members.

>>> GMCVB press release: 18TH CONSECUTIVE MONTH OF JOB INCREASES–RECORD LEI$URE AND HO$PITALITY JOB$ IN GREATER MIAMI AND THE BEACHES DURING MONTH OF NOVEMBER 2011
Greater MIAMI’s Leisure and Hospitality Industry JOBS reached a RECORD high for November with an increase of +2.4% in November 2011 compared to the same period in 2010. This is the 18th consecutive month of increased employment in Greater MIAMI’s Leisure and Hospitality industry. In November 2011, a RECORD 110,600 people were employed in Greater MIAMI’s Leisure and Hospitality sector compared to 108,000 for November 2010.

GREATER MIAMI LEISURE AND HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY JOB$
November 2011 November 2010 % Change
110,600 jobs 108,000 jobs + 2.4%

MIAMI-DADE PUBLIC SCHOOLS

>>> Board Chair Hantman lays down the law when it comes to Perez’s out of line comments on dais

School Board Chair Perla Tabares Hantman had enough Wednesday and quietly and with a controlled tone blasted school Board Member Marta Pérez, Ph.D. for a couple of her comments and references to another school board member, Carlos Curbelo. The discussion was sparked by an item on the agenda banning people who work as lobbyist on school board community boards and Perez thought the item did not go far enough. She thought it should apply to school board members as well and the comment was directed at her colleague Curbelo who is a lobbyist for Genting Group-Malaysia, and their effort to bring a destination resort and casino to downtown Miami on the Miami Herald and Omni sites. Perez also took a shot at what school board staff are being paid and if the Chair’s staff got any extra pay given the different duties, and also carped the leadership positions on the nine-member board should be rotated on a regular basis, rather than by the board voting on its leadership.

Perez has been only a board vice chair but never chair of the body and she periodically brings up the subject. She has verbally sparred with Hantman for years since their election. Hantman was first elected in 1996 and Perez joined the board in 1998 but the two of them have verbally butted heads over a wide variety of issues over the years. However, Perez overall does not play well with other board members and for Hantman board congeniality is a big deal and some of Perez’s claims about everyone “being corrupt,” in years past shows the broad brush she sometimes applies to her peers on the dais. Hantman also tries to run a tight school board meeting and keeps the board’s rules of order at her place on the dais and over the years. Some school board meetings went to around 3:00 a.m., and were almost painful to watch and listen too. It remains to be seen if Perez changes her behavior and harsh verbal comments but Hantman has had it, saying she will cut off any board member or public person speaking if they don’t respect the board’s rules of discussion.


Perez

Hantman

Curbelo

PUBLIC HEALTH TRUST

>>> UM AOA discussions with PHT continue, but question of “partners and competitors,” dog talks, says FRB chair Lapciuc

While senior PHT staff said most of the legal “mumbo-jumbo” was concluded with the University of Miami Miller Medical School and its Annual Operateing Agreement (AOA) with Jackson Health System, paying about $115.2 million in medical services in FY 2012, but the devil is in the details of certain definitions and how these play out in the future. The two institutions, one public and the other a private not-for-profit have been affiliated for almost 60-years and reported on by the Watchdog Report weekly since May of 2000. And there is no one else in the community who has had such a continuous presence at so many levels of the now $1.8 billion public hospital fighting for its fiscal life, while also training well over a thousand of Miami’s interns and residents.

During the past 12-years, I have watched Jackson and the highly respected medical school grow and provide world-class healthcare for all. But past fiscal warning signs were ignored such as in 2004 when the health trust posted an $84 million loss, while providing now around $550 million in charity and uncompensated care the past year. In 2008 before PHT CEO Marvin O’Quinn left, he presented a graph in June to the Miami-Dade County Commission and it had three colors, green, yellow and finally red in 2010-2011 where the organization could not make its payroll. And I ran the graph dozens of times since then. But here we are today with Jackson having less than 20-days of cash on hand, a new more nimble Financial Recovery Board (FRB) trying to cope with these challenges, but the new wrinkle in the equation is the university buying its own hospital across the street from the main Jackson campus in 2007.

FRB Chair Marcos Lapciuc summed up his concerns when it came to the UM Annual Operateing Agreement being hammered out behind the scenes. He told FRB members Thursday. “We don’t know how to be partners and competitors, and who is in charge?” He noted the university department heads controlled what happened in “surgery and anesthesiology,” and he believed the relationship produces “many questions” and is causing “troubling conflicts of interest,” he suggested. The executive and attorney wondered, what if the new agreement was not working “given human nature, where we have to be kindergarten cops,” in monitoring the activities and where patients are sent. He said working through these issues was “like trying to solve some kind of puzzle” with the “paradigm” changed since the Trust “can contract” with the university’s physicians, but they also for example “have a store across the street,” he said. This sums up the challenge Jackson and UM is facing in these discussions, though Miller Medical School Dean Pascal Goldschmidt, M.D. has said physicians that move patients to their hospital that should have stayed at Jackson Health System “will face consequences” and “sanctions.”

Further, Martha Baker, RN, the president of SEIU 1991 representing nurses challenged how the deal was being negotiated at a county commission committee meeting last week and she demanded the commissioners insure there is “transparency and accountability” with any hashed out agreement. That request got Commissioner Barbara Jordan’s attention and told PHT attorneys she wanted to review the final AOA document ensuring this, prior to the county commission ultimately voting on it in the months ahead.

>>> Jackson physicians and nurses deliver 90 sets of twins, in-vitro fertilization one of the reasons

When it comes to delivering high-risk babies, Jackson Health System/ University of Miami Miller Medical School physicians and nurses have got it down and the number of legal claims has plunged by 90 percent since 2002 when that claim number was 70. The cost of these cases is not small and back then legal claims cost $40 million to now where it is around $1.5 million for just a couple of claims. Further, because of a total review of patient’s medical history and better communication between all the medical personnel. The numbers of babies born with serious health issues has dropped from 112 back then to around three premature babies now. Part of the reason is 50 percent of the babies are delivered through a C-Section and that is because the mothers may have infections and is for the baby’s safety since the health trust gets the higher risk deliveries. The higher C-Section delivery rate used to be around 33 percent, but with this holistic, high quality medical care, the number of premature babies has dropped. Further, with the widespread use of in-vitro fertilization techniques. Jackson delivered 90 sets of twins, numerous triplets and a couple of quadruplets in the course of the year.

>>> Press release: TWO JACKSON HOSPITALS CELEBRATED AS THE HIGHEST RANKING CHAMPIONS OF CHANGE FOR MATERNITY CARE AWARDS

Jackson Memorial Hospital and Jackson South Community Hospital will be honored for earning three stars, the highest in South Florida, by the Healthy Start Coalition of Miami-Dade (HSCMD) as “Champions of Change.” Jackson North Medical Center will also be honored for earning two stars as a “Champion of Change.” All three facilities will be honored by HSCMD during its annual meeting and awards ceremony today.

The three Jackson Health System facilities stand out among eleven local hospitals and birthing centers that will be recognized for launching efforts to provide optimal newborn feeding and care utilizing evidenced based maternity care. In addition, obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Medical Center will earn recognition as one of the facilities that demonstrated the most improvement in prenatal screening. The Excellence in Maternal, Infant and Child Health for Postnatal Screening honor will be awarded to Jackson Memorial Hospital, Jackson North Medical Center and Jackson South Community Hospital. North Dade Health Center will receive the Excellence in Maternal, Infant and Child Health for Prenatal Screening award.

CITY OF MIAMI

>>> Homeless population hot topic, reduced countywide from 7,000 in 1992 to 789, but more must be done says Trust chair Book

The issue of homeless people living on downtown Miami streets almost 20-years ago and inspired Miami-Dade to create the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust and through food and beverages taxes funding to the tune of about $17 million a year now, when only $7 million was dreamed about years ago. The messenger of this message was attorney Ron Book and he has been the chair of the trust ever since. Book said when the organization first started there were over 7,000 people in the street and portrayed Miami as a homeless haven with many of them living under overpasses. He then detailed how the trust has evolved since then and its continuing efforts to end homeless people on the streets of Miami and the county.

The issue has been a hot button for years on the Miami commission and had then Commissioner Tomas Regalado sitting on the trust board after one of his commission colleagues, Commissioner Angel Gonzalez suggested these people should be arrested and the now mayor was trying to defuse the situation. Since then feeding sites have been reduced to about six locations where there is sanitary conditions versus feeding people on the streets in a haphazard way.

Commissioner Marc Sarnoff has also been vocal in his criticism of the homeless population since his district snakes through the downtown and he is getting pressure from new condominium owners in the area. However, significant progress has been made over the years when compared with the number of homeless people seen in other major cities now, and in the case of Miami. Book and the Trust is redoubling its efforts to get the hardcore homeless into programs its providers run, but as Book noted. One man known as Santa Clause, who always wore the suit summer and winter on Miami Beach. It took the trust years to improve his plight, but he is now finally off the streets and getting his life together and that is the organization’s goal everyday, he said.


Regalado

Sarnoff

>>> Note to Miami staff writing RFPs, cafeteria gaffe at MPD inexcusable

A city contract for food services for the Miami Police Department building was a comedy of errors when the city’s Request for Proposals (RFP) said the general public could be served in the cafeteria of the secured police building. Commission Chair Wilfredo Gort commented that he could not even go into this area and Commissioner Marc Sarnoff was concerned about the current food providers health inspection, that found “rat droppings” and in his case. He does not go to food establishments with these findings and joked to commissioners and the administration to call Lloyds for him since anyone getting sick would file a lawsuit, he thought. Further, the city commission voted to continue using the existing company even with the sanitary and health issues are now public.

>>> Ethics Commission press release: Ethics complaint against Miami commissioner dismissed

The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust today issued a finding of No Probable Cause and dismissed a complaint (C 11-33) filed against Miami City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff by an opponent in his recent campaign for reelection. Michelle Niemeyer alleged that the District Two Commissioner exploited his official position as Chair of the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) because it used public funds for a “Downtown Votes” registration and absentee ballot drive. The investigation found that a voter registration and participation project was consistent with the mission of a public agency such as the DDA. The Board also found that Sarnoff had no input into the initiation of the project, though as a member of the board of directors, he was aware of it. It also concluded that Commissioner Sarnoff did not have exclusive access to any voter information and did not specifically benefit from the voter registration/absentee ballot drive.

>>> Press release: ASSISTANT CITY OF MIAMI FIRE CHIEF SENTENCED TO PRISON FOR HER ROLE IN MORTGAGE-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, Miami Field Office, announce the sentencing of defendant Veldora Arthur. At today’s hearing, U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz sentenced Arthur to 57 months in prison, to be followed by 3 years of supervised release. A jury convicted Arthur after trial on charges of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud and substantive mail-fraud. Arthur’s co-defendants, Neil Fagan and Pamela Johnson, who were also convicted at trial, were previously sentenced for their role in the scheme to 90 months and 57 months in prison, respectively.

According to evidence presented during the trial, Arthur was part of a mortgage fraud scheme that targeted mainly the Hidden Bay Condominium Complex (“Hidden Bay”) in Aventura, Florida. The defendant acted as straw purchaser and submitted loan applications and supporting documents containing false information to qualify to purchase two units in Hidden Bay in February and March 2006. Among the false documents submitted by Arthur were letters faxed during working hours from the City of Miami Fire Department, where the defendant worked. For her participation in the scheme, defendant Arthur received approximately $317,000 in one month. The defendants conduct in the scheme resulted in approximately $2.5 million in losses to various lenders. >>> Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Armando Rosquete and Sean McLaughlin. 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.

CITY OF MIAMI BEACH

>>> Commissioners Wolfson and Weithorn fire a shot over Mgr. Gonzalez’s bow, will he be out in March?

A long time observer of Miami Beach politics and the commission predicted long serving Manager Jorge Gonzalez, 45, would be gone in the months ahead and any chance of building a world-class convention center “was over,” he said at the end of the week. Gonzalez’s future came up suddenly at a public non-televised meeting www.miamiherald.com Wednesday and the former Miami-Dade County employee has been at the city’s helm for over a decade. He once told some Russian College students visiting city hall, when he first got involved in public service he learned what that meant after Hurricane Andrew in August 1992. When he was sent to help with the recovery and rebuilding of the devastated South Dade and Homestead area. He told the students when an event like that occurs, the first thing government has to do is stabilize the people with, food, water and shelter and to slowly build up that infrastructure which ultimately took years after the natural disaster.

In his capacity as the Beach manager over the years since he has been seen as a able technocrat with a good relationship with the public and officials but time does take its toll and problems in the city’s building and zoning department, police actions including joy rides on the beach hurting tourists, and other incidents seem to have taken there toll with a couple of the commissioners. Commissioner Jonah Wolfson led the charge and proposed voting on whether Gonzalez should be retained and Commissioner Deede Weithorn seconded the item that was ultimately deferred until March when the manager’s performance will again be addressed. Gonzalez loves the city and even lives there, has the support of Mayor Matti Herrera Bower and Commissioner Jerry Libbin but it is clear he has taken a hit, that has critics calling him “arrogant,” and it remains to be seen how this plays out in the future.

>>> Commissioner Gongora newsletter on the subject - Probably the most heated item was the annual performance appraisals of both the City Manager and City Attorney. For the first time in 11 years (that I recall), the Commission opted not to extend the contracts for either of our top administrators. A motion came forward to terminate the City Manager. This motion was eventually tabled and the discussion and evaluation were deferred until March 2012. Although Miami Beach is fortunate to be in solid financial standing compared to many other communities, several Commissioners, myself included, feel the City can do better still. Miami Beach must take action to correct problems across departments and hire the best talent available to lead these departments. Paramount to this discussion are the Building and Police Departments. These discussions are most consequential as I am responsible to you for ensuring that Miami Beach has the best possible administration leading us into a bright, sustainable future. I must also be convinced that our Administration is working diligently to resolve your issues when you reach out for assistance. I will continue to monitor this carefully, as always, keeping your best interests at heart. As we approach the holidays, may you and yours enjoy a very Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah. I also wish you a Happy and Healthy 2012!

Bower

CITY OF CORAL GABLES

>>> Charter school mitigated expansion passes, Biltmore Hotel agreement teed up for Monday at 10:00 a.m.

With a controversial charter school student expansion on the commission’s agenda Tuesday that had almost 90 people attending or in the hallway of the Coral Gables commission chambers. An expected review of the Historic Biltmore Hotel’s new contract was deferred until a special commission meeting this Monday at 10:00 a.m. The commission passed on first reading allowing Somerset Academy Gables an expansion of only 260 students max, not the 436 originally requested. Mayor Jim Cason in a email on the subject said it was passed after the “Somerset Neighborhood Association and the charter school reached an amicable accord at 260 students max with other restrictions at 7:30 pm on first reading. Because of the late hour we continued the Biltmore issue until this Monday at 10 am as a sole item,” wrote Cason.

The school discussion had the commission be inundated with over 1,000 emails that Commissioner Ralph Cabrera said were “mostly supportive,” and “not form letters” but passions ran high in the room and the public discussion went on until 5:00 p.m., with a vote by the commission a few hours later. The school is located in the Coral Gables Country Club section of the city and one participant wrote to the Watchdog Report when I asked him about the issue since he attended the meeting. “The number of students is still too high, should have been no more than 200, but I guess if the rest of the neighbors are OK with it, so be it. The new concern we should all have is the Land Use change. These people will soon buy the property and then it is open season for whatever they want, if we are not careful. Take care and keep it up,” wrote the long time Gables resident.

CITY OF HIALEAH GARDENS

>>> Local police officer found guilty by feds for trying to steal computers and obstruction of justice, could get 25-years in the Big House

Press release: 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 today that defendant Jorge Raul Romero, of Hialeah Gardens, was found guilty by a jury of the four offenses in the Indictment. At sentencing, the defendant faces a statutory maximum of twenty-five years in prison. Romero was found guilty of one count of conspiring to receive and possess goods valued in excess of $5,000, which have crossed a State boundary after having been stolen, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2315, and conspiring to commit cargo theft of goods valued in excess of $1,000 or more, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 659, all in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371 (Count 1). He was also found guilty of receiving and possessing stolen goods, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2315 (Count 2), committing cargo theft, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 659 (Count 3), and obstructing justice, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(b)(3) (Count 4).

The evidence at trial revealed that Romero conspired with a group of individuals who had stolen a load of Toshiba Laptop computers worth approximately $2 million. Specifically, from July 7, 2010, through July 12, 2010, the defendants conspired to enrich themselves by stealing a shipment of goods, specifically 5,250 Toshiba laptop computers valued at $1,997,181.83, and then reselling these goods for profit. During this time period, the defendants unloaded the stolen laptop computers into warehouses that belonged to Leading Edge Custom and Illusion Auto Design in Hialeah Gardens, Florida. After these laptops were unloaded, the defendants, among other things, stored, concealed, transferred, and sold the stolen laptop computers. In addition to other assistance to avoid detection and protection of the stolen goods, when other officers of the Hialeah Gardens Police Department were about to raid the warehouse containing the stolen laptops, Romero made a phone call to his co-conspirators to warn them. As a result, evidence was destroyed. >>> Mr. Ferrer commends the investigative efforts of the FBI’s Cargo Theft Task Force in Miami. Additionally, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI thank the Hialeah Gardens Police Department for their full cooperation throughout this investigation. This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Gilbert. 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.

>>> OTHER STORIES AROUND FLORIDA

BROWARD COUNTY

>>> IG Scott releases first investigative report, many more over the years are expected, especially since 31 municipalities are in the mix

Broward County Inspector General John W. Scott released his office’s first report on an investigation on a company awarded a small business development contract but was more of a pass through business and this will be the first of many in the future. The Watchdog Report caught-up with Scott recently and he said there a number of ongoing investigations and since the office just got started over the summer. Their investigations have been from scratch and in the Broward ordinance creating the office. People being investigated have 30 days to respond to inquiries versus the 10-days response time for Miami-Dade’s Inspector General Christopher Mazzella. Scott a former federal public corruption attorney worked for Mazzella in the IG office prior to his appointment, after a national search was done and he was selected for the new post.

>>> Press release: Gross Mismanagement of the Small Business Enterprise Certification Process by the Broward Office of Economic and Small Business Development

Broward Inspector General John W. Scott announced today that the Broward Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has issued a report finding gross mismanagement of the Small Business Enterprise (SBE) certification process by the Broward Office of Economic and Small Business Development (OESBD).

The OIG investigation determined that from at least 2007, the OESBD has routinely failed to properly certify vendors under the Small Business Enterprise program (SBE Program). The Broward County Business Opportunity Act of 2004 (Act) permits businesses certified as an SBE to acquire competitive advantages, including exclusive access to certain Broward County contracts, as well as preferences in County procurement. In return, those businesses seeking SBE certification status are required to demonstrate that they perform a commercially useful function, a classification that excludes brokers. In one instance, the OESBD has been aware for years that a vendor, Everytrade International Company, has been acting solely as a broker—and is thus not eligible to obtain SBE status—yet it has allowed Everytrade to receive $748,118.52 in County contracts, including a contract awarded after the OIG provided its preliminary investigation findings to the OESBD.

The investigation also determined that the OESBD’s failure to enforce the requirements of the Act was not unique or isolated to Everytrade, but was grounded in long-standing and systemic problems resulting from years of mismanagement. One OESBD official estimated that over half of SBEs are actually brokers.

The OIG found that by allowing brokers to avail themselves of advantages carefully tailored to benefit deserving small businesses, the OESBD has undermined the very policies the Broward County Commission sought to effectuate when it created the SBE program, at the expense, and risk, of County funds. At the conclusion of the report, the OIG makes a series of recommendations designed to better implement, reinforce, and rectify OESBD’s administration of the SBE certification process. The OIG has requested a status report from the OESBD regarding those recommendations on or before January 30, 2012. To read the full report go to:

http://www.broward.org/InspectorGeneral/Documents/FinalReportOIG11012.pdf

>>> Press release: BROWARD SHERIFF OFFICE DETENTION OFFICER SENTENCED FOR UNLAWFUL RECEIPT OF CREDIT CARDS

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Vance Luce, Acting Special Agent in Charge, United States Secret Service, Miami Field Office, announce the sentencing of defendant Cherralyn Milton-Browner, 39 of Coral Springs. U.S. District Court Judge James I. Cohn, Jr. sentenced Milton-Browner to 36 months in prison, to be followed by 3 years of supervised release. In addition, the defendant was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $108,733.11.

According to the evidence presented at trial, Milton-Browner, a Deputy Detention Officer with the Broward Sheriff’s Office, developed a relationship with Onakia Griffin, a former inmate at the Paul Rein Detention facility. Milton-Browner and Griffin conspired to unlawfully receive fraudulently obtained credit cards at Milton-Browner’s former address in Sunrise, Florida. Griffin and others used the names and stolen personal identification information of mainly elderly victims to fraudulently apply for Chevron Visa credit cards. Milton-Browner joined the scheme by allowing Griffin to use her address on the fraudulently opened credit card accounts. The cards were then sent to the mailbox at Milton-Browner’s former townhouse. Milton-Browner retrieved the cards from the mailbox and provided them to Griffin. Griffin, who was unemployed, paid Milton-Browner’s bills, bought her meals and gave her cash, all from the use of the fraudulently obtained credit cards. The loss amount is $108,733.11. >>> Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the U.S. Secret Service for their hard work in this matter. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Keene. 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.

>>> 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: Woman popped by feds for prepareing and bogus tax returns

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and José A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CID), announce that a federal jury in West Palm Beach found defendant Marvel Ebanks, of West Palm Beach, Riviera Beach, and unincorporated Palm Beach County, guilty of twenty-five (25) counts of assisting and advising in the preparation and presentation of fraudulent income tax returns to the IRS, in violation of Title 26 U.S.C. § 7206(2). Ebanks was also found guilty of five (5) counts of willfully subscribing to false Form 1040 Individual Income Tax Returns and filing the tax returns with the IRS, in violation of Title 26 U.S.C. § 7206(1). Ebanks’ sentencing hearing is scheduled for March 2, 2012. According to the charges and evidence presented at trial, Ebanks owned and operated Marvelous Enterprises Inc, a tax return preparation business in Palm Beach County, Florida. Ebanks operated her business from her various residences in Palm Beach County. Defendant Ebanks prepared and caused the submission of Individual Income Tax Returns claiming tax refunds on behalf of various taxpayers, knowing that these returns contained materially false information. Specifically, Ebanks claimed nonexistent expenses or inflated itemized deductions, thus making it appear that the taxpayers would be due a larger tax refund than was allowed from the IRS. The taxpayers were typically only sent the signature page of their returns and were unaware of the false information that Ebanks used to inflate their refunds.

Testimony and records at trial also showed that Ebanks under-reported her gross receipts from 2003 to 2007, and filed the tax returns with the IRS knowing that the returns contained materially false information. Specifically, defendant Ebanks failed to report income she received from the operation of her income tax preparation business. At sentencing, Ebanks faces a maximum statutory term of imprisonment of three (3) years in prison on each count of preparing and presenting fraudulent income tax returns and each count of subscribing and filing false Individual Income Tax Returns. Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the IRS-CID. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Emalyn Webber and Adrianne Rabinowitz. >>> 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.

ORANGE COUNTY

>>> Press release: Gov. Scott taps John M. Martinez as County Commissioner.

Martinez, 30, of Orlando, has been the vice president of Gardnyr Michael Capital Inc. since 2010. Previously, he was an associate attorney with Lowndes, Drosdick, Doster, Kantor and Reed P.A. from 2006 to 2010. Martinez’s community leadership includes service on the Central Florida YMCA Metropolitan Board of Directors since 2007 and the Frederick Leadership Initiative Board of Directors since 2008. He has also served on the Osceola County Education Foundation Board of Directors and the Central Florida March of Dimes Board of Directors since 2011. He received a bachelor’s degree from Wake Forest University and a law degree from the Florida State University College of Law.

“John’s leadership ability is evident through his professional service and his broad community involvement,” Governor Scott said. “I am confident he will bring the highest levels of integrity and ethics to the commission.” “I support Governor Scott’s choice of John Martinez who has agreed not to seek election during the 2012 cycle. This demonstrates the Governor’s commitment to responsible leadership while ensuring a fair and level playing field in this upcoming election,” Mayor Teresa Jacobs said. “I am humbled and honored to be selected by Governor Scott to serve Orange County and District 3. As a native to Orange County, this is a unique and special opportunity to give back to a community where I have lived and worked my whole life. I am eager to get to work as an advocate for the residents of this district,” John Martinez said. Martinez will fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Mildred Fernandez and is appointed for a term beginning December 12, 2011, and ending November 19, 2012.

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY

>>> Press release: Gov. Scott names Judge Nick Nazaretian, of Tampa, to the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit Court.

Judge Nazaretian, 49, has served as a Hillsborough County Court Judge since 2001. Previously, he practiced with Griffen and Associates from 2000 to 2001. From 1990 to 2000, he served as a division chief for the Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office, and from 1987 to 1990, he was a felony trial attorney with the Pinellas Public Defender’s Office. Judge Nazaretian received a bachelor’s degree from the University of South Florida and a law degree from Nova Southeastern University. “Judge Nazaretian’s service for the past nine years on the County Court and during temporary duty on the Circuit Court has well prepared him for elevation to the position of Circuit Court Judge,” Governor Scott said. “His extensive courtroom experience throughout his 25-year legal career, as well as his careful attention to the rule of law, will serve the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit well.” Judge Nazaretian will fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Wayne S. Timmerman.

ALACHULA COUNTY

>>> Gov. Scott selects Judge Robert K. Groeb, of Newberry, to the Eighth Judicial Circuit Court.

Groeb, 48, has served as an Alachua County Court Judge since 2010. Previously, he was a sole practitioner from 1999 to 2010 and from 1995 to 1998. He was also assistant general counsel for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement from 1998 to 1999. Groeb was an assistant state attorney for the Eighth Judicial Circuit from 1991 to 1995, for the Sixth Judicial Circuit from 1990 to 1991, for the Nineteenth Judicial Circuit from 1988 to 1989, and for the Twelfth Judicial Circuit from 1985 to 1988. He also practiced with the Law Firm of Robert E. Merchant III from 1989 to 1990. Groeb received a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University and law degree from Stetson University. “Robert’s experiences as a county judge and as an administrative hearing officer have prepared him to evaluate and consider evidence without bias and prejudice,” Governor Scott said. “In addition, his 24 years as a trial attorney have given him the opportunity to develop the highest regard for the rule of law.” >> Groeb will fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Robert P. Cates.

COMMUNITY EVENTS

>>> This is your chance for great stuff and support the Strut. The annual satirical street parade has been a model of civic engagement and civil uprising with enough material for a pickapeppa spray and sauce combination. In this interactive parade, the spectators, the true occupiers, are encouraged to bring tents, lawn chairs and cardboard signs. King Mango is still looking for a few good MangoHeads to strut in the parade. There are no entry fees, no special skills or x-factor auditions required; just join the fun and strut your funny. If your group needs ideas or people, come to our meeting tonight. We also need behind-the-scenes help.

If you want to participate, contact the King at kingmangostrut@gmail.com or call the Mango Hotline at 305-401-1171.For more information check out our new website at www.kingmangostrut.org.Follow us on facebook at www.facebook.com/kingmangostrut for the latest Mango news & tidbits. >> Putting the NUT back in CocoNUT Grove since 1982: What: King Mango Strut Parade – When: Saturday, December 31st 2pm – Where: Downtown Coconut Grove, Florida – Corner of Commodore and Main

EDITORIALS

>>> Redistricting process always painful for some politicians, Miami-Dade maps are what they are based on 65 percent Hispanic population

Redistricting for the 2012 elections of leaders in Miami-Dade County, the school board and later the city of Miami in 2013 has not gotten much press over the past few months, but the Watchdog Reports coverage has been a community eye into the process, that courts have ruled are as political as any process in politics. At the school board, Marta Perez last month carped about how her district was being changed, and at the county, it is primarily County Commissioner Jean Monestime that has a beef with the new map. But the process is what should be celebrated. For redistricting, is one of the great strengths of the Republic when it comes to every vote counting. We live in a community where around 19 languages are in use and when we talk about diversity. Miami-Dade is the poster child for the nation, yet we flourish in some ways, but also have a terrible habit of also taking one-step backwards, after making some positive progress.

The goal is one person, one vote for these different districts but that is the vexing problem we face when a community has a 65 percent representation on one ethnic group, be it Anglo, Hispanic, African-American or any other peoples. Here it is Hispanic and given these demographics there is very little wiggle room and any change in the maps shape has a domino effect thoughout the other proposed districts and that is the rub. On Monday when the county commission discusses and votes on the new maps after a public hearing the community will know the results, that are likely to make some commissioners unhappy, but unfortunately the population numbers determine otherwise, it is what it is, and that is the federal law.

>> Here is the agenda item on the subject. 112432 Ordinance Redistricting Committee >> ORDINANCE PROVIDING NEW BOUNDARIES FOR COUNTY COMMISSION ELECTION DISTRICTS; INCORPORATING LEGISLATIVE FINDINGS; REPEALING ORDINANCES 01-192 AND 02-102; PROVIDING SEVERABILITY; INCLUSION IN THE CODE AND EFFECTIVE DATE (ORIGINAL MAP ON FILE WITH THE CLERK OF THE BOARD) Public Hearing PDF This was adopted on first reading by the BCC Dec. 6 and passed 11-1.

LETTERS

>>> Ethics Commission Director on Miami Herald story on Miami Commissioner Sarnoff, and DDA get out the vote campaign

The Miami Herald Dec. 15, 2011 story regarding the Miami-Dade Ethics Commission’s handling of the election complaint against Commissioner Marc Sarnoff was wrong. The headline that Mr. Sarnoff was given a “pass” was both misleading and false. We do not give anyone a “pass.”

Reporting that the Commission would “not pursue an investigation” into a complaint against Sarnoff was also wrong. Our news release said plainly that an investigation had been conducted. In fact, it was done by one of our most experienced investigators, and was fair and thorough. Our conclusion was based on the evidence and the law, as it must be.

Our findings are detailed in the investigative file, which is readily available at the Ethics Commission office at 19 West Flagler Street, Suite 820. As it is public record, any persons having an interest in the investigation may examine the file or contact me to discuss their concerns. It is disappointing that the Herald wrote this story without a proper inquiry into the facts. The public is entitled to know the truth about any investigation by a public agency into alleged misconduct by an elected official.

Joseph M. Centorino, Executive Director
Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust

>>> Yours and the Miami Herald’s article came at a perfect time to provide more evidence to residents that a proposed for-profit charter school is up for consideration by the Palmetto Bay Village Council tomorrow night at 7 pm at Village Hall. We’ve been fighting it for months, but your work on it has helped better inform our residents about it.

Marsha Matson

>>> I enjoyed meeting you and reading your Watchdog Report. The public needs more watchdogs such as you and your associates. Best wishes.

John Kindt

>>> LIFETIME FOUNDING MEMBERS & INITIAL SPONSORS IN 2000

ANGEL ESPINOSA – (Deceased) owner COCONUT GROVE DRY CLEANER’S
HUGH CULVERHOUSE, Jr.
THE MIAMI HERALD www.miamiherald.com (2000-2008)
ARTHUR HERTZ
WILLIAM HUGGETT, Seamen Attorney (Deceased)
ALFRED NOVAK
LINDA E. RICKER (Deceased)
JOHN S. and JAMES L. KNIGHT FOUNDATION www.knightfoundation.org
THE HONORABLE STANLEY G. TATE

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

FLORIDA POWER & LIGHT www.fpl.com
RONALD HALL
MIAMI-DADE COUNTY www.miamidade.gov
UNITED WAY OF MIAMI-DADE COUNTY www.unitedwaymiamidade.org

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

AKERMAN SENTERFITT www.akerman.com
RON BOOK
LEWIS TEIN www.lewistein.com
LINDA MURPHY: Gave a new laptop in Oct. 2001 to keep me going.
WILLIAM PALMER
SHUBIN & BASS www.shubinbass.com

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

CAMILLUS HOUSE, INC. www.camillushouse.org
CITY OF MIAMI www.miamigov.com.
CITY OF CORAL GABLES www.coralgables.com
CITY OF MIAMI BEACH www.miamibeachfl.gov
COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIP FOR HOMELESS www.cph.org
THE STATE OF FLORIDA www.myflorida.gov
GREATOR MIAMI CHAMBER OF COMMERCE www.miamichamber.com
GREATER MIAMI CONVENTION & VISITORS BUREAU www.miamiandbeaches.com
HEALTH FOUNDATION OF SOUTH FLORIDA www.hfsf.org
MIAMI-DADE COUNTY www.miamidade.gov
MIAMI-DADE PUBLIC SCHOOLS BOARD www.dadeschoolsnews.net
PUBLIC HEALTH TRUST & JACKSON HEALTH SYSTEM www.jhsmiami.org
THE BEACON COUNCIL www.beaconcouncil.com
THE CHILDREN’S TRUST www.thechildrenstrust.org
THE MIAMI-DADE COUNTY LEAGUE OF CITIES www.mdclc.org
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA http://www.firstgov.gov/
UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI www.miami.edu

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 550 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

>>> 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 >>> 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