Month of February 2012

 
 

Watchdog Report Vol.12 No.43 February 26, 2012 Est.05.05.00 – I go when you cannot

CONTENTS

Argus Report: Obama comes to Miami, pushes energy initiative at UM, raises some serious coin, fundraiser Korge back into the political fray at county

Florida: State Rep. Steinberg resigns in humiliation, texts to married federal prosecutor with salacious suggestions shocks friends & peers

Miami-Dade County: Mayor Gimenez & AA SVP Del Valle shake hands on “not suing each other” over new 13-mile BHS at MIA that feds want fired-up and operational

Miami-Dade Public Schools: Chair Hantman gives State of the School System Address, challenges remain but much progress has been made

Public Health Trust: PHT’s most complex AOA contract with UM crafted after ten drafts, calls for pay for services & greater role in future of FIU physicians

City of Miami: Leaders continue to push for change in CDBG formula for social services, major support by local leaders in congress but is that enough?

City of Miami Beach: Will state Rep. Steinberg’s resignation spark any commissioners to run in House Dist.106 when Scott calls a special election?

City of Coral Gables: Residents get to review county District 7 Commissioner Suarez’s nine-month performance at local luncheon

City of Doral: South Florida Corrections Officer Sentenced on Federal Civil Rights Charge

>>> Other stories around Florida

Broward County: Tax Fraud Defendant Sentenced to 24 Months’ Imprisonment and Ordered to Surrender April 11, 2012

City of Ft. Lauderdale: Fort Lauderdale, Florida-Area Halfway House Operator Sentenced to 33 Months in Prison for Participating in Fraud And Kickback Scheme

Palm Beach County: Two More Defendants Sentenced in Broward and Palm Beach Counties in Pill Mill Operation

Hillsborough County: Florida CFO Jeff Atwater Announces 9 Arrests in Undercover Sweep of Tampa Accident Clinics

St. Johns County: Gov. Scott taps Denise M. Bramlitt and Colonel Joseph “Mickey” Duren to the District Board of Trustees, St. Johns River State College.

Lee County: Gov. Scott names Braxton C. Rhone to the District Board of Trustees, Edison State College.

Community Events: Downtown Bay Forum – The Company of Women Awards event – Amigos for Kids event

Editorials: Souto says “corruption at all levels” of county government, but only public servants & residents can tamp it down by stepping forward, we can’t be a little bit pregnant — Check out the past national story in the Tribune papers:  Paperwork Tiger By Maya Bell, Miami Bureau, January 20, 2003

Letters: PHT FRB member Nuell clarifies he is not a CPA – American Heart Assoc. on health risk of cutting phys-ed programs in FL

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

>>> 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 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.

>>> RED ALERT: I NEED FINANCIAL HELP IF THIS IS TOO CONTINUE AFTER 12-YEARS AND HEADING INTO 13-YEARS IN MAY:  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 and I hope you or your organization will consider helping in a small or larger way and help keep another voice on line 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 has celebrated its 12th Anniversary since May 5, 2011.

>>> I was on WWW.WPBT2.ORG on Helen Ferre’s show Issues Friday and Sunday along with Michael Lewis, the publisher of Miami Today and Michael Mayo, a featured news columnist with The Sun Sentinel and to see the show go to http://ka.uvuvideo.org/_Issues-Roundtable-Marlins-Casinos-Prisons/video/1692093/86294.html

ARGUS REPORT – Heard, Seen on the Street

>>> Obama comes to Miami, pushes energy initiative at UM, raises some serious coin, fundraiser Korge back into the political fray at county

President Barack Obama came to Miami Thursday afternoon, first to the University of Miami, then too The Historic Biltmore Hotel to greet supporters and he wrapped up the trip with a second $15,000 per person with photo fundraiser in Pinecrest before going on to Orlando. The president addressed 1,490 attendees at the university’s Bank United Center, the address was on energy, and the role of oil speculation on the black gold’s cost at the pumps. The Biltmore has been a frequent setting for Obama and he has held a couple of fundraisers there in the past before being elected in Nov. 2008. The Pinecrest connection is attorney Chris Korge. The man was also a major fundraiser for President Bill Clinton and he has been low key since the highflying days in the 1990s when Korge was also close friends with then Miami-Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas.

However, as reported in a past Watchdog Report, Korge has come back to the local political scene in a big way recently and while I spotted him at the St. Peter and Paul High School annual Turkey Bowl football game hosted by historian Paul George, Ph.D. on Thanksgiving Day. He made a more notable appearance at county hall in the commission chambers in late January, after the cream of the land use attorneys at the county on Nov.12 all registered in mass to work on a project in west Dade. Where he was seeking some zoning changes for a development in front of the County Commission acting as a zoning board. He has a company called Princeton Land Investments LLC, the investment group had bought tracts of lands years ago in the western part of the county, and the county commission approved his zoning request at the Jan. 26 commission meeting. And the only reason the Watchdog Report writes about the man is his serious political connections that makes him different from the bulk of Miami-Dade residents and owns a number of lucrative concessions at MIA.

>>> Here is what a company bio he is part of says about him: Christopher G. Korge is an Investor/Partner and Senior Advisor of the Company. Mr. Korge is a prominent South Florida attorney, investor, businessman, and real estate developer. He is a founder and partner in the law firm of Korge & Korge and is the Chairman and the Managing Partner of Landko Development, a diversified real estate development company. He is also the founder, Chairman and principal shareholder in Newslink, an operator of retail newsstands in two major airports which has sales of over $35 million a year. Chris has over 5,000 units of residential development in Florida and is developing commercial and residential land in Mississippi. He is also a major shareholder and member of the board of E-Auto Claims, one of the fastest growing public companies in Florida and owns a Consulting Firm specializing in retail food and beverage development.

Mr. Korge is extremely active and prominent in national and local political circles and has served as National Co-Chairman of Kerry Edward Victory 2004. He also served as Finance Vice Chairman of the Democratic National Committee during the 2000 presidential election cycle. He has been on the Board of Trustees for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s Team 2000. He is also past Co-Chairman of the Democratic National Committee Business Council and has hosted President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore at his home on numerous times over the past 9 years, along with many other prominent U.S. Government and Political luminaries. Mr. Korge is very active in social, civic and community affairs. He presently serves on the Florida International University Foundation Board and is Chairman of the Coconut Grove Junior Chamber Foundation.

He has served as Co-Chairman of the United Way Mayor’s Ball and Trustee of the Miami Art Museum. He is also past Vice Chairman of the Urban League of Greater Miami, President of the Coconut Grove Jaycees, Vice President of the Greater Miami Host Committee and Board member for Recording for the Blind and the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau. Chris holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration, Magna Cum Laude, from the University of Florida and a J.D. Degree from Temple University School of Law.

© 2010 The Americas Group. All Rights Reserved.Home |  Site Map |  Contact

>>> Here is the county’s zoning information on the project and zoning changes that passed the M-DC Commission: http://www.miamidade.gov/planzone/track/zoning_show.asp?proc_num=Z2009000006 >>> Some other links on the event President Obama talks gas prices, energy policies … – Miami Herald 2 days ago … President Barack Obama mixed presidential business with campaign … Later, he’ ll be at the Pinecrest home of lawyer Chris Korge, a top … www.miamiherald.com/2012/02/23/265631

>>> Press release: Next Week: Public Invited by Ros-Lehtinen to Submit Questions for Secretary Clinton Submit Questions on Committee Website, Twitter, Facebook

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, released the following statement today inviting members of the public to submit questions for Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who will testify before the Committee at a hearing this Wednesday, February 29th, titled “Assessing U.S. Foreign Policy Priorities Amidst Economic Challenges: The Foreign Relations Budget for Fiscal Year 2013.”

“I am pleased that Secretary Clinton has agreed to come before our Committee on Wednesday to discuss important foreign policy matters that affect our nation deeply.  I want members of the public to participate in this hearing as well, and I encourage interested Americans to submit questions for Secretary Clinton through the ‘You Ask a Question’ feature on our Committee’s website.   Whether you’re concerned about Iran’s nuclear program, or attacks on freedom and democracy in Latin America, or how taxpayer funds are used by foreign governments who receive U.S. foreign aid,  or other issues, we want to hear from you.  We want to know your thoughts and concerns.” >>> NOTE: For all Full Committee hearings, members of the public are invited to submit questions for the witness(es) through the Committee’s “You Ask a Question” online feature. The Committee will review the questions, and some questions may be asked by Members on behalf of the submitter. To submit a question, please visit: http://foreignaffairs.house.gov/hearings_question.asp.  Questions may also be submitted on Twitter to @ForeignAffGOP and via Facebook at www.facebook.com/farepublicans.

>>> 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.

FLORIDA

>>> State Rep. Steinberg resigns in humiliation, texts to married federal prosecutor with salacious suggestions shocks friends & peers

State Rep. Richard Steinberg, D-Miami Beach, (net worth $327,000) stepped down Friday after it was discovered he was texting for months a married assistant federal attorney who was a 15-year acquaintance but he would not identify himself using a phony email address and he called her a “sexxxy mama.” Steinberg, 39, was a Miami Beach Commissioner from 2001 to 2008 when he ran for former state Sen. Dan Gelber’s, D-Miami Beach House 106 seat after Gelber was termed out. Gelber, a former federal prosecutor would run for the state senate and win and left the legislature after he failed to be elected Florida Attorney General in 2010. Steinberg an affable and friendly guy who I considered a low maintenance elected leader since he was not terrible self absorbed and treated people with dignity, drove a Prius, and represented the Beach well on the county MPO from 2005 to 2008 that deals with county transportation issues. However, there obviously was another side to the man with a wife and new child and his behavior cost him his elected position though whether state prosecutors will bring charges is not known.

The federal prosecutor he was enamored with was Marlene Fernandez-Karavetsos but she was married herself and had a new baby and Steinberg asked the prosecutor how it was going being a mother and the child by name. A fairly “creepy,” comment from an unknown person when you have a new baby and why the U.S. Secret Service was brought in to investigate. Further, the federal attorney’s husband George Karavetsos works at the U.S. Attorney’s office in Miami. He is also an attorney and is in charge of narcotics prosecutions. And this stalking by text has Steinberg’s peers shaking their heads at why he would do this that brought an appropriate response by federal agents who quickly overcame caller ID number camouflage technology, and led them to the state lawmaker.

Friends and supporters are shocked by the sudden turn of events www.miamiherald.com and Steinberg with a B.S. from the University of Florida, a J.D., and MBA from the University of Miami got married in 2008 to Micky Ross and has a baby girl. The son of a former state senator now is facing the music at home, with authorities and the public. And he has repeatedly apologized to everyone involved in this affair for his actions including the voters, but his options were limited to resigning after the salacious comments. Now it is up to Gov. Rick Scott to decide whether to call for a special election to fill the seat or wait until the primary or general election. But a political rising star has fallen in South Florida and it remains to be seen what his fate will be in the future, but one thing is clear. His political career is over.

Steinberg

>>> Press release: Attorney General Bondi Applauds the House of Representatives on the Passage of the Human Trafficking Prevention Bill

Attorney General Pam Bondi released the following statement on the House of Representatives’ unanimous passage of the Human Trafficking Prevention Bill, House Bill 7049. The Senate companion bill, SB 1880, is sponsored by Senator Anitere Flores. Click here to read more.

>>> Press release: Be on guard. The future of early learning in Florida is at stake. The Legislature is moving toward a close. We must insist on quality because only real quality leads to children really being ready to succeed.

Here’s what I hope you will do – quickly: Tell Speaker Cannon that portions of the House early learning bills will hurt Florida’s children and to support the Senate language (formerly in SB 1974 by Sen. Simmons). Tell him, too, that we’re supportive of Rep. Marti Coley’s position on pre- and post-assessments for Florida’s VPK program. That ought to be in any final legislation. To speak up, all you need to do is click here. Florida’s children depend on us. Let us make sure we do not fail them. Thank you. Dave Lawrence Jr., Chair The Children’s Movement of Florida

>>> Press release: Statement from Florida TaxWatch President & CEO, Dominic M. Calabro on House passage of HB1127

The Florida House took an important step today to fix Florida’s property and casualty insurance system by limiting the amount of “regular assessments” that Citizens’ Property Insurance Corporation can charge to private insurers, which are passed through to policyholders. Under current law, these assessments are due within 30 days and could financially impair or make insolvent many private insurers. This reform is a positive first step to return private insurers to the Florida property and casualty insurance system and ultimately reduce the exposure of taxpayer-backed entities, and one of the many actions called for in the Florida TaxWatch comprehensive review of the system, published in November and December 2011 in the following reports: Risk & Reform, November 2011 &   Reducing the Concentration of Risk, December 2011

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY

>>> Mayor Gimenez & AA SVP Del Valle shake hands on not suing each other over new 13-mile BHS at MIA that feds want fired-up and operational

The haggling continues between Miami-Dade County, Miami International Airport (MIA) and American Airlines (AA) concerning phasing in a new almost 13 mile automated screening and baggage system after the Transportation Security Administration wanted it fired up Feb. 28. However, has been put on hold for the moment. Since the commercial airline is in bankruptcy court and could seek an injunction from a federal judge on Mar. 22 if the company wants too stopping the TSA demand. And on Feb. 7, Tom Del Valle, the Senior Vice President of Airport Services for American Airlines in Dallas wrote a critical memo on the new Baggage Handling System (BHS), where he claimed the county’s and TSA’s request, was “In violation of the automatic stay in the bankruptcy proceedings,” and its implementation at this time would cause the airline “irreparable harm.” The senior AA executive noted any disruption of baggage service would have a devastating impact on its operations, cascading through the whole AA system and its hubs and would dramatically affect fiscally the assets and operations the international carrier owns and operates. He also believed it would be viewed negatively when it came to the valuation of AA assets in the federal bankruptcy court.

Jose Abreu, the county MIA aviation director fired back on Feb. 8 writing AA that tests on Sept. 7 and on Oct. 19, 2011 where 7,500 bags were involved were considered successful since only “four bags were mis-sorted” or “one-tenth of one percent” of the bags went to the wrong location, wrote the MIA aviation guru. He noted that back in April 1, 2011 after a successful test in February AA made “up to 1,000 discrete changes.” He wrote in the February test 19,000 bags where processed correctly and he believed the “system was viable.” But in April after all these AA control and programming changes were completed the “BHS experienced a crisis,” when the system was tested and Abreu believes these past issues have since been corrected. Abreu, who is planning to retire in November, also wrote that MIA had contributed $30 million to enhance the BHS performance for AA and he notes that Miami-Dade has invested $2.5 billion over the years for AA and he appreciates the critical importance of the airline to the airport where the airline holds 72 percent of the gates.

The ongoing stalemate seemed ripe for a lawsuit between MIA and AA given this charged past correspondence and tempers were expected to flare at the meeting they had. But Abreu in a telephone interview Friday said Mayor Carlos Gimenez (Net worth $923,000), Del Valle and himself had met at the end of the week on the dispute and the two men shook hands in an agreement “not to sue each other” and for them to work through this dispute. Abreu said he had thought there would be verbal fireworks during the discussion, but it was cordial. He said at the conclusion of the talks, both sides acknowledged the other’s concerns regarding getting the BHS operateing, but also keeping the current ageing baggage legacy system in place, until the new system is proven to be running smoothly. Abreu in an email on the matter wrote that the conclusion was, “That AA is considering, [but] not yet committed” to “going on the system on a trial basis while the legacy system is in place,” wrote the professional engineer on firing up the new BHS. He also said on the phone that AA plans to increase flights from and into MIA a day to around 400 flights in the future, and that will produce new badly needed revenue for the facility. Abreu also noted earlier in the week to the Watchdog Report that airport passenger traffic last year hit a new record high of 38.2 million passengers per year and the flying public per trip carries about 1.1 bags, said Abreu.


Abreu

Gimenez

>>> Shrink-wrap debate like movie Jason, “it keeps coming back” to life

A past contract for shrink-wrap services at MIA and has been a highly contentious issue over more than a dozen years had Miami-Dade commissioners debating a modification of the deal for hours Tuesday. But this discussion did not compete with the original commission debate back in the late 1990s, that went on for four hours, had one company lobbyist Robert Holland calling then county Manager Merritt Stierheim a “racist,” which the veteran manager denied, but highlighted the charged nature of the subject. However, the highlight of that past contract debate battle was a 30-minute discussion on whether the hearing judge was awake, dozing or asleep.

Commission Chair Joe Martinez (Net worth $238,000) Tuesday said this contract was “a want and not a need,” though the revenue it brings in to MIA is much needed and every loss of $300,000 in revenue resulted in a one-cent increase in a passengers landing fee. Martinez showed a video of the most recent discussion on the controversial contract on Jul. 20, 2010 and carped that the minutes of the 45-minute discussion were only one page and did not reflect how contentious the actual discussion was though it ultimately passed 8 to 1 with only Commissioner Javier Souto (Net worth $658,000) voting no on the item. Martinez noted that seven of the current commissioners at the dais were either not there at the meeting or in office in 2010 and a majority of the commissioners were not here, he said. The body passed the issue ultimately but it was a great show, but like all sequels, not as good as the original.


Martinez

Souto

Anything unusual happen?

Souto during the discussion of the process verbally escalated the discussion when he said he thought there was “corruption” in the process and at the county. Souto is known for some colorful words at the dais over the years. And had former and now deceased Commission Chair Arthur Teele, Jr., in the mid 1990s joking when the former state senator started verbally going, “We have lift off.” On Tuesday, Souto carped and seemed to suggest that Aviation Director Jose Abreu was part of this corruption conspiracy. But Abreu and Mayor Carlos Gimenez took exception to that characterization with the mayor saying. If Souto had information “of corruption,” he should pass it on to his office or prosecutors and not make such unsubstantiated charges the mayor concluded. After Commissioners Rebeca Sosa (Net worth $439,000) and later Vice Chair Audrey Edmonson (Net worth $281,000) shut down the back and forth comments on the subject, but had Souto standing by what he had said.

Anything funny happen?

Commissioner Xavier Suarez (Net worth $328,000) during the discussion on the MIA shrink-wrap contract likened changing a contract with the vender because they were “high maintenance,” would not fly in the real world. The “high maintenance comment about the vender was used by MIA Aviation Director Jose Abreu. But it had Suarez hypothetically applying that thinking to his wife and she would not buy the argument, he reflected.  He said if he told her he wanted to “change the agreement” they had together because she was “high maintenance,” he thought she would not buy that fact. And after going on in this regard for a minute or so, he paused, and said that maybe this is not the best way to characterize the issue; he joked and moved on in the discussion.

Suarez

>>> Commissioners question if selective code enforcement happening in 8 1/2 square mile area of west Dade

A county commission discussion Tuesday on whether the county was selectively enforcing the county code more stringently out west in what is known as the Eight-Square Mile rural section on the edge of the Florida Everglades that has a few thousand home owners ended up with the commission looking at the county code and some of what is considered burdensome environmental codes including the definition of wetlands. Assistant County Attorney Randy Duval repeatedly said there was no evidence in the public files that DERM or any other enforcement arm of the county was doing “selective enforcement,” but some commissioners would have nothing to do with that point of view. County Commissioner Esteban Bovo, Jr., (Net worth $25,800) said he has heard reports that county “investigators and inspectors are sometimes aggressive and are also the judge,” he said.

And Commissioner Lynda Bell (Net worth $308,000) said she was seeking“proper balance of protecting the environment and the farmers” rights and suggested the commission “look at all DERM regulations,” in the future. And Commissioner Rebeca Sosa asked for a “matrix” of what regulations are required by the U.S. Corps of Engineers, the state and our own legislation on top of that” and compare what is in their “tool box” because we can’t do this “piecemeal.” However, Commissioner Barbara Jordan (Net worth $1.97 million) chimed in that she objected to the widening scope of the discussion and “I don’t like shooting from the hip.” She suggested commissioners wait having this discussion, because “I am hearing so much instead” of just a small section of the county’s code.

However, environmentalists are crying foul at this attempt to weaken some of the environmental laws and the possible dismantling of local protections and these many organizations have yet to weigh in on what will likely be to the proposed legislative changes. That is coinciding with Gov. Rick Scott (Net worth $103 million) and the Florida Legislature moves to make business creation less onerous when it comes to these environmental regulations resulting in more job creation they believe but has the environmental community fuming that past legislation is being discarded.

>>> Miami-Dade Community Action and Human Services Department (CAHSD) Expect Respect Program promotes healthy relationships among teens.

Press release:  February 24, 2012) – Thirty young women gathered for a special ceremony marking a milestone in their lives having completed a thirteen week program designed to give them the skills to identify and avoid abusive relationships.  The ceremony was a collaborative effort between Miami-Dade Community Action and Human Services Department (CAHSD) and the Miami-Biscayne Bay Chapter of The Links organization. The young women all attend the COPE North School and participated in the “Expect Respect” Program that is provided as part of the CAHSD’s Violence Intervention and Prevention Services.  The program is designed to instruct teens on the dynamics of a healthy relationship and the warning signs of dating and sexual violence. The Expect Respect Program engages teens in building healthy relationships and preventing dating and sexual violence through school based support groups and counseling.  The program is funded through the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence. To date, a number of workshops have been conducted with various schools and churches. Oscie Fryer with the Safe Space Program states that, “It is important for our teens to understand the importance of being in a healthy relationship, and that is what they receive through this program”.

Tamaria Grace one of the participants in the program shared why the course was especially beneficial to her. “I thought that it was O.K. for boys to hit me, I grew up seeing my mother go through that, and so I thought that it was a good thing.  Now I know that it is not and I can say ‘No’,” she said. As the mother of a young boy, she says that what she learned through her participation in the program will not only make a difference in her life, but it will also make a difference in the life of her son as she now understands that she should expect to be treated with respect and will teach that to her son.  Another participant Kristal Rodriguez said, “The program had a positive impact on my life because I am stronger and more confident about myself.” >>> According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, there were over 10,000 cases of domestic violence reported in Miami-Dade County in 2010. The goal of the Expect Respect Program is to reduce this number significantly by providing intervention and support services to teens that will prevent them from becoming the victims or perpetrators of sexual or violent crimes. Additional information is available on the Expect Respect Program and other violence intervention and prevention services offered by Miami-Dade County by contacting the Department of Community Action and Human Services at 305-514-6000 or online at www.miamidade.gov/socialservices.

>>> Press release: Input sought on proposed event ticket guidelines on Thursday

The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust will take public comment on a draft report containing proposed guidelines and recommendations governing the solicitation, receipt and distribution by public officials of complimentary tickets to arts, sports or other private events. The discussion will be the first item on the agenda for the Ethics Commission’s regular meeting, set for 10 a.m., Thursday, March 1, 2012, in Suite 820, 19 W. Flagler Street in Downtown Miami.  The report is available on the Ethics Commission website:  www.MiamiDadeEthics.com. >>> The Ethics Commission was created in 1996 as an independent agency with advisory and quasi-judicial powers.  It is composed of five members, serving staggered terms of four years each.  Through a program of education, outreach and enforcement, the Commission seeks to empower the community and bolster public trust.

MIAMI-DADE PUBLIC SCHOOLS

>>> Chair Hantman gives State of the School System Address, challenges remain but much progress has been made

Press release: Miami-Dade County School Board Chair Perla Tabares Hantman delivered an accounting of the progress and challenges of Miami-Dade County’s public schools during the 2012 State of the School System Address, last Wednesday at the board’s regular monthly meeting.  The issues addressed in the 18-minute report included student performance and the fiscal outlook for Miami-Dade County Public Schools (MDCPS). The highlights include the following:

MDCPS posted the highest graduation rate in recent history – 77.7 percent – outpacing the state. More than half of the schools received an A-grade from the state, with 70 percent of the schools having an A or B. For the first time in years, MDCPS does not have a single F-graded high school. Chosen for the fourth time, from among 15,000 school districts nationwide, as one of four finalists for the prestigious Broad Prize, which recognizes growth in student performance and in closing the achievement gap for minority and economically disadvantaged students. Recognized by the College Board as first in the nation for Hispanic students scoring high on advanced placement exams, and seventh in the country for African-American students. Recognized for two consecutive years as a national leader on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Miami-Dade students scored higher than the average of students in other large urban school systems both in terms of scale scores and percentage of students scoring above basic in reading for grades 4 and 8, and in mathematics for grade 4.

Secured more than $9 million in federal funding for Safe Routes to School Infrastructure Projects, helping to ensure that students are safe as they travel to and from schools… To read the full speech go to: To see an online video of the complete State of the School System Address, please click on the link – http://www.dadeschools.net/tv/?q=X3Y5NcZVhaCMgFBcj%252baLiA%253d%253d .

PUBLIC HEALTH TRUST

>>> PHT’s most complex AOA contract with UM crafted after ten drafts, calls for pay for services & greater role in future of FIU physicians

The Miami-Dade County Commission voted Tuesday to accept a new three-year contract with the nurses union for Jackson Health System and ends almost a year of protracted tough negotiations between the health trust administration and SEIU Local 1991. The largest bargaining unit in the health system with 9,300 overall employees. Commissioners did not discuss the item and the lone no vote was Commissioner Bruno Barreiro and it is unknown why he dissented. JHS has also hammered out a new Annual Operateing Agreement (AOA) with the University of Miami, it has been a nightmare to negotiate, and only by the tenth draft was one crafted that both sides could accept. UM has agreed in the 2011 to 2012 agreement  to a payment reduction of $16.5 million from the current $130 million contract but they balked at a $52.5 million savings figure that President and CEO Carlos Migoya had asked for in past negotiations.

The agreement also calls for another $36 million in savings through efficiency initiatives but there is no penalty if this fails to materialize by UM physicians and had the nurses union President Martha Baker, R.N., protesting at the AOA committee meetings for UM and Florida Internal University Friday saying in their case. ‘Where’s the accountability’ regarding the UM agreement and questioned ‘Do they pay the piper?’ if they don’t meet these savings targets, she is quoted in http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/02/24/2658654/fius-role-increasing-ums-changing.html . Further the nascent FIU medical school founded in 2009 physicians are going to play a bigger role in bringing patients to Jackson in the future, that currently has around 97 percent of the patient admissions being done by UM Miller Medical School doctors. The funding for specific medical services will be the new template going forward that had UM Medical School Dean Pascal Goldschmidt, M.D., saying. This agreement is ‘The simplest and best model’ for them to use and he went on to say ‘We should have been in that model from the get-go,’ the cardiologist said.

The AOA especially with UM has been evolving for 60-years and is the most important and complicated contract the health trust has, said Financial Recovery Board Chair Marcos Lapciuc in the past. He has said the organization that lost $423 million the last three years and is in the hole for $24.4 million for the past four months can “only afford the services it can pay for.” And given the lower patient census, a fixed price for a host of medical services just did not work. The new way is to ‘lease’ the physicians that begins June 1 and will diminish the argument that UM doctors are poaching paying patients for the UM Hospital bought in 2007 and is a 560-bed facility. Further, while FIU is just getting started it does have around 1,000 adjunct physicians around the community including a large number of medical specialists that practice at Baptist Health South Florida.

>>> PHT FRB televised board meeting Monday at 3:00 p.m. in BCC chambers

As of June 2011 the Public Health Trust Financial Recovery Board committee and board meeting agendas and other supporting documents are now available for download in PDF format on the Jackson Health System’s website accessible at the following link:

https://www.jhsmiami.org/workfiles/wmApps/body.cfm?f_r=publicDocs&f_n=pDindex_PHT.cfm or http://www.jhsmiami.org/PHTmeetings

CITY OF MIAMI

>>> Leaders continue to push for change in CDBG formula for social services, major support by local leaders in congress but is that enough?

City elected leaders held a press conference Thursday to protest federal funding cuts to U.S. HUD Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) and also requested changing the distribution formula for social service programs from 15 to 25 percent of the federal money. Since Miami has so many seniors and poor people that were not reflected in the new 2010 Census numbers they argue. Funding for these social service programs play a critical role in South Florida and other cities like Hialeah, North Miami are also being hammered by the reduced funding www.miamiherald.com . Mayor Tomas Regalado (Net worth $7,500) and Commissioner Frank Carollo (Net worth $707,000) along with the other commissioners have been pushing a funding increase and a change in how the money is divided. They have gotten the support of U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-FL and U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami. The Congresswoman in a statement last week wrote in a press release. “The city also has sponsors in the U.S. House and Senate pushing sister bills that would increase the percentage of CDBG money that can go toward social service. The formula HUD now uses mandates that cities use 85 percent for economic development, and the remaining 15 percent for social services. The bills would hike the 15 percent to 25 percent, taking the difference from the economic development side. “It’s just going to give the flexibility to local governments,” said U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Miami Republican, who is pushing the bill. “It’s a flawed formula. It just doesn’t make any sense in a logical world.””

The Miami funding allocation cuts involve a host of organizations, but one organization, Curley’s House of Style Inc. is one the Watchdog Report is familiar with since their representatives have been plying city hall for weeks pleading with commissioners. The city funding for last year in the Department of Community Development section of the federal funding was $1.12 million in federal funding last year but that now is $744,858. And in the case of Curley’s House, that feeds the needy in downtown Miami and Little Haiti communities along with other programs. They are getting only $23,180 versus the $35,000 the year before and for a small community based organization helping in the local community, this reduction is a big hit. However, Curley’s House did get a break Thursday when Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones (Net worth $17,000) kicked in $10,000 from her office fund to add to the current funding, but the organization is one of many fighting to stay viable. And in the case of Curley’s House, one of there organizers was interviewed and got a nice quote in The New York Times www.nyt.com on Friday. http://www.curleyshouseinc.org/ & http://www.facebook.com/pages/Curleys-House-of-Style-Inc-Hope-Relief-Food-Bank/77816396291 Curley’s House of Style Fighting to end hunger in our communities of Liberty City, City of Miami, Little Haiti, and many others.


Regalado

Spence-Jones

Carollo

>>> Press release: Five Charged for Conspiracy to Extort Relatives of Smuggled Cuban Migrants

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Alysa Erichs, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI), Miami Field Office, John V. Gillies, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, and Addy Villanueva, Special Agent in Charge, Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), announce the unsealing of a four-count indictment charging Yandrys Leon, 35, Yadira Leon Placias, 25, both of Jennings, Florida, Manuel Bernal, 46, of Tampa, Florida, Oscar A. Morera Torres, 44, and Jose A. Fernandez, 42, both of Miami, with conspiring to commit extortion in connection with the illegal smuggling of Cuban migrants from Mexico into the United States. Three of the defendants have been arrested. If convicted, the defendants each face a possible maximum statutory sentence of twenty years in prison.

A joint investigation by ICE-HSI, FBI and FDLE led law enforcement to Leon and Leon Placias after relatives of Cuban migrants notified law enforcement that the migrants were being held in Mexico for ransom after departing Cuba en route to the United States.  The indictment charges all five defendants with conspiring to commit extortion through the wrongful use of actual and threatened force, violence and fear. In addition, Leon, Bernal, Morera Torres, and Fernandez are each charged with making telephone calls with the intent to extort money. >>> Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the ICE-HSI, FBI, and FDLE. Mr. Ferrer also thanked U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), Area 5 for their assistance in this investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys John D. Couriel and Elisa Castrolugo. >>> An indictment is only an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

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

>>> Will state Rep. Steinberg’s resignation spark any commissioners to run in House Dist. 106 when Scott calls a special election?

With state Rep. Richard Steinberg resigning Friday, the Watchdog Report wondered if there would be a political office cascading effect that might have one or two of the Miami Beach commissioners running for the state House Dist 106 seat that is almost entirely the Beach. The commission has a variety of commissioners that might seek a run for the state House and might consider peeling off the body for a higher body in the state’s capital. Gov. Rick Scott will make the call if there is a special election to keep the district having representation and in the past. Governors have called for these elections so that local voters can decide for themselves who their political champion will be in Tallahasee and is considered the safe political move.

>>> Press release: Miami Beach Seeks Development Proposals for Convention Center District & Lincoln Lane Parking Lots New Proposals to Include More than a Convention Center and Hotel Pre-submittal meeting for the Development Proposals for the Convention Center District RFQ Monday, February 27, 2012, 2:00 p.m. Miami Beach Convention Center, Hall D, Rooms 240/241 1901 Convention Center Drive, Miami Beach, FL

>>> Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club February 21st, 2012 Meeting Date: Tuesday, February 28th, 2012, Meeting Time: 8:30 AM, Meeting Place: David’s Café II, 1654 Meridian Ave., South Beach – Miami-Dade County Commissioner for District Five, Bruno Barreiro, will be this week’s guest speaker at the February 28th meeting of the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club.  Commissioner Barreiro is in his third term and will be running for re-election in November. The County Commission recently failed to get a Charter Amendment passed by voters that would provide term limits for Commissioners.  Many believe this was primarily because the Amendment also called for Commissioner’s to receive a salary increase to $92,000 a year. Now a group threatens to circulate a petition to allow voters to approve term limits without a salary increase, and to possibly include a provision that would allow the term limits to be retroactive, which, if passed, would effect some Commissioners, including Commissioner Barriero. >>> There is no charge and everyone is welcome to attend. David Kelsey, Moderator for the Breakfast Club. Visit our web site at www.MBTMBC.com (Miami Beach Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club).

CITY OF CORAL GABLES

>>> PAST WDR: Gables residents get to review county District 7 Commissioner Suarez’s nine-month performance at local luncheon

Coral Gable’s residents will get a chance to hear from County Commissioner Xavier Suarez at a local luncheon Feb. 27 and the former mayor of Miami is up for reelection in August. He won the Commission District 7 seat in late May after county Mayor Carlos Gimenez ran for mayor and won in June. Suarez, whose son is Miami Commission Chair Francis Suarez, after a string of losses has bold plans but he sometimes forgets that it takes seven votes on the 13-member commission, and there is grumbling about his spotty attendance record, and this past week. He skipped the important Internal Management & Fiscal Responsibility Committee that he is on. Further, he tends to tell people to talk to staff rather than himself, which is different from his two predecessors, Gimenez and Jimmy Morales, and Suarez shares the Gables with Commissioner Rebeca Sosa.

Suarez tells citizen groups he “gets to say yes a lot” and likens District 7 to “being like Texas,” given its vast property tax base, since the district hugs Biscayne Bay and includes many tony homes. But it is also a high maintenance constituent district and while Suarez has yet to draw a challenger for a full four-year term after winning the low voter turnout race against former state Rep. Julio Robaina, R-South Miami. But his performance in office so far is getting mixed reviews and he could be vulnerable if the right candidate threw their hat into the political ring. That had the man saying during his inauguration his wife only allowed him to run in the spring, because he would get healthcare insurance included in the commissioner benefit package. And at this ceremony, he spoke over 27 minutes in a rambling monologue that included extensive shout outs to friends and supporters, and the performance raised a few eyebrows in the crowd to say the least.

Press release: PONCE BUSINESS ASSOCIATION -P.O. Box 141651 Coral Gables, FL  33114 www.poncebusiness.com poncebusiness@gmail.com -“Keeping you abreast of the pressing issues affecting Coral Gables.” We meet the first and third Mondays of the month at JohnMartins restaurant (253 Miracle Mile – 2nd floor) at noon.  Lunch is $20 for members and $22 for guests. Xavier A. Suarez, Miami-Dade County Commissioner – District 7 – Please join us for lunch on Monday, February 27th.  Our guest speaker will be the Miami-Dade County Commissioner for District 7, Xavier A. Suarez.  We meet at noon at JohnMartin’s restaurant (253 Miracle Mile – 2nd floor). In 2011, Commissioner Suarez was elected to the Miami-Dade County Commission for District 7.  He represents numerous municipalities including the cities of Coral Gables, Miami, South Miami and the Villages of Key Biscayne and Pinecrest. Prior to his election, Mr. Suarez was Mayor of the City of Miami from 1985 to 1993.  During his tenure as Mayor, Xavier worked toward the construction of affordable housing in the City and prioritized community neighborhood improvements.  Mayor Suarez also received national praise for his effective handling of civil disturbances during his term.  Since 1993, Commissioner Suarez has focused on his law practice and writing several books. Commissioner Suarez was a bachelor degree from Villanova University, as well as a Juris Doctor and master’s degree in Public Policy from Harvard Law School and the John F. Kennedy School of Government. >>> At the conclusion of our luncheon, Roxcy O’Neal Bolton will draw the winners from our first fundraiser to replace the roof on the George Merrick House. Tickets are still available at $10 each.  To purchase at ticket contact us at 305-439-9116.

CITY OF DORAL

>>> South Florida Corrections Officer Sentenced on Federal Civil Rights Charge

Press release: A corrections officer was sentenced to prison today in federal court for a civil rights charge stemming from prisoner abuse that took place at the South Florida Reception Center (SFRC), a state prison in Doral, Fla., the Justice Department announced.  Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) officer Guruba Griffin, 32, was sentenced by District Judge Cecilia Altonaga to serve one year in prison, followed by one year of supervised release. On Dec. 13, 2011, Griffin entered a guilty plea to one count of deprivation of rights under color of law. Griffin’s plea followed a trial in October 2011 where a jury was unable to reach a verdict as to his involvement in a civil rights conspiracy against inmates at SFRC.  Griffin’s co-defendant, Scott Butler, was acquitted by the same jury while a second jury found Sergeant Alexander McQueen guilty of conspiracy against civil rights and obstruction of justice and convicted officer Steven Dawkins for obstruction of justice.  McQueen and Dawkins were sentenced to twelve months in prison and one month in prison, respectively, in January of this year. According to evidence presented at trial, on Feb. 25, 2009, SFRC corrections officers physically abused inmates by choking, punching and striking them with wooden broom handles.  The officers further forced the inmates to fight one another. Additionally, McQueen and Dawkins falsified reports relating to these incidents.

“When individuals sworn to uphold the law instead abuse their power and infringe upon the civil rights of others, the public’s confidence in our system of justice suffers,” said Wifredo A. Ferrer, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office remains committed to protecting everyone’s civil rights and promoting confidence in our system.” “Abuse of power by corrections officers who violate the civil rights of those in their custody will not be tolerated,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.  “The Justice Department will continue to vigorously prosecute those who cross the line to engage in acts of criminal violence.” “Officer Guruba Griffin violated the civil rights of prisoners under his control at a Florida Department of Corrections facility,” said Special Agent in Charge John V. Gillies of FBI Miami Division.  “His abusive treatment of these prisoners damaged the public’s trust in law enforcement.  The message to corrupt corrections officers is clear; engage in criminal misconduct and the FBI and our partners will bring you to justice.” >>>

This case was investigated by the FBI and the Inspector General’s Office, Florida Department of Corrections, and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan Rhee Osborne of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida and Senior Litigation Counsel Gerard Hogan and Trial Attorney Henry Leventis of the Civil Rights Division. >> 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

>>> Tax Fraud Defendant Sentenced to 24 Months’ Imprisonment and Ordered to Surrender April 11, 2012

Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Jose A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CID), announced the sentencing of Osvaldo Martinez, 51, of Hollywood, Florida.  Martinez was sentenced today by U.S. District Court Judge Marcia Cooke to 24 months’ imprisonment and was ordered to surrender to the custody of the Bureau of Prisons on April 11, 2012.

According to the plea agreement filed with the court, Martinez operated Clinicas Finlay, Inc., a medical services company in Miami-Dade County until 2007.  Although Martinez withheld employee payroll taxes from his employees’ salaries, he failed to pay $1,781,294 to the IRS, as required by law.

On November 16, 2011, Martinez pleaded guilty to one count of wilfully failing to pay to the Internal Revenue Service federal income taxes, in violation of Title 26, United States Code, Section 7202. >>> Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the IRS-Criminal Investigation Division.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney H. Ron Davidson.  More information about the Tax Division and its enforcement efforts can be found at www.justice.gov/tax. 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.

FT. LAUDERDALE

>>> Fort Lauderdale, Florida-Area Halfway House Operator Sentenced to 33 Months in Prison for Participating in Fraud And Kickback Scheme

Press release: The manager and operator of a Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-area halfway house was sentenced today to 33 months in prison for his role in a Medicare fraud kickback scheme that funneled patients to a fraudulent mental health provider, American Therapeutic Corporation (ATC), announced the Department of Justice, FBI and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Butler Moultrie, 46, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks in the Southern District of Florida.  In addition to his prison term, Moultrie was sentenced to three years of supervised release and was ordered to pay $801,000 in restitution. Moultrie pleaded guilty in December 2011 to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud.

According to court documents, most of the residents at Moultrie’s halfway house were recovering from drug and/or alcohol addictions.  Moultrie agreed to refer Medicare beneficiaries who resided at his halfway house to ATC to purportedly receive intensive mental health services called partial hospitalization program (PHP) treatment in exchange for illegal health care kickbacks.  Moultrie admitted that he knew the kickbacks were illegal and that ATC fraudulently billed the Medicare program for the PHP services.  Moultrie also knew that no doctor had prescribed PHP treatment for his patient referrals and that his residents required drug and/or alcohol addiction treatment rather than mental health services.

According to court filings, ATC’s owners and operators paid kickbacks to owners and operators of assisted living facilities and halfway houses and to patient brokers in exchange for delivering ineligible patients to ATC and its related company, the American Sleep Institute (ASI).  In some cases, the patients received a portion of those kickbacks.  Throughout the course of the ATC conspiracy, millions of dollars in kickbacks were paid in exchange for Medicare beneficiaries who did not qualify for PHP services.  The ineligible beneficiaries attended treatment programs that were not legitimate so that ATC and ASI could bill Medicare more than $200 million in medically unnecessary services. According to the plea agreement, Moultrie’s participation in the fraud resulted in approximately $1.9 million in fraudulent billing to the Medicare program… The case was investigated by the FBI and HHS-OIG and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, supervised by the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida. >>> Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations in nine locations have charged more than 1,190 defendants that collectively have billed the Medicare program for more than $3.2 billion. In addition, HHS’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers. To learn more about the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), go to: www.stopmedicarefraud.gov.

PALM BEACH COUNTY

>>> Two More Defendants Sentenced in Broward and Palm Beach Counties in Pill Mill Operation ~ Twenty-Six Operation Oxy Alley Defendants Have Been Sentenced

Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, John V. Gillies, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, Mark R. Trouville, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Miami Field Division, and José A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CID), announced the sentencing of two additional  defendants on charges stemming from Operation Oxy Alley, a coordinated investigation into pill mills in Broward and Palm Beach Counties.  Including the two defendants sentenced today, twenty-six defendants have been sentenced to date on an indictment unsealed on August 23, 2011, which charged thirty-two defendants.

The indictment alleged that defendants Christopher and Jeffrey George, twin brothers, operated, managed and financed four pain management clinics in Broward and Palm Beach Counties.  According to the indictment and statements made in court, from 2008 to early 2010, these pill mills distributed approximately 20 million oxycodone pills and made more than $40 million from the illegal sales of controlled substances.  Thirteen of the thirty-two defendants were doctors.        Today, U.S. District Judge Kenneth A. Marra sentenced two additional defendants.  Zachary Horsley, 25, of Royal Palm Beach, was sentenced to 5 months in prison, to be followed by one year of supervised release.  Beau Boshers, M.D., 41, of Palm Beach Gardens was sentenced to 78 months in prison, to be followed by one year of supervised release.  Horsley pled guilty in October 2011 to one count of racketeering conspiracy.  Boshers pled guilty in October 2011 to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

To date, twenty-eight of the thirty-two defendants named in the indictment have pleaded guilty, including clinic owners Christopher and Jeffrey George.  The sentencing hearings are scheduled to continue throughout February 2012. The investigation and prosecution was the result of work by federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.  The FBI, DEA, IRS-CID were assisted by the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, the Broward Sheriff’s Office, the Hollywood Police Department, the Boca Raton Police Department, and the Davie Police Department.  Coordination efforts also included cooperation by the Palm Beach State Attorney’s Office and the Delray Beach Police Department, Jupiter Police Department, West Palm Beach Police Department, Boynton Beach Police Department, Medley Police Department, Homestead Police Department, North Miami Beach Police Department, and Sunny Isles Police Department.  This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Paul F. Schwartz, Lawrence D. LaVecchio and Strider Dickson. >>> 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.

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY

>>> Press release: Florida CFO Jeff Atwater Announces 9 Arrests in Undercover Sweep of Tampa Accident Clinics

Press release: Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater today announced the arrest of nine accident clinic employees for soliciting undercover agents posing as accident victims. A long-term investigation by the Florida Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud and the Tampa Police Department revealed that employees at multiple accident clinics, including Tampa Rehab Center, Auto Injury Doctors of Tampa and PVC Medical Center, paid fraud investigators posing as accident victims to sign fraudulent treatment forms attesting to medical services they never received.  The clinics subsequently submitted fraudulent claims to insurance companies including Nationwide, Farmers, Progressive and 21st Century Insurance. “Florida’s auto insurance system has become a feeding frenzy for those who are looking to make money off the backs of consumers,” CFO Atwater said. “My office will continue to partner with state and local law enforcement agencies to dismantle these organized crime rings and put the crooks behind bars.”

The individuals arrested during the sweep include Tavares Castillo, 37; Jose Luis Avila Robles, 30; Jorge Luis Gutierrez, 33; Jose Miguel Alvarado, Jr., 29; Yankiel Cordero, 21; Yankiel Borrego, 31; Blanca M. Acosta, 53; Evelisse Acosta, 42; and Alfredo Rodriguez, 41.  The individuals were arrested on third-degree felony charges for patient brokering and filing fraudulent insurance claims.  If convicted, they each face up to 15 years in prison. This case is part of a continuing crackdown by CFO Atwater’s Division of Insurance Fraud in the fight against auto insurance fraud in Florida. >>> Anyone with information regarding suspected insurance fraud is asked to call 1-800-378-0445. Individuals who provide tips can remain anonymous and are eligible for a reward of up to $25,000 for information that directly leads to an arrest and conviction in an insurance fraud scheme.  The Department of Financial Services to date has awarded almost $250,000 to approximately 40 citizens as part of its Anti-Fraud Reward Program.

ST. JOHNS COUNTY

>>> Gov. Scott taps Denise M. Bramlitt and Colonel Joseph “Mickey” Duren to the District Board of Trustees, St. Johns River State College.

Press release: Bramlitt, 54, of East Palatka, has been the owner, secretary and treasurer of Bramlitt’s Inc. since 1980.  She has also been the business administrator for the Water’s Edge Land Trust since 2005 and served on the board of directors of the Putnam County Chamber of Commerce from 2010 to 2011. She succeeds Preston Sloan and is appointed for a term beginning February 23, 2012, and ending May 31, 2014.

Colonel Duren, 55, of St. Augustine, has served in the Army National Guard since 1975 and has been the director of logistics for the Florida Department of Military Affairs since 1984. He was president of the Florida National Guard Association from 2009 to 2010. Duren received a bachelor’s degree from Regent College and a master’s degree from the United States Army War College. He succeeds Carl Beck and is appointed for a term beginning February 23, 2012, and ending May 31, 2014. >> The appointments are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate

LEE COUNTY

>>> Press release: Gov. Scott names Braxton C. Rhone to the District Board of Trustees, Edison State College.

Rhone, 27, of Fort Myers, is a financial advisor at Merrill Lynch. Previously, he was a client sales and service officer for Bank of America from 2006 to 2012. His community service includes being an inaugural member of the G.A.I.N. Program (Growing Associates in Naples) and a past board member with Youth Leadership Collier. Rhone received a bachelor’s degree from Florida Gulf Coast University where he also served as student body treasurer and vice president. He is appointed for a term beginning February 21, 2012, and ending May 31, 2013. The appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

COMMUNITY EVENTS

>>> Downtown Bay Forum luncheon www.downtownbayforum.org

FORUM ON MIAMI’S YOUNG LEADERS – Wednesday, February 29, 2012:  Downtown Bay Forum:  Miami’s Young Leaders: Where Will They Take Us? How Can We Support Them? Speakers:  Vanessa Brito- Chairman, Miami Voice PAC; Maryam Laguna- Communications Officer, The Miami Foundation; Ari Rollnick- Principal, Kabookaboo; Tracy Slavens, Esq.- Chair, Nextgen, Chapman Partnership.  Moderator:  Sean Foreman, Ph.D., Barry University. 11:30 am at Wolfson Auditorium at Temple Israel, 137 NE 19th Street, Miami.  Free self-parking available.  To reserve, call Annette Eisenberg, (305)757-3633 or fax (305)754-2015.  Member with reservation, $22.  Non-member or member without reservation, $26.  Membership $30.  Www.downtownbayforum.org

>>> 24th Annual In the Company of Women Awards Celebration Recognizes 13 Miami-Dade Women

In celebration of Women’s History Month, the Miami-Dade Parks, Recreation, and Open Spaces Department and the Miami-Dade County Commission for Women, in partnership with The Parks Foundation of Miami-Dade, are hosting the 24th Annual In the Company of Women Awards Celebration presented by Macy’s, on Wednesday, March 21, from 6-9 p.m., at the Biltmore Hotel, 1200 Anastasia Ave., Coral Gables.  Thirteen local women will be recognized for contributions in their fields and to the Miami-Dade community.  The event also provides lasting support to the Women’s Park and park programs throughout Miami-Dade County.

The honorees include: Mayor’s Pioneer Award—Scherley Busch – Noted commercial photographer, well known for her distinctive photographic vision and interpretations of Florida’s people, places and landscapes.  Founder, director and creative force behind the Florida Women of Achievement project. Mayor’s Pioneer Award—Kathleen Woods-Richardson – Director of the Miami-Dade County Public Works and Waste Management Dept. and longtime, dedicated United Way volunteer.  She is the incoming Chair of the United Way Women’s Leadership Council. Arts & Entertainment— Carol Damian, Director and Chief Curator of the Frost Art Museum at Florida International University. She is active in the local arts community through her leadership roles on the Miami-Dade Art in Public Places Trust and the ArtCenter/South Florida Board of Trustees and her involvement in many museums in South Florida. Business & Economics—Brenda Hill-Riggins – Owner and president of Mars Contractors, one of the largest women and minority-owned construction contractors in Florida. In an industry dominated by men, she is a successful entrepreneur and mentor to many who still finds ways to give back to the community.

Communications & Literature—Ninoska Perez Castellon – Prominent journalist and political commentator at Radio Mambi/Univision Radio. A fierce human rights advocate, she has over 25 years of experience in the communications field where her work has reached a wide-ranging audience not only in the United States but also abroad. Education & Research—Irma Becerra-Fernandez – Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and a fulltime professor at FIU’s College of Business Administration. She is considered the top South Florida educator and researcher on entrepreneurship.  Founder and force behind the Americas Venture Capital Conference, she advocates for the advancement of women to break through the venture capital “glass ceiling.” Government & Law—Lynda Bell, Miami-Dade County Commissioner from District 8 and the first woman Mayor of Homestead.  Her concern for her constituents is exemplified by her focus on education, children, and a streamlined efficient government that still manages to address the needs of the community. Government & Law—Bronwyn Miller – Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge who has committed herself to helping the community through philanthropy and mentoring.  She is a member of several organizations, but has a special passion for helping the homeless and has held leadership roles in the Chapman Partnership. Health & Human Services—Ivon Mesa – Director of the Coordinated Victims Assistance Center and longtime advocate for the rights of domestic violence survivors.  She has dedicated her professional life to addressing the problem of domestic violence and has dramatically changed the way in which services are delivered to thousands of women in Miami-Dade County. Science & Technology—Sarah Elizabeth Messiah, Ph.D. – Research Associate Professor and perinatal/pediatric epidemiologist at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine whose work has been focused on childhood obesity.  She has a community-wide reputation for her commitment as a professional and for her activism in reducing childhood obesity, and she is dedicated to improving general health and wellness among children both locally and nationally.

Community Spirit Award—Jennifer Adger Grant – Accomplished accountant and long-time community activist who has given of her time and talents in organizations such as Delta Sigma Theta Sorority-Dade County Alumnae Chapter, the United Way, Greater Miami Chapter of the Links, the Junior League, and the Community Partnership for the Homeless. Posthumous honors—Elizabeth Ann Juerling – Beloved teacher, women’s advocate, leader of several women’s organizations, and supporter of historic preservation through her roles in the Dade Heritage Trust and The Villagers. Posthumous honors—Mary Abreu – Female public servant in the Miami-Dade Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department, who served the community for over 22 years, leaving a legacy within the Miami-Dade Parks Department. >>> Nominations were solicited from the general public from October through December 2011.  Nominees must have a history of continued accomplishments in their field and have met these five criteria: professional development, community responsibility, leadership and vision, contribution to women’s progress and promotion of pluralism.  Award recipients were selected by a panel, comprised of some of last year’s winners and the event’s organizing committee. >>> Tickets for In the Company of Women are $40 which includes the awards ceremony and pre-event reception, and can be purchased online at www.mdparks.org.  Contributions of $250 and above also afford at-risk women an opportunity to attend the event. In the Company of Women is made possible by the support of generous sponsors including Macy’s, Baptist Health South Florida, Covanta Energy, Florida International University, Waste Services of Florida, Inc., and Univision Radio. For more information about the event, call Vivian Greer-Digon at the Women’s Park, 305-480-1717. >> The Miami-Dade County Commission for Women was created in 1971 as an advisory board to the Board of County Commissioners, the County administration and the public at large about issues pertaining to the status of women.  The Commission for Women also advocates for women in the community and strives to improve their quality of life.  For more information contact the Commission for Women at (305) 375-4967 or at Morilla@miamidade.gov; or visit the website at www.miamidade.gov/advocacy/CFW_home.asp.

>>> Amigos for Kids event: The Second Annual Celebration of Friendship Luncheon and Children’s Fashion show will be held on Saturday, March 31, 2012 at the Four Seasons. Many of you ask how you can get involved and help promote and support our mission of child abuse prevention & awareness. As you may know, April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and Amigos For Kids spearheads a Blue Ribbon Campaign in Miami-Dade County, including this fundraising event. If you would like your child to participate as one of the models in this year’s event, please respond to us by Tuesday, February 28, 2012. Space is limited, and commitment to participate is required.  Please feel free to forward this information to friends with children that may be interested. Fashion Show Theme – Island Cruising In The Tropics – Commitment requirements include: $ 20 fee per child ages 4 – 13 to participate as one of the models  One  ( 1 ) fitting session Two ( 2 ) practice sessions – Adult tickets to attend the event are $ 100 per person – tables set 12 and cost is $ 1,200.  Sponsorship & runway tables available. The attached form should be sent via email to: events@amigosforkids.org Thank you for your support and interest in our mission.  Rosa Maria Plasencia Executive Director Amigos For Kids, 801 S.W. Third Av., Suite 300 Miami, Florida 33130 P:  305 279 1155 F:  305 858 0794 www.amigosforkids.org

EDITORIALS

>>> Souto says “corruption at all levels” of county government, but only public servants & residents can tamp it down by stepping forward, we can’t be a little bit pregnant

“This is a bad show… and not are finest moment,” said Commissioner and former state Senator Javier Souto during the long shrink-wrap contract debate Tuesday at the Miami-Dade County Commission meeting that included him saying “The county has become an expert at CYA (Cover You’re A..) when it comes to any answers commissioners get and he is right. He later went into a major jag on how “This county is full of corruption” and there is a “lot of corruption in this government,” he intoned but gave no specifics in this matter and that is the problem. America is a nation of rule of law and when people make sweeping accusations when it comes to corruption, it would be wise for all of us to actually have proof. The Watchdog Report hears all the time that I must have a field day doing what I do. Since there is so much material out there for me to write about and while some of this is true. I also see good people get tarred inadvertently in these debates and frankly, when all is said and done. A person’s honor is all anyone has at the end of the day and when that is attacked even indirectly without real proof, it is wrong, and with the internet, the charge will likely follow that person for the rest of their life.

The Watchdog Report agrees with some of the sentiments that Souto expressed but as I have written before in the case of the county which is Florida’s largest county with some 27,000 employees in the government ranks. Some thirty percent of the public servants there work like dogs and are sharp, energetic and professional, some fifty percent of the workers are what I call standard issue bureaucrats, and about twenty percent of these people are “just doing their time” until they retire and it is these people that really gives public service a bad name. Waste, fraud and abuse of public dollars is seen by the public everyday and what has surprised the Watchdog Report is that these wayward public employees don’t get that in today’s world. Everybody on the street over eight years old will probable have a cell phone with a video camera and whatever they are doing in public can be documented.

And when it comes to public corruption that can only be cut out by the public and employees speaking–up when they see it and while Souto wants investigations by the state and federal authorities. Public servants and citizens can do it themselves by speaking up and reporting transgressions to the multiple hot lines from the county’s Inspector General to the U.S. Attorney’s office. For if, the community truly wants to make a major dent in public corruption. It will take all of us to step forward and say no, and not condone the practice with a wink of the eye. Because when it comes to a corrupt leaders or public institutions. You are either corrupt or not, because this is the one civic area where you cannot be a little bit pregnant, and it will take a vibrant and strong civic push by all of us to tamp this practice down. If we are ever to make a real dent in this metastasized community scourge called corruption that affects us all.

>>> Check out the past national story in the Tribune papers:  Paperwork Tiger

By Maya Bell, Miami Bureau, January 20, 2003

MIAMI – 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 is always teetering on bankruptcy. He dashes to his post-office box daily, hoping subscribers to his weekly Watchdog Report have finally mailed their checks.

LETTERS

>>> FRB member Nuell clarifies he is not CPA, did work for Ernst & Ernst

Read the Watchdog Report tonight and I want to correct an error in your report regarding the FRB (I presume you picked it up from John Dorschner’s article earlier this week). Please see my email to Dorschner below which I sent immediately after his article. >>> Here is the email to The Herald: “I read your article tonight and thought it was fair and accurate but for one error (due to me!).  While I was an accountant with Ernst & Ernst (and Ernst & Whinney), I was not a ‘certified public account’.  I didn’t make that clear to you when we briefly spoke. Don’t think it’s a big deal but, nonetheless, I wanted to clear that up,” wrote Stephen S. Nuell, a member of the Jackson Health System Financial Recovery Board.

>>> Reduce P.E. While childhood Obesity Rising ? American Heart Association Strongly Opposes Repealing Middle School Physical Education in House Education Committee

Press release: The American Heart Association strongly opposes House Bill 4057, by State Representative Larry Metz, removing the requirement for Middle School Physical Education. Currently 30% of Florida’s youth are overweight or obese.  As these students get older, their obesity problem just gets worse.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that overweight and obesity costs Americans approximately $147 billion dollars in extra health care costs annually1.  Florida’s combined overweight and obese rate is 62.6% according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s “F” as in Fat2 report.

“This bill is dangerous to our children and dangerous to the physical and financial health of all Floridians,” says Janet Connors, R.N., Diabetes Coordinator and Chair of the Florida State Advocacy Committee, American Heart Association.

The “Too Fat to Fight3,”   report from the Mission Readiness organization of retired military leader’s states between 40 to 49% of Florida’s 18-24 year olds would be too overweight to join the military. In fact, the report goes so far as to call the obesity epidemic an issue of national security. The American Heart Association urges the Florida legislature to consider the long-range effects of approving House Bill 4057 on Monday, February 27. 2012. Florida residents are urged to contact their Education Committee member and tell them to vote no on House Bill 4057.  For further information contact David Francis at (850) 567-0598 or James Mosteller at (850) 727-3712.

>>> 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, 2012, 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.

********************************************************************

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