Argus Report: After dealing with the blue light special lane for crime, G Man Gillies saying sayonara as local SAC at FBI, he will be missed
Florida: Many of Gov. Scott’s appointments have yet to get advise & consent from senate, there are hundreds unconfirmed by upper body?
Miami-Dade County: Juvenile arrests plunge from over 16,500 to 6,370 in 2011 thanks to Civil Citation Initiative, says JAC Dir. Copland to CRB last week
Miami-Dade Public Schools: Arts and Minds Charter School governance & oversight slammed by Board audit, round II is discussion at audit committee Tuesday
Public Health Trust: Turn around of JHS will depend on execution of future plans, cannot be the same old story of falling short
City of Miami: Bad deals becoming tag line for Miami with Jungle Island, city leaders lurch from one bad deal to another over the decades
Village of Coconut Grove: What will be the fate of Grove Playhouse? Jun. 30 county commission deadline approaching, will it be settlement or legal war?
City of Miami Beach: Beach celebrates Fourth of July with free fireworks
City of Coral Gables: And they’re off Commission Cabrera planning to take on Cason in spring 2013 mayoral race
City of Doral: City of Doral and E-Scrap Join Forces to Recycle
>>> Other stories around Florida
City of Pembroke Pines: Defendants Sentenced for their Role in Tax Refund Fraud Utilizing Stolen Social Security Office Identity Information
City of Davie: Justice Department Settles Lawsuit Alleging Discrimination Against Pregnant Firefighters by the Town of Davie, Florida
Palm Beach County: Bulgarian Nationals Plead Guilty to Credit Card Fraud and Aggravated Identity Theft in Scheme to Defraud ATM Customers at Various Banks in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties
Port St. Lucie: Port St. Lucie Resident Sentenced in $3.3 Million Timeshare Advance Fee Scheme
St. Johns County: Gov. Scott taps Doug Bournique to the Area 5 seat on the Governing Board of the St. Johns River Water Management District.
Citrus County: Gov. Scott taps Robert Priselac to the Citrus County Hospital Board.
Monroe County: FREE One Day Training Classes throughout the Keys on Hazardous Waste Operations & Emergency Response; Ros-Lehtinen Urges S. FL Residents to Complete Course & Be Ready For Any Possible Pollution Event
Community Events: Downtown Bay Forum – Friends of Black Hospitality Initiative — Kristi House event – Summer parks program – Ailey Camp
Editorials: If only some public servants could lift their game when it comes to customer service and being prepared to do their jobs –Check out the past national story in the Tribune papers: Paperwork Tiger By Maya Bell, Miami Bureau, Orlando Sun-Sentinel January 20, 2003 >>> And a 2004 UNC Chapel Hill study of the Southeast United States 15 states media outlet study where the Watchdog Report is listed as writing a “influential” column in Florida with over 100,000 readers: http://www.unc.edu/~davismt/SouthNow.pdf
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 was on WPBT2/ Issues this weekend hosted by Helen Ferre, to see the show go to This Week on Issues – 6/22 & 6/24 LeMieux Leaves Senate Race George LeMieux, one of the Republican candidates seeking the U.S. Senate seat, announced on Wednesday that he would drop out of the race because “the decision has been made by party leadership that’s there’s a better candidate to face [current Democratic U.S. Senator] Bill Nelson.” We discuss what this means for Florida Republicans and the incumbent Nelson. Guests: Marili Cancio, Esq., Cancio Johnson & Echarte, P.L.Michael Hernandez, Penn Schoen Berland Constitutionality of Obama Immigration Order Last Friday >> President Barack Obama announced that he would stop deportation proceedings for undocumented young students who were raised in the United States. Can the President pass an executive order such as this without the approval of Congress? Guest: Howard Wasserman, J.D., Florida International University Roundtable >> Local News Review: We discuss some of the local stories of the week, such as: the proposal to allow Jungle Island to expand so it can pay its debt, and the release of U.S. Senator Marco Rubio’s autobiography. Guests: Tim Elfrink, Miami New Times, Daniel Ricker, Watchdog Report www.watchdogreport.net
ARGUS REPORT – Heard, Seen on the Street
>>> After dealing with the blue light special for crime, G Man Gillies saying sayonara as local SAC at FBI, he will be missed
John V. Gillies, the Special Agent In Charge of the FBI for the U.S Southern District of Florida after 29 years with the Bureau, the last three in Miami, he is saying sayonara. Gillies first arrived to the teeming federal district in 2009 and the sheer volume had him working with all types of law enforcement agencies down to the municipal level. He has racked up a string of busts that had the “FBI having an all time record for arrests”,” he told Jim DeFede www.cbs4.com on Sunday. Gillies has had to deal with a community where it was number one or two in the nation across a wide spectrum of crimes and had him saying “we see every crime,” that ever gets committed he told DeFede. Gillies said he believes it is important to “put the public back into public service, and stop the self service from politicians.” He said people deserve “fair service” from their officials and when public officials betray that trust by taking a bribe or being corrupt in some way, you “corrupt your office,” he said. Further, when he hears from a judge for example why he took a bribe and the wayward jurist says he did it because he could make more in the private sector. Gillies says, “Then go to the private sector” and stop disgracing and perverting public service.
Gillies when he first arrived in Miami used to stop by Miami city Hall but after he was dragged into a botched high profile Miami police press conference. He stepped back from certain municipalities though he was publicly accessible and participated on a University of Miami Medicare Fraud panel and said the “pay and chase” model is not working and until that is changed. Law enforcement in that case will be at a disadvantage in tamping down healthcare fraud, that had a now deceased federal Judge Ed “Ned” Davis, getting and being billed for three or four prosthetic arms even though he was whole and had no need for such devices.
Gillies has around 460 federal special agents in his force that has had to deal with a variety of Ponzi schemes, gangs, Human Trafficking, slavery, ID theft, dilution of drugs or using mentally ill patients for a Medicare fraud scheme and given the volume of cases the enforcement office faces. It was no wonder that former U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta when the Watchdog Report asked if the federal district was the “graduate school for fraud [in all its forms in 2006]?” Acosta replied, “Yes we are the graduate school for fraud,” and every U.S. attorney up to current top legal cop Wifredo A. Ferrer has been blown away with the sheer volume. And how creative these determined thieves can be as they create new scams and steal public tax dollars. The Watchdog Report gives Gillies a Tip of the Hat for a job well done and your straight talking manner will be missed. >>> Check out the show http://miami.cbslocal.com/personality/jim-defede/
>>> Sudden departure of LeMieux this week clears GOP field for Rep. Mack, but Nelson no pushover in general election
The Florida U.S. Senate race is heating up with the sudden announcement last week that former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux, R-FL has dropped out after lackluster fundraising and with Republican U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, IV, leading in the polls. However, the younger Mack is being criticized by grass roots GOP supporters that want to see what the man is made of in some local debates. With LeMieux stepping out of the race after being unable to debate Mack and to show his weakness as a candidate. Mack is continuing refusing to debate any of the other lesser-known Republican candidates saying it will only give U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson ammunition in the upcoming November 6 general election. Mack, the son of a former Senator and great grandson of a baseball legend by the same name is trying to catapult himself in this race to the big leagues of the world’s most exclusive club and join Sen. Marco Rubio, R-FL in the body. He has been a state legislator before being elected to the U.S. House and he will face lesser-known challengers, Dave Weldon, a former congressman; Deon Long, Mike McCalister, a veteran military officer and Marielena Stuart on the Aug. 14 primary but he is expected to brush them out of the political way.
LeMieux had been hitting Mack hard, the former Senator appointed to the post by Gov. Charlie Crist when Senator Mel Martinez resigned suddenly in Aug. of 2009 but did not run in 2010. LeMieux however could not get rid of the political shackles of the Crist relationship with the state’s GOP, after Crist got the President Barack Obama hug in Tampa even though LeMieux argued that Mack was nothing like his father and a lazy political lightweight. A charge Nelson is likely to use in the general election sprint and while Mack has a premiere list of supporters behind him including Mitt Romney, former Gov. Jeb Bush and state Attorney General Pam Bondi. There is a question among some Republicans if he can woe the party base and be able to defeat the affable Nelson who once rode as a mission specialist in a Space Shuttle flight when he was in the congress before being elected to the senate in 2000 after defeating Republican U.S. Rep. Bill McCollum in that initial race. For more go to http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/06/20/2858956/george-lemieux-quits-senate-race.html
>>> White House press release: Readout of the President’s Call with the Miami Heat Head Coach Erik Spoelstra
Aboard Air Force One en route to Tampa, President Obama telephoned Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra to congratulate him on his team’s victory in the NBA Finals. He complimented the performance of the players and coaches noting that the team seemed to get stronger as the playoffs wore on. He asked Coach Spoelstra to tell the team that he looks forward to celebrating their NBA championship with them at the White House.
>>> Press release: South Florida Members Of Congress To Introduce Congressional Resolution Congratulating The Miami Heat On Its 2012 National Basketball Association Championship
Members of the South Florida Congressional Delegation, led by Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Congressman Alcee Hastings (D-FL) will introduce a Congressional Resolution to congratulate the Miami Heat on its 2012 National Basketball Association Championship. Also cosponsoring the Resolution are Congressmen: Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Frederica S. Wilson (D-FL), David Rivera (R-FL), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Allen B. West (R-FL) and Ted Deutch (D-FL).
The Miami Heat defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Western Conference Champions, in Game 5 by a score of 121-106 to win the 2012 National Basketball Association (NBA) Championship. The Resolution will be introduced on Monday.
Said Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen, “I am thrilled by the overwhelming victory of the Miami Heat to become the 2012 NBA Champions. The Heat dominated the game from the very start and its win captured the hearts of South Florida fans. This Congressional Resolution will express the gratitude of the Congress for the team effort of the players, coaching staff and everyone else who worked so hard to bring the NBA Championship to Miami once again. The Miami Heat has proven that through hard work, dedication and perseverance, anything can be achieved. I am also thankful that the Miami Heat organization has remained committed to giving back to the South Florida community. Congratulations once again to our hometown team, the Miami Heat!”
“As a loyal Miami Heat fan, it is a great honor to join my colleague Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen in congratulating the team on their 2012 NBA Championship,” said Congressman Alcee L. Hastings. “Led by the Big Three, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh all had impressive games. But the championship would not have been possible without the assistance of the entire Heat team and staff, led by Coach Erik Spoelstra. I also would like to salute the Heat for being champions both on and off the court. The Heat has multiple charitable programs and events which greatly benefit the entire South Florida community. While I congratulate the Heat on their Championship, I also thank them for this continued dedication and involvement in our community.”
>>> 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 and was Best Citizen in the 2003 Best of Miami of The Miami New Times, profiled twice in The Miami Herald, and the Orlando Sentinel ran a nationwide story on me in the Tribune papers on Jan. 2003, and UNC Chapel Hill named 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 on www.CBS4.com .
>>> Many of Gov. Scott’s appointments fail to get advise & consent from senate, there are hundreds unconfirmed by upper body?
A reliable source told me that when it came to the around 414 people appointed by Gov. Rick Scott to a host of boards and positions that the bulk of them have yet to be confirmed by the Florida Senate, as the positions ultimately require. Scott has around 4,000 appointments in the course of his four-year term (estimated by Florida Tax Watch) and he has been knocking them off on a regular basis but many of them do require a confirmation by the senate and the ongoing issue first reported in the press in April, is starting to raise eyebrows around the state. Scott has selected some people that get rave reviews for posts but there have been others who were not up to snuff, and it is the Senate’s job to weed out some of this political chaff, though to be honest most confirmations are perfunctory but following the established process still must be done.
Scott catapulted to the capital after he beat Democrat Alex Sink the Florida CFO in 2010 by one percentage point garnering 49 percent of the statewide vote. However, he got off to a slow start with the Republican dominated legislature and while his second year was better when it came to his priorities getting support in the body but the issue of confirming his appointments to a host of boards is still lagging and the Florida Senate is to blame. Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R- Melbourne says during the past legislative session that the upper body was to busy to deal with the appointees but as the months click by with these people in place, but not confirmed going into the summer months. The lack of action by this body has distorted these appointees ability to do their job in these posts and is contrary to good government where people are vetted before they sit on a variety of important statewide or community boards. Editor’s note: The Watchdog Report contacted the governor’s press office over the weekend on this issue but I did not get a reply by my deadline. Here is more on the subject: http://www.tampabay.com/news/politics/legislature/dawdling-senate-lets-scotts-appointments-stay-in-limbo/1223133
>>> Miami-Dade Judicial Circuit Court candidate de Yurre moonlights as registered agent for Scotty’s Landing developer David One while running for bench
Former Miami Commissioner Victor H. De Yurre is hedging his bets these days and was a listed registered agent for David One LLC. The winning developer of Scotty’s Landing on the Coconut Grove waterfront up to June 6 while he was also running for the Miami-Dade Circuit Court judge 49 slot against former state attorney Teresa Pooler. The city of Miami had asked for requests for proposals for developing the restaurant and marina site and bids were submitted Jun. 15 but it is odd that he is working on this project through the June 6 date, while he is also running for a high profile 11th Circuit Court spot on the judiciary. Further, DeYurre was right in the middle of the 1997 voter fraud scandal that had Mayor Xavier Suarez’s mayoral win tossed out because of the widespread vote fraud that included Manuel Yip voting for years after he passed. The attorney and now mediator had been out of political office since the mid 1990s where later he was a behind the scenes player but more recently in the 2000s had dropped out of sight after a divorce a few years ago.
DeYurre has name recognition, some that is good, some that is bad, but given that he is running for a job that has a special status with many voters. This foray into a business deal while running for judge highlights what actions might be acceptable as an elected commissioner, may not past mustard for a circuit court judge and there are questions if he has the temperament to sit on the bench. Further, he is divorced and fathered daughter decades ago with a prominent municipal attorney, unknown to his wife. And that is a community secret that seems to be known by about half the people involved in the political world the Watchdog Report has found.
>>> Press release: FDLE Clears Scott – Finds No Wrongdoing in Handling of Transition Records
A Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) investigation requested by Governor Rick Scott to recover lost Scott Transition Team documents is over, clearing Governor Scott and his transition team. FDLE found nothing criminal related to the loss of data from a transition email server, and the Scott Administration cooperated fully with FDLE and went to exhaustive lengths to help recover more than 33,000 pages of emails and transition documents once thought to be lost.
In all, more than 4.5 gigabytes of electronic data representing more than 33,000 pages of transition emails and documents were recovered and turned over to FDLE. In addition to securing the email messages of senior staff, the Governor also directed the transition team and FDLE to use electronic forensic search methods to recover lost emails and further required every member of the transition team, including volunteers, to turn over all documents related to transition business. By casting the widest possible net and using cutting-edge technology, the transition team, in cooperation with FDLE investigators, ultimately produced the most comprehensive collection of gubernatorial transition documents in Florida history.
Every transition document produced as part of the investigation will be posted on the Governor’s groundbreaking “Sunburst” online public records access system beginning later today, and an electronic copy of the entire collection has already been provided to Florida’s First Amendment Foundation for easier dissemination to members of the media. The files can be accessed at www.flgov.com/sunburst.
Prior to Governor Scott’s request for FDLE to investigate the potential loss of data, no Florida governor or any Florida cabinet official had ever been asked for such a comprehensive number of transition documents under Florida’s Sunshine laws.
As a result of the massive number of public records requests for Scott Transition Team documents, and as part of his ongoing commitment to lead the most transparent administration in Florida’s history, one of Governor Scott’s signature initiatives during this past legislative session was to clarify the legal requirements under Florida’s Sunshine laws for future transitions teams to ensure documents are retained in a systematic and orderly manner for review by the press and public. Governor Scott signed the bill, HB 1305, into law on March 24th, 2012. It was unanimously passed the Legislature.
>>> Press release: My ideal on-line video is something short of five minutes (two or three minutes perhaps). So here I am recommending an 11-minute video making the case (accompanied by humor) for high-quality early learning. The basics are these: Some sort of child care is the real world for most American children in their first several years. Only genuine quality leads to positive outcomes for children (while also realizing that nothing is more important than a caring, knowledgeable parent). I took the time to watch this, and I hope you will, too. (Maybe save it for the weekend.) Just click here. Dave Lawrence, Chair
The Children’s Movement of Florida
>>> Juvenile arrests plunge from over 16,500 to 6,370 in 2011 thanks to Civil Citation Initiative, says JAC Dir. Copland to CRB last week
The Miami-Dade Community Relations Board celebrating its 50th Anniversary in the months ahead was blown away last week when the head of county’s Juvenile Justice Services Department detailed the success of the Juvenile Assessment Center (JAC) one of 17 around the state and locally started in 1997. Morris Copeland, the director of the department noted, “Juvenile arrests dropped by 62 percent from 1998 to 2011 and that translates to a drop of 16,532 juvenile arrests to 6,370 in 2011. He noted that juvenile detention has also plummeted from a detention population of about 300 kids a day to around 100 and that translated to a $33 million “gross systemic savings each year,” and a $20.2 million net savings each year, state his handout documents. And during this 13-year study of county youth arrested, the total population during this time came in at 163,107 arrests with the number decreasing dramatically over those years from the all-time high in 1998.
Copeland said a new program called the Civil Citation Initiative (CCI) is one of the reasons there is this drop of arrests, and it has gotten the support of all 37 arresting agencies in Miami-Dade and arrested youth from around the county are all assessed at the JAC. The CCI program changes how juvenile first time and second time misdemeanor offenders are treated, how the offenders are assessed and they get into “targeted interventions without the baggage of an arrest record.” He said it helps level the field since 95 percent of the participants are minorities and are disproportionately affected, keeps personal information from being entered into criminal databases and having a “Civil Citation Coordinator is vital,” he said. The program since 2007 has had 11,000 participants; arrests have been reduced by 23 percent and with 95 percent of the participants being minorities. The program is showing an 82 percent successful completion rate, there is 9 percent recidivism and 45 percent are off site referrals. Further, for children under 12 years old, girls account for 48 percent of the participants with boys coming in at 52 percent and that is an unusual trend. Further, the department refers juveniles to over 50 different agencies, from Kristi House to Switchboard Miami and a variety of hospitals including South Miami Hospital’s addiction treatment program to Jackson North’s Community Mental Health Center.
Copeland, a former probation officer and on the job since Jan. 2011, said “arrest is not always the answer” and the JAC’s “mission is not for them to come back,” he said. Further, the department knows what is going on with the kids around the county by “the zip code and the street.” He noted that when it came to students coming from the Miami-Dade Public Schools the “referral rate has dropped by 60 percent” and he believes “a first time misdemeanor offense should not be carried by kids for the rest of their lives.” He said the JAC has “one of the best child identification process that includes screening and risk assessment” that occurs “right after the arrest takes place” and allows for an “informed judgment on where to send the child,” that also includes significant parent involvement. Copeland a University of Colorado graduate before making his way to Miami said there was once a 5-year old “in handcuffs” and his department’s mission is to not to have the child fit the program, their goal was to have “the program fit the child.”
>>> Press release: Mayors’ friendly wager comes to a delicious conclusion with Miami Heat Championship win
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez and Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett have settled their friendly wager following the Miami Heat’s victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder in a thrilling NBA Finals series. The Heat earned their second Championship trophy in franchise history by defeating the Thunder four games to one in the hard-fought series. And in keeping with their June 11th agreement, Mayor Gimenez has now earned a shipment of prime Oklahoma steaks from his counterpart in Oklahoma City.
“The Heat sizzled on the court and those Oklahoma steaks are going to sizzle on my grill,” said a clearly happy Mayor Gimenez. “This was an amazing series and I tip my hat to the Thunder and their fantastic fans for putting up a valiant effort. In fact, I’ll be sending those tasty Joe’s stone crabs to our new friends out west anyway, because they played their hearts out and were great sports, too.” “Congratulations to the Miami Heat for seizing the moment and winning the NBA Finals,” said Mayor Cornett. “We’re very proud of our young team. Our hope is that, like the Heat, we learn from the experience and return next year … with a different conclusion. The only beef we have with the City of Miami is the selection of Certified Angus Beef® we’re sending from Cusack Meats in Oklahoma City.” The Miami Heat’s long path to the NBA Championship started with series victories over the New York Knicks, Indiana Pacers, and Boston Celtics, and wrapped up with a huge win over the up-and-coming OKC Thunder.
>>> Press release: To provide better service for the large crowds expected to attend the Miami Heat victory parade on Monday, June 25, 2012, Miami-Dade Transit will enhance its Metrorail and Metromover service, and will make it easier for patrons to pay their Metrorail fare by providing ‘express pay’ lanes at select Metrorail stations. >> Metrorail Service: Trains will run every 15 minutes, but service will be supplemented with additional trains to facilitate travel to the celebration. Patrons are encouraged to use the web-based ‘Train Tracker’ service to see when the next trains will be approaching their station. >> Metromover Service: Metromover will be running frequent service with two-car trains on the Inner, Brickell and Omni loops. >> Paying Metrorail fare: At select Metrorail stations, one faregate will be designated as an ‘express pay’ lane where passengers can drop $2 in a cash box to pay for a one-way trip on Metrorail without having to use an EASY Card or EASY Ticket. An ‘express pay’ lane will be available at the following stations from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.: Dadeland South, Dadeland North, South Miami, Tri-Rail (transfer station) Hialeah, Okeechobee, And at the following stations, from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., for the return trip from the parade: Brickell Government Center If using an ‘express pay’ lane, parade-bound patrons are asked to bring the exact fare in cash as no change will be provided. No receipts or transfers will be issued, and all those using cash to pay their fare will receive assistance to exit at the Government Center and Brickell stations where they can transfer free to Metromover. Patrons can exit at the following Metromover stations to reach the various parade locations: Brickell,Eighth Street, Fifth Street, Bayfront Park , College/Bayside To reach the American Airlines Arena: Freedom Tower Park West >> Patrons who have a 1-Month EASY Card, or a loaded EASY Card or EASY Ticket, can still use their cards or tickets to pay for their Metrorail fare at the regular faregates. Patrons who need to transfer to Metrobus will need to use an EASY Card or EASY Ticket to pay for their bus transfer. Due to road closures in the downtown Miami and Brickell areas, several Metrobus routes will be detoured, including routes 3, 11, 77, C and S. For more information on the enhanced Metrorail and Metromover service, or on the Metrobus routes being detoured, patrons can call 305-891-3131, weekdays, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., and on Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. TTY users can call 305-499-8971. Transit patrons are also encouraged to visit www.miamidade.gov/transit, or download the free iPhone app ‘Miami-Dade Transit Tracker’ to help them plan their trip.
>>> Press release: The board of The Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust voted unanimously to bring Hilda Fernandez home. Hilda Fernandez first served as Executive Director of the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust from July, 1997 to January, 2003. Upon leaving that post, Ms. Fernandez served on the Homeless Trust Board as the Mayor’s designee, and most recently as the representative for the Miami-Dade League of Cities. She stepped down from that seat in early May.
“This is a fantastic day for The Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust,” said Chairman of the Board, Ron Book. “Hilda was a fantastic Executive Director. That means she walks in ready to go. She knows our organization. She understands our mission. She is one of the key people who helped frame our vision.” “I am incredibly humbled and honored to be coming back as the Executive Director of this great organization,” said Ms. Fernandez. “When you look at how all this came about, how all the pieces of the puzzle came together, I have no doubt that this was meant to be. I look forward to helping the Trust Board and staff, our service providers and our private sector partners in continuing to do fantastic things for the community. I truly believe that, together, we will end homelessness in Miami-Dade.”
The Executive Director position became available when Mr. Raymond submitted his resignation in April. “One of my biggest concerns when I announced my resignation was the question of who would fill my role,” said David Raymond. “I can’t think of a better person than Hilda Fernandez. Hilda is brilliant. She is capable. It is immensely comforting to me to know that The Homeless Trust is in great hands.” Mr. Raymond then added with a smile, “And I’m not just saying that because Hilda is the person who originally hired me to The Homeless Trust.” >>
Hilda Fernandez will be leaving her post as Assistant City Manager of Miami Beach to return as the Executive Director of The Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust on July 23. Before leaving the County in 2005, she also served as a Senior Advisor to the Mayor, Executive Director of the Citizens’ Independent Transportation Trust, and as the County’s Communications Director.
>>> Press release: David Raymond receives the Andy Menendez Homeless Hero Award
Only two other times in the history of Miami-Dade County has the Andy Menendez Homeless Hero Award been bestowed on an individual. At Tuesday’s Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners’ meeting, outgoing Homeless Trust Executive Director, David Raymond, became the third recipient. “This award is given in recognition of the tireless work and dedication that David Raymond has done as an advocate for the homeless. There is no one in the history of this organization who has achieved more to end homelessness in Miami-Dade County than David,” said Ron Book, Chairman of The Homeless Trust.
The award is named after Andy Menendez who was director of the Mayor’s Office on Homelessness. In the early 1990s, Menendez was a passionate defender of the homeless and was one of the driving forces that helped make Miami-Dade County a national best practices model for caring for the homeless. “To receive an award in Andy’s honor is truly humbling. Andy was a pioneer in the early days of our battle to end homelessness, before the existence of The Homeless Trust. He was my mentor in how to be a passionate advocate, and more importantly Andy was my friend,” said David Raymond. >> Previous recipients of the Andy Menendez Homeless Hero Award are Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and former Homeless Trust Executive Director and current University of Miami Vice President Sergio Gonzales. David Raymond is leaving the Homeless Trust in order to consult with local and national organizations on homeless and social service systems.
>>> GMCVB press release: #2…DEMAND FOR TRAVEL TO GREATER MIAMI & THE BEACHES REMAINS STRONG ― GREATER MIAMI & THE BEACHES RANKS #2 IN REVENUE PER AVAILABLE ROOM (REV PAR), #2 IN AVERAGE DAILY ROOM RATE (ADR) AND #2 IN HOTEL ROOM OCCUPANCY FOR JANUARY-MAY 2012 AMONG THE TOP 25 U.S. MARKETS
For January – May 2012, Greater MIAMI and the Beaches showed increases vs. 2011, ranking #2 in Revenue Per Available Room (RevPar) at $143.30, #2 in Average Daily Room rate (ADR) at $178.82 and #2 in Hotel Room Occupancy at 80.1% among the Top 25 Markets in the U.S. Smith Travel Research compares the top markets in the United States based on Occupancy, Average Daily Room Rate (ADR) and Revenue Per Available Room (RevPar).
Top 25 Hotel Markets Revenue Per Available Hotel Room [Rev Par] January – May 2012
$ % Change vs. 2011
#1. New York $177.21 +7.5%
#2. MIAMI $149.49 +9.4%
#3. Oahu Island $147.04 +16.0%
#4. San Francisco $120.63 +12.4%
#5. New Orleans $104.08 +12.6%
Top 25 Hotel Markets Average Daily Room Rate January – May 2012
$ % Change vs. 2011
#1. New York $225.84 +3.6%
#2. MIAMI $185.83 +7.6 %
#3. Oahu Island $175.62 +9.6%
#4. San Francisco $159.96 +10.1%
#5. Boston $149.78 +8.1%
Top 25 Hotel Markets Average Daily Occupancy January – May 2012
% % Change vs. 2011
#1. Oahu Island 83.7% +5.8%
#2. MIAMI 80.4% +1.7%
#3. New York 78.5% +3.8%
#4. San Francisco 75.4% +2.1%
#5. Los Angeles 73.2% -4.7%
MIAMI-DADE PUBLIC SCHOOLS
>>> Arts and Minds Charter School governance & oversight slammed by Board audit, round II is discussion at audit committee Tuesday
With the release last week of the forensic audit of the Academy of the Arts and Minds Charter School (A&M) in Coconut Grove (here is the audit link to the District’s 364 page document that includes a rebuttal from A&M management to the findings)http://mca.dadeschools.net/AuditCommittee/AC_june_26_2012/item8.pdf my investigative saga of A&M is ending since the school was first created in 2004, and was flagged by the Watchdog Report back then because it involved a “related transaction,” where the building’s owner also ran the charter school. Back then, the Watchdog Reported was critical of this property owner and governance relationship that had the school getting some $29,000 a month at first in rent from the nation’s fourth largest public schools district. That rent number would subsequently escalate as the schools student population increased to around $69,000 a month in 2006 and when administrative and food service costs are thrown in now in the total funding going to the school’s owner Manny Alonso-Poch, that pushed the amount to around $80,000 a month.
The school, created as a not for profit has claimed the whole building was being used as the school but there were retail outlets over the years operateing as well and now the Miami-Dade Property Appraiser Pedro Garcia wants $182,000 in back property taxes but it may be with the IRS, that Alonso-Poch will have his biggest future issue. The Miami-Dade Public Schools Audit and Budget Advisory committee asked for the audit to be done months ago and that board will be meeting Tuesday to discuses the much-anticipated audit that the Watchdog Report has tracked since its inception. And in the past when the high rent and the cozy relationship the landlord had with the school was discussed at the audit committee. The Audit Chair back in 2006 after hearing Alonso-Poch’s rent explanation to the committee made up of accountants and tax lawyers he remarked. “There is a lot of fairy dust in the room,” Frederick “Buck” Thornburg observed at the time along with similar comments from the other skeptical audit committee members.
Further, back then, one audit committee member was now Miami Commissioner Frank Carollo, a CPA and he was there when the fairy dust comment was made but Alonso –Poch forgot that fact years later. For one day at Miami City Hall about a year ago when I was talking to Carollo. Alonso-Poch who considers himself a comedian told Carollo as he walked by to “not to believe anything that I said.” As he sauntered out the lobby door of the building. The building owner who is also the pro bono attorney for A&M, has flaunted publicly some of this activity listed in the audit, including running a bar some nights. Since the school has a liquor license, but he acts like he has no care in the world when he is spotted in the neighborhood. And while he is a big fish in the little pond of the Grove, is politically connected, that did not matter with the public district’s auditors and for another take on the document go to: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/06/21/2859749/audit-coconut-grove-charter-school.html
What about the other over 90 charter schools in Miami-Dade?
The local Public schools district has over 90 charter schools and some are great and offering parents a real choice, but with others. Public tax dollars are going to private interests who own properties and these public tax assets are siphoning off precious tax dollars from the struggling district. And A&M was just the most glaring example and the audit is first rate in its completeness and thorough review that includes interviewing past staff and principals, that had student demonstrations outside the school after one popular teacher was suddenly let go back around 2006. Further, there has been a persistent concern among parent representatives over the years about the schools management, the rubber stamp school board, and past IRS issues in the mid 2005s came up and the Watchdog Report has about four inches of documents pertaining to the school.
And this audit is a wakeup call for other creative business people who try to use public dollars to cover mortgage costs on buildings they own in this down economy by starting a charter school in a location surrounded by three bars and restaurants on the Grove’s Commodore Plaza. In addition, years ago one of the schools employees got in the Watchdog Report’s face one night challenging why I had such an interest in A&M. She said, “Look at all the fraud that is going on in Iraq and Afghanistan,” she said. And I responded I couldn’t do anything about what is happening overseas, but in the case of A&M that I see everyday, especially when school lets out and kids run out into the small street chocked with parent’s cars picking up their kids. Not only was there a question of student safety since there are no signs indicating a school zone and their have been some incidents, but the issue of public money going into a organization with this governance and management structure was paramount and now the authorities will get to sort out how this matter finally plays out in the future.
>>> Ethics Advisory Committee Chair Regna resigns, sends following note to her peers — “Dear Fellow Ethics Advisory Committee Members, I was recently appointed to the Independent Benefits Council, Florida Retiree Health Insurance Purchasing Consortium Board. Due to the nature of the task before that board there could be a conflict of interest inherent on my remaining on the Ethics Advisory Committee to the Miami-Dade County School Board. To avoid even the perception of a conflict of interest, I believe the ethical action on my part is to step down from the EAC, effective upon receipt of this letter.
It has been a privilege and a pleasure working with all of you and I will miss being on the EAC, but I will remain very interested in the education system and doing what is best for this county. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the entire staff, both present and past, of the Auditors office, and the Auditor himself, for all of the assistance they have rendered over the years I have been on board. I would like to extend that thank you to the Superintendent, the M-DCPS School Board members, and to the M-DCPS administrators who have given of their time to enhance the quality of this system, and also for taking the time to attend the EAC meetings and providing input when necessary.
I will notify UTD President Karen Aronowitz of my decision. I believe that she is the appropriate person to notify the FIU School of Labor, who is the entity that appoints a retired educator to the EAC. I would like to call upon Jose Montes-de-Oca for one last favor. If he would be so kind as to copy this letter to Mr. Walter Harvey, School Board Attorney, and to all other appropriate parties I would be most grateful.” Sincerely, Daneen Regna, Chair, Miami-Dade County Ethics Advisory Committee.
PUBLIC HEALTH TRUST
>>> Turn around of JHS will depend on execution of future plans, can’t be the same old story of falling short
The Watchdog Report had a case of Déjà vu on Friday when I attended the Financial Recovery’s Board (FRB) public retreat at a local Marriott facility and I realized I have been attending these meetings since 1998. And the subjects and recommendations in many ways have not changed much over those years and it is the executions of these future plans that are key to turning around the struggling health trust. The Jackson Health System is embarking on a new course to dramatically expand the role of community physicians in admitting patients into the health system, that currently has over 90 percent of the patients coming from the University of Miami Miller Medical School physicians admissions, but this was also attempted by former CEO Marvin O’Quinn years ago and that initiative was greeted with mixed success.
The JHS administration and staff is almost completely new from 18 months ago and as FRB Chair Marcos Lapciuc said the organization was facing a number of incoming torpedoes including whether the Affordable Care Act is ruled constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court and reduced Medicare funding, to lack of capital for new infrastructure, to a fiscally strapped world where “the clock is ticking faster than any of us would like” and the “party is about to stop and the bill will be handed to whoever gets elected in 2012,” he thought. Further, under this overarching fiscal umbrella of concern. The FRB is trying to right itself and just posted for the first time in years having three straight months through May of being in the black and the health trust could close the year. Either breaking even or no more than a $10 million loss after years in the hundreds of millions of losses while giving over $1.1 billion in charity and bad debt care in the course of a year.
CITY OF MIAMI
>>> Bad deals becoming tag line for Miami with Jungle Island, city leaders lurch from one bad deal to another over decades
The mood was grim Tuesday morning while Miami Commissioners heard the wails of Jungle Island management and their lobbyist Brian May ask for a reset to the contract that if approved would give the attraction a 99 year lease at the Watson Island site, and expand its footprint acreage, consuming two local boat clubs and a Japanese Park. The commission (absent Commissioner Frank Carollo) listened and asked questions for a few hours. But with a looming $2.3 million U.S. HUD loan payment coming due on Aug. 1 that JI refuses to pay. The clock is ticking for this city and county deal that first opened in 2003 after relocating from Pinecrest and the commission is dealing with “another bad deal,” that has become the tag line for Miami over the past decades. Past bad deals have included the Flagstone project on Watson Island approved in 2001, but has not yet broken ground, the Knight Auditorium, and a host of other deals including the Miami Marlins stadium, and now the city faces another one.
>>> PAST WDR: What will local iconic Grove restaurant morph into after RFPs filed Friday?
The Request for Proposals (RFP) for Scotty’s Landing, the Grove Marina and the Chart House redevelopment were submitted on Friday to the Miami Clerk’s office and only one submission is locally represented, and that is Scotty’s owner’s proposal. The city is looking for a major bump in the income from the prime waterfront location next to city Hall and Dinner Key Marina over the last 20 years since it inked a deal with the Grove Marina, which subleased the other restaurant locations. Scotty’s along with the Chart House and current marina have been fixtures of the old Grove and these two restaurants have been solid revenue generators. And given the city’s history in such deals, locals are concerned that a major expansion of facilities, like at Bayside Market will be the last stake in the old Grove feel. But people forget Miami is a cash vacuum when it comes to any new revenues in today’s fiscal world and the city is expected to go with the proposal with the highest revenue payments, if the past is any indication. To see the latest update on the story go to: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/06/22/2863772/miami-panel-green-lights-tiki.html
>>> Press release: Miami Resident Pleads Guilty in Multi-Million Dollar Ponzi Scheme that defrauded Friends and Family
Wifredo A. Ferrer, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, John V. Gillies, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, and Linda Charity, Interim Commissioner, State of Florida’s Office of Financial Regulation (OFR), announced yesterday’s guilty plea of defendant Juan Carlos Rodriguez, 49, of Miami, for his role in a Ponzi scheme that solicited more than $5 million from approximately 115 victims, according to the charges. Rodriguez pled guilty to committing wire fraud to execute his Ponzi scheme, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1343. Sentencing is scheduled for August 30, 2012 before U.S. District Judge William P. Dimitrouleas. At sentencing, Rodriguez faces a possible maximum statutory sentence of up to twenty years in federal prison and mandatory restitution to the victims of his crime.
This case is part of the Southern District of Florida Securities and Investment Fraud Initiative (the Initiative), first announced in December 2010 and designed to combat securities and investment fraud and protect the interests of the investing public. The Initiative was established to address the increase in securities and investment fraud schemes in the Southern District of Florida. In addition to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, FBI, SEC and OFR, other participating agencies in the Initiative include the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CID), U.S. Secret Service (USSS), U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Office of Inspector General (FDIC-OIG), U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Southeast Region. Among the goals of the Initiative is to alert the public about the prevalence of these types of schemes, educate the public on how to avoid falling prey to these schemes, and to highlight the law enforcement response to the problem.
The Southern District of Florida ranks second in the nation in securities and investment fraud investigations and prosecutions. Using the strike force model successfully developed in the health care and mortgage fraud areas, the Securities and Investment Fraud Initiative has yielded similar success. Since its inception in December 2010, the Initiative has resulted in charges against 85 defendants in the Southern District of Florida, resulting in more than $1.5 billion in restitution ordered. According to the factual proffer introduced at Rodriguez’ change of plea hearing, MDN Financial Group, Inc. (MDN Financial) was a Florida corporation located in Coral Way, Miami. MDN Financial solicited money from investors claiming that the company invested in stocks, bonds, and other securities. Rodriguez was the sole officer, director, and registered agent for MDN Financial. Between January 2007 and October 2010, Rodriguez solicited individuals to invest in MDN Financial. Rodriguez recruited colleagues and friends, and encouraged them, along with their family members, to recruit others to invest in MDN Financial. Rodriguez told investors that through MDN Financial their money would be in stocks, bonds, and other securities. In fact, however, Rodriguez did not use the money to invest on behalf of the individuals, but instead used the money for his personal benefit and to further the fraud.
To induce individuals to invest their money with MDN Financial, Rodriguez falsely told investors that by giving MDN Financial thousands of dollars to hold for six months or a year, MDN Financial would guarantee that the investors received a large monthly payment. Rodriguez further falsely promised investors that they would receive twenty, thirty, forty, and in some cases even fifty percent returns on their investment.
The more money invested, Rodriguez said, the higher the rate of return. To convince investors of the safety of their investment, Rodriguez falsely claimed that at the end of the six month or one year period he would return the original investment to the investors. Based on Rodriguez’s false representations, prospective investors provided their money to MDN Financial with the belief their money would be invested in stocks, bonds, and other securities. Rodriguez caused MDN Financial to send investors monthly “annuity” payments to lull investors into a false sense of security and to conceal the false and fraudulent nature of the scheme. Rodriguez would use other investor money to fund the monthly distributions to the investors. At the end of the six month or one year investment period, Rodriguez induced investors to renew their investment agreements with the company and not seek the return of their initial investment money.
Because Rodriguez did not invest as promised, and instead used the money collected to pay for his personal expenses, he could not afford to continue paying investors the significant monthly payments required to be paid under the supposed investment agreements. In response to investor complaints, Rodriguez falsely blamed the banks for his failure to send the monthly payments, and if he paid at all, it was less than what was owed under the investment agreements. By October 2010, Rodriguez and MDN Financial had no money to make monthly payments any longer, nor could he return the investors’ initial investments. >>> Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI and OFR. This case is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert J. Luck.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.
VILLAGE OF COCONUT GROVE
>>> What will be the fate of Grove Playhouse, Jun. 30 county commission deadline approaching, will it be settlement or legal war?
The clock is ticking when it comes to resolving when Miami-Dade County will take over the now shuttered Coconut Grove Playhouse and an end of June deadline was set by the county commission back in February. The iconic Playhouse closed suddenly in 2006 mired with millions of debt and creditor liens has sat empty open to vandals and subject to city of Miami code citations. The Playhouse Board, still in place has tried through its point man Jorge Luis Lopez, an attorney and county lobbyist to settle with creditors along with Miami-Dade Cultural Affairs Department Director Michael Spring. Spring at a Miami-Dade Cultural Affairs Council meeting Wednesday told the attendees that he “had met with creditors” and “agreements had been reached except with Aries Development.” He said the principals claim they are “not getting all the money that is owed” and while Spring said, the county asked for more backup documentation. “They [Aries] did not respond,” he told the council chaired by Adolpho Henriques.
Spring also said Aries had “hired legal counsel” and former U.S. Attorney Kendall Coffey’s firm is representing Aries who wants to “reactivate the development agreement.” Spring said his job in the matter was to “serve as a friendly broker” but ensure “value” is achieved if public dollars are to be spent and the goal was to “payoff all the creditors” and then “redevelop the site for great regional theater.” He said right now “we are stuck” and any transfer to the county is impossible “because of the Aries claims” and he is not sure “what Aries has in mind,” he told the council. He said Aries claim was for $2 million, “the next largest claim was Henry Pino for $250,000” and any new future development would “have to deal with Historic Preservation” issues and it would also involve “major changes of zoning,” he said.
Lopez, a Council member as well said they were “trying really hard” to get a resolution to the matter but every time they “get close to the end” then “a new proposal comes up,” he said. He reiterated nothing could happen unless the transfer was clean and “cured all the [lien] defaults,” and these must be all part of a successful resolution and the theater opening in the future. Lopez said while some people perceive the Playhouse board is hindering the process. In fact they “want to give the Playhouse back to the county and the Playhouse board has “opened all the books” and tried to be “transparent” in their dealings and finances. Spring noted that his instructions from Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez was to get this settled but “it has to come to us with a clean title” and that was “the only way” the mayor would sign off. Spring also said he was told by Gimenez to be “frugal in the settlement” and that “prudent deals with the creditors” are reached and there was a “conservative approach to the settlement.” Lopez said in any upcoming discussions with the creditors that “I am going to go in opened minded.” But he also noted ultimately it could become a public decision “that has to be made by the Board of County Commissioners, with the question being, do we “either get it resolved or are we at war again,” he suggested.
A demonstration in early April was held at the Playhouse and hundreds of Grove residents and theater mavens turned out that included Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado, Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, county commissioner Xavier Suarez and others but nothing has happened since this Take Back the Playhouse drive back then. And while some of the yellow protest signs still dot the community, even on Sarnoff’s Central Grove compound’s fence. A resolution to this vexing problem has been elusive and the lack of the theater being open has contributed to the numerous shuttered retail shops in the tony community’s central Grove.
CITY OF MIAMI BEACH
>>> Press release: MIAMI BEACH CELEBRATES INDEPENDENCE DAY WITH “COCA-COLA PRESENTS FIRE ON THE FOURTH” ~ Brought to You by City of Miami Beach and Classical South Florida Family-friendly event with live music, fireworks
Wednesday, July 4, 2012 Noon – 10:00 p.m., 8 Street & Ocean Drive Beach, Miami Beach, Live music, DJ and fireworks FREE 305.673.7577 – The Fire on the Fourth celebration, located at 8 Street and Ocean Drive, includes live performances from Fred Thomas, South Florida Symphony Orchestra Quartet and DJ Maximus3000. The festivities on July 4 begin at noon and conclude with fireworks at 9 p.m. Free shuttles from North Beach to South Beach begin at 5:00 p.m. and run continuously until 8:30 p.m. The buses leave from 72 Street and Collins Avenue and 81 Street and Collins Avenue and disembark and 11 Street and Washington Avenue to the North Beach stops between 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. The public is encouraged to bring a beach chair or towel. Glass containers and alcoholic beverages are not permitted.
“Miami Beach and Coca-Cola both have the ability to bring together family and friends,” said City of Miami Beach Mayor Matti Herrera Bower. “This free event offers Miami Beach residents and South Florida visitors an opportunity to enjoy Miami Beach and Coca-Cola, celebrate Independence Day and spend time with loved ones.” In March, the City of Miami Beach announced a 10-year sponsorship agreement with Coca-Cola to serve as the city’s exclusive beverage provider. The agreement also secures Coca-Cola’s support for recycling initiatives in Miami Beach. The 10-year agreement also serves The Coca-Cola Company as the presenting sponsor of its Independence Day celebration.
“Coca-Cola has been a part of the South Florida community for more than 70 years. Sponsoring such an important event for the City of Miami Beach demonstrates our commitment to the area’s residents and visitors,” said Humberto Garcia-Sjogrim, Coca-Cola Refreshments Vice President of Sales for South Florida.
CITY OF CORAL GABLES
>>> And they’re off, Commission Cabrera planning to take on Cason in spring 2013 mayoral race
Commissioner Ralph Cabrera, Jr., first elected in 2001 along with Mayor Don Slesnick, II and Commissioner Maria Anderson is going to try to move on up the political food chain. He told the Watchdog Report recently that he would run for mayor in the spring of 2013. Cabrera a health insurance broker, termed out on the commission, will be taking on Mayor Jim Cason after he serves his first two-year term in office after beating Slesnick in 2011 and Tom Korge in the winner take all race. Cason is said to be doing a solid job, but Cabrera says he wants to give it a shot and has been getting support for the race from some Gable voters. While the election is over a year away, readers should watch to see if that political horse race starts to bleed into commission meetings.
CITY OF DORAL
>>> City of Doral and E-Scrap Join Forces to Recycle
Press release: The City of Doral has initiated a great new program in partnership with E-Scrap, Inc. The program will provide our residents the opportunity to recycle old electronics, electronic equipment (from PDAs to main frame systems), spent fluorescent lamps, ballasts, commercial and industrial batteries and mercury bearing devices. The objective is to recycle as much as we can and prevent recyclables from ending up in our landfills, thus contributing toward our Waste Wise Program. The public is invited every FOURTH SATURDAY of the month from 1:30 pm to 5:00 pm to our drop-off location at JC Bermudez Park located at 3000 NW 87th Avenue, Doral, FL 33172. Next drop-off day is this Saturday, June 23rd. For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 305.593.6740 xt. – 6010 Keep Doral Beautiful is a City wide program aimed to reduce our carbon footprint by implementing new initiatives in our operations and services that contribute to the preservation of our natural resources.
>>> OTHER STORIES AROUND FLORIDA
CITY OF PEMBROKE PINES
>>> Press release: Defendants Sentenced for their Role in Tax Refund Fraud Utilizing Stolen Social Security Office Identity Information
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Guy P. Fallen, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Social Security Administration, Office of Inspector General (SSA-OIG), and José A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CID), announce that Carlos Orozco, 18, of Pembroke Pines, was sentenced today for his participation in a tax refund scheme that used stolen social security identity information. Orozco was charged and pled guilty to conspiracy to submit false claims to the government, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 286. At today’s hearing, U.S. District Judge Robert Scola, Jr. sentenced Orozco to 12 months in prison, to be followed by 3 years of supervised release. In addition, the court ordered him to pay $82,708.13 in restitution to the United States Treasury.
Previously, on June 15, 2012, co-defendant Jean LaFrance, 28, of North Miami, was sentenced before U.S. District Judge Robert Scola, Jr., for his participation in the same scheme. LaFrance was charged and pled guilty to conspiracy to submit false claims to the government, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 286, theft of public money, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 641, and aggravated identity theft, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1028A. LaFrance was sentenced to 33 months in prison on Counts 1 and 2, followed by a consecutive 24 months on Count 3, for a total sentence of 57 months in prison, to be followed by 3 years of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay $82,708.13 in restitution to the United States Treasury.
U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer stated, “Identity theft is a precursor crime – it leads to credit card fraud, mortgage fraud, and, most recently, a viral proliferation of tax refund scams. Tackling this latest epidemic of fraud is a top priority for my office. For this reason, we have focused our attention and joined forces with our federal, state and local partners to combat a myriad of schemes through which fraudsters are attempting to steal taxpayers’ hard-earned refunds.” “The SSA-OIG takes these cases very seriously. We will continue to investigate all allegations of fraud and abuse involving the SSA and will assist the United States Attorney’s Office in bringing violators to justice,” said Guy P. Fallen, Special Agent-in-Charge, Social Security Administration-Office of the Inspector General.
José A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge of the IRS-CID in Miami, stated, “These cases confirm our resolve to bring identity thieves to justice. IRS-CID will aggressively investigate individuals who steal personal identifying information for the purpose of committing tax fraud. We are working closely with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners to uncover these types of schemes. Individuals who steal identities, file false tax returns claiming refunds that they are not entitled to, and obtain tax refunds though fraud will face federal charges.”
According to the charges filed in the case and statements made in court, between April and October 2011, Orozco worked as a volunteer at the SSA office in Pembroke Pines, Florida. In his position, Orozco had access to sensitive SSA documents that contained the personal identification information of SSA applicants, including their names, dates of birth, and social security numbers. Orozco stole sensitive documents from the SSA and, in exchange for cash payments and the promise of future payments from LaFrance, gave LaFrance the personal identification information of thousands of SSA applicants.
LaFrance then used the stolen information to file false federal income tax returns in the names of the SSA applicants. He filed the false tax returns over the internet, using Turbo Tax, an on-line tax filing program. In the filings, LaFrance claimed IRS tax refunds to which he was not entitled. To execute the scheme and access the money, LaFrance directed the IRS to deposit the refunds onto Turbo Tax Green Dot reloadable debit cards and to either mail the loaded debit cards to Orozco’s home or to other addresses that LaFrance controlled. Alternatively, LaFrance directed the IRS to simply load the fraudulently claimed refunds onto debit cards that he already possessed. Upon receipt of the loaded debit cards, LaFrance converted the refunds to cash. >>> Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the SSA-OIG and IRS-CID. This case is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Marc Anton. 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 DAVIE
>>> Press release: Justice Department Settles Lawsuit Alleging Discrimination Against Pregnant Firefighters by the Town of Davie, Florida
The Justice Department yesterday announced it has reached a consent decree with the town of Davie, Fla., to resolve allegations that Davie engaged in a pattern or practice of intentional discrimination against pregnant firefighters employed by Davie’s fire department. The consent decree was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida along with a complaint alleging that Davie violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin and religion. Under Title VII, discrimination based on sex explicitly includes discrimination based on pregnancy. It requires that women affected by pregnancy be treated the same as other employees who are similar in their ability or inability to perform their job.
According to the department’s complaint, the Davie fire department has operated under a policy or practice of denying a pregnant firefighter light duty until the start of her second trimester regardless of her medical or physical needs. Despite this restriction on a pregnant firefighter’s ability to obtain light duty in her first trimester, the fire chief routinely granted other firefighters’ requests for light duty for non-work related injuries. The fire department also required pregnant firefighters to leave active firefighting duty upon the start of their second trimester regardless of their ability to fulfill the essential functions of their positions. According to the department’s complaint, these policies and practices constituted a pattern or practice of discrimination against pregnant female firefighters based on sex and pregnancy.
Under the terms of the consent decree, which must still be approved by the federal court, Davie must review and adopt appropriate policies to protect its employees from discrimination on the basis of sex, including pregnancy, and conduct training of its fire department personnel to ensure that they properly handle future complaints of discrimination. “The policies and practices of the Davie Fire Department regarding the assignment of light duty for pregnant women were sexually discriminatory,” said Wifredo A. Ferrer, U.S. Attorney for the South District of Florida. Discrimination on the basis of sex and pregnancy is illegal. We are hopeful that yesterday’s settlement will lead to the establishment of new policies that will promote and respect the rights of all employees to equal opportunities.”
“Decisions about how and when to restrict a pregnant woman’s work duties should be made by the woman and her doctor, and employers must make certain that their policies and practices treat pregnant women the same as people who are similarly able or unable to work,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “Title VII’s prohibitions against discrimination in the workplace make clear that discrimination based on pregnancy is a form of discrimination based on sex. We will not tolerate public employers engaging in this type of unlawful discrimination.” The continued enforcement of Title VII has been a priority of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department is available on its website at www.usdoj.gov/crt/.
PALM BEACH COUNTY
>>> Bulgarian Nationals Plead Guilty to Credit Card Fraud and Aggravated Identity Theft in Scheme to Defraud ATM Customers at Various Banks in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties
Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Paula A. Reid, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Secret Service, Miami Field Office, announce that defendants Aleksandar Nikolov and Toscho Ilyeff, two Bulgarian national citizens, pled guilty today before U.S. District Judge William P. Dimitrouleas to charges of access device fraud and aggravated identity theft, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1029 (a)(2) and 1028A(1)(a)(3). During the plea, the defendants consented to forfeiture of computers, and $12,673.38 in cash found in their possession at the time of arrest. Sentencing has been scheduled for August 31, 2012 at 1:15 p.m. At sentencing, the defendants face a maximum possible statutory penalty of up to 10 years in prison on the access device fraud count and a mandatory 2 year sentence on the aggravated identity theft count, consecutive to the sentence imposed on the access device fraud.
According to documents filed with the court and statements made during the plea hearing, JP Morgan Chase employees monitored the activity of a group of individuals who had installed skimming devices on the banks ATMs at various locations to capture the bank customers’ account numbers as they inserted their debit cards into the ATMs. In particular, defendants Nikolov and Ilyeff installed a wireless camera disguised as a speaker to record customers typing their pin numbers. The defendants transmitted the footage in real time via radio frequency waves to a cell phone they controlled. After recording the customers’ account and PIN numbers, the defendants re-encoded this information onto VISA gift or debit cards and store gift cards. In this way, from February through March 2012, the defendants used the counterfeit cards to withdraw cash from the customers’ accounts at ATMs throughout Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach Counties.
According to court records, this scheme caused a loss to JP Morgan Chase of approximately $112,478.60. In addition, the defendants stole the personal identification information of more than 800 victims in South Florida. Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the U.S. Secret Service. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Laurie E. Rucoba. 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.
PORT ST. LUCIE
>>> Press release: Port St. Lucie Resident Sentenced in $3.3 Million Timeshare Advance Fee Scheme
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and John V. Gillies, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, announced today’s sentencing of Michael Franzenburg, 48, of Port St. Lucie, Florida. U.S. District Judge Kenneth A. Marra sentenced Franzenburg to 10 ½ years in prison for his participation in a fraudulent timeshare business in Palm Beach County.
According to the charges, and documents filed with the court during the plea and sentencing, Franzenburg and his co-conspirators engaged in a scheme to defraud timeshare owners throughout the United States and Canada. From July 2009 through February 2010, telemarketers contacted more than 2,000 victims and collected more than $3.3 million in advance fees for timeshare marketing and sales services, which were never provided. The telemarketers, operating under the name International Resort Solutions, LLC (IRS), solicited clients through at least six boiler rooms, each of which was located in Palm Beach County. The telemarketers would make false and misleading representations to the timeshare owners regarding IRS’s services. Among the false representations, the telemarketers claimed that IRS had buyers for their timeshares, that IRS had closing scheduled for their timeshares, and that IRS would actively market their timeshares to potential buyers.
Franzenburg was the owner of IRS and responsible for its day-to-day activities and finances. To date, ten individuals, including Franzenburg, have been charged in connection with the fraudulent activities at IRS – Jeffrey Fields, Thomas Ford, Bryan Bergeron, Joshua Holmes, Colin Van Nest Talmage, Joseph Eichenlaub, Michael Ferrari, Kenneth Foote, Jr., and Joseph Grizzanti. Grizzanti and Foote were recently sentenced to 5 years imprisonment and six years imprisonment, respectively. All of the other defendants have pled guilty and are awaiting sentencing. >>> Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Adrienne 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.
ST JOHNS COUNTY
>>> Press release: Gov. Scott taps Doug Bournique to the Area 5 seat on the Governing Board of the St. Johns River Water Management District.
Bournique, 60, of Vero Beach, has been the executive vice president of the Indian River Citrus League since 1979. Previously, he was the director of environmental relations from 1978 to 1979 and an environmental specialist from 1975 to 1978 for the Florida Sugar Cane League. His extensive involvement in agricultural and water management issues includes serving on the Indian River County Agriculture Advisory Council since 1996 and on the Florida Agriculture Water Policy Group since 1999. Since 2009, he has been a member of the Federal Reserve Bank Agriculture Advisory Council. In addition, he has been a member of the Indian River County Economic Development Council since 2004 and a member of the United States Department of Agriculture Citrus Crop Estimates Advisory Committee since 1995. Bournique received a bachelor’s degree from Whittier College. He is reappointed for a term beginning June 19, 2012, and ending March 1, 2016. The appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.
>>> Press release: Gov. Scott taps Robert Priselac to the Citrus County Hospital Board.
Priselac, 63, of Hernando, has been a self-employed contractor for Title Technology since 2010. During the past 20 years, he has held many positions in the health care field, including chief executive of both Coral Reef Hospital in Miami and the Lower Florida Keys Health System. He was the state chairman of Prevent Blindness Florida from 1990 to 1992. Priselac received a bachelor’s degree from Ohio State University and a Master of Business Administration from Nova Southeastern University. He served in the United States Air Force from 1966 to 1970. He is appointed for a term beginning June 22, 2012, and ending July 7, 2015.
>>> Press release: FREE One Day Training Classes Throughout The Keys On Hazardous Waste Operations & Emergency Response; Ros-Lehtinen Urges S. FL Residents To Complete Course & Be Ready For Any Possible Pollution Event
Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) is urging Keys and Miami-Dade residents to attend free one day training classes that will prepare volunteers for any possible pollution incident such as an oil spill. The classes are being sponsored by the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and the Monroe County Emergency Management department. Classes are offered on Saturday and run from 9:00 am through 4:00 pm. The following two classes will be offered throughout Monroe County: Saturday, July 21st at the Murray Nelson Center in Key Largo, FL Saturday, August 18th at the Harvey Government Center in Key West, FL – To register for this FREE training or to get more information, call toll free 1-888-470-5566, EXT 4 OR email at email@example.com THESE FREE CLASSES ARE AVAILABLE FOR BOTH KEYS AND MIAMI-DADE RESIDENTS. Said Ros-Lehtinen, “I urge South Florida residents to take advantage of these FREE classes sponsored by our friends in the Coast Guard, Coast Guard Auxiliary and the Keys Emergency Ops Center. By taking the one day classes, residents will learn how to best help in the worst case scenario of a possible oil spill or other pollution event occurring in our community. It is always a good thing to be prepared and these classes will help us be ready.”
>>> The Downtown Bay Forum (DBF) is hosting a forum on the pit bull ban on Wednesday, June 27th at 11:30am. The DBF has been holding monthly luncheon meetings for 20 years to discuss issues of importance in South Florida. Many business, community and government leaders attend each month. The DBF meets at Temple Israel, 137 NE 19th Street, Miami. Cost $25. RSVP to Annette Eisenberg at 305-757-3633. Panelists include Director of Miami-Dade County Animal Services, Alex Munoz, Timothy Ross who sits on the Florida Bar Animal Law Committee and Dahlia Canes of Miami Coalition Against Breed Specific Legislation. Moderated by Sean Foreman Professor of Political Science at Barry University.
>>> Friends of The Black Hospitality Initiative (BHI) and Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau (GMCVB),
Please join us on Thursday, June 28,2012 as we honor those who played an important role in establishing the BHI and providing the foundation for African Americans and Blacks of African descent to participate as owners, leaders, students, entrepreneurs and professionals in Miami’s hospitality and tourism industry. To register and RSVP, please see the below invitation. Thank you for your support, Carole Ann Taylor >> Click here to Register
>>> Kristi House press release: Please mark your calendars! We hope you will join us for the 13th Annual Touch A Heart Dinner on Friday, November 2, 2012 at
the Four Seasons Hotel 7:00 p.m. Reception 8:00 p.m. Dinner For more information, please visit www.kristihouse.org or call: Bianca Fernandez – 305-547-6802 Mary Faraldo – 786-218-9748
>>> Press release: Registration Now Open for Miami-Dade Parks’ Summer Camps! Exciting Summer Camps are being offered by the Miami-Dade Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department, June 11-August 17, 2012, at its parks around the County.
>>> Press release: Adrienne Arsht Center AileyCamp Miami 2012 AileyCamp Miami is a summer day camp where middle school students are “turned on” to dance and come to respect the discipline of dance as a physical activity that requires athletic ability comparable to skills demanded by any sport.
>>> If only some public servants could lift their game when it comes to customer service and being prepared to do their jobs
Last week, the Watchdog Report repeated a little experiment I have done over the last 13 years and that was to ask public employees if they had one of their business cards with them, and all of them except for just a few, did not carry a card. It might seem like a little thing to many people but people in business know it is one of the important relationship arrows in the businessperson’s personal quiver, but that fact is lost in the public sector it seems and that should be changed.
For when these public servants are at public meetings and other events they should prepare for their contact with fellow public peers or the public and this is a bright line, along with someone’s attitude to a post that determines their success in many ways and if not. It breeds complacency to their public service and performance that in these hard times is just not good enough. And when it comes to competing with the private sector, (though in most cases government has a monopoly). But what about our public hospital or nursing homes that have to compete in a dog eat dog world of competitors where customer service and patient or residence satisfaction is the watchword of the day.
And that culture in the middle level of public employees who feel insulated and immune from any retribution for their performance is what drags down a public organization regardless of top leadership’s passion, and is way behind the curve from what took place in the private sector years ago and the private sector non-responsive bureaucracy was dismantled. And that lack of forethought concerning the lack of a card is just a manifestation of that attitude. An attitude the Watchdog Report hopes will change, but that is unlikely and only the residents will suffer by this self-entitlement attitude by their public servants and them being an inspiration when it comes to outstanding public service.
>>> 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)
WILLIAM HUGGETT, Seamen Attorney (Deceased)
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
BADIA SPICES www.badiaspices.com
FLORIDA POWER & LIGHT www.fpl.com
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
LINDA MURPHY: Gave a new laptop in Oct. 2001 to keep me going.
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 COUNTY ETHICS & PUBLIC TRUST COMMISSION www.miamidade.gov/ethics
MIAMI-DADE COUNTY INSPECTOR GENERAL www.miamidade.gov/ig
MIAMI-DADE PUBLIC SCHOOLS BOARD www.dadeschools.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 600 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Daniel A. Ricker
Publisher & Editor
Watchdog Report www.watchdogreport.net
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 email@example.com 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.
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