Archive for September 2012


Watchdog Report Vol.13 No.18 September 9, 2012 Est.05.05.00 – I go when you cannot


Argus Report: Is theme of both presidential campaigns, I’m not him, versus, It could have been worse? 56 days to go, will the attack ads in Florida dominate the airwaves?

Florida: Will Gov. Crist be a political phoenix emerging as a Democrat to take on Gov. Scott in 2016?

Miami-Dade County: With a new $5.9 billion budget to divvy up after first public hearing, let the horse-trading begin between the 13 commissioners and Mayor Gimenez administration

Miami-Dade Public Schools: Is Arts & Minds Academy living in La La Land? Bd. Chair sends letter to district that stuns school officials, will be subject of Tuesday’s audit committee

Public Health Trust: Privatization of ER & Bolton Rape Treatment Center at JHS hits snag with women legislators

City of Miami: Since returning to the dais, after 21 months in the legal wilderness, Commissioner Spence-Jones forges new political destiny

City of Miami Beach: The arrest of the son of George Navarro Sr., suggests public corruption is systemically rooted in the city

City of Coral Gables: Sept. 10th luncheon guest speaker is Laura Jones, of the South Florida Chapter of the Alzheimer Association.

City of Doral: City Lowers Millage Rate for 2012-2013 Fiscal Year -The vote will need to be ratified at the Budget’s 2nd hearing on Sept. 19th

>>> Other stories around Florida

Broward County: Five Individuals Charged in Plot to Conceal and Dispose of Assets in Connection with Rothstein Case

Community hosts 9/11 conversation with former Senator Bob Graham on September 11

Palm Beach County: Five Charged in $20 Million Fraudulent Investment Scheme

Hillsborough County: Gov. Scott taps C. Howard Hunter and Gilbert M. Singer to the Thirteenth Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission.

St. Lucie County: Port St. Lucie Man Pleads Guilty to Attempted Computer Hacking

Monroe County: Top Administrator Gastesi caught in scandal regarding buying hot iPhones &i Pads, grand jury believes he should have known items were stolen

Monroe Public Schools: Gov. Scott taps Mark T. Porter to the position of Monroe County Superintendent of Schools.

Community Events: September 11th, Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce Elections Forum, 11:30am, 1601 Biscayne Blvd, Ballroom Level — Flamenco Festival at Arsht Center — Kristi House event

Editorials: Is Monroe County Administrator Gastesi’s fate to stay or go after buying hot iPhones & iPads from the trunk of a car? – 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:

Letters: Reader exchange with me on why WDR does financial disclosure stories – The Parent Academy is hosting a KidCare volunteer training session next week and is also recruiting trained volunteers to assist with outreach activities at The Children’s Trust Family Expo on Saturday, September 15, 2012 at the Miami-Dade Youth Fair & Expo.

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.)

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

>>> After over 70 weeks of the Watchdog Report in a row, not missing a week. I have to take a break to raise money and look after my health. I have lost some supporters recently for a variety of reasons, financial in nature, and I just want to thank them for their past support and I would not have hit 13 years when I started back in May 5, 2000 without their help. Further, people still ask me how many staff I have and this is a solo operation, something that is a flaw. Since I do it all myself and did not appreciate how much work 24/7 it would be when I first ventured into this world of news and information. Moreover, I ask all the people who often say to me that they will become supporters or sponsors that now would be a great time if you can do it. For there is no trust (I wish there was). And I live and pay my rent and food from people and organizations in the community who believe it is important to have someone looking at all the different public institutions simultaneously, in a straightforward news manner and I thank them for their past and current support.

For they allowed me to this day to be out in the field and reporting back over the now many years and I am honored by their trust in my reporting. And it was a strange fork in the road that I took in the mid 1990s after years in the corporate world and living in Tokyo and Sydney but someone had to do it here in South Florida. And I am as surprised as anyone that I picked up the information gauntlet armed with the power of the internet in 2000. And creating a community education resource and international news service now over a decade later. But that is where the Watchdog Report is today, and I again thank all of you who made that accomplishment possible. >>> A convenient support form is at the bottom of this WDR.

ARGUS REPORT – Heard, Seen on the Street

>>> Is theme of both presidential campaigns, I’m not him, versus, It could have been worse? 56 days to go and will the attack ads in Florida dominate the airwaves?

Now that both the GOP and the Democratic Party have had their national conventions nominating their presidential candidates. One thing is clear, specifics are out of the question concerning what either Mitt Romney or President Barack Obama would do over the next four years, and when you distill the rhetoric down. The two campaigns are based on I’m not him – Obama and the president is shooting back. It, (the collapse of the economy) could have been worse without the stimulus policies he pushed, but ran up the debt further, to now $16 trillion. Now for both men the next hurdle has to be a convincing win at the first presidential debate Oct. 3. And Romney has the most riding on the debate because millions of more Americans will be watching these then any party convention and many voters are just getting to know the man. And with the undecided vote around 12.7 percent of the electorate polls show, peeling these independent voters into either camp is no sure deal. Further, Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson who is getting 4 percent of the vote also clouds the race and some pundits are suggesting this could be like 2000 when Ralph Nader split the GOP and Democratic vote resulting in George W. Bush edging out Al Gore by less than a 1,000 votes in Florida, giving Bush the presidency.

The two candidate’s religion is also interesting. Obama is a Protestant, Romney is a Mormon and Vice President Joe Biden and U. S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin are both Catholics and by American presidential race standards where John Kennedy being a Catholic was a big deal in 1960. Religious barriers have become a secondary issue when it comes to getting the party’s nod and is a sea change when you consider both parties top candidates.

Now with only 56 days until the Nov. 6 general election the race is on, and Romney is barnstorming the northeast and over the weekend, former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist did an event with Obama in Florida, including a second man hug that in many ways when it happened the first time in 2009. Cost Crist his race for the U.S. Senate in 2010 when he finally ran as an independent and was bested by Republican Sen. Marco Rubio who received 49 percent of the statewide vote to Crist’s 30 percent.

What about the two candidate’s wife’s speeches?

The Watchdog Report asked numerous people who they felt gave the best speech at both conventions and Michelle Obama and Ann Romney took the informal poll and they both gave an inside look at the president and the challenger, in a effective heartfelt way that only a spouse can do. Many people also praised Republican vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s speech but the cherry on the cake was when former Democratic President Bill Clinton did his 48-minute analysis of the past decade and his administration and he is still a masterful speechmaker.

>>> Alliegro’s disappearance fuels speculation about what Congressman Rivera was up to in Democratic primary race

The mystery deepens when it comes to U.S. Rep. David Rivera, R-Miami with the disappearance of Ana Alliegro, a friend of Rivera’s who helped run a Democratic Party candidates race against Democrat Joe Garcia in the August primary. And her failing to show up to testify to a federal grand jury hearing that was later changed to only the lead federal prosecutor and two FBI special agents. But she stood up the federal law enforcement officials, even after the concessions on the meeting and being a no show is one of the last things you want to do with a meeting with federal officials.

The investigation has now caught the public’s eye and many Republican faithful are wondering why Rivera’s friend. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-FL, elected in 2010 is still supporting the man who is totally political, “has no fear,” and has pushed the envelope of legality in a variety of ways over the years, but never has been prosecuted. As Rubio has rocketed onto the national political scène, where he has greater national name recognition, than his senior counterpart Sen. Bill Nelson, D-FL in the nation’s most exclusive club. The U.S. Senate.

Nelson is looking for a third term in the Senate in November and he is facing Congressman Connie Mack IV, the son of former Florida Senator Connie Mack III. Whom Nelson replaced in the body when Mack, the elder retired back in 2000, and this will be a tough race for both men. Nelson is saying the younger Mack is nothing like his father. And Mack fires back that while Nelson talk’s moderation, he is in lock step with Obama’s “liberal” policies.

>>> White House press release: Remarks of President Barack Obama Weekly Address

This week, we mark the eleventh anniversary of the September 11th attacks.  It’s a time to remember the nearly 3,000 innocent men, women and children we lost, and the families they left behind.  It’s a chance to honor the courage of the first responders who risked their lives – on that day, and every day since.  And it’s an opportunity to give thanks for our men and women in uniform who have served and sacrificed, sometimes far from home, to keep our country safe.

This anniversary is about them.  It’s also a time to reflect on just how far we’ve come as a nation these past eleven years. On that clear September morning, as America watched the towers fall, and the Pentagon burn, and the wreckage smoldering in a Pennsylvania field, we were filled with questions.  Where had the attacks come from, and how would America respond?  Would they fundamentally weaken the country we love?  Would they change who we are?

The last decade has been a difficult one, but together, we have answered those questions and come back stronger as a nation. We took the fight to al Qaeda, decimated their leadership, and put them on a path to defeat.  And thanks to the courage and skill of our intelligence personnel and armed forces, Osama bin Laden will never threaten America again. Instead of pulling back from the world, we’ve strengthened our alliances while improving our security here at home.  As Americans, we refuse to live in fear.  Today, a new tower rises above the New York skyline.  And our country is stronger, safer and more respected in the world.

Instead of turning on each other, we’ve resisted the temptation to give in to mistrust and suspicion.  I have always said that America is at war with al Qaeda and its affiliates – and we will never be at war with Islam or any other religion.  We are the United States of America.  Our freedom and diversity make us unique, and they will always be central to who we are as a nation. Instead of changing who we are, the attacks have brought out the best in the American people.  More than 5 million members of the 9/11 Generation have worn America’s uniform over the past decade, and we’ve seen an outpouring of goodwill towards our military, veterans, and their families.  Together, they’ve done everything we’ve asked of them.  We’ve ended the war in Iraq and brought our troops home.  We brought an end to the Taliban regime.  We’ve trained Afghan Security Forces, and forged a partnership with a new Afghan Government.  And by the end 2014, the transition in Afghanistan will be complete and our war there will be over.

And finally, instead of turning inward with grief, we’ve honored the memory of those we lost by giving back to our communities, serving those in need, and reaffirming the values at the heart of who we are as a people.  That’s why we mark September 11th as a National Day of Service and Remembrance.  Because we are one American family.  And we look out for each other – not just on the difficult days, but every day. Eleven years later, that’s the legacy of 9/11 – the ability to say with confidence that no adversary and no act of terrorism can change who we are.  We are Americans, and we will protect and preserve this country we love.  On this solemn anniversary, let’s remember those we lost, let us reaffirm the values they stood for, and let us keep moving forward as one nation and one people.

>>>Press release:  September 4, 2012 – New Zogby Poll – Obama and Romney Tied at 44%, with 13% undecided Obama’s Lead Grows to 2-Points over, Romney in 3-way race, Obama 43% – Romney 41% – Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson – 4%
John Zogby – Neither candidate is in a good position. There are a lot of undecided voters. The President is not where he needs to be among Hispanics, young voters, and the creative class. On the other hand, Romney’s lead among Evangelicals is anemic, as is his lead among NASCAR fans and weekly Wal-Mart shoppers. The deal is far from closed. The candidates are also pretty much tied in the swing states.

If the election for president were held today, for whom would you vote? Democrat Barack Obama – 43.8%  Republican Mitt Romney – 43.5%  Not Sure – 12.75%
If the election for president were held today, for whom would you vote? Democrat Barack Obama – 42.7%  Republican Mitt Romney – 41.0%   Libertarian Gary Johnson – 4.3%  Not Sure – 12.0% Full Release, methodology, and xTabs at

>>> All photos in the Watchdog Report are taken from public government sites, and the Report goes on line at 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 91.3 FM 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 and The Florida Roundup on


>>> Will Gov. Crist be a political phoenix emerging as a Democrat to take on Gov. Scott in 2016?

When it comes to the political destiny of former Gov. Charlie Crist, the GOP was too hot, the independent party was to cold but he now believes the Democratic Party is just right and critics from both sides of the political isle are horrified with these party flip-flops. That many people believe are self-serving moves to jump-start his stalled political career. Crist was a featured at the Democratic Party’s National Convention last week and the party faithful in Florida are looking askance at his sudden conversion to the party but the genial governor polls well against Gov. Rick Scott. But other candidates in the party are also angling for a shot in 2014 including state Sen. Nan Rich, D Westin, former Congressman Kendrick Meek and past Florida CFO Alex Sink, still licking her wounds after being beaten by Scott in a close race in 2010 where he spent over $73 million of his own money to win the office.

Crist a former state Senator who earned the moniker “chain gang Charlie” rose up through the political ranks as the Florida education commissioner, attorney general, and then the governor in 2006.  However, he went down in flames in 2010 when he ran as an independent for the U.S. Senate and ran into the long shot candidate Republican Marco Rubio who decisively won the race that also included Meek, who came in third. Since then he has kept a low profile until a few months ago when he penned some columns about how extreme the GOP had become and felt he had a better political fit with the Democrats now. However, Scott welcomes Crist if he wants to take on the governor in 2014 but it is a complicated political equation for Crist, an attorney to thread. And Crist’s presence at the DNC as a featured speaker rankled the hard-core party members of both parties to their bones. And to Republicans he is a giant hypocrite and for the Democrats he could be a wolf in GOP sheep’s clothing, but Crist either way could become a player again in the Sunshine State. If he is politically nimble enough to pull this last political transformation off.

>>> Press release: Governor Scott to Embark on Education Listening Tour

Beginning this Monday, Governor Rick Scott will embark on a tour across Florida listening to teachers, students and parents share their ideas to improve Florida’s education system. Governor Scott wants to hear Florida’s education stakeholders voice their ideas on how to improve the education of our state’s children.

“By listening to teachers, parents and children, we will gather ideas to strengthen our education system to better prepare students for college and careers,” said Governor Scott. The cities and dates of the tour will be announced throughout the week. Also, starting on Monday, Governor Scott will be blogging about each day’s listening tour events at As the Governor visits different schools every day, a student film crew will document the event on video, which will be posted on the Governor’s Education Blog once the students edit and finish the video.

>>> AG Pam Bondi press release: I had the privilege of speaking at the Florida Department of Children and Families Child Protection Summit 2012. During the summit, I discussed the dangers that prescription drug abuse pose to newborns. I chair the Statewide Task Force on Prescription Drug Abuse and Newborns. Our goal is to examine the scope of this problem, the costs associated with caring for babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome, the long-term effects of the syndrome, and strategies for preventing prescription drug abuse by expectant mothers. It is imperative that we protect these innocent newborns from this dangerous addiction.

In addition to protecting our children from prescription drug abuse, our Children’s Legal Services Bureau plays a vital role in protecting Florida’s children. They provide legal counsel to the Department of Children and Families. The bureau is charged with litigating child abuse, abandonment, and neglect cases for Broward, Hillsborough and Manatee counties. We will continue to do everything in our power to support and protect Florida’s families. I was honored that DCF invited me to speak at the summit. It was a great opportunity for law enforcement, medical professionals, child advocates, and others to gather and discuss ways to better protect children, families, and our communities.

>>> Children’s Movement of Florida  Voices of Florida – We all have a story, a story that defines us. It is our collective story, our challenges and our triumphs that inspire a movement. Floridians from all walks of life have joined together with an understanding that the future of our state rests on the well-being of our children.

Visit The Children’s Movement website to read their stories and share your own. >>> I find it unacceptable, as all of us should, that at least a half-million children in Florida – all citizens — have no health insurance. How could this be in our beloved country that seeks to be a beacon to the world? Health insurance for all children is one of the five major planks of The Children’s Movement. With the support of Florida Covering Kids and Families, The Children’s Movement is working with dozens of local partners to help build a meaningful signing-up initiative in more than a dozen Florida communities. Already we have: Completed 18 KidCare trainings around the state. Signed up, trained and deployed more than a hundred volunteers. Begun to build a growing collaboration between local school districts and KidCare outreach coalitions. It’s a good start, but only the start. If you’d like to become a volunteer, just click here. Another way to help is to make a contribution – of any size – to help support this work. It is easy. Just click here. A real movement isn’t possible without your helping in some meaningful way. Dave Lawrence, Chair The Children’s Movement.

>>> Press release: Gov. Scott taps Connie M. Johnson and Dr. Nanette P. Parratto-Wagner to the Board of Veterinary Medicine.

Johnson, 58, of Plant City, is a realtor with Coldwell Banker Real Estate. She is appointed for a term beginning September 7, 2012, and ending October 31, 2013.

Parratto-Wagner, 49, of Orlando, is a veterinarian with TBF PLLC. She is appointed for a term beginning September 7, 2012, and ending October 31, 2015. >> The appointments are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

>>> Press release: Florida TaxWatch Statement on Today’s Supreme Court Hearing Regarding Pension Contributions (Scott v. Williams, SC12-520)

A Statement from Dominic M. Calabro: “Florida TaxWatch was honored to be granted Amicus Curiae status in this important case for Floridians.  Preventing the Legislature from making prospective changes to the Florida Retirement System would negatively affect Florida taxpayers. The Legislature has passed two budgets that rely on the revenue generated from this change, and voiding the change would create a significant budget shortfall. The state’s bond rating would likely be negatively affected as well. Overall, the most important issue in this case is the need for legislative flexibility, which would be severely constrained if the Legislature were unable to make prospective changes to such a large public program.”

Note: As stated in the Florida TaxWatch Amicus brief (filed with the Supreme Court of Florida on June 20, 2012), “…most states require a larger contribution than 3 percent, some require well over 10 percent from some employees, and many have increased employee contribute rates in the last two years; thus, Florida’s 3 percent employee contribution is relatively low.  Likewise, many states have made other reforms to reduce the cost of state-run pension systems, including changes to the COLA.”  Link to full Amicus: Florida Supreme Court

>>> Press release: Gov. Scott names six appointments to the Purple Ribbon Task Force.

Ronald Davis, 67, of Tallahassee, is president of 21st Century Solutions. He is appointed for a term beginning September 6, 2012, and ending August 1, 2013.

Jamie L. Glavich, 51, of Jacksonville, is the owner of Almost Home Senior Services Inc. She is appointed for a term beginning September 6, 2012, and ending August 1, 2013.

Albert B. Johnson, 59, of Miami, is a retired teacher with Miami-Dade County Public Schools. He is appointed for a term beginning September 6, 2012, and ending August 1, 2013.

Linda J. Levin, 45, of Jacksonville, is the executive director of the Northeast Florida Area Agency on Aging. She is appointed for a term beginning September 6, 2012, and ending August 1, 2013.

Stacey D. Payne, 43, of Cape Coral, is the community relations manager for the Lee County Sheriff’s Office.  She is appointed for a term beginning September 6, 2012, and ending August 1, 2013.

Christine L. Powers, 61, of Largo, is the director of adult day services and business development for Community Aging and Retirement Services Inc. She is appointed for a term beginning September 6, 2012, and ending August 1, 2013.


>>> With a new $5.9 billion budget to divvy up after first public hearing, let the horse-trading begin between the 13 commissioners and the Mayor Gimenez administration

The first public budget hearing at the Miami-Dade Commission Chambers was a tepid affair from past years when it came to public speakers railing at the cuts to social services, culture and public health but that anger was muted this past Thursday night. The Watchdog Report since 1997 has attended or watched these public hearings and this was one of the quietists ever, but now the horse-trading begins between the 13 commissioners and County Mayor Carlos Gimenez. The county’s $5.9 billion budget is down from last year’s $6.1 billion that peaked in 2006 when the county’s property tax base grew by 21.3 percent from $212 billion to $245 billion. And the cash gushed in but that property tax base growth clearly could not be sustained. Since then property values not only fell, but went off a cliff in 2008 when the Great Recession brought the global economy to its knees, and the concern back then was if bank ATMs would not spit out dollars anymore.

Now Gimenez and his team will work behind the scenes with each commissioner trying to quell any of their concerns and special interests and this bartering of commission votes by the past county administrations has a long history at county hall. However, part of the reason there were no major protests this year is the county property tax base is stabilizing with only a few of the county’s 35 municipalities still losing there property tax values and that is starting to shore up Miami-Dade’s financial house even while taxes are kept essentially flat or slightly lower depending on a homes value and homestead exemption. >>> Round two of the public budget meeting is on: September 20th, the Second Miami-Dade County Budget Hearing, Stephen P. Clark Center, 111 NW 1st Street, Commission Chambers, 5:01pm

Mayor Gimenez

BCC Chair Martinez

Anything unusual happen last week between Seijas & Margolis?

Two veteran lawmakers made peace on Tuesday when Gwen Margolis and Natacha Seijas after speaking in support of not closing the Roxy Bolton Rape Treatment Center after a Financial Recovery Board meeting at Jackson Memorial  Hospital. They spontaneously gave each other a hug, and there was no knife in either of their backs. The two county commissioners had feuded for the past ten years almost to the date and this appeared to be a symbolic burying of the hatchet, but not in each other. The two legislators had history and Margolis left the dais in 2002 as Chair and became a state Senator again. However, it was ten years ago in late September when they exchanged harsh words during the final county public budget hearing back then and Seijas essentially said Margolis would leave the dais “in a body bag.” If she did not shut up at the time.

That meeting ended up going to around 6:00 a.m., the hostile exchange took place around 2:00 a.m., and Margolis at the time was visible shaken by the remark and the threat. Now years later, they seem to have moved on and when it comes to the Rape Treatment Center staying as it is. They both are in agreement. (However, to be fair to Seijas, the body bag comment had some context. Since earlier in the commission meeting, the county’s medical examiner was asking for more money. And at the time he noted people in the morgue were stacked up “in body bags,” since the office was so busy back then.)


In July 2012, the  2% Food and Beverage tax collections from hotels in MIAMI-Dade (excluding MIAMI Beach, Bal Harbour, and Surfside) generated $420,532 compared to $391,266 in 2011, an increase of +7.5%. The Resort tax collections (excluding MIAMI Beach, Bal Harbour and Surfside)  totaled $1,352,616  compared to $1,266,375 in 2011 for an increase of +6.8%. The Convention Development Tax (CDT) collections for Greater MIAMI and the Beaches of $4,133,781 compared to $4,063,084 for the same period last year represent a +1.7% increase in 2012.


>>> Is Arts & Minds Academy living in la la land, sends letter that stuns school officials, will be subject of Tuesday’s audit committee

The saga of the Arts and Minds charter school academy in Coconut Grove took a unusual turn when the school in a Aug.31 letter responded to a critical over 300 page forensic audit by the public school district with, “The Academy has been very pleased… your office found the Academy did nothing illegal or unethical while providing high school students with the best education available in Miami-Dade County,” wrote Ruth Montaner, the chair of the A&M board. However, Jose Montes de Oca, CPA, the Miami-Dade Schools Chief Auditor responded in a memo to the school board Sept.6 that on the contrary that was not the conclusion of the audit. The chief auditor writes all the asked for reforms had not been concluded and the A&M letter says an unnamed “independent” A&M lawyer has concluded there were no conflicts of interest with the school’s board and the school’s not for profit status is not in jeopardy, and any dispute of the property tax exemption is being resolved.

The whole issue of A&M began in 2004 when the buildings owner Manny Alonso Poch started the charter school and the Miami-Dade Public School Audit and Budget Advisor Committee flagged it because it is considered a “related transaction.” Poch had an oversight board made up of his friends and the building’s rent escalated in the coming years to $69,000 in 2006 and had the chair of the audit committee remarking. There is a “lot of fairy dust in the room” after Poch’s explanation of why the rent was so high back then. But had Montaner in her recent letter writing that was not the case and when it came to the lease. She writes over the years, it was Poch who was making the financial sacrifice, when it came to the rent and the “terms [were] very favorable to the Academy,” she wrote in the response. The fact A&M has essentially blown off the nation’s fourth largest public schools district after a very critical audit report on the school was done will be the talk of the day on Tuesday when the School Board Audit Committee meets. And Poch is expected to attend and there is expected to be verbal fireworks when the item comes up for discussion by audit committee members. Readers should stay tuned. >>> Here is the A&M response letter >> M-DPS Auditor’s response >> District follow up letter in Aug.

>>> PAST WDR:  A&M Charter School brings in hired gun Attkisson, makes strong offensive argument to critical district forensic audit, school’s auditor stands by document’s accuracy, Osceola Commissioner Attkisson net worth drops to $77,114 through Dec. 2010

The one-inch thick forensic audit of the Academy of the Arts and Minds charter school on Commodore Plaza in Coconut Grove was the talk of the Miami-Dade Public Schools Audit & Budget Advisory Committee meeting Tuesday, and school founder Manny Alonso-Poch brought in a charter school hired gun to defend A&M against the reports findings. Board members were told the consultant, Frank Attkisson, was a former state legislator and had been involved in writing some of the state legislation that dealt with the creation and operation of charter schools, of which Miami-Dade has 103 such schools. He immediately went on the verbal offensive when Audit Committee Chair Jeffrey Shapiro, a former prosecutor, allowed him to speak to the citizen-based board. And the man challenged the report’s findings as being inaccurate and was angry that the report was leaked to the Miami Herald early before the appropriate time and blasted the school auditor’s findings as being skewed and conjecture. >>> Here is the link to the school district audit and A&Ms rebuttal

Attkisson said that the school since 2004 had grown from 75 students to 450 students and of course, there were growing pains. But A&M has had “clean audit statements” over the years and the charter school “operates within state laws” and the school now is keeping with the “spirit and intent” of the school district’s findings. He said they are taking steps “to correct” some of the audit’s observations regarding the school’s governance and “the board is looking for three new members,” he told the audit committee…

What do we know about Attkisson?

Attkisson, who walked out quickly after the meeting, did not have a card and declined to speak to the media. However, the Watchdog Report thought a quick scan of the man might produce some insight on the past state official that treated the audit committee and the auditing department in a condescending manner and it is now clear why he felt so confident in front of this board. The businessman and charter school advocate has politically in the past been a commissioner and mayor of the City of Kissimmee, was elected to the Florida House in 2000 running as a Jeb Bush Republican, and after being termed out in 2008. He was elected in 2010 to the Osceola Commission and represents commission District 4, and while he was on a road trip. He seemed to think he was dealing with country bumpkins when he discussed A&M and casually chatted during the meeting with Alonso-Poch before being asked if he wanted to address the audit committee.


What do we know about his finances?

Attkisson since 2007 has gone through some tough financial times and back in 2007 he had a listed net worth of $567,719 through Dec. 30th of that year. In the following year that net worth drops to $498,000 though his assets in total listed are $1.5 million and through 2010 his net worth drops to $77,114 and he lists $20,000 in household goods for all the last three years the financial disclosure forms are on file with the state. His current assets in 2010 include a home valued at $448,000, a tractor is worth $3,500, a Chevy truck is worth $30,000 and his 2006 mustang is valued at $6,000 with total assets for the year being $487,000. And his listed total liabilities come in at $429,000 for the year that includes mortgages owed $127,500 and $133,000, a lot loan is owed $103,000, American Express is owed $36,286 and Bank of America wants $30,100.

>>> 20th Anniversary of Hurricane Andrew brings together old friends, Supt. Visiedo said it took 30 days to get most schools open, 10 of them were flattened

Octavio Visiedo, the Miami-Dade Public Schools superintendent back in late August of 1992 when Hurricane Andrew flattened South Dade with Category 5 winds that left 73 schools badly damaged and another ten more totally destroyed. He told the school board during a presentation at their board meeting Wednesday where he reflected on the 20th Anniversary of the tragic event. And he said the number one challenge at the time was to get the shell-shocked kids back into school. He said elected and community leaders all demanded, “To have the children back in school” and that would free them, “So we can rebuild the community” and it laid “the foundation for success and to open most of the remaining schools in a month,” he reflected. Visiedo also noted that the community was so impressed with the school District’s performance after Andrew that all the school board members were elected with a margin “higher than ever before.” And he felt that occurred because we “did our job to protect the children.” However, he also said, I am “hoping this community never has to face that again,” the veteran educator closed.

>>> Chair Hantman press release: As proposed by Board Chair Perla Tabares Hantman, the Miami-Dade School Board voted unanimously to authorize the Chair and the Superintendent to develop a plan for the District’s Ethics function that includes utilizing professional staff from the office of Mr. Joseph Centorino, Executive Director for the Miami-Dade County Commission on Ethics and Public Trust, as well as streamlining the District’s internal ethics functions. “This represents an excellent opportunity to improve the efficacy of ethics education, investigations, and enforcement of our existing ethics policies,” said Ms. Hantman. The plan will be presented at the School Board meeting of October 10, 2012. >>> Editor’s note: The Miami-Dade Ethics and Public Trust Commission must also vote on allowing the office to handle ethics issues at the school board and that has yet to be addressed, and is not considered a formality but may result in considerable discussion among  the five member ethics commission whether this should be taken on.


>>> Privatization of ER & Bolton Rape Treatment Center at JHS hits snag with women legislators

The proposed privatization of the Jackson Memorial Hospital Emergency Room and the Roxy Bolton Rape Treatment Center has caused a dust-up of the highest order as elected officials descended on a special Financial Recovery Board  (FRB) meeting Tuesday and in the crowd of about 100 people attending was Roxy Bolton herself. Also in the audience were State Sen. Gwen Margolis, D-Miami, along with County Commissioner Barbara Jordan, and ousted former Miami-Dade Commissioner Natacha Seijas. The women excluding Bolton, all spoke about how wrong it was to privatize the Rape Treatment Center, that could be part of the cost savings plugged into the health trust’s budget starting Oct. 1. But the idea now is meeting serious resistance with local leaders. Further, state Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami was also was in the audience listening to the discussion.

Margolis said privatizing the Rape Treatment Center is “truly a bad issue and really disturbs a lot of women.” Moreover, the long serving Senator argued, “I can’t see taking it out of the hands of those people handling it now,” she reiterated. Jordan said CEO Carlos Migoya and the administration should “work with the union,” and “the private sector cannot do everything better than you have right here.” And when it came to the ER, “It is the heartbeat of Jackson Memorial,” and where most of the patients come from the newly reelected county commissioner said. And she urged the seven-member FRB board to reconsider the issuance of a Request for Proposal because she believes they “are trying to fix something that is not broken.”

FRB vice Chair Daryl Sharpton said “I have some concerns about the RFP” and it was only after he saw the “memo to the Mayor and Commissioners that he appreciated the policy implications,” he said. Fellow FRB member Joaquin del Cueto said the “ER is the front door” of Jackson Memorial Hospital and “70 percent of the patients” come from there. And he further noted Jackson North Hospital’s ER was privatized since the hospital was bought in the mid 2000s and patient satisfaction is “in single digits,” he said. However, another meeting concerning this RFP is scheduled at this month’s committee meeting and the RFP is expected to be discussed in the purchasing committee around 9:00 a.m. on Thursday Sept. 13 state’s the FRB public meeting website.


del Cueto


>>> Since returning to the dais, after 21 months in the legal wilderness, Commissioner Spence-Jones forges new political destiny

Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones got national coverage when she was spotted in the crowd of the Democratic Party’s National Convention holding up a black and white BELIEVE sign, a Miami community pride program she instituted a about nine months ago. She is trying to get people to believe in Miami and the power of community pride and even wanted to get Miami Heat players to participate and the bumper stickers are seen on city cars including the police cruisers. Spence-Jones since the state attorney dropped one corruption charge because a key witness retracted her testimony, and was vindicated by a jury on another felony charge has been on a political roll since then. And while she is only one person on the five member commission. She and her constituents get their fair share of hearings and she has become a better commissioner since the legal ordeal that stretched on for almost two years.

Spence-Jones started out her political life as a protégé to both Miami-Dade Commission Chair Barbara Carey-Shuler and Miami Mayor Manny Diaz and Diaz helped her win her first race in Nov. 2005, when she tapped into his fundraising prowess. In 2009, she ran into the legal problems with the state attorney’s office but after 21 months off the dais after being suspended by then Gov. Charlie Crist. She returned in Oct. 2011 and after she setteled back into the office and she has been a persistent and vocal advocate for her Commission District 5 residents that includes Overtown and Liberty City.


>>> Manager Martinez gets green light from appeals court, financial urgency back on the table, says union negotiations are hopeful

With the Third District Court of Appeal ruling that Manger Johnny Martinez can invoke financial urgency, a state statue that a local circuit court judge put an injunction on with the judge believing it can only be done by the Miami Commission. Martinez on Friday said things were coming together regarding getting the $40 million in union concessions and discussions recently have been very constructive, and believes it will be setteled. “Unless I write something that jinx’s it,” he seriously joked. The city has been under the financial hammer for months trying to craft its almost $500 million budget, while dealing with a SEC investigation on city bonds sold a few years ago and has already racked up over $2.5 million in legal fees. The federal agency has yet to say what action it will take but it could involve some past finance employees being charged by federal authorities. And a $45 million payment is needed Jan.1 on a loan taken out for Miami’s contribution to the $1 billion Port of Miami tunnel now under construction and part of a global agreement with Miami-Dade County that was done during the Mayor Manny Diaz administration that included the new Miami Marlins stadium that when financed out will have cost $2.5 billion in the decades ahead. Further, senior staff have left for a variety of reasons including the director of the Miami Capital Improvement Department who left for a job paying twice as much in the private sector said Mayor Tomas Regalado to the Watchdog Report a couple of weeks ago.  >>> The first public hearing for the new budget that begins Oct. 1 is on Thursday at 5:01 p.m. in the Miami Commission Chambers and taxpayers will have their opportunity to voice their views about the new proposed budget.



>>> Identity Thief Sentenced on Tax Fraud Charges

Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Paula Reid, Special Agent in Charge, United States Secret Service (USSS), Miami Field Office, Jose A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CI), and Anthony Strianese, Chief, Delray Beach Police Department, announce that Woody Ulysse, 26, of Miami, was sentenced today before U.S. District Judge Kathleen M. Williams, in connection with his previous conviction for Access Device Fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1029. At today’s hearing, U.S. District Judge Kathleen M. Williams sentenced defendant Woody Ulysse to 57 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release upon his release from imprisonment, and was additionally ordered to pay $112,429 in restitution to the United States Treasury.

According to the Indictment, in-court statements, and documents in the court record, in March, 2011, the United States Secret Service, in conjunction with IRS criminal investigators, began an investigation into the filing of a large number of fraudulent tax year 2010 income tax returns, all resulting in refund requests, that had been filed by unknown individuals utilizing compromised police and firefighter identities. In this investigation, it was determined that based on information provided by the IRS, between January 16, 2011, and April 4, 2011, approximately 486 fraudulent tax returns were filed over the internet, each using unsuspecting victim’s personal identifiers, including dates of birth and social security numbers.  These fraudulent returns, filed electronically with computers or other digital devices, often utilized unsecured or public wireless internet signals and “Turbo Tax” to file the electronic returns.  Moreover, rather than have a fraudulent refund direct deposited into a verifiable bank account, the fraudulent returns all requested that any refunds due and owing be electronically deposited onto various pre-paid money cards, such as “Green Dot,” Walmart “Valued Customer” gift cards, and Visa or other generic gift cards that were thereafter mailed to various addresses under the unidentified defendant’s control… Moreover, when arrested, defendant Ulysse was found in possession of a laptop computer that was later forensically analyzed and revealed additional stolen personal identifying information from unsuspecting identity theft victims, as well as images of previously filed fraudulent IRS tax returns. In total, Woody Ulysse was held accountable for a loss amount of approximately $507,041 and was ordered to pay $112,429 in restitution to the United States Treasury.  Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the United States Secret Service and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigative Division. This case was handled by Assistant United States 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

>>> Press release:  Please find attached invitation to the press conference of this years Art Live Fair benefiting the Lotus House. The Mayor of the City of Miami, Tomas Regalado and the president of the Lotus House Constance Collins will be officially announcing exciting news about the art fair. We are very much looking forward to welcome you on Wednesday September 12th at 10 am at the Coconut Grove Expo Center. Please let us know if you are available and RSVP to our Fair Coordinator Ciara Jones at:


>>> The arrest of the son of George Navarro Sr., suggests public corruption is systemically rooted in the city

The arrest of George Navarro Jr., the son of prominent former Miami Beach Police Commander George Navarro Sr., and now in charge of the Beach’s Emergency Management department is continuing the ongoing implosion of public corruption cases on the tony Island. Over the past couple of year’s city employees and others have been busted by either state or federal prosecutors but the volume of cases shows this is a deeply rooted problem. In Navarro’s case, he had been a Beach police officer for six-years, was a straw buyer of cars, and allowed his roommate, a methamphetamine dealer to drive around in his police cruiser. Navarro is facing eight felony counts and two misdemeanors and while his attorney says, the charges are false.

Miami Beach gets another black eye and this arrest is just another string of wayward public employees going astray and any city commissioner or Mayor Mattie Bower possible thinking otherwise. They need to reevaluate the situation. For the municipality is becoming the epicenter for wayward actions and fraud and the fact it continues at such a pace says it must be stamped out. For it has taken root on such a scale that it cannot be ignored and when it involves the son of such a prominent Miami Beach official. Who knows where future lawbreakers will come from; for it is getting to the point, it could be anyone. And that is not something the 91,000 beach residents can be proud of as they dutifully pay their taxes to the city.

>>> GMCVB press release: MIAMI BEACH –  In July 2012, the  2% Food and Beverage tax collections from hotels and restaurants in MIAMI Beach (excluding MIAMI Dade, Bal Harbour, and Surfside) generated $1,864,848 compared to $1,818,573 in 2011, an increase of +2.5%. The 3% Resort tax collections for MIAMI Beach hotels (excluding MIAMI Dade, Bal Harbour and Surfside)  totaled $2,090,774  compared to $2,052,115 in 2011 for an increase of +1.9%.

>>> Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club – Meeting Date: Tuesday, September 11th, 2012 Meeting Time: 8:30 AM Meeting Place: New Location: David’s Café One, Corner of Collins Ave. and 11th Street, South Beach

Fernando Vasquez, Director of Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) for the City of Miami Beach will be the guest speaker at the September 11th meeting of the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club. The topic will be Flamingo Park. Mr. Vasquez will be giving an overview of the renovations planned for Flamingo Park, with emphasis on the renovations now underway for the tennis facility. There is no charge for attending and everyone is welcome. David Kelsey, Moderator


>>> Sept. 10th luncheon guest speaker is Laura Jones, of the South Florida Chapter of the Alzheimer Association.

Press release: Please join us for lunch on Monday, September 10th, our guest speaker will be Laura Jones, of the South Florida Chapter of the Alzheimer Association.  We meet at JohnMartin’s Restaurant (253 Miracle Mile – 2nd floor) at noon. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, a general term for memory loss and other intellectual abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life.  Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 50 to 80 percent of dementia cases.  Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging, although the greatest known risk factor is increasing age and the majority of people with the disease are 65 and older.  However, approximately 5 percent of the people with the disease have early onset Alzheimer’s (also known as younger-onset) affecting people in their 40’s and 50’s.

Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease where the symptoms gradually worsen over a number of years.  In its early stages, memory loss is mild, but in later stages, individuals lose their ability to carry on conversations and respond to their environment.  Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.  There is no current cure, but treatments for symptoms are available and research continues.  Such treatments cannot stop the disease from progressing but they can temporarily slow the worsening of dementia and improve the quality of life for those affected and their caregivers. Laura Jones will be discussing the goals and accomplishments in fighting this disease. Please RSVP at

>>> Gables webpage: Coral Gables residents will have a chance to buy one ticket (per resident) and receive two free tickets for the “Coral Gables Day” football game between the Canes and North Carolina State scheduled for Saturday, September 29 (Time is TBA). The football showdown will take place at Sun Life Stadium, 2269 N.W. 199 Street in Miami Gardens. This offer is made possible thanks to the 20-year Development Agreement between the City of Coral Gables and the University of Miami. Coral Gables residents must show proof of residency at the time of purchase. This promotion is good for all available seating excluding suites and club seating. Tickets are now on sale and must be purchased in person at the Hurricane Ticket Office, which has now moved to the BankUnited Center, 1245 Dauer Drive. The Ticket Office is open Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. This promotion is not available for online or phone ticket purchases. For more information, call 305-284-2263.


>>> City of Doral Lowers Millage Rate for 2012-2013 Fiscal Year -The vote will need to be ratified at the Budget’s 2nd hearing on Sept. 19th-

Press release: With a 4 to 1 vote decision, the City of Doral Council voted to set the millage rate for Fiscal Year 2012-2013 at 2.2430 mills, hence lowering the millage rate set for FY 2011-2012. The vote took place during the first budget hearing for FY 2012-2013. The millage rate set by the City Council means property owners will be taxed $2.2430 for every $1,000 of assessed taxable value. The FY 2012-2013 Miami-Dade County Appraiser’s projections reflect an 8.68% increase in property values for the City of Doral as compared to the previous year.

The Council voted unanimously to approve and adopt a balanced budget in first reading pending changes reflecting the new millage rate.  The second and final budget hearing will take place on September 19th at 5:01 PM at the Council Chambers located at the new City of Doral Government Center, 8401 NW 53rd Terrace, Doral, FL 33166. The FY 2012-2013 budget goes into effect on October 1, 2012



>>> Five Individuals Charged in Plot to Conceal and Dispose of Assets in Connection with Rothstein Case

Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and José A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CID), announced the filing of charges against Kimberly Wendell Rothstein, 38, Stacie Weisman, 49, Scott F. Saidel, 45, Eddy Marin, 50, and Patrick Daoud, 54. Earlier today, an Indictment was filed charging Marin and Daoud on charges of obstruction of justice and perjury. Also today, a Criminal Information was filed charging Kimberly Rothstein, Stacie Weisman and Scott F. Saidel with conspiracy to commit money laundering, to obstruct justice, and to tamper with a witness.

According to the charging documents, former Ft. Lauderdale attorney Scott W. Rothstein, who was the Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the law firm of Rothstein, Rosenfeldt and Adler, P.A. (RRA), used the funds obtained from the operation of a Ponzi scheme to purchase tens of millions of dollars of real estate, vehicles, vessels, business interests, luxury watches, jewelry and sports memorabilia for himself, his wife, Kimberly Rothstein, and others.  As part of his plea agreement, Scott W. Rothstein agreed to forfeit to the government all assets acquired with funds derived through the aforesaid Ponzi scheme. On November 9, 2009, agents of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigations, went to the Rothstein residence, where Kimberly Rothstein assisted the agents in retrieving what was believed to be all of the available cash, jewelry and luxury watches which had previously been purchased by Scott W. Rothstein with proceeds derived from the Ponzi scheme.  In fact, before, during and after the aforesaid seizure by federal agents on November 9, 2009, Kimberly Rothstein, Stacie Weisman, and Scott F. Saidel knowingly took action to conceal certain items of jewelry, valued in excess of one million dollars for the purpose of preventing the government from exercising its authority to take such property into its lawful custody and control.  Thereafter, Kimberly Rothstein and Stacie Weisman sold and attempted to sell a portion of this jewelry to and through various persons, including Eddy Marin and Patrick Daoud.

The charging documents further allege that, in connection with civil proceedings instituted by the Trustee in bankruptcy for RRA, all of the defendants took steps to obstruct justice by concealing the true location of certain items of jewelry in order to prevent its availability for use in those proceedings.  It is further alleged that Marin and Daoud committed perjury during depositions in connection with those proceedings, and that Kimberly Rothstein, Stacie Weisman and Scott F. Saidel sought to have Scott W. Rothstein testify falsely in connection with those proceedings. U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer stated, “The integrity of our system of justice is based on the truthfulness of every witness that participates in the process. When a witness lies under oath or conspires to obstruct justice, the integrity of our system of justice is undermined. The charges filed against these five individuals are proof of our Office’s commitment to safeguard and protect the integrity of our legal system. Thanks to the continued dedication and commitment of our law enforcement partners and our prosecutors, these individuals will be brought to justice and the integrity in our system of justice restored.”  IRS-CID Special Agent in Charge José A. Gonzalez stated, “Those who assist others to conceal assets subject to forfeiture will be fully investigated and prosecuted.  Together with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, we will continue to pursue forfeiture of all assets acquired with funds derived from Rothstein’s Ponzi scheme.” >>> Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of IRS-CID.  This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lawrence LaVecchio, Jeffrey Kaplan, and Paul Schwartz. An information and indictment is only an accusation, the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at

>>> 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 to view the new agenda.


>>> hosts 9/11 conversation with former Senator Bob Graham on September 11

Questions about Saudi Arabia’s possible involvement in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks have lingered for more than a decade. Over the past year, has reported how Congress and the 9/11 Commission were kept in the dark about a secret FBI investigation that found troubling ties between the 9/11 hijackers and Saudis then living in Sarasota.

Former Florida U.S. senator and two-term governor Bob Graham, co-chair of Congress’s Joint Inquiry into the attacks, was privy to top-secret information on suspected foreign support for the hijackers. He believes events in Sarasota offer important clues about what happened, and has called on President Obama to reopen the investigation. Join us at the Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale on Sept. 11 for a special evening with Sen. Graham on the 11th anniversary of the terrorist attacks for our program, “Unanswered Questions of 9/11: A Conversation With Bob Graham.”  Sen. Graham will answer questions and be available afterward to sign copies of his latest book, “Keys to the Kingdom.” >>> Ticket Options: Tickets are available at Meet Sen. Graham at the 5:30 p.m. VIP Cocktail Reception. $75 ticket includes drinks and hors d’oeuvres, lecture, upfront seating and priority access at the book signing. Pre-sale general admission tickets to the 6:30 p.m. lecture are available for $20 through Aug. 31; $30 on Sept. 1-11. Proceeds benefit Broward, an independent 501(c) 3 nonprofit providing local watchdog reporting in the public interest.


>>> Five Charged in $20 Million Fraudulent Investment Scheme

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Michael B. Steinbach, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, announced today the unsealing of a twenty-two count Indictment charging James C. Howard, III, 53, of  Parkland, FL, Patricia S. Saa,  57, of  Naples, FL, Louis N. Gallo, III, 43, of Parkland, FL, Michael R. Casey, 65, of Oakland Park, FL, and Rita E. Balbirer 69, of Pompano Beach, FL.  The charges include conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1349, mail and wire fraud in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1341 and 1343, conspiracy to commit money laundering, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1956(h), and money laundering, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1957.

Howard, Saa, and Gallo are charged with both fraud and money laundering offenses.  Casey is charged with fraud offenses.  Balbirer is charged with money laundering offenses.  Each fraud count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment. Each money laundering count carries a maximum sentence of ten years’ imprisonment. Howard, Casey and Balbirer were arrested today. They will make their initial appearances today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Goodman in federal court in Miami, Florida.  Gallo is currently serving time in federal prison for violating an unrelated term of supervised release.  Saa has not yet been arrested.

According to the Indictment, Howard, Saa, Gallo, Casey and others conspired to defraud individuals who invested in Commodities Online, LLC (“COL”).   From approximately January 2010 through April 2011, these defendants used material false and fraudulent representations and material omissions to obtain over $20 million from over 700 investors.

According to the Indictment, Howard, Saa, Gallo, Casey and other co-conspirators used COL to offer potential investors the supposed opportunity to share in the profits of pre-arranged contracts to buy and sell commodities such as fish, iron ore and sugar.  Among other things, COL had a website and marketing materials, which boasted of a track record of paying investors returns on investment ranging from approximately 3% within 15 days to 33% within 105 days. The indictment alleges that these representations were false.  COL did not have profitable contracts.  Also, Howard, Saa, Gallo and others misappropriated the investors’ funds for other purposes. The indictment also alleges that Howard, Saa, Gallo and others solicited funds for ownership units in COL, falsely representing that the funds would be used for COL’s working capital.  Instead, Howard, Saa and others misappropriated over $1.3 million of the funds invested in ownership units.

The indictment further alleges that Howard, Gallo, Casey and other co-conspirators falsely represented that after May of 2010, Howard was no longer involved in the management of COL, and that Casey, who is an attorney, was the top person in charge of COL.  Also, the indictment alleges that these defendants made material omissions in that they failed to disclose the criminal background of Howard, which included federal cocaine and firearm convictions, as well as the criminal background of Gallo, which included federal convictions for bank fraud, cocaine, and transmitting a threat to injure.  The indictment further alleges that these defendants omitted that Gallo was serving a term of supervised release during the same time that he shared authority with Howard over COL. In addition to the fraud charges, the indictment alleges that Howard, Saa, Gallo, Balbirer and others conspired to engage in monetary transactions over $10,000 involving criminally derived funds.  The indictment alleges that multiple other companies were used to move investor funds for the benefit of these defendants.  The companies included American Financial Solutions, LLC controlled by Gallo and Balbirer, Sutton Capital, LLC controlled by Howard, and Minjo Corp. controlled by Balbirer. The indictment also includes a forfeiture allegation.  The property listed in the indictment includes approximately $21,631,466 in proceeds from the charged offenses, and a Mercedes-Benz S63. >>> Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI and the cooperative efforts of the Miami Regional Office of the Securities and Exchange Commission.  This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ana Maria Martinez. Also today, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced it filed a separate civil case against Howard, Gallo, and Casey for securities fraud, seeking injunctive relief, disgorgement, and monetary penalties. An indictment is only an accusation; the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at


>>> Press release: Gov. Scott taps C. Howard Hunter and Gilbert M. Singer to the Thirteenth Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission.

Hunter, 57, of Brandon, has practiced with Hill Ward Henderson P.A. since 2000.  Previously, he practiced with Freeman, Hunter, and Malloy from 1993 to 2000, and with Melkus & Hunter from 1983 to 1993. His community involvement includes serving on the executive board of the Gulf Ridge Council of the Boy Scouts of America since 2000 and as president of the Tampa Bay Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates since 1997. He previously served on the Thirteenth Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission from 2000 to 2006. Hunter received bachelor’s and law degrees from Florida State University. He succeeds S. Cary Gaylord and is appointed for a term beginning September 7, 2012, and ending July 1, 2016.

Singer, 56, of Tampa, has been practicing with Marcadis Singer P.A. since 2011. Previously, he practiced with Russ Sauer P.A. from 1979 to 1994 and 1999 to 2011. He has served on the Florida Commission on Human Relations since 2002 and was elected chair in 2011. Singer received a bachelor’s degree from Emory University and a law degree from the University of Miami. He succeeds Charles W. Kearney and is appointed for a term beginning September 7, 2012, and ending July 1, 2016.


>>> Press release: Port St. Lucie Man Pleads Guilty to Attempted Computer Hacking

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Michael B. Steinbach, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, announced that defendant Skylar Ian Feurstein, 20, of Port St. Lucie, Florida, pled guilty today to charges of attempting to access a protected computer in interstate and foreign commerce, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1030(a)(2) and (b). Sentencing has been scheduled for December 17, 2012, at 2:00 p.m. before U.S. District Judge Jose E. Martinez. At sentencing, Feurstein faces a possible maximum statutory sentence of one year in prison.

According to the allegations in the original indictment, a superseding information, and statements made in court, in October 2010, Feurstein began communicating online with a young woman living in London, England.  The two communicated by email, social networking sites, and webcam. By the end of 2011, the woman tried to end the communication. Feurstein, however, continued to email her and threatened to harm her and her family.

In January 2012, the victim contacted the Metropolitan Police in London to complain of the defendant’s continued threats to her, her family, and her coworkers. British authorities asked the FBI for assistance in Florida.  In February, 2012, FBI special agents visited the defendant at his home in Port St. Lucie, and advised him to stop.  He did not, and the victim continued to receive email threats into March 2012.  Some of the emails contained death threats with subject titles such as “I will kill you” or “I will kill you and your family.” During the course of his conduct, defendant attempted electronically to access the victim’s email accounts on both the computer servers of her internet service provider, located in California, and on her personal computer, located in the United Kingdom. >>> Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Theodore Cooperstein. 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 Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at or on


>>> Top Administrator Gastesi caught in scandal regarding buying hot iPhones &i Pads, grand jury believes he should have known items were hot

Roman Gastesi, the Monroe County Administrator is getting some local ink for his purchase of some stolen iPads and iPhones at a discount price and while a Monroe Grand Jury recommended he should be fired. That cry for termination from the county commission seems to becoming muted and will be discussed at the county commission meeting on Tuesday at the Marathon government building location. Gastesi, a former Miami-Dade County water tsar in the early 2000s when Steve Shiver was the county manager vaulted into the top administrative job for Monroe County in May of 2008, and his contract a while back was renewed until 2015 until this flap occurred the last few weeks.

He earns $185,000 in salary, he gets another $950.00 a month in car allowance, and his friends are saying he did not know the items being bought out of a trunk, at a reduced cost were stolen. However, the grand jury believed while he may not have known, he should have, given the circumstances. And for some people it raises the question of his fitness to be in this top county post that also had county Commissioner Heather Carruthers also purchasing some of the hot items. And she was recently reelected unopposed for another four year term representing commission District 3. And last week the Watchdog Report contacted Gastesi by email asking for a comment but I did not receive a response from him by my deadline. For more on the story go to >>> >>> >>> Upcoming budget story:




>>> Gov. Scott taps Mark T. Porter to the position of Monroe County Superintendent of Schools.

Porter, 56, of Key West, is the deputy superintendent of the Monroe County School District. With 32 years of service in public education, Porter has been a teacher and administrator, as well as a school board member. He previously held several leadership positions within South Washington County Schools, including director, assistant superintendent and superintendent from 2000 to 2012. Porter received a bachelor’s degree from St. Olaf College and a law degree from William Mitchell College of Law. He will fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Jesus F. Jara and is appointed for a term beginning September 5, 2012, and ending January 7, 2013.


>>>  September 11th, Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce Elections Forum, 11:30am, 1601 Biscayne Blvd, Ballroom Level

>>> FLAMENCO FESTIVAL MIAMI 2013 featuring Ballet Flamenco de Andalucía -March 14 – 17, 2013, Tickets: $25 – $90 John S. and James L. Knight Concert Hall. Flamenco Festival Miami returns for a sixth glorious season of world-class flamenco dance and music with Spain’s massively popular Ballet Flamenco de Andalucía, coming to Miami for the first time, direct from the land where flamenco was born! This renowned company includes 18 dancers, singers and musicians, directed by the award-winning flamenco star, Ruben Olmo. The company presents the Miami premiere of a new evening-length work, Metáfora, a dazzling kaleidoscope of castanets, fans, traditional flamenco “bata de cola” dresses, effervescent heel-and-toe step combinations, demanding technique and jaw-dropping athleticism. Flamenco Festival Miami 2013 is sponsored in part by TotalBank. PERFORMANCE DATES AND TIMES: Thursday, March 14 @ 8 p.m.

Friday, March 15 @ 8 p.m. Saturday, March 16 @ 8 p.m. Sunday, March 17 @ 5 p.m. TICKETS: Tickets range from $25 to $90. Tickets will be available to Arsht Center Members beginning on August 31 and to the general public on September 8. Tickets can be purchased by calling the Box Office at (305) 949-6722 For further information, the public may visit

>>> 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 or call: Bianca Fernandez – 305-547-6802 Mary Faraldo – 786-218-9748


>>> Is Monroe County Administrator Gastesi’s fate to stay or go after buying hot iPhones & iPads from the trunk of a car?

Note to the general public and public employees, when someone offers you a deal to buy something like an iPhone or iPad from the trunk of their car. You can assume this is not an authorized Apple store or franchise and should figure the devices are hot. The story in the Monroe County section of Administrator Roman Gastesi and county Commissioner Heather Carruthers, along with 18 other people being given or buying some of these devices, at a cut-rate price, should have been a red flag for anyone with common sense a local grand jury notes. And while the Monroe Commission will debate what to do with Gastesi this Tuesday, a person the Watchdog Report actually has gotten to know over the past decade. This is not his finest hour, though his supporters say it is no big deal, but it is because of its stupidity for someone making over $200,000 when all the salary and benefits are thrown in, and why not just go to the Apple Store and do it legitimately rather than take the devices from the trunk of a car.

Gastesi during his tenure has been a strong advocate for Monroe in the Florida Legislature, he has gotten millions in state money for infrastructure and new water, sewer pipes for the Keys, and he is a capable administrator. However, the dilemma with the phones is this involves someone’s character and now the commission has to deal with it. Though Carruthers should recuse herself since she participated in the deal as well, but since she was just reelected for another four years. The Watchdog Report would be surprised if she does excuse herself from voting on the matter on the belief it would be no big deal if she voted, despite the conflict. And if Gastesi is retained this  issue will follow him for the rest of his life on the web, and the Watchdog Report hopes getting this great deal was worth it. For being named in a grand jury report is not a resume builder that is easily forgotten by the public at large.


>>> A reader questions if I am obsessed with financial disclosure forms

Reader: I enjoy your reports and appreciate all of your efforts to bring them to us. One thing I notice though is constant reporting of net worth’s of politicians and other public officials.  Are we to be jealous and envious of them?  Or are we to assume that their wealth is the result of nefarious activity?  It seems to be an obsession, how wealthy pubic servants are.  I am not wealthy myself, so I’m not defending “my own” at this point.  Report it if you insist.  But Class warfare is unbecoming and small minded.  Otherwise, Dan, you do a great job!

WDR: It is not an obsession, but it does give a clue of what is going on with their financial life. I picked up Sheriff Jenne had outside income back in 2003 and Miami Mayor Manny Diaz suddenly listed $425,000 in cash one year. Further, these documents are notarized and act as a baseline and when I review past years, you look for a sudden increase or decrease. I actually like to have our politicians doing well. It’s the ones right on the fiscal edge that sometimes concern me. Class warfare has nothing to do with why I run these. I do it because no one else is looking at any of this in the media and with the authorities.

Reader: Thanks for your thoughtful reply.  Your point is well taken and yes, that makes sense. Great job.

>>> The Parent Academy is hosting a KidCare volunteer training session next week and is also recruiting trained volunteers to assist with outreach activities at The Children’s Trust Family Expo on Saturday, September 15, 2012 at the Miami-Dade Youth Fair & Expo. Next week’s training session will last no more than a few hours. You will be given a working understanding of Florida’s KidCare insurance program and how to assist families with enrolling their child or children in the program. Tuesday, September 11, 3pm – 5pm, The UnitedWay, Ansin Building, Conference Room C, 3250 SW 3rd Ave., Miami, FL 33129. The few hours you can commit will be what is needed to make a significant difference in ensuring more children have access to a doctor and proper health care. To register for the training or if you have questions email

Nick Duran, Health Care Coordinator




THE MIAMI HERALD (2000-2008)


WILLIAM HUGGETT, Seamen Attorney (Deceased)


LINDA E. RICKER (Deceased)



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The Watchdog Report covers a few of the meetings attended weekly. It remains my belief that an informed public will make better decisions. Therefore, I go to meetings, make the presence of an informed citizen known, and bring the information to you.   The Watchdog Report is in the fourth year of publication and it has been an honor to be able to send this information to you. It is sent to readers in Miami-Dade, Florida, the U.S. and the world. The Watchdog Report is sent to thousands free and while readers have been prodded to subscribe the results have been mixed. Over 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

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>>> 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 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. … >>>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

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 -“First Friday” WPBT TV (Miami) TV Show –Lucy Morgan St. Petersburg Times Column –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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