Argus Report: Romney goes aggressive in Denver; Obama more laid back, but it ratchets up the heat for both campaigns to do well in next two debates with clock ticking down
Florida: With flameout of state Rep. Horner, GOP rebounds with candidate LaRosa against Democrat Game who gets help from state’s Democratic Party in flyer
Miami-Dade County: Who will be next BCC chair up in the air, two incumbents winning or losing in weeks ahead, could be a key variable in new BCC leadership vote in Dec.
Miami-Dade Public Schools: New strategic communications director at Friends of WLRN Ross says no conflict of interest as a Boynton Beach commissioner, no comment on photo controversy
Public Health Trust: Let’s cut to the chase, the FRB overseeing JHS is only independent when county commissioners and others want it to be, which is OK, buts lets lose the illusion that it is otherwise
City of Miami: When it comes to future Miami pension obligations, “Backdrop Option” is the key to understanding projected figures says city budget guru Alfonso
City of Hialeah: Miami Man Pleads Guilty in Illegal Refrigerant Smuggling Operation
City of Miami Beach: Mt. Sinai Medical Center stays in black in 2011, while giving over $112 million in charity care, has $3.2 billion in yearly economic impact
City of North Miami: Councilman Scott Galvin on CRA employee with radio gig
City of Coral Gables: In battle for mayor in City Beautiful, will the high road be taken or how low will Cason and Cabrera go?
City of Opa Locka: Opa-Locka Police Captain Charged with Drug Offenses Pleads Guilty
City of Miami Springs: Check out the haunted Curtis Mansion!
Village of Palmetto Bay: Candidates should expect to debate in council races, voters deserve it
>>> Other stories around Florida
Broward County: Wage Theft is spreading to Broward County new FIU study finds: The Theft of Millions of Unpaid Wages – report finds wage theft to be a spreading, illegal, anti-business practice in Broward County
Pembroke Pines: Feds Operation Double Dip Results in Charges against Ten Broward Residents for Defrauding Federal Unemployment Insurance Program
Palm Beach County: Local Lawn Service Owner Sentenced for Employment Tax Fraud and for Filing a False Tax Return
Community Events: Regional Planning meetings around the counties — Arsht Center events– Kristi House event
Editorials: When will the candy jar of the 11 CRAs in M-DC be capped, workers doing other jobs while on the public dime not acceptable, ineffective true fiscal oversight under the FL laws – 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
Letters: Help with Arthritis Foundation run in NYC Marathon – MDX increase in local expressway tolls plan – Anti Bullying month, unacceptable says Rep. Ros-Lehtinen – MIA Dir. Abreu says WDR accurate as always
Sponsors – Publisher’s mission statement & Subscription information is at the bottom of this issue — Scroll down for all the headline stories text
>>> Just because you do not take an interest in politics does not mean politics will not take an interest in you. –Pericles (430 B.C.)
>>> If you wish to be deleted, just e-mail me with that message and you are free to e-mail this on to friends.
>>> The Watchdog Report publisher would like to thank the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation www.knightfoundation.org for funding by the Knight Foundation with technical support from the Knight Center for International Media http://knight.miami.edu within the University of Miami’s School of Communication www.miami.edu to maintain my webpage. The Watchdog Report webpage is free, has no ads, pops-up and is just the news in a mainstream reporting manner.
>>> May you and your family have a great but safe Columbus Day Holiday, and if you are on the water, please be careful for the ocean and other boaters can be very unforgiving in their actions during this time of general merriment at sea.
>>> The Watchdog Report www.watchdogreport.net will be online Wednesday, not Monday as usual.
>>> CORRECTION: The Florida Safe Harbor Act (related to Human Trafficking) actually goes into effect January 1, 2013. There was a change in the law on July 1, 2012, but the new Safe Harbor Act does not begin until 2013.
ARGUS REPORT – Heard, Seen on the Street
>>> Romney goes aggressive in Denver; Obama more laid back, ratchets up the heat for both campaigns to do well in next two debates with clock ticking down
National Democrats, looking for a political knockout of Mitt Romney by President Barack Obama in Denver Wednesday night were stunned when the former Massachusetts governor seemed to be the engaged one in the debate, and Obama while calm, almost seemed passive and unengaged that included a split television screen showing both men’s reactions to the others comments. Romney also went after the moderator, Jim Lehrer, with PBS and how he was running the debate and it included the president also jumping in and commenting on the rules of the event. The Watchdog Report since the Wednesday night event has asked a wide variety of people what they thought of the debate, and most members of the GOP thought Obama got his “butt kicked.” And many Democrats suggested it was a draw and the president’s performance elicited a comment from former Vice President Al Gore saying it was because Obama was not used to the thin air in the Mile High City that had Romney arriving the day before and possible being more acclimated to the thin air.
However, the pressure now is on with only 29 days for both candidates to lift their game during the last two-debate face offs and the verbal battle among the number two candidates, Vice President Joe Biden and U.S Rep. Paul Ryan on Thursday at 9:00 p.m. and the importance of their performance is ratcheted up. But it is clear Romney and his supporters are feeling pumped after this debate, though a national jobs report Friday showing a drop of the unemployment rate to 7.8 percent is dampening some of that enthusiasm. And Republicans are firing back and questioning if the job numbers have been manipulated believing the data does not count the people that have given up looking for a job. And the job’s report is artificially keeping the number of unemployed lower, than what they say is the reality of the job market and national economy. And the cherry on the top of this whole affair for Obama was how Saturday Night Live http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/debate-cold-open/1419927 portrayed it and the show was brutal on the president, a comedic show that has overall been kind to him when he was first running back in 2008 and skewered then Republican Alaskan Gov. Sarah Palin.
>>> Greater Miami Chamber vote at Hob Nob a tie for president, taken just before the debate Wednesday
The results of the Greater Miami Chamber Hob Nob taken before the presidential candidate debate in Denver had the following results sent to the Watchdog Report by a reader. Here are the results in his own words: Miami’s first ever HOB NOB hosted by the Greater Miami Chamber, and a coalition of community organizations and the Coalition of Chambers was held tonight at Miami Dade College downtown. A gathering of candidates and members from the various organizations conducted an unofficial straw poll. The results are in – The surprise of the night – Obama and Romney on the same night of their first debate – TIE VOTE
The other winners in the vote were
Sen. Bill Nelson, Cong. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Cong. Mario Diaz Balart, Joe Garcia, Ileana Ros Lehtinen, State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, Sen. Gwen Margolis, Dwight Bullard for Senate, Rep. Sharon Prtichett, Manny Diaz Jr., Rep. Carlos Trujillo, Rep. Barbara Watson, Rep. Jose Oliva, Rep. Eddy Gonzalez, Jose Javier Rodriguez (over Alex Diaz de la Portilla), Rep. Eric Fresen, Rep. Michael Bileca, Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, Rep. Jeanette Nunez, Kionne McGhee, Rep. Frank Artilles, Holly Merrrill Raschein (announced as by the largest margin of any candidate), Judge Andrea Wolfson, Commission Audrey Edmonson, Rep. Luis Garcia for County Commission over incumbent Bruno Barreiro and Rep. Juan Carlos Zapata for County Commission.
>>> Press release: Hugo Chavez’s Attempts to Defraud Voters Must Not be Tolerated, Ros-Lehtinen Says Ros-Lehtinen Encourages All Venezuelans to Vote for a Free and Fair Democracy this Sunday
U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, made the following statement today regarding Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez’s attempts to defraud voters ahead of Sunday’s Venezuelan election. Statement by Ros-Lehtinen: “Since he first came to power, Hugo Chavez has sought to maintain his grip over the Venezuelan people by any means necessary. That is why as we approach the Venezuelan election, it comes as no surprise that Chavez is actively seeking to deny the Venezuelan people their democratic rights and silence them through intimidation, coercion, and manipulation.
“In an attempt to stifle dissent, Chavez has increased his targeting and harassment of media outlets through outrageous and unwarranted fines; has removed judges who have not aligned themselves with his agenda; and has even made last minute ballot changes to confuse the electorate. He continues to deny access to international election monitors, and has even closed the consulate in Miami in hopes of discouraging the large Venezuelan exile community in the United States from taking part in Sunday’s election. Despite Chavez’s dirty tactics and massive political machine, the opposition candidate Henrique Capriles and his supporters have made great strides and are gaining momentum ahead of the election.
“The Venezuelan people deserve a free, fair, and transparent election, and Chavez’s attempts to defraud voters must not be tolerated. The Venezuelan people deserve a democratic government that respects human rights and the rule of law, not the Chavez dominated tyranny that has existed for over a decade. I encourage all Venezuelans to vote on Sunday for a free Venezuela and bring an end to Chavez’s reign of oppression.”
>>> 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 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 www.CBS4.com and The Florida Roundup on www.wlrn.org
>>> With flameout of state Rep. Horner, GOP rebounds with candidate LaRosa against Democrat Game who gets help from state’s Democratic Party in flyer
The sudden resignation of state Rep. Mike Horner, R- Kissimmee after his name surfaced in a prostitution ring bust as being a client has sent a torpedo into the Florida Republican Party and the GOP is trying to bounce back. http://www.tampabay.com/news/politics/florida-rep-mike-horner-resigns-amid-prostitution-ring-investigation/1253223 The GOP was unable to get Horner’s name off the ballot in late September and the party is now running Michael La Rosa, a real estate developer against Democratic Party candidate Eileen Game for the State House Dist. 42 seat. Horner had a major fundraising advantage with $223,900 in his campaign war chest before the abrupt resignation to Game’s around $16,900 but she is now getting help from the Florida Democratic Party that sent out extensive campaign flyers (as reported by Bill Cotterell in the www.miamiherald.com ) giving her campaign a recent boost.
However, for either political party a scandal where a candidate has to drop out at the last minute before an election is a nightmare and leaves an opening for the challenger. The new redrawn house district leans slightly Democratic but the variable is 20 percent are independent voters and it went for Gov. Rick Scott in 2010 and Sen. John McCain in 2008 narrowly squeaked a victory in the district against President Barack Obama.
What do we know about Horner’s finances?
Horner through December 2011 had a net worth of $316,000 and he lists $32,500 in household goods in his most recent financial disclosure forms on file with the state. The former state legislator’s home is worth $360,000, three rental houses are valued at $55,000, $50,000, and $65,000, a 401K has $144,500 in it and there is $9,376 in the Florida Prepaid College Program. His liabilities for the year were a mortgage owed $329,000, another loan is $90,000 and a third is owed $6,000 and he filed his IRS 1040 for 2011, and his gross joint income with his wife was $206,650 and he paid $27,864 after deductions in taxes.
>>> Gov. Scott press release: Excerpt from today’s Orlando Business Journal: “Florida ranks No. 7 for its increase in leisure and hospitality jobs, and the good news is employment in the industry is on the rise. “The Sunshine State had 968,700 hospitality jobs as of August 2012, up 13,900 from 954,800 jobs in August 2011, according to a new On Numbers analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.” For the entire story, visit: http://www.bizjournals.com/orlando/news/2012/10/04/florida-ranks-no-7-for-increase-in.html
>>> Press release: Florida TaxWatch Releases 2012 Voter Guide — Florida TaxWatch released its 2012 Voter Guide, an informational report on all 11 proposed amendments to Florida’s Constitution set to go before voters in November. ”With 2012 being a presidential election year, the proposed amendments to Florida’s Constitution can be overshadowed by the national race,” said Dominic M. Calabro, President & CEO of Florida TaxWatch. “These amendments are proposing to change our state’s founding document, and those changes must not be taken lightly. Florida TaxWatch provides this Voter Guide to help ensure that Florida voters have as much factual information about these proposals as possible.”
Consistent with the research and educational mission of Florida TaxWatch, the 2012 Voter Guide is the third consecutive Guide released during a statewide election cycle. TaxWatch released similar Guides in 2010 and 2008, and has written extensively on individual Constitutional Amendments going back nearly 30 years. The 2012 Voter Guide can be viewed by amendment or downloaded in full at: www.floridataxwatch.org/2012guide.aspx
>>> Florida Insurance Consumer Advocate Westcott Outlines Important Questions Regarding Recently Approved Surplus Note Take-Out Program
Florida Insurance Consumer Advocate Robin Smith Westcott sent a letter today to Citizens Property Insurance Corporation Chairman Carlos Lacasa outlining several questions that she says should be addressed at the next Board meeting on October 9 to ensure that the recently approved surplus note take-out program serves the best interest of Florida insurance policyholders. “The Office of the Insurance Consumer Advocate shares the Board’s goal of depopulating Citizens and reducing the potential assessments on all property and casualty policyholders in the state,” Westcott wrote. “The surplus note take-out program tentatively approved at the last Board meeting appears to advance this goal. However, Citizens must assure consumers and policymakers that a thorough cost-benefit analysis justifies the commitment of up to $350 million of Citizens’ surplus, as this program would allow.”
>>> 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.
>>> Who will be next BCC chair up in the air, incumbents winning or losing in weeks ahead could be a key variable in new leadership vote in Dec.
With the two-year term of Miami-Dade Commission Chair Joe Martinez coming to an end the end of November, some long term commissioners are jockeying for the position say multiple sources at county hall. The commissioners putting their hat in the ring are Rebeca Sosa, Barbara Jordan, Dennis Moss (A previous BCC chair like Martinez was), Jose “Pepe” Diaz and Xavier Suarez, a long shot is also in the mix.
Part of the unknown equation is if incumbents Commissioners Bruno Barreiro and Commission Vice Chair Audrey Edmonson fend off their challengers, state Rep. Luis Garcia, D-Miami and Keon Hardemon respectively in the Nov. 6 General Election. Barreiro through Sept. 28 had raised $294,753 and spent $252,000 for his campaign to retain his Commission District 5 seat. In addition, Garcia has raised $5,475 in the last reporting period and spent $7,586 but Garcia in total has raised around $125,400 for his campaign to date. Hardemon through the September time period raised $8,220 versus incumbent Edmonson who throughout the race has raised $293,061 and she has spent $229,305 through that month to retain her District 3 seat on the 13-member commission.
What about the Commission Dist. 11 race?
Former state Rep. Juan Carlos Zapata, R-Miami is facing off in the runoff election against Manny Machado and Zapata on the Aug. 14 primary day election got 48 percent of the vote to Machado’s 37 percent, and a third candidate Javier Munoz garnered 15 percent of the total vote for the county seat that represents west Miami-Dade. Commissioner Joe Martinez who ran unsuccessfully for county mayor against Mayor Carlos Gimenez in August has represented the district since 2000, but the election is still being contested in the courts because of absentee ballot vote irregularities, but it opened up the seat.
Zapata for his campaign has raised $407,421 and expended $309,622 through Sept. 28 and Machado through that same period has raised $69,045 and has spent $68,163 for his campaign through September state campaign reports. Zapata seems to be essentially running his campaign on his own. While Machado has hired Marin and Sons Consulting headed up by political operative Steve Marin who was paid $6,000 state’s Machado’s campaign report and the local Police Benevolent Association is also backing Machado with campaign donations.
BCC Chair Martinez
>>> Press release: With the November 6, 2012 General Election just five weeks away, voters are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the ballot content before casting their vote.
The upcoming election consists of candidate races at all levels of government, 11 state constitutional amendments, one school board question, and 10 County questions. In addition, 17 municipalities have contests on the ballot. Since this ballot is a lengthy one, voters should prepare in advance by viewing their voter-specific customized sample ballot available on the Elections Department’s website. By entering minimal voter information, voters can quickly view a sample ballot containing exactly what they are eligible to vote on. This gives voters the opportunity to make their decisions prior to voting, thereby expediting their voting experience. “Due to length of the ballot, I encourage registered voters to be Election Ready. So, whether they vote early, by absentee or on Election Day, it will be a faster and more efficient process if they take the opportunity to review their sample ballot ahead of time,” said Supervisor of Elections Penelope Townsley. “I would even suggest printing the sample ballot and having it handy while they vote.” Please visit www.miamidade.gov/elections/regist-status.asp to view a customized sample ballot.
>>> Press release: Beacon Council Past Chair Alex Villoch Wins IEDC Citizen Leadership Award – The Beacon Council is pleased to announce Past Chair Alexandra (Alex) Villoch, Senior Vice President of Advertising & Marketing for the Miami Herald Media Company, as the recipient of the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) Citizen Leadership Award. “I am deeply honored by this recognition from the IEDC, but most importantly the acknowledgment of the value of private/public partnerships in economic development,” Villoch said. “Creating job opportunities and strengthening businesses is essential to the future of our communities, which is the core of The Beacon Council’s mission. It is incredible to see the powerful transformation that comes from a person getting a job that allows them to provide for their family. This is truly the heart of economic development.”
This prestigious award was bestowed at the IEDC Annual Conference in Houston on Monday, Oct. 1, 2012. The Beacon Council nominated Villoch for providing outstanding volunteer leadership for more than two decades; serving on The Beacon Council Board of Directors, as a Past Chair and most recently as Chair Emeritus of the One Community One Goal Target Industry Strategic Plan, after serving two years as Co-Chair. She is Past Chair of Big Brothers and Big Sisters Board of Miami-Dade County; she is on the Board of Governors of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, and also serves on the Miami Dade College Foundation. She chaired the United Way’s Women’s Leadership Initiative.
“Ms. Villoch’s outstanding volunteer leadership clearly warranted national attention at the highest level,” said Immediate Past Beacon Council Chairman Alan Becker who wrote a letter in support of Villoch’s nomination to IEDC. “She has been able to successfully mobilize business, government and education leadership to implement Miami-Dade County’s job-creation mission.” At the Miami Herald Media Company, she is responsible for leading and developing sales and advertising strategies across all product lines as well as spearheading the company’s marketing efforts. She is also responsible for heading HCP/Aboard, a custom publishing company owned by the Miami Herald Media Company, which produces 36 different books and publications with over 115 editions.
Prior to joining the Miami Herald, she was the General Manager for Miami International Airport & the Caribbean for United Airlines, with responsibility over all passenger and cargo operations, sales functions, as well as government relations. >>> About The Beacon Council – The Beacon Council, Miami-Dade County’s official economic development partnership, is a not-for-profit, public-private organization that focuses on job creation and economic growth by coordinating community-wide programs; promoting minority business and urban economic revitalization; providing assistance to local businesses in their expansion efforts; and marketing Greater Miami throughout the world. For more information on The Beacon Council, visit www.beaconcouncil.com.
>>> GMCVB press release: RECORD DEMAND FOR TRAVEL TO GREATER MIAMI AND THE BEACHES REMAINS STRONG IN JANUARY – AUGUST 2012 RESULTING IN INCREASES IN GREATER MIAMI’S TOURIST-RELATED TAX COLLECTIONS
Through the first eight months of 2012, the Tourist Development Tax collections (excluding MIAMI Beach, Bal Harbour and Surfside) totaled $13,979,129 compared to $12,692,473 in 2011 for an increase of +10.1%. The 3% Convention Development Tax (CDT) collections for Greater MIAMI and the Beaches totaled $41,967,629 compared to $38,303,277 for the same period last year representing a +9.6% increase in 2012. The 2% Food and Beverage tax collections from hotels in MIAMI-Dade (excluding MIAMI Beach, Bal Harbour, and Surfside) generated $4,430,319 compared to $4,063,900 in 2011, for an increase of +9.0%.
MIAMI-DADE PUBLIC SCHOOL
>>> New strategic communications director at Friends of WLRN Ross says no conflict of interest as a Boynton Beach commissioner, no comment on new photo controversy
Marlene Ross, a City of Boynton Beach commissioner and the new Strategic Communication’s director for Friends of WLRN, the fundraising arm of the public broadcast station WLRN in Miami is raising eyebrows for a couple of reasons. Journalists in the media cite a concern over an elected leader in this capacity since the station’s signal covers her municipality, but a bigger revelation last week in the general circulation media has also raised the red flag higher. An investigation by the state attorney’s office recently made public states that Ross was concerned about being blackmailed because she had sent a cousin, she was dating for a period of time, some nude photos, and a local lobbyist she believed indicated he knew about the photos and tried to influence her vote on the dais.
after first cooperating with the state investigation broke it off, and authorities without any final resolution closed out the case. http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2012-10-03/news/fl-boynton-marlene-ross-20121003_1_boynton-commissioner-nude-photos-mayor-woodrow-hay >>> http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/news/local/mayor-suggests-marlene-ross-should-resign/nSRjw/ Further, in the investigative report she signed a document one way, and then later recanted, and said she signed it falsely and that is another wrinkle in the controversy.
The Watchdog Report contacted Ross by email asking for any comment on the ethical issue or the photos and she wrote back Friday. “Hello, Mr. Ricker. I held a similar position with the public broadcasting station in Palm Beach County for 13 years and have never had a conflict. Before I applied for my new position, I contacted the City Attorney for Boynton Beach in order to inquire about any potential conflicts. The only conflict I would ever have is if the station or Friends of WLRN were doing business with the City of Boynton Beach—in which case I would recuse myself. In my new role as Director of Strategic Communications, I am not a spokesperson for either organization, nor do I manage or oversee any media communications functions. My core responsibilities are strictly strategic and long-range planning, government relations, and outreach. Regarding the recent controversy, I respectfully decline to comment. Thank you. Marlene Figueroa Ross.” >>> To see her bio go to: http://www.boynton-beach.org/government/elected_officials/commissioner-district_4/index.html
>>> Press release: Earlier today Building for Tomorrow commenced its Schools First tour at Hialeah Senior High School. On the heels of a unanimous resolution in favor of the bond passed by the City of Hialeah Council, today’s visit centered on the improvements slated for the 59 year old High School. Like many of Miami-Dade County schools built in the middle of the last century, Hialeah Senior High (erected in 1953) is in serious need of exterior renovation, structural re-strengthening and technological upgrades. School Board Chairwoman Perla Tabares-Hantman and Miami-Dade County Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho were joined by Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez, Miami Springs Mayor Zavier Garcia, Hialeah Chairwoman Isis Garcia-Martinez and Council members Paul Hernandez and Katherine Cue.
“Something isn’t right when Hialeah High – where my daughter attends – looks pretty much the same as when I came here in the 1970s,” said Mayor Hernandez. “Under the Superintendent’s careful watch, this bond strikes me as a true win-win; better tools for ourkids, better environment to learn, and thousands of local jobs equaling better schools.” The Schools First Tour is aimed at identifying the critical needs facing our public schools, as well as highlighting the potential improvements that would result from the approval of the General Obligation Bond referendum proposed on the November 6th ballot. About Building for Tomorrow – Building for Tomorrow is a Political Committee formed to encourage Miami-Dade County residents to support the issuance of a $1.2 billion General Obligation Bond to renovate our school facilities, update educational technology, build school replacements, expand student capacity, and enhance facility safety. For additional information, please visit www.buildingfortomorrow.org or contact Tom Martinelli at (786)344-1708.
PUBLIC HEALTH TRUST
>>> Let’s cut to the chase, the FRB overseeing JHS is only independent when county commissioners and others want it to be which is OK, buts lets lose the illusion that it is otherwise
When it comes to the Public Health Trust administration being able to let out a Request For Proposal (RFP), anyone that thinks the Financial Recovery Board (FRB) is independent after the firestorm of seeing if the privatization of the Emergency Room and Roxy Bolton Rape Treatment Center should be considered. That controversy has lifted the veil one more time showing that while the FRB is trying mightily to keep the health trust solvent. Political considerations continue to come into play as county commissioners and state legislators protested even the suggestion of the idea, but this interference continues to tie the hands of the administration to try new ways to increase patient satisfaction and reduce wait times in the ER and at possible other facilities. Marcus Lapciuc, the FRB chair at last month’s board meeting said if they withdrew the RFP. The long wait times in the ER “are not a consequence,” he said, and he plans “to be a strong advocate for RFPs,” just to see if there is an alternative and a chance of saving money while still giving great healthcare Lapciuc said.
However, the Jackson Health System administration also needs to work more closely with the physicians and nurses and support staff in the unions in the coming months to make the ER more efficient because there are structural issues within the health system as well causing the delays of patient treatment that also must be considered. http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/10/05/3036753/jackson-doctors-complain-about.html#storylink=omni_popular Further, the following email came in from a FRB member who is traditionally supportive of the union’s positions and he is a former Miami-Dade Fire Rescue member. FRB member Joaquin del Cueto wrote the Watchdog Report last week that in the case of the ER. “We have identified over 700 patients that are using the ER more than 5 times a year. The question should be what is JHS doing to provide our unfunded patients with a managed care strategy and assign them to a medical home at one of those clinics? And the man raises a very good question and is also why JHS is trying to increase screenings and health maintenance centers and last week unveiled a large pink van that does digital Mammography screenings with the patient’s results available almost immediately.
However, over the past 15 years, the Watchdog Report has watched this periodic insertion of the political component into running the hospital, and this has inhibited some profound reforms over the years. And that fact is the most concerning aspect, for if there ever was a time for internal collaboration on these issues at JHS, it is now. For world class healthcare does not just happen and with around $200 million coming in from the countywide half-cent-sales tax this year and another $130 million from Miami-Dade County in a maintenance of effort payment. There is not enough money to cover the over $1 billion in charity care the public health system gives yearly, and has the health trust only having 9.3 days of cash on hand. Yet the public hospital burns through over $4 million of cash a day in medical and support staff and overhead given its 9,300 employees. And how to keep it the medical jewel of South Florida must be the only goal, and one of the ways to achieve that is to keep all of the options open with a dash of governance independence.
CITY OF MIAMI
>>> When it comes to future pension obligations, “Backdrop Option” is the key to understanding projected figures says budget guru Alfonso
The Watchdog Report got a couple of emails asking how the City of Miami was able to lower its public pension obligations for the new budget year and I contacted strategic budget director Daniel Alfonso about the issue last week. While I also asked some knowledgeable sources to look at his response to my original question about the assumptions and methodology that was used to make the calculations. My sources reviewing the data came back with the following comments, “I don’t know what this Backdrop Option is–which appears to be the key factor. Also note how they extended the amortization period for unfunded accrued liabilities by 5 years (translation: Kicked the can down the road an additional 5 years). Private industry is phasing out such costly pensions and replacing them with defined (401-k) benefit plans.
Alfonso came back with “I am attaching an explanation of the Backdrop, which is significant; particularly in the Police and Fire Rescue group. Your source is correct in stating that we have extended the amortization of the unfunded liability an additional five years. Please note that the State of Florida law allows for an amortization of up to 30 years, the City is now at 20 from 15. In terms of the Defined Benefit (like most Local, State, and Federal) plan versus a Defined Contribution (401K type) plans, and it is true that many corporations across America are moving in the direction of the latter. In a defined benefit plan, the employer bears the risk of the investment performance, but it also benefits if the plan’s investments do well; the 401K type plans shift the risk to the employee.
There are pros and cons to both plans. Local governments have not moved in the direction of defined contribution plans yet. It is important to note that in some cases the local government employees; particularly in the public safety sector, do not participate in Social Security. This means that the employee will depend only on their pension when they retire. Additionally, the City does not contribute to S.S. on the employees behalf either. That means that if there was to be a shift to a defined contribution plan, there may also need to be a S.S component that needs to be calculated in the equation. This makes it more difficult for the City to realize cost savings in the short to mid-range horizon. Later on if you get a chance, we can discuss some of these issues. They present interestingly complex challenge,” wrote back the city’s Management and Budget director.
>>> Mayor Regalado draws two challengers; Commissioner Carollo gets one, election Nov. 2013
Mayor Tomas Regalado has gotten his first challengers for his reelection and Jeffrey Anthony Benjamin and Williams Armbrister have both filed initial paperwork to challenge the incumbent for the city’s top post on Nov. 2013. Further, Commissioner Frank Carollo who represents commission District 3 has drawn challenger Alejandro Dominguez as well and he was first elected without a runoff in November 2009. However, rumors swirl that Commission Chair Francis Suarez is considering running for mayor, to try to follow in his father’s former Miami Mayor Xavier Suarez’s footsteps, now that the elder Suarez is a Miami-Dade County Commissioner.
But that decision by Suarez the younger whether to jump into the fray is on hold until early next year said a reliable source. In addition, there is speculation that Carollo may also jump into the race since his brother Joe was not only a Miami commissioner but also mayor from 1998 to late 2001 when he did not make the mayoral runoff and ultimately Mayor Manuel Diaz got the nod back then when he defeated former Miami Mayor Maurice Ferre in the runoff.
>>> Press release: (Notice) City of Miami Public Meeting October 11, 2012 for public discussion on commission redistricting
Two or more Commissioners may be participating in a public meeting from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. on October 11, 2012, at Our Lady of Lebanon Church, 2055 Coral Way, to provide information regarding the upcoming redistricting process and to afford an opportunity for City residents of Districts 4 to provide any input they desire regarding issues such as traditional neighborhoods, communities of interest and other topics relevant to the process of drawing new single member city commission districts. All City residents are welcomed to participate.
>>> Press release: Four Defendants Pled Guilty in Multi-Million Mortgage Fraud Scheme at Jade Apartment Complex in Miami
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, José A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CID), and Paula Reid, Special Agent in Charge, United States Secret Service, Miami Field Office, announce that defendants Lilia Casal-Diaz, 42, a real estate attorney, Raquel DeJesus Martinez, 36, a former mortgage broker, Andres Mendez a/k/a “Andy Mendez, Sr.,” 47, and his son, Andy Mendez, a/k/a Andy Mendez, Jr.,” 26, who both worked as real estate brokers, all of Miami-Dade County, have pled guilty to charges involving a multi-million dollar mortgage fraud scheme at the luxury Jade apartment complex, on Brickell Bay Drive, in Miami, Florida. According to court documents, the mortgage fraud scheme resulted in more than $5.6 million in mortgage proceeds that were fraudulently obtained from various lending institutions… The convictions of Casal-Diaz, DeJesus Martinez, Mendez Sr. and Mendez Jr., bring to eight the total number of persons convicted in connection with the same mortgage fraud scheme involving the Jade Apartments. Earlier, defendants Josephine Santana, 57, a mortgage broker, Jose Rafael Martinez, 36, a straw buyer, and Basilio Gomez, 52, also a straw buyer, and all of Miami-Dade County, pled guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud in connection with a multi-million dollar mortgage fraud scheme, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1349. Sentencing is scheduled for October 29, 2012.
In a related case, defendant Jose Arnaldo Rosario, 55, of Miami-Dade County, was sentenced on August 5, 2011 for his role in the scheme. Rosario was sentenced to 46 months in prison, to be followed by 3 years of supervised release. Rosario previously pled guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering and wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371. Rosario provided false information to the lending institution and received two kickbacks from the purchase of two apartments. >>> Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of IRS-CID and the U.S. Secret Service. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jerrob Duffy. 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 HIALEAH
>>> Miami Man Pleads Guilty in Illegal Refrigerant Smuggling Operation
Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Maureen O’Mara, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Criminal Investigation Division, Atlanta Area Office, Drusilla Hufford, Director, EPA’s Stratospheric Protection Division, and Alysa D. Erichs, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI), Miami Field Office, announced that defendant Norberto Guada, 43, of Hialeah, Florida, pled guilty yesterday in U.S. District Court in Miami on charges of knowingly importing approximately 15,640 kilograms of illegal hydrochlorofluorocarbon-22 (HCFC-22), contrary to the provisions of the Clean Air Act (CAA). HCFC-22 is a widely used refrigerant for residential heat pump and air-conditioning systems.
U.S. District Judge Donald Graham accepted Guada’s guilty plea to one count of the multiple-count indictment that had been filed against Guada and co-defendant Jorge G. Murillo. Guada faces a possible sentence of up to twenty years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and three years of supervised release. Sentencing is scheduled for December 11, 2012 at 2:20 p.m. The CAA regulates air pollutants, including ozone depleting substances, such as HCFC-22. The CAA and its implementing regulations established a schedule to phase out the production and importation of ozone depleting substances, with a complete ban starting in 2030. To meet its obligations under an international treaty to reduce its consumption of ozone depleting substances, the United States issued baseline consumption allowances for the production and importation of HCFC-22 to individuals and companies. To legally import HCFC-22, one must hold an unexpended consumption allowance. According to court records and a factual statement filed in court yesterday, Guada was hired as a salesman in February 2007 by a company known as Lateral Investments LLC (Lateral). Lateral was a Florida corporation, engaged in, among other things, importing merchandise, including refrigerant gas. Between June and August 2007, Lateral illegally smuggled large quantities of HCFC-22 into the United States to sell on the black market. At no time did Lateral or its principals hold unexpended consumption allowances that would have allowed them to legally import the HCFC-22… A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls.
CITY OF MIAMI BEACH
>>> Mt. Sinai Medical Center stays in black in 2011, while giving over $112 million in charity care, has $3.2 billion in yearly economic impact
The Mount Sinai Medical Center on Miami Beach released its annual Community Benefit Report and once again, the hospital closed the year in the black, something that had eluded the Beach’s only hospital for years. However, while closing in the black, the teaching hospital created more than 60 years ago reports it also gave $112.6 million in charity care and that has increased from $91.2 million in the proceeding year, and was $84.9 million in 2009. The medical complex provides physicians and specialists across the medical spectrum and quality healthcare is being given since there is an affiliation with Columbia University in New York City and there are satellite medical centers on Key Biscayne, Hialeah, Coral Gables and there is a freestanding emergency center in Aventura, notes the report. And the institution is a prized fixture on the Beach and it is the only hospital still open on the island municipality and is highly coveted for not only it’s saving of life, but also it generates $3.2 billion in economic impact to the surrounding community.
Mount Sinai in 2011 had 22,926 patient admissions, there were 11,900 total surgeries, the ER got 60,114 visits and 2,748 babies were delivered for the 2011 year. Mt. Sinai also gave 4,204 free heart health and memory screenings and the institution’s foundation has 17,500 in donors and corporations. The organization has 3,221 employees, there are 657 physicians on staff, there are 951 nurses and the National Institute of Health kicked in $3.2 million for research funding. Further, Mount Sinai’s academic center trained 166 residents and fellows for the year and provides training for Florida International University, Nova Southeastern University, Barry University, and the University of Miami’s students. And the hospital system has a host of Centers of Excellence ranging from Maternity and Neonatology to an Orthopedic Center of Excellence. >>> The Watchdog Report gives President and CEO Steven D. Sonenreich a Tip of the Hat for keeping the health system in the black while also giving $112 million in charity care.
>>> The Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club that meets at David’s Café is featuring state Sen. Gwen Margolis, D-Miami as its speaker and the event is free and open to the public. For more information go to www.MBTMBC.com (Miami Beach Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club).
>>> GMCVB press release: Through the first eight months of 2012, the 3% Hotel Room t tax collections for MIAMI Beach hotels (excluding MIAMI Dade, Bal Harbour and Surfside) totaled $21,126,549 compared to $19,215,527 in 2011 for an increase of +9.9%. The 2% Food and Beverage tax collections from hotels and restaurants in MIAMI Beach (excluding MIAMI Dade, Bal Harbour, and Surfside) generated $16,854,643 compared to $15,983,556 in 2011, an increase of +5.4%.
CITY OF NORTH MIAMI
>>> Press release from Councilman Scott Galvin on CRA employee with radio gig
CRA Coordinator Working Radio Job While on the Clock at City Hall – I can’t begin to tell you how furious I am. The Miami Herald uncovered this weekend that Lesly Prudent, the Coordinator of the North Miami Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) is broadcasting a daily radio that, in part, endorses political candidates. While on the clock at City Hall. While getting paid by taxpayers an annual salary over $77,000. While the City ALSO paid to air advertisements on his show. Are you kidding me?! It is no excuse to brush this off by saying that the rules are different because he’s a CRA employee, and technically not a City employee.
If Mr. Prudent wants to work a second job, he should do so on his own time. And our City Manager can not create a different set of standards for CRA and City employees. City rules say CRA employees enjoy the same benefits. Thus, they should be held to the same rules. And our Charter clearly states a City employee can not campaign on the job, hold outside employment without reporting it, and can not be subcontracted with by the City. Mr. Prudent’s radio show, which airs at 1:30 pm each day on WLQY 1320 AM, would apparently violate all three of these rules. Mr. Prudent should end his outside work while on city time, and dedicate his full efforts to the CRA job for which he was hired.
>>> Press release: U.S. Marine Pleads Guilty in Identity Theft Tax Refund Fraud Scheme Targeting U.S. Marines
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Michael B. Steinbach, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, and José A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CI), Miami Field Office, announced that Jobson Cenor, 23, of North Miami, pled guilty before U.S. District Judge Robert N. Scola to one count of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft in connection with an identity theft tax refund fraud scheme. Sentencing for Cenor is scheduled for December 14, 2012. He faces a possible maximum statutory sentence of 22 years in prison. According to documents filed in court, in 2011, Cenor and co-conspirator Dorothy Boulin agreed on a plan to use stolen personal identifying information (names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers) of individuals to file fraudulent tax returns seeking refunds. On July 12, 2012, Dorothy Boulin was sentenced to 70 months imprisonment by U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore.
According to documents filed and statements made in court, in late 2011 and early 2012, defendant Cenor provided Boulin with more than a hundred names, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers of U.S. Marines, many of whom were serving in Cenor’s unit in Afghanistan. Cenor provided the personal identity information to Boulin by creating draft messages in e-mail accounts with the personal identifying information and then sending Boulin the log-in information for the e-mail accounts. On January 17 and January 19, 2012, Boulin used the personal identifying information of several Marines to submit fraudulent tax returns seeking refunds. On February 9, 2012, law enforcement searched Boulin’s residence and found several lists that had the name, dates of birth and social security numbers of U.S. Marines. Boulin identified Cenor as the individual who had provided the lists. On that same day, Cenor and Boulin had a telephone conversation in which they discussed splitting the proceeds of the identity theft tax refund scheme. During that call, Cenor directed Boulin could keep his share of the proceeds until he returned from overseas. Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI and IRS-CI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael N. Berger. >>> 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 CORAL GABLES
>>> In battle for mayor in City Beautiful, will the high road be taken or how low will Cason and Cabrera go?
Ralph Cabrera, a Coral Gables Commissioner since April of 2001 and now running for mayor on Apr. 9, 2013 kicked off his campaign recently and incumbent Mayor Jim Cason is expected to enter the reelection fray at full steam in January. Cabrera is taking the tact he knows the Gables better than Cason because he has lived in the city so long and points out the mayor; a former U.S. Ambassador in countries in the Caribbean and South America is essentially new to the City Beautiful. Cason won office back in 2011 after beating incumbent Mayor Don Slesnick, II and Tom Korge in a three-way winner take all race and during his time in office there have been no scandals. Further, Cason along with Commissioners Frank Quezada and William “Bill” Kerdyk, Jr., have supported controversial Manager Patrick Salerno staying in office after Cabrera and Commissioner Maria Anderson mounted a revolt and lost a 3 to 2 vote a few months back to fire the manager, and Salerno has stayed on the job since then.
In this upcoming race Slesnick, a friend of Cabrera is supporting the commissioner as mayor and Cason has stayed steady on the tiller of the city’s government during his tenure and the Watchdog Report who knows both men and has no beef with either of them. I only hope this election does not take a turn to the dark side and get ugly in the months ahead.
Also running to replace termed out Anderson and Cabrera on the commission are Vincente Carlos Lago for the Group II race, and Mary Martin Young has also filed for the Group III seat on the five-member dais. Lago through June has reported raising $58,265 and he has spent $1,265 of his campaign war chest. The two candidates are aligned with Cason and the three of them held a joint fundraiser earlier in the summer. The salary for the mayor annually is $34,736, and commissioners receive $28,225 in compensation and as of Jun. 25, the city had 29,355 registered voters. http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=Mary+Martin+Young+Coral+Gables&view=detail&id=527690FA9C6545E01D8E7995011726C4011D2852
CITY OF OPA LOCKA
>>> Opa-Locka Police Captain Charged with Drug Offenses Pleads Guilty
Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Michael B. Steinbach, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, Hugo Barrera, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Naim Erched, Acting Director, Miami-Dade Police Department (MDPD), and Addy M. Villanueva, Special Agent in Charge, Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), announce Arthur Balom, 44, of Miramar, a Captain with the City of Opa-Locka Police Department, pled guilty yesterday before U.S. District Judge Joan A. Lenard for his participation in the distribution of cocaine, Ecstacy and Oxycodone in Opa Locka. Sentencing is scheduled for December 17, 2012. Balom faces a possible maximum statutory sentence of up to 40 years in prison. According to statements made in court during yesterday’s plea hearing, Balom was part of a drug trafficking organization operating out of an Opa-Locka apartment complex known as “The Back Blues.” More specifically, according to in-court statements, while Balom was a Captain in the Opa-Locka Police Department (OLPD), Balom aided and abetted in the distribution of drugs by the organization by: (1) providing the organization with information related to police activity in the area; (2) directing officers to leave the area; and (3) assisting members of the organization when they came into contact with law enforcement.
In one instance discussed in court, FBI agents provided Balom with a notebook containing photographs of various suspects related to an armed robbery. The FBI agents asked Balom about a suspected co-conspirator. The day after speaking with FBI agents about the suspect, Balom met with that very suspect and showed him the notebook provided by the FBI. In another instance, Balom provided at ballistic vests to members of the drug organization. Mr. Ferrer commended the FBI, the Miami Area Corruption Task Force, ATF, the MDPD, and FDLE for their efforts in the investigation of this case. Mr. Ferrer also thanked Miami-Dade County State Attorney’s Office for their assistance and cooperation in this matter. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Gilfarb. A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls.
CITY OF MIAMI SPRINGS
>>> Press release: The Real Haunted Mansion!?! For over 70 years, it’s been whispered; for over 50 years, there’ve been rumors; for over 5 years, websites have listed it; for 1 night, you might be able to figure it out! Curtiss Mansion Inc. (CMI), the not-for-profit organization that manages the recently restored historic Curtiss Mansion for the City of Miami Springs, wants you to join the fun, and then decide… is the Mansion really haunted?
You can search the Mansion courtyard and gardens for clues to solve a mystery and have a chance to win a great prize by participating in the Mystery Cocktail Reception on October 25th, 26th and 27th from 8:00 until 11:00 p.m. Reservations are required with advance tickets, and you must be 18 or over with photo ID to attend. The cost is $50 per person and includes a ghostly feast and two cocktails. A cash bar is also available. If you dare, you can join the Haunted Mansion Tour from 8:00 to midnight from October 25th – 31st. The experience is guaranteed to be scary, entertaining and a lot of fun. Advance tickets are $15, and tickets at the door are $20. Anyone under 15 must be accompanied by an adult. Not recommended for children under 10 of age. On-site parking is available for $10. Advance tickets are available online at www.curtissmansion.org. For more information, please call 305-807-7878 or 305-469-4674. The Curtiss Mansion is located at 500 Deer Run in Miami Springs.
VILLAGE OF PALMETTO BAY
>>> Candidates should expect to debate in council races, voters deserve it
The Watchdog Report usually does not run a political campaign ad, but in this case it is a candidate wanting a debate with two of the other candidates and that is a fair request with the election approaching on Nov. 6 and it is the only way the local voters will see who is running face-to-face. Here is the message from Seat 2 Council candidate Jim Araiza (who I do not know) on the matter. “Jim Araiza, candidate for Palmetto Bay Council Seat 2, today issued a challenge to his political rivals to a public debate before an audience of Palmetto Bay residents. The time and date of the debate are to be determined. Araiza faces incumbent Howard Tendrich and challenger Tim Schafer on the November 6 ballot for a seat on the Palmetto Bay Council. ”From day 1, our team has campaigned to promote active resident participation in our community. Our residents deserve greater accountability from their local government, and we believe the process begins by giving residents an opportunity to meet, listen to, and engage the future leaders of our Village,” commented Araiza.
Araiza continued: “Today, I call upon Mr. Tendrich and Mr. Schafer to join me in a 1-hour public forum to debate the issues that are before us, and to state their positions and vision for the future of Palmetto Bay. Our campaign has reached out to various neighborhood organizations to moderate and sponsor the event and we are confident a debate can be organized and take place within the next two weeks. I believe it is wrong for the current Council to tap into our cash reserves to balance the 2012 village budget. The Village must learn to live within its means, just like our residents. We must also bring an immediate end to costly litigation and bickering with our private and faith-based businesses and institutions. A small but vocal minority cannot be allowed to continue to dictate what is best for the majority of our residents. Of course, my opponents will argue otherwise – and a debate will provide the residents with the information they need to make an informed decision on November 6th. All we need now if for Mr. Tendrich and Mr. Schafer to accept the challenge,” the candidate wrote.
>>> OTHER STORIES AROUND FLORIDA
>>> Wage Theft is spreading to Broward County new FIU study finds: The Theft of Millioins of Unpaid Wages – New report finds wage theft to be a spreading, illegal, anti-business practice in Broward County
Press release: The Research Institute on Social and Economic Policy will release a report on an analysis of reported wage theft cases in Broward County. The report entitled: “Wage Theft in Broward County: Accumulating Evidence of a Spreading Illegal Anti-Business Practice”, is being released at a time when Broward County is poised to be the first county in Florida to implement a wage recovery ordinance. Broward County currently has the third largest number of wage-theft cases — those that involve workers not being paid overtime or minimum wage, being forced to work off the clock, or not being paid at all — in the state according to a previous report released by the Research Institute on Social and Economic Policy at Florida International University on wage theft in the State of Florida. Wage theft, or the nonpayment of wages owed, does not just hurt employees and their families, it also hurts ethical businesses, particularly small businesses, that are hurt by the unfair competition caused by businesses that use wage theft as part of their business model. “I have heard of other contractors not paying their workers the minimum wage and this kills my business. I lose bids to these employers all the time. This unfair business model feeds into the economic recession,” states Blake, a General Licensed Contractor in Broward County.
Business owners in Miami-Dade County have spoken out in favor of a similar ordinance with one arborist commenting that “it’s tough enough to do business in this economy without having to stand next to a pirate while you do it.” Says Cynthia Hernandez, a researcher from the Research Institute on Social and Economic Policy, “The impact of wage theft also raises the question of whether Broward’s economy can be healthy and grow while tolerating an unjust business model that avoids contributing to tax revenues. Maintaining a level playing field for businesses is critical to maintaining a competitive business environment and to economic growth.” For a copy of the report, please click here.
>>>Press release: Gov. Scott Governor Rick Scott taps William “Bill” McCormick and Zachariah “Reggie” Poozhikala Zachariah to the Seventeenth Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission.
McCormick, 44, of Margate, has practiced with GrayRobinson P.A. since 2009. Previously, he practiced with Ruden McClosky P.A. from 1997 to 2009. McCormick received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida and a law degree from St. Thomas University. He fills a vacant seat on the commission and is appointed for a term beginning October 3, 2012, and ending July 1, 2014.
Zachariah, 32, of Sea Ranch Lakes, has practiced with Greenberg Traurig since 2011. Previously, he served as a law clerk from 2009 to 2011 with the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, and as a financial analyst for the GEO Group Inc. from 2003 to 2005. He received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a law degree from the University of Florida. He succeeds Georgina Pozzuoli and is appointed for a term beginning October 3, 2012, and ending July 1, 2016.
>>> Thank you for using the Broward County Commission Agenda E-mail Notification System. A new Broward County Commission Agenda is available. Point your browser to http://www.broward.org/commission/welcome.htm to view the new agenda.
>>> Feds Operation Double Dip Results in Charges against Ten Broward Residents for Defrauding Federal Unemployment Insurance Program
Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Richard L. Walker, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations (Atlanta Regional Office), and Hunting F. Deutsch, Executive Director, State of Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO), announce the filing of federal charges against ten individuals in connection with Operation Double Dip. Operation Double Dip focused on individuals fraudulently collecting unemployment insurance benefits to which they were not entitled. The ten individuals charged with mail and wire fraud are Haley K. Barnett, 34, of Pembroke Pines, Reyna Duarte-Valles, 49, of Tamarac, Clarence Calvin Griffin, 66, of Miramar, Gina Diane Innocent, 41, of Deerfield Beach, Arold Joseph Michel, 52, of Pembroke Pines, Randy Millard, 50, of Pembroke Pines, Robert Ray Orange, 46, of Lauderhill, Victoria Ordunez, 40, of Sunrise, Linda Ann Phillips, 40, of Lauderhill, and Jennifer E. Weissman, 37, of Sunrise, FL. All of the defendants appeared in federal district court for their initial appearances before U.S. Magistrate Judges this week. If convicted of mail or wire fraud, the defendants each face a possible statutory maximum penalty of up to 20 years in prison, to be followed by a term of supervised release of up to three years. More specifically, the defendants are each charged with mail or wire fraud in connection with the fraudulent receipt of unemployment insurance benefits administered by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. The overpayments in each of the cases allegedly ranged from $10,000 to $15,000.
“Lying in order to collect unemployment compensation to which one is not entitled is a federal offense,” said United States Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer. “Those who defraud the unemployment insurance program undermine an important safety net for those who really need it. Cases involving theft of public funds are a high priority for my office, particularly in these tough economic times when government resources are limited.” “Today’s charges demonstrate the Office of Inspector General’s commitment to safeguarding the Department of Labor’s Unemployment Insurance Program,” said Richard L. Walker, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Atlanta Regional Office of the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations.
According to the charging documents, the Agency for Workforce Innovation (AWI), now known as the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, is the agency responsible for the oversight of the Unemployment Compensation Program within the State of Florida. An applicant for unemployment compensation benefits is required to initially complete an application, and thereafter file claims on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, by telephone or the internet, certifying that the information the applicant supplied regarding their eligibility for benefits is accurate. In reliance upon information supplied by an applicant, AWI authorizes the State of Florida Department of Financial Services to send unemployment compensation funds in the form of either: (a) warrants (checks) mailed to the applicant; or (b) direct deposits into the applicant’s bank account via electronic funds transfers. These defendants allegedly lied regarding their eligibility to receive unemployment compensation benefits. Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the Office of Inspector General, Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations, U.S. Department of Labor, and the Department of Economic Opportunity, State of Florida. The cases are being 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.
PALM BEACH COUNTY
>>> Local Lawn Service Owner Sentenced for Employment Tax Fraud and for Filing a False Tax Return
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 that Michael J. Cioffi, of Loxahatchee, Florida, was sentenced yesterday before U.S. District Judge Daniel T. K. Hurley. At yesterday’s hearing, Judge Hurley sentenced Cioffi to twenty-four (24) months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. In addition, he was ordered to pay restitution to the Internal Revenue Service in the amount of $537,809.57. Cioffi was remanded to the custody of the United States Marshal immediately after sentencing. On May 23, 2012, Cioffi pled guilty to a Criminal Information charging him with one count of failing to truthfully account for and pay payroll taxes, in violation of Title 26, United States Code, Section 7202; and one count of filing a false income tax return, in violation Title 26, United States Code, Section 7206(1). On the plea agreement, Cioffi also agreed to pay restitution to the IRS in the amount of $537,809.57.
According to the Criminal Information and plea documents filed with the court, the defendant was the sole owner and operator of Mike Cioffi Lawn Service, in Loxahatchee, Florida. Cioffi’s business specialized in large commercial contracts and employed approximately thirty employees per quarter between January 2005 and December 2006. Cioffi was required to collect and truthfully account for and pay to the IRS all income taxes withheld from each employee’s paycheck, as well as all taxes owed on that income pursuant to the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA). FICA taxes are used to fund federal programs for retirees, the disabled, and children of deceased workers, and support Social Security and Medicare. Cioffi was also required to file Employer Quarterly Tax Returns, Forms 941, with the IRS reporting the FICA and income taxes withheld from each employee’s paycheck. Documents filed with the court show that for each quarter during 2005 and 2006, Cioffi paid wages to the employees of Mike Cioffi Lawn Service by check, but knowingly failed to collect and truthfully account for or pay to the IRS any FICA or income taxes due and owing to the United States on these wages. The defendant also did not file any of the required Employer Quarterly Tax Returns for this period with the IRS. According to documents filed with the court, for tax year 2006, Cioffi willfully filed with the IRS a United States Individual Income Tax Return, Form 1040, on behalf of himself and his spouse. In an effort to hide income from the IRS and avoid the payment of taxes, Cioffi falsely reported that the gross receipts for Mike Cioffi’s Lawn Service were $782,437, when the defendant knew that gross receipts were actually more than $2 million… 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.
>>> South Florida Regional Planning Board Road Show in seven counties and for more information go to http://seven50.org/uncategorized/registration-work-group-road-show/
>>> 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
>>> THE ADRIENNE ARSHT CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS OF
MIAMI-DADE COUNTY ANNOUNCES TWO ADDITIONS TO ITS 2012-2013 LIVE AT KNIGHT SERIES Macy Gray only Florida appearance! -Grammy Award winner to perform soulful versions of Metallica, Radiohead, Eurhythmics and more! November 8, 2012 at 8:30 p.m. “Gray has the most exceptional voice I have seen in a long time!” – The New York Times and an acoustic evening with MATISYAHU Co-presented by the Adrienne Arsht Center and Gelb Promotions Reggae-rock musician returns with acoustic show January 19, 2013 at 8:30 p.m. “Hearing Matis sing a cappella was nothing less than a spiritual experience. His voice soared, on point and pure, never once faltering!” – Miami New Times in the John S. and James L. Knight Concert Hall. Both concerts go on sale to Arsht Center members October 1, 2012. The general public will have access to MACY GRAY tickets on October 8, 2012, and to MATISYAHU tickets on October 22, 2012. Tickets may be purchased through the Adrienne Arsht Center box office by calling (305) 949-6722, or online at www.arshtcenter.org. Previously announced Live at Knight performances include: Talib Kweli: Idle Warship with Res (October 19, 2012); Diego El Cigala (November 10, 2012); Lenine (January 18, 2013); Calypso Rose (February 9, 2013); Kodo (March 9, 2013); and Esperanza Spalding (April 19, 2013).
>>> When will the candy jar of CRAs be capped, workers doing other jobs while on the public dime not acceptable, true fiscal oversight under the FL laws ineffective
The Watchdog Report over the years has written extensively about Community Redevelopment Agencies (CRA) and there autonomy from the county’s Inspector General and many of the usual ethics guidelines and this has to stop. These organizations that tax certain areas for redevelopment of which there are 11 in Miami-Dade, fly under any independent oversight board’s radar and the fact elected officials generally sit on the boards or control them out right makes them ripe for waste, fraud and abuse and should not be tolerated by the general public and the county’s taxpayers. The Watchdog Report thought about this after a CRA employee in the City of North Miami works at an AM radio station, which is fine and good. But not on the public dime and to make it worse the city pays money to the station for what appears to be public service messages but the announcer sometimes goes to far when he starts to recommend a particular candidate, once again while he is getting a public salary. And that is unacceptable and in the case of the city of North Miami.
The North Miami manager and commission must draw a bright line in the sand and create some clear ground rules, and it is not just related to that one municipality. For the other 10 CRAs have all had issues or conflicts over the years from north Miami-Dade to the south and the City of Homestead has had a host of issues over the years. However, unless someone is arrested, there are very little preventive measures in place to inhibit this wayward behavior by CRAs and that is the problem. For a board with public tax dollars with little oversight except by elected leaders is ripe at a minimum, for waste and abuse or worse corruption. And South Florida oversight authorities must finally delve into this political minefield and try to get a handle on how these taxpayers’ dollars are being disbursed. For the current oversight is not getting the job done and the community must do better, than lurch from one embarrassment or scandal to another when it comes to these CRAs. And the only question is will local and state leaders have the political will to face this problem and come up with safeguards. Or will they all just turn away and use the public funds like a candy store, where you can have as much of what is in the store you want, regardless if you get sick. And that is the status quo of many of these CRAs and responsible lawmakers should finally address it.
>>> The America 2 Anywhere 4 Arthritis Team (A2A4A) has an unexpected opportunity… to participate in the NY Marathon on November 4th. Never in our wildest dreams did we anticipate we could enjoy this major race while raising $ and awareness for the Arthritis Foundation – together! If I close my eyes I can clearly remember the pain of the mere weight of my bed sheets when I first woke up and discovered my life would never be the same again. Yes, I was eventually diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. Today, I am a beneficiary of the terrific research fostered by the Arthritis Foundation and thanks to great biologic medicines I can complete a marathon. You can only imagine how important this experience is for me and so many others just like me. As a group of friends, we have raised almost $160,000 for the Arthritis Foundation. Thank you for your help throughout the past 5 years. And now it’s on to the biggest Marathon of them all!
We are on a tight timeframe and your generous donation would mean a great deal to me, to the team and to the 50 million Americans living with doctor-diagnosed Arthritis, the 300,000 children with Juvenile Arthritis, and their friends and families. Your support and donations make research, advocacy, programs and the dream of a world free of arthritis pain within reach. The Arthritis Foundation utilizes roughly 80% of all donations for these activities. Every dollar counts. All donations are tax deductible. Click on the link below or send a check made out to the Arthritis Foundation to me at 200 Ocean Lane Drive # 1108, Key Biscayne, FL 33149. Arthritis is Unacceptable! Kathy – Follow This Link to visit my personal web page and help me in my efforts to support Arthritis Foundation, New York Office
>>> Reader updates WDR on MDX future toll plan increase discussed at Oct. 2 workshop
I just posted what we learned at the Tuesday board meeting. http://www.rollbacktolls.com/mdx-raising-toll-rates-on-836-and-112-this-is-tollation/ Basically, what Miller and I witnessed was a total disregard for the toll payers of Miami-Dade by the MDX board of directors. And another nail in the coffin for any real transit in this town. Would love to get some cross pollination going on this with you, as it will affect most everyone in Miami-Dade.
>>> This month marks the seventh annual National Bullying Prevention Month. It’s a time when children, teens, adults, schools, and communities work together to raise awareness of bullying prevention.
Bullying is a widespread issue that affects students and schools across the country. Over 150,000 students miss school every day from fear of being bullied. Additionally, slightly over half of all students have witnessed a bullying crime take place at school. As a former Florida certified teacher, I realize how big of an issue bullying is in our schools, and the effects can last a lifetime. As technology continues to advance, bullies have more opportunities to torment their victims. It is important to prevent cyber bullying by being aware of the potential online threats and by reporting any bullying or threats you may find. Cyber-bullying continues to grow due to the presence of social media websites. There are many forms of cyber-bully and even though the victim cannot see their bully, the effects are just as detriment. Students are not the only ones who can be a victim of bullying. Anyone, no matter their age, can be a victim of a bullying crime.
Every American deserves to live without being persecuted or harassed. No one has the right to victimize others based upon their gender, race, age, ethnicity, creed, or sexual orientation. This is why some of my Congressional colleagues and I recently established the Anti-Bullying Caucus. This newly launched group will help shed light on the realities of bullying and its consequences. We will work to provide a forum and voice for everyone who has been affected by bullying. The Anti-Bullying Caucus will work toward protecting all individuals who are victims of any form of harassment. Also, we hope to work toward uncovering all forms of bullying and making it possible for the victims to come forward. While October has been designated National Anti-Bullying Awareness Month, bullies do not stop when the calendar turns. We must all work together, if we hope to deter and defeat bullying. Bullying should not and will not be tolerated. To find more information on how to help prevent bullying please visit: http://safesupportiveschools.ed.gov >> http://www.stopbullying.gov
U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
>>> 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.