Watchdog Report Vol.13 No.28 December 2, 2012 Est.05.05.00 – I go when you cannot


Argus Report: GM executive Reuss asks American car drivers to give domestic brands another look, for “You will like what you see.”

Florida: Senate President Gaetz taps Benacquisto & Lee for GOP top leadership spots, she has net worth of $341,000 & Lee comes in at $3.1 million

Miami-Dade County: Controversial expansion of prayer at BCC causing controversy, issue separation of church/state, how far will future religious leaders prayers go?

Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court: Gov. Scott names Eric W. Hendon, of Miami, to Court.

Miami-Dade Public Schools: Continuing saga of controversial A& M Charter School in Grove back on front burner at District Audit Committee Dec. 4, Rev. Dunn joins organization

Public Health Trust: FIU Wertheim College of Medicine started with 40 students, soaring to 480 in next few years, focus is community primary care medicine

City of Miami: Miami Atty. Bru needs to get out of ethics ruling business; Commissioner Sarnoff is slapped for not disclosing trip with wife to Volvo Ocean Race in Brazil, trip to PRC will be next disclosure for Sarnoff

City of Miami Beach: With candidate Alexander out of running, will Morales’ star be on the rise to top manager spot?

City of North Miami: County ethics commission pops Mayor Pierre again; these hits are not a resume builder

City of Coral Gables: Mayor Cason affirms UM one of Gables great “assets,” city’s largest employeer and has $1.4 billion economic impact

City of South Miami: One last letter from Mayor Stoddard on the ongoing saga of South Miami politics

City of Golden Beach: Mayor Singer & Mgr. Diaz get Letter of Instruction from county ethics commission, warns about business deals together

City of Sunny Isles Beach: Commissioner Scholl cleared and ethics complaint dismissed

Westchester: Local pharmacy gets popped for Medicaid fraud and grand theft

>>> Other stories around Florida

Broward County: Local Man Pleads Guilty in Massive Identity Theft Tax Refund Fraud Scheme

Palm Beach County: Gov. Scott names Frank Frione to the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority.

Duval County: Gov. Scott taps Tatiana R. Salvador to the Fourth Judicial Circuit Court.

Lake County: Gov. Scott names Carey L. Baker as Lake County Property Appraiser.

Franklin County: Residents to get $2.7 million for impact of Tropical Storm Debby after federal grant for temporary employment granted

Monroe County: Key West Man Pleads Guilty to Making False Claim on BP Claims Fund

Community Events: PULSE and Lotus House for Women Shelter event – Women of Tomorrow event – Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce monthly Luncheon – Multi-County Climate Change Summit in Dec. — Regional Planning meetings around the counties

Editorials: While Miami-Dade Commissioners may regret supporting new Miami Marlins stadium, it is to little too late, and none asked what the total $2.5 billion cost would be for the enclosed ballpark — 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 on deformed seafood in the Gulf – Reader on new MDX tolls – Reader on WDR

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 was on WLRN/NPR 91.3 FM on November 28, Wednesday from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. on Joe Cooper’s show Topical Currents and to hear the show go…

ARGUS REPORT – Heard, Seen on the Street

>>> GM executive Reuss asks American car drivers to give domestic brands another look, for “You will like what you see”

The president of General Motors U.S.A. Mark Reuss at the Greater Miami Chamber Luncheon in early November told the hundreds attending the event that they should give the iconic Detroit car manufacturer a second look before they buy another Mercedes Benz, BMW or Lexus luxury car. Reuss a third generation chevorolet guy whose father was a former president of the iconic car corporation has an engineering degree from Vanderbilt University and a MBA from Duke University and he has a passion for racing and the cars. He said that with the election of President Barack Obama the domestic auto industry would stop being a “political piñata,” and because of the federal government’s help, there is “a strong and thriving domestic auto industry,” that employees “eight million jobs” and believed “that is important to America,” he said.

Reuss noted two presidents had worked to save the industry and “imagine what would have happened,” if the nation no longer made cars and asserted “this nation has got to continue to make things,” and we “need car manufacturers in this country,” he thought.  He noted at GM there are experiencing “the best sales since 1997,” just before the market crashed when the global economy tanked and millions of American jobs were shed especially in the domestic car industry. Reuss said some of the resurgence was because the product line was reduced from eight brands to “four brands,” dealerships were consolidated and sales are up by “seven percent,” the executive said.

Reuss acknowledged that the American public had been disappointed with the company’s cars and why European and Japanese automakers are doing so well in the market. Nevertheless, he asked the crowd of business and community leaders that he understood “we have to have the best products” but he said their challenge was “to get people to drive our cars,” and admitted, “We made poor cars,” in the past and is why in south Florida.  BMW, Mercedes Benz and Lexus sell more cars here “than all of the Chevrolet brand.” The executive said the company was turning out new models at a record pace and a new “completely redesigned Corvette [is being rolled out] for the 60th Anniversary” of the iconic car and there are new “extended range luxury electric cars” coming out as well and when it comes to customer service. “We bend over backwards to make sure they [the car buyer] is happy.” He said a combination of efforts is needed including a “great product,” working with the “individual,” appreciation to details and “customers value transparency and want full disclosure,” and that “is what leads to loyalty.” In addition, he noted over the past year there were 16 models in Consumer Reports, that is up from 12 in the past, and he understands “it is going to be a long road to turn that around. And Reuss closed the remarks asking the public to “look at U.S. car brands, you will like what you see, and to give us a chance,” because we “are on are way up,” he closed.

Reuss photo

>>> White House press release: The Middle-Class Tax Cuts’ Impact on Consumer Spending and Retailers: Impact For Florida

President Obama is committed to growing our economy from the middle out by ensuring a strong, secure, and thriving middle-class.  Now we face a deadline that requires action on jobs, taxes and deficits by the end of the year. While the President is committed to working with Congress to reduce our deficit in a balanced and responsible way, there is no reason to hold the middle-class families in Florida hostage while we debate tax cuts for the highest income earners. Florida Can’t Afford Tax Increases On Middle-Class Families…

         A median-income Florida family of four (earning $63,900) could see its income taxes rise by $2,200.

         98 percent of Florida families who make less than $250,000 a year and would not see an income tax increase under the President’s plan.

…Because Middle-class Families Drive Florida’s Economy… The bulk of economic activity comes from American families buying basic necessities like clothing and healthcare; durable goods like cars and furniture; and the food and gifts that millions will enjoy over the holiday season.

         The retail industry employs 14.8 million Americans – including 985,600 in Florida – and has been a key part of the recovery. In the 40 months since the recession ended in June 2009, the retail industry alone has been responsible for more than 9 percent of overall employment growth and has added 438,000 jobs in the past 32 months.

         Over the course of this year, American consumers are on pace to spend around $5 trillion on retail sales.  And with the start of the holiday shopping season, which accounts for close to one fifth of industry sales nationwide, retailers can’t afford the threat of tax increases on middle-class families.

…Which Is Why Raising Taxes On The Middle-class Will Hurt Florida’s Economy,

Florida’s economy can’t afford that right now. New analysis by the President’s Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) finds that:

         This sharp rise in middle-class taxes and the resulting decline in consumption could slow the growth of real GDP by 1.9 percentage points in Florida.

         Faced with these tax hikes, the CEA estimates that consumers in Florida could spend nearly $13.5 billion less than they otherwise would have in 2013 just because of higher taxes.  Consumers nationwide would likely spend nearly $200 billion less than they otherwise would have in 2013. For more information read the full White House Report by report released by the National Economic Council and the Council of Economic Advisers “The Middle-Class Tax Cuts’ Impact on Consumer Spending and Retailers.”

>>> Sen. Nelson press release: Push Continues for additional customs folks at Miami International Airport – U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson told Miami business officials in a private meeting here today that he’s still pushing for extra Customs and Border Protection officials to shorten passengers wait times and keep pace with the movement of cargo through Miami International Airport. Nelson already has helped in adding 65 new customs officials at the airport over the past year, and about 93 over the last two years.  However, representatives of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce still say more are needed to keep pace with a continuing increase in international passengers due in part to the expanded North Terminal.

Passengers arriving in Florida from South America and other international locations are seeing waits to clear customs of 90 minutes or longer.  “The first thing people see when they get off a plane is a long line to go through customs,” Nelson said today.  “That’s no way to foster tourism.”

The Florida Democrat met this morning in his Washington Senate office with representatives of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce and a delegation from the Florida Chamber of Commerce. Last April, he personally called Homeland Security Director Janet Napolitano in an effort to boost customs staff at Florida airports.  Orlando is among the airports that have also received additional customs workers. “Due to budget constraints there is understaffing at many ports and airports,” Nelson said.  “We’re trying to help them all.” Gov. Rick Scott also has weighed in, joining Nelson in the push for additional customs folks in Miami.  Scott wrote a letter to Napolitano in September.

>>> Press release: Increased Syrian Activity in the Western Hemisphere Poses a Clear and Growing Threat to U.S. and Regional Security, Ros-Lehtinen Says –U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, made the following statement regarding Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister’s visits to the regimes of Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Ecuador.  Statement by Ros-Lehtinen: “Almost a year after Ahmadinejad’s ‘Tour of Tyrants’ trip, it seems that the Syrian regime has followed suit and sent their Deputy Foreign Minister to meet with the tyrannical regimes of Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Ecuador. One state sponsor of terrorism after another continues to receive the royal treatment from these tyrants of Latin America. It is appalling, but not surprising, that these leftist pariah governments openly embrace violent rogue nations that support extremism worldwide.

“Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, who has been systematically imprisoning, torturing and murdering tens of thousands of his own people, has sent his envoy to Latin America in hopes of garnering support for his fledgling regime. The increased Iranian and Syrian activity in our own backyard poses a clear and growing threat to U.S. and regional security interests. These rogue states have seized the opportunity to create a platform to disseminate and legitimize their belligerent actions in order to further their cruel political agendas and oppress their own people. “Chavez and his autocratic cohorts like Ortega, Correa, and the Castro brothers have seen fit to provide the Syrian and Iranian dictatorships with a lifeline to skirt sanctions while thumbing their noses at the U.S. and the rest of the world. It is essential that the U.S. impose stricter sanctions to tighten the noose around these sadistic tyrants and sanction any entity that continues to provide support to these designated state sponsors of terrorism.”

>>> Press release: Diaz-Balart: “We Need to Do More to Help Identity Theft and Tax Fraud Victims”

Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) offered the following remarks at the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Subcommittee on Government Organization, Efficiency and Management hearing: “Identity Theft and Tax Fraud: Growing Problems for the Internal Revenue Service.” As some of you may know, South Florida has been one of the most affected areas in the country when it comes to IRS identity theft issues. I’ve had dozens of constituents reach out to me because their tax returns have been stolen and they’ve felt absolutely helpless. I’ve even had numerous constituents who’ve had their tax returns stolen more than once, which is completely unacceptable.

“These people are honest, hard working individuals who rely heavily on their tax return to help pay their bills. We need to do more to help those victims and to prevent these crimes from taking place in the future. This has been one of my top priorities and I’ve worked closely with the IRS to help resolve this epidemic of fraud. While the IRS has made some vast improvements over the last year, there is still much that needs to be done. I was happy to hear about the Identity Theft Victim Disclosure Waiver Pilot Program that was implemented in Florida in April of this year. So far the program seems to be helping state and local authorities prosecute the individuals responsible for these crimes. “While this program is a step in the right direction, more needs to be done on the issue. So far, most of what the IRS has implemented deals only with the crime once it’s occurred. They need to put a larger focus on the prevention of these crimes. The IRS must come up with a detailed plan to prevent further tax return fraud from taking place while also taking care of the tax payers who have already fallen victim. It’s my hope that this hearing will serve as a discussion on how we can improve our tax return system and protect taxpayer’s hard earned money.”

>>> 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


>>> Senate President Gaetz taps Benacquisto & Lee for GOP top leadership spots, she has net worth of $341,000 & Lee comes in at $3.1 million

Florida Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville (Net worth $24.8 million) has chosen his top Republican leadership, he tapped state Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Ft. Meyers to be his GOP Majority Leader, and he chose state Sen. Tom Lee, R- Hillsborough as the majority whip. Benacquisto was first elected to the Senate in 2010 after being a council member with the Village of Wellington from 2002 to 2010 and she is a realtor by profession. Lee is making a comeback in the body after first being elected to the body in 1996 and served through 2006, with his last two years as president, he came back to the upper body in 2012, and he is also a realtor by trade.

Gaetz in his first speech as the president noted Floridians want true reforms and stricter ethics laws and when it comes to elections. He said the past November 6 General Election debacle around the state, especially in the larger counties was unacceptable and corrective action must be taken. Gaetz a former Okaloosa school board member and then a superintendent of the public schools district in the county has a different perspective than many past senate presidents. And he has an ally in newly sworn in House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel who is also touting a pro reform agenda as well but it remains to be seen if the Florida legislator will buy into this new ethics and reform consciousness. That also had Republican Gov. Rick Scott (Net worth $103 million), when he was first elected in 2010 calling for more government transparency and accountability but the governor’s administration since then also limits the use of emails that the public sees and other accountability measures he called to be instituted have generally fallen by the wayside.

What do we know about Benacquisto & Lee’s finances?

Benacquisto through June 2012 had a net worth of $341,000 and she lists no household goods on her filed financial disclosure form. Her home is worth $340,000, a house in Lake Placid is valued at $225,000 and she has $16,000 in the bank. She lists mortgages owed $131,000 and $209,000 and the realtor’s only income for the year was $29,697 as a lawmaker and another $3,000 came in through a business.

Lee through March 2012 had a net worth of $3.17 million, his total assets were $3.62 million, and total liabilities were $452,000. He has a home valued at $850,000, a beach lot is worth $200,000, there is $850,000 in securities and TAL Holding has $1.1 million. The lawmaker’s income for the year was $81,195 and he has an outstanding liability note of $452,000 from Anna Lee.






>>> FIU Wertheim College of Medicine started with 40 students, soaring to 480 in next few years, focus is community primary care medicine

The Florida International University Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine is beginning to soar when it comes to the student body first begun three years ago in 2009 with only 40 students, but after the coming fourth year will have up to 480 in the medical school that has an affiliation with Jackson Health System, Baptist Health South Florida, and a host of other hospitals for students and physicians to practice at. The medical school was the crowning achievement of FIU and had faced resistance in the Florida Legislature but was approved by the State Board of Governors in 2006 and the public medical college was funded.  And much of medical college’s mission is to graduate physicians that do family and primary care medicine in an attempt to keep South Florida residents healthy and medical costs down in the years to come. The school’s Dean John Rock, M.D. has done a remarkable job since his arrival and all the past provisional accreditation milestones have been passed as it heads into the final milestone of graduating its first class of new doctors next year in 2013 and at its peak in the years to come will have 480 medical students in the college.

>>> JHS statement on patient record breach by hospital volunteer

Jackson Health System completed an internal investigation and cooperated with law enforcement regarding a former volunteer and the improper removal of patient information. The volunteer was immediately terminated from the program and all access rights were removed. Jackson Health System is committed to patient confidentiality. The safety and security of our patients is a top priority. In order to protect our patients’ rights and private information, we enforce strict rules for those who handle patient information.

Any allegations about a breach in security and privacy are taken extremely seriously. Jackson Health System continually educates all employees on privacy rules and regulations and has a zero-tolerance for violations. In other action today, the Ethics Commission gave its approval to a proposal that would exempt the Public Health Trust from portions of Miami-Dade County’s “Cone of Silence” rule regarding ex parte communications by staff members in procurement matters and replace it with a modified version of the restrictions.  That proposal will now go before the Board of County Commissioners for consideration.


>>> Miami Atty. Bru needs to get out of ethics ruling business, Commissioner Sarnoff gets slapped for not disclosing trip with wife to Volvo Ocean Race in Brazil, trip to PRC will be next for Sarnoff

The recent ruling this week by the Miami-Dade Ethics and Public Trust Commission that Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff had to disclose the cost of a trip for a Volvo Global Sail Boat race for he and his wife once again highlights that a local municipal attorney hired by the commission should not be making ethics rulings. At Miami and in the past on Miami Beach the commission’s attorney has made rulings that were later criticized by the county ethics body and this is just another example of getting a ruling the elected leader wanted. Further, in the case of Miami Attorney Julie O. Bru she has made many such rulings such as condoning Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones being eligible for another term in 2013 since she was suspended from office but also approved the commissioner getting all the back pay while out of office at the time.

In the case of Sarnoff, the ethics commission found the bulk of his trip and the cost for his wife to go, was picked up by Volvo, the event sponsor. And the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau only picked up the cost in two Brazilian cities the couple stayed at. And the trip included Downtown Redevelopment Authority executive Alyce Robertson who also speaks Portuguese. And Brazil is Miami’s number one customer as a tourist and business destinations in North America. Further, after this ethics commission ruling, Sarnoff will have disclose the cost of the trip he took to the People’s Republic of China with his wife as well a few months ago and these ethical lapses are surprising for someone that dwells on the issue of ethics and transparency during commission meetings.

>>> Press release: The COE also found Probable Cause on a complaint (C 12-41) against Miami City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, accusing him of failing to properly disclose a gift.  Sarnoff traveled to Brazil for activities associated with the Volvo Ocean Race at the stop prior to the race’s arrival in Miami last May.  The Greater Miami Convention and Visitor’s Bureau reimbursed Sarnoff for all of his expenses.   The COE disagreed with the Miami City Attorney who had opined to the commissioner that, because he was partaking in an official activity, he did not need to report the trip as a gift. During the investigation, it was learned that Volvo Ocean Race reimbursed Sarnoff for his wife’s roundtrip airfare.  Prior opinions had determined that payment for a spouse’s expenses should be reported as a gift by an elected official.  The Ethics Commission voted to issue one Letter of Instruction to the City Attorney clarifying when a business trip must be reported as a gift and another Letter of Instruction to Commissioner Sarnoff advising him to report reimbursement of his wife’s travel expenses as a gift to him.

What about Atty. Bru?

Bru also needs to get out of the ethics and conflict of interest opinion business if she is not going to run afoul of the county ethics commission. For she is by definition conflicted since the five member commission confirms her for the office that pays well over $200,000, with extensive benefits and as one Miami attorney said when I asked him years ago. If he worked for the citizens or the commission? He said he worked for three commissioners, the number of them needed to keep him in office and that answer highlights the conflict anyone in that capacity would have when it comes to commissioners requests for rulings. Further, while some of her conflict or disclosure rulings when asked about these issues are written in a memo on the subject. The Watchdog Report is being told by a highly reliable source some of these are verbal and not in writing and the source thought it was strange as well when I questioned its propriety and legality.

What about Rev. Richard Dunn II?

Richard Dunn, a former Miami commissioner who lost to Spence Jones, but was later appointed to the commission and had to leave when the state charges against Spence-Jones were dropped. Dunn told the Watchdog Report on Friday that he will run again for the Miami Commission District 5 seat in Nov. 2013 and he will make her getting the back money and a new extra term on the dais a centerpiece of his campaign to get the seat back.

>>> Press release: Also the Ethics Commission found Probable Cause that Miami City Commissioner Frank Carollo exploited his official position by calling the Miami police chief after being pulled over for a traffic violation in Coconut Grove this past August.  The investigation shows that, after being pulled over, Carollo called the chief, who subsequently called the area commander, who then told dispatchers to have the officer call him.  The officer let Carollo go with a warning.  The determination found that Carollo may have used or intended to exploit his position to influence police officials, which is a violation of the Conflict of Interest and Code of Ethics Ordinance.  Through his attorney, the Commissioner contended his phone call was intended to determine why several police vehicles and a city recycling truck were blocking the road.  Carollo also claimed that he never asked for special treatment or expressed concern with the officer’s stop.  Another part of the complaint (C 12-32) accused Commissioner Carollo of using his position to have trees planted in the swale near his home.   Since the trees were part of a larger distribution through the district and did not solely benefit Carollo, No Probable Cause was found on that portion of the complaint by the Ethics Commission.


>>> With candidate Alexander out of running, will Morales’ star be on the rise to top manager spot?

With Steve Alexander, one of the finalists to be chosen as the possible new Miami-Beach manager being selected as the interim manager for the city of South Miami, that appointment opens up a larger window for former Miami-Dade Commissioner Jimmy Morales to possible be selected for the top administrator spot. Morales threw his hat in the ring last month and he grew up on the Beach and only left to go to attend Harvard University where he got his undergraduate and law degree before coming back to Miami and became a respected county commissioner and ran for county mayor in 2004 but fell short in that bid to Carlos Alvarez who won the coveted top county spot.

The commission prior to Morales entering the field was disappointed with the selection of candidates the headhunter had brought to the body but in discussions with a host of people on the Beach. They all voiced support for Morales to take the helm in a city that has been rocked by scandals that appear to have no end in sight and a strong dose of ethics and honest leadership in the administration is said to be the order of the day. Moreover, many people believe the local homeboy could be a perfect fit to clean house in the funky and eclectic municipality of around 90,000 residents.


County ethics commission pops >>> Mayor Pierre again, these hits are not a resume builder

The Miami-Dade County Commission on Ethics and Public Trust (COE) today found Probable Cause that North Miami Mayor Andre Pierre exploited his position from October of 2009 through January of 2012 by avoiding payment of rental fees at a municipal athletic field used by his soccer club.   Mayor Pierre engaged in this activity even though a resolution was unanimously passed by the North Miami City Council in April 2010, which established policies for park rentals and limited fee waivers to certain qualified organizations for only one no-cost use per year.  The complaint (C12-35) charged that Pierre’s group, the “North Miami Taxpayers Soccer Club,” used the fields more than 100 times without paying.   Mayor Pierre objected to the accusation through his attorney, who argued the mayor was following proper protocol by utilizing the facility for “pick-up soccer games” and claimed the usage was consistent with “community service” activities of the city.  The case will proceed to a public hearing.


>>> Mayor Cason affirms UM one of Gables great “assets,” city’s largest employeer and has $1.4 billion economic impact

The Watchdog Report contacted Mayor Jim Cason regarding a recent meeting with the University of Miami officials to discuss the city’s and UM’s long-term goals and the school is a significant factor in the City Beautiful since the municipality was first created by George Merrick. Cason in an email last week wrote, “The University of Miami is one of Coral Gables’ greatest assets; it is our largest employer, contributing approximately $1.4billion to our economy. We are pleased that in the last couple of years we have developed a great working relationship with UM, where we have defined the parameters for their future needs in a way that fully protects our neighborhoods, and they are more connected to the community by offering tickets to sporting and culture events and topical lectures,” wrote the mayor up for reelection in April and facing Gables commissioner Ralph Cabrera, Jr. in the race.

>>> City webpage: City Begins Enforcement of Amended Truck Restrictions on December 1, 2012

The City of Coral Gables provided a grace period on enforcement of the City’s restrictions pertaining to trucks parked outside of garages in residential areas through November 30, 2012, pending the outcome of a referendum on the subject on November 6th. The voters approved the referendum, thereby amending the City’s Zoning Code to allow parking of one non-commercial pickup truck outside of a residence, if such truck has no items in the bed, is not modified, has no commercial markings or equipment, and has no more than four wheels.

Effective December 1, 2012, residents who fail to comply with the amended restrictions will be subject to code enforcement. For more information, please contact Code Enforcement at 305-460-5226.


>> One last letter from Mayor Stoddard on the ongoing saga of South Miami politics

In response to a letter by Donna M. Shelley in last week’s Watchdog Report, South Miami Mayor Phillip Stoddard wrote the following response and here it is unedited. >>> “Corrections to Ms. Shelly’s letter: 1. Mr. Davidson-Schmich did NOT plead guilty as she claimed.  He entered a not-guilty plea and accepted pretrial diversion.

2. Mr Papove entered the country legally, but overstayed.  He was arrested and handed over to ICE by the Chief as reprisal against Commissioner Welsh.  Mr. Papove was not a “federal fugitive” any more than the other half million or so extranationals who overstayed their visas.  The arrest warrant appears to have been concocted to support an arrest on a political motive.  Mr. Papove had been released on a minor marijuana possession charge after signing an admission on a bogus cocaine residue charge, a set of circumstances that was ruled unconstitutional by the federal courts in 2010.  Had there been a real warrant out for his arrest, Mr. Papove would not have been released by the police following the marijuana charge.  Persons in ICE detention lack even the rights of habeus corpus.  Ms Shelly conflates ICE’s third world style indefinite imprisonment with justice. Sounds more like Russian or Cuban justice to me.

2. I do not consider my charges against the Chief and ex-City Manager to be “trumped-up”, and yes I have been posting them to by blog, along with supporting documents, for anybody to review (yourself included): a) The Chief directed staff to purchase services from his wife’s company, he used city resources to solicit business for his family, and he obtained the assistance of city staff in his wife’s business matters.  That is corruption.  He was cited for probable cause by the Ethics Commission, as you previously noted.  The City Manager tolerated and protected this behavior without a thorough investigation. b) I have detailed approximately twenty misdemeanors committed by Chief Martinez de Castro, some of which were abetted by the City Manager.  These will be presented to the States Attorney.

c) The City Manager awarded raises to favorite staff in direct defiance of City Budgets approved by the Commission – a combination of deception and insubordination.

While I more than agree with Ms Shelley about the tone and tenor of Mr. Harm’s letter, I am disturbed that she fails to mention the manipulation of the police file that occurred under the direction of Chief Martinez de Castro sixteen months after the burglary, and the unwillingness of Mr.Harms to correctly identify that manipulation for what it was. I remain baffled by Ms. Shelley’s militant disinterest in identifying and eliminating corruption and dishonesty in city government, and her stated intention to recall elected officials committed to protecting the city from such corruption,” wrote South Miami Mayor Philip Stoddard


>>> Mayor Singer & Mgr. Diaz get Letter of Instruction from county ethics commission, warns about business deals together

Ethics Commission ruling: Following last month’s finding of a conflict of interest against the mayor and town manager of Golden Beach, who had jointly invested in a restaurant, the COE today issued a Letter of Instruction to the pair.  Golden Beach Mayor Glenn Singer and Town Manager Alex Diaz are formally advised of “prohibited investments” that conflict with the public interest.   The Letter reminds them – and all elected and appointed officials – of the dangers of entering personal business relationships with fellow public officials and offers a reminder that the Ethics Commission suggests they make requests for opinions regarding potential partnerships.  After being informed of the complaints against them (C 12-36 & C 12-37), Manager Diaz sold his investment to a third party, thereby eliminating the conflict, but each was charged investigative costs associated with the case.


>>> Commissioner Scholl cleared and ethics complaint dismissed

In another election-related case, a candidate for Sunny Isles Beach City Commission, Harvey Busch, filed a complaint (C 12-44) against Commissioner George Scholl, accusing the incumbent of making Busch’s age an issue in the race.  Since age is not a protected class in the Ethical Campaign Practices Ordinance, the Ethics Commission found the complaint Not Legally Sufficient and it was dismissed.


>>> Local pharmacy gets popped for Medicaid fraud and grand theft

AG Bondi press release: On Thursday, my office’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit and the Miami-Dade County Police Department arrested three Miami-Dade County residents for Medicaid fraud and grand theft. Noriel Batista, the owner of Westchester Pharmacy, Eduardo Marcos-Mone, a pharmacist, and Barbara Iglesias, a Medicaid recipient, allegedly participated in a scheme that resulted in billing the Medicaid program for more than $143,000 for prescribed medications that were never dispensed. My Office of Statewide Prosecution will prosecute the case, and the defendants could face a cumulative total of 130 years in prison and $770,000 in fines. Billing the Medicaid program for prescriptions that were never dispensed is not only unethical, but also it essentially steals taxpayer dollars. Thanks to our great partnership with the Miami-Dade Police Department, we were able to uphold the integrity of Florida’s Medicaid program.



>>> Broward Man Pleads Guilty in Massive Identity Theft Tax Refund Fraud Scheme

Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Kelly Jackson, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CID), Minneapolis, José A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, IRS-CID, Miami Field Office, Larry Gomer, Chief, North Miami Beach Police Department, and Al Lamberti, Sheriff, Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO), announced that defendant Rodney Saintfleur, 28 of West Park, FL, pled guilty today to one count of conspiracy to defraud the government, one count of access device fraud, and one count of aggravated identity theft.

Sentencing is scheduled for February 22, 2013 at 9:00 AM before U.S. District Judge Robert N. Scola.  At sentencing, Saintfleur faces a possible maximum statutory sentence of up to 22 years in prison. According to documents filed in court, from around April 2009 through around July 2012, Rodney Saintfleur worked at a law firm in North Miami, where he had access to Lexis/Nexis, an online proprietary database.  Through this database, Saintfleur accessed names, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers of thousands of people, and knowingly provided these Social Security numbers to co-conspirators for the purpose of filing fraudulent income tax returns seeking refunds.  According to the charging document filed in the case, Saintfleur fraudulently obtained more than 26,000 Social Security numbers for use in this identity theft tax refund fraud scheme. >> Mr. Ferrer thanked IRS-CID, the North Miami Beach Police Department, and the Broward Sheriff’s Office for their work on the case.  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

>>> 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.


>>> Gov. Scott names Frank Frione to the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority.

Frione, 50, of Boca Raton, is the CEO of GFA International Inc. Frione is a member of Vistage Florida CEO Leadership and a board member of the Construction Association of South Florida. He also received the 2010 CEO of the Year Award from the South Florida Business Journal. He succeeds Francis Perry and is appointed for a term beginning November 20, 2012, and ending August 1, 2015.


>>> Press release: Gov. Scott taps Tatiana R. Salvador to the Fourth Judicial Circuit Court.

Salvador, 44, has practiced with Rogers Towers, P.A., since 2001. From 1994 – 2001, she served as an assistant state attorney with the State Attorney’s Office, Fourth Judicial Circuit. Salvador received her bachelor’s degree from Duke University and her law degree from the University of Florida. “Tatiana has a great reputation in the Fourth Judicial Circuit and will make a great addition to the bench,” Governor Scott said. “Throughout her career, she has shown an excellent knowledge of law and a willingness to serve Florida citizens.” Salvador will fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge McCarthy Crenshaw


>>> Press release: Gov. Scott names Carey L. Baker as Lake County Property Appraiser.

Baker, 49, of Eustis, is the Lake County Property Appraiser-elect. He is currently serving as a First Sergeant in the Army National Guard. Baker served in the Florida House of Representatives from 2000-2004 and the Florida Senate from 2004-2010. He was awarded “Senator of the Year” in 2009 by the Florida Association of Property Appraisers. He will fill a vacancy created by the death of Ed Havill and is appointed for a term beginning November 26, 2012, and ending January 7, 2013.


>>> Residents to get $2.7 million for impact of Tropical Storm Debby after federal grant for temporary employment granted

Press release: Governor Rick Scott announced that in response to the impacts of Tropical Storm Debby on the Apalachicola Bay, the State of Florida received approval for a $2.7 million National Emergency Grant (NEG) to provide temporary employment for those Franklin County residents who were adversely impacted due to the decline of oysters and other fisheries in the region. The state of Florida made the request for disaster assistance to the U.S. Department of Labor in October. Governor Scott said, “In October I met with families in Franklin County and saw their frustration and desire to return to the jobs they love. Apalachicola Bay is home to some of the best fisheries and oysters in the world, and we’re committed to getting much needed support to the area. This funding will provide desperately needed employment and paychecks to those hardworking families who have been impacted. This support will also help put families back to work and begin the road to recovery.”

The Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) coordinated with the Gulf Coast Workforce Development Board and the local community to develop a temporary jobs project to reshell the Bay and help it recover and re-open to harvesting. The Grant is provided by the Department of Labor and totals $2,699,712, which will go towards hiring 200 dislocated oystermen, working under the supervision of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs and the local Seafood Workers Association to reshell the Bay with live and dead oyster material from unaffected areas of the Bay to those oyster bars damaged by the storm. The reshelling project will operate through June 30, 2013. “Under Governor Scott’s direction, DEO coordinated with our fellow state agencies, Franklin County and the local workforce board to develop the most effective plan to respond to this disaster and get the necessary resources and supplies to those affected,” said DEO Executive Director Hunting F. Deutsch. “I’m proud of the assistance we’ve been able to provide to the region and I look forward to continuing to assist Franklin County and its residents going forward.”

Other forms of assistance to the area by Florida’s workforce partners have included: Training The Gulf Coast Workforce Board developed an initiative, Franklin Works, to serve displaced seafood workers. It is comprised of three initiatives: classroom training, work-site based training and GED training for those who wish to earn their high school equivalency. Clean up: Employment Florida received $256,953 in federal funding to support the hiring of 15 temporary workers to work for Franklin County and help complete the clean-up and restoration work in the region. Long-Term Economic Diversification: DEO is currently working with Franklin County leaders to develop a long-term economic diversification strategy for the area.  This effort includes profiling the community and inventorying valuable assets including vacant lands, natural resources, maritime and inland infrastructure, recreational and educational opportunities, as well as other resources. This information gathered will be analyzed based on economic trends, strengths, barriers and opportunities.  Based on the outcome of the study, DEO will work with the county to develop goals and objectives, along with an action plan, to move the community toward economic diversification.

Food Drive: Thousands of pounds of food were delivered to Franklin’s Promise Coalition in October through the efforts of state agencies and local organizations. Resource Fairs: Three Resource Fairs were held with approximately 1,200 total attendees.  More than 150 individuals were assisted with filing and processing food stamp applications.  More than 200 people signed up for assistance through workforce programs while approximately 300 families have applied for emergency assistance.


>>> Press release: Key West Man Pleads Guilty to Making False Claim on BP Claims Fund

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 Cleon Major, 40, of Key West, Florida, pled guilty today in United States District Court in Key West in connection with the Deepwater Horizon explosion and pollution incident in the Gulf of Mexico.  More specifically, Major pled guilty to wire fraud in the submission of a fraudulent claim for lost income against the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1343. Sentencing is scheduled for March 25, 2013 at 1:30 p.m. before U.S. District Judge Jose E. Martinez.  The defendant faces a maximum statutory term of imprisonment of up to twenty years on the wire fraud charge and a criminal fine of up to $250,000 may also be imposed, as well as a period of supervised release of up to five years. Major remains in custody pending his sentencing.

According to the allegations in the indictment and statements made in court, on April 20, 2010, an explosion and fire occurred on the Deepwater Horizon, an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico that had been drilling an exploration well.  In June 2010, BP established the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) for the purpose of administering, mediating, and settling certain claims of individuals and businesses for costs, damages, and other losses incurred as a result of the oil discharges due to the Deepwater Horizon incident.  In August 2010, the GCCF began receiving and processing such claims, and BP ceased receiving and processing claims of individuals and businesses for costs, damages, and other losses incurred as a result of the oil discharges due to the Deepwater Horizon incident. Major admitted in Court that on October 27, 2010, in furtherance of a scheme to obtain money from the GCCF, he filed a fraudulent electronic claim via the internet for approximately $10,000 in lost income, knowing the representations in his claim were false. Three co-defendants in the case are still facing charges for mail and wire fraud totaling approximately $300,000.

To substantiate his claim of lost income, Major provided the GCCF fraudulent employment and income documents, which he transmitted via the internet from Monroe County, Florida, to the GCCF offices in Dublin, Ohio, to support his demand for compensation. Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI and the NOAA Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Watts-FitzGerald. >>> 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


>>> Pulse event for Lotus House Women’s Shelter in Miami – Please come and Join us for PULSE Miami 2012. Pulse will open its doors for an exclusive VIP preview on Tuesday, December 4, 2012, from 7pm to 10pm, with a silent auction hosted by artnet Auctions, benefiting the Lotus House Women’s Shelter in Miami, and a special performance by the Miami based TM SISTERS. The Pulse Fair is located at The Ice Palace Studios 1400 North Miami Avenue [at 14th Street]

>>> Please join us on December 4th at Neiman Marcus, Bal Harbour to view the limited edition hand-painted Charlotte Olympia ‘Dolly’ shoes created in celebration of Art Basel Miami – Charlotte herself will be making a store appearance! We have an amazing raffle for a pair of Charlotte Olympia shoes valued at up to $1,000! Raffle tickets are $25 and all proceeds benefit Women of Tomorrow Mentor & Scholarship Program. Purchase your tickets now by contacting Beatrice Gonzalez at 305-371-3330! Tickets will also be available for purchase at the event. >>> Women of Tomorrow Mentor & Scholarship Program, Inc. National Headquarters & South Florida: 22 East Flagler Street, 6th Floor, Miami, FL 33131 National Headquarters: (305) 371-3331 | (305) 371-3329 Email:

>>> December 5 – Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce Trustee Luncheon, Featuring, Reverend Monsignor Franklyn M. Casale, President, St. Thomas University and Michael Lewis, Founder and Publisher, Miami Today

>> There is a December multi-county Regional Climate Change Summit in the future and for more information about the event go to:

>>> South Florida Regional Planning Board Road Show in seven counties and for more information go to


>>> While Miami-Dade Commissioners may regret supporting new Miami Marlins stadium, it is to little too late and none asked what the total $2.5 billion cost would be for the enclosed ballpark

Barry Jackson, a featured Miami Herald sports writer did the community a favor when he delved into the political world and the Miami-Dade County Commission vote for a new Miami Marlins stadium with an enclosed roof costing around $530 million, but when financed comes out at around $2.5 billion through the course of the life of the financing bonds. He interviewed eight of the county commissioners that voted yes for the mega project, that auto magnate Norman Braman fought in the local courts trying to stop. But the state of the art stadium went up on time and in budget but about 80 percent of public tourist tax dollars is covering the bond payment tab over the next decades and these payments begin to skyrocket in the decades to come because so little of the principle is being paid now on the financial instruments. George Burgess, the county manager who spearheaded the deal said the team would have left without a new stadium. And while Burgess is disappointed team owner, Jeffrey Loria gutted the team trading some of its top players and the Marlins management is pledging to rebuild the team in the basement when it comes to the teams standing last season.

Burgess said he stands by the negotiations with Loria and David Samson, who later called local politicians involved in the deal not the sharpest saws in the shed. After the team cried poor mouth but in fact was making money and when that was revealed Braman when asked about it said, “Suckers,” in regard to the politicians and the deal that was consummated at that point. Further, Michael Lewis, the publisher of Miami Today railed for over a year how bad the deal was for the taxpayers, did extensive analysis of the contract and all the things the professional baseball team got, and the crumbs the public received. Moreover, in many ways, the Watchdog Report probably could have lived with the new stadium, if there was not this incredible financing cost in the years to come.  And while Burgess likened the financing structure to like buying a house with a mortgage. It is clear the community and commissioners over stepped what they thought Miami-Dade could afford and it was like buying a house way above ones means. But the payment hammer does not fall until years ahead when most politicians will be out of office. And what galls the Watchdog Report is not so much the commission vote, but that no one in the administration headed up by Burgess and then Mayor Carlos Alvarez had the guts to say what the true cost would be over the years. For if they had, the commission would likely had significant second thoughts on the deal as a whole, something they now have to ponder given the community’s residents outrage and disgust of the self serving team.


>>> Some interesting reporting regarding deformed Gulf sea food subsequent to the BP spill…. >>  –


>>> Thank you as always for your work and insight. Have you given any thought to covering MDX Miami Dade Expressway Authority?  They just recently announced that they want to raise toll rates by 50% on 836 and 112 by 2014, plus slip in CPI (consumer price indexing) that will allow them to raise toll rates every year there after!  Oh, and all while “closing” the 836 and 112 with their ORT (Open Road Tolling) system like they did on 874,878 ad 924? This is something that will be impacting most drivers in Miami-Dade.

Carlos Garcia

>>> I’m enjoying you on Topical Currents right now. I would love to know your views on the City of Miami Gardens and what policies the new mayor would have to put in place to reduce violent crimes? I enjoy the Watchdog Report. Thank you for your work. You are a great professional role model for a young journalist like myself.

J. Tate




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 13th 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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