Argus Report: Miami Today publisher & founder Lewis touts 30 years of paper, created “no agenda” news niche, laments the creation of “Informed and uninformed,” citizens
Florida: State Reps. Artiles & Wood take aim at Citizens Insurance; Board Chair Lacasa says some of the controversial charges have resulted in change
Miami-Dade County: Controlled prayer gets BCC nod 8-3, written carefully, but will law get an ACLU lawsuit in the future?
Miami-Dade Public Schools: Resolving A&M charter school’s issues in Grove, like “Waiting for Godet, and he never shows,” says Audit Committee chair Shapiro
City of Miami: Jungle Island $83,000 interest payment on $25 million HUD loan expected at end of Jan., no problem with payment expected after initial six years stiffing Miami
City of Hialeah: Hialeah Clinic Company Owner Convicted in Medicare Fraud Scheme
City of Miami Gardens: Man Sentenced to Jail for Mailing Hoax Threats to Broward Government Offices
City of Miami Beach: Will Morales be tapped as new Mgr. Wednesday, or will commission punt and review all the shortlist candidates?
City of Coral Gables: Mayor Cason says, “No crime wave,” in the Gables, streets are safe to walk 24/7, commission to discuss issue Tuesday morning
>>> Other stories around Florida
Broward County: Vice Mayor Sharief in the spotlight, quickly rising up political food chain, Miramar commissioner in 09, now with new BCC leadership position
Palm Beach County: Fourteen Men Charged in International Cocaine Trafficking Ring
St. Lucie County: Treasure Coast Tax Return Preparer Pleads Guilty to Preparing False Income Tax Returns
Monroe County: Gov. Scott taps Scales and Shillinger to the Sixteenth Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission
Community Events: Two worthy causes have matching fundraisers opportunities this week, MedShare & Heart for Humanity/ Zen Village, get funds as well from Miami Foundation & Knight Foundation — Regional Planning meetings around the counties
Editorials: Niche media like the WDR needs to be supported if it is to continue after almost 14 years, tens of thousands of stories later – 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: I hope that you can join us for this year’s Annual Everglades Coalition Conference — Reader corrects PA story in WDR – Reader thinks WDR did “terrific” on WLRN/NPR show
Sponsors – Publisher’s mission statement & Subscription information is at the bottom of this issue — Scroll down for all the headline stories text
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>>> Red Alert: If you think it is important to have an alternative mainstream news service, I hope you will consider becoming a financial supporter for I do have to live and pay my rent. I also want to thank again all those people and organizations that have supported me over the years and I have been honored by that trust and support of my efforts over the past almost 14 years.
ARGUS REPORT – Heard, Seen on the Street
>>> Miami Today publisher Lewis touts 30 years of paper, created “no agenda” news niche, laments the creation of “Informed and uninformed,” citizens
Michael Lewis, the publisher and founder of Miami Today www.miamitodaynews.com is celebrating the weekly paper’s 30th Anniversary and he reminisced about the past stories over the years at the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce Luncheon on Wednesday held at Jungle Island. Lewis, a University of Michigan graduate with two degrees, including a Masters Degree from the respected institution, then spent his life in the newspaper business and he came to Miami to be a senior editor at the now defunct Miami News located back then in the Miami Freedom Tower. He said he and his wife Carmen who handles the business side of the paper, thought Miami needed a paper that covered stories of interest that were being missed by the much larger daily The Miami Herald. And he created his own newspaper niche that employs around 20 reporters and employees, has 77,000 readers in print, and he has focused on “tailoring a newspaper” focused on South Florida over the past three decades.
Lewis said it was important to know your readers and the kind of news they want, especially since the paper’s surveys over the years shows the readers are generally well educated and successful (Mean readers income around $219,000) in most of their endeavors with significant disposable income on the whole. The paper’s founder also expressed concern of the diminishing amount of hard news information and the news divide between people that read the papers and those who get most of their news on blogs that may or may not be right. He noted when it comes to some of the blogs stories, there were initial reports after Hurricane Sandy smacked New Jersey and New York that there “was three inches of water on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange,” not true, he said. Moreover, Lewis warned the local community is creating a “gulf of informed and the uninformed,” residents and believes with the diminishment of hard news with no agenda we “are about to create a group of second class citizens,” and believes that would “Be bad for the community.”
Lewis who has been competing with The Miami Herald for the past three decades and runs ads of stories that first appeared in his paper, before the story was covered by the general circulation daily has been tenacious in this regard. And in his editorials, the only real commentary versus straight news reports that dominate the paper’s stories. Lewis gets to lend his voice to community issues, he was really the first person to rail about how bad the new Miami Marlins Stadium deal was, the community was getting very little back from the team, and when it came to it’s financing through the life of the capital bands to build it. The true cost is around $2.5 billion and he pointed out this house of cards financing plan relentlessly over almost a two-year period and has many of his and auto magnate Norman Braman’s concerns, who also fought the deal in local courts and much of their concerns paned out to be true.
Lewis also noted that The Miami Herald is also losing it’s dominance of the news markets and a lot of stories are never covered anymore since the reporting assets have been scaled back because of budget cuts hitting the mainstream press and television media. “Who else covers the city’s [of Miami] core,” or county commission committee meetings? He asked saying they do so because these meetings are “vital” for an informed society. He lamented the lack of “professionally vetting of stories,” and asking are the sources “credible,” and you know the source and accuracy issue is especially important now because the “gatekeepers are now gone.” He also said, “Citizens need newspapers, these help set the [community] agenda,” and since “much of the printed press will go away.”[We will be] slipping into second class citizens,” and local community newspapers will end up being the only news source which is of concern. He noted the Knight Foundation, the local organization fostering journalism, culture and the arts around the nation is “Trying to find new ways” to get hard news community reporting and Lewis hopes they are successful in their efforts. However, he noted none of this reporting would happen without the business side of news being bright and closed his remarks saying. “The more you subscribe, the more that we can bring you.”
>>> WHITE HOUSE press release: On December 11, 2012, the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council (Council) will hold its first public meeting in Mobile, Alabama. The Council, which was established by the Resources and Ecosystem Sustainability, Tourism, Opportunities Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act of 2012 (RESTORE Act), will develop and oversee implementation of a comprehensive plan to help restore the ecosystem and economy of the Gulf Coast region in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
The Council is comprised of governors from the five affected Gulf States, the Secretaries from the U.S. Departments of Interior, Commerce, Agriculture, and Homeland Security as well as the Secretary of the Army and the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The Gulf States selected and President Obama appointed the Secretary of Commerce as the Council’s Chair.
The Council will work with the State and local communities to identify projects and programs that will restore the region’s natural resources and help benefit local businesses, boost their economies, and create jobs. In order to ensure robust public input throughout the entire process, the Council will hold several public meetings and listening sessions in each of the Gulf States in the coming months. Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley and other federal, state and local officials will participate in the meeting on December 11. This meeting will give the public the opportunity to learn about the Council and provide feedback on the Council’s restoration planning efforts during a designated public comment period. To learn more about the Gulf Restoration Council and RESTORE Act, visit www.restorethegulf.gov.
>>> Press release: Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) is pleased that the House approved H. Res. 825, a vital bill that reauthorizes the activities of the Coast Guard through FY2014 and includes important provisions that will benefit Coast Guard missions ranging from coastal security to drug interdiction and marine safety. Just last year alone, the Coast Guard responded to 20,510 search and rescue cases and saved over 3,800 lives. These brave men and women also were able to intercept over 166,000 pounds of cocaine that would otherwise end up in our neighborhoods. This legislation will ensure that the Coast Guard is equipped to carry out these vital missions and will improve an already great service, one whose men and women are at the forefront of keeping our seas safe and our shores secure.
“Ensuring that the brave Coast Guard men and women have the tools they need to effectively patrol our coasts is a significant priority. My constituents, truly everyone in South Florida, knows firsthand the superb job that the Coast Guard does every day, from saving lives in the high seas to interdicting dangerous drugs that poison our youth and destroy whole communities. I recognize the crucial need to protect our nation by strengthening the United States Coast Guard so they may continue to live up to their motto, Always Ready”, said Ros-Lehtinen.
>>> U.S. Attorney’s Office Collects $47,718,642.26 in Civil & Criminal Actions in FY 2012
Press release: U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer announced today that the Southern District of Florida collected $47,718,642.26 in Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 related to criminal and civil actions. Of this amount, $ 16,449,925.43 was collected in criminal actions and $ 31,268,716.83 was collected in civil actions. Additionally, the office collected $62,096,827 in criminal and civil forfeitures. Nationwide, the U.S. Attorneys’ offices collected $13.1 billion in criminal and civil actions during FY 2012, more than doubling the $6.5 billion collected in FY 2011. A portion of this amount, $5.3 billion, was collected in shared cases in which one or more U.S. Attorneys’ offices or department litigating divisions were also involved. The $13.1 billion represents more than six times the appropriated budget of the combined 94 offices for FY 2012.
U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer stated. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office is dedicated to protecting the public and recovering funds for the federal treasury and for victims of federal crime. We will continue to hold accountable those who seek to profit from their illegal activities.” The U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, along with the department’s litigating divisions, are responsible for enforcing and collecting civil and criminal debts owed to the U.S. and criminal debts owed to federal crime victims. Statistics indicate that the total amount collected in criminal actions totaled $3.035 billion in restitution, criminal fines, and felony assessments. The law requires defendants to pay restitution to victims of certain federal crimes who have suffered a physical injury or financial loss. While restitution is paid directly to the victim, criminal fines and felony assessments are paid to the department’s Crime Victims’ Fund, which distributes the funds to state victim compensation and victim assistance programs.
The statistics also indicate that $10.12 billion was collected by the U.S. Attorneys’ offices in individually and jointly handled civil actions. The largest civil collections were from affirmative civil enforcement cases, in which the United States recovered government money lost to fraud or other misconduct or collected fines imposed on individuals and/or corporations for violations of federal health, safety, civil rights or environmental laws. In addition, civil debts were collected on behalf of several federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, Internal Revenue Service, and Small Business Administration. Additionally, the U.S. Attorneys’ offices, working with partner agencies and divisions, collected $4.389 billion in asset forfeiture actions in FY 2012. Forfeited assets are deposited into the Department of Justice Assets Forfeiture Fund and Department of Treasury Forfeiture Fund and are used to restore funds to crime victims and for a variety of law enforcement purposes. The $13.16 billion collected nationwide by the U.S. Attorneys’ offices for FY 2012 nearly matches the $13.18 billion collected in FY 2010 and FY 2011 combined. For further information, the United States Attorneys’ Annual Statistical Reports can be found on the internet at http://www.justice.gov/usao/reading_room/foiamanuals.html.
>>> Press release: South Florida Members Of Congress Ros-Lehtinen, Wasserman Schultz, Diaz-Balart, Wilson, & Rivera Ask USDA To Implement Proposal Put Forth By FL Ag Comm. Putnam That Addresses Threat
By Red Bay Ambrosia Beetle/Laurel Wilt Disease On Our Avocado Crop
Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) lead a letter that was sent out today to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack supporting a proposal developed by Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam to address the Red Bay Ambrosia Beetle/Laurel Wilt disease. This disease affects avocado and swamp bay trees. In February 2011, the Florida Department of Agriculture confirmed the presence of this disease in the western edge of Miami-Dade County, in the Bird Drive basin. Other co-signers include: Congs. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Mario Diaz-Balart, Frederica Wilson, and David Rivera. Said Ros-Lehtinen, “This insect and the disease it carries have the capacity to cause great damage to growers avocado trees leading to millions of dollars in lost profits and hundreds if not thousands of layoffs. The proposal put forth by Commissioner Putnam would help with ongoing efforts to control this disease and lessen its destruction. It is imperative that federal agriculture officials help us battle this dangerous pest and its devastating effects on our avocado crop.”
>>> Pharmacy Owner Pleads Guilty For Role In $23 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme
Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Michael B. Steinbach, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Miami Field Office, and Christopher B. Dennis, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), Office of Investigations Miami office announced that the co-owner and operator of three Miami discount pharmacies pleaded guilty yesterday in connection with a $23 million health care fraud scheme. Jose Carlos Morales, 55, of Miami, pleaded guilty yesterday before U.S. District Judge Joan A. Lenard to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and one count of conspiracy to pay illegal health care kickbacks.
According to court documents, Morales was the co-owner of Pharmovisa Inc., which operated two pharmacies in Miami, and PharmovisaMD Inc., which operated one pharmacy in Miami. Morales pleaded guilty to agreeing to pay illegal health care kickbacks to co-conspirators in return for a stream of beneficiary information to be used to submit claims to Medicare and Medicaid. The beneficiaries who were referred to Pharmovisa and PharmovisaMD (Morales pharmacies) in exchange for kickbacks payments resided at assisted living facilities (ALFs) located in Miami. Morales and his alleged co-conspirators also paid illegal health care kickbacks to physicians in exchange for prescription referrals, which the Morales pharmacies ultimately billed to Medicare.
Court documents also reveal that beginning in approximately 2007, at Morales’ direction, drivers working for Morales pharmacies delivered “bingo cards” containing pop out medications to ALFs located throughout the Southern District of Florida, and Morales instructed these drivers to pick up any unused “bingo cards” so that Morales pharmacy personnel could place these medications back into pill bottles. Unused and partially used medications were eventually re-billed to Medicare and Medicaid, and a majority of the previously submitted claims to Medicare and Medicaid were never reversed. Morales also instructed Morales pharmacy personnel to place unused and partially used medications into bottles to be sold directly to the general public from the “community” pharmacy shelves.
In furtherance of the conspiracies, according to court documents, Morales and his alleged co-conspirators also engaged in sham financial transactions to facilitate and conceal the fraud schemes and the flow of fraud proceeds. In most instances, the sham transactions involved shell entities owned and/or controlled by Morales or his alleged co-conspirators.
On Oct. 16, 2012, Esperanza Navailles, a former “marketer” for the Morales pharmacies, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States and pay illegal health care kickbacks. From February 2011 to January 2012, Navailles, on behalf of the Morales pharmacies, paid ALF owners and operators $30 per patient per month for each Medicare beneficiary they referred to the pharmacies. The Morales pharmacies then submitted claims to Medicare for items and services on behalf of the referred Medicare beneficiaries. Navailles admitted that she knew the kickback payments were illegal. According to court documents, Morales and his co-conspirators submitted and caused to be submitted approximately $23,367,755 in false and fraudulent claims to the Medicare and Florida Medicaid programs. The cases are being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Allan J. Medina and Special Trial Attorney William Parente of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. This case was investigated by the FBI and HHS-OIG and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, supervised by the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida. >>> Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged more than 1,480 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $4.8 billion. In addition, HHS’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with HHS-OIG, is taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers. To learn more about the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), go to: www.stopmedicarefraud.gov.
>>> 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
>>> State Reps. Artiles & Wood take aim at Citizens Insurance, Board Chair Lacasa says some of the controversial charges have resulted in change
State Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami and state Rep. John Wood Jr., R-Haines City have decided to go after Florida’s Citizens Property Insurance and the way the organization runs and polices itself, that has led to a number of revelations in the press of scandalous activity by staff and lucrative severance payouts to past employees. Artiles in June had called for a comprehensive audit of Citizens but he and Wood are turning up the heat after senior staff in the organization suggested all he criticism was the fault of the media and certainly not the state insurer of last resort. http://www.tampabay.com/news/business/banking/corporate-cauldron-of-misconduct-alleged-at-citizens-property-insurance/1262528
What do we know about the men’s finances?
Artiles through May of 2012 had a net worth of $184,093 and he lists $199,000 in household goods. His home is valued at $350,000, a Cadillac is worth $45,000 and there is $7,700 in life insurance. The lawmaker in a bank account and in CDs has $50,000, and $10,000 is in a partnership interest. His liabilities include student loans owed $121,000 and $36,000, a mortgage is owed $256,000 and a leased vehicle is owed $25,800. In addition, income for the year was $10,100 from Atlas Consultants, Pinnacle Public Adjusters paid him $20,116 and the state of Florida kicked in $28,891.
Wood through Dec. 31 2011 had a net worth of $4.53 million and he lists $35,000 in household goods. He has extensive stock holdings, $682,000 is with John Wood Reality, one home in Winter Haven is worth $120,000 but he also owns many other properties. His income for the year was $29,697 as a lawmaker, John Wood Management kicked in $150,000 and he lists no liabilities for the year on his notarized financial disclosure form.
What about Citizen’s Chair Lacasa?
Former state Rep. Carlos Lacasa, R-Miami is getting some press and he was once a highflying state legislator who chaired the powerful House Budget Committee back in 2000 to 2002. At the time, he pushed a radical restructuring of the Miami-Dade County Commission suggesting it should be expanded to around 18 members and is more like a council than the current discrete 13-member commission district, but the idea died on the vine when it came to Miami-Dade commissioner support. At the time, Commissioner Natacha Seijas told the Watchdog Report that Lacasa “was a very nice boy” but when it came to the commission structure. He should mind his own business and she brushed aside his proposed reform initiative. He would later after being termed out in the house in 2002 run for a state senate seat against then state Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, a bitter race that Lacasa lost. Since then he has kept a low profile but he and his father Armando, a former Miami commissioner have a deal with the city of Miami to run a restaurant on Virginia Key that has caused some controversy and in the case of the dust-up at Citizens over the past months.
He says the administrative team overall is solid and they have created a viable high-risk insurance pool and some of the employee indiscretions have been blown out of proportion and seem worse than they are.
However, he did note any spending irregularities were with the “administration” and in his case. A trip he took to Bermuda was in February and March, the “high season” there when all the world’s insurance companies come to meet and to get a hotel there at the time is like finding a hotel in Miami “during Art Basil,” he said on a local political affairs program on Sunday. The attorney also noted that Citizens had to fight other state legislators who don’t have the same property insurance issues as the state’s shoreline areas. And they question why they should have to pay for these residents with greater windstorm exposure because of where they live, he said. And since the critical report on expenses by the company’s executives, he says the policies have been tightened up and are some of the most stringent guidelines found in such an entity. However, lawmakers and Gov. Rick Scott are seeing the issue differently and the general feeling from critics and supporters is that more oversight might be the more prudent solution. >>> To see the Lacasa interview Sunday on the weekly news show This Week in South Florida go to www.local10.com
What about the Miami-Dade Property Appraiser situation?
Miami-Dade Property Appraiser Pedro Garcia is holding tight when it comes to allowing a transition period for the new occupant Republican Carlos Lopez-Cantera, a former state representative who won the Aug. 14 primary. After the absentee ballots were counted and overcame Garcia’s win at the election polls when it came to total voters voting, and Garcia charges that there was absentee ballot fraud in the race. Garcia has since dropped his court challenge concerning the absentee ballots but there is still bitterness between them and Lopez-Cantera has been unable to even come into the secure office since the victory. However, Garcia has assigned his number two in the office to be a liaison with the former state legislator with the transition and swearing into office occurs Jan. 7.
Garcia says he is not there to teach someone the office and believes his posture is fair. Since Lopez Cantera has access to his staff at the highest level before being sworn in January. But the younger man says he is being denied an opportunity to get to know the staff and get up to speed on the office’s operations, that includes some 300 employees and has a couple of floors in the county hall building. Further, Lopez-Cantera believes this attitude is just sour grapes and while he has a temporary office on the building’s 22 floor versus meeting in the county lobby at the Bodega where he for a few months was holding court with his confidants and campaign supporters. Moreover, with the clock ticking it is hoped the two men will bury the hatchet before the final moment to allow for a smooth transition of leadership in this very important countywide office. http://miami.cbslocal.com/2012/12/07/standoff-holds-up-property-appraisers-office-transition/
What about when Garcia first ran?
Garcia won his office initially knocking off now state Sen. Gwen Margolis, D-Miami in an odd election date race on December 2008, where voter turnout was abysmal, and the date was essentially picked by then County Commissioner Natacha Seijas. Seijas at that time crafted much of the initial legislation for the office and when the election would occur and it was only when then Commissioner Carlos Gimenez objected to the slanted manner of the new proposed legislation. After Gimenez’s protests some of the law creating the Home Rule Charter Office and the runoff election dates were modified and made slightly more reasonable, but the ultimate date did guarantee a low eight percent voter turnout race Dec.18 and was smack in the middle of the Jewish holidays. Garcia in that race won 59.3 percent of the vote to Margolis’ 41 percent and she got 30,888 absentee votes to his 36,320 in the race though now has Garcia challenging the validity of these absentee ballots. Editor’s note: I covered and wrote about these meetings creating the framework for this new office and I had never seen something be crafted to create a negative election environment so blatantly before. And the WDR thanks now Mayor Carlos Gimenez for stepping up to the plate to blunt this legislative work being pushed by Seijas who at the time had a significant grudge against Margolis, a past commission chair from 1998 to 2002 and had significant sharp exchanges over those years on the dais.
>>> Press release: Governor Rick Scott issued the following letter to early learning stakeholders:
Thank you for your assistance in working with my staff in the Executive Office of the Governor on the funding formula for allocation of school readiness funds to the Early Learning Coalitions (ELC). As you know, a quality early learning system is critical to providing Florida children the tools they need to succeed – and we are committed to working with stakeholders in establishing a funding formula that best benefits Florida’s families. That’s why in an effort to provide stability and improve the Early Learning system, I have asked that the Office of Early Learning (OEL) implement the following directives: Propose a funding formula for Fiscal Year 2013-14 that mirrors the formula that was implemented in July of the current year. Utilize the next year to identify and establish a working group of stakeholders to include legislative members, OEL, ELC’s, provider groups, and local government entities. The working group will be expected to gather input and refine a funding formula to be reviewed by the Governor’s Office and the Legislature prior to the statutorily mandated submission on January 1, 2014 by Florida’s Office of Early Learning.
I recognize the importance of the current funding formula for communities in addressing the needs of early learning and school readiness for children. I also understand that this is an investment not only in Florida’s Early Learning Coalitions, but also to the businesses, communities and most importantly the families that participate in this program. Your willingness to share your concerns in an open and transparent manner, and interest in the success of this program has been vital to the decision making process. Your involvement is not only welcomed, but vital both now and in the future.
>>> 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.
>>> Controlled prayer gets BCC nod 8-3, written carefully but will it get a ACLU lawsuit in the future?
Let us pray, concluded the Miami-Dade Commission on Tuesday and the expanded language of the prayer before a commission meeting begins was passed with only a few dissenting votes after the legislation passed 8 to 3. The contentious issue first reported in the Watchdog Report weeks ago after it passd a commission committee unanimously has stirred the public and media since then. Moreover, while the new prayer legislation is crafted in such a way as to not promote any one religion or God. Representatives of the ACLU say the ordinance is a lawsuit in the waiting and when it comes to the question of which religious leaders will do the prayer. There will be a list compiled but as one person asked the Watchdog Report. What about some of the out of the mainstream religions like Voodoo or Santeria and what if they want to do a animal sacrifice that the followers periodically participate in as part of the religious ceremony.
What about Commissioner Suarez?
Commissioner Xavier Suarez during the discussion also raised some interesting points about the commission’s discussions in general and the issues they tackle. Suarez who is deeply religious thought the public was tired of waiting for the important matters that the body needs to deal with being deferred, and the taxpayers are demanding “less time on symbolic things” and when it came to the legislation. He was also concerned that the prayer issue was costing $22,000 to compile the list of religious leaders eligible and roughly $4,000 per month once the program is up and running said county Mayor Carlos Gimenez to the District 7 commissioner during the discussion. http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/12/04/3126361/miami-dade-commission-reinstitutes.html
How is Suarez doing?
Suarez, beginning his first four-year term representing the tony commission District 7, that snakes along the county’s east waterfront coast and has the highest value property tax base of the 13 county commission districts and while he has setteled into political office since he was first sworn into office June 2011. He is getting critics who have become skeptical of some of his proposed grand plans that appear to be on hold. And he no longer says he feels like “He represents Texas,” and “gets to say yes a lot,” given what he perceived was the over $200 million in county bond money available for the district, and includes some $15 million for the now shuttered Coconut Grove Playhouse that reverted by to the state of Florida. He also did not attend a recent town hall meeting that had been called in his district, and was the host, but did not realize residents expected him to attend such an event to hear their concerns firsthand, and not just through his staff, a source confided to the Watchdog Report. And constituents hope he is more engaged on some of the issues important to the district and they will have to wait and see if he rises to the challenge of hearing and resolving local problems facing his taxpayers he is representing.
>>> Democratic Party press release: Yesterday, Annette Taddeo-Goldstein made history for being the first woman elected as chair of the Miami-Dade Democratic Executive Committee (DEC).
“The leader of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party looks like so many Floridians who came together to support the President’s campaign–a mother, small businesswoman, and Latina,” said Congressman-elect Joe Garcia (CD-26). Today, Taddeo-Goldstein appointed Juan Cuba as the committee’s new Executive Director. Juan Cuba, a Miami native, was the State Deputy Field Director responsible for President Obama’s 2012 ground game in Miami-Dade, Monroe, Lee, Collier, and Hendry counties. Together, Taddeo-Goldstein and Cuba have assembled a team that will maintain and build on the Obama ground operation in Miami-Dade–widely recognized as the county that, with its 208,000-vote margin for Obama, won Florida for the president this year. Their team includes a dozen of the best Obama staffers who helped deliver Miami-Dade and earn victories for Democrats down the ticket (see below for bios of each team member).
The team will focus heavily on registering new voters, enrolling Democrats in vote-by-mail, and re-engaging Miami residents in a conversation about the issues that affect them the most. Please send all press inquiries about this new grassroots effort to firstname.lastname@example.org. For information on how you can get involved with the Democratic Party in Miami, please visit http://www.miamidadedemocrats.org/.
>>> Time is running out, Nominations must be postmarked by December 14, 2012
Press release: The Parks Foundation of Miami-Dade, in partnership with the Miami-Dade County Commission for Women and Miami-Dade Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces, is seeking to honor outstanding Miami-Dade women for the 25th Annual In the Company of Women Awards Ceremony to be held in March 2013. Timed to coincide with Women’s History Month, In the Company of Women recognizes the accomplishments of professional female leaders in the community in the following categories: Outstanding Woman in Arts and Entertainment, Outstanding Woman in Business and Economics, Outstanding Woman in Communications and Literature, Outstanding Woman in Education and Research, Outstanding Woman in Government and Law, Outstanding Woman in Health and Human Services, Outstanding Woman in Science and Technology, Outstanding Woman in Sports and Athletics, Community Spirit Award, Mayor’s Pioneer Award Posthumous Award To download the nomination form, please visit http://miamidade.gov/parks/women.asp. Completed forms must be mailed to Laura Morilla, Executive Director, Miami-Dade County Commission for Women, 111 NW 1st Street, Suite 1034, Miami, FL, 33128. Nominations must be postmarked by Friday, December 14, 2012. >>> For more information and for a list of past award recipients, please go to http://miamidade.gov/parks/women.asp or contact Laura Morilla at 305-375-4967, email email@example.com.
>>> GMCVB press release: RECORD DEMAND FOR TRAVEL TO GREATER MIAMI AND THE BEACHES REMAINS STRONG IN JANUARY – OCTOBER 2012 RESULTING IN INCREASES IN GREATER MIAMI’S TOURIST-RELATED TAX COLLECTIONS
Through the first ten months of 2012, the 2% Tourist Development tax collections (excluding Miami Beach, Bal Harbour and Surfside) totaled $16,879,207 compared to $15,120,003 in 2011 for an increase of +11.6%. The 2% Hotel Food and Beverage tax collections from hotels in Miami-Dade (excluding Miami Beach, Bal Harbour, and Surfside) generated $5,414,758 compared to $4,888,761 in 2011, for an increase of +10.8%. The 3% Convention Development tax (CDT) collections for Greater Miami and the Beaches totaled $50,077,296 compared to $45,500,259 for the same period last year representing a +10.1% increase in 2012.
|2% TOURIST DEVELOPMENT TAX COLLECTIONS|
|January-October 2012||January-October 2011||% Change|
|2% HOTEL FOOD AND BEVERAGE TAX COLLECTIONS|
|January-October 2012||January-October 2011||% Change|
|3% CONVENTION DEVELOPMENT TAX COLLECTIONS|
|January-October 2012||January-October 2011||% Change|
MIAMI-DADE PUBLIC SCHOOL
>>> Resolving A&M charter school’s issues in Grove, like Waiting for Godet, and he never shows,” says Audit Committee chair Shapiro
“This is like [the play by Samuel Beckett] Waiting for Godet and he never shows up,” said Jeffrey B. Shapiro, a tax attorney, former prosecutor and the chair of the Miami-Dade Public Schools School Board Audit & Budgetary Advisory Committee Tuesday when it came to closing out the public schools district’s concerns about the Arts and Minds Academy charter school located in Coconut Grove. The audit committee and the auditor’s office had asked for certain documents and support information after a extensive 350 page forensic audit was done on the charter school released last June and founded in 2004 and the subject of frequent Watchdog Reports. Since then because it is considered a “related matter” ( The buildings owner Manny Alonso Poch started the not-for-profit school that gets around $6,200 per student in public dollars, but also included around $90,000 a month in payments for the rent, administration and food services) all handled by Poch. However, the district’s auditor was not satisfied with what was provided at the last minute and A&M has one last opportunity to work out the issues with the auditor’s office before the matter is turned over to the school Board’s inspector general to resolve.
Committee Member Frederick “Buck” Thornburg who quipped back in 2006 when the charter school was being discussed and the new $69,000 rent then being charged was explained by Poch. Thornburgh an attorney said, there “is a lot of fairy dust in the room” after Poch’s explanation and at this most recent meeting. He said the response by A&M was a “travesty of half-truths and scurrilous misinformation” but noted his real issue was this has “been hanging around forever, what are we going to do about it,” and how do we “get the conflicts resolved.
Frank Attkisson, a representative of A&M and a former state legislator and Osceola Commissioner said, “We stand by what we have said, you say half truths, we disagree.” He said the school administration believed they had met “everything you had asked for since June” and have addressed wanted changes in governance and food service to name a couple of the response issues being challenged by the district auditor Jose F. Montes de Oca, CPA. However, Shapiro summed up the dilemma saying since the school is not in “financial distress” though the information is being “presented in the wrong way.” I am not sure “where we go” on resolving the matter but he noted in his opinion when it came to A&M there is “Something rotten in Denmark.” The audit committee is recommending that if the remaining issues are not resolved quickly that the audit committee and school board recommend that the District’s Office of the Inspector General take over the pending issues.
>>> Continuing saga of controversial A& M Charter School in Grove back on front burner at District Audit Committee Dec. 4, Rev. Dunn joins organization
The ongoing saga of the Arts & Minds Academy is back in the spotlight after the charter school asked for more time to resolve a variety of issues including governance after an over 300-page school district forensic audit was done after the school was repeatedly flagged for a host of reasons. Manuel Alonso Poch administers the school on Commodore Plaza in Coconut Grove, he started the school in 2004 in a building he owns, this is called a “related transaction” by the nation’s fourth largest public school system, and the charter has been under the spotlight since its inception.
Since the audit was presented to the Miami-Dade School Board Audit Advisory and Budget Committee back in June. The school has hired Frank Atkinson, a former state legislator to iron out any problems and he is a strong proponent of charter schools having helped write some of the state legislation. However, Poch who considers himself politically savvy has also added to the politicians list Rev. Richard Dunn, II and the Watchdog Report caught up with Dunn on Friday. Dunn after I warned him to be very careful in any capacity he has with A&M. He said the school district officials essentially told him the same thing and that they were dealing with a variety of issues with the charter school. The Audit Committee on Dec. 4 will hear the charter schools verbal response and the written report sent to the district can be read here: http://mca.dadeschools.net/AuditCommittee/Ac_december12/item6.pdf >>> Here is some of the A&M response letters http://mca.dadeschools.net/AuditCommittee/AC_September2012/item8c.pdf >> M-DPS Auditor’s response http://mca.dadeschools.net/AuditCommittee/AC_September2012/item8a.pdf >> District follow up letter in Aug. http://mca.dadeschools.net/AuditCommittee/AC_September2012/item8b.pdf
PAST WDR: What do we know about Attkisson?
Attkisson, who walked out quickly after the meeting, did not have a card and declined to speak to the media. However, the Watchdog Report thought a quick scan of the man might produce some insight on the past state official that treated the audit committee and the auditing department in a condescending manner and it is now clear why he felt so confident in front of this board. The businessman and charter school advocate has politically in the past been a commissioner and mayor of the City of Kissimmee, was elected to the Florida House in 2000 running as a Jeb Bush Republican, and after being termed out in 2008. He was elected in 2010 to the Osceola Commission and represents commission District 4, and while he was on a road trip. He seemed to think he was dealing with country bumpkins when he discussed A&M and casually chatted during the meeting with Alonso-Poch before being asked if he wanted to address the audit committee.
What do we know about his finances?
Attkisson since 2007 has gone through some tough financial times and back in 2007 he had a listed net worth of $567,719 through Dec. 30th of that year. In the following year that net worth drops to $498,000 though his assets in total listed are $1.5 million and through 2010 his net worth drops to $77,114 and he lists $20,000 in household goods for all the last three years the financial disclosure forms are on file with the state. His current assets in 2010 include a home valued at $448,000, a tractor is worth $3,500, a Chevy truck is worth $30,000 and his 2006 mustang is valued at $6,000 with total assets for the year being $487,000. And his listed total liabilities come in at $429,000 for the year that includes mortgages owed $127,500 and $133,000, a lot loan is owed $103,000, American Express is owed $36,286 and Bank of America wants $30,100.
>>> Press release: M-DCPS WRAPS UP IMPRESSIVE YEAR OF NOTABLE ACCOMPLISHMENTS
Miami-Dade County Public Schools’ (M-DCPS) students, teachers, schools and programs wrapped up the year with an impressive array of honors and achievements. Among the accomplishments: Broad Prize Winner: M-DCPS was named the winner of The Broad Prize for Urban Education, an annual award that honors urban school districts across the country that are making the greatest progress in raising student achievement. This is the fifth time that M-DCPS had been recognized as a finalist. General Obligation Bond Referendum: A $1.2 billion General Obligation (GO) Bond referendum was approved by voters on the November ballot. Proceeds from the bond issue will be used to modernize and construct schools throughout the District, including technology upgrades at all schools. Approval of the GO Bond was essential to the District as it sought a sustainable long-term solution to providing 21st Century Schools for all Miami-Dade students.
Veteran Educator Named Top Principal: Dr. Rosann P. Sidener, principal of Miami Beach Senior High School was selected as the 2012 Florida Association of School Administrators’ (FASA) Principal of the Year. Sidener is a 34-year veteran educator and administrator with M-DCPS. M-DCPS Educator Named Florida Teacher of the Year: Alexandre Lopes, a Pre-K, Special Education teacher at Carol City Elementary School was named the 2013 Florida Department of Education/Macy’s Teacher of the Year Award. Lopes was selected from more than 20,000 teachers from around Miami-Dade and from among 180,000 around the state of Florida for the honor. Superintendent Named District Data Leader of the Year: The Florida Department of Education named Superintendent of Schools Alberto M. Carvalho the winner of the District Data Leader of the Year Award. Carvalho was recognized for his innovative and effective use of data to drive student performance. Graduation Rates at All-time High: M-DCPS’ graduation rate jumped nearly five points for the 2011-2012 academic year, as calculated by following U.S. Department of Education guidelines. The federally calculated graduation rate for 2010-2011 was 71.3 percent; this year it rose to 76.0 percent, surpassing the state both in rate of growth and total percentage points.
Principal Receives “Oscar of Teaching”: Dr. Kevin Williams, principal at Norwood Elementary School, was honored with the $25,000 Milken Educator Award from the Milken Foundation. The Milken Educator Awards were created in 1985 by education reform leader Lowell Milken to celebrate, elevate and activate excellence in the profession. Leader in AP: M-DCPS leads the country in Advanced Placement (AP) exam scores among Hispanic students. The school district ranks first in the nation in three categories including, the number of Hispanic AP exam scores of three or above, the number of individual Hispanic students scoring three or above, as well as the total number of AP exams taken by Hispanic students. Miami-Dade is also seventh in the country in African American/Black AP exam scores of 3 or above. M-DCPS Students Continue to Exhibit High Levels of Achievement: M-DCPS students outperformed students in many major U.S. cities in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA) in science, mathematics and reading. Ten Schools Named Best High Schools: Miami-Dade County public schools were included in U.S. News & World Report Best High Schools rankings. In the Best High Schools Rankings by State category, five Miami-Dade County public schools made the Top 20 schools in Florida. Five schools made the grade as America’s 2012 Best High Schools. In the Best Magnet Schools category, three Miami-Dade schools made the top 20.
CITY OF MIAMI
>>> Jungle Island $83,000 interest payment on $25 million HUD loan expected at end of Jan., no problem with payment expected after initial six years stiffing Miami
Jungle Island is getting a break this January since it only needs to make an $83,000 interest payment on the original $25 million U.S. HUD loan not the $2 million principle payment paid back in August in what was a nail biter of negotiations with the city of Miami. The attraction on Watson Island also was the subject of a critical Miami Audit recently done by the commission auditor but it was only a draft report and Independent Auditor General Theodore P. Guba, C.P.A. at a Nov. 30 City of Finance Committee meeting said his office is investigating who leaked the document to The Herald. He further noted some of the people and organizations involved had not been able to respond to the critical observations, especially concerning minority job creation and the diversity numbers that the attraction had promised. When Jungle Island was first created and opened in 20003 after Miami voters years a earlier approved the organization moving to the site from it’s old location in Pinecrest. http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/11/27/3116236/miaMiami-auditors-jungle-island-falls.html
What about the city finding an Asst. Finance Director, comptroller or treasurer?
Chief Financial Officer Janice Lenard at the finance committee meeting when asked about the hiring of some top finance people for the city administration where a CPA is a desirable requirement. She told attendees that they “are having a hard time recruiting to fill these vacancies” and noted there were many challenges and currently the “department is understaffed.” She noted there were “no applications” for the comptroller or treasurer positions and the headhunter hired to find applicants said these positions are going “to be difficult to recruit” given some of “the issues the city is dealing with,” including the “Two ongoing SEC investigations.” The CFO said the requirement the candidate must have a CPA has been dropped saying, “Individuals don’t want to bring their license to the city,” and while the “goal was to have no less than five CPAs, that is proving to be elusive.
She said “recruitment is very slow” and it was “difficult to find CPAs with any kind of government experience,” she told Eli Feinberg, the finance committee chair. He then recommended the administration should “maybe increase the salary [range] and to try to get the cream of the crop,” when “trying to recruit to fill these vacancies,” he suggested. However, the city is finding the task no easy lift and has potential county finance staff cool to joining Miami and “hesitant,” to jump into the fiscal fray, given the turnover of managers and other senior staff along with a questioning five-member commission. That also has incumbent Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado up for reelecting next November and commission Chair Francis Suarez likely to take him on and Suarez already has well over $100,000 in a political PAC for any such campaign he is expected to kick off in January.
CITY OF HIALEAH
>>> Hialeah Clinic Company Owner Convicted in Medicare Fraud Scheme
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, and Christopher B. Dennis, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General, Miami Division, announced that a federal jury found defendant Maggie Leon, 35 of Hialeah, Florida, guilty of eight counts of health care fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1347, and conspiracy to commit the same, Title 18, United States Code, Section 1349. Sentencing has been scheduled for February 6, 2013 before U.S. States District Judge Paul Huck. According to the indictment and evidence presented at trial, Maggie Leon, through her company (Leon Medical), submitted and caused the submission of approximately $7.2 million in false claims for medical services to the seven insurance carriers, and was paid more than $2.2 million. The evidence further established that the defendant and her co-conspirators paid kickbacks and bribes to beneficiaries suffering from HIV to ensure that they would attend Leon Medical.
Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General, and the Office of Personnel Management, Office of Inspector General. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Clark and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Anissa Andrews. 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 GARDENS
>>> Miami Gardens Man Sentenced to Jail for Mailing Hoax Threats to Broward Government Offices
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, Addy Villanueva, Special Agent in Charge, Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), Miami Field Office, and Al Lamberti, Sheriff, Broward County Sheriff’s Office (BSO), announced yesterday’s sentencing of defendant Tarvess David Taylor, 26, of Miami Gardens, on charges that he mailed hoax threats to various local government offices in Broward County. At the sentencing, U.S. District Judge William J. Zloch sentenced Taylor to 27 months in prison and ordered him to pay restitution of more than $35,000 to be paid to Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue and Broward County Fire Rescue for the cost of investigating and prosecuting this hoax. Previously, Taylor had pled guilty to all five counts in the Indictment.
According to documents filed with the court, on October 4, 2011, Taylor mailed five separate envelopes, each containing a powdery substance. The envelopes were addressed to the Broward County Sheriff’s Office and the State Courthouse of the 17th Judicial Circuit of Florida. As a result of these mailings, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office and the State Courthouse of the 17th Judicial Circuit of Florida had to be closed while the Broward County Fire-Rescue HAZMAT Team responded to the scene to collect the powdery substance and ensure the safety of the facilities. >>> Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI, FDLE, BSO and Florida Department of Health. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Walleisa. A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls.
CITY OF MIAMI BEACH
>>> Will Morales be tapped as new Mgr. Wednesday, or will commission punt and review all the shortlist candidates?
With the Miami Beach Commission meeting Wednesday the buzz on the street is whether former Miami-Dade Commissioner and 2004 mayoral Miami-Dade County mayoral candidate Jimmy Morales will be tapped by the commission to take the manager’s reins then, or to allow the headhunter selected candidates to be short listed, and a vote on the top administrative spot be taken in the months ahead. Morales, a Harvard trained attorney and considered a moral and ethics compass on the county commission when he was on it from 2006 to 2004 representing District 7 grew up on the Beach, before moving to the hallowed halls of Cambridge for his education. And since he has left office, he has been a Miami Beach magistrate and hearing officer and has worked as a county lobbyist in a variety of capacities.
Morales, once considered being a candidate to run against Gov. Rick Scott in 2014, but he threw his hat into the city manager candidate ring in early November and given the swath of scandals and public corruption cases involving local public servants over the past few years on the Beach. Some long time residents and local government watchdogs suggest his honest and ethical approach would be the civic tonic needed to change a widespread and inbred culture of corruption and looking the other way when it came to any abuse of power, or tolerance of any wrongdoing.
CITY OF CORAL GABLES
>>> Mayor Cason says, “No crime wave,” in the Gables, streets are safe to walk 24/7, commission to discuss issue Tuesday morning
The Miami Herald www.miamiherald.com in its Neighbors section last week had a story on a Gables family that had been robbed, and that the commission would be discussing the matter of crime in the City Beautiful this Tuesday at the monthly commission meeting at city hall. The Watchdog Report contacted the mayor and commissioners last week asking for any comments on the matter and Mayor Jim Cason and Commissioners Ralph Cabrera, Jr., and Maria Anderson all responded back on the matter. The mayor wrote, “Public safety is the top priority in Coral Gables. There isn’t a street in our City that isn’t safe to walk at any time day or night. And while Coral Gables is very safe, there are still criminals out there. So when we hear of a neighbor whose home was burglarized or had something stolen, we are naturally concerned. But, let’s be clear, there is no crime wave in Coral Gables. And, we will do whatever is necessary to keep our City among the safest anywhere,” wrote Cason who is facing Cabrera in a mayoral race in April.
Cabrera wrote, “I actually have it as a personal agenda item at next week’s commission meeting. My greatest concern is that while the majority of crime is “property” related, my issue stems from ensuring the city is giving our police department the necessary resources and staffing to pro actively and effectively protect our community,” wrote the long serving commissioner first elected in 2001. And Anderson replied, “I am concerned, as in my almost 12 years in office, crime has not been an issue. My conversations with residents have confirmed that people are very worried. The crime has now been against property, but there is angst in the community that this might escalate. I raised this up at the Commission in October and requested that we have an opportunity to discuss how we are going to proactively address this serious issue,” wrote the veteran commissioner termed out this April on the five-member body.
>>> OTHER STORIES AROUND FLORIDA
>>> Vice Mayor Sharief in the spotlight, quickly rising up political food chain, Miramar commissioner in 09, now with new BCC leadership position
Broward Vice Mayor Barbara Sharief is in the spotlight this week and she was elected to the nine body county commission representing District 8 in 2010 after she trounced her opponent getting 67 percent of the vote to his 33 percent in the Nov. 2010 general election. Sharief more recently in October endorsed Scott Israel over incumbent Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti after she was unimpressed with his office’s ability to deal with the homeless, which has had a number of people living on the street being beaten or killed over the years in the county. Further, she wanted to use any commission discretionary funds for projects in her district and actually once helped out a fellow commissioner Dale V.C. Holness get out of a fiscal hole when she contributed some of this money to fill his budget gap in a previous year. She cut her political chops as a Miramar Commissioner, then vice-mayor after being first elected to the municipality in 2009, is a graduate of the Jackson Memorial Nursing School, and holds a masters degree from Florida International University in the field. Her community engagement is involvement with the PTA since she has three children, and she has had a long involvement with civic engagement and public service. A spirit given to her by her two working parents states her biography.
District 8 Barbara Sharief
District 9 Dale V.C. Holness
What do we know about her finances?
Sharief through Dec. 2011 lists a net worth of $8 million (And the Watchdog Report believes this might be a mistake) and she has $250,000 in household goods. There is $150,000 in an IRA, and real property is valued at $350,000 and Chase Mortgage is owed $490,000. The lawmaker’s income for the year was $200,000 from South Florida Pediatric Healthcare, rental property kicked in $30,000 and as a county commissioner; she is paid $92,000 a year.
>>> Florida Man Charged with Filing False Claims for Tax Refunds
Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Jose A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CI), announced that defendant Paul F. Wrubleski was indicted on one count of corruptly impeding the due administration of the internal revenue laws and four counts of filing false claims for tax refunds. Wrubleski made his initial appearance in court earlier today in federal court in Fort Lauderdale. A pre-trial detention hearing has been scheduled for Tuesday, December 11, 2012, at 11a.m. in Fort Lauderdale. According to the five-count indictment, Wrubleski impeded the IRS by filing W-4s that falsely claimed he was exempt from income tax withholding, and filing tax returns, including four tax returns that falsely requested more than $1.5 million in tax refunds. Wrubleski also allegedly sent obstructive letters, tax returns, and other false documents to the IRS between 1999 and 2010. In addition, the indictment alleges that Wrubleski filed for bankruptcy in 2006 to impede IRS collection actions.
If convicted on all counts, Wrubleski faces a maximum possible statutory sentence of 23 years in prison and a fine of up to $1,250,000. This case was investigated by special agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation. Trial Attorneys Charles Edgar, Jr. and Jed Silversmith of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Bertha R. Mitrani are prosecuting the case. Additional information about the Tax Division and its enforcement efforts may be found at www.justice.gov/tax. An indictment is only an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty. A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls.
>>> Thank you for using the Broward County Commission Agenda E-mail Notification System. A new Broward County Commission Agenda is available. Point your browser to http://www.broward.org/commission/welcome.htm to view the new agenda.
PALM BEACH COUNTY
>>> Fourteen Men Charged in International Cocaine Trafficking Ring
Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Mark R. Trouville, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Miami Field Division, Neil DeSousa, Acting U.S. Marshal (USMS) for the Southern District of Florida, Noel Manheimer, Director, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Office of Air and Marine, Dan Alexander, Chief, Boca Raton Police Department, Vince Demasi, Chief, West Palm Beach Police Department, Al Lamberti, Sheriff, Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO), and Peter Antonacci, Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office, announce that an eighteen-count indictment was filed yesterday against fourteen individuals charging them with narcotics trafficking for their participation in an international conspiracy to possess and distribute multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine.
Charged in the indictment are: Taverne Pierre Louis, 42, of Haiti; Frantz Bernard, 42, of Miramar, Florida; Kevin Hendfield, 49, of Freeport, Bahamas; Joachim Pierre Louis, 28, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida; James Francois, 24, of Haiti; Jean Roland, 55, of Freeport, Bahamas; Jose Ignacid Sigler, 48, of Miami, Florida;
Osvaldo Domingo Ceballo, 42, of Naples, Florida; Yumar Oliva, 42, of Miami, Florida; Beverly Sharon Miller, 52, of Miramar, Florida; Tyrell Patrick Josey, 23, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Terence Demetrius Nesbitt, 34, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Ronel M. Theodore, 26, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida; and Kirk Irwin Pierce, Jr., 51, of Palm Springs, California. The indictment charges all defendants with conspiracy to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine and more than 280 grams of cocaine base, commonly referred to as “crack” cocaine, from November 2010 through June 2012, in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Section 846 (Count 1). The indictment also charges a number of individual counts of distribution and possession with intent to distribute cocaine and cocaine base on specific dates, in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Section 841 (Counts 2-18).
If convicted, the defendants face a mandatory minimum of 10 years up to life imprisonment on the conspiracy charge and Count 8, a mandatory minimum of 5 years and up to 40 years in prison on Counts 9, 15, 17, and 18 and up to 20 years on the remaining counts of distribution and possession with intent to distribute controlled substances. The case has been assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Daniel T.K. Hurley. Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the DEA, CBP, Boca Raton Police Department, and the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office. Mr. Ferrer also thanked the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, West Palm Beach Police Department, and the USMS for their assistance in this matter. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer C. Millien. An indictment is only an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty. A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls.
ST. LUCIE COUNTY
>>> Treasure Coast Tax Return Preparer Pleads Guilty to Preparing False Income Tax Returns
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and José A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CID), announced the guilty plea of defendant Mary Ann Richard, of Ft. Pierce, Florida. Richards pled guilty to 16 counts of assisting and advising in the preparation and presentation of fraudulent income tax returns to the IRS, in violation of Title 26, United States Code, Section 7206(2), and two counts of filing false personal income tax returns, in violation of Title 26, United States Code, Section 7206 (1). Sentencing has been scheduled for February 25, 2013 at 1:30 p.m. before U.S. District Judge Donald L. Graham. At sentencing, Richard faces a possible maximum statutory sentence of up to three years in prison on each count.
According to the charging documents and statements made in court, from around January through April 2010, Richard was employed by JB&L Tax Service, Inc., a tax return preparation business in Fort Pierce. From July 2010 through March 2011, Richard owned and operated M2 Financial Services, a tax return preparation business in Fort Pierce, Florida. At both these businesses, Richard met with taxpayers and prepared tax returns on their behalf, knowing that these returns contained materially false information. Specifically, Richard assisted in the preparation of false tax returns that included false information regarding wages, business losses, dependents, education credits and child care expenses, resulting in a tax loss of $348,421 for the 2009 and 2010 tax years. In addition, Richard filed false personal tax returns (Forms 1040) for tax years 2009 and 2010 for herself, which included false information regarding employer, wages, business expenses and personal deductions. >>> Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam C. McMichael. 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.
>>> Gov. Scott taps Scales and Shillinger to the Sixteenth Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission
Edwin A. Scales, III, of Key West, is both a sole practitioner and of counsel at Gray Robinson. He received his bachelor’s and law degrees from the University of Florida. He is reappointed for a term beginning December 5, 2012, and ending July 1, 2016.
Robert B. Shillinger, Jr., of Key West, has been the Chief Assistant County Attorney for Monroe County since 2006. Previously, he was an Assistant County Attorney for Monroe County from 2000 to 2006. From 1995 to 2000, Shillinger was an Assistant State Attorney for the Sixteenth Judicial Circuit. He received his bachelor’s degree from Wake Forest University and his law degree from the University of Baltimore. Shillinger is reappointed from the list of nominees submitted by the Florida Bar for a term beginning December 5, 2012, and ending July 1, 2016.
>>> Would you throw away a band-aid if you knew someone was bleeding?
Neither would I. Unfortunately, regulations force healthcare facilities in the U.S. to do just that. Only its not just band-aids, the opportunity is much larger and you can help by taking part in a matching gift opportunity for MedShare. I am so excited about this unique giving opportunity and I hope you will be too. Its called Give Miami Day and it is this Wednesday, 12/12/12. With support from the Knight Foundation www.knightfoundation.org , every donation between $25 and $10,000 received through GiveMiamiDay.org on 12/12/12 will have a percentage of the gift matched by The Miami Foundation. Give Miami Day is a great opportunity for our gifts to give more this season. As I am sure you know, U.S. hospitals must dispose of all kinds of perfectly good, unused medical supplies and equipment such as needles, gauzes, gloves, syringes, catheters, x-ray machines, incubators and the list goes on and on. All of this ends up in our landfills. At the same time, 10 million children under the age of five die in the developing world due to inadequate medical care. MedShare wants to collect what South Florida hospitals are throwing away and provide it to medical mission teams and hospitals across the world. We also want to make supplies available to local free clinics who serve our community right here at home. We need your help to do it.
Join me in supporting MedShare’s work in expanding to South Florida by making a financial contribution. But wait, don’t do it today, let me show you how your gift can have even more impact. Donate on the Miami Foundation’s website to MedShare on Wednesday, 12/12/12 and have your give matched by funds provided by the Miami Foundation. To give these discarded medical supplies a second life will require a $450,000 commitment in a dedicated facility in South Florida. Your contribution to this effort will cover things like warehouse space, a forklift, racking, staff, and all of the things that come with an expansion effort and opening up a collection/distribution/volunteer center. MedShare is a Charity Navigator 4-star rated charity and 95 cents of every dollar donated goes directly to programs; so you can feel confident your gift will make an impact.
I know together, with your help, we can make it happen. If you would like to join me in Give Miami Day, please take the following steps: 1. Visit the Miami Foundation’s website to register: https://www.miamifoundation.org/sslpage.aspx?pid=290 2. Forward this email to 5 friends you think might also want a MedShare in Florida. Mention that you plan to donate on 12/12/12 and that you hope they do too. 3. Wait for the reminder on 12/12/12 and then log back into the website to make your donation. I hope you will join me in donating to MedShare on Wednesday.
>>> Also Heart for Humanity / Zen Village – matching fundraiser – I hope this email finds all of you well. All of us, think about how we can make this world a better place. Many of us have probably already taken some form of action towards doing so. But if you are asking yourself how you can make a difference in your community this holiday season, the Heart For Humanity organization is the answer! On Tuesday December 12, 2012 (12-12-12) the Miami Foundation will have a 24 hour donation drive, whereby you can donate to an approved 501(c)(3) organization, and they will match your donation on a percentage basis. “Give Miami Day” is a unique, online giving event that allows individuals in our community an opportunity to build a greater Miami by making a charitable gift to a local nonprofit. This 24-hour donation period will begin at 12AM on December 12, 2012 and end at 12AM on December 13, 2012. Heart for Humanity is affiliate with Zen Village, a place for spiritual healing, meditation, and recuperation from life’s challenges. It is a peaceful, culture-filled environment located across from Ransom Everglades High-school on Main Highway in Coconut Grove, and is available to the entire community. I couldn’t imagine a better setting for Zen Village, nor do I want to imagine Coconut Grove without this type of sanctuary. The Heart for Humanity organization which is run by Master Tsai, focuses on providing educational programs to the underserved community. These include seniors, students, veterans and victims of trauma, abuse, and crime. Additionally, the organization is involved in feeding not only the homeless in the West Coconut Grove area, but well in to downtown Miami as well. Their focus is to reach out to the community and provide the assistance many of us may not have the time or ability to offer.
>>> 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/
>>> Niche media like the WDR needs to be supported if it is to continue after almost 14 years, tens of thousands of stories later
The role of newspapers like Miami Today, Miami New Times, The Miami Times along with the banner mother ship The Miami Herald are important components to keeping the community as a whole informed, but with the informational and digital divide widening among many residents in many parts of South Florida. It also is becoming up to some respected bloggers and other news services to try to fill in much of the real time stories that are going on at the ground level of government and is one of the reasons I started the Watchdog Report back in May 2000 and back then I did not know the media would shrink to the state it is today. However, I did know there were many stories and issues that would never see the light of day unless something like the WDR published them on a weekly basis, and the fact I published on Sunday gave me a news and readership lift. Since the papers mentioned all published and could be bought on Wednesday excluding the daily Herald.
I write about this because Michael Lewis when he talked about the role of Miami Today (See the Argus section story). He also mentioned the need for advertisers and supporters to keep or expand the news capabilities his organization wants to offer readers and in a much smaller way that is the challenge the Watchdog Report faces, because while some people still believe I have some sort of trust fund. Nothing could be further from the truth and after almost 14 years of publishing almost every week, it is ironic that I am still financially struggling at this endeavor trying to inform the public about their government and any waste, fraud or abuse that might be occurring in these institutions. For we are a community that had a past local U.S. Attorney General in 2006 calling South Florida the “graduate school of fraud,” with significant federal agents in the field to root out some of this activity. And having a roving reporter like the Watchdog Report can be part of the solution given the level of readership I have attained. And is why if you believe having an independent reporter out there in the field is a positive contribution to high definition transparency in government, a more informed citizenry and helps make the community more informed sometimes at the earliest levels. Then please consider supporting my efforts to keep the community informed and to be a free community education resource.
>>> I hope that you can join us for this year’s Annual Everglades Coalition Conference, January 10-13, 2013 at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, FL. Please find additional details below.
>>> Not sure it’s clear about PA Carey Baker, I recognize the governor’s office called him property appraiser – elect – but I think it’s important – not important enough to correct of course – but he was elected to the position – and he is appointed now cause the guy died before he would take office in January – a difference – just not sure the average reader would understand that.
>>> You were terrific on NPR the other day. I wish I had heard all that before I voted-would have felt more informed. Thanks for your great contribution.
>>> 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
BERKOWITZ POLLACK BRANT Advisors and Accountants www.bpbcpa.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 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 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.