Argus Report: St. Thomas University celebrates 50th Anniversary, grown from small Biscayne College to having $1.5 billion in economic impact with 5,000 students
Florida: The political transformation is complete; former GOP Gov. Crist joins Democratic Party, and starts to go after Gov. Scott in possible 2014 face off
Miami-Dade County: CITT Chair Zilber passes gavel, solid board member since 2004, leadership baton is picked up by Atty. Schwiep, Dr. Ward first vice chair
Eleventh Judicial Circuit: Gov. Scott taps Alan S. Fine and Fleur Lobree to Circuit Court
Miami-Dade Public Schools: $1.2 billion new bond oversight board gets Audit Committee chair Shapiro, citizens get another set of critical eyes
City of Miami: Will legal costs for defense of mayor, commission in federal lawsuit by Commissioner Spence-Jones run into the millions?
City of Hialeah: Police Officer and Wife Charged with Dealing in Firearms Without a License
City of Miami Beach: Mayor Bower shuts down manager discussion after being critical of Morales push; body will now review shortlist of candidates
City of North Miami Beach: Owner of North Miami Beach Dry Cleaner Pleads Guilty in Identity Theft Tax Refund Fraud Scheme
City of Coral Gables: Mayor Cason says “Gables is a very safe city,” but Commissioner Anderson is carping otherwise
>>> Other stories around Florida
Broward County: State Sen. Smith Minority Leader of Democrats in upper body, feisty politician, had $53,000 net worth through Jun. 2012
City of Sunrise: Man Arrested and Charged in $20 Million Payroll Tax Fraud Scheme
City of Miramar: Three Individuals Sentenced for Their Participation in Tax Refund Fraud Scheme
City of Weston: Florida CPA Sentenced for Role in Foreclosure Scheme – Scheme Resulted in Many Victims Losing Their Homes
Collier County: State Sen. Richter in the spotlight as President Pro Tempore, banker, had $4.56 million net worth through Dec. 2011
Duval County: Gov. Scott names Howard M. Maltz, of St. Johns, to Judicial Circuit Court.
Martin County: Florida Accountant Indicted for Stealing Client Money Intended For IRS
Monroe County: Gov. Scott halts funding shifts for school readiness program – Action Stabilizes Early Education Funding for Miami-Dade and Monroe Children
Community Events: Kristi House upcoming event this week — National Everglades Restoration yearly conference at Biltmore Hotel in January — Regional Planning meetings around the counties
Editorials: With 26 dead, 20 of them children at elementary school, will call for responsible assault weapon ban be heard this time? — 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: Reader on Newtown school children massacre – >>> Lotus House for Women Shelter — Our deepest Heartfelt Thanks — I hope that you can join us for this year’s Annual Jan. 10 Biltmore Hotel Everglades Coalition Conference —
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
>>> St. Thomas University celebrates 50th Anniversary, grown from small Biscayne College to having $1.5 billion in economic impact with 5,000 students
St. Thomas University is celebrating its 50th Anniversary, Rev. Monsignor Franklyn M. Casale is bullish on the trajectory the institution of higher learning is taking, and he believes the best work for the Catholic faith institution of higher learning lies ahead. Casale, the keynote speaker at the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce luncheon earlier in the month said the school was originally known as Biscayne College when it was founded in 1961 and has grown substantially since then. The university now employs 102 full time instructional faculty, has a host of degree programs available including a law school and the school is known as the Villanova of the South and was founded by the Augustinian order and the university has its roots back to 1926 in Havana Cuba. The school is teaching 5,001 students, there are 3,190 undergraduates, 932 graduate students and 879-law student’s state’s a brochure on the university. And Hispanics make up 37 percent of the students; followed by 23 percent who are black and 22 percent are white. The school also draws 10 percent of students that live abroad from 51 countries and women students account for 56 percent of the student body and 89 percent of people enrolled are Florida residents. www.stu.edu.
And the university generates around $1.5 billion in economic impact and Casale noted when it came to the international student makeup on the sprawling campus and what he thought the institution’s mission was. The Monsignor, who calls “Miami a college town,” said education has become a “reflective and collaborate manner” and their task today was to “prepare the people for tomorrow and the market place” and he believes “higher education will be more global.” In addition, Casale said one way to describe education in today’s high tech world was “disruptive innovation” and with a “host of requirements.” He believes that there is “more emphasis on output rather than input,” and one of the school’s orientations is an “alignment” with the county’s One Community/One Goal a private/public economic development program. He also said, “There are 82 Chinese students from the mainland [The People’s Republic of China],” now at St. Thomas but he then noted “five years ago there were zero,” he concluded his address.
>>> Press release: President Barack Obama signed the Child Protection Act into law earlier today. The bill’s authors, U.S. Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and Lamar Smith (R-TX), joined the President at the White House for the momentous occasion. The Child Protection Act (H.R. 6063) provides law enforcement officials with additional resources to combat the growing threat of child pornography and online exploitation of children. The House of Representatives passed the bill by voice vote in August, and the Senate approved the legislation by unanimous consent on Nov. 26.
“Now that this bill is law, we can protect our children across the nation from online predators,” said Rep. Wasserman Schultz. “The Child Protection Act works to eradicate the spread of child pornography online by addressing it aggressively and quickly, and ensuring that investigators have every available resource to track down predators. With the input of law enforcement officials and child protection advocates, we crafted this bipartisan, common-sense legislation to help stop child exploitation. With President Obama’s signature, this law will now be able to help rescue the thousands of children suffering from unthinkable abuse.” “Internet child pornography may be the fastest growing crime in America, increasing an average of 150% per year,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith. “According to recent estimates, there are as many as 100,000 fugitive sex offenders in the U.S. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children reports that Texas has the second largest number of registered sex offenders nationwide. We must do more to protect the most innocent among us—our children.
“We introduced the Child Protection Act to combat crimes against our children. The Senate passed the bill by unanimous consent and today the President signed it into law. This bipartisan bill increases penalties for child pornography offenses that involve young children and strengthens protections for child witnesses and victims. At a time when Washington is known for partisanship, it is reassuring to see bipartisan legislation enacted. When it comes to protecting our children, there are no Republicans and no Democrats, only concerned citizens.”
Background on the Child Protection Act: The bill increases the maximum penalties from 10 to 20 years for child pornography offenses that involve prepubescent children or children under the age of 12. The bill allows a federal court to issue a protective order if it determines that a child victim or witness is being harassed or intimidated and imposes criminal penalties for violation of a protective order. It gives the U.S. Marshals limited subpoena authority to locate and apprehend fugitive sex offenders. The Child Protection Act also reauthorizes for five years the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Forces, a national network of investigators who have arrested more than 30,000 individuals involved in child exploitation since 1998.
>>> Press release: North Korea Remains Defiant, Continues to Threaten the U.S. and Our Allies with Missile Launch, Ros-Lehtinen Says The Administration’s Policies Have Done Nothing to Deter North Korean Aggression
U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, today released the following statement regarding the launch by North Korea of a three-stage, long-range missile from its base at Tongchang-ri, North Korea. Statement by Ros-Lehtinen: “North Korea has once again defied the United Nations, its Six-Party partners, and the world by launching a long-range rocket under the guise of a so-called ‘satellite test.’ It is clear that Pyongyang is moving ever closer towards its ultimate goal of producing a nuclear ballistic missile in order to threaten not only our allies in the Asia-Pacific region but the U.S. as well.
“The Obama Administration’s policies of appeasement through proposed talks over the past four years has done nothing to deter North Korean aggression. The Administration’s statements that we will prevent the Iranian regime from going nuclear lose all credibility when one observes how North Korea has been able to brazenly flaunt all UN resolutions, sanctions, and appeals for restraint since 1993. “The only approach Pyongyang will understand is one of action and strength. We must reinvigorate and fortify sanctions against the regime and work even more closely with our Asia-Pacific allies through increased diplomatic and defense cooperation to contain the menace of North Korea. The illusion that Kim Jong-un would be any less ruthless or provocative than his father and grandfather before him has gone up in smoke on the missile launch pad. North Korea remains the same pariah state that it is has been since the dark days of the Korean War.” >> NOTE: Chairman Ros-Lehtinen is the author of H.R. 2105, the Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Reform and Modernization Act of 2011, which overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives with a vote of 418-2 on December 14, 2011. This bill has been awaiting Senate action for almost a year. Ros-Lehtinen is also the author of H.R. 1321, the North Korea Sanctions and Diplomatic Nonrecognition Act of 2011, a bipartisan bill which would express the sense of Congress that the Secretary of State should redesignate North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism.
>>> 31st King Mango Strut Dec. 30 gearing up to go, Grand Marshall is Eastwood prop chair
The 31st King Mango Strut will kick off at 2:00 p.m. on Dec. 30, 2012 on Commodore Plaza in Coconut Grove and the Grand Marshall this year is the Clint Eastwood prop chair he used at the Republican National Convention in Tampa over the summer. The Strut has gained a strong cult following over the years, the Grove is packed with parade goers that carries over into the rest of the afternoon, and a good time is had by all. To become involved, go to www.kingmangostrut.org and check out Buzz Fleischman’s blog for the Strut chair photo: http://www.theradiobuzz.com/
>>> 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
>>> The political transformation is complete; former GOP Gov. Crist becomes a Democrat, and starts to go after Gov. Scott in possible 2014 face off
The political transformation of former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist from the GOP, to an independent candidate in a doomed 2010 U.S. senate race where he faced Marco Rubio and Congressman Kendrick Meek and Rubio was victorious is complete. Crist, who early in his political career earned the moniker “Chain Gang Charlie,” when he was a state senator in the mid 1990s, was later the Commissioner of Education, Attorney General before taking the state’s top post in 2006. Crist’s defection from the Republican Party started after the governor gave President Barack Obama a man hug and sent the GOP faithful into a tailspin around the state and later forcing Crist to jump to the independent party to stay viable in the senate race where Republicans were embracing long shot Rubio who had the tea party’s wind at his political back.
Crist more recently in the summer spoke at the Democratic Party National Convention, he formally changed to the party last week, and Obama embraced the attorney again for joining the fold. Crist fires back the GOP is not the party of Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Rossevelt and he did not leave the party, the party left him he now says. A comment he says is periodically echoed by members of the Bush family after the decisive presidential election, that had Hispanics overwhelmingly going for Obama over challenger Mitt Romney. http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/12/13/3141350/now-a-democrat-charlie-crist-regrets.html
And Crist when matched up with other Democratic gubernatorial contenders in 2014 to take on Gov. Rick Scott is the frontrunner, or close to it in the polls and he has the highest statewide recognition of the challenging pack that includes failed 2010 gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink. The former Florida CFO, Sink lost a close race to Scott, the former banker is considering picking up the party flag again, and taking a second crack at the controversial governor, who has made jobs his hallmark calling card. However, Scott has also disappointed environmentalists, public educators and regional planning agencies supporters with the low priority these important issues get in the pro business Scott administration.
What is the downside for Crist?
While the affable Crist is a “happy warrior,” when campaigning and is a populist by nature, getting photographs with cooks and hotel staff at events. He also has to explain his flip-flops over the years that included an early strong philosophical alignment with President Ronald Reagan and he called himself a Gov. Jeb Bush Republican, but all that has now changed and the man does have an extensive narrative and political record. Therefore, it will not be a cakewalk for the veteran politician, now working in a high profile law firm in St. Petersburg and as http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/12/15/3143545/5-reasons-charlie-crist-should.html notes Crist might have a better political career by waiting for U.S. Rep. Bill Young, R-St. Petersburg to retire probable in the next two years after well over two decades in the congress.
What about Scott in Miami?
Scott came to Coral Gables on Friday and met with incoming Miami-Dade Commission Chair Rebeca Sosa at the Enterprise Florida office in the City Beautiful and she told the Watchdog Report the discussion was not about county commission business and the governor’s staff said he would not be taking any questions and he walked right past me in the lobby. Scott can be cool with the press and is a polar opposite to Crist who called me by my first name since I had known him since his days as a state senator. However, with Scott, while he has loosened up at some press gaggles, when it is not a staged event, or his staff is not hovering over the group of reporters he demurs to speak to a reporter. And overall Scott seems to continue to be suspicious of the press and when given a choice whether to engage in a conversation or interview unexpectedly with the Watchdog Report Friday afternoon. He decided to give it a miss.
>>> Press release: Governor Rick Scott announced the number of available online job openings in STEM-related (sciences, technology, engineering, and math) fields in Florida has sharply increased since last year, with more than 65,825 postings in November 2012. That is nearly a 14 percent increase since November 2011. Governor Scott said, “As Florida’s economy continues to grow, demand for STEM related fields is increasing. Today, STEM jobs advertised online are up by nearly 14 percent from last year, providing tens of thousands of job opportunities for Florida families. The evidence is clear – we have to ensure we make STEM education a priority for Florida children so that more Florida families have the tools they need to pursue the American Dream. Florida has a highly-skilled workforce that is uniquely prepared to fill these positions and meet the demands of the 21st century economy.”
This summer, the US Chamber of Commerce rated Florida as having the best talent pipeline in the nation to fill STEM jobs. Additionally, more than half of Florida’s top 11th grade STEM students intend to pursue college in-state according to an October survey. According to the Help Wanted OnLine data series from The Conference Board, the number of STEM-related job postings in Florida in November 2012 increased by over 8,025 from the previous year. Demand was also up by 2,237 openings over October 2012, an increase of 3.5 percent. Twenty one of the state’s 24 workforce regions had higher demand for STEM over the year. Major occupational groups with the most online ads in November were healthcare practitioners and technical occupations; computer and mathematical occupations; and architecture and engineering occupations. Online job demand for STEM was strongest in the large metro areas, led by Hillsborough County, Miami-Dade County, Orange County, Broward County, Palm Beach County, and Duval County.
|Top Advertised STEM Occupations for Florida||Online Ads
|Florida Total Ads||65,825||57,800|
|Computer Systems Analysts||3,670||3,604|
|Computer Support Specialists||3,313||2,839|
|Network and Computer Systems Administrators||2,102||2,187|
|Computer Software Engineers, Applications||2,061||1,849|
|Financial Managers, Branch or Department||1,626||1,728|
|Information Technology Project Managers||1,124||1,007|
|Software Quality Assurance Engineers and Testers||1,028||935|
|Family and General Practitioners||870||740|
|Computer and Information Systems Managers||820||713|
|Computer Systems Engineers/Architects||783||907|
|Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists||692||438|
>>> Press release: The Florida State Board of Education today voted to select Dr. Tony Bennett as the next Commissioner of Education.
State Board Chair Gary Chartrand said, “Florida has made a great deal of educational progress over the past decade as yesterday’s announcement of the international assessment results clearly showed. We still have more work to do as we continue our transition to Common Core State Standards and ensure we offer a world-class education to Florida’s students. Tony has had a tremendous impact on education in Indiana and we are delighted to have him lead Florida into the future.” Governor Scott said, “We are excited that the State Board of Education chose Tony Bennett as Florida’s new Commissioner of Education. Tony has a great record of achievement in Indiana and I am confident he will be a tireless advocate for Florida’s students.
“I am committed to improving Florida’s K-12 education system through continued support for education funding, teachers and students. My College and Career FIRST Agenda focuses on ensuring that Florida families get a quality education for their children to help them get a great job and pursue their dreams, and we are grateful for the leadership of Interim Commissioner Pam Stewart who helped shape this agenda. “I am holding Tony accountable for driving the College and Career FIRST Agenda forward in support of Florida’s students and teachers. I look forward to working with him on our goals to increase education funding and advocate for the professional development of Florida teachers, which is critical for student success.”
Dr. Bennett said, “I am honored and excited by the opportunity here. I look forward to getting out, visiting schools, and meeting with and listening to students, parents, teachers, and leaders in districts across the state as we work together to ensure that every student in Florida has the kind of world-class education that allows them to flourish.” Dr. Bennett was elected Superintendent of Indiana’s public schools in 2009, promising to increase student performance, reward great teachers, increase options for parents, and strengthen school autonomy. He was instrumental in increasing the state’s graduation rate beyond 85 percent, implementing the Indiana Growth Model detailing the amount of progress each student has made, and A-F school grades similar to Florida’s grading system. Dr. Bennett was named 2011 Education Reform Idol by the Fordham Institute and 2010 Government Leader of the Year by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. Dr. Bennett holds both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in secondary education and a doctorate in education. He began his career in education as a high school biology teacher, while coaching several sports including basketball, baseball and track and field. Dr. Bennett will replace Chancellor of Public Schools Pam Stewart who has served as the department’s interim commissioner for the past three months. To learn more about Governor Scott’s College and Career FIRST agenda, visit http://www.flgov.com/2012/10/25/governor-rick-scott-announces-college-and-career-first-agenda/ Editor’s note: Bennett is a big supporter of former Gov. Jeb Bush’s educational programs, initiatives and reforms of the state of Florida’s public education system.
>>> 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.
>>> CITT Chair Zilber passes gavel, solid board member since 2004, Chair Atty. Schwiep, Dr. Ward first vice chair, picks up leadership baton
Linda Zilber, the longtime chair of the Miami-Dade Citizens Independent Transportation Trust (CITT) is stepping down from her leadership position and the new CITT chair Paul Schwiep, an attorney will preside over its January monthly board meeting and the First Vice Chair is Anna E. Ward, Ph.D. Zilber, first appointed in 2004 to the Trust by County Commissioner Sally Heyman took the leadership spot in 2008 and she only stepped down from the post on Thursday and she was given a bouquet of red roses. Zilber, a former Bay Harbor Island mayor has been a solid CITT chair and she treated people wishing to speak during televised board meetings with respect and dignity. In addition, under her watch, the Orange Line of Metrorail opened and the project opened on time and within budget said CITT staff at the board meeting. The Watchdog Report gives Zilber a Tip of the Hat for a job well done. And past volunteer chairs of the CITT over the years have included former state Rep. John Cosgrove, D-Pinecrest, (now deceased), Marc Buoniconti, and more recently Zilber.
What about the CITT?
The CITT was created in 2003 after county voters passed a countywide half-cent- sales tax for public transportation the year earlier and this sales tax brings in around $200 million yearly now that the economy has picked up. These new tax dollars were to expand the public transportation system that had significant infrastructure needs, but in later years. This new funding was unified by the county commission into the county’s transit budget and a significant portion of these sales dollars are being used to service the county debt on the numerous transit bonds that have funded the recent new expansion and maintenance costs continue to soar for the ageing transit system that includes Metro Rail, a bus fleet and special transportation services.
>>> Commissioner Diaz sponsors ordinance pertaining to campaign workers who handle Absentee Ballots
Press release: In order to bring more transparency to campaign process, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz sponsored an ordinance, which was preliminarily approved by the Infrastructure and Land Use Committee on December 12, 2012. The ordinance would require candidates running for a County or Municipal office to identify paid and unpaid volunteers, who take part in absentee ballot campaign activities.
The ordinance requires a candidate to file an electronic report, concurrently with the mandatory financial reports, identifying campaign workers and volunteers whether directly or indirectly employed by the campaign; who take part in absentee ballot related campaign activities. The form will be created by the Supervisor of Elections and will carry penalties of up to $5,000.00 for failure to report. Additionally, the fine cannot be paid as a campaign expense but must come from the candidate’s personal funds. “This ordinance will make an investigation relating to absentee ballots more feasible,” said Commissioner Diaz. “Knowing who is working on the activities pertaining to absentee ballots will restore confidence in our electoral process with a more transparent procedure.” The item will go before the full Board of County Commissioners for final approval on Wednesday, January 23, 2013. For more information, please contact Commissioner Diaz’s office at 305-599-1200.
>>> Press release: Miami-Dade County Animal Services Department invites you to celebrate Home for Every Holiday Pet Adoption Event, from December 15th to December 31st, 2012. This joyous adoption celebration of pets, life, loyalty and love will be held at the Animal Services Shelter located at 7401 NW 74 Street, Miami, FL 33166. The shelter opens seven days a week; hours of operation vary weekdays and weekends. December 24th and 31st, the shelter will be open from 10 am to 2 pm; and on December 25th will be closed. This Home for Every Holiday Pet Adoption Celebration will give pet lovers the opportunity to adopt dogs and cats who are in need of a loving home and find true unconditional love, not just for the New Year but for life. Anyone who adopts a pet at the event will receive a complimentary picture with their new family member. WHAT: Home for Every Holiday Pet Adoption Party WHO: Miami-Dade County Animal Services Department WHEN: December 15th to December 31st, 2012 (visit website for opening hours) WHERE: Miami-Dade Animal Services Shelter, 7401 NW 74 Street, Miami, FL 33166 Attendance is free and open to the public. Adoption Gift Certificates are also available. If you are thinking about giving a pet to someone as a present, you may purchase an Adoption Gift Certificate so they choose the best pet for their lifestyle. Donation Gift Certificates are ideal presents for any occasion. It’s the perfect gift for everyone and a gift that will help the shelter animals.
>>> GMCVB press release: Top 25 Markets – DEMAND FOR TRAVEL TO GREATER MIAMI & THE BEACHES REMAINS STRONG – MAJOR EVENTS CONTRIBUTE TO GREATER MIAMI & THE BEACHES’ RANKING #2 IN REVENUE PER AVAILABLE ROOM (REV PAR), #2 IN AVERAGE DAILY ROOM RATE (ADR) AND #3 IN HOTEL ROOM OCCUPANCY FOR THE WEEK OF DECEMBER 2 – 8, 2012 AMONG THE TOP 25 U.S. MARKETS
For the week of December 2 – 8, 2012, Greater Miami and the Beaches showed increases vs. 2011, ranking #2 in Revenue Per Available Room (RevPar) at $183.07, #2 in Average Daily Room rate (ADR) at $211.34 and #3 in Hotel Room Occupancy at 86.6% among the Top 25 Markets in the U.S. The week’s strong numbers for Greater Miami indicate the impact of the destination hosting major events such as the 11th Annual Art Basel Miami Beach and more than 20 satellite arts fairs during the same timeframe. Smith Travel Research compares the top markets in the United States based on Occupancy, Average Daily Room Rate (ADR) and Revenue Per Available Room (RevPar).
|DECEMBER 2-8, 2012|
|REVENUE PER AVAILABLE HOTEL ROOM (REV PAR)|
|1. New York||$324.54|
|3. Oahu Island||$151.79|
|4. San Francisco||$145.81|
|5. Washington, D.C.||$93.80|
|AVERAGE DAILY ROOM RATE|
|1. New York||$364.28|
|3. Oahu Island||$180.67|
|4. San Francisco||$167.34|
|5. Washington, D.C.||$145.11|
|AVERAGE DAILY OCCUPANCY|
|1. New York||93.7%|
|2. San Francisco||87.1%|
|4. Oahu Island||84.0%|
THE ELEVENTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT
>>> Gov. Scott press release: Gov. Scott taps Alan S. Fine and Fleur Lobree to the Eleventh Judicial Circuit.
Fine, 55, of Coral Gables, has been in private practice since he began his legal career in 1984. Fine was first a firm shareholder in 1989, when he practiced with Richey, Munroe, Fine, Goodman & Armstrong, P.A. Fine currently practices as Alan S. Fine, P.A. Fine received his bachelor’s degree from Princeton University and his law degree from the University of Florida. Fine will fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Ellen Leesfield. “Alan has a reputation as an intelligent and skilled attorney and his impressive career has prepared him well for a seat on the Eleventh Judicial Circuit,” Governor Scott said. “I am confident that he will serve with fairness and integrity.”
Lobree, 42, of Miami, has served as a Miami-Dade County Court Judge since 2011. From 2002-2011, she served as an assistant state attorney in the Eleventh Judicial Circuit. From 2001-2002, she practiced with Hicks, Anderson & Kneale, P.A., and from 1997-2001, she was a senior law clerk for the Honorable Rodolfo Sorondo, Jr. From 1992-1997 she served as an assistant attorney general, with the Office of the Attorney General in Miami. Judge Lobree received her bachelor’s degree from Florida State University and her law degree from the University of Miami. Judge Lobree will fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Victoria Platzer. “Judge Lobree has already proven herself as a smart, capable, and fair judge, who understands the proper role of the judiciary,” Governor Scott said. “She will be a credit to the circuit bench.”
MIAMI-DADE PUBLIC SCHOOL
>>> $1.2 billion new bond oversight board gets Audit Committee chair Shapiro, citizens get another set of critical eyes
Alberto Carvalho, the superintendent of the nation’s fourth largest public schools district is drawing a bright line in the sand when it comes to the role of lobbyist and school board trying to prevent what happened with the last $990 million bond that he said was a reflection of the “political perversion of the board,” and such board “meddling” will not occur in this new developing process of spending the $1.2 billion school bond passed by county voters in November. And the oversight board will get the addition of the school district’s Audit & Budgetary Advisory Committee chair Jeffrey Shapiro, a former prosecutor. Carvalho, coming off winning the Broad Prize said he “never underestimates the power of lobbyists” and “he knows how they operate” and his solution is to “eliminate access to my staff.” He said when it came to his staff they have to “sign a document” forbidding lobbyist contact and it is a zero tolerance policy and the “smallest infraction will put someone out of a job,” he assured the Audit Committee members.
The issue came up at an audit committee meeting a few weeks ago and while some suggested the chair should not be a voting member on this new bond oversight board. Shapiro disagreed with that argument and in the future, whoever from the Audit Committee is on that oversight board, and will probable chair the new body. It puts the citizens right on top of the oversight pyramid and if good people continue to occupy the post. In the future, the person could be an independent early warning clarion of any brewing trouble through the course of the bonds life. Because while the Board composition and administration will likely occur through the life of the bond, in Carvalho’s case he said he is staying on and get the job done, and he notes most of the money will be spent on capital and information technology in the first six to eight years. In addition, Shapiro after the discussion about the bond oversight board appointment noted, “now the real work begins,” in the coming months and years to watch over these new public tax dollars. However, with lobbyist and other vested parties showing up now that the bond was approved, but having their impact blunted. Carvalho and many others now have the opportunity to use the new public money as it was attended, with minimal interference. And having Audit Committee leadership on the new bond oversight board is a step in the right direction for many years to come.
>>> STATEMENT REGARDING TODAY’S SCHOOL TRAGEDY IN CONNECTICUT
A random act of violence is extremely difficult to prevent, particularly when it is perpetrated by an individual with mental illness. Preparedness and response protocols are key. Miami-Dade has a comprehensive Critical Incident Response plan that involves scenario enactment, lockdown and evacuation drills, as well as joint training exercises between school police and local police in our schools. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Newtown Community after this unspeakable tragedy. –Alberto M. Carvalho, Superintendent of Schools
CITY OF MIAMI
>>> Will legal costs for defense of mayor, commission in federal lawsuit by Commissioner Spence-Jones run into the millions?
The lawsuit by Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones against Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle and Mayor Tomas Regalado (she says in his private capacity) has caused a legal quagmire for the commission, mayor and Miami Attorney Julie O. Bru. Since they all are conflicted out in some way wrote Bru in a memo to the mayor and commission. Regalado asked the commission to retain Jose Quinon as his attorney, but that issue got sidetracked and Commission Vice Chair Marc Sarnoff has been given the task to review what outside legal counsel the commission might need to be retained and then the body would come back and address the issue of whether to pay up front the mayor’s legal representation. Further, Quinon objected to Spence-Jones commenting on the matter saying she was conflicted out since she brought the federal lawsuit, but the commissioner shot back she did “not have her own” legal representation there and she thought the defense attorney’s comments were out of line.
After the extensive discussion at the dais during a break, the Watchdog Report talked with Commission Chair Francis Suarez about the potential legal costs for this matter and that these costs would likely not be cheap. He suggested the cost when all is said and done could end up around $2.5 million he speculated. And this is another unbudgeted expense for the city administration to absorb depending on how long the federal court case drags on. Though Sarnoff suggested by the federal court standards, the case would be heard fairly quickly and is very different from the slow state court standards, he told commissioners.
CITY OF HIALEAH
>>> Hialeah Police Officer and Wife Charged with Dealing in Firearms Without a License
Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Hugo Barrera, Special Agent in Charge, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Miami Field Division, Al Lamberti, Sheriff, Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO), and Ric L. Bradshaw, Sheriff, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office (PBSO), announce the filing of a criminal indictment charging Rafael Oscar Valdes, 42, and Tammy Lynn Valdes, 45, of the City of Miami, Florida, with one count of dealing in firearms without a federal firearms license, in violation of Title 18, Untied States Code, Section 922(a)(1)(A). In addition, Rafael Oscar Valdes is charged with making a material false statement in connection with the sale or disposition of firearms, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 922(a)(6). As part of the indictment, the United States seeks the forfeiture of 5 rifles, 4 shotguns, and 38 handguns that were seized from the defendants as part of the investigation.
The defendants are scheduled to be arraigned on January 11, 2013, at 10:00 a.m., before the West Palm Beach Duty Magistrate. If convicted of dealing in firearms without a license, each defendant faces a possible maximum statutory sentence of up to five years in prison and a $250,000.00 fine. If Rafael Valdes is convicted of making a material false statement in connection with the sale or disposition of a firearm, he faces an additional possible maximum statutory sentence of up to ten years in prison and a $250,000.00 fine. According to the criminal indictment filed in the case, Rafael Valdes has been employed as a police officer with the City of Hialeah, Florida, since 2004. Tammy Valdes was also once employed as a police officer with the City of West Miami, Florida, from 2004 until 2008 and the Town of Golden Beach, Florida, from 2008 through 2009. Neither defendant has ever possessed a federal firearms license.
Starting as early as July 2005, and continuing through June 2012, the defendants were engaged in the business of dealing in firearms without a license. The manner and means utilized by the defendants to engage in their business of dealing in firearms included the advertisement and sale of over 100 firearms via the Internet to persons located in 44 different states across the nation. The defendants also attended over 60 gun shows in the Southern and Middle Districts of Florida, during which they purchased over 400 firearms and sold over 500 firearms. At times, their purchase and subsequent sale of firearms would take place during the same gun show. Additionally, the defendants sold 9 firearms to undercover agents, solicited the purchase of firearms from undercover agents, and offered to acquire firearms for undercover agents.
As charged in the criminal indictment, Rafael Valdes, in addition to selling firearms without a federal firearms license, also made a material false statement in connection with the acquisition of three firearm frames and receivers, in that Rafael Valdes claimed he was the actual buyer of those firearm frames and receivers, when in fact and as he well knew, he was acquiring those firearm frames and receivers for other persons. Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative and cooperative efforts of ATF, FBI, HSI, BSO, PBSO, Miami-Dade Police Department, Miami Beach Police Department, City of Miami Police Department, Virginia Gardens Police Department, Hialeah Police Department, and Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam McMichael. A criminal 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.
CITY OF MIAMI BEACH
>>> Mayor Bower shuts down manager discussion after being critical of Morales push; body will now review shortlist of candidates
City leaders have short-listed the names of applicants to be considered and interviewed by the mayor and commission but not after a controversial small public meeting in a conference room on the matter that had Mayor Mattie Bower ending the procededings abruptly www.miamiherald.com . Bower was objecting to Jimmy Morales’ name being pushed at the last moment and she thought it was politicking for the job but when she gets into political trouble herself. She just terminates the meeting since she is the mayor but this maneuver may be getting old with the commission. The issue of finding a new manager to replace Jorge Gonzalez is becoming a contentious issue and with all the recent scandals over the past two years. Critics are looking for a breath of fresh air when it comes to public corruption and waste fraud and abuse on the Beach. And the process while playing out in the weeks ahead will likely produce a couple of final front runners for elected officials to consider, there is no rush since interim manager Kathy Brooks is considered to be doing a good job in the meantime. And it will be seen when Bower and the commission finally addresses the issue and the top spot vacancy that has been open since the summer.
What did Commissioner Michael Gongora write in his newsletter on the matter?
“Regarding the City Manager, the Commission accepted our recruiter’s recommendation to commence interviews with the top four recommended candidates: • Steve Barwick, long-time city manager of Aspen, Co; • Monica Cepero, assistant to Broward County Administrator Bertha Henry and former policy coordinator for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush; • Robert Frank, city manager of Ocoee, a city of 36,000 residents near Orlando; and • Thomas Wilson, assistant city manager of development services in Palm Springs, Ca. In addition, the recruiter will look into other candidates including Emmanuel Mayer, Jimmy Morales and Frank Rollason. The recruiter will report back at the January 16, 2013 Commission meeting. Hence, we have extended the contract for Interim City Manager Kathie Brooks who has done a fine job in steering our City forward in a positive direction,” wrote Gongora.
NORTH MIAMI BEACH
>>> Owner of North Miami Beach Dry Cleaner Pleads Guilty in Identity Theft Tax Refund Fraud Scheme
Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, José A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CID), Miami Field Office, and Larry Gomer, Interim Chief, North Miami Beach Police Department (NMBPD), announced that Frantz Auguste, 53, of Sunny Isles, pled guilty yesterday to one count of access device fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft in connection with an identity theft tax refund fraud scheme. Sentencing has been scheduled for February 22, 2013 at 2:30 pm before U.S. District Judge Donald L. Graham. According to documents filed in Court, law enforcement searched Auguste’s dry cleaning business in North Miami Beach on October 4, 2012, and found the following in a locked room for which Auguste had the only key:
Handwritten notes and lists with the personal identification information, including names, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers, of more than 100 individuals. Several of these lists appeared to have originated from a local nursing home and rehabilitation center. Multiple tax refund checks in different individuals’ names. Multiple tax returns in different individuals’ names. Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of IRS-CID and the NMBPD 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 www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls.
CITY OF CORAL GABLES
>>> Mayor Cason says “Gables is a very safe city,” but Commissioner Anderson is carping otherwise
The Watchdog Report took a road trip to the Coral Gables Commission meeting on Tuesday and while I caught the discussion on the city’s pension funds and its future liabilities. I was there for the discussion on public safety but as the meeting dragged on. I left for the county and could not stay to hear the discussion. And I later sent emails to Mayor Jim Cason and commissioners about the discussion and their comments. Cason, up for reelection in April wrote back, “I was pleased to see the report from the Police Chief which was covered very well by the Miami Herald, http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/12/11/3137715/police-chief-crime-is-down-in.html. It is abundantly clear that Coral Gables is a very safe city. Our residents can take comfort in that fact and also in the knowledge that police resources are going to be deployed even more strategically as a result of an in-depth analysis of our police department’s operations conducted by a nationally recognized consultant,” wrote the mayor.
Commissioner Frank Quesada responded writing, “The Chief of Police’s results show that there has been a steady decline in crime throughout the City. The report was very detailed and broken down by different types of crime (let me know if you didn’t get a copy and I’ll email you a copy). If you want to hear his detailed explanation, you can watch the replay at http://coralgables.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=4&clip_id=396. Once there, scroll down on the left hand side and click on H-2, it should direct you to the Chief’s presentation. Also discussed at the meeting was an efficiency study of our Police Department. The study, which was conducted over the last year, showed that we have a great police department but there is room to improve the department’s efficiency in a number of areas. Based on the 151 page detailed report we will implement the recommendations over the next several months to continue to provide the best possible service to our residents, wrote the commissioner first elected in the spring of 2011.
However, Commissioner Maria Anderson took another tact, “I think there is a huge disconnect with what the citizens are feeling about their frightening experiences with home burglaries and thefts, and what [city] management propaganda is spewing out. There is no problem, crime is going down, blah, blah, blah. The question is not if the numbers are down, it is what’s out in the community, public sentiment and the tremendous concern. People are starting to take precautionary measures into their own hands — which eventually might result in tragedy, and I’ve got the stories to back that up. I hope my colleagues will up the funding for Crime Watch in the next budget cycle, a great program which goes directly to the people and empowers them with information and support,” wrote the termed out veteran commissioner first elected in 2001.
>>> OTHER STORIES AROUND FLORIDA
>>> State Sen. Smith Minority Leader of Democrats in upper body, feisty politician, had $53,000 net worth through Jun. 2012
State Sen. Chris Smith, D-Ft. Lauderdale is in the spotlight now that the attorney is the Democratic Party Minority Leader in the upper body for the next two years and he is a sharp representative for minority party senators in the Florida Senate. However, there also has been controversy while he was in the House and now represents Senate District 31 and he has not shied away from a good political fight.
What do we know about his finances?
Smith through Jun. 2012 had a net worth of $53,000 and he lists $20,000 in household goods. His home is valued at $225,000, a car is worth $8,000, he owes $130,000 on a mortgage, and a student loan is owed $70,000. The senator’s income for the year was $29,697 as a legislator and his law firm Chris Smith PA kicked in $90,000 for the reported year.
>>> The Broward Office of the Inspector General has released a new report on a vendor contract that had some paperwork irregularities and the report is a good read though the matter is closed and no county money was lost: http://www.broward.org/InspectorGeneral/Documents/OIG11024ClosingMemo.pdf
>>> Gov. Scott taps Elizabeth A. Scherer, of Fort Lauderdale, to the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit Court.
Scherer, 36, has served as an assistant state attorney in the Seventeenth Circuit since 2001. Scherer received her bachelor’s degree from Florida State University and her law degree from the University of Miami. “Liz is committed to the principle that the judiciary must say what the law is, and not what it should be,” Governor Scott said. “She has an excellent record as a prosecutor and will prove to be a hard working, fair and intelligent judge.” Scherer will fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge David Krathen.
>>> 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.
CITY OF SUNRISE
>>> Sunrise Man Arrested and Charged in $20 Million Payroll Tax 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 (FBI), Jose A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CID), and Christopher B. Dennis, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), announce the unsealing of a December 6, 2012 indictment charging Sonny Austin Ramdeo, 35, of Sunrise, with wire fraud in connection with a $20 million federal payroll tax fraud scheme, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1343 and 2. Ramdeo was arrested today in Brooklyn, and made his initial appearance in federal court in the Eastern District of New York earlier today. He is expected to be removed to the Southern District of Florida on these charges.
According to the indictment, from as early as 2005, defendant Ramdeo was employed as the payroll supervisor at Promise Healthcare, Inc. (Promise Health Care) and Success Healthcare Group (Success Healthcare), both of which owned and operated hospital facilities throughout the United States. As the payroll supervisor for these two companies (the companies), Ramdeo was responsible for overseeing the payment of bi-weekly wages and related payroll taxes for more than 3,500 employees. To execute his scheme, Ramdeo allegedly incorporated PayServ Tax Inc., and thereafter represented to officers and employees of Promise Healthcare that PayServ Tax would handle the transfer of local, state and federal payroll taxes to the proper agencies on behalf of Promise Healthcare and Success Healthcare. In fact, however, Ramdeo kept the monies paid by Promise and Success Healthcare to PayServ for his personal use. Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI, IRS-CID, and HHS-OIG. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ellen L. Cohen. >> 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 MIRAMAR
>>> Three Individuals Sentenced for Their Participation in Tax Refund 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 (FBI), Miami Field Office, and José A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CID), announced that defendant Ralph Armand, 29, of Miramar, FL, was sentenced today to 21 months in prison to be followed by two years of supervised release for his participation in a tax refund scheme. Defendant Dwayne Solomon, 35, of Hialeah, FL, was sentenced on December 7, 2012 to 24 months in prison to be followed by two years of supervised release. Jude Alcindor, Jr., aka “Junior,” 26, of Miami, FL, was sentenced on October 5, 2012 to one year and a day in prison to be followed by two years of supervised release.
Alcindor and Solomon previously pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the government by filing a false claim, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 286. Defendant Armand was convicted of the same charge by a jury on September 27, 2012. According to court documents, the defendants conspired to present a false claim to the IRS for a federal income tax refund in the amount of $226,930. On April 13, 2011, defendants Alcindor and Armand met with a cooperating individual (CI) and showed the CI a color photocopy of a federal income tax refund check obtained through identity fraud. On April 15, 2011, defendant Solomon, in order to have the check converted to cash, gave the CI the actual income tax refund check in the name of B.S. B.S. was a deceased individual whose identity had been stolen. In addition, Solomon told the CI that he had more tax refund checks available once this check cleared. Solomon offered to pay the CI 40% of the refund check amount(s) to have the check(s) cashed. On April 28, 2011, defendants Alcindor and Armand traveled to Miramar to receive the proceeds of the cashed refund check, but were detained, questioned and later arrested by federal law enforcement authorities. Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of FBI and IRS-CID. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Neil Karadbil. >>> 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 WESTON
>>> Florida CPA Sentenced for Role in Foreclosure Scheme – Scheme Resulted in Many Victims Losing Their Homes
Barrington Coombs, 58, of Weston, Fla., was sentenced Friday to serve a year and a day in prison for his role in a foreclosure rescue scheme that victimized desperate homeowners on the brink of losing their homes, the Justice Department announced. Coombs was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Kenneth A. Marra in the Southern District of Florida. Coombs was convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and one count of wire fraud, following a two week jury trial in July 2012.
According to the indictment and evidence presented at trial, two of Coombs’ accomplices, Lisa Wright and Cathy Saffer, operated Foreclosure Solution Specialists (FSS) from 2006 to 2009. FSS targeted homeowners facing foreclosure, advertising that it could assist those homeowners in remaining in their homes. When contacted by distressed homeowners seeking assistance, FSS misrepresented to those homeowners that their homes would be sold to investors. According to the indictment and evidence presented at trial, FSS also claimed that customers could remain in their homes after the sales and promised them an opportunity to repurchase the homes at a later date. Rather than selling the homes to legitimate investors, FSS designed sham sales to straw purchasers whom they paid to participate in the scheme.
According to the indictment and evidence presented at trial, FSS paid Certified Public Accountant Barrington Coombs to write a fraudulent letter that vouched for the false information on various loan applications. Lenders relied on Coombs’ fraudulent letter in deciding to fund the loans. U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer stated, “Foreclosure rescue schemes are the latest fall-out from the mortgage fraud crisis. Defendant Coombs, an accountant, participated in this scheme by creating false paperwork to support the false information contained in loan applications. We will continue to prosecute all those who prey on vulnerable homeowners at risk of losing their homes.” “The individual sentenced Friday lent his credibility as a professional accountant to a foreclosure scheme and, in doing so, caused lenders and consumers to suffer substantial losses,” said Stuart F. Delery, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division. “We will continue to work with the FBI and our other law enforcement partners to investigate and prosecute mortgage fraud and foreclosure rescue schemes such as this one.” … >> Friday’s announcement is part of efforts underway by President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF) which was created in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed more than 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,700 mortgage fraud defendants. For more information on the task force, visit www.stopfraud.gov.
>>> State Sen. Richter in the spotlight as President Pro Tempore, banker, had $4.56 million net worth through Dec. 2011
State Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples and the body’s Senate President Pro Tempore is in the spotlight this week and the banker has had a steady rise when it comes to his political career. Richter was first elected to the Florida House from 2006 to 2008 and he has been in the Senate since 2008. He represents Senate District 23 that includes Lee and Collier Counties. He is a banker in his own right and has extensive real estate holdings in North Carolina and his leadership position makes him a force in the upper body.
What do we know about his finances?
Richter through Dec. 2011 had a net worth of $4.56 million and he lists $135,000 in household goods. His home is worth $1 million, a house in North Carolina is worth $1 million and another investment property in the state is valued at $900,000. His income for the year was $220,000 from First National Bank, the state kicked in $28,892 and stock dividends contributed $28,500 and he has one liability owed $248,787.
>>> Press release: Gov. Scott names Howard M. Maltz, of St. Johns, as judge of the Seventh Judicial Circuit Court.
Maltz, 51, currently serves as the chief deputy general counsel for the City of Jacksonville. Previously, he served the City of Jacksonville as a deputy general counsel from 2002 – 2012 and as an assistant general counsel from 1997 – 2002. From 1989 – 1997 and 1986 – 1988 Maltz served as an assistant state attorney for the State’s Attorney’s Office, Fourth Judicial Circuit. From 1988 – 1989, he practiced with Harris, Guidi, Rosner. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida and his law degree from the University of Miami. “I am confident that Howard will be an excellent addition to the Seventh Circuit bench,” said Governor Scott. “He is committed to enforcing the rule of law fairly and will serve the people well.” Maltz will fill the vacancy created by the appointment of Judge Wendy Berger to the Fifth District Court of Appeal.
>>> Florida Accountant Indicted for Stealing Client Money Intended For IRS
Press release: An indictment was unsealed today in Fort Pierce, Fla., charging Joseph Rizzuti with one count of corruptly endeavoring to obstruct the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and four counts of wire fraud, the Justice Department and the IRS announced. The indictment was returned by a grand jury on Nov. 29, 2012. According to the indictment, Rizzuti, the owner of Beacon Accounting Services in Palm City, Fla., interfered with the IRS’s ability to collect taxes owed by two clients, stole payments from those clients intended for the IRS, and made misrepresentations to those clients and to the IRS. Rizzuti allegedly stole approximately $265,000 from one client and approximately $23,500 from another client, money that the clients gave him to pay to the IRS.
An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If convicted, Rizzuti faces a maximum potential sentence of 20 years in prison for each of the four wire fraud counts and a maximum potential sentence of 3 years for the obstruction count. He is also subject to fines and mandatory restitution if convicted. This case was investigated by special agents of IRS – Criminal Investigation and Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. Trial Attorneys Justin Gelfand and Rebecca Perlmutter of the Justice Department’s Tax Division are prosecuting the case. Additional information about the Tax Division and its enforcement efforts may be found at www.justice.gov/tax.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.
>>> Early Learning Coalition press release: GOVERNOR RICK SCOTT HALTS FUNDING SHIFTS FOR THE SCHOOL READINESS PROGRAM – Action Stabilizes Early Education Funding for Miami-Dade and Monroe Children
Late last week Governor Rick Scott declared an immediate halt to the School Readiness Funding Formula announced to Florida’s 31 Early Learning Coalitions in June 2012. In a letter to the Association of Early Learning Coalitions, Governor Scott called for the establishment of a working group of stakeholders to gather input and refine the funding formula to be reviewed by the Governor’s Office and the Legislature before January 1, 2014. This means that no additional dollars will be moved from one county to another until a new equity formula is developed over the next year. ELC board members appreciate the Governor’s decision and the leadership of many of our community’s leaders who expressed concerns about the sudden funding shift. Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez was among those deeply troubled by the loss of funds that allow our community’s youngest children to participate in early care and education programs, preparing them for kindergarten. He has been a champion on this issue because of the negative impact to small businesses, families and, most importantly, children. The mayor’s comments can be read here.
The Miami-Dade County Board of County Commissioners also approved a resolution sponsored by County Commissioner and ELC board member Barbara Jordan regarding the funding formula. Commissioner Jordan, who early in her career was a Head Start director, is one of our community’s strongest early education advocates. The Monroe County Board of County Commissioners also expressed concerns about the funding shifts through a unanimously passed resolution sponsored by County Commissioner and ELC board member Heather Carruthers, a new mom and a strong proponent of high-quality early learning.
Members of the Miami-Dade/Monroe legislative delegation were also troubled by the decision made back in June and have been active on this issue since the news of the funding shifts was first announced. On July 24, Senator Anitere Flores sent a letter, cosigned by eight members of the delegation, to Governor Scott expressing concerns about the formula and urging him to consider developing a better process for achieving equity. “Every child deserves the opportunity to participate in a program that will prepare them with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in life,” Flores wrote. “By ensuring that our children are provided with the essential resources to learn and grow, we promote the foundation of productive individuals for future generations.”
Other members who expressed serious concerns and have taken a leadership role in this issue include Representative Michael Bileca; Representative Erik Fresen, Chairman of the Education Appropriations Subcommittee; and Senator Rene Garcia. Miami-Dade and Monroe childcare providers who work in partnership with the ELC have spent countless hours trying to understand the formula and advocating for a better and more thought out process. They were thrilled to hear the good news. “Our focus continues to be on serving the maximum number of children in the highest quality and most developmentally appropriate setting possible,” said Shaleen Fagundo, the private childcare provider representative on the ELC board.
“I am pleased to hear of Governor Scott’s directive,” said Octavio Verdeja, Jr., Managing Partner at Verdeja & De Armas, LLP, and board chair of the Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade/Monroe. “The two counties that we serve were especially hard hit this year with a loss of funding that impacted more than 1,000 children. We stood to lose another $3.1 million effective July 1, 2013, which would have created tremendous disruptions to our children, community and child care providers, most of whom are small business owners. We thank the Governor for his leadership and for simply doing what is right for Florida’s children.” Governor Scott’s decision is thoughtful and in the best interest of all Florida communities. We applaud his efforts and the time he has taken to analyze and understand this complicated issue and come up with a plan that will include plenty of opportunity for public participation and debate. We look forward to working with the Governor’s Office, the Office of Early Learning and other stakeholders to create a formula that supports the mission of Early Learning Coalitions and the Governor’s education agenda for Florida’s children in all 67 counties, wrote Evelio C. Torres, the President & CEO of the Early Learning Coalition.
Just 3 Days Left! We can’t wait to see you! Remember to join us at Saks from 10 a.m. until closing on Tuesday, December 18, 2012. Please invite as many friends as possible! Please RSVP today! We are immensely grateful to our friends at Saks Fifth Avenue Dadeland for choosing Kristi House as the beneficiary of 10% of shopping proceeds for Tuesday, December 18, 2012 for all purchases in the entire store all day. We would love for everyone to join us at the David Yurman cocktail event starting at 6 p.m. Saks Fifth Avenue is providing special valet parking for Kristi House shoppers. Volunteers will be handing out the coupons to our supporters that must be presented at the counters at check-out. Your participation in this extraordinary event will make a significant difference in the lives of the children we serve. Proceeds will benefit the FIRST SHELTER IN FLORIDA for child-victims of sex trafficking! We hope you will save some special shopping for this very special day and invite friends, family and loved ones to join us! Looking forward to seeing you at the check-in at the Kristi House table next to David Yurman! Thank you for your support! Contact Mary Faraldo for more information. Volunteers Needed: Service hours will be given to high school students who wish to volunteer at the event as Kristi House Ambassadors.
>>> 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/
>>> With 26 dead, 20 of them children at Sandy Hook Elementary School, will call for responsible assault weapon ban law be heard this time?
The massacre of 20 young school children and six adults by shooter Adam Lanza (who killed himself) has once again stunned the nation and the call is rising for some kind of gun control that keeps certain military hardware like a AK 47 or armor piercing bullets and gigantic magazines capable of over 90 rounds out of citizens and law breakers hands. The man used his mother’s own guns and she was said to be an avid gun enthusiast but for the troubled man who shot the children multiple times in this rampage, these guns were the answer to his dark problem.
Americans have seen a lot over the past 20 years when it comes to random violence and mass carnage from a lone shooter to a couple of them and these events remind the Watchdog Report that here in Miami-Dade County. Some 12 percent of Miamians have some sort of mental issue and one should never get out of their car in a road rage exchange. For you take your life in your hands as has proved out over the years. And here in South Florida, guns are part of the landscape and most people handle their weapons responsible, but there are others with emotional or other issues that should be hindered getting these weapons of mass destruction. And that is going to be the debate again around the nation, does an act like this recent mass schoolchildren shooting really change the debate about restoring the Assault Weapons Act that sunsetted in 2004. Or will Congress finally craft some bill that limits weapons that clearly are only for the battlefield given the destructive firepower these weapons spew. That is the question we all face in the months ahead, but if this tragedy is not a wake-up call to all of us, then nothing should surprise us in the future when another mass execution of the innocent will take place.
>>> As our prayers for peace and comfort go out to our loved ones and friends during the holiday season, our hearts are broken by the horrific news of the massacre of 28 innocents…..20 young girls and boys and 8 adults who taught and loved them….in Newtown, Connecticut. While we grieve for this tragic loss of life, I sincerely believe we must energize our resolve to take action to reform our gun and super-weapon laws.
Our policy leaders should be supported to enact prohibitions on gun show purchases without background records checks, limitation on the sale of super multi-round ammo magazines, as well as restrictions on access to military-designed automatic weapons. We should join forces with our law enforcement, public health allies, reform advocates and families affected by firearms violence in this fight to bring needed legal redirection.
Legitimate gun ownership for self protection, historic collections and sports is not at issue….but what is clear is we are at a point in our lives when logical lines of defense must be drawn. The debate should not be whether any change is needed…..but to what degree are we willing to recognize that slaughter can be prevented if we mesh quality mental health services with strong and enforceable firearms laws. Here’s a link to the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence http://www.bradycenter.org/ for additional information on sensible firearms reforms.
Jack Levine, Founder
>>> Lotus House for Women Shelter — Our deepest Heartfelt Thanks go out to The Miami Foundation and all of our friends and supporters, for joining us in making Give Miami Day 2012 a huge success! Through your support, we raised $19,414 from 66 individual donors.
>>> Lotus House
These much needed funds will go to support homeless women and children in need, providing sanctuary, support, tools and education needed to grow on every level and build new lives, so that the most needy and fragile among us blossom into who they are truly meant to be. The Miami Foundation will match a percentage of the funds donated to Lotus House and will make your donations go even further! Missed the deadline last night? It’s not too late to make your year end donation. Click here to make your tax- deductible donation online- or call us at 305-438-0556 with your credit card information. Your support makes all that we do possible!
>>> 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.