Argus Report: Sen. Rubio’s staff does retail constituent services at Miami-Dade County Hall, senior Sen. Nelson does same, important to listen to voter’s issues
Florida: Will Gov. Scott’s policy & education offensive give a bump to him with Floridians? Trails former Gov. Crist in state polls
Miami-Dade County: Commissioners get cultural update, Arsht Center doing great, new Miami Science Museum 1/3 done, and Perez Art Museum has raised ¾ of $120 million fund raising goal
Miami-Dade Public Schools: “Community vigilance” is being brought to the spending of $1.2 billion GOB school renovation and technology money, says Supt. Carvalho
Public Health Trust: FRB Lapciuc says JHS future is new mission of Board, and what “context” will role of UM Medical School be in the next five years?
City of Miami: Mayor Regalado says Miami is in better shape then when he took over after Mayor Diaz, faces Commissioner Suarez in Nov. mayoral election
City of Miami Beach: Hail new Mgr. Morales, starts Apr. 1, now the hard work of transforming Miami Beach begins, getting solid community support
City of Coral Gables: Commissioner Anderson says sayonara to dais, blasts Mayor Cason and Mgr. Salerno, supporter of Cabrera in mayoral race
City of Homestead: Homestead Resident Sentenced for Tax Refund Fraud
>>> Other stories around Florida
Broward County: Former Resident Pleads Guilty to Passport Fraud and Aggravated Identity Theft
City of Plantation: Medical Director for Miami-Based Health Care Clinic Sentenced To 144 Months in Prison for Role in $50 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme
City of Coral Springs: Broward County Tax Return Preparer Pleads Guilty to 76-Count Superseding Indictment
Cooper City: Resident Sentenced for Tax Refund Fraud
Palm Beach County: Health Department Employee Arrested For Stealing Patient Information
Hillsborough County: Gov. Scott names Vincent Cassidy and the reappointment of Rebecca Smith to the Tampa-Hillsborough County Expressway Authority.
Community Events: Downtown Bay Forum luncheon on Gun Control – NON-PROFIT & CULTURAL ARTS ORGANIZATIONS: APPLY NOW TO BE FEATURED AT PHILANTHROFEST 2013 – April 6th, 2013 Miami Dade
Editorials: Will the 20 women U.S. Senators be the electrolytes for consensus and compromise in the world’s most exclusive club? — 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 Blanche Dog Park in Grove
Sponsors: Publisher’s mission statement & Subscription information is at the bottom of this issue — Scroll down for all the headline stories text
>>> Just because you do not take an interest in politics does not mean politics will not take an interest in you. –Pericles (430 B.C.)
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>>> 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 and I have been honored by that trust and support of my efforts over the past almost 14 years trying to keep the community, state, nation and world informed of the political and governmental happenings in South Florida. How to support and contribute to the WDR is at the bottom of the Report.
>>> The Watchdog Report publisher was on WPBT 2 Issues last week and to hear the show go to http://ka.uvuvideo.org/_Issues-Lt-Gov-Carroll-and-Internet-Cafes/video/1825556/86294.html on www.wpbt.org/issues hosted by Sean Foreman, PH.D., and we discussed the sudden resignation of Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carrol and whom Gov. Rick Scott might pick to replace her in the office after the legislative session is over. I was also on WLRN/NPR Monday on Topical Currents hosted by Joseph Cooper and to hear the show go to http://wlrn.org/post/watchdog-report-publisher-dan-ricker
>>> This is not a typical Watchdog Report this week, I had to deal with some personal issues over the weekend. I apologize to my readers for the shorter news report.
ARGUS REPORT – Heard, Seen on the Street
>>> Sen. Rubio’s staff does retail constituent services at Miami-Dade County Hall, senior Sen. Nelson does same, important to listen to voter’s issues
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-FL, may be hitting the airwaves and speaking at the 40th Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) meeting last week but his staff in Miami was doing retail constituent services on Wednesday at the Miami-Dade County Stephen P. Clark Government Center. A staffer of the senator’s office in Doral along with an intern answered questions of people that came to the table set up in the busy lobby. One man was inquiring about Haitian immigration issues and visas and the staff tried to help, but some things are complicated especially when it comes to immigration issues.
Rubio and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-FL both have these satellite offices throughout the state, Nelson has six, and Rubio’s Doral office handles issues from Broward to Monroe Counties and there seven other offices through out Florida where constituents can take their problems and make their case on a host of issues. In Nelson’s case locally, he has an office in Coral Gables and both men, while having different political affiliations. They are both diligent and realize the importance when it comes to constituent services. For more information on Rubio’s offices go to http://rubio.senate.gov and for the senior Florida senator go to www.billnelson.senate.gov
What about the GOP and any 2016 presidential bid?
A national poll out last week pitting former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton against either Rubio or former Gov. Jeb Bush, neither of whom have announced an interest in running for the presidency in 2016 has both men trailing Clinton but as the election cycle closes. The GOP is trying to get its bearings, it is unknown who will ultimately emerge as the party’s champion, and Clinton is staying mum about any decision she will make. However, one fact is clear, Florida is a key state in any election victory and the Sunshine State has two high profile candidates that may ultimately try to throw their hat in the ring for the high stake post of President of the United States.
>>> Congressional Candidate Pleads Guilty to Violation of the Federal Election Campaign Act
Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Mythili Raman, Acting Assistant United States Attorney for the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice, and Michael B. Steinbach, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, announced today that Justin Lamar Sternad, 35, pled guilty before U.S. District Court Judge Robin S. Rosenbaum to violating the Federal Election Campaign Act (Election Act) in connection with the 2012 Democratic Party primary election for Florida’s 26th Congressional District. Sternad, 35, of Miami, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Judge Robin S. Rosenbaum in the Southern District of Florida. Sternad pleaded guilty to all counts of a criminal information that charged him with one count of conspiracy to make false statements to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), one count of making false statements to the FEC and one count of accepting illegal campaign contributions.
Sternad was a candidate in the 2012 Democratic Party primary election for Florida’s 26th Congressional District. According to court documents, Sternad engaged in a conspiracy to accept illegal campaign contributions and file false statements with the FEC in order to conceal the true source, amount and nature of the funds used by his campaign. Sternad admitted that his campaign accepted cash and checks in excess of Federal Election Campaign Act limits, and that he filed statements that intentionally misled the FEC about his campaign’s activities. During the campaign, illegal cash contributions from co-conspirators were used to pay for a rental car and the design, printing and distribution of campaign flyers. According to court documents, Sternad reported to the FEC that he made loans to his campaign in the amount of $63,801, when he knew that he had actually loaned fewer than $300. In total, Sternad accepted over $70,000 in misreported campaign contributions. Judge Rosenbaum set sentencing for May 31, 2013 at 10:00 a.m. At sentencing, Sternad faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine up to $250,000 on each count. >>> Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Senior Litigation Counsel Thomas J. Mulvihill and Richard C. Pilger, Director of the Election Crimes Branch of the Public Integrity Section of the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. 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.
>>> Peruvian Woman Sentenced to 60 Months and Bahamian Woman Sentenced to 36 Months in Prison for Alien Smuggling
Press release: Peruvian national Jessie Katherine Gonzales Urquizo and Bahamian national Irene Mildred Janette Burrows were sentenced yesterday to serve 60 months and 36 months in prison, respectively, for their roles in smuggling undocumented migrants to the United States for private financial gain, announced U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida, Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton. Urquizo, 37, and Burrows, 66, were sentenced by U.S. District Judge Kenneth A. Marra in the Southern District of Florida.
On Jan. 11, 2013, Urquizo and Burrows both pleaded guilty to charges arising from facilitating the illegal smuggling of Brazilian nationals into the United States by working for a known human smuggler in Brazil. According to court documents, the pair charged between approximately $100 and $125 per day in exchange for providing lodging and transportation to undocumented migrants waiting to be transported by boat to the United States. As part of the scheme, Urquizo and Burrows received instructions from Brazil-based smugglers on when and where to deliver certain undocumented migrants to waiting boats for passage to the United States
Urquizo and Burrows admitted that they brought undocumented migrants, all of whom are Brazilian nationals, to the United States for financial gain. Urquizo admitted to taking payment for lodging the undocumented migrants at various hotels and stash houses, including a nursing home operated by Burrows, her co-defendant and mother-in-law. Urquizo further admitted that she arranged for food to be taken to the undocumented migrants, transported the undocumented migrants to a waiting boat upon instructions from a known human smuggler in Brazil, and demanded payment for her services. For her part, Burrows admitted to working with Urquizo, taking payment for lodging undocumented migrants at her nursing home, and providing transportation. The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorney Jay Bauer of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexandra Hui of the Southern District of Florida. The investigation was conducted by the ICE Homeland Security Investigations in Miami. 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.
>>> 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
>>> Will Gov. Scott policy & education offensive give a bump to him with Floridians, trails former Gov. Crist in state polls
Gov. Rick Scott is crisscrossing the state promoting his education agenda and on Thursday stopped by to see The Miami Herald Editorial Board www.miamiherald.com and Miami Herald host Phil Latzman of WLRN and Latzman later interviewed Scott at the paper’s headquaters where a radio studio is also located in the building. Scott trying to get his poll numbers up and pushing his own state legislative agenda. He was then interviewed after the visit by WPLG Channel 10 senior political reporter Michael Putney http://www.local10.com/ and Scott dodged the reporter’s question when it came to his poll approval ratings. He said there are mixed poll numbers but the only one of concern to the governor is the General Election Day results in November 2014. Scott said to Putney the most recent unemployment report is the lowest in four years coming in at 7.8 percent for the state and the last time Florida saw that number was back in November 2008.
However, Scott when matched up against former Gov. Charlie Crist is down in the polls. And Crist, the former GOP governor, gone independent in 2010 and is now a Democrat appears to be the leading candidate if the Democratic Party decides he should be their champion in the party’s primary next year to take the governor’s mansion back from the GOP. A party that also controls the Florida Legislature as well. Below are some of Scott’s most recent press releases and it is clear he has amped up his campaign, trying to reshape his image that has environmentalists howling but the shy state leader new to public service is finding he is facing headwinds with Floridians. And he has had some members of his own party originally talking about an alternative candidate like Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam to challenge the governor in the party’s primary. But polling is showing that Scott would win and Putnam is now demurring on the idea the media is reporting.
>>> Governor Rick Scott Highlights Importance of Medicaid Waivers at
Miami Herald Editorial Board
Press release: Gov. Rick Scott highlighted the importance of federal support for two Medicaid waivers that will grant the state greater flexibility to address cost, quality and access in healthcare at the Miami Herald editorial board meeting earlier today. The Medicaid waivers were originally designed under former Florida Governor Jeb Bush in 2005. Governor Scott secured federal support for the waivers last month, which he stressed was of critical importance to transforming the state’s traditional Medicaid program by allowing greater flexibility at the state level. (A waiver signifies federal approval for states to utilize flexibilities not specifically provided in federal law.)
Governor Scott said, “…I haven’t seen the specific language what the Senate wants to do, but here’s what I put out. As you know, I thought there was a better way to improve healthcare. I believe in the free markets. I believe that it will keep the cost down or drive it down, and as you control the growth rate of the cost of healthcare, people can afford it better. That’s personally what I would do and that’s what I’ve tried to do in my business life. The law passed, the President’s law passed, the Supreme Court upheld it, and Governor Romney was going to repeal it, and he lost.
“What I did is, I sat down with Secretary Sebelius the first part of January and Marilyn Tavenner who runs Medicare and Medicaid and I let them know how important the waivers were to us and we talked about how much flexibility in whatever they are going to do. The waivers that we received are significant to us. Historically, Medicaid has been growing at three and a half times our general revenue. So, we have got to come up with a system that, one, the taxpayers can afford and, two, we can provide access to good quality healthcare. Both of these things, you have to try and do, which is not easy. We got the waivers and that is going to help us a lot.” Full video from the editorial board is available online HERE (Minute 22).
>>> Press release: Governor Rick Scott issued a statement on the Senate’s budget proposal that funds teacher pay raises.
Governor Scott said, “I want to thank Senate President Don Gaetz, Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Joe Negron and Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Bill Galvano for recognizing Florida’s great teachers by including $480 million for teacher pay raises in the initial, proposed education budget. Thanks to our teachers, Florida has experienced incredible gains in performance, including ranking 6th nationally for overall quality of education, our fourth-graders ranking second internationally for reading scores, and Florida teachers earning the highest overall grade in the nation for teacher quality, according to the National Council on Teacher Quality. I look forward to continuing to work with the Legislature to ensure our teachers are rewarded for their accomplishments.”
>>> Statement from Governor Scott on Citizens Property Insurance’s Claim that their Executive Staff is Underpaid
Press release: Governor Rick Scott today made the following statement regarding Citizens Property Insurance highlighting how underpaid the company’s executives are compared to their counterparts at private insurance companies: Governor Scott said, “Citizens’ claims that they need to pay their executives more because of their history of controversy is simply ridiculous. A few weeks ago, I asked Citizens to give back outrageous pay raises they doled out to their executives last year. I also said that Citizens needs to have per diems that match other state employees and they should not be reimbursed for alcohol. Citizens needs immediate reform and that is why I called for the creation of an Inspector General. They must be responsible stewards of the taxpayer funds that back them.”
>>> Gov. Scott Applauds Legislative Action Protecting the Everglades
Press release: Today, the House of Representatives unanimously approved House Bill 7065, coming on the heels of yesterday’s Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee that unanimously approved Senate Bill 768. Governor Rick Scott issued the following statement regarding the progress of the Everglades Forever Act legislation: Governor Scott said, “I applaud the work of Senator Wilton Simpson and Representatives Matt Caldwell and Steve Crisafulli for their legislation that moves Everglades restoration forward by funding, and codifying in law, a plan that will ensure the state meets the water quality standards it has set for the Everglades. I would also like to thank members of the agriculture and environmental communities for working toward a solution that will benefit Florida’s businesses, families and the ecosystem. In addition to this important legislation, we will continue working with the Legislature to invest $60 million to protect and restore the Everglades.”
>>> Here is a press release on money for Florida’s public schools
Governor Rick Scott today acknowledged Escambia County’s public schools that have sustained high student performance or demonstrated substantial improvement in student performance by presenting a check totaling more than $751,000 in School Recognition Program funding to representatives from the Escambia County School district. The check presentation took place before an audience of educators and community leaders at Brown-Barge Middle School in Pensacola. Schools can use their award dollars for faculty or staff bonuses, to purchase educational equipment or materials, or hire temporary staff to help maintain or improve student performance. Statewide, school recognition funding totals more than $134 million. Governor Scott said, “Florida students and teachers were ranked 6th for educational quality, our fourth-grade students scored among the best in the world in an international reading survey, and we recently learned Florida students are number one for percentage of students taking an AP exam. Our teachers have done a great job and that is why I have proposed to provide all fulltime classroom teachers a $2,500 pay raise.
“Our efforts at the state and local level to enhance the quality of our education system is working. In conjunction with our proposed $1.2 billion increase in educational funding as part of the Florida Families First Budget, the school recognition funding will allow our teachers and students in Escambia County and across the state to continue on their path of success.”
“What we are doing at the state and local levels to enhance the quality of our education system is working. In conjunction with our proposed $1.2 billion increase in educational funding as part of the Florida Families First Budget, the school recognition funding will allow our teachers and students in Escambia County and across the state to continue on their path of success.” Florida’s School Recognition Program acknowledges the quality of public schools by giving financial rewards based on sustained or significantly improved student achievement in reading, mathematics, science, and writing. Schools eligible for recognition awards include those receiving an ’A’ school grade, improving at least one letter grade from the previous year, or improving more than one letter grade and sustaining the improvement the following school year. Alternative schools that increase their school improvement rating, or are rated “improving,” also qualify for awards. The school staff and school advisory council at each recognized school jointly decide how to use the financial award.
“Governor Scott understands rewarding schools for performance promotes even higher achievement,” said Commissioner of Education Dr. Tony Bennett. “His Florida Families First Budget calls for an even larger commitment to the School Recognition Program.” … “We are grateful that Governor Rick Scott made a special visit to Escambia County to congratulate our teachers and staff for a job well done,” said Escambia County School Board Chairman Jeff Bergosh. “The $751,488 in School Recognition Program funds will go a long way in rewarding our best and brightest here in Escambia County. We support Governor Scott’s proposal to increase funding for this program and will work with local and statewide education stakeholders to support his Florida’s Families First Budget.”
“Rewarding Florida’s teachers for their tireless commitment and dedication to prepare our students for the 21st century workforce is a sound investment,” said Peter Neuhaus, research scientist with the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition in Pensacola. “I support Governor Scott’s proposal to increase funding for the School Recognition Program and his pledge to reward our high-performing teachers.” The School Recognition Program distribution for Escambia County schools is below. >>> About the Florida Department of Education: The department’s mission is to increase the proficiency of all students within one seamless, efficient education system by providing them the chance to expand their knowledge and skills through world-class learning opportunities. Serving more than 3.5 million students, 4,200 public schools, 28 colleges, 188,000 teachers, 47,000 college professors and administrators, and 318,000 individuals who work in education throughout the state, the department enhances the economic self-sufficiency of Floridians through programs and services geared toward college, workforce education, job-specific skills, and career development. Florida ranks first in the nation for teacher quality, first in the nation in advanced placement participation, and first in the southern region for graduation rate and degrees awarded by the Florida College System. For more information, visit www.fldoe.org.
>>> Scandal free Children’s Trust of Miami-Dade looking for new CEO to replace Abety after 11-years in top child advocate administrative slot
The Children’s Trust of Miami-Dade County created by county voters in 2002 and reaffirmed overwhelmingly by a 79 percent majority of county voters in 2008 is looking for a new president to run the around $100 million Trust. Modesto Abety, the only top administrator of the organization since its creation is prohibited from taking the job during a six-month period he has to leave. Since he is in the Florida Retirement System, but a new CEO is expected to be found in the meantime before he could reapply for the job. In addition, long serving senior administrator Charles Auslander will be the interim CEO when Abety formally leaves at the end of March.
>>> The Children’s Trust Conducts Search for a New President and CEO, extends application deadline to Mar. 15 only the best of the best should apply for this premier organization helping kids
Press release: The Children’s Trust Board of Directors has begun an executive search for a new President and Chief Executive Officer. Qualified candidates are preferred to have no less than 15 years of experience, including at least five leading a team of professional staff, as a senior administrator with preference for a human service agency administrator or as public administrator working with a board, council or other policy body. Demonstrated knowledge and understanding of: Governance structures in Miami-Dade and the State of Florida, the demographics of the Miami-Dade population, major policy issues involving children and families, and the dynamics of large urban communities with high levels of immigration. The Children’s Trust is a dedicated source of revenue established by voter referendum to improve the lives of children and families in Miami-Dade County by making strategic investments in their future. >>> To view the entire job description, visit www.thechildrenstrust.org Interested and qualified candidates shall send, in one continuous Word or PDF document, a cover letter of interest, resume, at least three professional references, and salary requirements to: CEOsearch@thechildrenstrust.org >>> All information submitted to The Children’s Trust is subject to Public Records Requests and all interviews will be publicly noticed and take place in a public setting as proscribed by law. In addition, a background check will be conducted as part of the pre-employment process. Candidates who are not a current resident of Miami-Dade County, if hired, must relocate to Miami-Dade County within 30 days of employment. The Children’s Trust is a dedicated source of revenue established by voter referendum to improve the lives of children and families in Miami-Dade County.
>>> 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.
>>> Commissioners get cultural update, Arsht Center doing great, new Miami Science Museum 1/3 done, and Perez Art Museum has raised ¾ of $120 million fund raising goal
At a Miami-Dade Commission Finance Committee meeting Chaired by Estefan “Steve” Bovo two weeks ago, the local arts and culture organizations were the watchwords of the day. The Adrianne Arsht Center, the Perez Museum of Art and The Miami Science Museum all gave updates on they’re fiscal performance for the past year and what funding they were asking for from the county in the next county budget cycle beginning Oct.1. The Arsht Center, originally plagued with operating budget shortfalls in its initial years since opening in 2006, 20 months late and coming in at $472.6 million, well over the original $255 million was a public relations nightmare for county commissioners at the time. However, the first CEO was canned and new management was brought in, and with this new administration of the two performance halls located in downtown Miami. The Arsht Center has been flourishing and attendance has substantially increased to 500,000 people a year, for 500 events and includes extensive community programs that bring 25,000 fifth grade students a year to see free programs called Rock Odyssey in conjunction with their classroom studies over the past years. Further, while there are 100 employees at the Center, it has 315 volunteers that give 500,000 hours of usher help that saves the complex some $1 million in in-kind services a year, said John Richard the CEO to the commissioners on the committee. He noted the budget request of $7.6 million from the county “was based on keeping expenses flat,” given the Center’s overall $38 to $40 million annual budget that is overseen by 41 PAC trustees of which 22 of these people are appointed by the county commission and mayor.
Commissioner Bovo, whose son attends the New School of the Arts said he understood the importance of the arts and culture, and Commissioner Dennis Moss told Richard you “do a wonderful job,” and the long serving commissioner closed saying “at one time it [the Arsht Center] was struggled mightily,” and congratulated the CEO for “really turning it around,” Moss closed.
What about the Miami Science Museum budget?
The new Miami Science Museum being constructed on Museum Park in Bicentennial Park is one third of the way complete from February this year said a senior Museum staff member to committee members. He said there is two-years to go before the state of the art facility is finished and so far $50 million of a total of $165 million in county GOB funds have been used and another $45 million in bond money is expected this year and when it comes to fundraising. The organization has set $110 million as its minimum fundraising goal, and they would like to raise $135 million in total as a cushion. He said they have raised $70.5 million to date and when it comes to fundraising “people are excited,” now that the actual structure is rising from the ground.
What about the new Miami Art Museum budget?
Tom Collins, the CEO of the Miami Art Museum said the new Perez Art Museum will be opening in December and is “the only major new museum opened in the U.S. this year.” He said the Museum is “three quarters,” of the way “of the total fundraising goal of $120 million.” And he believes the new “exhibitions, educational and social programs will improve the life” of residents and visitors to the facility. He noted currently around 50,000 schoolchildren a year visit the Art Museum’s current location and while the current budget is $11.7 million. When the new museum opens at the end of the year that budget “number will almost double,” and some new expenses will come on line like $1 million for insurance. He said they are asking for some “$4 million from the county this year,” and they are collectively excited with all the progress that is being made with the approaching end of year opening.
What about the school district $1.2 billion bond and Commissioner Souto?
Commissioner Javier Souto wants the county administration of Mayor Carlos Gimenez to work closely with the Miami-Dade Public Schools now that voters passed a $1.2 billion bond for school renovations and technology ending the digital divide that exists for some schools and their students. Souto said “the school system passed a very large bond” issue and “this creates an opportunity for the parks system to get land next to schools.” “The school system has plenty of money” and they are, as “concerned about kids as we are,” and the county should collaborate to buy “available land next to schools,” Souto said. Senior county staff acknowledged the need and would “look at the parameters of the bond,” and said they would try to “work together and to coordinate our resources” looking for anyway they could to “partner-up,” with the public schools district, she said.
>>> M-DC Ethics Commission: Also today, Executive Director Joseph Centorino reported to the Ethics Commission that the agency’s new website (www.ethics.miamidade.gov ) is now active, as is a new Facebook page (facebook.com/miamidadeethics), and encouraged those present to help spread their usage. He also announced that registration is now underway for the two-day Public Corruption Investigation Conference, May 9-10, at the Miami Police Training Center, where former FBI Director Louis Freeh will be keynote speaker. Details are available on the Ethics Commission website.
>>> GMCVB Press release: RECORD ACCOMMODATIONS AND FOOD SERVICE JOBS IN GREATER MIAMI AND THE BEACHES REPORTED FOR JANUARY 2013 – MARKING 37 MONTHS OF CONSECUTIVE JOB INCREASES
Greater Miami’s Accommodations and Food Service jobs increased +4.7% in January 2013 compared to the same period in 2012. This marks 37 months of consecutive increased employment in Greater Miami’s Accommodations and Food Service Industry. In January 2013, 108,500 people were employed in Greater Miami’s Accommodations and Food Service sector compared to 103,600 in January 2012, a +4.7% increase.
|GREATER MIAMI LEISURE AND HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY JOBS|
|January 2013||January 2013||% Change|
MIAMI-DADE PUBLIC SCHOOL
>>> “Community vigilance” is being brought to spending of $1.2 billion school renovation and technology bond money, says Supt. Carvalho
The first 21st Century Schools Bond Advisory Committee met on Monday and the members are charged with being the community firewall when it comes to the oversight of the $1.2 billion bond for school renovation and technology that was passed by 70 percent of Miami-Dade voters last November. The board members who must meet at least four times a year are a cross section of the community, but no lobbyists are allowed to sit on the body and not having any conflict of interest is being emphasized and must be disclosed. And there is a full compliment of oversight entities watching over the process of allocating the money for the hundreds of projects over the next six to seven years including the district’s auditor and the District’s Office of the Inspector General.
Alberto Carvalho who was the public point of the spear of the bond campaign said “equitable and fair distribution of the money,” was necessary and how this money was spent included a “strong dose of transparency and community vigilance.” He said this new approach to how the bond proceeds would be allocated “is a significant departure from the past 1988 [$990 million] bond that just squeaked through,” voter approval at the time. And many communities around the county later criticized how this bond money was spent in years past. The highly praised Carvalho, who just got a raise, said when it came to the technology upgrades in the 400 public schools that “a zip code should not determine the technology in the schools,” and the goal was that this technology divide “be abolished,” he told the assembled advisory committee members.
What about the committee’s leadership?
The committee members present elected Roberto “Bob” Martinez as its new chair and Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner was tapped as the vice chair. Martinez, an attorney and former local U.S. Attorney has had a long history in education at the state level. And he was a close confidant on the subject with former Republican Govs. Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist and only recently stepped down from the state Board of Education where he served as vice chair. Lerner is a former Democratic Party state representative who later in her political career was elected to be the tony Village’s mayor.
>>> Press release: The 21st Century Schools Bond Advisory Committee met today for the first time. It also elected Roberto Martinez, former Vice-Chair of the State Board of Education, as the Chair and Cindy Lerner, Mayor of the Village of Pinecrest, as the Vice Chair. Last November, the public voted for the issuance of a $1.2 billion General Obligation (GO) Bond for renovating facilities, updating technology, building school replacements, expanding student capacity, and enhancing facility safety.
PUBLIC HEALTH TRUST
>>> FRB Lapciuc says JHS future is new mission of Board, and what “context” will role of UM Miller Medical School be in the next five years?
Marcos Lapciuc, the Chair of the Financial Recovery Board at the Jackson Health System’s monthly committee meeting recently said Jackson Health System (JHS), “Has reached a milestone,” and the long serving member noted CEO “Carlos Migoya and his team had done a fantastic job,” getting the health system in the black. However, he cautioned while improvements in “cash collection” and the “out layers,” chronically ill patients was getting better and “slowly coming under control.” He suggested that the FRB “start focusing with management on the vision and policy,” of Jackson in the years ahead. Since in the short term “management is beginning to control the day-to-day issues,” of running the hospital that has only around 13 days of cash on hand but blows through some $4.2 million a day in cash for the 9,600 employees and other overhead.
Lapciuc also noted JHS had to bring medical costs down and “become more efficient,” and we need to grow the patient hospital census because we also “need more revenue,” he said. Speaking about the University of Miami’s Miller Medical School Annual Operateing Agreement (AOA). He said it “is one thing to negotiate an AOA with UM,” but the real issue he believed is “What is the five-year context,” of this well over 50-year relationship. “Is it a vender payer relationship,” he asked and when it came to JHS. “What is the long term investment with the University,” and how will that fit into JHS. The Miller Medical School is currently providing a host of medical service lines like organ transplants but in other medical specialties, JHS is providing the physicians.
CITY OF MIAMI
>>> Mayor Regalado says Miami is in better shape then when he took over after Mayor Diaz, faces Commissioner Suarez in Nov. mayoral election
Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado gave his “state of the city” address last week http://www.miamigov.com/home/docs/Headlines/2013/03-State_of_the_City.pdf and he argued the city’s finances have been shored up and Miami is on the right track under his stewardship since being elected in Nov. 2009 and followed in his nemesis footsteps former Mayor Manuel Diaz. Regalado noted some of the issues the city administration faced were due to the last administration and cited the low $27 million in city reserves and the two SEC investigations of the bond sales for the Miami Marlins Stadium and another bond transaction. Regalado is up for reelection in November and he is facing first term commissioner Francis Suarez and while the younger Suarez has the fundraising edge so far in the race. Regalado has a lot of good will with some key Cuban American voters especially the elderly and the upcoming race is expected to get heated as the General Election Nov. 8 approaches. Moreover, both candidates are using the commission dais and chambers to push their issues. And both men, especially Regalado a former journalist who was a radio commentator now often takes to the Spanish media airwaves stating his case and the job the administration is doing, but he has drawn controversy such as the firing of the former Miami Police Chief, and now a federal lawsuit filed against him by Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones.
CITY OF MIAMI BEACH
>>> Hail new Mgr. Morales, starts Apr. 1, now the hard work of transforming Miami Beach begins, getting solid community support
Hail Jimmy Morales, as the Miami Beach Commission recently unanimously voted to name the Harvard trained attorney to be the new City Manager. Morales beat out finalist Frank Rollason in the end and the man chocked up during his acceptance speech. And the former county commissioner who grew up on the Beach with his parents in tough financial straits wished his father had seen his son in such a high profile position and his appointment symbolized the second-generation immigrant success story. He promised transparency, may move from his home in Coral Gables to the Beach after the upcoming November mayoral and commission elections and this will be his biggest challenge when it comes to public service. Morales told the Watchdog Report Sunday that a contract has been hammered out and Commissioners Ed Tobin and Jonah Wolfson did the negotiations with him and the commission will vote on the compensation package in the future and Morales said he starts Apr. 1.
Moreover, Morales is getting strong support from residents and everywhere the Watchdog Report goes on Miami Beach. People are hopeful and supportive of the man with two children, one with autism and a wife who was a former state prosecutor. He is known for his warm smile, but has stated that in the past he can be stern and demanding when the occasion warrants it and he was a whistle blower while working as a municipal attorney in the Keys on a sexual harassment case. He now has to deal with hundreds of millions in infrastructure construction, past cases of corruption in the code enforcement and other departments and he has his work cut out for him in the coming months. However, overall the community is wishing him well. And he did get unanimous support from the mayor and commission for his selection and now he gets to work.
>>> Non-binding opinion finds potential conflict in Convention Center food contract
Questions over a food and beverage contract at the Miami Beach Convention Center from the city attorney and a competing bidder were brought before the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics & Public Trust today. Ovations Food Services LP is seeking the concession. Its sister company, Global Spectrum LP, manages the Convention Center, including overseeing and evaluating the food and beverage contract. Based on relevant prior opinions, the Ethics Commission issued a non-binding opinion that a conflict of interest would exist if an existing managing contractor were to exercise oversight over an affiliated company. The opinion noted that, if municipalities include language in future contracts or proposals providing the Ethics Commission with authority to rule on potential conflicts for bidders, then such opinions would be binding. Municipal attorneys will be advised of this position.
>>> Miami Beach Community Health Center CEO Pleads Guilty in $6 Million Embezzlement Scam
Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Michael A. Steinbach, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, and Christopher B. Dennis, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG), announced that defendant Kathryn Abbate, 64, of Hollywood, FL, pled guilty today to theft of money from programs receiving federal funds, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 666. Sentencing is scheduled for May 29, 2013 at 11:30 AM before U.S. District Judge Marcia G. Cooke. At sentencing, the defendant faces a maximum statutory sentence of up to10 years in prison.
According to the factual proffer field with the court, the defendant served as Chief Executive Officer of the Miami Beach Community Health Center (MBCHC) from 2002 to mid-2012. During this time, MBCHC was a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) that provided medical care to persons regardless of ability to pay or insurance status. As an FQHC, MBCHC received millions of dollars of federal funding each year from 2008 to 2012 through cash grants and Medicaid reimbursements. According to the factual proffer, beginning around 2008 and continuing through around May 2012, Abbate embezzled money from MBCHC. First, Abbate caused MBCHC to pay her non-accrued vacation pay and other forms of compensation that totaled over $3 million from 2008 to 2012. Second, Abbate embezzled money from MBCHC by causing non-payroll checks to be issued from MBCHC payable to her. Specifically, from 2007 to 2012, Abbate caused MBCHC to disburse approximately 837 checks made payable to her totaling approximately $3 million (the Abbate Checks) for “community development.” No backup documentation (such as an invoice or receipt) was provided for any of these checks and money from these funds was misappropriated by Abbate, including for personal use.
According to the factual proffer, in May 2012, auditors requested backup documentation for the Abbate checks disbursed by MBCHC in 2011, totaling approximately $1 million. In response, Abbate caused false backup documentation to be provided to the auditors, falsely indicating that the $1 million had been paid to five doctors at a medical facility. In fact, however, the money had not been paid to these doctors, but had been misappropriated by Abbate. Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI and HHS-OIG. The case is being prosecuted by AUSAs Michael N. Berger and Patrick Sullivan. 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.
CITY OF CORAL GABLES
>>> Commissioner Anderson says sayonara to dais, blasts Mayor Cason and Mgr. Salerno, supporter of Cabrera in mayoral race
Commissioner Maria Anderson, first elected in 2001 is saying sayonara to the dais and her last commission meeting is March 26, just prior to when City Beautiful voters go to the polls on April 9 to elect a mayor and two new commissioners since Anderson and Commissioner Ralph Cabrera, Jr., are both term limited on the commission. Cabrera is now challenging incumbent Mayor Jim Cason for the top job >>> http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/03/22/3301326/coral-gables-mayoral-candidates.html . The Watchdog Report contacted Anderson who also supports Cabrera and I asked her to reflect on her time on the dais over the years and she responded including critical comments about Cason who notes that Cabrera in all his years on the commission never got one of his initiatives passed by the body. Anderson wrote, “It’s been a privilege to serve my hometown for 12 years. I survived three tough elections and am humbled that the citizens of Coral Gables placed their trust in me in 2001, 2005 and 2009. I am proud that I am leaving public service rich in amazing experiences, not but no richer in money than when I started in 2001. I never took a city computer, cell phone and declined to participate in the city’s pension.
My work with seniors, keeping the process alive for a senior center is now bearing fruit. The Coral Gables Charrette was the impetus for the re-write of the city’s Zoning Code, and was also a great community event. In 2003, we did the heavy lifting in starting the reform of the city’s pension by making it a contributory system again. But I leave heavy-hearted and troubled by the direction our city is heading. The Mayor’s race in particular is pivotal. The standing mayor has become the puppet for a despotic City Manager. Furthermore the mayor never truly expresses an opinion of his own and is scripted by the manager whose interest is never about what’s best for the City. Shoddily re-paved streets and skinny palm trees do not a good mayor make. They are merely cosmetic cover-ups that hide the true issues.
Cason’s popularity with Cubans because of his Cuban Foreign Service work makes no sense to me. After all, I am a Cuban-born; 53-year resident of Coral Gables and my colleague, Ralph Cabrera is a Cuban born, 47-year resident. Our parents lost everything, and then made a life again in Coral Gables. 1. Jim Cason refuses to admit that the City has had a 13%+ increase in crimes and allowed the Manager to cover it up before the election. 2. Jim Cason approved an unprecedented number of no-bid contracts that cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars. It’s the “good old boy” network at it worst.3.Jim Cason views city employees like actuarial statistics and the manager views them as chattel. Morale has flat-lined in City Hall. He has not figured out that fairly treated employees give the quality service residents expect. My last few weeks will be spent in helping my 12-year colleague Ralph Cabrera be elected Mayor. That’s the least I can do for my hometown. Stay tuned, and thank you for your good service,” wrote the opinionated veteran commissioner.
>>> M-DC Ethics Commission ruling: A complaint (C 13-06) against a member of the Coral Gables Construction Regulation Board in 2010, who failed to file the required financial disclosure form by the deadline, was dismissed with prejudice after Jorge Otero completed the filing. He had been incorrectly advised by a clerk in the city that he didn’t have to file the disclosure for 2010 if he completed the form for 2011, which he did on time. The erroneous information provided the basis for the dismissal.
>>> The Ethics Commission found as Not Legally Sufficient a complaint (C 13-04) filed by the owner of an 85-year-old house in Coral Gables related to the planned demolition of his home. Mads Thomsen alleged he did not receive impartial treatment during two hearings before the Coral Gables Historic Preservation Board, accusing members of being unfairly influenced by Preservation officer Dona Spain and treating him disrespectfully. The Ethics Commission determined that, even if true, the actions alleged are not violations of the Conflict of Interest and Code of Ethics Ordinance.
>>> PAST WDR: With winner take all race, Group (III) race with five candidates, victor may win with small majority of Gables voters
With the Apr. 9 election drawing closer and the Feb. 22 qualifying date past, the races for Coral Gables Mayor and two commission seats is set. The city clerk’s election webpage lists only Mayor Jim Cason and Commissioner Ralph Cabrera, Jr., running for the top spot on the dais that pays $34,736 and in two commission seat races for the vacated Group (II) and the Group (III) seat for the first spot on the dais there is Marlin Holland Ebbert, Ross Hancock and Vincente Carlos Lago running.
And for the latter Group (III) commission seat, the packed field includes Jackson “Rip” Holmes, Patricia A. Keon, P.J. Mitchell, Norman Anthony Newell and Mary Martin Young in a winner take all race. A commissioner is paid $28,225 and serves a four-year term to the mayor’s term that is every two years. That fact is important for the commission races especially in the Group (III) race. For with five candidates, whoever wins will likely have well less than a majority of the potential 29,355 registered voters as of Jun. 2012 that turn out for the election. Here is the latest campaign report information. http://www.gableshomepage.com/2013/01/14/gables-candidates-report-over-334000-in-donations-loans/
CITY OF HOMESTEAD
>>> Homestead Resident Sentenced for Tax Refund Fraud
Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Antonio J. Gomez, Acting Inspector in Charge, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and José A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CID), announced today’s sentencing of defendant Kilwoind Jones, 28, of Homestead, Florida, on charges of theft of government monies resulting from her participation in a stolen identity tax refund scheme. At today’s hearing, U.S. District Judge William J. Zloch sentenced Jones to 32 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. On October 5, 2012, a federal grand jury charged Kilwoind Jones with receiving stolen U.S. Treasury refund checks having forged signatures, with possessing stolen mail, and theft of government money. On January 10, 2013, Kilwoind pled guilty to Count 7 of the Superseding indictment, which charged the defendant with theft of government property, and Count 10 of the Superseding Indictment, which charged the defendant with aggravated identity theft.
During the plea hearing, Kilwoind admitted to receiving three stolen U.S. Treasury tax refund checks and to depositing the three stolen U.S. Treasury tax refund checks with the forged signatures into her bank account. Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the Identity Theft Tax Refund Strike Force, with special commendation to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and IRS-CI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Gera Peoples. 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.
>>> OTHER STORIES AROUND FLORIDA
>>> Former Broward Resident Pleads Guilty to Passport Fraud and Aggravated Identity Theft
Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Wendy Bashnan, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of State, Diplomatic Security Service, Miami Field Office, announce that defendant Arcesio Rojas Valencia a/k/a Arcisio Rojas Valencia a/k/a Arcy Valencia, 50, formerly of Broward County, Florida, and most recently of Costa Mesa, California, has entered a guilty plea to charges of passport fraud and aggravated identity theft, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1542 and 1028A. Valencia appeared today in federal court in Fort Lauderdale before U.S. District Judge William P. Dimitrouleas.
Valencia admitted that he was born in Colombia, South America in December 1962, but in or around March 2001 in Florida, applied for and obtained for his own use and with his own photograph, a U.S. passport in the name of his U.S.-born son and birthdate of October 1965. To do so, Valencia submitted to the Department of State a copy of his son’s U.S. birth certificate, with the year of birth altered from 1985 to 1965. Valencia admitted that he knew that his statements in the passport application as to the name, date of birth, and place of birth were false. Valencia further admitted to willfully and knowingly using the passport on or about May 26, 2008, at Fort Lauderdale International Airport, and during and in relation thereto, to knowingly possessing and using, without lawful authority, the means of identification of his son, “A.V.”
On November 30, 2012, a federal grand jury in Miami charged Valencia, and an arrest warrant was issued for him. Diplomatic Security Service agents located Valencia in Southern California, where they arrested him in Los Angeles on December 5, 2012. Based in part on an active Broward County arrest warrant dating back to 1990, the U.S. Magistrate Judge in California ordered that Valencia be detained until trial. Valencia was returned to the Southern District of Florida in late December. At a hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Lurana Snow in early January 2013, Valencia stipulated to continued pre-trial detention due to the outstanding state arrest warrant. Valencia faces a mandatory two-year term of imprisonment when he is sentenced on May 28, 2013. Mr. Ferrer commended the efforts of the U.S. Department of State, Diplomatic Security Service, in locating the defendant. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Robert T. Watson. 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 PLANTATION
>>> Medical Director For Miami-Based Health Care Clinic Sentenced To 144 Months In Prison For Role In $50 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme
Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney of the Southern District of Florida, Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Michael B. Steinbach, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), 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 a former medical director for Biscayne Milieu, a Miami-based mental-health clinic, was sentenced today to serve 144 months in prison for his role in a fraud scheme involving the submission of more than $50 million in fraudulent billings to Medicare. Dr. Gary Kushner, 72, of Plantation, Fla., was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Robert N. Scola Jr. in the Southern District of Florida. In addition to the prison term, Kushner was ordered to serve three years of supervised release.
Kushner was convicted on Aug. 24, 2012, of one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and one substantive count of health care fraud, following a two-month jury trial. According to the evidence at trial, Kushner and his co-conspirators caused the submission of over $50 million dollars in false and fraudulent claims to Medicare through Biscayne Milieu, which purportedly operated a partial hospitalization program (PHP) – a form of intensive treatment for severe mental illness. Instead of providing legitimate PHP services, the defendants devised a scheme in which they paid patient recruiters to refer ineligible Medicare beneficiaries to Biscayne Milieu for services that were never provided or were not properly reimbursable by Medicare. Many of the patients admitted to Biscayne Milieu were not eligible for PHP because they were chronic substance abusers, suffered from severe dementia and would not benefit from group therapy, or had no mental health diagnosis but were seeking exemptions for their U.S. citizenship applications. The evidence at trial further showed that, as Biscayne Milieu’s medical director, Kushner authorized the treatment of patients that he knew were ineligible for PHP treatment. Biscayne Milieu then billed Medicare for millions of dollars in PHP treatments for these patients under Kushner’s name. Evidence further revealed that Kushner would often conduct cursory examinations lasting only minutes before authorizing such fraudulent billings.
Various owners, doctors, managers, therapists, patient brokers and other employees of Biscayne Milieu have also been charged with various health care fraud, kickback, money laundering and other offenses in two indictments unsealed in September 2011 and May 2012. Biscayne Milieu, its owners and more than 25 of the individual defendants charged in these cases have pleaded guilty or have been convicted at trial. Antonio and Jorge Macli and Sandra Huarte – the owners and operators of Biscayne Milieu – were each convicted at trial of various offenses and are scheduled for sentencing in April 2013. Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services in coordination with the Medicare Fraud Strike Force. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael Davis, Marlene Rodriguez and James V. Hayes. >>> 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.
>>> Broward County Tax Return Preparer Pleads Guilty to 76-Count Superseding Indictment
Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and José A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), announced that Vladimyr Jean Baptiste, 41, of Coral Springs, pled guilty today to a 76-count superseding indictment before U.S. District Judge Robin S. Rosenbaum. Sentencing is scheduled for April 12, 2013 at 9:00 a.m.
The superseding indictment charges Baptiste with 73 counts of aiding in the preparation and presentation to the Internal Revenue Service of false U.S. Individual Income Tax Returns, Forms 1040 and 1040A, for calendar years 2007 through 2010, in violation of Title 26, U.S.C., Section 7206(2); and 3 counts of failing to file personal income tax returns for calendar years 2008 through 2010, in violation of Title 26, U.S.C., Section 7203. At sentencing, Baptiste faces up to a maximum of 3 years in prison per count of preparing false tax returns, and a maximum of 1 year in prison per count of failing to file personal income tax returns.
According to court documents, Baptiste operated Tax Plus in Pompano Beach, Florida and filed numerous false income tax returns for clients. These false returns claimed fraudulent statuses, wages, deductions, credits and expenses. Specifically, Baptiste admitted to inflating earned income credits; encouraging clients to file separately when they were married and both falsely file income taxes as head of household, thereby obtaining additional tax credits; and giving various clients a fictitious $3,650 personal tax exemption for returns and allowances to lower their taxes. Finally, Baptiste also admitted that he has not filed his personal tax returns for the past five years. Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of IRS-CI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Walleisa.
>>> 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.
>>> Cooper City Resident Sentenced for Tax Refund Fraud
>>> 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), and Paula Reid, Special Agent in Charge, United States Secret Service (USSS), announced today’s sentencing of defendant David Forbes, 43, of Cooper City, Florida, on charges of theft of government monies resulting from his participation in a stolen identity tax refund scheme. At today’s hearing, U.S. District Judge Kenneth A. Marra sentenced Forbes to 48 months in prison. In addition, Forbes was sentenced to three years of supervised release and was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $372,342.41.
Forbes had previously pled guilty to the theft of government funds in connection with an identity theft tax refund scheme in which the defendant converted more than $1,574,791.83 in tax refunds and had those amounts deposited into his personal and corporate bank accounts. These tax refund payments had been obtained through the filing of false tax returns using stolen personal identification information of unwitting victims. During the investigation and prosecution, defendant Forbes consented to the government’s seizure of $888,399.08. In addition, other bank accounts were identified and an additional $313,550.00 was frozen and returned to the government. Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the IRS-CID and Secret Service. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Laurie Rucoba. A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls.
PALM BEACH COUNTY
>>> Palm Beach County Health Department Employee Arrested For Stealing Patient Information
Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Michael B. Steinbach, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, announce that Salita St. Simon, 30, of Belle Glade, was arrested today on a charge of identity theft, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1028(a)(7). If convicted, St. Simon faces up to five years imprisonment and three years of supervised release.
According to the criminal complaint and information provided in Court, St. Simon was a senior clerk at the Palm Beach County Health Department (PBCHD) until earlier today. For approximately the last year, St. Simon obtained patient identification information, including patient names and social security numbers, from the PBCHD’s computer system and provided that information to her accomplices. These accomplices, in turn, used the information to file fraudulent tax returns seeking the patients’ refunds. Over the last year, St. Simon stole more than 2,800 patients’ information in this way.
Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI and thanked the PBCHD for its substantial assistance in investigating this matter. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Marc Osborne. A complaint is only an accusation, and a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. 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.
>>> Press release: Gov. Scott names Vincent Cassidy and the reappointment of Rebecca Smith to the Tampa-Hillsborough County Expressway Authority.
Cassidy, 54, of Tampa, is the chief executive officer of Majesty Title Services. He was a senior vice president with JP Morgan Chase from 1981-2006. Cassidy is a member of the National Exchange Club of Tampa and the Greater Tampa Chamber. He is also a founding board member of Gulfshore Bank in Tampa. Cassidy received his bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and his master’s degree from the University of Virginia. He succeeds Donald Phillips, and is appointed for a term beginning March 19, 2013, and ending July 1, 2016. Smith, 53, of Tampa, has been the president of A.D. Morgan Corporation since 1989. She has served on the Board of Directors for the Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority since 2009. Smith previously served on the Prison Rehabilitation Industries & Diversified Enterprises Board of Directors from 2005-2008. Throughout her career, Smith has served on various boards including the City of Tampa Variance Review Board, the National Board of Directors of the Better Business Bureau and the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce. Smith received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Florida. She is reappointed for a term beginning March 19, 2013, and ending July 1, 2015. The appointments are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.
>>> Wednesday, March 27, 2013: Downtown Bay Forum: Gun Control: Do we need more or less? Panelists: Hon. Barbara Jordan, County Commissioner, District 1, Chief Matthew Boyd, Miami Gardens Police Chief and president of the Miami-Dade County Association of Chiefs of Police – Moderator: Dr. Sean Foreman, Department of History & Political Science, Barry University. 11:30 a.m. at Temple Israel, 137 NE 19th Street, Miami. Free self-parking available. $35 membership, $23 lunch for member with reservation, $58 membership & lunch, $27 non-member or member without reservation if space is available. To reserve, or for further information, call Annette Eisenberg at 305-757-3633. www.downtownbayforum.org
>>> NON-PROFIT & CULTURAL ARTS ORGANIZATIONS: APPLY NOW TO BE FEATURED AT PHILANTHROFEST 2013 – April 6th, 2013 Miami Dade College Wolfson 300 NE 2nd Ave
Philanthrofest is a volunteer-based organization that connects people, passion and philanthropy in South Florida. The PhilanthroFest team celebrates the South Florida arts community, philanthropic organizations and community resources annually in a free, large-scale community event. Now in its second year,
PhilanthroFest 2013 will take place on Saturday, April 6th and be located at Miami Dade College’s Wolfson Campus in downtown Miami. It provides an incredible opportunity to connect thousands of South Florida residents to valuable resources and services in the areas of Business & Economic Development, City/County Services, Civic Engagement/Community Improvement & Capacity Building, Cultural/Arts/Humanities, Educational, Environmental, Health/Human Services/Disease Prevention, Poverty/Welfare, Animal Related, Food/Agriculture/Nutrition, Recreation & Sports, and Youth Development & Services.
The primary goal is to bring potential volunteers and donors together with not-for-profit organizations, while creating an environment that promotes civic engagement, deepens community connections and sparks the philanthropic spirit of South Florida. PhilanthroFest also strives to provide educational resources to non-profits in the areas of social media and on-line engagement, digital marketing and web development via collaborations between public/private partners and industry experts to create events such as our Non-Profit Community Engagement Institutes. We are excited to announce that we are just one month away from PhilanthroFest’s main event, and there are only days left for non-profits to apply in order to be featured in PhilanthroFest 2013. If you or someone you know works and/or volunteers for a non-profit/cultural arts organization based in South Florida, please encourage the organization to submit an application on-line by Friday, March 15th. Application is FREE and space is limited, so do not delay and visit this link today to learn more. To apply, visit the application page. If you have any questions regarding the above, please email Naomi Ross at
>>> Will the 20 women U.S. Senators be the electrolytes for consensus and compromise in the most exclusive club in the world?
The New York Times www.nytimes.com did a lengthy story Friday on the women now in the United States Senate and how their numbers have grown to 20 members in the world’s most exclusive club that got its first female member 90 years ago when Rebecca Felton of Georgia joined the all male bastion. Further, of these current Senators, nine of them are chairs of Senate Committees and when it comes to political party affiliation. Four of the upper chamber members are from the ranks of the GOP, the others are Democrats. And these women are bringing a different dynamic to the body, and getting a consensus, and compromise seems to be the order of the day.
Here in Miami-Dade County, the county commission has only five women on the 13-member body on the dais but twice now. Women have held the top leadership positions. Once back in 2002-2004 when the Commission Chair was Barbara Carey-Shuler, the Vice Chair was Commissioner Katy Sorenson, and now Commissioner Rebeca Sosa and her number two on the dais is Commissioner Lynda Bell. And while this trend of a larger number of female lawmakers is slowly changing, these women are changing the dynamics of governing after years of men ruling the legislative roost. Moreover, during a time of political partisanship, these women’s ability to meet and discuss issues among themselves should start back an old but forgotten trend of lawmakers hashing out their issues. Not just killing bills and with all the discussion of gridlock in the nation’s capital and among other legislative entities throughout the nation. These 20 women are setting an example that should be emulated; for the current situation is getting us nowhere as the nation grapples with some of the most vexing and complex issues we have ever faced since the nation was founded and solutions must be found.
>>> Reader on Blanche Dog Park story
The Blanche Dog Park may be Shangri La but the kids park right next door needs a lot of work.
>>> 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.
WILLIAM PALMER www.shutts.com
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 COMMISSION www.miamidade.gov
MIAMI-DADE COMMISSION OFFICE OF THE CHAIR 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
MIAMI-DADE PUBLIC SCHOOLS 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
THE MIAMI FOUNDATION www.miamifoundation.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 email@example.com
Daniel A. Ricker
Publisher & Editor
Watchdog Report www.watchdogreport.net
Copyright © of original material, 2013, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.