Watchdog Report Vol.14 Mo.2 May 12, 2013 Est.05.05.00 – Celebrating my 14th Anniversary – I go when you cannot
Argus Report: Cut backs of HUD federal Meals on Wheels programs rippling across all of Miami-Dade, hundreds of elderly residents not getting hot meals, what happens Sen. Nelson says when budget cuts done with a “Meat cleaver”
Florida: “You Figure it out,” Sen. Nelson says to Miami Herald reporter Caputo when asked if he would run for governor in 2014
Miami-Dade County: County through time payments reclaims $580,000 from MBCHC, lack of proper documentation, “not embezzlement”
Miami-Dade Public Schools: “I trust but I verify,” says Carvalho when it comes to future projects program manager Parsons Brinckerhoff’s work on $1.2 billion bond program projects
Public Health Trust: Jackson’s Holtz’s pediatric cardiac program “voluntarily accepting probationary designation’” with state CMS for failing to do 150 surgical cases a year
City of Miami: Commissioner Suarez says Meals on Wheels recipients at one center has dropped from “90 to 50 meals,” elderly compete “for [food] tickets in senior centers”
City of Hialeah: Three Charged with Wire Fraud in Investment Scheme
City of Miami Beach: HUD Meals on Wheels cuts for elderly gets discussion; Commissioner Wolfson donates $1,500 for 89 meals, but crisis looming
City of Coral Gables: Community treasure Fairchild Gardens turns 75, Miami-Dade’s version of Camp David
>>> Other stories around Florida
Broward County: Previously Convicted Felon Charged in Stolen Identity Tax Refund Scheme and Possession of a Firearm
Hallandale Beach: Tax Preparer Charged with Filing False Tax Returns on Behalf of His Clients
Pompano Beach: Consultant for the Florida Department of Transportation Sentenced for Accepting a Bribe
Palm Beach County: There he goes again; Gov. Scott removes South Bay City Vice mayor Johnson from office Friday, after conviction of Sunshine Law violation
Hillsborough County: Gov. Scott names Laurel Moore Lee to the Circuit Court of the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit
Community Events: League of Women Voter’s get together to discuss Human Trafficking – Downtown Bay Forum Fla. legislative round-up — Miami Dade College in collaboration with The Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba presents A CONVERSATION WITH LADIES IN WHITE – including famed dissident Berta Soler – >>> The Amaru Foundation’s First Breakfast Fundraiser dedicated to Fighting and Reducing Poverty & Literacy is being held Jun. 1 at Casa Larios Restaurant
Editorials: When it comes to cuts to HUD food program, Meals on Wheels, warning flags have gone up for legion of hungry seniors — $91 million approved by Legislature for capital improvements of state charter schools facilities, public gets no improved asset — 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: Variety of readers on the 14th Anniversary of the Watchdog Report and its importance and impact on South Florida
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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ARGUS REPORT – Heard, Seen on the Street
>>> Cut backs of federal Meals on Wheels programs rippling across all of Miami-Dade, hundreds of elderly residents not getting hot meals, what happens Sen. Nelson says when budget cuts done with a “meat cleaver”
A hot meal crisis is brewing throughout the Miami-Dade and it is the reduced federal funding of the Meals on Wheels (MoW) program by U.S. HUD and the program is a major mainstay for the poor and aged here in South Florida, from Miami Beach, unincorporated Miami-Dade and the city of Miami to name just a few of the areas. And the total $38.7 million cut in national federal funding because of the federal sequester will affect local residents. The program in widespread use here has grown exponentially over the past decade from a much smaller population base and nationwide the White House is estimating some 4 million people will be affected, though others suggest the number could be closer to 19 million elderly and infirmed people.
In addition, here last week the issue was discussed at a Miami-Dade county commission meeting Tuesday, at the Miami Beach Commission meeting Wednesday, and on Thursday City of Miami commissioners also brought up the issue of trying to figure out a way to makeup some of the federal funding loss (And in this case all three commissions were discussing funding for the Little Havana Activities and Nutrition Centers, but the county has a host of other providers as well in place facing the same fiscal cuts across all local ethnic groups.
The federal program brings a hot meal five days a week to individuals and also serves meals at senior community centers and it is these larger centers that will feel the greatest impact, that is already being felt. Where roughly, there could be up to a 40 percent reduction in the number of meals available in the future and people that are fed are chosen by a drawing, but that method leaves others out in the cold. Further, what is occurring is local governments are trying to fill in these federal cuts. Something tried in the past when the state funded programs were being cut, but with surging property tax values back then. These local governments were able to partially off set the reduced social service money coming from the state. However, since 2008 and the Great Recession that option has been off the table and locally where Meals on Wheels program has flourished. The reduction in hot meals for this vulnerable population is starting to really dig in, and potentially thousands of people are going to be hungry in the months ahead.
How did the community get so dependent on MoW?
Back in 2001, then U.S. Secretary of H.U.D. Mel Martinez came to Miami-Dade and the Cuban American actually spoke loudly to the elected power elite at the time including Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas along with a host of others at the Ritz-Carleton in Coconut Grove. Martinez, after the introduction said hey, “How often do you have a Pedro Pan the Secretary of HUD? Will you at least do me a favor and apply” for some of the federal programs. That had the state of Florida at the time, getting only around 14.5 billion in federal draw down money a year. Further, this federal largess was surpassed by significantly smaller states out in the mid west. And the Sunshine State’s only significant federal draw down money dealt with citrus products and the industry, and when it came to federal money for social programs. The state ranked around 48 in the nation in its level of funding for these social service programs. However, since that time, all 34 municipalities and the county have taken advantage of this federal largess, including the $29 million for the county’s homeless trust to fund service providers for the county’s homeless population. However, during these past good times, local governments have grown very dependent on this federal funding, as have the residents and that is the problem South Florida faces in this matter.
What did U.S. Sen. Nelson say about the federal cuts?
While U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson voted for the federal sequester, he totally disagrees with how it is being implemented saying, “That you don’t budget with a meat cleaver,” he told the Watchdog Report on Friday. “This idiot idea of a sequester has had all the cities that you mentioned coming to me saying, oh woe is us, we have to have this money for CDBGs and all the other social programs.” And I said, “Your not preaching to the choir, your preaching to the preacher” and why don’t you talk to the local congressional members that voted for the sequester, and won’t stop “supporting sequester” and he suggested to these local leaders that they don’t just talk to the staffers alone, but to their “Congressperson.” >>> http://www.naplesnews.com/news/2013/may/01/bill-nelson-sequester-college-president-chamber/
What about the two American tourists jailed in Turks and Caicos Islands?
Nelson met with the media Friday concerning two U.S. Citizens and tourists that were jailed and then paid $4,000 to be released after mysteriously two bullets were found in their baggage, though neither were hand gun owners. Both people were well off and elderly and they did not see the different caliber bullets be removed from their bags. However, Nelson in a strongly worded letter to the Island’s government hopes this is not a scam that is being perpetuated on an Island chain long a beneficiary of American tourists. Moreover, Nelson said the “ramifications” of such a shakedown scam if it spread around the world could “Potentially affect any American tourist anywhere,” he closed his comments.
>>> Press release: Two U.S. senators are asking for an expedited investigation into the strangely similar circumstances surrounding the jailing of two older American tourists on ammunitions charges at a Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) airport a little over a week ago. Each American allegedly had but a single bullet apiece in their possessions. The two Americans arrested by TCI authorities were an 80-year-old retired Florida neurosurgeon and a 60-year-old Texas businesswoman. Both were jailed after airport searches allegedly found ammo in their luggage. The two arrests came on back-to-back days – the Texas woman’s on April 25, the Florida man’s on April 26. And both Americans then had to pay $4,000 cash bail before returning home.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) got involved in response to requests on behalf his constituent, retired Sarasota, Florida physician Horace Norrell, who was jailed for three days without a hearing ending what had been his birthday trip to the Turks and Caicos. He was locked up over a weekend in a cell he said was four paces across with “big iron bars, no lights, no windows, and a combination toilet and sink.” He told Nelson’s office the only gun he’s ever owned was a shotgun – and that was a long time ago, so someone must have slipped a bullet into his luggage. If found guilty, each American could be sentenced to a two- to five-year term in the British protectorate’s prison.
The two arrests come amidst the TCI government enacting tough new anti-gun and ammunition laws. They also come on the heels of a deal the Islands’ airport authority reportedly struck in March with a U.S. company to begin providing ground handling services at Providenciales International Airport – scene of the arrests. For 20 years prior, a local firm reportedly had that contract. In a letter today to John Dinkleman, Chargé d’Affaires, at the American Embassy in the Bahamas, the senators wrote that they want a thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding the arrests of their constituents. They also want to know if there have been similar cases this year to make sure American tourists aren’t being targeted. “ … We ask that you convey to the proper authorities that the investigation needs to be expeditious, thorough, transparent and independent,” the senators wrote. Nelson read the letter during a speech this afternoon on the Senate floor.
Meantime, both of the Americans now face hearings that are set for June 7. Norrell, however, has told his hometown newspaper – The Sarasota Herald-Tribune – that he’s already consulted with an extradition expert in Miami [attorney Marcia Silvers] on whether to even attend the hearing, where a judge is expected to decide to take the matter to trial or toss the charge. “We want his opinion on whether, if we travel outside the U.S. to Great Britain or any British protectorates, whether we would be extradited to the Turks and Caicos,” Norrell told the newspaper. The Turks and Caicos Islands is a British protectorate located 575 miles southeast of Miami. It is one of two territories where, according to a recent The Miami Herald article, the British are actively probing public corruption. The other is reportedly the Cayman Islands.
>>> State Corrections Officer Pleads Guilty to Identity Theft Charges
Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Michael B. Steinbach, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, and Manuel Orosa, Chief, City of Miami Police Department, announce that Bernard Beliard, a former State Corrections Officer assigned to the South Florida Reception Center, pled guilty today before U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga to access device fraud and aggravated identity theft, violations of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1029(a)(3) and 1028A(a)(1). Beliard is scheduled to be sentenced on July 16, 2013 before Judge Altonaga.
According to court records, Beliard used his official law enforcement position to access personal identifying information of inmates who were checked in at the South Florida Regional Center from October, 2012 to January, 2013. From October 24, 2012 through January 4, 2013, Beliard met with a FBI confidential human source (CHS) on four separate occasions and provided the CHS with State of Florida Department of Corrections’ daily intake lists. These lists contained the names of approximately 805 inmates, along with corresponding personal identifiers, including social security numbers and dates of birth. Beliard sold the inmates’ personal identifying information to the CHS after having been told that the information would be used to commit tax refund fraud. In exchange for the lists, Beliard accepted a total of $9,600 in cash. >>> Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI Miami Area Public Corruption Task Force, with the assistance of the City of Miami Police Department and the Florida Department of Corrections – Office of Inspector General (FDOC-OIG). This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Robin W. Waugh.
>>> 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
>>> “You Figure it out,” Sen. Nelson says to Miami Herald reporter when asked if he would run for governor in 2014
With speculation on whether U. S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-FL might run against GOP Gov. Rick Scott in the fall of 2014 a hot topic. Nelson on Friday was coy when veteran Miami Herald political reporter Marc Caputo www.miamiherald.com suggested reasons why he might, or might not run for governor in the coming years. And the senior senator from Florida told the reporter when it came to him running for governor. “You figure it out,” he said. However, Nelson is the only statewide Democrat in office in a state dominated by the GOP, and some party faithful want him to ride back from Washington as Gov. Lawton Childes did back in 2004 when he left the Senate and defeated a young Jeb Bush in his first gubernatorial campaign.
Scott who spent some $73 million of his own money to be elected in 2010 has proved since then to be an effective Republican Party fundraiser as gubernatorial challengers in the GOP for the moment are keeping their political powder dry and are not running in the race. However, this widespread speculation that Nelson would be a great challenger for the Democratic Party has been out there, but some pundits wonder why he would want to run. Since he just was reelected to the world’s most exclusive club, has major seniority since he was first elected in 2000, and at 74 if he ran. He could find the younger Scott a formidable challenge even thought the governor is low in the polls. >>> Editor’s note: I believe Nelson will stay in the U.S. Senate.
>>> AG Bondi busts two people for human trafficking, committed to making “Florida a zero tolerance state”
AG Pam Bondi press release: Today I joined Clearwater Chief of Police Anthony Holloway in announcing that two individuals have been arrested for their involvement in an alleged sex trafficking ring. The arrests today are a result of an investigation that began in 2012 and strong partnerships among local, state and federal agencies. Human trafficking is modern day slavery that exploits children, women, and men, and this is the first step in bringing justice and peace to the 16 victims of this sex trafficking ring and ridding our state of criminals.
I am committed to making Florida a zero-tolerance state for human trafficking. On Tuesday, I announced a human trafficking initiative involving partnerships with representatives of various industries throughout Florida. The business associations will share an online toolkit that my office has launched to help their members create policies and internal training sessions to end human trafficking. Additionally, the businesses will work with my office and Terry Coonan, with Florida State University’s Center for the Advancement of Human Rights, to develop industry-specific sessions intended to further assist businesses with creating their own anti-human trafficking plans. To learn more about my office’s efforts to combat human trafficking, visit MyFloridaLegal.com. I will remain dedicated to stopping this abhorrent crime in our state.
>>> Gov. Scott names Dr. Gene Youngblood and the reappointments of Nancy Bradley and Lynn Mulherin to the Commission for Independent Education.
Youngblood, 69, of Jacksonville, is the founder and president of the Conservative Theological University. He succeeds Marvin Royce and is appointed for a term beginning May 10, 2013, and ending June 30, 2015.
Bradley, 61, of Orlando, is the owner and administrator of Daytona College, LLC. She is reappointed for a term beginning May 10, 2013, and ending June 30, 2015.
Mulherin, 49, of Celebration, is a regional vice president with the University of Phoenix. She is reappointed for a term beginning May 10, 2013, and ending June 30, 2015. >>> The appointments are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.
>>> 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.
>>> The wisest words I saw this week…They came in an important, thought-provoking piece by a Stanford University professor named Sean Reardon, and ran in The New York Times: “There is a lot of discussion these days about investing in teachers and ‘improving’ teacher quality,’ but improving the quality of our parenting and of our children’s earliest environments may be even more important. Let’s invest in parents,” he says, “so they can better invest in their children. This means finding ways of helping parents become better teachers themselves…. It might also mean greater business and government support for maternity and paternity leave and (child) care so that the middle class and the poor can get some of the educational benefits that the early academic intervention of the rich provides their children. Fundamentally, it means rethinking our still-persistent notion that educational problems should be solved by schools alone. The more we do to ensure that children have similar cognitively early childhood experiences, the less we will have to worry about failing schools. This in turn will enable us to let our schools focus on teaching the skills – how to solve complex problems, how to think critically, and how to collaborate – essential to a growing economy and a lively democracy.” When, oh when, are we going to act as though we really know that? Dave Lawrence, Chair – The Children’s Movement of Florida P.S.: To read the full article, just click here.
>>> County through time payments reclaims $580,000 from MBCHC, lack of proper documentation, “not embezzlement”
While his predecessor, Kathryn Abbete, who was running the three clinics for years has pleaded guilty for defrauding the Miami Beach Community Health Center of millions of dollars in the years past and is awaiting sentencing. Mark Rabinowitz, M.D. who followed her as CEO while telling The Children’s Trust months ago that things had fundamentally changed at the organization. A new wrinkle emerged when it came to how Ryan White federal grants were documented and since Miami-Dade County is the platform that directs this funding. The county’s Office of Strategic Management and Budgets in a report found “46 findings” in a documentation review, which meant $580,000 of county administered federal money has to be repaid because of a “lack of proper documentation,” and was “not embezzlement,” said an expert on the matter. Further, $575,000 of the money that is being asked to be returned is because when it came to the documentation, there was “inappropriate time and effort documentation,” states the county memo.
The Watchdog Report contacted Rabinowitz last week asking about a response to the county report and the physician wrote back. “The Ryan White A grant received by MBCHC from the County was audited last year for the periods that fell under the administration of MBCHC’s former CEO. In the spirit of moving forward from the past year’s challenges, MBCHC decided not to contest the payback and the County provided MBCHC with an extended payout period. The County continues to provide the grant to MBCHC in the new grant cycle, which began on March 1, 2013. MBCHC is working with the County to be certain there is no problem moving forward, and our projections indicate we will be able to meet the extended payment plan with no detrimental impact on patient care. A written policy and procedure is now in place revising how we document “time and effort” reporting, which was at the core of the County audit findings. This updated policy was approved by the County and we are confident we have resolved this issue,” wrote Rabinowitz, MD, Miami Beach Community Health Center Senior EVP of Medical Affairs & Interim CEO Diplomate of American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
What about the new Ryan White funds OSMB Compliance Officer?
The OSMB has hired a full time Compliance Officer who will conduct “site visits at all Ryan White funded providers and programs” and the new countywide oversight is said to be needed.
>>> Jurors who come to county courts after summons, finally get free parking at M-DC run parking lots
The County Commission Tuesday passed legislation establishing free parking for jurors at county parking lots and Commissioners Lynda Bell and Sally Heyman sponsored the bill. The Clerk of the Court’s office sends out some 300,000 summons per year states the clerk’s webpage, requesting people report to jury duty, and since some trials go on for weeks. The cost for parking ads up for an average juror selected to be part of a jury. The county staff estimates the cost will “be $172,000 per year,” said Bell and county Clerk Harvey Ruvin thanked the commission saying in the past authorizing free parking for jurors had failed with the commission, even though Miami-Dade. “Is the only county in the state where jurors had to pay for parking,” the long serving clerk said. >>> Editor’s Note: This free juror parking starts Oct.1 and does not apply to lots run by the Miami Parking Authority.
>>> BCC confirms attorney Liu as M-DC interim IG
Patra Liu, an attorney and one of the early members of the Miami-Dade County Office of the Inspector General has been made the interim IG while an independent selection committee will ask for resumes, screen them and give their recommendations to the Miami-Dade County Commission for final approval of a new IG. Liu replaces the only IG the county has had, Christopher Mazzella who started back in 1998. After the office was created by the county commission and was pushed back then by then Commissioner Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, now a state senator. Mazzella retired last month and Liu’s OIG office also has similar duties at the Miami-Dade Public Schools where the IG also provides oversight and has an office. When asked if Liu would apply for the position by the Watchdog Report on Tuesday. “You will have to see,” she said.
>>> Miami-Dade County Commission Chair Rebeca Sosa gave a shout out to the Watchdog Report on Tuesday at the Board of County Commission meeting and the fact it was my 14th Anniversary on May 5. “Congratulations to the Watchdog Report for keeping us informed about everything that is happening in our community,” said the long serving commissioner of District 6 from the dais.
MIAMI-DADE PUBLIC SCHOOLS
>>> “I trust but I verify,” says Carvalho when it comes to projects program manager Parsons Brinckerhoff for $1.2 billion bond program
Alberto Carvalho, the superintendent of the nation’s fourth largest public school district has put his reputation on the line when it comes to the projects to be financed by a $1.2 billion bond offering passed overwhelmingly by voters in Nov. 2012. And he recommended to the school board that Parsons Brinckerhoff, Inc. be the district’s program manager and to provide support services to assist in the delivery of district wide school renovations, replacements and technology upgrades for the bond, state district documents. Carvalho told the school board members on Wednesday that he negotiated a “rate and cost multiplier that is significantly less,” for other program management firms that were used for the “Houston and L.A.” public schools system and these markups were “the lowest cost multipliers in the country,” he told the board.
And while he had faith in the large company that also did much of the work at the new American Airline terminal at MIA. “I trust but I verify,” and with the district’s “power of verification” he is “assured we will get to the goal,” because the oversight of the projects and money is being “done at the highest level.” And the superintendent since Sept. 2008 told the board it will be “reflective in the outcome” of the hundreds of projects and the whole program will be done through an “honest, transparent and legitimate process,” he assured the nine-member board. Further, of this over billion in projects to be done over the next six to seven years. In this first year, the school district is expected to sell some $508 million in bonds to get the ball rolling and Carvalho noted with this contract. Parsons is “responsible,” for the results and there is “no other company,” to place the blame on. And he expects all the projects to be “on time” and “under budget,” he concluded his discussions.
What about the Audit Committee as a community oversight firewall?
The school board audit and budget advisory committee is meeting this Tuesday and since 2004, when the previous committee chair Hank Mack finally retired after ten years in the leadership post. The independent ten member board made up of CPAs and tax attorneys, financial experts, a school board member Lawrence Feldman, Ph.D. and a community activist has done an extraordinary job in watching over the some $4.4 billion school district budget and one of the reasons there have been so few scandals over the years when it comes to how the district spends its precious taxpayer dollars. >>> To see what will be discussed go to: Please find below the link to access the Agenda for the Audit and Budget Advisory Committee meeting of May 14, 2013. Embedded in the Agenda are the links to access the individual items and reports. http://mca.dadeschools.net//AuditCommittee/AC_May_14_2013/agenda.pdf
PUBLIC HEALTH TRUST
>>> Jackson’s Holtz’s pediatric cardiac program “voluntarily accepting probationary designation’” with CMS for failing to do 150 surgical cases a year
The pediatric heart surgery program at Jackson Health System’s Holtz’s Children’s Hospital is “voluntarily accepting probation designation in order to allow us sufficient time to demonstrate full compliance with CMS Standards,” and would “welcome a later assessment,” wrote Steven Burghart, the Sr. VP and Chief Administrative Officer of Holtz’s Children Hospital & Women Hospital Center. The cardiac program is required to do at least 150 cases a year and this past low surgical volume had been under review over the past months after a past unsatisfactory review earlier detailed in a past Watchdog Report. Two of the program’s physicians also signed the letter by the top administrator.
The letter further said the request came because the pediatric cardiac program “will fall short of the CMS Facility Standard of 150 cases annually,” and they are “pursuing a number of avenues toward programmatic growth but developing and modifying such a large academic program takes time.” In addition, there has been “insufficient time since the last evaluation for us to demonstrate a substantial change in surgical volume.” And they wish more time to become compliant with the required surgical volume. And when it came to the “upcoming CMS visit to UM/Jackson Pediatric Cardiovascular Program.” The Jackson executive says, “We suggest canceling a Jun. 4 site visit.” And the Apr. 25 letter was sent to Jeffrey P. Jacobs, M.D., head of the CMS Cardiac Subcommittee, which is a Division of Children’s Medical Services.
In a past CMS review, the program’s surgical volume was becoming an issue and there was also a need to replace a cardiac surgeon, since the program was short on one, but this new wrinkle for such a high profile medical service so important to the community’s kids at Jackson deserves being monitored and why the Watchdog Report over the past nine months has been keeping my eye on the matter.
CITY OF MIAMI
>>> Commissioner Suarez says Meals on Wheels recipients at one center has dropped from “90 to 50 meals,” elderly compete “for [food] tickets in senior centers”
Miami Commissioner Francis Suarez gave an impassioned plea to fellow commissioners to find funding for the Little Havana Activities and Nutritional Centers where funding cuts have brought on a reduction of hot meals that can be served to elderly residents. Suarez, a mayoral candidate in November said the federal “sequester is impacting a lot of senior centers,” and because of the cuts these organizations have received “less money.” He noted hot meal reductions have gone from “90 to 50 meals and people compete for [hot food] tickets in senior centers,” and he wondered how a city with a $500 million budget could allow this to happen. In addition, the attorney said we “all agree feeding the elderly is at the top of the list,” Suarez said.
However, this wail for help with the federal food program is being heard countywide and was the topic at other commission meetings during the week but city’s and the county will find it is a hard to make up the fiscal shortfalls, given the tightness of these governments own budgets. And Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado and Commissioner Frank Carollo have been trying to get the Congress over the past two years to change the wording of the Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) to allow the funding ratio to be modified allowing more money be directed to these types of social service agencies. And with the mayoral election fast approaching, Miami residents will see how much of the political race bleeds into the realm of public policy, with the commission budget hearings being the platform for any indirect campaigning in the future.
>>> Administrator and Employee of Miami Home Health Companies Pleads Guilty for Role in $74 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme
Press release: A Miami resident who was an administrator of a home health care company and was the employee of another home health care company pleaded guilty today for her participation in a $74 million home health Medicare fraud scheme, 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; Michael B. Steinbach, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Miami Field Office; and Special Agent in Charge Christopher B. Dennis of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), Office of Investigations Miami Office.
Myriam Acevedo, 63, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Marcia G. Cooke in the Southern District of Florida to one count of conspiracy to pay health care kickbacks and two counts of payment of kickbacks in connection with a federal health care benefit program. Acevedo was an administrator of LTC Professional Consultants Inc. and an employee of Professional Home Care Solutions Inc., Miami home health care agencies that purported to provide home health and therapy services to Medicare beneficiaries. According to court documents, Acevedo and her co-conspirators operated LTC and Professional Home Care for the purpose of billing the Medicare program for, among other things, expensive physical therapy and home health care services that were not medically necessary and/or were not provided.
According to court documents, Acevedo’s primary role in the scheme was to pay kickbacks and bribes to patient recruiters at LTC and Professional Home Care. Specifically, Acevedo conspired with patient recruiters and others for the purpose of billing the Medicare program for unnecessary home health care and therapy services. Acevedo and co-conspirators paid kickbacks and bribes to patient recruiters, who provided patients to LTC and Professional Home Care, as well as prescriptions, plans of care (POCs) and certifications for medically unnecessary therapy and home health services for Medicare beneficiaries. Acevedo and her co-conspirators used these prescriptions, POCs and medical certifications to fraudulently bill the Medicare program for home health care services, which Acevedo knew was in violation of federal criminal laws.
From approximately September 2007 to June 2012, LTC and Professional Home Care submitted approximately $41 million in claims for home health services that were not medically necessary and/or not provided, and Medicare paid approximately $27 million on those claims. At sentencing, scheduled for July 24, 2013, Acevedo faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison for each count. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant Chief Joseph S. Beemsterboer of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. The case was investigated by the FBI and HHS-OIG, and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, supervised by the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida. >>> Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged more than 1,480 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $4.8 billion. In addition, HHS’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with HHS-OIG, are 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.
CITY OF HIALEAH
>>> Three Charged with Wire Fraud in Investment Scheme
Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Alysa Erichs, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI), Miami Field Office, announce the arrests of defendants Anibangel Molina, 42, of New York, New York, Antonino Castro, 65, of Hialeah, Florida, and Betsy Aguiar Molina, 41, of Miami Lakes, Florida. Anibangel Molina and Antonino Castro made their initial appearances in federal court on May 6, 2013 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Alicia Otazo-Reyes. Anibangel Molina and Antonino Castro were released on bonds. Betsy Aguiar Molina had her initial appearance in federal court today and a bond hearing is scheduled before the duty magistrate court judge on May 13, 2013.
The criminal complaint, which was unsealed upon the defendants’ arrest on May 6, 2013, charges Anibangel Molina, Antonino Castro, and Betsy Aguiar Molina with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1349.
If convicted, the defendants face a possible statutory maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison. According to the complaint, Bancard Financial Services, located in Miami, purportedly offered investment opportunities since at least 2009 through trading in precious metals, oil, and foreign exchange currency and high interest checking accounts. Anibangel Molina was the President, Betsy Aguiar Molina was the Operations Manager, and Antonino Castro was the Officer Manager of Bancard Financial Services. The complaint alleges that the defendants made false representations, failed to pay dividends to investors since at least October 2012, and allocated investor money for their personal expenses instead of purchasing the commodities or paying the interest that was promised to investors. For example, in December 2011, Anibangel Molina wrote a check from Bancard’s bank account to purchase a $59,741 2012 Range Rover Evoque as a gift for Betsy Molina.
According to the complaint, the defendants executed the scheme by soliciting investors through television commercials that advertised classes in foreign exchange currency trading in Miami. After people attended these seminars, the defendants offered to invest customers’ money in foreign currency markets, commodities, or high interest checking accounts. From November 1, 2011 through November 2012, Anibangel and Betsy Molina received at least $4 million from more than 50 individual investors. None of the defendants or Bancard Financial Services are registered or licensed to trade in commodities, securities, currency, or as a broker of these articles. In particular, the complaint alleges that Anibangel and Betsy Molina made false representations to investors by presenting some customers with a fraudulent Certificate of Bond Coverage that falsely claimed that “Lloyds Bank of London” indemnifies Bancard Financial Services LLC against any loss to any client up to $2,200,000. The complaint also alleges that Betsy Molina falsely told at least one customer that President Obama had created a law to guarantee investments. According to the complaint, numerous investors have contacted Anibangel Molina and Antonino Castro seeking to close out their investment accounts but these defendants have not returned their money.
If anyone has information about this fraud or has been a victim of the fraud, please call the toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or complete an online tip form at http://www.ice.gov/exec/forms/hsi-tips/tips.asp. Mr. Ferrer commended the efforts of HSI in the investigation and prosecution of this case. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Thakur. A complaint is only an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and 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. 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 MIAMI BEACH
>>> HUD Meals on Wheels cuts for elderly gets discussion, Commissioner Wolfson donates $1,500 for 89 meals, but crisis looming
The cuts of federal HUD funds for Meals on Wheels and has elderly Miami Beach residents getting reduced meal services had Commissioners Jorge Exposito, Michael Gongora and Jonah Wolfson all sponsoring discussion items on Wednesday’s agenda. The issue was to “discuss the reduction of senior meals supplied by the Little Havana Activities and Nutrition Centers of Miami-Dade.” And Wolfson has already dug into his commission account and donated a check for $1,500 that will pay for 89 meals state backup documents to the item. Further, this federal funding reduction is rippling throughout Miami-Dade in a big way, and why local elected leaders are trying to plug the funding holes. However, this is a stopgap effort and municipal elected leaders are bracing for the onslaught of hungry elderly in a variety of social agencies facilities.
>>> List of the candidates: CITY OF MIAMI BEACH, GENERAL ELECTION, TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 5, 2013
CANDIDATES FOR MAYOR MAYOR: Michael Góngora, David P. Hundley, Philip Levine, Jerry Libbin
CANDIDATES FOR CITY COMMISSION, “Group I” : David R. Cardenas (Withdrew), Dave Crystal, Christine Florez (Withdrew), Elsa Urquiza
CANDIDATES FOR CITY COMMISSION, “Group II” Jorge R. Exposito (Incumbent), Kristen Rosen Gonzalez
CANDIDATES FOR CITY COMMISSION, “Group III”: Joshua Charles Dunkelman, Michael C. Grieco, Sherry Kaplan Roberts. >>> NOTE: All races are citywide. The city is not divided into geographic districts. All commission seats are at large.
CITY OF CORAL GABLES
>>> Community treasure Fairchild Gardens turns 75, Miami-Dade’s version of Camp David
A community treasure has turned 75-years old recently and it is the Fairchild Tropical and Botanical Gardens located on Old Cutler nestled on the bay. The Gardens dubbed by the Watchdog Report as the community’s Camp David after a potentially contentious political meeting was held there in 2001 but turned into a kumbaya event between state legislators and county commissioners at the time. Fairchild hosts a variety of different events including the yearly Ramble that show cases the beautiful gardens, and includes the new attraction Wings of the Tropics, featuring thousands of butterflies from all over the world. Further, part of the Garden’s experience is the large number of volunteers that work there seven days a week, and these peoples giving countless hours helps keep the Gardens manicured and in great shape and saves the taxpayers millions of dollars by this free activity. And the Watchdog Report gives all the volunteers a Tip of the Hat. For more go to: http://www.fairchildgarden.org/
>>> OTHER STORIES AROUND FLORIDA
>>> Previously Convicted Felon Charged in Stolen Identity Tax Refund Scheme and Possession of a Firearm
Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Paula Reid, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Secret Service (USSS), Michael J. De Palma, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), and Hugo J. Barrera, Special Agent in Charge, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), announced the indictment of David Joseph, 27, of Ft. Lauderdale, on identity theft and tax refund fraud charges and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Defendant Joseph made his initial appearance in federal court earlier today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry S. Seltzer in Ft. Lauderdale.
The indictment charges defendant David Joseph with four counts of filing false claims with the IRS, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 287, one count of access device fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1029(a) (3), four counts of aggravated identity theft, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1028A (a) (1), and one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2). The indictment also includes a forfeiture allegation, pursuant to Title 18, United States Code, Section 924(d)(1).
According to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, on April 25, 2013, USSS and IRS-CI agents executed a search warrant at a residence in West Park, Florida, regarding possible stolen identities and tax refund fraud (SIRF) activities at the subject location. SIRF involves the unauthorized use of victims’ identities and personal information to file fraudulent tax returns requesting fraudulent, refunds. During the search, the agents recovered numerous notebooks, medical printouts, IRS correspondence, prepaid debit cards, bank documents, and various other documents that contained thousands of access devices— victims’ names with corresponding social security numbers and dates of birth. A fully loaded semi-automatic MasterPiece Arms 9 mm pistol and additional ammunition belonging to defendant Joseph, a previously convicted felon, was also recovered.
If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum of five years’ in prison on each of the fraudulent claims counts, up to 10 years in prison on the access device fraud count, up to 2 years on each aggravated identity theft count, and up to 10 years in prison on the count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the USSS, IRS-CI, and ATF. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Bertha R. Mitrani.
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 taps Ellyn I. Drotzer to the Governor’s Commission on Jobs for Floridians with Disabilities. Drotzer, 46, of Fort Lauderdale, is the interim vice president of career and technical education with Broward College and the associate vice president for resource development and strategic planning with Broward College Foundation. She fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term beginning May 8, 2013, and ending at the pleasure of the Governor.
>>> Scott Press release: Early Learning Coalition of Broward County
Michael Asseff, 39, of Hollywood, is principle and owner of Structured Asset Services, LLC. He fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term beginning May 7, 2013, and ending April 30, 2016.
Laura Gambino, 49, of Cooper City, is the business development director for Waste Pro of Florida. She is reappointed for a term beginning May 7, 2013, and ending April 30, 2015.
>>> 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 HALLANDALE BEACH
>>> Tax Preparer Charged with Filing False Tax Returns on Behalf of His Clients
Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Michael J. DePalma, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigations (IRS-CI), announced that Efrain Felipe, 41, of Hallandale Beach, was charged in a two count Information with making and subscribing a false tax return on behalf of a client, and aiding and abetting, in violation of Title 26, United States Code, Sections 7206(1) and 7206(1). Defendant Felipe made his initial appearance in federal court yesterday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Alicia M. Otazo-Reyes. According to the charges, Felipe operated a tax preparation business in Broward County, and prepared fraudulent tax returns on behalf of his customers by claiming that some customers were entitled to a First Time Home Buyers Credit (FTHBC) of $7,500.00, for properties they did not own or for properties that were purchased years earlier. Felipe also falsely claimed the FTHBC on his own personal tax return.
If convicted, Felipe faces a maximum statutory sentence of up to 3 years in prison on each count. Trial has been set for June 17, 2013 before U.S. District Judge Robert N. Scola, Jr. in Fort Lauderdale. Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of IRS-CI. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Norman O. Hemming, III. An Information 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.
>>> Consultant for the Florida Department of Transportation Sentenced for Accepting a Bribe
Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Michael B. Steinbach, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, Michael DePalma, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), and Marlies T. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of Inspector General, announce today’s sentencing of defendant Ron Capobianco, Jr., 40, of Pompano Beach, FL, on charges of bribery in connection with programs receiving federal funds, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 666. U.S. District Judge Robert N. Scola, Jr. sentenced Capobianco to twelve months plus one day in prison. According to documents previously filed with the court, Capobianco, Jr. worked as a construction engineering and inspection consultant at Metric Engineering, Inc. (Metric), which specialized in the transportation industry. The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) contracted with Metric to provide services, including designing, inspecting, and troubleshooting the construction of roads, signs, and traffic signals. Capobianco, Jr. was assigned as the FDOT District 4 Signalization and Lighting Liaison. In this capacity, he acted as FDOT’s project manager for various signalization and lighting projects. Capobianco, Jr. had a team of employees that assisted him in supervising and inspecting contractors performing FDOT work. Because of his position and expertise, Capobianco, Jr. was consulted as an FDOT expert on certain aspects of signalization and lighting construction, including the use of video detection cameras for traffic signalization and control.
According to the documents previously filed with the court, around 2009, FDOT began a road construction project along Highway 1 in the Florida Keys (the Marathon Key project), which was designed to improve traffic flow. Capobianco Jr. agreed to accept a bribe from a subcontractor working on this project. Around May 2009, an agent of the subcontractor offered to pay a bribe to Capobianco, Jr., if the subcontractor could receive at least $25,000 for the installation of the video detection equipment. Capobianco, Jr. agreed to the subcontractor’s $25,000 estimate for the installation of the video detection devices, thus enabling the subcontractor to make a significant profit.
The subcontractor’s estimate was approved and subsequently paid by the State of Florida after the installation of the video detection equipment. Thereafter, Capobianco, Jr. met with an agent of the subcontractor in Plantation, Florida and was paid $4,000 in cash for his assistance to the subcontractor on the Marathon Key project. Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI, IRS-CI, and the U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of Inspector General, in connection with the investigation of this matter. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jeffrey N. Kaplan. 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
>>> There he goes again, Gov. Scott removes South Bay City Vice mayor Johnson, for conviction of Sunshine Law violation
There he goes again, Gov. Rick Scott Friday removed South Bay City Commissioner and Vice Mayor Linda Johnson, after she was convicted of a “public meeting violation,” and she was one of two other commissioners that included the mayor, who violated the Florida Sunshine Law because of a series of conversations with then City Manager Corey Alston. And the three elected leaders out of public view agreed to approve $25,139 in vacation pay for the manager and this violated the Florida Sunshine Law. Scott had suspended Johnson back on Dec. 13, 2012 and this executive order removes her from public office now that she has been convicted of the charges.
Scott is continuing the governor’s policy to remove elected officials when they get charged with a felony or misdemeanor that had been instituted in the past. When Governors Lawton Chiles, Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist were almost removing an elected official around the state at a clip of almost one a month when it came to a suspension or removal. And had Crist calling Florida, a state with a “culture of corruption,” that was echoed in the conclusion of a statewide grand jury report on corruption in the Sunshine State, about five years ago. For more got to: http://www.postonpolitics.com/2013/05/suspended-south-bay-commissioner-pleads-guilty-to-sunshine-law-violation/
>>> Gov. Scott taps Leslie B. Daniels to the Health Care District of Palm Beach County.
Daniels, 66, of Palm Beach, is a managing partner for CAI Managers & Co., L.P., a private equity firm. He received his bachelor’s degree in economics from Fordham University and currently serves on the Investment Advisory Council. Daniels fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term beginning May 6, 2013, and ending September 30, 2016.
>>> Gov. Scott press release: Early Learning Coalition of Palm Beach County
Adam Hasner, 43, of Boca Raton, is the principle of Copernicus Concepts. He fills a vacant seat and is appointed as chair for a term beginning May 7, 2013, and ending April 30, 2017.
Michael Napoleone, 42, of Wellington, is an attorney with Richman Greer. He fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term beginning May 7, 2013, and ending April 30, 2015.
Christina Worley, 50, of Palm Beach, is the managing member of Castle Wealth Management. She fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term beginning May 7, 2013, and ending April 30, 2016.
>>> Gov. Scott names Laurel Moore Lee to the Circuit Court of the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit
Lee, 39 years old, of Tampa, has been an Assistant United States Attorney since 2007. From 2005-2007, she served as an Assistant Federal Public Defender. From 2003-2005, she practiced with Carlton Fields, P.A. She received her bachelor’s and law degrees from the University of Florida. Lee fills the vacancy created by the appointment of Judge Daniel Sleet to the Second District Court of Appeal. Governor Rick Scott said, “Laurel is going to be a great addition to the bench in Tampa. I am confident that she will serve the citizens of Florida with dignity and respect.”
>>> Gov. Scott taps Christopher C. Nash to the Hillsborough County Court.
Nash, 41 years old, has practiced with Leavengood, Nash, Dauval, and Boyle, P.A. since 2004, and from 2000-2004, he practiced with Akerman Senterfitt. Nash received his bachelor’s, master of business administration, and law degrees from the University of Florida. He fills the vacancy created by the appointment of Judge Matthew Lucas to the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit Court. Governor Rick Scott said, “Throughout his career, Chris has demonstrated the qualities that make a great judge. I am proud to appoint him to the Hillsborough County Court and look forward to him serving Tampa with integrity and fairness.”
>>> MAY 22, 2013 www.downtownbayforum.org 11:30-1:30pm The 2013 Florida Legislative Session Roundup – SPONSORED BY ROBERT M. LEVY & ASSOCIATES Join our distinguished panel of legislators as they discuss the
2013 legislative session and its impact on South Florida WOLFSON AUDITORIUM @TEMPLE ISRAEL , 137 NE 19th Street MIAMI Free Self Parking Available. Call ANNETTE EISENBERG WILLIAM PEÑA WELLS (305)898-0243
DOWNTOWNBAY FORUM P.O. Box 530916 Miami Shores, FL 33153-0916
>>> Miami Dade College in collaboration with The Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba presents A CONVERSATION WITH LADIES IN WHITE – including famed dissident Berta Soler, in commemoration of Cuban Independence Day Monday, May 20, 2013 – 11:30 a.m., Miami Dade College’s Freedom Tower, Mural Room, 600 Biscayne Blvd., Miami With special remarks by Gloria Estefan This presentation will be in Spanish with simultaneous English translation.
Soler >>> For free tickets to the event go to: http://thecenteratmdc.org/damas/ ted to two per person and available
on a first-come, first-served basis.
>>> The Amaru Foundation’s First Breakfast Fundraiser dedicated to Fighting and Reducing Poverty & Literacy is being held Jun. 1 at Casa Larios Restaurant from 8:00 to 11:00 a.m., located at 7705 West Flagler, Miami 33126 and costs $15.00.
>>> When it comes to HUD food program Meals on Wheels, warning flags have gone up for legion of hungry seniors
The three stories this week in the WDR about federal funding cuts and the impact on the popular U.S. HUD Meals on Wheels hot food program for seniors and the infirmed is just a prediction of what is to come. In the case of Miami, resident’s income is among the lowest in the nation, many of these people are just getting by, and these meals may be the only hot food they get on a daily basis. Critics argue that government should not be providing such services and not for profits or other charity organizations should pitch in more, or perhaps cut some more of the high salaries paid to county and municipal senior staff versus state of Florida wages which pays the governor around $130,000 and the Florida Attorney General $131,604.
The point is local government can not make up for these continued federal funding cuts, yet we have a large segment of our local senior residents from all demographic groups potentially not being fed. And countywide leaders must look at this issue holistically for we are seeing only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to these vulnerable seniors. Who have in their lives helped make Miami what it is today and now while in perhaps the twilight of their life. Local governments must work together on this issue for it is not going away, but will only be getting worse and no one can deny the warning flags have not gone up.
>>> $91 million approved by Legislature for capital improvements of state charter schools, public gets no improved asset
The Florida Legislature once again funded Charter Schools for Capital Improvements to the school’s facilities to the tune of $91 million this coming year, and while it sounds good. The improvements to properties by public funds are usually going to a private property owner and the public foots the bill for an asset improvement it does not own. Charter Schools were conceived to offer parents alternatives to the state’s public schools districts, and some of them academically are first rate, but others are not so great. But most all of the schools have the facilities on someone else’s property, and that is the rub to public dollars going to these schools. Further, private administrative companies also mostly manage them, there are chain charter schools under the same management umbrella, and the schools have become big business around the state with Miami-Dade having around 100.
And that is the problem, for while public schools again get no money from the state legislature for capital improvements and are saddled with crushing past bond payments, like in Miami-Dade County’s school district. The charters get this public money and the taxpayer gets nothing in the way of the asset. Moreover, for the GOP Florida Legislature members who are so fixated on protecting the taxpayer’s dollars. One can only say it is ironic that these Charter Schools are getting these public dollars, for the public taxpayer is getting nothing in return for the investment, and that is not a good thing.
>>> Happy Anniversary Dan! You have made a significant contribution to the wellbeing of this community. Thank you so much.
>>> Congratulations on your anniversary and great work. Was very interested in reading your historical essay as well.
>>> I was so sorry to read about your health issues…your work on the Watchdog (and your help in getting the word out about our plight) is so valuable. If there is anything we can do, please let us know.
>>> Congrats on your 14th anniversary!:)
>>> Happy anniversary, Dan!
>>> LIFETIME FOUNDING MEMBERS & INITIAL SPONSORS IN 2000
ANGEL ESPINOSA – (Deceased) owner COCONUT GROVE DRY CLEANER’S
HUGH CULVERHOUSE, Jr
FLORIDA POWER & LIGHT www.fpl.com .
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
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
WILLIAMSOM AUTOMOTIVE GROUP http://williamsonautomotivegroup.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 GOOD GOVERNMENT INITIATIVE http://goodgov.net/
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.
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Daniel A. Ricker
Publisher & Editor
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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.