Watchdog Report Vol.14 No.10 July 14, 2013 Est.05.05.00 – I go when you cannot – Financial Disclosure’s Issue

CONTENTS

Argus Report: Vice Admiral Harris says U.S., “trades not in despair but hope,” around the globe “and Americas sons and daughters are steadfast” in defending the nation

Florida: Sen. President Gaetz blasts Dolphins owner Ross for targeting House legislators, net worth jumps from $24.8 million to $26.1 million — The Children’s Trust of M-DC new CEO is Auslander — LAST WK WDR: In a few weeks all state and county leaders’ financial disclosures will be on line, some are there now, www.ethics.state.fl.us, sea change for transparency of elected official’s finances

Miami-Dade County: Mayor Gimenez increased 5.37 percent budget proposal Tuesday miss fires, he back tracks with lower number by cutting animal services funding, and predicting firefighter layoffs and library closures

Miami-Dade Public Schools: Tax collection revenue variance with M-DC will be between “$30 to $50 million,” says Supt. Carvalho, a challenge when it comes to having a required balanced budget

City of Miami: Now there are five finalists for City of Miami Attorney; but will commissioners pick a good one?

City of Miami Beach: Commissioner Wolfson and Mayor Bower go head to head on the dais Friday regarding Beach Convention Center deal

City of Miami Gardens: Teenager’s Death Should Renew Our Commitment to Respect Each Life, M-DC CRB statement

City of South Miami: Police Chief settles ethics complaint

Town of Cutler Bay: “No probable cause was found,” for Vice Mayor Sochin, says county Ethics commission

>>> Other stories around Florida

Broward County: PD Finkelstein in the spotlight, reelected unopposed in 2012, net worth bumps to $824,097 for the year

City of Pembroke Pines: Top Executive of Miami Beach Manufacturing Company Convicted in Multi-Million Dollar Investment Scheme

Palm Beach County: Palm Beach Mayor Abrams in the spotlight, appointed first in 09, elected unopposed in 2010, net worth comes in at $319,000 through Dec. 2012

Boca Raton: Mortgage Company Executive Charged in Fraud Case

Indian River County: Florida Man Convicted of Selling Stolen Art and Evading the Payment of Federal Income Taxes Sentenced to 7½ Years in Prison

Community Events: – Miami Beach candidate’s ethics training course

Editorials: Colorful reputation proceeds Miami when it comes to new city attorney applicants, many of the top candidates stayed away, tragedy for commission and taxpayers — Check out the past 2003 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: New reader reassured WDR is out there!

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 To All: 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. Thank You

ARGUS REPORT – Heard, Seen on the Street

>>> Vice Admiral Harris says U.S., “trades not in despair but hope,” around the globe “and Americas sons and daughters are steadfast” in defending the nation

United States Navy Vice Admiral Harry B. Harris, Jr., was the keynote speaker at the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce 26th Annual Military Service Awards Luncheon Wednesday at Jungle Island. Former Coral Gables Mayor Donald Slesnick, II a retired U.S. Army Lt. Colonel in the artillery and Vietnam Veteran, introduced the admiral who is the Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff. Harris, who served at SOUTHCOM in 2007, was familiar with South Florida and its critical role in the nation’s defense. And President Barack Obama nominated the Admiral, born in Pensacola, for his fourth star recently and after this current assignment, the man will take command of the Pacific Fleet, and he is a former Naval Academy graduate and naval aviator.

The admiral said this was a “special day,” for the armed forces and “we don’t hold a monopoly on public service” saying the “police and firefighters go in harms way” everyday too and there have been many ways over the centuries that brave Americans “gave their last full measure.” He noted, “America as a nation, is at war in Afghanistan, the Middle East and Africa, and it also includes meeting are treaty obligations.” In addition, one of the many new threats the military faces is federal “sequestration” and its impact on the nation’s “150-ship navy,” he said. And Harris is proud that America’s military historically has had the tradition of “not to conquer, but to defend others and our friends and allies on the sea, air or land,” he said. And he noted that many times these men and women in the military are involved in campaigns where they are “serving in harsh and brutal conditions.”

Harris also thought, “The label heroes” is over used these days and applies to “rock stars and sports figures” and these people “are not heroic in my book and it is form over substance.” He said military personnel show real “grit, determination and courage” and their mission is “to take a stand that makes a real difference,” and this unwavering commitment by the armed forces can be “seen in our alliances.” Where in the case of NATO there “are 28 countries” in the mutual defense organization and the “list is long” of other countries who want to be part of the alliance. And it is freedom that we share with the world, and “America trades not in despair but hope,” and “our way of life is owed to the action of these individual men and women [over the centuries] who stepped into the breach” and moved “toward the sound of gunfire” and in the current military. “Americas sons and daughters are steadfast” and it is our obligation “to support and get [them] the equipment they need to get it done,” Admiral Harris closed.

Admiral Harris Bio http://www.navy.mil/navydata/bios/bio.asp?bioID=136

>>> The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce’s 32nd Sand in My Shoes Award will go to University of Miami President Donna Shalala at the organization’s Feb. 18 Gala Event next year.

>>> Supervisor of $63 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme Sentenced in Florida to 10 Years In Prison

Press release: A former supervisor at defunct health provider Health Care Solutions Network Inc. (HCSN) was sentenced today in Miami to serve 10 years in prison for her central role in a fraud scheme that resulted in more than $63 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare and Florida Medicaid. The sentence was announced by 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.

Wondera Eason, 51, of Miami, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga in the Southern District of Florida.  In addition to her prison term, Eason was sentenced to serve three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $14,985,876 in restitution. On April 25, 2013, a federal jury found Eason guilty of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. Eason was employed as the director of medical records at HCSN’s partial hospitalization program (PHP).  A PHP is a form of intensive treatment for severe mental illness.  In Florida, HCSN operated community mental health centers at two locations. After stealing millions from Medicare and Medicaid in Florida, HCSN’s owner, Armando Gonzalez, expanded the scheme to North Carolina, opening a third HCSN location in Hendersonville, N.C…

According to evidence at trial, Eason was aware that HCSN in Florida paid illegal kickbacks to owners and operators of Miami-Dade County assisted living facilities (ALF) in exchange for patient referral information to be used to submit false and fraudulent claims to Medicare and Medicaid.  Eason also knew that many of the ALF referral patients were ineligible for PHP services because many patients suffered from mental retardation, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. From 2004 through 2011, HCSN billed Medicare and the Medicaid program more than $63 million for purported mental health services. Fifteen defendants have been charged and have pleaded guilty or been convicted by a jury for their roles in the HCSN health care fraud scheme.>>> This case is being 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.  This case was prosecuted by Trial Attorney Allan J. Medina, former Special Trial Attorney William Parente and Deputy Chief Benjamin D. Singer of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. >>

Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged more than 1,500 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $5 billion.  In addition, HHS’s Centers for Medicare & 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. >>> 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.

>>> New use of links to financial disclosure reports after 14 years of detailing these weekly in the Watchdog Report — Since 2000, the Watchdog Report has detailed elected leaders financial disclosure forms, some 6,000 are in my possession, that prior to July 1 were not going on line every year, but that has now changed. And I am only using the link to these reports for readers to see the actual document filed by these people given the new circumstances, and any reader that has some further information on these financial matters. They can contact the publisher confidentially with any new information that might be of interest to the public or authorities.

>>> 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

FLORIDA

>>> Sen. President Gaetz blasts Dolphins owner Ross for targeting House legislators, net worth jumps to $26.1 million

Sen. Don Gaetz, R- Niceville is in the spotlight this week and the Florida Senate President who supported taking Obama Care dollars for Floridians during the past legislative session, but he was denied that legislation. After the House shot it down because of the unknown costs to the state after the three years of federal funding is over. Gaetz is also on the offense with Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross who has threatened to try to remove three Miami state legislators. Who did not support the professional football team’s getting legislature approved public tax breaks needed as part of a public/private deal crafted by Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, and the professional NFL team, but never came to fruition. The senate president was also a key force in the putting on line all elected leaders financial disclosure forms now on line with the Florida Ethics Commission.

http://www.flsenate.gov/Offices/President/Initiatives

What do we know about his finances?

Gaetz through June had a net worth of $26.1 million, up from $24.8 million through April 2012. And to read his complete financial disclosure form go to

http://public.ethics.state.fl.us/Forms/2012/22814-Form6.pdf >>> and to read about his comments concerning Dolphins owner Ross’ threats go to http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2013/07/12/florida-senate-president-sounds-off-on-stephen-ross/ >>> Florida Senate President blasts Miami Dolphins owner – South Florida Sun-Sentinel.com

>>> The Children’s Trust of Miami-Dade taps Auslander to be the new CEO of $120 million Trust, only second president since 2002 when passed overwhelmingly by county voters

The Children’s Trust board unanimously confirmed Charles M. Auslander as the permanent CEO of the Trust created by voters in 2002 and overwhelmingly reaffirmed in 2008, and he is the second leader of the organization after Modesto Abety retired after decades being an advocate for children in Miami-Dade County. Auslander has been the interim CEO after Abety retired in March and around 70 applicants for the job streamed in and the job link was posted in past Watchdog Reports. And a committee whittled the number of applicants down to less than a dozen, held extensive interviews and Trust Chair Maria Alonso announced the final choice at the Trust’s monthly board meeting Monday. Alonso told the large board, that “numerous hours were spent reviewing the resumes,” and it was a “good process” and we got to see many people “in the community doing good services,” she said. And after this extensive review by the selection committee members, it was concluded. “Charles was the best person for the job,” she concluded before the trust member vote.

The Watchdog Report contacted Auslander last week asking him for his comments and future plans for the organization now that he is at the helm of the entity with a around $120 million budget, generated from a levy on the countywide property tax base. The attorney replied by email, “It’s quite an honor for me to have the confidence of The Children’s Trust board of directors in taking on the CEO role. Mo was a great leader for the first decade of The Trust’s existence, and he’s going to be a tough act to follow, though he’s pledged me his support and guidance. He and Dave Lawrence Jr., have been leaders in bringing about a changed paradigm for this community, and it has been my great fortune to work with them. We now think seriously about promoting children’s assets and preventing problems before they come about, rather than waiting to treat and intervene after-the-fact. We’ve also done much to turn attention to the early years of development, including the provision of quality childcare and effective home visiting for new parents.

There’s much to do that can make The Trust an even better organization in partnership with this community. I’d shorthand label those things as “convening, planning and integrating quality services.” Presently, The Trust has done very well at developing important services for children and families. We fund a network of after school and summer programs, and we have an array of evidence-based parenting programs. We have a large number of school health suites and operate a good number of valuable home visitation programs, just to name a few successful programs. Through Diana Ragbeer in concert with other advocates, we’ve done much to press successfully for state legislative support for children and families. We’ve done a very solid job in communicating to parents through 2-1-1 and other ways that these programs are there to help them, so good a job that most every summer since I’ve been here it is hard to find slots for every parent that wants to place their children in Trust-funded summer camps.

A few considerations that I offered to the interview committee were: We should become more active in convening the community of local funding entities for social services programs. We can help to bring together again something like what the Alliance for Human Services was intended to be. The community of local funding agencies should have a working plan on which to support better outcomes for child well-being and health, which I use shorthand for expressing all the various service and community development efforts we and other funding agencies undertake. Convening done well should lead to more coordination and cooperation, as well as efficiencies.

Stepping-up planning is also critical, and doing it jointly would be much wiser than separately. Because The Trust has the good fortune of a steady revenue stream thanks to the voters of this community, we are involved in many different initiatives with different funders. That puts The Trust in a good position to be the hub of planning that can work towards better service design and integration.

We also have to be more willing to explore what some of the most challenged neighborhoods think about improving supports and outcomes for their children and families. We have begun convening communities around the Read to Learn initiative, and I want to do much more of that. I sense The Trust gains credibility in the community for the high quality services we believe are universally important (e.g., after school and summer programs, parenting programs, health and home visitation programs, quality child care), when we acknowledge that we don’t have a lock on what’s best in every way for every community. I want to convene community leaders and parents to tell us what they see as the most pressing challenges, at least in certain select neighborhoods, and commit to reporting to The Trust’s board of directors and considering  what we can do to contribute to locally conceived efforts that we can help design and implement.

We need to integrate literacy by third grade into every element of our portfolio where it makes sense to do so. Sub-par literacy may otherwise undermine most everything we do to improve community well-being.  Poor literacy can be intergenerational, and it cuts children out of so many aspects of a healthy lifestyle and equality of opportunity that most of us otherwise take for granted.

There’s a growing sense that The Trust needs to do more to build not-for-profit sector capacity in challenged communities within our county. My thinking has evolved on this. I once thought it might not be The Trust’s priority to do this, but my sense is that we need to reconsider. Our ultimate beneficiaries are the children and families of this community, but we often work through proxies, such as community CBOs, to bring about better outcomes.  As CEO with staff I want to work on this, and let the board know best options.  You so often come to The Trust’s public meetings that I wanted to share with you more than a sound bite,” wrote the new CEO and Children’s Trust advocate.

>>> CHARLES M. AUSLANDER APPOINTED PRESIDENT AND CEO

OF THE CHILDREN’S TRUST

Press release: Charles M. Auslander, attorney and long-time child advocate, has been appointed President and CEO of The Children’s Trust after serving as its Chief Programs and Operations Officer for the past 7 years. “We could not have made a better choice,” said Maria Alonso, Chair of The Children’s Trust Board of Directors. “The entire Board is confident in Charles’ leadership and professionalism to steer The Children’s Trust in its next decade as a key funder of children’s services in Miami-Dade County and a leader in statewide public policy relating to children and families.”

Auslander’s career highlights prior to joining The Children’s Trust include organizing a firm-based dependency pro-bono project to represent guardians in dependency court as well as litigating authority for the Guardian ad Litem program to pursue termination of parental rights’ actions when the state would not.  He participated in several cases that halted the unnecessary criminal drug prosecution of cocaine-addicted pregnant mothers, which impaired their access to necessary medical care, as well as their right to privacy.  More recently, Charles was one of several attorneys instrumental in overturning Florida’s ban on gay adoptions. He also filed a “friend of the court” brief helping to secure in-state college tuition for young adults born in the U.S. of immigrant parents who were denied this benefit, and hence the opportunity to attend college, because of their parents’ illegal status.

In 1995, Auslander took a leave of absence from Greenberg Traurig to serve as District Legal Counsel for the Department of Children and Families, suing to close a developmental services residential program that had mistreated children and adult clients.  He subsequently served as Miami-Dade/Monroe District Administrator for DCF.  During his four-year tenure, there was a dramatic five-fold increase in the number of adoptions and a specialized foster care program was created to maintain children in family-like settings. After returning to private practice, Auslander represented many adolescents transitioning from dependency to independent living.  He continues to serve on the Miami-Dade Community Based Care Alliance and previously served on several not-for-profit boards. >>> 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. Because all children are our children.

>>> And if you ever thought about adopting a child, check out the great kids on the Children’s Trust’s Heart Gallery page http://www.miamiheartgallery.org/#start looking for a home and great new parents.

>>> PAST WDR:  In a few weeks all state and county leaders’ financial disclosures will be on line, some are there now, sea change for transparency of elected officials’ finances

The Florida Commission on Ethics, as a result of new state ethics and transparency legislation passed during the past session legislative session and signed by Gov. Rick Scott is now as of Jul. 1 putting elected leaders financial disclosure forms online from counties and state elected office and is a required yearly ritual for lawmakers. The Watchdog Report for the past 14 years has weekly gotten an endless stream of these required disclosure forms from the ethics commission, but now anyone in the public can go the commission’s webpage and type in a name, and if the document has been posted you can easily review these public Florida Form 6 submissions. I have some 6,000 of the forms now, but with a click, anyone in the public can review the forms that allow one to get an idea what their elected leader’s personal financial life is and are these people worthy to serve in an elected capacity, based on their private business affairs. An area that gets many politicians into trouble, with many of them being subsequently removed from office and going to jail.

And last week when I requested some of the forms for a few elected leaders from Kimberly R. Holmes, the head of the Financial Disclosure Unit, and someone that has been great to the WDR for over a decade providing past electronic documents. She wrote, “I understand you are requesting filing information on disclosure forms for certain lawmakers.  As a part of the ethics legislation passed this year, Florida lawmakers’ Form 6 disclosures will be posted on the Commission’s website.  The forms can be viewed by clicking this link on the homepage of the Commission’s website (www.ethics.state.fl.us): http://public.ethics.state.fl.us/search.cfm?date={ts%20’2013-06-28%2023:47:03′}&CFID=277210&CFTOKEN=70301042

Staff has worked hard to get this system up and running in the short time between the bill becoming law and the first forms being filed.  As forms are received, they will be posted to the website as soon as they’ve been recorded and any information required by law to be maintained as confidential, is redacted from the form.  This process may take a few business days, but eliminates the need for calls or emails to obtain the information and records from staff.

We hope you find the new web feature helpful.  Please let me know if you have any questions,” wrote Holmes. And she also noted the commission has moved its office to 325 John Knox Road, Building E, Suite 200, Tallahassee, FL 32303 www.ethics.state.fl.us And this information now being on line is a real boost to Floridians understanding of their lawmakers and their personal financial lives.

>>> 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, Jr., Chair The Children’s Movement.

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY

>>> Mayor Gimenez increased 5.37 percent budget proposal Tuesday miss fires, he back tracks with lower number by cutting animal services funding, and predicting firefighter layoffs and library closures

Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s proposed 2013-2014 $6.358 billion budget announced at a press conference Tuesday landed with a thud with county commissioners and the public after he proposed a budget increase of 5.37 percent to pay for $19 million to fund the Animal Services No Kill animal program endorsed by county voters, enhanced services at the county wide libraries and more funding for the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department. However, by Wednesday Gimenez was backtracking and he has scaled back the animal services program endorsed by almost 65 percent of the county’s voters to only $4 million (Plus the $10 million in the budget for the department) he told The Miami Herald http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/07/10/3494625/miami-dade-mayor-reverses-course.html . After multiple politicians complained that the mayor was out of line proposing the tax increase. Especially since he ran on cutting back property taxes two years ago and the higher taxes were part of the reason his predecessor Mayor Carlos Alvarez was recalled in March of 2011 and Gimenez later won the office.

Gimenez at the press conference seemed upbeat about the proposed budget, but he failed to appreciate the reaction from the public, who will also see their property tax bill rise, not just from the county but also the public schools district new $1.2 billion GOB that is now moving forward and will appear on property owner’s tax bills. The mayor’s amended budget now is only a 4.34 percent increase, but he says that would require the county to close libraries and stop a number of library services, and Fire-Rescue would have to cut six fire units, around 120 firefighter’s states the general circulation daily paper.

What about the local real estate bubble?

The Watchdog Report asked Gimenez if he was worried that the rise in property values was a reflection of the past bubble that had county property tax values soaring 21.3 percent back in 2006. He said the increase in the tax rolls value is different currently, since many of the homes being bought are not leveraged like years ago and has many homebuyers putting up a much larger down payment or it a cash sale. Further, his financial staff said later much of the property tax roll increase was because new properties and buildings were coming onto the county roll after the years of a major building lull, when any new building going up was none existent.

What about the county’s payment to Jackson Health System?

The Watchdog Report asked Mayor Gimenez what the county’s Maintenance of Effort to Jackson Health System would be, which is based on a formula on the size of the county budget, would be for JHS. And his financial staff said it would be $137 million, a $3 million increase from the previous year, but that number may be scaled back since that was based on the higher proposed budget increase number and may now be cut back a few million.

>>> Long serving Commissioner Souto in the spotlight, can be long winded on the dais, net worth climbs to $621,000

County Commissioner Javier Souto is in the spotlight this week, he has served in the Florida House and Senate all through the 1980s and was termed out in the Florida Legislature upper body in 1992, and he was first elected to the commission in 1992. The former Cuban Freedom Fighter represents Commission District 10, lives in the Westchester District of the county, is a constituent maven for the district, and makes his staff drive around constantly looking for the smallest thing to address. If he thinks it will make the district look better. However, Souto is known to ramble on sometimes, he has been a constant thorn of many of the past county administrations, and the Republican abhors tax increases.

The former pharmaceutical sales representative and sales trainer holds monthly town hall meetings to hear residents concerns. But he sometimes can get wound up when he speaks from the dais, and “We have lift off,” said past Commissioner Chair Arthur Teele, Jr., (Now deceased). When Souto would begin one of his emotional speeches from the dais, that once in Aug. 2004 had then Commission vice Chair Katy Sorenson almost breaking the gavel. While she was trying to restrain the verbal comments of the man directed towards a group of homeowners at the commission meeting concerning a street closure at the time. However, while controversial sometimes in his comments. He has not been a target of any known corruption probes while on the dais, and he fell in love with the county’s Home Rule Charter back in 2000. When he was a member on a Miami-Dade County Charter Review Committee chaired by Sid Levin back then.

Souto bio  http://www.miamidade.gov/district10/about.asp

What do we know about his finances?

Souto through Dec. 2012 had a net worth of 621,000, up from $591,000 in the previous year and to read the full financial disclosure report go to http://public.ethics.state.fl.us/Forms/2012/30784-Form6.pdf

>>> Ethics commission rulings & press releases: Miami-Dade County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson may sponsor legislation and vote on matters related to an organization for which she serves in an ex officio position.  That response to the District 3 Commissioner’s Request for Opinion (RQO 13-06) concerns the Miami Children’s Initiative (MCI), a non-profit entity created by the County Commission to coordinate educational and healthcare programs for families in Liberty City, which is in District 3.  Its bylaws require the district commissioner to function as a nonvoting member of the board of directors.  Commissioner Edmondson asked if she and her staff may assist MCI officials with drafting a proposed lease agreement to build a training center and permanent offices for MCI on vacant county-owned land.  Since she receives no financial benefit from her non-voting ex officio position on the board, the Ethics Commission found that Edmonson may sponsor and vote on legislation affecting the organization.

>>> The Ethics Commission was asked if it would it be a violation of the “two-year rule” if Jose Abreu, the recently retired County aviation director, were to chair the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce.  Chamber CEO Barry Johnson stated in a Request for Opinion (RQO 13-06) that the chamber’s executive committee wanted to appoint Abreu to the volunteer, uncompensated post. The Opinion states that Mr. Abreu is not prohibited from serving, as long as he does not contact or attempt to influence County officials or staff until April 1, 2015, which is two years after his retirement from County service.

>>> COE Executive Director Joseph Centorino reported on the recent approval of two ordinances by the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners.  One requires all County and municipal elected officials to complete ethics training within 90 days after being sworn into office.   Another codifies a charter amendment approved by voters last fall that permits the Ethics Commission to enact penalties for violations of the Citizens Bill of Rights similar to those applied to violations of the Conflict of Interest and Code of Ethics Ordinance.

>>> And, the Ethics Commission passed a resolution proclaiming this upcoming October 22nd as “Ethical Governance Day 2013,” to promote greater civic involvement and commitment to public and community service.   The first event last year placed civic activists as guest speakers in more than 200 Miami-Dade Public Senior High School government and economics classes to inspire teens to get more involved in public affairs.  Volunteers are being recruited for a similar effort this fall. >>> The Ethics Commission was created in 1996 as an independent agency with advisory and quasi-judicial powers. It is composed of five members, serving staggered terms of four years each. Through a program of education, outreach and enforcement, the Commission seeks to empower the community and bolster public trust.

>>> GMCVB press release: RECORD ARRIVALS AT MIAMI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (MIA) FOR THE MONTH OF MAY 2013
International passenger arrivals for the month of May 2013 at Miami International Airport (MIA) increased by 6.9% and domestic Passenger arrivals increased by 0.5%. Total passenger arrivals at Miami International Airport (MIA) increased in the month of May 2013 by 3.4%.

INTERNATIONAL MIA Passenger Arrivals
May 2013 May 2012 % Change vs. 2012
797,709 746,236 +6.9%
DOMESTIC MIA Passenger Arrivals
May 2013 May 2012 % Change vs. 2012
878,668 874,569 +0.5%
TOTAL MIA Passenger Arrivals
May 2013 May 2012 % Change vs. 2012
1,676,377 1,620,805 +3.4%

MIAMI-DADE PUBLIC SCHOOLS

>>> Tax collection variance with M-DC will be “$30 to $50 million,” says Carvalho, a challenge when it comes to having a required balanced budget

Superintendent Alberto Carvalho told a school board committee meeting Wednesday that despite the District paying for positions at the Miami-Dade County Tax Collector’s Office. The nation’s fourth largest public schools district was shortchanged some $30 million last year, and the administrator said. “We don’t know until the year is over, [but he believes] this year it could be a $30 to $50 million variance,” and such a large number is a major budget consideration and difficult to plan for when, crafting the upcoming budget year he told the school board members.

The veteran teacher and superintendent since September 2008 has had to grapple with a host of funding issues that includes reduced state funding, and no capital money for school maintenance over the past few years. However, the county’s voters did pass a $1.2 billion GOB for schools and IT updates but that money is solely dedicated to the projects submitted by the District to voters, and does not help to pay for day-to-day education operations in its almost 400 schools teaching some 350,000 children.

CITY OF MIAMI

>>> Now there are five finalists for City of Miami Attorney; but will commissioners pick a good one?

The final five Miami Attorney finalists picked Saturday afternoon by the commission created Miami Attorney Search Committee made up of seasoned attorneys that Miami commissioners now will pick from to be they’re new city attorney. The selected applicants are Raul Aguila, Warren Bittner, Lynn Dannheisser, Victoria Mendez and Tyrone Williams. The search has been going on for months and with Miami City Attorney Julie O’ Bru, retiring in late September there is a drop-dead date when the position should be filled.

Anything odd about who did not apply?

It is odd for such a prestigious high profile position did not get any applicants from the Miami-Dade County Attorney’s Office or any of the other near by counties assistant attorneys for the job. Moreover, critics say it is because the commission, mayor and city overall is so political in nature and is reducing the pool and universe of candidates applying.
>>> Red light camera debate runs into mayoral race, Mayor Regalado has $499,000 and challenger Commissioner Suarez has $495,000 in their campaign war chest through June

“Only in South Florida is stopping at a red light and paying all your taxes an aspirational act,” said federal District Judge Patricia Seitz a few years ago. When she sentenced the Carlos and Jorge de Cespedes, whom co owned Pharmed for 14 years of Medicare fraud, and the judge’s line explains the need for red light cameras, in the city of Miami. On Thursday, a four-hour discussion occurred with public speakers and commissioners whether the red light cameras the city had installed a few years ago should be removed. And had Commissioner Francis Suarez getting two of the expensive tickets, though he was at first for the cameras, when the commission voted a few years ago to begin using them. However, he now is fighting there use from the dais, and the attorney is using it as a campaign issue against Regalado in his bid to be the next Miami mayor. >>> The commission decided to defer the item to its commission meeting later in the month.

What about the campaign finance disclosure forms through June 30?

The campaign disclosure forms are now available for all the Miami candidates running for office in 2013 and 2015 and incumbent Mayor Tomas Regalado has raised $128,000 and spent $30,000 through the Jun. 30th, reporting period, and the man has in total $449,468 in his campaign war chest. Commissioner Francis Suarez challenging the mayor this November raised $237,600 in the period and has $495,911 in his campaign war chest and there is hundreds of thousands more in a political action committee he formed to push for a strong mayor form of government, but later dropped the idea. After his peers on the dais shot down the idea. To see all the mayoral and commission candidate’s campaign financial reports go to http://miamigov.com/City_Clerk/Pages/Elections/CampaignReports13.asp

What about Commission District 4 candidate Rod?

Denis Rod a perennial Miami Commission District 4 candidate was spotted by the Watchdog Report in the audience Monday at The Children’s Trust seeking funding, and he is vying for the Miami commission seat held by Suarez, who is expected to resign in the future, in his run for mayor. And Rod has been a candidate before, but lost to Suarez in 2009, but the man has been a long time fixture in Miami City Hall. And he reports his campaign through June raised $6,590 and spent $3,921, and overall he has raised $11,125 and he has spent $4,819 states the most recent campaign financial disclosure report.

>>> Ethics Commission press release: A Miami department head agreed not to fight allegations he violated the “two-year rule” of the Conflict of Interest and Code of Ethics Ordinance by overseeing the city contract with his prior employer.  Henry Torre became Miami Public Facilities Director in February 2012, less than two years after leaving his post as director of Operations for Terranova Corporation, which manages leases for retail space in the city-owned parking garages next to Marlins Park.  The complaint (C 13-10) noted that Torre was responsible for enforcement of the contract in direct violation of the Ethics Code. Since he agreed to avoid the expense and time of litigation, and claimed to be unaware of the ethical rule, the COE waived the fine and will issue a Letter of Instruction to the city manager.

>>> JUSTICE DEPARTMENT RELEASES INVESTIGATIVE FINDINGS ON THE CITY OF MIAMI POLICE DEPARTMENT AND OFFICER-INVOLVED SHOOTINGS

Press release: Following a comprehensive investigation, the Justice Department today released its letter of findings determining that the city of Miami Police Department (MPD) has engaged in a pattern or practice of excessive use of force through officer-involved shootings in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution.  Between 2008 and 2011, officers intentionally shot at individuals on 33 separate occasions, three of which MPD itself found unjustified.  The department found that a number of MPD practices, including deficient tactics, improper actions by specialized units, as well as egregious delays and substantive deficiencies in deadly force investigations, contributed to the pattern or practice of excessive force.

The department’s findings noted that MPD did not provide close supervision or hold individuals accountable for their actions by failing to complete thorough, objective and timely investigations of officer-involved shootings.  For a significant number of the shootings, including one that occurred in  2008, MPD has not reached a conclusion internally as to whether or not the officer’s firearm discharge was lawful and within policy.  The Justice Department found that MPD’s failure to complete timely and thorough investigations of officer-involved shootings undermined accountability and exposed MPD officers and the community to unreasonable risks that might have been addressed through prompt corrective action, noting that several investigations remained open for more than three years.  Significantly, a small number of officers were involved in a disproportionate number of shootings, while the investigations into their shootings continued to be egregiously delayed.  The findings released today mark the conclusion of the department’s second investigation of MPD in recent years.  The department noted that similar deficiencies were found in its previous investigation that began in 2002.

“Although MPD appeared to correct course after our first investigation, many of the systemic problems that we previously identified returned to root deeply in MPD’s practices.  Our findings should serve as a catalyst to help MPD and the city of Miami restore the community’s confidence in fair, effective and accountable law enforcement,” said Roy L. Austin Jr, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.  “We look forward to collaborating with Chief Orosa, Mayor Regalado and the people of Miami to create and implement a comprehensive, court-enforceable plan to ensure sustainable reform.”

Wifredo Ferrer, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida stated, “In November 2011, the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice began a formal investigation to determine whether the city of Miami Police Department had engaged in a pattern or practice of excessive use of deadly force by firearms.  After a careful and thorough review of the facts and circumstances surrounding a series of police-involved shootings, the Civil Rights Division found that the police department in fact engaged in such prohibited conduct.  Today, we are releasing the detailed findings of the investigation, with the dual goal of shining a light on past wrongs and – more importantly – setting a clear course for the future that will assure the residents of the city of Miami that this type of behavior will not be repeated in our city.  We commend Chief Orosa for recognizing some of the problems the Civil Rights Division found and for pursuing initiatives to address them.  We are confident that the findings and recommendations will be heeded, and will result in institutional long-term reform that will make our city and police force better than ever.”

The department’s investigation involved an in-depth review of thousands of documents, including written policies and procedures, training materials, and internal reports, photographs, video and audio recordings and investigative files.  The review benefited from productive dialogue with MPD supervisors and officers, city of Miami officials, the Office of the State Attorney, the Civilian Investigative Panel, and members of the Miami community.  The Justice Department provided feedback to MPD during the investigation and commends Chief Manuel Orosa for taking steps to address some of the deficiencies identified since the investigation began.  The investigation was conducted by the Special Litigation Section of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, with the assistance of an experienced law enforcement expert, pursuant to the pattern or practice provision of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994.  The findings letter will be available on the department’s website at http://www.justice.gov/crt/about/spl/.  The department welcomes comments or concerns from the community via email at community.miamipd@usdoj.gov.

CITY OF MIAMI BEACH

>>> Commissioner Wolfson and Mayor Bower go head to head on dais Friday regarding Beach Convention Center deal

>>> PAST WDR: Mgr. Morales goes out on political tightrope with scaled down Convention Center recommendations

Miami Beach Manager Jimmy Morales and his team of experts after listening to public input has proposed scaling down the redevelopment of the Miami Beach Convention Center reducing the overall footprint of the project by reducing a host of proposed options but allows the convention center to be expanded and updated. The overall project was estimated to cost some $1 billion but that number will likely change with Morales new proposals, and getting it right is one of the most important challenges the Beach has. If the convention center complex is to be the large-scale convention draw the Beach’s hotels and restaurants are counting on in the decades to come. http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/07/05/3486819/miami-beach-holds-onto-revised.html The project is Morales’ first high profile challenge and to say it is politically charged is an understatement and local residents are animated and speaking into the different commissioner’s ears about their concerns or possible suggestions about what should be done at the site. http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/07/12/3497396/miami-beach-convention-center.html

What about Commissioner Jonah Wolfson?

Wolfson was on a tear at Friday’s afternoon’s special commission meeting to the point that Mayor Matti Bower turned off his microphone at the dais. The two have had multiple testy exchanges in the past and Wolfson organized a petition drive to blunt the scope of the project, and he wants to institute a 60 percent threshold if voters are to improve the large-scale project. For more go to http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/07/12/3497396/miami-beach-convention-center.html

Anything odd with Wolfson?

Wolfson, an attorney and populist in his political leanings registered as a Miami-Dade County lobbyist on Sept. 27, 2012 for Park One of Florida and he listed the matter he was representing as “Parking at Jackson and related matters,” state’s the county clerk’s webpage. However, the clerk’s webpage also states the document was withdrawn on the same date, and the Watchdog Report contacted Wolfson last week at his city email address asking about the matter. However, he has not responded by my Sunday deadline.

>>> Press release: Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, challenging incumbent Jorge Exposito for the Miami Beach City Commission Group 2 seat, will be the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club speaker July 16, 8:30 – 10:00 am, David’s Cafe II, corner of 11th St. and Collins Ave. Miami Beach  >>> http://www.rosengonzalez.com/

CITY OF MIAMI GARDENS

>>> Teenager’s Death Should Renew Our Commitment to Respect Each Life

A POSITION PAPER FROM THE MIAMI-DADE COUNTY COMMUNITY RELATIONS BOARD July 12, 2013

Press release: The killing of Trayvon Martin was a painful blow to those who knew and loved him and a source of distress to all who believe in the value of human life in this community. The members of the Miami-Dade County Community Relations Board (CRB) have extended our condolences to Martin’s family. Ronald Fulton, Trayvon’s beloved uncle, is a member of the CRB Executive Committee.

The emotions of grief, bewilderment, pain and anger that this young man’s death has created across our nation and the world, are being felt with particular poignancy in Miami-Dade County. Trayvon was a local kid, a young man of promise with deep family and personal ties to this community. Many of us have only recently celebrated the school graduations of some of the young people in our lives. Trayvon Martin had been among the Miami-Dade students expected to graduate from high school this year. Like so many of his peers, Trayvon was blessed with unique and valuable attributes that gave his life special worth. Young people such as these inspire a sense of hope for the future. The loss of any of them hurts us all. For some the feelings of loss can ignite destructive impulses like hatred and revenge. We have all heard the shrill voices among us. Expressions of pain and outrage are understandable from those who sincerely believe that injustice may prevail. But when passions threaten to overwhelm, courage and fortitude are needed most.

The fatal shooting of a promising 17-year-old has raised many questions and concerns among young people in the community where he lived. Last Spring, tens of thousands of students at 31 Miami-Dade senior and junior high schools took part in demonstrations and walk-outs calling for justice. Since then it has become common place to see young people from different ethnic and racial groups in our community carrying their Skittles and iced tea and wearing hoodie sweatshirts to demonstrate solidarity with Trayvon, and with each other and to express their desire to create positive change in the world.

Now that the legal proceedings against George Zimmerman have captured the media and public attention, the focus should also be renewed on addressing the troublesome issues raised by our youth. Leaders and organizations in many Miami-Dade communities have worked to be prepared for the trial and the impending verdict. Miami-Dade County also needs to be prepared to address the issues of gun violence, bigotry, inequity and racial hatred that have destroyed the futures of too many of our promising youth. It is the youth who are creating a movement that may help save their generation. We applaud the young people’s movement that aspires to value every life in our community. Fueled by action and inspired by teenagers and young adults, their efforts are most sincerely welcomed.

As we look for ways to respond to the killing of Trayvon Martin and the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial, it is important that we focus on supporting each other and that we engage with our fellow community members and responsible authorities in a spirit of cooperation and mutual respect. In this way, we will all do our part to pursue justice and healing. >>> The primary mission of the Miami-Dade County Community Relations Board (CRB) is to intervene quickly and effectively to prevent and reduce community tensions and conflict. The members are prominent local residents, representative of Miami-Dade’s diverse community, who are business, civic, government and religious leaders. For nearly 50 years, the CRB (founded in 1963) has served as an advisor to county Mayors, Commissioners and administrators and to the community-at-large on issues impacting intergroup relations in Miami-Dade. >>> Editor’s note: Zimmerman was found not guilty by the jury hearing the case Saturday night.

CITY OF SOUTH MIAMI

>>> South Miami Police Chief settles ethics complaint

Commission on Ethics press release: The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust (COE) today agreed to settle a complaint (C 12-31) against the Police Chief of South Miami.  The Commission found that Chief Orlando Martinez de Castro violated the city’s ethics code during 2011 when the South Miami Police Department contracted with Airways Auto Tag Agency for tags and titles for forfeiture vehicles.  Airways is owned by Ileana Martinez de Castro, the police chief’s wife.  As part of the negotiated settlement, a fourth count was dropped, and Chief Martinez de Castro agreed not to contest the allegations in Counts 1, 2, & 3 of the complaint.  He paid $2,000 in investigative costs and accepted a Letter of Instruction.   While the Chief stated that he was unaware of the transactions, the Letter advises that “It is the government employee… who is ultimately answerable for ethical transgressions.”

TOWN OF CUTLER BAY

>>> “No probable cause was found,” for Vice Mayor Sochin says county Ethics commission

COE press release: No Probable Cause was found to a complaint (C 13-09) against the Vice Mayor of Cutler Bay who was offered, but refused, an all-expense paid trip by a foundation interested in establishing a boarding school for at-risk youth in the town.  A resident also alleged that Ernie Sochin solicited members of the Ethel and W. George Kennedy Family Foundation, Inc., to make a financial donation to the South Florida Boys Choir – an organization Sochin supports – in exchange for his positive vote on a future zoning change.  An investigation found the allegations unwarranted and the complaint was dismissed.

>>> OTHER STORIES AROUND FLORIDA

BROWARD COUNTY

>>> PD Finkelstein in the spotlight, reelected unopposed in 2012, net worth bumps to $824,097 for the year

Howard Finkelstein, the high profile Broward County Public Defender is in the spotlight this week and the defense attorney also has the television show on Fox called Help Me Howard. The photo below is the one he uses for the public defender’s official webpage, and he first made a name for himself locally during the O.J. Simpson murder trial in 1994 where he gave televised legal commentary. He is an unabashed liberal who was elected in 2004 to the post, and voters when they elected him knew he was a television commentator. But since the county is a Democratic Party strong hold that media issue for a public official did not bother voters and they propelled him into public office. And in 2012 he was reelected unopposed to the countywide office.

What do we know about his finances?

Finkelstein through Dec. 2012 had a net worth of $824,097, which is up from $730,436 the year before and his total assets for the year are $943,102 and to see his complete financial disclosure form go to http://public.ethics.state.fl.us/Forms/2012/19038-Form6.pdf

Finkelstein Bio http://browarddefender.org/howard.html

CITY OF PEMBOKE PINES

>>> Press release Top Executive of Miami Beach Manufacturing Company

Convicted in Multi-Million Dollar Investment Scheme

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 Craig Stanley Toll, 64, of Pembroke Pines, was convicted today by a federal jury.  Specifically, Toll was convicted of two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1349; three counts of substantive wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1343; one count of major fraud against the United States, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1031; one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1957; and three counts of making false statements to a United States government agency, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1001.  Toll was acquitted of 12 counts of wire fraud.

According to allegations in the indictment and the evidence presented at trial, Innovida Holdings, LLC, was a Florida limited liability company located in Miami Beach. Innovida manufactured fiber composite panels for the construction industry for use in the construction of residential, commercial, governmental, and other structures without the need for cement, steel or wood. Innovida purported to be a rapidly expanding and financially strong international operation with facilities in the United States, the United Arab Emirates, Germany, Angola, Tanzania, and other countries. Co-defendant Claudio Osorio was the president, owner and majority shareholder of Innovida.  Defendant Craig Toll, a licensed CPA, was the company’s Chief Financial Officer…

The indictment further alleges that between January 2010 and March 2011, Osorio, Toll and others applied for and obtained a $10,000,000 loan from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (“OPIC”), a U.S. government agency that promotes U.S. government investments abroad to foster the development and growth of free markets. The purported purpose of the loan was to build a manufacturing facility and 500 homes in Haiti for displaced families in the aftermath of the January 2010 earthquake. The indictment alleges and the jury found that Osorio, Toll and others made materially false representations and omissions concerning, among other things, the profitability of Innovida, the purported use of the loan proceeds, an equity contribution to be made by Innovida, and contracts that Innovida purportedly had obtained with third-party vendors. Osorio used the OPIC loan proceeds to repay investors and for his and his co-conspirators’ personal benefit and to further the fraud scheme. Codefendant Claudio Osorio pled guilty earlier to two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI.  Mr. Ferrer also commended the efforts of the SEC-Miami Regional Office, for their cooperation and assistance during this investigation.  The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lois Foster-Steers and Kimberly Selmore. >>> 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 Mayor Abrams in the spotlight, elected unopposed in 2010, net worth comes in at $319,000 through Dec. 2012

Palm Beach Commissioner Steven Abrams is in the spotlight this week and he was first appointed to the commission in 2009, was elected to the body in 2010 unopposed, and the attorney is a former Boca Raton mayor. Abrams with years in public service went to Harvard University and George Washington University for his law degree. He has spent decades in the county, and he is the chair of the South Flroida Regional Transportation Authority and he represents Commission District 4 on the seven-member dais.

Abrams Bio http://www.co.palm-beach.fl.us/countycommissioners/district4/biography.htm

What do we know about his finances?

Abrams through Dec. 2012 had a net worth of $319,358 and that is up from $310,056 the year before states his financial disclosure form. To see the full report go to http://public.ethics.state.fl.us/Forms/2012/60475-Form6.pdf

BOCA RATON

>>> Mortgage Company Executive Charged in Fraud Case

Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Steve Linick, Inspector General of the Federal Housing Finance Agency Office of Inspector General, announced the filing of a federal Information charging Patrick J. Mansell, 68, of Boca Raton, FL, Vice President of Coastal States Mortgage Corporation (Coastal) with conspiracy to commit wire fraud to defraud government sponsored entities, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

According to the Information, from April 2007 through February 2012, in the Southern District of Florida, Coastal was a licensed mortgage brokerage whose primary business activity was the selling and servicing of mortgage loans for Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. As alleged in the Information, Coastal processed payments and payoffs received from borrowers on behalf of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, according to the contractual agreements entered into between them. As further alleged in the Information, Coastal failed to remit some of the mortgage loan payoffs that it received from borrowers to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, resulting in a loss to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. This misappropriation was concealed by the regular submission of false financial reports by Coastal, via an internet portal, to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. If convicted, the defendant faces a statutory maximum penalty of five years’ incarceration, followed by a three-year period of supervised release, a fine of up to $250,000 and restitution.

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the Federal Housing Finance Agency Office of the Inspector General. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas P. Lanigan. An information is only an accusation, and defendants are presumed innocent until and unless 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.

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY

>>> Florida Man Convicted of Selling Stolen Art and Evading the Payment of Federal Income Taxes Sentenced to 7½ Years in Prison

Press release: A Florida man who sold paintings stolen from a Los Angeles art gallery – and who took elaborate steps to avoid paying taxes over several years –  has been sentenced to 90 months in federal prison for the art-related and tax offenses. Matthew Taylor, 45, of Vero Beach, Florida, was sentenced yesterday afternoon by United States District Judge John A. Kronstadt. In addition to the prison term, Judge Kronstadt ordered Taylor to pay $1,244,190 in restitution – $106,152 to two art galleries, and $1,138,038 to the Internal Revenue Service for back taxes, penalties and interest. The judge also ordered that during the period of supervised release following his prison term, Taylor may not work in or own “any business involving antiques and or art” without the approval of a probation officer.

Taylor was found guilty by a federal jury in August 2012 of five separate federal felonies, including wire fraud, possession of stolen property which had crossed state lines, and two counts of tax evasion for the years 2005 and 2006. The jury also convicted Taylor of structuring cash transactions to avoid federal reporting requirements by making $226,000 in cash withdrawals in smaller amounts so as to avoid possible seizure of the funds by authorities – and found that he committed the structuring offense while free on bond in the art fraud case. The evidence presented at trial showed that Taylor stole several paintings from the Los Angeles Fine Art Gallery, including a Granville Redmond painting called “Seascape at Twilight” and an untitled painting by Lucien Frank. Taylor later sold the Redmond painting to a different gallery for $85,000, falsely claiming that his mother had owned it for several years. Taylor took the Frank painting to Florida, erased Frank’s signature from the artwork, and then attempted to sell the painting to an art collector, claiming it was by a different artist.

The evidence presented at trial also showed that Taylor took elaborate steps to evade paying more than $400,000 in federal income taxes owed for 2005 and 2006, including creating bogus companies with names similar to well known companies (like Microsoft), using false social security numbers to hide his bank accounts, and using post office boxes to open other post office boxes to use as mail drops. Taylor also moved money to an off-shore bank account in the Bahamas as part of his attempts to evade the payment of taxes. Taylor falsely claimed that his mother had controlled all of his bank accounts and LLCs, and that he had relied on her to file tax returns for him –  even though she was in failing health and suffering from dementia.

Taylor’s “repeated attempts to blame his mother for his crimes are demonstrative of his history and characteristics,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memo filed with the court. “In short, defendant has demonstrated that he is a con man, a thief, a tax-cheat, and a liar, who has no compunctions about using others (such as his girlfriend) and blaming others (such as his mother or his pretrial officer) if it is to his advantage. He has steadfastly refused to accept responsibility for his crimes, and has repeatedly acknowledged that he moved money around to avoid seizure by the IRS.” The investigation into Taylor was conducted by the FBI’s Art Crime Team, the Los Angeles Police Department’s Art Theft Detail, and IRS Criminal Investigation.

MONROE COUNTY

>>> Mayor Pro Tem Carruthers in the spotlight, first elected in 2008, net worth jumps to $6.17 million in Dec. 2012, up from $5.07 million in June the same year

Monroe Commissioner Heather Carruthers is in the spotlight this week and she represents commission District 3 on the five-member body. She is a long serving political officer and the woman is involved in a host of activities representing the tony county of some 70,000 residents and Monroe is the Southern most county in the nation. The former mayor in 2011 is now the Mayor Pro Tem on the commission, she was first elected in 2008 and carried all the precincts in Monroe County in that first election, and the Democrat was reelected in 2012. For more on her go to http://keysnews.com/node/37783

Carruthers and bio  http://www.monroecounty-fl.gov/Directory.aspx?EID=21

What do we know about her finances?

Carruthers through Dec. 2012 had a net worth of $6.17 million, up from $5.07 million in June the same year and she lists $150,000 in household goods. To see her complete financial disclosure report go to http://public.ethics.state.fl.us/Forms/2012/222529-Form6.pdf

COMMUNITY EVENTS

>>> Campaign Skills Seminar set for Miami Beach

Candidates and those considering running for office can learn the rules and regulations of electioneering by attending the next Campaign Skills Seminar sponsored by the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust.   In addition to politicians, campaign managers, treasurers, volunteers and anyone interested in learning what it takes to run a clean campaign, are encouraged to attend.

The two-hour seminar takes place from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Monday, July 22, 2013, in the Miami Beach Commission Chambers.  Speakers — including representatives from the Ethics Commission and the Elections Department — will provide essential information on election law and procedures, fundraising and record keeping.  The event is free and open to the public.  Attorneys can earn Continuing Legal Education credits from the Florida Bar. >> Campaign Skills Seminar, Monday, July 22, 2013, 6:30 p.m., Miami Beach City Commission Chambers, 1700 Convention Center Drive, 3rd Floor, Miami Beach, Florida 33139 For more information or to reserve a seat, call Robert Thompson at 305-350-0630 or e-mail robthom@miamidade.gov.

EDITORIAL

>>> Colorful reputation proceeds City of Miami when it comes to new city attorney applicants, many of the top candidates stayed away, tragedy for commission and taxpayers

The final five candidates applying for the City of  Miami Attorney position shows the influence of endless politics in the city, commission and mayor’s office for not one Miami-Dade County assistant attorney applied for the high profile position, that will also handle extensive zoning issues in the years ahead. Miami is not the first city to find itself lacking high-powered applicants applying for jobs when these are posted, but that was also the case in Miami Beach when it was looking for a new city manager recently. When not one of the around 100 senior administrators in the three local counties municipalities applied for the top administrative position in the tony city, and the job would be for most municipal managers a resume builder, but yet none applied.

Further, since 2000, Miami has only had three attorneys, but one was a major hire misfire. And Jorge Fernandez’s resignation in 2008 as part of a plea deal with the state attorney’s office, and the commission saying sayonara to the man after questionable expenses being paid for by his city expense account, and other abuses were discovered. That exercise cost taxpayers $250,000 in legal fees fighting his subsequent suit against the city when he said his contract demanded a $300,000 severance package. However, this shows how expensive such an employment error can be, to not only the city’s interest, but also the performance and decisions made by the administration and commission. But his termination also kept alive in the public’s eye what a minefield working for Miami is, and if one has any alternative, working for the city would be the last place you would consider. >>> Here is the Fernandez story. http://www.miaminewtimes.com/bestof/2008/award/best-boondoggle-1006250/

For political instability and infighting among elected officials is a deterrent to highly competent people taking the leap into public service, and while some attorney applicants have government experience, it remains to be seen if they are the caliber to really raise the legal game in Miami to the level needed. And that lack of legal horsepower is not only unfair to the commission and mayor, but also the taxpayers of Miami who don’t have money to spare, and expect they’re elected leaders to be frugal and responsible with their precious tax dollars.

And one of those ways is top-flight legal representation and while the Watchdog Report has no beef with these finalists. I do question why such a small universe of applicants applied for the job, despite extending the time to apply, and after 18-years of watching government full time. I can only surmise that no one wants to be part of the endless political fray, that has mired and become so entrenched in the Magic City for decades, and that is the great tragedy for all Miamians.

LETTERS

>>> I just read you’re most recent WDR — great stuff! It’s so reassuring to know there are people like you and forums like WDR, which are keeping an eye on our public institutions and civic leaders. Keep up the great work!

L

>>> 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)

ARTHUR HERTZ

WILLIAM HUGGETT, Seamen Attorney (Deceased)

ALFRED NOVAK

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

RONALD HALL

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

RON BOOK

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

GREATER 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.

LETTER POLICY

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 watchdogreport1@earthlink.net

Daniel A. Ricker

Publisher & Editor

Watchdog Report www.watchdogreport.net

Est. 05.05.00

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 watchdogreport1@earthlink.net 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.

General subscriber’s names will not be published in the Report. To subscribe to the Watchdog Report please use the form below as a subscription invoice.

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Watchdog Report Supporters Invoice-Form

NOTE: Invoice is for Yearly supporter/sponsorship Rates: Thank you.

Supporting Sponsors $5,000

Sustaining Sponsors $2,000

Corporate Sponsors $1,000 (All levels above will be listed in the report with web-site link if desired)

Large Business Supporters $500

Small Business Supporters $250

Individual Supporter $150

Student Supporter $ 75

Any amount $

Name & Address

Please make checks payable to: Daniel A. Ricker

Send to: 3109 Grand Avenue, #125

Miami, FL 33133 To contact the Publisher please e-mail watchdogreport1@earthlink.net


 
 
 

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