Argus Report: World mourns passing of President Nelson Mandela, a Great One, who transformed South Africa into a free nation after 27 years of incarceration, but whose ties with Castro were protested in Miami in 1990
Florida: Gov. Scott challenges lack of jobs study in Miami Herald & Tampa Bay Times series with rebuttal of claimed inaccuracies 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: Soccer Super Star Beckham might consider registering as county lobbyist, in his quest for soccer team stadium location
Miami-Dade Public Schools: Board Member Regalado annoyed Doral Academy Charter School discussion delayed, says Atty’s always have a excuse, “the dog ate my homework”
City of Miami: Mayor Regalado says riff in Cuban exile community with Mandela, long over after the iconic leader met with a host of Cuban dissidents
Village of Coconut Grove: Will Grove Isle get new tower, one condominium losing ocean views as resident anger erupts at lack of early information about the project
City of Hialeah: Three Defendants Indicted for Alien Smuggling, Extortion and Kidnapping Conspiracy
City of Miami Gardens: Councilman Ighodaro is proud to announce that the City of Miami Gardens will join with Mt. Zion A.M.E. Church’s 5th Annual Stand Against Violence It’s Our Responsibility (S.A.V.I.O.R.) crime prevention rally,
City of Miami Beach: Televising commission committee meetings sounds like an “interesting idea,” says Mayor Levine
City of Coral Gables: Commissioner Keon tells civic group she is enjoying “service on commission,” notes when it comes to pensions, manager deals with bulk of the issues
City of South Miami: Mayor Stoddard gives his take on Commissioner Welsh being censured by commission, says some of controversy is “election season politics”
Village of Key Biscayne: PUBLIC WORKS AND WASTE MANAGEMENT DEPARTMENT ANNOUNCES CLOSURE OF THE RICKENBACKER CAUSEWAY CUSTOMER SERVICE OFFICE AND PARKING FACILITY
>>> Other stories around Florida
Broward County: Ft. Lauderdale Attorney Convicted of Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud, Mail Fraud, and Money Laundering in Connection with $1 Billion MBC Fraud
Palm Beach County: — Residents can review they’re top County Officials financial disclosure forms on line at http://public.ethics.state.fl.us/results.cfm
Hillsborough County: Gov. Scott taps Arthur “Chip” Diehl III to Hillsborough Community College District Board of Trustees
Sarasota County: Gov. Scott named Michael A. Moran to the Governing Board of the Southwest Florida Water Management District.
Bradford County: Gov. Scott taps Richard B. Davis, Jr. to the County Court.
Monroe County: Florida Marine Life Dealers Sentenced for Illegal Wildlife Trafficking – To read all Monroe County constitutional officers’ financial disclosure forms go to http://public.ethics.state.fl.us/results.cfm
Community Events: MAKE HOLIDAY GIFT-GIVING UNFORGETTABLE WITH GIFTS “OUTSIDE THE BOX” AT MIAMI-DADE COUNTY PARKS’ ONLINE “PARKSTORE” – King Mango Strut Auction Tuesday at Coconut Grove Sailing Club
Editorials: Miami Beach should televise its commission committee meetings, Mayor Levine rightly says “interesting idea” — 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: Readers on the WDR
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.)
>>> If you wish to be deleted, just e-mail me with that message and you are free to e-mail this on to friends.
>>> The Watchdog Report publisher would like to thank the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation www.knightfoundation.org for funding by the Knight Foundation with technical support from the Knight Center for International Media http://knight.miami.edu within the University of Miami’s School of Communication www.miami.edu to maintain my webpage. The Watchdog Report webpage is free, has no ads, pops-up and is just the news in a mainstream reporting manner.
>>> 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 Watchdog Report is at the bottom of this report. Thank You
>>> I was on www.wpbt.org/issues hosted by Helen Ferre this week and to see the show where I discuss the Miami Beach Convention Center development, and what is going on at the Coconut Grove Playhouse deal that must be in front of the Miami-Dade County Commission on Dec. 17, to meet a Jan. 15 deadline with the state. To see the show go to >>> Miami Beach Convention Center Update –
Incoming Miami Beach Mayor Phillip Levine based his campaign on the issue of the Miami Beach convention center. This after voters approved a rule that makes it harder to proceed with major renovations of the City-owned center. What can we expect in the months to follow? Guest: Daniel Ricker, Watchdog Report –
ISSUE ONE: Obama’s Poll Numbers ISSUE TWO: Miami Beach Convention Center Update ISSUE THREE: The Business of Art in South Florida
>>> CORRECTION: Former Miami Beach Commissioner Jorge Exposito is not an attorney, as was reported last week. >>> And Camillus House’s new facility is named after the Norwegian Cruise Line. I apologize for the errors.
ARGUS REPORT – Heard, Seen on the Street
>>> World mourns passing of President Mandela, a Great One, who transformed South Africa into a free nation after 27 years of incarceration, but whose ties with Castro were protested in Miami in 1990
With the passing of the first President of the New South Africa, Nelson Mandela, the world mourns a Great One, who served 27 years in a hellhole of a prison before his release in 1990 and his subsequent world tour promoting the end of the Apartheid government controlled by the minority white country.
However, Mandela was snubbed in Miami back then when he came to give a speech at the Miami Beach Convention Center, because he had supported Cuban Dictator Fidel Castro and other tyrants around the world. During his struggle for his nation’s independence from the colonial white regime, and there were extensive protests occurring around the world to end this discriminatory nightmare for the native Blacks in the country.
Further, Mandela pushed a philosophy of national reconciliation versus revenge and the peaceful transfer of government occurred, an amazing feat at the time that many people predicted would include a civil war and widespread bloodshed and killing. In addition, he set the ultimate example when he only served one term in the land’s highest office and he set the bar for all those presidents that would follow, a rare occurrence in many of the countries in the continent at the time.
In Miami and Dade County at the time, both County Mayor Stephen P. Clark and Miami Mayor Xavier Suarez, and Commissioner Victor de Yurre changed their minds. When it came to these leaders giving Mandela a official Proclamation and perhaps a Key to the City or County and members of the Cuban Exile community were in a uproar with his coming to the area, that so despised Castro and what his government stood for, including the extensive violence on its citizens. However, this blowing off Mandela at the time, resulted in a boycott of South Florida, an effort that was endorsed at the time by the NAACP, and it took years for the bad blood within the Cuban and Black community to subside. Including Miami Beach doing a deal to assist a Black entrepreneur, ultimately, Don Peeples, to own and run the Royal Palm Hotel on the Beach. http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/12/05/3800013/mandela-visit-to-miami-beach-sparked.html And the boycott only ended in 1993 after a Miami lame duck commission honored the man who had given so much of his life for the freedom of Blacks in South Africa.
>>> White House press release: The passing of Nelson Mandela: Thursday evening President Obama delivered a statement on the passing of former South African President and anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela. “We will not likely see the likes of Nelson Mandela again,” the President said. “So it falls to us as best we can to forward the example that he set: to make decisions guided not by hate, but by love; to never discount the difference that one person can make; to strive for a future that is worthy of his sacrifice.”
>>> Press release: Zogby Report Card: Outside events — Mandela, jobs — bolster Obama John Zogby’s Obama Weekly Report Card is Featured in Paul Bedard’s “Washington Secrets” Published weekly in The Washington Examiner Pollster John Zogby reports in our White House report card that President Obama had a good week, thanks to events that mostly went his way. “All in all not a bad week at all for President Obama. Opposition voices to his nuclear pre-deal with Iran were silent. It is now Israel and Congress against world and American-Jewish public opinion. Please click on the link below to view this week’s grade:
>>> With the Watchdog Report closing in on 15 years, I thank all of you that have supported the effort, not for the feint of heart in many ways, including financially surviving
When I started the Watchdog Report on May 5, 2000, I never imagined that almost 15 years later. I would still be at it, and I want to thank all of you and the organizations that have financially supported me over those years. Since I essentially am funded by the community and my readers. Moreover, to say it has been a strange fork in the road for someone, who came from the corporate world, to have started this effort is an understatement, and only in South Florida could I have pulled off a mainstream news service like the WDR. But given the colorful nature of our community and how so many of us love and create the drama, that would be good entertainment. If we were not overall such a poor community, with pockets of great wealth, yet other areas in major poverty, and why our limited public tax dollars should be spent wisely and with proper oversight and media attention.
In addition, it is my belief that government works more effectively when reported on, and why I have kept at this, for over the past almost 18 years. And the WDR or myself have impacted and saved easily some $100 million in public tax dollars over those years in some way, and it is the preventing of waste, fraud, and abuse and public corruption that has kept me out in the field and reporting back in a variety of venues, from the internet, to WLRN, to WPBT Channel 2 over the years.
>>> Gov. Scott challenges lack of jobs study in Miami Herald & Tampa Bay Times series with rebuttal of inaccuracies
Gov. Rick Scott and his repeated claim he has created hundreds of thousands of jobs in the state since he was sworn into office January 2011. The governor is mad as a hornets nest. After Steve Bousquet, the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times reporter in the Tallahassee Bureau did an extensive three-day story that pokes holes into that claim made by the get to work governor up for reelection in 2014. http://www.miamiherald.com/static/media/projects/2013/rick-scotts-jobs-record/part-1/ Scott has made new jobs his mantra since taking office and daily press releases to that fact or news articles makes this issue a salient claim to review. However, the former healthcare executive before winning the office has already sent out a response to the article that he claims is full of inaccuracies.
Scott will likely face former GOP Gov. Charlie Crist now a Democrat in the race if Crist gets through the primary where state Sen. Nan Rich, D-Weston was first to announce her candidacy but does not have the statewide profile of Crist or Scott. However, this series on Scott’s claims about jobs created is sure to cause a stir in state political circles and parts of the series will likely make its way into the upcoming campaign, expected to be very nasty with the governor hoping to have $100 million in his campaign war chest. And the week already started bad for Scott after his chief of staff got caught in a resume enhancement gaffe over the week http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/12/06/3802497/governors-chief-of-staff-admits.html when the man admitted he did not graduate from the university he had claimed he did.
However, the Crist campaign has suffered a setback itself when his high profile campaign manager resigned suddenly last week as well, http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/12/03/3795128/charlie-crists-new-campaign-manager.html and while Crist wins races, where there is clear sailing and a weak opponent. He has a harder time when he faces a tough race, like in 2010 when he ran as an independent party candidate for the U.S. Senate, that ultimately was won by now Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. In addition, below is the Scott statement on the analysis by the press.
Scott, and Christ
>>> Press release: SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT (Version 2) Governor Scott’s Strong Record of Economic Growth Detailed, RE: Tampa Bay Times’ Story
“In the four years before Governor Scott took office, hundreds of thousands of jobs had been lost. Since the Governor took office, hundreds of thousands of jobs have been created. Under Governor Scott, companies are choosing to move to Florida from other states, reversing years when Florida was considered uncompetitive for job creation projects. There is no doubt that Governor Scott’s job creation policies are working. But, there is still more work to be done to develop an opportunity economy that creates jobs for generations to come.” – Melissa Sellers, Communications Director, Governor Rick Scott
MYTH: “Of the jobs Scott can influence most, only a fraction now exist.” FACT: The Tampa Bay Times’ statement ignores the many state economic policies that support economic growth beyond just those companies who compete for state incentive funds. Economic policies including tax cuts, and repealing burdensome regulations contribute to increased business investment and job creation. Florida added more jobs in the month of October than any other state in the country. The state’s addition of more than 440,000 new private sector jobs under Governor Scott stands in sharp contrast to the more than 800,000 jobs lost in the four years before Governor Scott took office. CEO Magazine now ranks Florida #2 in the nation for job creation, up from #6 in 2010, before the Governor took office.
MYTH: “The total number of new jobs Scott ultimately might deliver doesn’t offset the jobs lost at companies with more than 100 workers in the same time period.”
FACT: The Tampa Bay Times fails to acknowledge the creation of 440,000 private sector jobs under Governor Scott, and incorrectly makes an apples-to-apples comparison between job gains through incentive deals with a select group of companies who adjusted their employment for any reason whatsoever over the same time.
MYTH: “The jobs outlook isn’t better in Tampa Bay, where Scott inked deals to create 7,251 jobs in exchange for $39 million in tax breaks. Jobs created to date: 462.” FACT: The Tampa Bay Times fails to report that many of these projects have timelines from five to 10 years. Governor Scott has only been in office for about three years, leaving many years for companies to meet their legally binding job creation/capital investment goals.
MYTH: “Two years after Scott agreed to spend $250,000 renovating a Kissimmee warehouse for Colt’s Manufacturing Company, the building sits empty.”
FACT: The Tampa Bay Times fails to include that under Colt’s agreement with the state, the company’s jobs are not due until the end of calendar year 2013.
CLAIM: “Nearly a year after Scott hailed news of 350 jobs at a sawmill in struggling Suwannee County, construction is just beginning.” FACT: The Tampa Bay Times fails to report that this company is facing delays at their construction site due to naturally occurring sinkholes. FACT: Additionally, the jobs for this project are not contractually due to the state until the end of calendar year 2013 and 2014.
MYTH: “For hundreds of other projects, the state website that tracks jobs data, Floridajobs.org, shows the same number of jobs created during Scott’s tenure: 0.”
FACT: The Tampa Bay Times fails to report that each of the projects listed on the economic development portal have their own timeline for job creation/capital investment. Many company timelines average around five to 10 years, and Governor Scott has only been in office for about three years – leaving many years left for companies to meet their legally binding job creation requirements with the state.
CLAIM: “For example, Bi-Lo Holdings, corporate parent of the Winn-Dixie grocery chain, stands to get $3.6 million in incentives to keep its headquarters in Jacksonville and create 100 new jobs over 11 years. That’s a $36,000 bonus for every job created, the highest cost per job of any incentive deal during Scott’s term, according to the Times and Herald analysis. State officials say the figure is so high because Bi-Lo also agreed to retain 891 existing jobs at an average salary of $81,000 and make $81 million in capital investments. The state and Bi-Lo struck the deal on June 1, 2012, but 18 months later, the state confirms zero Bi-Lo jobs.” FACT: The Tampa Bay Times fails to report that Bi-Lo’s agreement has already retained 891 jobs and the company’s new jobs are not due under their agreement until the end of calendar year 2013. FACT: The Tampa Bay Times incorrectly reports that the per-job incentive total is “$36,000.” It is, in fact, $3,633.
MYTH: “Evolution promises to hire 40 people over the next two years — salesmen, mechanics, accountants — with an average salary of $40,000. The company is starting small, with a sales center in a small building. The state lists no jobs created yet.” FACT: The Tampa Bay Times fails to report that the jobs under the agreement for this project are not due until the end of calendar year 2013.
MYTH: “Home Source, a maker of furniture, lighting and textile products, plans to employ 303 people at an average wage of $14 an hour in a region desperate for jobs. Scott approved $1.4 million in immediate incentives in May 2012 that paid for improvements to the building, but the jobs are slow in coming: the company says 23 so far.” FACT: The Tampa Bay Times fails to report that the jobs for this project under their agreement are not due until the end of 2013. Additionally, these incentive funds under the agreement go to the local government to reimburse the cost of the facility renovations.
MYTH: “He has offered tax breaks and incentives for a Sam’s Club discount store in St. Petersburg, a Miami-Dade Walmart…” FACT: The Tampa Bay Times fails to report that the Brownfield incentive focuses on the redevelopment of blighted site and is not dependent on wage requirements like most other incentives.
MYTH: “Navy Federal Credit Union plans 1,500 jobs in Pensacola by the same year.” FACT: The Tampa Bay Times fails to report that Navy Federal’s 2012 project is more than a year ahead of schedule in their job creation requirements. They have retained 1,944 people, created 140 net new jobs, and also purchased land at more than $3.75 million for a portion of their capital investment requirements.
MYTH: “A $280,000 sales tax refund for DTW covers the moving costs of all 40 employees, Statile said. The incentive was a factor, but so were Florida’s lack of a state personal income tax and the island’s proximity to the ocean.” FACT: Pam Statile, President, dtw Marketing Research Group, Inc. said, “A number of factors went into our decision to move to FL, including the business friendliness of the state, the absence of income tax, the weather, the ocean, the labor pool, AND the tax refund incentive. We never intended to move 40 employees and will not, the balance between those who have moved (14 employees) would be new, local hires. We do not look at the incentive as a cost offset to our moving employees, I’m not even sure the maximum incentive will cover the cost of relocation.”
>>> GOVERNOR SCOTT HONORS NELSON MANDELA WITH FLAGS AT HALF-STAFF
Press release: Governor Rick Scott, in honor of the memory of former South African President Nelson Mandela, directed the flags of the United States and the State of Florida to be flown at half-staff at all local, state, and federal buildings, installations, and grounds throughout the State of Florida. The flags shall be lowered immediately and remain at half-staff until sunset, Monday, December 9, 2013.
Governor Scott said, “Today, Ann and I honor South African President Nelson Mandela. His work to bring equality to his country is one of the greatest human rights movements the world has ever seen. President Mandela’s legacy is apparent today all across the world. I join every Floridian as we honor this great man and offer President Mandela’s family, and South Africa, our condolences while they grieve his passing.”
>>> 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.
>>> 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.
>>> Soccer Super Star Beckham might consider registering as county lobbyist, in his quest for soccer team stadium location
While soccer Super Star David Beckham has been shopping around for a soccer team and stadium somewhere in Miami-Dade and has had discussions with Mayor Carlos Gimenez and other county officials. Beckman has apparently failed to register as a county lobbyist through Sunday http://www.miamidade.gov/govaction/lbRegLob.asp on the matter and while he is not expected to know the local rules. Whoever, is advising him needs to correct this matter unless Beckham decides to retire into the background, but if he decides to be the front man for the effort. He will also have to register and take an extensive ethics course of what is, and is not allowed in the state’s largest county when it comes to lobbying activities. http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/11/26/3780446/beckham-group-consider-soccer.html
Beckham, who is idolized in the soccer world and moves around with an entourage, may also find getting any public funding for such a venue is a tough sale. After the Miami Marlins Stadium fiasco, that finances out to around $2.5 billion through the life of the public bonds.
What about George Burgess?
Former Miami-Dade Manager George Burgess who was the county’s point man for the financing of the professional baseball team’s new stadium when he was in office, and only resigned after Mayor Carlos Alvarez was recalled from office in the spring of 2011. The man has branched out into lobbying at the prominent law firm he originally joined as the business manager, earlier in the year after the lobbyist ban no longer applied to him. He has since filed to lobby for five firms at Miami-Dade, but the Watchdog Report has yet to see him at his old stomping grounds, the Steven P. Clark Government Center. The former finance maven is representing Cherryroad Technologies, Inc., to Tower Road Gardens, Ltd. To name two of the firms he now lobbies for state’s the county’s lobbyist registration webpage.
>>> IG selection committee to review nominee Cagle’s extensive background check this week, name should go to BCC Dec. 17th for conformation
The Miami-Dade County Inspector General Selection Committee will be meeting Tuesday to review the extensive background check of Mary Cagle, selected to be the committee’s nominee for the post to the Miami-Dade County Commission that is expected to vote on the candidate Dec. 17. The five member selection committee is chaired by long serving Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle and Cagle spent over two decades in the state attorney’s office, rising to top posts, before taking a variety of other positions including running CHARLEE and being a lead attorney for the Florida Department of Children and Family.
Cagle was selected after a national search and extensive interviews of a host of finalist candidates and she was deemed the best fit for the pressure cooker job. Past Watchdog Report’s have covered the past deliberations and her credentials and I have talked to some three dozen people since September and they all spoke highly of the woman and former senior assistant state attorney. These people all believe she is her “own woman,” had the right temperament for the job and to run the office that also is the nation’s fourth largest public schools district’s inspector general.
>>> And to review all the Miami-Dade County Commissioners financial disclosure forms for the year go to http://public.ethics.state.fl.us/results.cfm?org_id=214439&suborg_id=233972&Mode=By_SubOrg
>>> GMCVB press release: DEMAND FOR TRAVEL TO GREATER MIAMI & THE BEACHES REMAINS STRONG JANUARY – OCTOBER 2013 RANKING #4 IN REVENUE PER AVAILABLE ROOM (REVPAR), #4 IN AVERAGE DAILY ROOM RATE (ADR) AND #5 IN HOTEL ROOM OCCUPANCY AMONG THE TOP 25 U.S. MARKETS
January -October 2013
|Revenue Per Available Room (RevPAR)|
|Market||Rate||% Change vs. 2012|
|1. New York||$213.86||6.2%|
|2. Oahu Island||$176.13||13.9%|
|3. San Francisco||$160.10||11.6%|
|Average Daily Room Rate (ADR)|
|Market||Rate||% Change vs. 2012|
|1. New York||$252.28||4.0%|
|2. Oahu Island||$208.00||14.6%|
|3. San Francisco||$189.52||8.5%|
|Average Daily Occupancy|
|Market||% Occupancy||% Change vs. 2012|
|1. New York||84.8%||2.1%|
|2. Oahu Island||84.7%||-0.6%|
|3. San Francisco||84.5%||2.9%|
|4. Los Angeles||78.3%||1.7%|
MIAMI-DADE COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS
>>> Board Member Regalado annoyed Doral Academy Charter School discussion delayed, says Atty’s always have an excuse, “the dog ate my homework
The discussion of the controversial audit of the Doral Academy Charter School was a contentious affair Tuesday at the Miami-Dade Public Schools Audit and Budget Advisory Committee meeting, and the committee in a divided vote. The voting members granted a delay when it came to discussing the controversial audit of the organization as was reported in last week’s Watchdog Report and later in http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/12/03/3795275/charter-schools-400000-grant-to.html. The Charter School’s attorney argued that the audit report was “picking and choosing the facts” that benefited them and it would be “more beneficial to sit down with the attorney’s,” hired by the school district. Since she believed, they were “not understanding the issues.” However, the District’s auditor told the committee he stood by the audit and “The findings will remain as they are,” even if discussed later. The District’s Chief Auditor Jose F. Montes de Oca told audit committee members, and the six school board members attending the meeting.
However, later after the matter was tabled to a later audit committee in January, School Board Member Raquel Regalado, a non-voting member of the committee said she disagreed with the delay of hearing the Doral Charter School issue and that ultimately it was the school board members, “Constitutional Officers,” that would ultimately have to deal with the matter. She noted back in January when the critical audit first came to light that representatives of the charter school and Academica, the organization that manages the school. They asked for a delay back then because of the “approaching March FCAT,” exams and now this second delay request she said. “My concern is the establishment of a precedent,” and the audit “did not come out of nowhere.” The board member, an attorney, also said lawyers are “always asking to delay,” a hearing and as a “defense attorney,” in her career. She thought this request based on a short notice was like saying, “a dog ate my homework.” Moreover, that creation of a precedent was her only concern about granting the delay, she said. To read the Doral Academy audit go to http://mca.dadeschools.net/AuditCommittee/AC_December_2013/item5.pdf
What about the new audit committee member?
School Board vice Chair Lawrence Feldman, Ph.D. has named Marian L. Hasty as his new appointee on the ten-member audit committee. She is an estate planning, probate and marital family law attorney and practices in Coral Gables. Hasty has a B.S. degree from Florida State University, and a MBA and Law Degree from the University of Miami. The Watchdog Report wishes her luck on this new important volunteer oversight board, that is the community firewall for the District’s $4.3 billion yearly budget, and how that money is spent and accounted for.
CITY OF MIAMI
>>> Mayor Regalado says riff in Cuban exile community with Mandela, long over after the iconic leader met with a host of Cuban dissidents
With the passing of Nelson Mandela, the South African’s controversial Miami connection is back in the news after the iconic leader was snubbed back in the early 1990s. When a Miami Key to the City of Miami and Proclamation was withdrawn by elected officials, who objected to Mandela being friendly with the Fidel Castro regime during his fight to end Apartheid in the nation that he eventually succeeded in accomplishing. However, the issue became a black eye for Miami and Dade County, led to an African American boycott of South Florida for a couple of years, and the boycott was the brainchild of H.T. Smith and the NAACP.
However, fast forward to Friday, when Mayor Tomas Regalado told the Watchdog Report when I asked about the incident and how local Cubans feel today about the man. Regalado said he is looked upon in a totally different light than decades ago, and the former journalist noted Mandela later had met with a host of Cuban dissidents. Some of whom were also Black and given what a champion for freedom and human dignity Mandela was, during the more recent decades. Many Cubans have changed their minds about him and they note the profound leadership and affect he had on the fledgling nation and later the oppressed people in other totalitarian countries around the globe, Regalado generally said. http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/12/05/3800013/mandela-visit-to-miami-beach-sparked.html
What about the new PAMM building on Bicentennial Park?
Mayor Tomas Regalado told the Watchdog Report after the opening of the Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) that “it is spectacular,” but the plagues of supporters he said does not represent the amount of money the city contributed to the project. Since Miami donated the precious waterfront land in Bicentennial Park, called Museum Park, where the building is located and the value of the land. In some ways is priceless, but Miami did not get the credit for this special land contribution he groused.
>>> Losing Candidate Dunn has another campaign report envelope to the Miami Clerk not postmarked, post office investigating the first instance
Richard Dunn, II, the losing candidate for the Miami District 5 seat on the dais cannot get a break apparently, when his campaign report required after the Nov. 19 runoff came into the Miami Clerk’s office on Monday, but once again. The envelope did not have the U.S. Postal Service postmark when it was mailed. This is the second time for Dunn that this has happened and the postal service investigators are already investigating an earlier submission sans the postmark, but now there is this second incident of an envelope not having a mailed date. For more on the earlier lack of postmark incident go to http://miamiherald.typepad.com/nakedpolitics/2013/11/city-postal-service-question-campaign-finance-report-filed-by-miami-commission-candidate.html
What about Commissioner Hardemon’s campaign report forms?
Miami Commissioner Keon Hardemon who decisively defeated Dunn got his final campaign reports in on time as required and the Clerk’s office and staff is reviewing the report.
What about Commissioner Suarez’s campaign reports?
Commissioner Francis Suarez who aborted his mayoral campaign against Mayor Tomas Regalado but raised some $1 million for the effort before a few missteps tanked his campaign. The young attorney still has some time before the final campaign reports are due and people are eagerly waiting to see how he distributed the money in the account. He is able to prorate any contributions and return the money to the contributors, or he can give the cash to a not-for-profit organization, but he will have to report how this money is distributed.
>>> Press release: Miami Home Health Company Owner and Recruiter
Sentenced for Role in $48 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme ~ A patient recruiter of a Miami health care company was sentenced to serve 108 months in prison today for his participation in a $48 million home health Medicare fraud scheme.
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, Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Steinbach 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 made the announcement. Emilio Amador, 46, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Federico A. Moreno in the Southern District of Florida. In addition to his prison term, Amador was sentenced to serve three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $24 million in restitution, jointly and severally with co-defendants…
In September 2013, Amador pleaded guilty before Judge Moreno to one count of conspiring to receive health care kickbacks and two counts of receiving health care kickbacks. According to court documents, Amador was a patient recruiter who worked for Caring Nurse Home Health Care Corp., a Miami home health care agency that purported to provide home health and therapy services to Medicare beneficiaries. From approximately January 2006 through June 2011, Amador would recruit patients for Caring Nurse, and in doing so would solicit and receive kickbacks and bribes from the owners and operators of Caring Nurse in return for allowing Caring Nurse to bill the Medicare program on behalf of the patients Amador had recruited. These Medicare beneficiaries were billed for home health care and therapy services that were medically unnecessary and/or not provided. According to court documents, Amador also pleaded guilty to his involvement with fraudulent billings for Nation’s Best Care Home Health Corp. as relevant conduct. Amador was the owner, operator and president of Nation’s Best. The fraudulent billings for Nation’s Best totaled approximately $30 million.
In a related case, on Feb. 27, 2013, Rogelio Rodriguez, 44, and Raymond Aday, 49, the owners and operators of Caring Nurse and Good Quality, were sentenced to serve 108 and 51 months in prison, respectively. The sentencings followed their December 2012 guilty pleas to one count each of conspiracy to commit health care fraud charged in an October 2012 indictment, which alleged that from approximately January 2006 through June 2011, Caring Nurse and Good Quality submitted approximately $48 million in claims for home health services that were not medically necessary and/or not provided. Medicare paid approximately $33 million for those fraudulent claims. >>> The case was investigated by the FBI and HHS-OIG and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under the supervision of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant Chief Joseph S. Beemsterboer of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. Since their inception in March 2007, Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations in nine locations have charged more than 1,700 defendants who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for more than $5.5 billion. In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the 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.
VILLAGE OF COCONUT GROVE
>>> Will Grove Isle get new tower, one condominium losing ocean views as resident anger erupts at lack of early information about the project
Some Grove Isle residents are angry and trying to figure out a way to modify a planned new condominium tower that will obscure the ocean views for one of the existing condominiums, but not for the other two buildings on the sprawling site, completed decades ago with tennis courts and a marina. Multiple residents about the issue have contacted the Watchdog Report over the last few weeks. After the scope of the project became known and one unit owner even went to city hall and talked with Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado and Commission Chair Marc Sarnoff’s Chief of Staff Ron Nelson about the matter. The affected residents were only recently made aware of the issue, but for those owners that will lose their million dollar view, it is a big deal and will affect the value of they’re current unit.
It is unknown at this time if the project will need to go in front of the Zoning Board and Miami Commission before any approval is given since in the original project approvals years ago, a fourth building was included in the city’s approvals said one resident familiar with the matter.
>>> Clock is ticking on getting deal done in time for Coconut Grove Playhouse, BCC must approve new document on Dec. 17
With the clock ticking and multiple attorneys trying to put the finishing touches on any agreements to conclude the Coconut Grove Playhouse deal so that the document will be in front of the Miami-Dade County Commission Dec. 17 to vote on the agreement. The only real question concerning the iconic historic structure at this point is will all the paperwork and approvals be done in time to make the two deadlines and readers should stay tuned to see if the deal ultimately pans out in time. For more on the Playhouse see past WDR stories below.
>>> PAST WDR: Aries may agree to drop liens against Grove Playhouse, but could get bicycle shop free and clear, says Falsetto
Gino Falsetto, the lead investor of Aries Development Group that has liens against the Coconut Grove Playhouse told the Watchdog Report last week that he has agreed to drop any legal claims on the iconic Playhouse, in exchange to getting the bicycle shop free and clear of any legal entanglements. In addition, Aries is one of the major creditors that has liens on the Historic Theater that must be resolved before any new agreement is considered by the county commission on Dec. 17. Aries had claimed they were owed $2 million, which is in dispute, from the Playhouse, of which some $1.28 million involved the bicycle shop building adjacent to the Playhouse, but the County Mayor Carlos Gimenez months ago only offered $250,000 and that offer was rejected. The Watchdog Report contacted Michael Spring, the County’s representative working on the deal last week to confirm this aspect of the deal, but my deadline I had not received an answer confirming Falsetto’s comments on the Playhouse deal.
>>> PAST WDR: With Dec. 17, BCC deadline looming, deal to resolve liabilities of Coconut Grove Playhouse must be completed by “middle of Dec.,” says County Cultural Affairs Dir. Spring
Michael Spring, the Miami-Dade County Director of Cultural Affairs updated the County’s Cultural Affairs Council made up of citizens on Wednesday concerning the ongoing negotiations concerning the Coconut Grove Playhouse, shuttered in 2006, and its possible future opening. Spring has been working on reopening the Playhouse for years, but the county recently had to get an agreement with Florida International University, because the state, which had controlled the property, agreed to let the university handle the issue. Since then FIU and Miami-Dade County came to a mutual agreement where once all the liens were resolved in the future. Gables Stage would run the facility after it had been renovated and improved upon, and any deal will probable contain a future-parking garage.
However, since the agreement with the county and FIU was signed Oct. 15, there is a new deadline that “is a race,” said Spring and the new deadline is to get the liens and other legal matters done soon for the item has to be in front of the full Miami-Dade County Commission by Dec. 17 for the board’s approval. Since the final deal must be done by, Jan 15 to meet state demands that transferred the property initially to FIU. Spring said in past talks there with the city there “has been a tremendous amount of cooperation,” with Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff to “eliminate all the encumbrances by the mid January,” deadline he said. The cultural arts maven notes the city of Miami has the “largest fines” issued by code enforcement (though the code enforcement board just voted “to eliminate all the fines,” and would also include an agreement with the Miami Parking Authority and Spring hopes to have an agreement in place with MPA by “the middle of December). The director also noted that Aries Development, a significant creditor in an “agreement in concept [the deal would be for Aries] to remove any mention of the Bicycle property,” which is in litigation, and they “would get the bicycle shop property,” but there would be “no reference of [liens on] the Playhouse Property,” said Spring.
The county is the only source for funding to rehabilitate the ageing historic structure, that since closed, has been vandalized multiple times. Miami-Dade has $20 million from two separate sources for this activity, but Mayor Carlos Gimenez in taking on this task of getting the theater open, he has always insisted it must run in the black on its own. Lisa M. Martinez, senior advisor to Gimenez told the Council that “whatever way this is resolved” it “has to be sustainable and that is important to the mayor,” she said. Spring also noted that if the deal does not happen by the deadlines as far as resolving the liens and other legal issues, which include “two small creditors,” as well. “All bets are off, and everyone goes their own way. Because whatever Playhouse deal that is concluded. The agreement and liens have to be “resolved to the satisfaction of the title companies,” said the director. Moreover, when it comes to any “subleasing,” on the property, that activity cannot be done “without [Florida] Cabinet approval” and there is a “clear intention of a parking garage,” if a deal is finalized on the large Playhouse site, said Spring. Here is a past story on the Playhouse http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/08/20/3575317/plan-to-reopen-historic-coconut.html
CITY OF HIALEAH
>>> Three Defendants Indicted for Alien Smuggling, Extortion and Kidnapping Conspiracy
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 Alysa D. Erichs, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI), Miami Field Office, announce the return of a Grand Jury Indictment in United States v. Lazo et al., Case No. 13-20871-Cr-Lenard, against Eliezer Lazo, 40, formerly of Miami Lakes, Joel Martinez Hernandez, 37, formerly of unincorporated Dade, and Yilian Hernandez, 30, of Hialeah. The Indictment, unsealed today, alleges that Lazo and Martinez Hernandez conspired to bring certain aliens into the United States, in violation of Title 8, United States Code, Section 1324(a)(1)(A)(v)(I), and that Lazo, Martinez Hernandez and Yilian Hernandez conspired to commit hostage taking, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1203(a), and conspired to extort, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1951(a).
The government is also seeking forfeiture of the defendants’ interests and title to all property in a lawsuit related to Estrellas del Beisbol and a bank account belonging to that company, as well as forfeiture of the defendants’ interests in contracts with 13 other individuals. Yilian Hernandez was arrested this morning in Miami-Dade County and will have her initial appearance tomorrow, December 5, 2013 at 2:00 p.m. before U.S. Magistrate Judge Edwin Torres. Lazo and Martinez Hernandez are currently in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons, serving sentences for other offenses. The United States has begun the process of having Lazo and Martinez Hernandez returned to Miami to face the new charges. If convicted, the defendants face a maximum term of life in prison. >>> An indictment is only an accusation and the defendants are 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.
CITY OF MIAMI GARDENS
>>> Press release: Councilman Ighodaro is proud to announce that the City of Miami Gardens will join with Mt. Zion A.M.E. Church’s 5th Annual Stand Against Violence It’s Our Responsibility (S.A.V.I.O.R.) crime prevention rally, Saturday, December 14, 2013.
The event will start at 11:00 a.m., at Mt. Zion A.M.C. Church, 15250 NW 2nd Avenue, Miami Gardens, Florida. The march will commence at 2:00 p.m., at Mt. Zion A.M.E. Church, and end at Bunche Park, 15925 West Bunche Park Drive, with a candle light vigil and ceremony honoring the lives of those lost to violence in our community.
Councilman Ighodaro takes this opportunity to invite residents, business owners, and school representatives, to this community event. For additional information please contact: Elsa Thompson, Assistant to the Council at 305-622-8000 ext. 2705 or email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
CITY OF MIAMI BEACH
>>> Commission televising committee meetings sounds like an “interesting idea,” says Mayor Levine
The Miami Beach Commission is considering a resolution to put the mayor on the three and possible four commission committees as a voting member, and the mayor’s office would also determine the chair of the committee. Former Mayor David Dermer pushed the current committee structure back in the early 2000s and these meetings are held in a fourth floor conference room. Which is many times packed with residents and staff if it is a contentious issue and a better alternative, regardless of whether Mayor Philip Levine’s resolution passes, would be for the committee meetings to be held in the commission chambers and be televised.
The Watchdog Report has attended a large number of these committee meetings over the past 15 years and some have been quite contentious to say the least, and having these critical policy making meetings in the chambers would attenuate some of that periodic chaos and lack of decorum. For people tend to react different in a public setting like the commission chambers and commissioners would still be able to speak their mind and make they’re case on issues. However, with transparency in government being the flavor of the day and the new watchword for the tony municipality. Such a change in venue could prove to be a powerful change agent in keeping important issues in the Sunshine and help quell residents concerns about the integrity of their local government.
The Watchdog Report last week contacted Beach civic activist and retired attorney Frank Del Vecchio asking him for his opinion concerning the televising of the committee meetings and he wrote back by email. “Meetings of the city commission’s standing committees: Land Use, Neighborhoods, Finance, and Flood Impacts, should be either broadcast live or videotaped for later posting on the city’s website, available to all.” He writes “this was a recommendation made by the city’s ad hoc Transparency, Reliability and Accountability Committee (TRAC) four years ago, (of which I was a member), but rejected by the city commission at the time. The major hesitancy on the part of commissioners was that when a proceeding is broadcast, there is a tendency for those participating to play to the cameras. This may be so, but nonetheless it is in the best interests of transparency and accessibility to the public for those proceedings to be broadcast either live, or available later in video form,” wrote the long time observer of Miami Beach City Hall.
The Watchdog Report contacted Levine by email asking his thoughts on televising the committee meetings and he wrote back. “Sounds like an interesting idea! We are checking on it now,” wrote the newly elected mayor.
CITY OF CORAL GABLES
>>> Commissioner Keon tells civic group she is enjoying “service on commission,” notes when it comes to pensions, manager deals with bulk of the issues
Coral Gables Commission Pat Keon impressed the luncheon crowd on Monday when she spoke to a local business group that meets to discuss the City Beautiful and politics in general. An attendee, who noted two lobbyists, came to the luncheon to hear the newly minted commissioner in April. She said the commissioner; a political neophyte prior to her election was very “articulate,” spoke knowledgeable about a host of issues, including the issue of the city’s pension fund. Keon noted that when it came to pensions, it was the city’s manager that does the negotiations, not the commissioners though they ultimately get the heat from the public and do ultimately vote on any pension issues.
Further, Keon said she was energized and “enjoyed serving on the commission,” and being involved in public service. She is one of two new commissioners elected back in April and Commissioner Vincent Lago was the other freshman on the four-member commission plus Mayor Jim Cason on the dais.
CITY OF SOUTH MIAMI
>>> Mayor Stoddard gives his take on Commissioner Welsh being censured by commission, says some of controversy is “election season politics”
The South Miami Commission censured South Miami Commissioner Bob Welsh recently for his involvement in a controversial poster http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/12/06/3801691/mea-culpa-south-miami-commissioner.html and the Watchdog Report contacted Mayor Philip Stoddard last week about the matter and his take on the issue. Since he and Welsh are political allies on the dais in many matters.
In an email the mayor writes, “Only a clarification of fact. Commissioner Welsh created the poster but did not “publish” or distribute the poster as claimed by his opponents. He showed a copy to five people to gauge their response, and declined to distribute the poster at large after one person gave him feedback that she’d found it objectionable. The rest of the flap was just election season politics,” wrote Stoddard.
VILLAGE OF KEY BISCAYNE
>>> PUBLIC WORKS AND WASTE MANAGEMENT DEPARTMENT ANNOUNCES CLOSURE OF THE RICKENBACKER CAUSEWAY CUSTOMER SERVICE OFFICE AND PARKING FACILITY
Press release: In preparation for demolition and construction work on the West Bridge of the Rickenbacker Causeway, the toll plaza customer service office and parking facility will close on Wednesday, October 2, 2013 until completion of the work on the West Bridge. Motorists and cyclists will no longer be able to access the toll plaza parking lot from either direction, as this area will be used for equipment staging associated with the West Bridge rehabilitation project.
All toll plaza business will be conducted at the new Rickenbacker Causeway Customer Service Center, which will be housed in the Causeway Maintenance Facility located on Arthur Lamb Jr. Road (also known as Sewer Beach Road). The facility sits directly across the street from the Miami Seaquarium. The Customer Service Center will be open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. except County-observed holidays. For more information on the Customer Service Center, please contact PWWM’s Causeways Division at 305-854-2468, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
>>> OTHER STORIES AROUND FLORIDA
>>> Ft. Lauderdale Attorney Convicted of Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud,
Mail Fraud, and Money Laundering in Connection with $1 Billion MBC Fraud
Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Michael B. Steinbach, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, announce that a Miami federal jury convicted local attorney Anthony Livoti, Jr. of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and mail fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. Sections 1349, 1956(h), and 1341, respectively, after nearly a three-month trial before U.S. District Robert N. Scola.
The verdict was the result of Livoti’s participation in a scheme to defraud approximately 30,000 victims who invested in the viatical and life settlement company Mutual Benefits Corp. (MBC). The Indictment alleged that Livoti and others, including Steven Steiner a/k/a Steven Steinger, and Michael McNerney, raised more than $1.25 billion from these investor-victims before being shut down by federal regulators in May 2004. Livoti is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Scola on February 21, 2014, at 8:30 a.m.
According to the evidence presented at trial, from approximately 1994 to May 2004, MBC purchased life insurance policies from the elderly, as well as persons suffering from AIDS and chronically ill. Thereafter, MBC sold fractionalized interests in insurance policy death benefits, known as “viatical settlements,” to approximately 30,000 investorv-victims. MBC told investors that its viatical settlements offered a fixed rate of return with low risk, and that investors’ principal and returns were paid by the insurance companies. Evidence presented at trial established that MBC misrepresented many important facts relating to its viatical settlements, including, for example, the estimated life expectancies of the insured persons, MBC’s fraudulent methods used to acquire life insurance policies, the risks associated with certain policies, the payment of premiums, and the source of funds used to pay investors.
Defendant Anthony Livoti, Jr., an attorney licensed by the State of Florida, was MBC’s premium trustee, and as a result was entrusted with millions of dollars of investor money placed in bank accounts under his control. Livoti was also the designated “trustee” of thousands of the insurance policies sold by MBC. Evidence showed that Livoti assisted MBC with the marketing of its fraudulent investment by meeting with investors in his Fort Lauderdale law office and encouraging them to purchase MBC investments.
Witnesses testified that new investor money was regularly used to pay premiums on life insurance policies purchased by earlier investors and to pay investors who requested their money back. In Ponzi-like fashion, Livoti and his co-conspirators were using new investor money to pay for earlier investor obligations. As the fraud continued, eventually investor money was required to prevent the MBC Ponzi from collapsing. Ultimately, investors lost more than $750 million.
Evidence at trial also showed that co-defendant Joel Steinger was the principal executive in charge of most major decisions made at MBC. Steinger’s trial in this case is currently set to begin April 2, 2014 before Judge Scola. Defendant Steven Steiner, Joel Steinger’s brother, was also a founding principal of MBC, actively involved in MBC’s sales staff, and encouraged investors to buy MBC’s investments. On September 3, 2013, Steiner pled guilty to charges in this Indictment. His sentencing is set for December 16, 2013. Steiner was also found guilty by a federal jury in a related case, United States v. Steven Steiner, Case No. 11-20578-Cr-Williams. On August 16, 2013, U.S. District Judge Kathleen M. Williams sentenced defendant Steven Steiner to 15 years in prison in connection with money laundering and obstruction of justice related to the use and concealment of more than $15 million dollars in proceeds derived from the MBC fraud.
Michael McNerney pled guilty in this case and was sentenced to five years in prison for his criminal conduct. McNerney, an attorney licensed by the State of Florida, assisted MBC with the marketing of its fraudulent investment by meeting with investors in his Fort Lauderdale law offices and encouraging them to purchase MBC investments. U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer stated, “For nearly ten years, Anthony Livoti, Jr. used the prestige of his law license to further this massive, multi-million dollar fraud scheme. It is outrageous that an attorney would prey on investors by promising them their money was safe and secure when in reality he was misappropriating their funds.”
“This is another case of an attorney who instead of doing the right thing was motivated by his personal greed and assisted in defrauding thousands of investors out of hundreds of millions of dollars,” said William J. Maddalena, Assistant Special Agent in Charge, FBI Miami. “An important part of the FBI’s mission is to investigate such financial frauds and hold perpetrators accountable, regardless of how elaborate or complex their scheme is.” Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI and the Miami Regional Office of the Securities and Exchange Commission, which previously brought a civil action against MBC and its principals. This case was tried by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Karen Rochlin and Roger Cruz. 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.
>>> Residents can review they’re county commissioners financial disclosure forms on line — Residents of Broward County can now review they’re county commissioners financial disclosure forms on line and to see the inner financial workings of these elected officials go to http://public.ethics.state.fl.us/results.cfm
>>> Thank you for using the Broward County Commission Agenda E-mail Notification System. A new Broward County Commission Agenda is available. Point your browser to http://www.broward.org/commission/welcome.htm to view the new agenda.
PALM BEACH COUNTY
>>> And to read all the Palm Beach elected leader’s financial disclosure reports go to http://public.ethics.state.fl.us/results.cfm
>>> Gov. Scott taps Arthur “Chip” Diehl III to Hillsborough Community College District Board of Trustees.
Press release: Diehl, 60, of Tampa, is the managing director at Diehl Associates and a retired Brigadier General with the United States Air Force. He is a member of the Florida Defense Support Task Force and the vice president of Tampa Bay Defense Alliance. Diehl received his bachelor’s degree from the United States Air Force Academy and his master’s degree from the University of Southern California. He fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term beginning December 5, 2013, and ending May 31, 2017. The appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.
>>> Gov. Scott named Michael A. Moran to the Governing Board of the Southwest Florida Water Management District.
Press release: Moran, 44, of Sarasota, is the president of Insurance & Benefits Consultants. He currently serves as a Sarasota County Planning Commissioner. Moran received his bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University. He fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term beginning December 5, 2013, and ending March 1, 2015. The appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.
>>> Press release: Gov. Scott taps Richard B. Davis, Jr. to the County Court.
Davis, 68, has practiced law in North Florida since 1985. He served in the United States Army from 1967 – 1974, and served as an officer in the Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps from 1983 – 2005, attaining the rank of Colonel. Davis’ military service includes a tour as the State Judge Advocate for the Florida National Guard from 2003 – 2005, and as a military judge from 1989 – 2005. Davis served as Hamilton County Judge from 2004 – 2007. Davis received his bachelor’s degree from Taylor University and his law degree from Florida State University. He fills a vacancy created by the passing of Judge Johnny Hobbs.
Governor Rick Scott said, “I am confident that R.B. will serve the families of Bradford County with integrity and honesty. Throughout R.B.’s career, and during his military service, he has demonstrated the qualities that make for a great judge.”
>>> Florida Marine Life Dealers Sentenced for Illegal Wildlife Trafficking
Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Otha Easley, Acting Special Agent in Charge, NOAA Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement, and Edward Grace, Deputy Assistant Director U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement, announce that Eric Pedersen, 51, and Serdan Ercan, 43, both formerly of Grassy Key, were sentenced today in federal District Court in Key West for conspiring to harvest, transport, and sell wildlife, including Live Rock and attached invertebrates, sea fans, bonnethead sharks, lemon sharks, and nurse sharks, with a fair market value in excess of $350.00, knowing the marine life were taken, possessed, transported, sold, and intended to be sold in violation of the laws and regulations of the State of Florida, contrary to the federal Lacey Act, Title 16, United States Code, Sections 3372(a)(2)(A), (a)(4), 3373(d)(1) and (2), and Title 18, United States Code, Section 554, all in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371.
Pedersen was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Jose E. Martinez to 24 months in prison, followed by two years of supervised release and ordered to pay a fine of $10,000. Additionally, Pedersen was barred by the Court from any employment during his supervised release that involves the possession, display, transportation, exhibition, purchase, or sale of wildlife. Pedersen was also the subject of an Order of Forfeiture which forfeited the vessel used in perpetrating the illegal harvesting activities. Ercan received a sentence of one year and a day in prison, followed by one year of supervised release and a fine of $6,000.
According to the Indictment, Joint Factual Statements submitted to the Court, and arguments at sentencing, from approximately March 2012 through November 2012, Pedersen and Ercan engaged in a conspiracy to illegally harvest and market marine life from the Florida Keys to wholesalers throughout the United States and abroad through a business located on Grassy Key known as Key Marine, Inc… 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.
>>> And to read all the other Monroe County constitutional officers’ financial disclosure forms go to http://public.ethics.state.fl.us/results.cfm
>>> MAKE HOLIDAY GIFT-GIVING UNFORGETTABLE WITH GIFTS “OUTSIDE THE BOX” AT MIAMI-DADE COUNTY PARKS’ ONLINE “PARKSTORE”
Press release: Looking for “outside the box” holiday gifts for that special someone? The Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department has fun, health-minded and exhilarating adventure-packed gifts that they will remember for years to come at their online Parkstore. Visit Parkstore today at http://parkstore.miamidade.gov. You’ll find these exciting gift options for everyone on your gift-giving list and plenty more:
Specialty Tours at Local Attractions – Zoo Miami, Fruit & Spice Park and the Deering Estate at Cutler, Kayak Fishing, Canoe Adventures, South Florida Birding Tours, Trap/Skeet Rounds at Trail Glades Range, All-Inclusive Tennis, Golf and Soccer Packages, Annual Marina Boat Ramp Passes, Holiday Bay Cruise, Parks Foundation Holiday Special – Get $25 off the cost of a Parks Foundation Family Membership (regular price: $149) and enjoy a year of outdoor fun and attractions with your family. Benefits valued at over $600. Offer ends December 31, 2013. There’s also the option to ‘go green’ with “Adopt-A-Park” or “Adopt-A-Tree” packages, so your loved one can be part of a living legacy that they can enjoy for years to come.
All of these great non-traditional holiday gift options are just a click away at Miami-Dade County Parks’ Parkstore, by visiting http://parkstore.miamidade.gov. >>> Governor’s Sterling Award for excellence in management and operations, Miami-Dade County Parks is the third largest county park system in the United States, consisting of 260 parks and 12,825 acres of land. It is one of the most unique park and recreation systems in the world. Made up of more than just playgrounds and athletic fields, it also comprises out-of-school, sports-development, and summer-camp programs; programs for seniors and people with disabilities; educational nature centers and nature preserves; environmental restoration efforts; arts and culture programs and events; the renowned Zoo Miami and the Deering Estate at Cutler; the Crandon Tennis Center, home of the Sony Open; golf courses; beaches; marinas; campgrounds; pools; and more. For information www.miamidade.gov/parks/. For more information on the Parks Foundation, www.miamidade.gov/parks_foundation.
>>> King Mango Strut event – Don’t miss Our signature fundraising event Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013, 7:00 p.m., chance for some stuff” and silent auction
Coconut grove Sailing Club, 2990 S. Bayshore Dr., Coconut Grove, Grand prize: $4800 value, 8 day/7 night star clippers, Caribbean cruise for 2, And many, many more great, prizes And silent auction items. Music provided by Kevin Hurley
Food for sale, cash bar (King Mango Productions, Inc. aka the King Mango Strut
is a 501(C) (3) Non-Profit so your Donation can be Tax Deductible) and for more information go to www.kingmangostrut.org
>>> Miami Beach should televise its commission committee meetings; Mayor Levine rightly says “interesting idea”
While elected officials sometimes bristle when the press covers a public meeting or that it is televised, or at least audiotaped. In fact, the presence of television cameras or a member of the press inoculates these leaders to any charges they were doing something in the dark, that it was a nefarious meeting or a deal done out of the public eye. Moreover, I have made my living over the last 15 years going and writing about what our public institutions are doing, and the one thing I know is that allowing the Sunshine of transparency into these meetings is only a good thing.
Over the years the Watchdog Report has pounded certain public institutions relentlessly sometimes, because some organizations were not televising they’re board meetings. As was the case with the Public Health Trust years ago, or audio taping the County’s School Board Committee meetings, where from about 1997 to 2002. I have the only audio tapes of what was said at these school board public committee meetings. Where controversial land acquisition deals were done by the District back then and I would point out to people at the time that this lack of taping of the proceedings, was wrong from a good government standpoint. Because I was the only one with the taped public record, which seemed strange from an institutional memory standpoint and when Merritt Stierheim became superintendent back then. He along with board member support changed the policy and all the committee meetings now are either televised or audio taped and archived.
And in this spirit of transparency, the Miami Beach Mayor and Commission should really consider televising their three or four committee meetings a month for only good will come from that act over time. Moreover, while there is a natural inclination to resist televising public proceedings because some in the public might use it as a forum for their own agenda. Let’s be honest and note that politicians do the same thing every time they take their seats on the dais and the world does not come to a stop. The tony Beach, a city that acts much bigger than it is when it comes to the problems and the challenges it faces, should televise these committee meetings. For elected leaders might get a surprise benefit, the public and taxpayers might trust you more in the years to come, and that is definitely a good thing.
>>> I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I am thankful that you have stayed true to all of us and continue to be our watchdog. It is an honor to support and call you a friend. Thank you for your gracious note.
>>> Your efforts are MUCH appreciated!
>>> 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
CHAPMAN PARTNERSHIP FOR HOMELESS www.chapmanpartnership.org
FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY www.fiu.edu
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
MIAMI-DADE COLLEGE www.mdc.edu
MIAMI-DADE COUNTY INSPECTOR GENERAL www.miamidade.gov/ig
MIAMI-DADE PUBLIC SCHOOLS BOARD www.dadeschools.net
MIAMI-DADE PUBLIC SCHOOLS www.dadeschools.net
MIAMI DOWNTOWN DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY www.miamidda.com
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 14th 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 800 reports and Extra’s have been sent since May 5, 2000 and over two million words have been written on our community’s governments and events. The report is an original work based on information gathered at public meetings, interviews and from documents in the public domain.
I welcome letters via e-mail, fax, or snail mail. Letters may be edited for length or clarity and must refer to material published in the Watchdog Report. Please see address and contact information. Please send any additions and corrections by e-mail, fax or snail mail. All corrections will be published in the next Watchdog Report. If you or your organization would like to publish the contents of this newsletter, please contact me. Please send your request to email@example.com
Daniel A. Ricker
Publisher & Editor
Watchdog Report www.watchdogreport.net
Copyright © of original material, 2013, Daniel A. Ricker
>>> The Watchdog Report are now available to television stations web pages, and all the newspapers and other media in South Florida if the publishers have an interest to run part or all of the stories. Further, in 2000, I used to have some paper’s running the report in the Spanish press, that option is available again, and publishers should contact me. The news content will not be free, but you can pick and chose the stories of interest, edit them if necessary but you must still keep the general story intact. If you are a news outlet and would like to learn more about, the Watchdog Report and this offer contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for further information. >>> Here is what past newspapers have written about the Watchdog Report publisher including a survey and regional study done by the U. North Carolina at Chapel Hill on the media in the southeast United States.
>>> The Miami Herald and Orlando Sentinel & Sun-Sentinel articles on the Watchdog Report publisher over the years. >>> Published on September 9, 1999, Page 1EA, Miami Herald, The (FL) CITIZEN ADVOCATE’ KEEPS TABS ON POLITICIANS >>> Published on January 3, 2000, Page 1B, Miami Herald, The (FL) MIAMI-DADE WATCHDOG WILL BE MISSED >>> >>> To read the full section large two page front page story, but without the photos and smart box graphics, go to: `I Go When You Cannot’ – Sun Sentinel 20 Jan 2003 … Sometimes Dan Ricker lives in the dark so others may live in the light. … to his weekly Watchdog Report have finally mailed their checks. … http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2003-01-20/news/0301190341_1_ricker-school-board-president-miami-s-first-cuban-american >>>Watchdog Report publisher named ‘Best Citizen’ 2003 by the Miami New Times —The publisher would like to thank the weekly alternative paper Miami New Times for bestowing their 2003 Best of Miami, ‘Best Citizen’ award to me and I am honored. Thank you. To read the full story go to http://www.miaminewtimes.com/issues/2003-05-15/citylife2.html/1/index.html
From the spring of 2003: U. North Carolina, Chapel Hill: Southeast U.S. Media Report lists Watchdog Report publisher as leading Florida commentator >>> Selected excerpts from the report on Florida’s media sources. Those who do read the newspaper in Florida have a bevy of options for state government and political coverage. The dominant newspapers in the state are Knight-Ridder’s The Miami Herald (Acquired by The McClatchy Company in 2006) and the Poynter Institute’s St. Petersburg Times. Both papers endorsed Gore in 2000 but split on the 2002 gubernatorial race, with the Herald endorsing Republican incumbent Jeb Bush and the Times backing Democratic challenger Bill McBride. Daniel Ricker of The Miami Herald also writes an influential column as well as an email newsletter called the Watchdog Report that goes out to more than 100,000 subscribers. FEBRUARY 2004 – Florida: Columnists in Abundance –ERIC GAUTSCHI, graduate student, School of Journalism & Mass Communication, UNC-Chapel Hill – D) LEADING COMMENTATORS – Resource Commentator Organization Type Web site –Steve Bousquet St. Petersburg Times Column www.sptimes.com/columns/bousquet.shtml -“First Friday” WPBT TV (Miami) TV Show www.channel2.org/firstfriday/issues.html –Lucy Morgan St. Petersburg Times Column www.sptimes.com/columns/morgan.shtml –Daniel Ricker Miami Herald/Watchdog Report Newsletter >>> Readers who would like to read the complete University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill Southeast United States Media Report go to view the complete report or download all the data used in this study. >>> Watchdog Report Editor’s note to the NCU/CH study: The subscriber number referenced is incorrect and applies to readership.