Argus Report: Congress strikes bipartisan budget deal, but liberals and conservatives howl, though President Obama says pass legislation, will sign it
Obituary: Defense rests, Atty. Sharpstein passes, shock and leaving friends and peers in mourning
Florida: State Rep. Fresen gets dressed down by Fla. Ethics Commission for old unpaid $1,500 fine back in 2003, already faces challengers in 2014 — 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: IG nominee Cagle goes to BCC for confirmation vote Tuesday, highly regarded by all, only blemish five benign traffic violations since 1998
Miami-Dade Public Schools: Nation’s fourth largest School District outperforms state graduation rates
Public Health Trust: CEO Migoya carps to Mayor Gimenez that elimination of 5% contribution by employees will push JHS into the red to the tune of $8 million, versus $12 million surplus in approved budget for year
City of Miami: Newly minted Commissioner Hardemon gets an eyeful at Thursday’s meeting, Sarnoff challenges local blogger Crespo to get into a boxing ring with him
Village of Coconut Grove: Grove Isle new development said to be townhouses, not another large condominium that would block views of one condominium
City of Miami Gardens: Police Chief Boyd retires after convenience store tapes show cops being overly aggressive arresting patrons
City of Miami Beach: New lion tamer on commission, Mayor Levine runs crisp, respectful commission meeting, will this be a new day for civility on the body?
City of North Miami: Former Mayor Pierre gets Letter of Instruction from County Ethics commission, will pay almost $7,000 fine
City of Coral Gables: Commissioner Keon said “manager” negotiates labor contracts, and elected body only gives a thumbs up or down to contracts
Town of Miami Lakes: Former CEO of Miami Lakes Tax Preparation Business Pleads Guilty to Structuring Scheme
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: PA Parrish goes to court for more money from county commission, age old controversial battle in Broward
Palm Beach County: Loxahatchee Pair Plead Guilty to Government Benefit Fraud Charges — Residents can review they’re top County Officials financial disclosure forms on line at http://public.ethics.state.fl.us/results.cfm
Indian River County: Treasure Coast Robbers that Targeted Gas Stations and Hotels Indicted
St. Lucie County: Gov. Scott makes one appointment and two reappointments to the Children’s Services Council of St. Lucie County.
Polk County: Gov. Scott announced the reappointment of Mark Turner to the Polk State College District Board of Trustees.
Lake County: Attorney General Bondi’s Office Announces Arrest of Lake County Couple for Nearly $80,000 in Medicaid Fraud
Monroe County: Attorney General Bondi Appoints Elena Spottswood to the Florida Commission on the Status of Women – 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” –
Editorials: Calling someone at a public meeting that is not a loved one “honey” or sweetie or baby is out of line and should be nipped in the bud – 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: Reader on federal judge ruling on Detroit and possible impact to other municipality workers pensions – Reader objects to WDR running Gov. Scott’s rebuttal to critical job creation story in Miami Herald – Lotus House also fed hundreds over the holidays
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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>>> 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
ARGUS REPORT – Heard, Seen on the Street
>>> Congress strikes bipartisan budget deal, but liberals and conservatives howl, though President Obama says pass legislation, will sign it
After months of being at a deadlock, Republican and Democratic leaders of Congress have agreed on a budget deal that would take the nation through 2016, but it was no easy task. And members of the fiscally conservative tea party are outraged that the cuts did not go far enough to reduce the nation’s $17 trillion deficit and the deal also eased some of the cuts required in the sequester. The Congress will vote on the budget legislation in the coming days but pundits are asking what the fallout will be for those in the GOP leadership in the upcoming 2014 congressional elections.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-FL has said he would oppose the deal and tea party conservatives argue that it reduces the budget reduction savings sequester passed in 2011 and now is being modified and changed and will only produce some $85 billion in budget savings over the next decade. However, for years Congress has been unable to get a budget passed in a normal manner and this bill would provide a fiscal map for the next two years, but is does nothing concerning raising the debt limit of the nation set to run out again in January.
>>> White House press release: Statement by the President on the Budget
Earlier this year, I called on Congress to work together on a balanced approach to a budget that grows our economy faster and creates more jobs – not through aimless, reckless spending cuts that harm our economy now, but by making sure, we can afford to invest in the things that have always grown our economy and strengthened our middle class. Today’s bipartisan budget agreement is a good first step.
This agreement replaces a portion of the across-the-board spending cuts known as “the sequester” that have harmed students, seniors, and middle-class families and served as a mindless drag on our economy over the last year. It clears the path for critical investments in things like scientific research, which has the potential to unleash new innovation and new industries. It’s balanced, and includes targeted fee increases and spending cuts designed in a way that doesn’t hurt our economy or break the ironclad promises we’ve made to our seniors. It does all this while slightly reducing our deficits over time – coming on top of four years of the fastest deficit reduction since the end of World War II. And because it’s the first budget that leaders of both parties have agreed to in a few years, the American people should not have to endure the pain of another government shutdown for the next two years.
This agreement doesn’t include everything I’d like – and I know many Republicans feel the same way. That’s the nature of compromise. But it’s a good sign that Democrats and Republicans in Congress were able to come together and break the cycle of short-sighted, crisis-driven decision-making to get this done. That’s the way the American people expect Washington to work. I want to thank Senator Murray, Congressman Ryan and all the other leaders who helped forge this bipartisan agreement. And I want to call on Members of Congress from both parties to take the next step and actually pass a budget based on this agreement so I can sign it into law and our economy can continue growing and creating jobs without more Washington headwinds.
But, as I said last week, the defining challenge of our time is not whether Congress can pass a budget – it’s whether we can make sure our economy works for every working American. And while today’s agreement is a good first step, Congress has a lot more to do on that front. In the immediate term, Congress should extend unemployment insurance, so more than a million Americans looking for work don’t lose a vital economic lifeline right after Christmas, and our economy doesn’t take a hit. And beyond that, they should do more to expand broad-based growth and opportunity – by creating more jobs that pay better wages, by growing our economy, and by offering a path into the middle class for every American willing to work for it.
>>> Diaz-Balart: Budget Saves Taxpayers $85 Billion
Press release: Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) released the following statement after the House passed the bipartisan budget-conference agreement presented by House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Budget Committee chairman Patty Murray (D-WA).
“I’m pleased to have voted for this two-year budget agreement that will help to put our country back on a path to fiscal responsibility. By taking steps to reduce waste and enacting commonsense reforms to entitlement programs, H.J. Res. 59 saves our hardworking taxpayers $85 billion. While it doesn’t completely solve Washington’s out of control spending, this bill reduces the deficit, while sparing Americans from massive tax hikes. “I congratulate Chairman Ryan for once again putting our country first and setting aside political gimmicks to break Washington gridlock.”
>>> 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.
>>> Defense rests, Atty. Sharpstein passes, shock and leaves friends and peers in mourning
Richard Sharpstein, 63, the prominent Miami defense attorney passed on Tuesday, and his friends, and the legal community are mourning his sudden premature death. The former state prosecutor was colorful, experienced and confident in the courtroom, adding an actor’s dash to proceedings that juries seemed to eat up. He had just gone through a tough divorce with his attorney wife and he had moved into a condominium on Miami Beach at the time of his death.
The Watchdog Report watched Sharpstein and co defense attorney Benedict Kuehne around 2003 in a local court defend then state Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami against a over $300,000 elections violation fine. The two veteran defense attorneys were facing off against two assistant state attorneys from one of the state’s smaller counties, and they legally clubbed the prosecutors like baby seals. The senator later got a reduced judgment around $5,000, but then the senator did not pay the defense attorneys for their services for years. Since Diaz de la Portilla had to list the liability on his years financial disclosure form and the Watchdog Report reported on that fact in the past. For more on the senator’s case go to http://www.sptimes.com/2003/09/12/State/Court_reduces_senator.shtml
A Memorial for Sharpstein was held today, and Miami Beach police will be added to help with the expected crowd because of the large turnout of mourners. Moreover, Richard, thank you for your friendship, the periodic emails we sent to each other covering a host of issues over the past decade, and may you rest in peace. You will be missed by so many whose lives that you touched. For more go to http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/12/11/3812660/funeral-set-for-sunday-for-miami.html
>>> State Rep. Fresen gets dressed down by Fla. Ethics Commission for old unpaid $1,500 fine back in 2003, already faces challengers in 2014
State Rep. Eric Fresen, R-Miami got some bad news last week when the Florida Ethics Commission voted down an agreement 7-1 reached for the lawmaker after he failed to file a required financial disclosure form back in 2003, when he was a legislative aide. Fresen did not attend the meeting and that bothered one ethics commissioner who was looking for some form of ‘contrition’ from the representative. Fresen’s attorney, former state Rep. J.C. Planas, R-Miami argued that Fresen did not pay the $1,500 fine back then because he only became aware of it in 2012 and by that time the statue of limitations had passed.
However, other disclosure issues have beset Fresen and he also had to amend his disclosure filings from 2008 to 2011. He is a high profile local legislator who was the point of the spear for expanding gambling in South Florida, and he works as a land use consultant and in other capacities. He is also the education committee chair in the Florida House and he is a maven of charter schools, has worked as a lobbyist for some of these schools in front of municipal commissions, and that has generated some controversy over the years since he was elected in 2008. To see his current financial disclosure form and his different consulting jobs for the year go to http://public.ethics.state.fl.us/Forms/2012/72863-Form6.pdf .
What about his 2014 reelection?
Fresen was reelected in 2012 when he defeated Democratic Party candidate Ross Hancock in a squeaker November General Election getting just 51 percent of the vote in the newly redistricted 114 seat. In addition, in 2014, he is facing off against Republican candidate Amory Baez and on the Democratic Party side; Daisy Baez has filed for the upcoming race.
>>> Press release: Governor Rick Scott and members of the Florida Cabinet selected Bruce Meeks as Inspector General of Citizens Property Insurance. After signing of SB 1770 into law this past legislative session, Governor Scott tasked Chief Inspector General Melinda Miguel with conducting a nationwide search for the new Citizens Inspector General. This stewardship role is a key part of the legislation which reforms Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, the state’s largest insurance company and a taxpayer-backed entity.
Meeks, of Tallahassee, is currently a partner at the law firm of Robert and Meeks. He previously served as the inspector general for the State Board of Administration from 2002-2010. Meeks also served in the Florida Attorney General’s office as the Deputy Executive Attorney General from 1998-2002, and as personnel director for the Office of Attorney General from 1995-1998.
Governor Scott said, “We’ve worked hard to make Citizens more accountable to Florida families and we expect, Bruce to increase accountability and responsibility at Citizens Property Insurance. I would like to thank Melinda Miguel and everyone involved in identifying candidates for this position who would best serve the taxpayers of Florida.”
Attorney General Pam Bondi said, “Given his experience and expertise, Bruce Meeks is an exceptional selection to serve as the Inspector General for Citizens Property Insurance. I am confident that Meeks will provide the utmost service to Citizens Property Insurance and Florida’s taxpayers.” Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater said “The appointment of Bruce Meeks is a great step towards ensuring that the management and employees of Citizens are held to the highest ethical standards and operate in full transparency. I am confident he will be a catalyst for greater accountability, integrity and efficiency.”
Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said, “I want to congratulate Bruce Meeks on his appointment as the first inspector general at Citizens Property Insurance. I thank him for his commitment and service to the people of Florida. Given his extensive background and expertise, I am confident he will provide solid, independent oversight at Citizens.” Chief Inspector General Melinda Miguel said, “I am truly honored to have served as the Chair of the Selection Committee for the Inspector General at Citizens. This was a national search and the process was structured to ensure the appointment of a highly qualified individual with a broad range of experience. “I am excited that the employees of Citizens and members of the public will now have their own independent watchdog to ensure honesty and integrity at Citizens, dedicated to rooting out fraud, waste, and abuse.”
On behalf of the Governor and members of the Financial Services Commission, the nationwide search for Citizens’ Inspector General was coordinated by a Selection Committee consisting of the Governor’s Chief Inspector General, the Inspector General from Chief Financial Officer Atwater’s Office and the Inspector General from the Office of Insurance Regulation.
>>> League of Women Voters Declares Today’s Supreme Court Ruling on Redistricting a Major Victory for the People of Florida
Press release: In response to today’s 5-2 decision by the Florida Supreme Court, declaring that lawmakers can be forced to testify and turn over documents regarding their re-drawing of maps for redistricting purposes, League of Women Voters of Florida President Deirdre Macnab released the following statement:
“Today’s ruling will finally allow Florida voters to look behind the curtain of Tallahassee’s “Chamber of Secrets” — the persistent political gerrymandering that has plagued the state for decades and made a mockery of open government. The people of Florida should salute today’s action by the Florida Supreme Court, which will help guarantee radically reduced shenanigans during the state’s redistricting process. No amount of kicking and screaming by legislators should prevent the will of the people from being followed.”
The League of Women Voters of Florida has been working to improve Florida’s redistricting process since 1939, when the League first began operating in the state. The League was a strong supporter of Fair Districts Amendments 5 and 6 in 2010 and has been actively engaged since then in advocating for the amendments’ fair implementation. Please contact LWVF President Deirdre Macnab for further comments. The League of Women Voters of Florida, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy. For more information, please visit the League’s website at: www.TheFloridaVoter.org.
>>> 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.
>>> IG nominee Cagle goes to BCC for confirmation vote Tuesday, highly regarded by all, only blemish five benign traffic violations since 1998
Mary Cagle, the nominee to be the next Miami-Dade County Inspector General on Tuesday breezed through the background check review by the five-member Ad Hoc IG Selection Committee chaired by Miami-Dade County State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle on. The top county prosecutor, reelected last August, said the committee had interviewed some “extraordinary” candidates, but Cagle fit the bill best. The committee concluded after extensive interviews of over a dozen candidates, after hearing from over ten people with knowledge of the office they’re thoughts. What the selection committee should be looking for in the new IG who is replacing Christopher Mazzella, who retired in March after serving in the office since 1998 and was the first county IG.
Cagle was a former senior assistant state prosecutor for almost two dozen-years, worked for CHARLEE, and she was recently a top attorney in the Florida Department of Children and Family. The County Police Investigators that did the Background Investigation in a Dec. 3 memo signed by Police Department Director J.D. Patterson contacted her references. Who included Bertila Soto, the Chief Judge of the 11th Judicial Circuit, Attorney H.T. Smith, and Robert “Bob” Butterworth, formerly the Florida Attorney General, and as Smith stated, “I would trust her on her handshake,” and all the references believed she would be “an asset,” to Miami-Dade County.
The report shows her credit is good, neighbors say she and her husband “are very quite neighbors,” and they have “No concerns,” with them, and the only thing out of the ordinary was she disclosed that she had five traffic moving violations since 1998. The Watchdog Report contacted Cagle Thursday by phone, and she said these tickets were for not coming to a complete stop, and one was going 40 mph on a 30 mph street, and she gave these types of reasons for the violations. And she did take a driver school course and her Florida License is valid, so this is a benign issue.
The Watchdog Report back in 1998 watched Mazzella interview with the Miami-Dade Ethics Commission where the new IG office fell under the ethics commission charge (that is not the case now), and Cagle appears to be a good fit. To lead the important oversight post that Mazzella would say at meetings was the county’s official “watchdog.” Mazzella, a former FBI special agent started that office with one other person back then, and it now has around 40 employees and the IG is charged with watching over the $6.3 billion county budget and its 25 departments, Jackson Health System and the organization’s new $830 million bond, as well as the $4.3 billion public schools district, which also just got approved a $1.2 billion bond last fall. >>> Editor’s note: After the unanimous vote confirming Cagle’s nominee, the Watchdog Report publisher did supply some information regarding titles and names when it came to the people copied on a memo from the selection committee Chair Fernandez Rundle to county commissioners and other officials. http://www.miamidade.gov/govaction/legistarfiles/Matters/Y2013/132480.pdf
>>> PAST WDR: IG selection committee to review nominee Cagle’s extensive background check this week, name should go to BCC Dec. 17th for conformation … 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, 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.
>>> Miami-Dade MPO gives Dir. San Roman a pay bump to $174,000, still lower than some other MPO’s director’s salaries around the state
Irma San Roman, the executive director of the Miami-Dade Metropolitan Planning Organization got a bump in her compensation Thursday at the MPO’s monthly meeting. She has been in the capacity for a number of years but was not being compensated at the higher responsibility level, and the MPO approved her negotiated salary of $174,518 and a $10,000 benefit package, but not without extensive discussion. Commissioner Bruno Barreiro, a MPO member believed her salary should be slightly higher to reflect what other directors of MPO’s around the state make and it would “only just be fair for her,” he said. . In addition, San Martin had asked for $184,000 and she does contribute five percent of her salary to her health insurance cost.
Perla Tabares Hantman, on the MPO compensation sub committee chaired by Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert that dealt with the matter. Hantman the School Board Chair said there “was a good discussion at the beginning of the meeting” on the requested salary, but the committee thought the offered amount was fair, and while the MPO is a “independent” entity from the county, and funded with federal tax dollars, not from the county’s general funds. She thought the recommended compensation by the sub committee was consistent given the tough economic times many residents and taxpayers are facing in Miami-Dade.
What did Sosa say about the MPO and municipalities?
In addition, Commission Chair Rebeca Sosa wants the MPO to work more closely with the county’s 34 municipalities, on upcoming transportation projects and to hear they’re concerns and desires on the matters. For while some municipalities are represented on the MPO, many of the cities or towns are not and she wants to have better communication with these municipalities leaders, she said.
Who are the new members on the large MPO body that includes commissioners and municipal elected leaders?
>>> Former Miami Mayor Maurice Ferre as chair of the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority www.mdxway.com has been appointed to the board, and the transportation maven is a former county commissioner and state representative.
>>> Newly minted Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine also took his spot on the dais and in his case, regional transportation issues are critical to the tourist mecca Beach. Where people can only get their by using a couple of causeways and traffic can be horrendous for travelers going over to the island of around 90,000 residents, but acts like a much bigger city in a host of ways.
What about Miami Commissioner Francis Suarez?
Suarez, the younger is also a MPO member and when the body was discussing the county’s long-term transportation plan. He noted he hoped a functioning mass transit system was in place in the years to come so that his son, expected to be born on “Feb. 24th” would be able to use it in the decades ahead, he said.
>>> Another opinion issued on sewer bid controversy
County’s Ethics Commission press release: In a follow up to last month’s Request for Opinion 13-11 regarding solicitations for proposals for a company to oversee massive repairs to Miami-Dade’s sewer system, the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics & Public Trust (COE) today determined that there were no clear guidelines in the County’s bid specifications on the project that prohibited a bidder from submitting additional information to selection committee members following the committee’s initial ranking and prior to the second tier oral presentation. AECOM Technical Services, Inc., complained that CH2M violated the rules by sending a 400-page addendum to its original presentation prior to the second phase of the evaluation process. But today’s decision found that the late submission was not “specifically prohibited” by the bid documents. This opinion follows a previous one in which the COE ruled that the County’s Cone of Silence ordinance did not prohibit such submissions. Because of these rulings, Ethics Commissioners also found No Probable Cause to a complaint (C 13-26) against attorney Mitchell Bierman for submitting the above-mentioned addendum as the lobbyist for CH2M Hill. County procurement officials have since corrected this ambiguity by amending its procedures to clearly prohibit such direct communications with selection committee members in future bids.
>>> 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
MIAMI-DADE COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS
>>> Nation’s fourth largest School District outperforms state graduation rates
Press release: Rate has improved 15.2 percentage points in five years Miami-Dade County Public Schools’ (M-DCPS) graduation rate has increased once again for the 2012-2013 academic year, according to U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) guidelines. The federally calculated graduation rate is 77.2 percent; surpassing the state both in rate of growth and total graduation rate. State graduation rate for 2012-13 is 75.6. Additionally, M-DCPS also surpassed other districts, including Broward, Palm Beach, Duval and Hillsborough. “This is one more measure of success that should make our community proud,” said Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho. “The continued focus and determination of our teachers and leaders toward improving graduation outcomes. It is further proof that our continued focus on career and college readiness is proving effective.”
In October 2008, the (USDOE) amended the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as modified by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, to include new directives for graduation rates. These new regulations require each state to calculate a four-year adjusted cohort rate, which includes standard diplomas but excludes GEDs, both regular and adult, and special diplomas. USDOE adopted this calculation method in an effort to streamline graduation rate calculations to acquire uniform, accurate, and comparable rates across all states. States began calculating the new graduation rate in 2010-11.
When calculated retroactively MDCPS’ federal high school graduation rate has consistently increased during the past five years. The rate has improved from 62.0 in 2008-09 to 77.2 in 2012-13, an increase of 15.2 percentage points.
The graduation rates for M-DCPS’ Black and Hispanic students also showed a jump in numbers that significantly outperformed the State. • M-DCPS Black students = 69.2 • State Black Students 64.6 • M-DCPS Hispanic Students 78.6 • State Hispanic Students 74.9 These steady increases are due in large part to a strategic plan in which the sole objective is increased student achievement and support structures that have been implemented, such as course acceleration, credit recovery, and targeted professional development.
PUBLIC HEALTH TRUST
>>> CEO Migoya carps to Mayor Gimenez that elimination of 5% contribution by employees will push JHS into the red to the tune of $8 million, versus $12 million surplus in approved budget for year
Carlos Migoya in a Dec. 12 memo to Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez tells the elected official that the elimination of a five percent contribution by employees to their health insurance costs will affect Jackson Health System to the tune of $18 million for the nine-month period it would take affect and $24 million for a full year. He notes the trust has only 28 days cash on hand, and the approved budget by the PHT and County Commission forecast a $12 million surplus, but that did not include the employees not contributing anymore, the former banker wrote. Migoya notes without this employee contribution, the current year would end in a $6 million loss and that was unacceptable, after the health trust lost hundreds of millions of dollars in years past prior to Migoya’s arrival May 2010. >>> Editor’s note: Gimenez Saturday vetoed the county commission decision to end the five percent contribution and the commission will vote on Tuesday to see if they can override the veto. For more go to http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/12/14/3818202/miami-dade-mayor-vetoes-restoring.html
>>> PHT Chair Sharpton says delay in Nominating Council meeting because he and Commissioner Edmonson want to include candidates for $830 million bond new oversight board
Darryl Sharpton, CPA, the chair of the PHT when asked by the Watchdog Report on Thursday why the Trust Nominating Committee had not met recently. After in the past a meeting was cancelled because of alack of quorum, even though the three candidates were ready to be interviewed after waiting over an hour. The prominent CPA said they were waiting to do it in conjunction with creating the new oversight board to keep watch on how a recently approved $830 million bond was going to be spent. Sharpton also said he had met with Miami-Dade County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson on the matter and she is the person that will be sponsoring the oversight board legislation since she chairs the committee that deals with the Jackson Health System and its roughly 9,800 employees, who give world-class medical care.
>>> JACKSON HEALTH SYSTEM RECEIVES ANOTHER #1 RANKING
Press release: In testament to the confidence in Jackson that the residents of Miami-Dade have demonstrated, the system was named the #1 hospital in revenues in the South Florida Business Journal list of the top 25 South Florida hospitals. According to the journal, the hospital earned the top spot based on its 2012 South Florida net operating revenue of $1 billion. “Jackson Health System is by far the largest and most important health system for patients and the economy of Miami-Dade County,” said Carlos A. Migoya, Jackson’s president and CEO. “We have turned the corner on our financial health through our operational reforms. We will not rest until the quality of our financials mirror the quality of care provided throughout all of Jackson’s hospitals, clinics and other facilities.”
Jackson has exceeded its budget in both 2012 and now in 2013 with an unprecedented surplus in its continued transformation. Jackson’s year-end surplus is estimated at nearly $45.8 million – exceeding the health system’s aggressive budget by almost 30 percent. Over the last year, Jackson has successfully expanded its patient base and grown the business of providing for the health care of the people of Miami-Dade County and beyond. More than 73,000 people made the decision to choose Jackson facilities for inpatient or observation care, nearly a 2 percent increase over the prior year and more than 2 percent over budget. South Florida Business journal tapped into information from the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration and the South Florida hospitals to determine the rankings.
Jackson Health System is a nonprofit academic medical system offering world-class care to any person who walks through its doors. Governed by the Public Health Trust, a dedicated team of citizen volunteers acting on behalf of the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners, Jackson Health System ensures that all residents of Miami-Dade County receive a single high standard of care regardless of their ability to pay. An integrated healthcare delivery system, Jackson Health System consists of its centerpiece, Jackson Memorial Hospital; multiple primary care and specialty care centers; a variety of school-based clinics serving many elementary, middle and high schools; two long-term care nursing facilities; six Corrections Health Services clinics; a network of mental health facilities; Holtz Children’s Hospital, Jackson Rehabilitation Hospital, Jackson Behavioral Health Hospital, Jackson North Medical Center and Jackson South Community Hospital.
CITY OF MIAMI
>>> Newly minted Commissioner Hardemon gets an eyeful at Thursday’s meeting, Sarnoff challenges local blogger Crespo to get into a boxing ring with him
In a only in Miami Moment, Commission Chair Marc Sarnoff, 54, and blogger Al Crespo, 72, (The Crespo-Gram Report) challenged each other from the dais and podium at a public commission meeting Thursday afternoon to step into a ring and duke it out for a charity. Sarnoff has been a persistent target of the blogger over the last four years, Crespo has filed numerous ethics commission complaints against him, and the two men squared off verbally daring the other to step into the ring, which Sarnoff said he would do the next day if it was Crespo he was fighting.
The exchange highlighted what was an unusual commission meeting, the first for newly elected Commissioner Keon Hardemon, 30, at the dais and he is getting his feet wet with the political process. The Watchdog Report has been asking people about the former public defender, people universally have given him high marks, and he is known for being “methodical.” He is planning to work full time at the new job, that pays roughly $56,000 but also includes another over $30,000 in benefits. The proud Florida A&M graduate reflected on the A&M Rattler license plate of his black 328i BMW has been spending a lot of time in city hall and his new chief of staff is James McQueen. He represents District 5 and he won office after decisively defeating Richard Dunn, II in a Nov. 19 runoff election.
VILLAGE OF COCONUT GROVE
>>> Grove Isle new development said to be townhouses, not another large condominium that would block views of one condominium
While residents of one of the three buildings in Grove Isle are angry about a new development and reported in last week’s Watchdog Report. In fact the developer is not building another large building, but has submitted to the City’s Planning and Zoning Department a townhouse designed complex that would have the restaurants on the ground floor and the town homes above that and the new building would be roughly 4 stories high, said a knowledgably person working on the matter.
>>> Playhouse deal on BCC Dec. 17 agenda, requires $120,000 to settle all liens, historic theater could finally reopen since closed in 2006
On Monday, Miami-Dade Commissioner Xavier Suarez inserted himself into the discussion of the county’s attempt to resolve all the liens, a lease with the Miami Parking Authority and other issues for the reopening of the Coconut Grove Playhouse. Suarez at the Cultural Affairs and Arts commission committee meeting said since the historic theater was in District 7 that he represents. He wanted to review the deal, especially any agreement with MPA and specifically, not to make it to long term, he said. The Harvard trained attorney also noted “the last time I looked it was Dec. 8,” and they’re was still time for him to get involved, even though it was actually Dec. 9, and the commission has to approve the deal by Dec. 17. For the County and Florida International University to be able to comply with a state mandated timeline that if not met on Jan. 15 would result in the past agreements with Florida dissolving and all parties “going their own way,” said Cultural Affairs director Michael Spring in the past. UPDATE >>> The county was able to get agreements from lien holders that substantially reduced the liabilities to clear the Playhouse title, and the county commission is being asked to approve $120,000 in funding to clear these liabilities up. For a deal to reopen the Coconut Grove Playhouse and it is on the BCC Dec. 17 agenda and to see the item, which has Suarez as the prime sponsor go to http://www.miamidade.gov/govaction/matter.asp?matter=132485&file=true&yearFolder=Y2013 and to read the new complete Playhouse agreement going to the County Commission on Tuesday go to http://www.miamidade.gov/govaction/legistarfiles/Matters/Y2013/132485.pdf
What else is going on with Suarez?
The former Miami mayor came to the commission in June of 2011 and was reelected unopposed this past year to a full four year term. However, he carps about the commissioner’s low pay of $6,000 and how much time the job takes up and he says he spends a lot of time at the Stephen P. Clark Government Center he said on www.wpbt.org/issues this past week end. And he thinks County Mayor Carlos Gimenez should cut some of the salaries senior county employees make saying there are 2,500 employees making over $100,000 and believes that number should be pared down, rather than asking employees to contribute five percent for their salaries, some as low as $22,000 for their healthcare costs.
Suarez, the second son and ninth child of 14 said his wife would only allow him to run again for public office after a failed county commission bid in 2004 against Gimenez. When she learned he would get his health insurance paid for he said at his first investiture back in 2011, but he has been sniping at the mayor since his arrival at the dais, and is considered a county mayoral candidate in 2016 where he would face off again against Gimenez for the top county elected spot.
CITY OF MIAMI GARDENS
>>> Police Chief Boyd retires after convenience store tapes show cops being overly aggressive arresting patrons
In a surprise move, Police Chief Mathew Boyd retired this week after video tapes surfaced of some of the department’s officers using excessive force and arresting innocent people in a convenience store where the owner set up cameras, not just for theft, but also to show law enforcement’s actions at the location. Boyd, a hard-nosed cop has been the chief since Miami Gardens was first created in 2003 and at a Downtown Bay Forum luncheon a year ago. The Chief talked about the demographics of residents and the problem with crime in the largest Black community in Florida. He noted that children on bicycles age 10 or 11 have been busted over the years robbing residents and when it came to policing and maintaining public safety, it was no easy task. However, this latest incident has gotten significant critical press and while an interim police chief has been picked. Mayor Oliver Gilbert and his commission now have to find another top law enforcement official to run the 211 officer police force for the city with around 100,000 residents.
CITY OF MIAMI BEACH
>>> New lion tamer on commission, Mayor Levine runs crisp, respectful commission meeting, will this be a new day for civility on the body?
Mayor Philip Levine, elected last month, ran a tight commission meeting Wednesday, and time certain items were addressed on time under his watch. Levine has a commission made up of three neophytes and three incumbents and the meeting was a kumbaya moment after months of contentious meetings in the past among the then city commissioners. Levine listened to his first Stanley Sutnick Citizen’s Forum, where residents are allowed to speak on any matter on their mind and the mayor also pushed having the commission committee meetings televised in the future, versus being held in a small conference room off the city manager’s office on the fourth floor, and that legislation passed last week.
Levine won a hard fought mayoral race squeaking by with just a few extra votes to avoid a runoff against former incumbent commissioner Michael Gongora and this was the businessman’s first try at political office. Where he spent some $1.9 million, much of it his own money to win the top office. He is pushing for enhanced resident customer services, and is delving into the issue of the chronic flooding that occurs on the island that is at or in some areas below sea level and is creating a major problem for Beach residents.
CITY OF NORTH MIAMI
>>> Former Mayor Pierre gets Letter of Instruction from County Ethics commission, will pay almost $7,000 fine
County Ethics Commission press release: Ethics Commissioners approved a Letter of Instruction for former North Miami Mayor Andre Pierre following his settlement last month over a complaint (C 12-35) that he had free use of public parks for his private soccer club. The Letter refers to his soliciting free use of the stadium and not reporting it as a gift, as an “improper act” that creates an appearance of impropriety that shakes the public’s trust in their elected officials,” and also resulted in a financial loss to the city. In addition to accepting the Letter, Pierre is paying a fine of $500 and investigative costs of $4,634.70 to the Ethics Commission, as well as reimbursing the City of North Miami the amount of $2,181.72.
CITY OF CORAL GABLES
>>> Commissioner Keon said “manager” negotiates labor contracts, and elected body only gives a thumbs up or down to contracts
The Watchdog Report reported on Commissioner Pat Keon last week speaking at a luncheon forum but I made an error in the story and the commissioner contacted me last week clarifying the matter. She wrote, “I told the Ponce Business Association that the commission does not negotiate labor contracts, the manager does. The commission either ratifies the contract or doesn’t. If not ratified there are other means to reach an agreement and I discussed that.”
TOWN OF MIAMI LAKES
>>> Former CEO of Miami Lakes Tax Preparation Business Pleads Guilty to Structuring Scheme
Press release: Wifredo A Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and José A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), announce that defendant Carlos Rodriguez, 40, of Miami Lakes, pled guilty yesterday to one count of structuring financial transactions with the intent to evade currency reporting requirements, in violation of Title 31, United States Code, Sections 5324(a)(3) and 5324(d)(2). Rodriguez is the former Chief Executive Officer of Rodri Rodri & Associates (“Rodri”), formerly located in Miami Lakes. Sentencing is scheduled for March 11, 2014 at 9:00 a.m., before U.S. District Judge Kathleen M. Williams. At sentencing, Rodriguez faces up to ten years in prison and the forfeiture of property.
According to court documents and statements, financial institutions are required to report cash transactions in amounts over $10,000.00 to the IRS. From on or about January 4, 2012 through on or about March 22, 2012, Rodriguez was the Chief Executive Officer of Rodri, a tax preparation business. During that time, the defendant cashed or had cashed Rodri business checks in amounts under $10,000.00 at JPMorgan Chase Bank with the intent to evade the currency transaction reporting requirements of Title 31, United States Code, Section 5313(a). Pursuant to the terms of the plea agreement, the amount of money involved in the structuring violations was between $400,000 and $1 million.
According to the evidence, the tax return preparation part of the business was supervised by the defendant’s late wife Jennifer Rodriguez. The defendant was primarily responsible for the day-to-day operations of the business such as paying employees, collecting fees for the preparation of tax returns, paying business expenses, and handling customers with questions, concerns, or complaints. Nonetheless, many of the tax returns prepared by Rodri were fraudulent and contained false credits, such as education and fuel credits that the taxpayers otherwise were not entitled to have. The structured cash was used to provide cash, for a fee, to taxpayer clients in exchange for their inflated tax refunds.
As further stated in court and in court documents, the proceeds generated by the tax preparation business are traceable to the purchase of the properties listed in the indictment, including a couple of parcels of real property. According to the plea agreement, Rodriguez agreed to forfeit said properties to the United States.
As further stated in the plea agreement, Rodriguez agreed to cooperate with the IRS in its civil examination, determination, assessment, and collection of income taxes related to the defendant’s 2009 through 2012 income tax returns and any related corporate tax returns, and further agreed not to conceal, transfer, or dissipate funds or property that could be used to satisfy such taxes, penalties, and interest. Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of IRS-CI. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Elijah A. Levitt. 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.
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
>>> PA Parrish goes to court for more money from county commission, age old controversial battle in Broward
Lori Parrish, the Broward Property Appraiser elected in 2004 is challenging her $16.6 million office budget allocation approved by county commissioners in court, but the body has continued demanding for her to cut her constitutional office budget more where she is requesting $708,000 more than the commission funded in the budget for the year. Parrish, a former county commissioner herself has had this same battle over the years, and in 2010 she was critical of how the commission spent they’re own office budget. Moreover, the Broward Sheriff’s Office has also battled for more money over the years as well.
However, the most high profile budget battle was back in 2003 when Miriam Oliphant was the Broward Elections Supervisor and she was demanding more money for the office, and the verbal exchanges created great theater in the commission chambers. As commissioners and Oliphant battled it out, and that only ended with Oliphant being removed from her office by then Gov. Jeb Bush who later appointed Brenda Snipes, the current elections supervisor to the constitutional office. For more on the Parrish request for more funding and it going to court go to http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/broward/broward-politics-blog/
>>> 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
>>> Loxahatchee Pair Plead Guilty to Government Benefit Fraud Charges
Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Lester Fernandez, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Office of Inspector General, Ric L. Bradshaw, Sheriff, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, Thomas Caul, Special Agent in Charge, Social Security Administration (SSA), Office of Inspector General, Atlanta Field Division, Karen Citizen-Wilcox, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Office of Inspector General, and Christopher B. Dennis, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), Miami Region, announce that defendants Gloria Nereida Valle-Clas, 48, and Alexander Gonzalez, 40, of Loxahatchee, Florida, pled guilty today in West Palm Beach before U.S. Magistrate Judge James M. Hopkins.
According to the indictment, and as the defendants admitted when pleading guilty, Valle-Clas obtained two social security numbers (SSN), one of which was originally associated with her birth name, “Nereida Valle,” and one of which was originally associated with the name “Gloria Lopes Clas.” From at least December 2003 to January 2013, she used the SSN for “Nereida Valle” to obtain federal housing, social security, food, cash, and medical benefits from HUD, SSA, USDA and HHS. At the same time, she used the SSN for “Gloria Lopes Clas” to buy real estate in both Broward and Palm Beach Counties, including over an acre of property in Loxahatchee, Florida on which she built an approximately 2,700 square foot residence. Her husband, Gonzalez, also bought real estate in Broward County. When applying for federal benefits, she failed to disclose her or her husband’s ownership of property, as well as other assets and income.
Valle-Clas, who formally changed her name from “Nereida Valle” to “Gloria Nereida Valle-Clas” in 2003, used approximately 12 aliases in perpetrating the scheme, most of which were variations on “Nereida Valle” and “Gloria Lopes Clas.” Valle-Clas pled guilty to one count of conspiracy, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371, and one count of making a false statement to HUD, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1001. Gonzalez pled guilty to one count of aiding and abetting Valle-Clas in making a false statement to HUD, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1001. The maximum penalties for each of the Section 371 conspiracy and Section 1001 HUD false statement counts are five years in prison, up to three years supervised release, and a fine of $250,000 or not more than twice the gross gain or loss form the offense, whichever is greater. Valle-Clas and Gonzalez are scheduled to be sentenced on February 21, 2014 at 1:30 p.m. in West Palm Beach before U.S. Senior District Judge Kenneth L. Ryskamp. >>> Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of HUD-Office of the Inspector General, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, the SSA-Office of the Inspector General, the USDA-Office of the Inspector General, and the HHS-OIG. This case is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Carolyn Bell. 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 Palm Beach elected leader’s financial disclosure reports go to http://public.ethics.state.fl.us/results.cfm
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY
>>> Treasure Coast Robbers that Targeted Gas Stations and Hotels Indicted
Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Hugo Barrera, Special Agent in Charge, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Miami Field Office, Julie Leon, Special Agent in Charge, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Tampa/Orlando Field Office, Deryl Loar, Sheriff, Indian River County Sheriff’s Office, Wayne Ivey, Sheriff, Brevard County Sheriff’s Office, John A. Bolduc, Chief, Port St. Lucie Police Department, and Frank J. Kitzerow, Chief, Jupiter Police Department, announce that defendants Yubran Alvarez Vasquez, 21, of Bluffton, South Carolina, and Matthew Emmanuel Vasquez, 23, of Savannah, Georgia, were indicted by a federal grand jury in Fort Pierce, on one count of conspiracy to commit armed robbery, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1951(a), four counts of armed robbery, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1951(a), and four counts of possessing, brandishing, and discharging a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 924(c)(1)(A)(ii & iii).
The defendants are alleged to have targeted gas stations and hotels just off exits on I-95 from Melbourne to Jupiter. In one robbery spree on February 14-15, 2013, the defendants are alleged to have robbed at gunpoint two gas stations and two hotels. The defendants brandished guns in all of the robberies and during the robbery of the Holiday Inn Express in Vero Beach, a firearm was discharged. The defendants wore gloves and masks and changed hotels frequently in an attempt to avoid detection.
The defendants fled Florida with the stolen property, and due to a multi-agency effort, the defendants were apprehended. If convicted, each defendant faces up to life in prison. Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of ATF, the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office, the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office, the Port St. Lucie Police Department, and the Jupiter Police Department. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Russell R. Killinger. An indictment is only an accusation, and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty. A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls.
>>> Phlebotomist Charged with Using False Identification Documents to Work at Local Hospitals
Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Alysa D. Erichs, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI), and R. Sean Baldwin, Chief, Fort Pierce Police Department, announce the arrest of William Evens Josma, 34, of Fort Pierce, for using the name, social security card, and employment authorization card of another person to obtain employment as a phlebotomist at local hospitals. Josma was arraigned in federal court yesterday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Frank J. Lynch, Jr. in Ft. Pierce, Florida. The complaint alleges that from January 7, 2013 to November 2013, Josma worked as a phlebotomist at Indian River Medical Center under a false name. Josma is a Haitian national, and does not have immigration authorization to work in the United States. Josma used the name, social security card and employment authorization card of another person to satisfy the employment verification requirements of the Immigration and Nationality Act to obtain employment. Josma’s real identity was uncovered when he purchased a fraudulent immigration stamp from Haiti to make it appear that he had continued authorization to work in the United States. Josma also possessed a Florida driver’s license in the false identity, as well as a badge under that identity showing that he previously worked at Martin Memorial Health System as well.
The indictment charges Josma with two counts of making a false attestation on Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, to satisfy a requirement of the employment verification system in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1546(b)(3); two counts of using an identification document not issued to him to satisfy a requirement of the employment verification system in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1546(b)(1); two counts of false representation of a social security number in violation of Title 42, United States Code, Section 408(a)(7)(B); and two counts of aggravated identity theft in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1028A. If convicted, Josma faces up to five years in prison for the false attestation, use of an unlawful identification and false representation of a social security number counts, and a consecutive two years in prison for the aggravated identity theft count. >>> Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of ICE-HSI and the Fort Pierce Police Department. The case is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Shaniek Maynard. A complaint and indictment are only accusations, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls.
ST. LUCIE COUNTY
>>> Gov. Scott makes one appointment and two reappointments to the Children’s Services Council of St. Lucie County.
Jason Matson, 39 of Port St. Lucie, is the senior vice president of Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc. He succeeds Queen Towsend and is appointed for a term beginning December 12, 2013, and ending November 13, 2017.
Patricia Alley, 70, of Fort Pierce, is the retired vice president of development for TD Bank. She is reappointed for a term beginning December 12, 2013, and ending November 13, 2016.
Garry Wilson, 58, of Port St. Lucie, is a chief deputy for the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office. He is reappointed for a term beginning December 12, 2013, and ending November 13, 2014.
>>> Press release: Gov. Scott announced the reappointment of Mark Turner to the Polk State College District Board of Trustees.
Turner, 50, of Winter Haven, is a partner of Straughn and Turner PA. He currently serves as a board member, and past chair, of the Polk State College Foundation. Turner received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida and his law degree from Stetson University. He is reappointed for a term beginning December 12, 2013, and ending May 31, 2017. The appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.
>>> Press release: Attorney General Bondi’s Office Announces Arrest of Lake County Couple for Nearly $80,000 Medicaid Fraud
Attorney General Pam Bondi announced that James and Grisselle Davis, owners of Kingdom Builders Ministries, were arrested for allegedly defrauding Florida’s Medicaid program out of nearly $80,000. An investigation conducted by the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit revealed that the couple allegedly billed the Medicaid program for nearly $80,000 for targeted case management services that were never rendered. Targeted case management services are designed to link Medicaid recipients with a documented mental health condition to services in the community. The Lake County Sheriff’s Office assisted with the arrests. More
>>> Press release: Attorney General Bondi Appoints Elena Spottswood to the Florida Commission on the Status of Women
Attorney General Pam Bondi has appointed Elena Spottswood to the Florida Commission on the Status of Women, and she will serve from now through Dec. 31, 2015. The Florida Commission on the Status of Women was statutorily created in 1991 and consists of 22 appointed members. The Commission’s mandate is to study and make recommendations to the Governor, Cabinet and Legislature on issues affecting women. The Commission is administratively housed in the Attorney General’s Office. Elena will be the first member of the Commission from Monroe County. More
>>> 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.
>>> Calling someone at a public meeting that is not a loved one “honey” or sweetie or baby is out of line and should be nipped in the bud
At a recent committee meeting of a prominent oversight board, a senior member of the volunteer board referred to an associate on the board as “honey,” and such comments to a peer or a member of staff is a dangerous comment that could lead to legal action. If such a remark is considered by the recipient as an unwanted sexual advance. Many people argue that political correctness has gone too far, but many times these critiques are the ones making the obnoxious and immature remarks themselves, and of course it was all a joke and such people will blow off any criticism of such an endearing remark as being harmless.
However, for many people lower in the hierarchy of power these types of potentially salacious comments are derogatory and demeaning and in this case. The man was saying it to a prominent woman attorney and Ivy League graduate and he is out of line in 2013 and such comments could lead to a sexual harassment suit, while unlikely in this case, but that might not be the case for someone farther down the public administrative food chain. Moreover, people in public office should realize what they might say at home or with friends takes on a completely different matter when it is done at a public institution and could lead to major embarrassment and scandal if it is not curbed.
Words do matter; though in today’s world, many people don’t think that is the case and that they are always just kidding, when someone challenges the remark. But it is a slippery slope and being respectful in words and deeds never goes out of style and if one wants to be the class clown, or on the make in the public sector. That type of attitude is a dangerous force in the work place and should not be tolerated and such charged comments should be nipped in the bud. If public employees or volunteers on a board are not going to feel uncomfortable in the environment in which they are working which is unacceptable. In addition, while calling someone you care about “honey,” or darling is totally appropriate, it is not in other settings, and the Watchdog Report is going to start to write up some of the people that seem oblivious to normal social norms and how to be polite to others in public settings.
>>> Reader on municipal pensions after Detroit federal judge ruling
Have you discussed the City of Coral Gables pension status for retirees? After the horrible decision in Detroit, there was national speculation that other cities would attempt to deny retired employees their pension funds. Have there been any moves in this direction for any of the South Florida cities? I was born and raised in Miami (born in 1944), educated at Coral Gables Senior High, Miami-Dade College, University of Florida and University of Miami for my Master’s degree. I’ve certainly seen a lot of changes. I believe you and I met through the Downtown Bay Forum, through our dearly departed friend, Annette Eisenberg. We moved to Orlando in 2001, but return to Miami frequently. I’ve missed reading your newsletter, and look forward to catching up on all the news I’ve been missing. Hope you have a healthy, happy and fulfilling 2014!
>>> How could you print the Scott rebuttal without a large LOL? He says he has a long time to meet his goals, year end 2013! WOW! 23 more days!
>>> Lotus House feeds hundreds of needy over the holidays
Wishing you a happy holiday. Just to give you an update on my favorite charity, we served 500 meals to the Overtown neighborhood during Thanksgiving, and at Christmas we give out 160 gifts to the alumni and both the residents and children.
>>> 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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 email@example.com for further information. >>> Here is what past newspapers have written about the Watchdog Report publisher including a survey and regional study done by the U. North Carolina at Chapel Hill on the media in the southeast United States.
>>> The Miami Herald and Orlando Sentinel & Sun-Sentinel articles on the Watchdog Report publisher over the years. >>> Published on September 9, 1999, Page 1EA, Miami Herald, The (FL) CITIZEN ADVOCATE’ KEEPS TABS ON POLITICIANS >>> Published on January 3, 2000, Page 1B, Miami Herald, The (FL) MIAMI-DADE WATCHDOG WILL BE MISSED >>> >>> To read the full section large two page front page story, but without the photos and smart box graphics, go to: `I Go When You Cannot’ – Sun Sentinel 20 Jan 2003 … Sometimes Dan Ricker lives in the dark so others may live in the light. … to his weekly Watchdog Report have finally mailed their checks. … http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2003-01-20/news/0301190341_1_ricker-school-board-president-miami-s-first-cuban-american >>>Watchdog Report publisher named ‘Best Citizen’ 2003 by the Miami New Times –The publisher would like to thank the weekly alternative paper Miami New Times for bestowing their 2003 Best of Miami, ‘Best Citizen’ award to me and I am honored. Thank you. To read the full story go to http://www.miaminewtimes.com/issues/2003-05-15/citylife2.html/1/index.html
From the spring of 2003: U. North Carolina, Chapel Hill: Southeast U.S. Media Report lists Watchdog Report publisher as leading Florida commentator >>> Selected excerpts from the report on Florida’s media sources. Those who do read the newspaper in Florida have a bevy of options for state government and political coverage. The dominant newspapers in the state are Knight-Ridder’s The Miami Herald (Acquired by The McClatchy Company in 2006) and the Poynter Institute’s St. Petersburg Times. Both papers endorsed Gore in 2000 but split on the 2002 gubernatorial race, with the Herald endorsing Republican incumbent Jeb Bush and the Times backing Democratic challenger Bill McBride. Daniel Ricker of The Miami Herald also writes an influential column as well as an email newsletter called the Watchdog Report that goes out to more than 100,000 subscribers. FEBRUARY 2004 – Florida: Columnists in Abundance –ERIC GAUTSCHI, graduate student, School of Journalism & Mass Communication, UNC-Chapel Hill – D) LEADING COMMENTATORS – Resource Commentator Organization Type Web site –Steve Bousquet St. Petersburg Times Column www.sptimes.com/columns/bousquet.shtml -“First Friday” WPBT TV (Miami) TV Show www.channel2.org/firstfriday/issues.html –Lucy Morgan St. Petersburg Times Column www.sptimes.com/columns/morgan.shtml –Daniel Ricker Miami Herald/Watchdog Report Newsletter >>> Readers who would like to read the complete University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill Southeast United States Media Report go to view the complete report or download all the data used in this study. >>> Watchdog Report Editor’s note to the NCU/CH study: The subscriber number referenced is incorrect and applies to readership.