Watchdog Report Vol.14 No. 47 March 30, 2014 EST.05.05.00 – I go when you cannot – Celebrating 15 years May 5th
Argus Report: Sony Open a major shot in the arm to the South Florida economy, Causeway Bridge not a problem this year, but unattended bag created a security alert Tuesday night
Obituary: Grovite Al Johnson passes at 61, family man, educator, real estate investor, and local activist for good, he will be missed
Florida: Miami Commissioner Sarnoff placing his bets on Gov. Rick Scott, tells Mayor Regalado, his goal is to raise “$300,000,” for his reelection — 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: Homeless Trust asks BCC to add signage legislation, telling motorists how to donate “spare change,” for homeless services and meals, some $40 million donated by drivers on local streets report state’s
Miami-Dade County Public Schools: ETHICS ESSAY CONTEST ENCOURAGES STUDENTS TO ‘THINK HIGHER, FEEL DEEPER’
Public Health Trust: Nominating Council hopefully to get back on track Monday at PHT board meeting, two slots opening up on seven-member board, also will need more top notch citizens with certain skills to oversee how $830 million in new bond money spent
City of Miami: Bayfront Park’s contamination being addressed, but cost to remediate contaminated public sites in Miami escalading, Cost of Douglas Park clean up coming in at $2.5 million
Village of Coconut Grove: Downed tree causes traffic snafu last week in Grove, no one injured, but shows need for some trees with public overhang to be trimmed
City of Miami Beach: M-DC Homeless Trust honors Officer Llamoca for his outstanding work with homeless and helping them get off the streets
City of Coral Gables: Gov. Scott taps Ivette Arango O’Doski to the Board of Architecture and Interior Design.
City of Miami Lakes: Gov. Scott taps Javier Vazquez to the Miami-Dade County Expressway Authority.
Village of Key Biscayne: Traffic updates on Key Causeway
>>> Other stories around Florida
Broward County: Controversial drug court Judge Pollack, takes leave, had $316,324 net worth through Dec. 2012 –Humorist Dave Barry is the big name draw for www.browardBulldog.org Event — Check out your elected leader’s financial disclosure forms
City of Ft. Lauderdale: Former Mutual Benefits Corporation Head Convicted For His Role In $1 Billion MBC Scheme
City of Plantation: Medical Director For Miami-Based Health Care Clinic Sentenced To 144 Months In Prison For Role In $50 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme
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
Monroe County: Gov. Scott taps Bette Brown to the Board of Governors, Citizens Property Insurance Corporation. – To read all Monroe County constitutional officers’ financial disclosure forms go to http://public.ethics.state.fl.us/results.cfm
Community Events: JUNGLE ISLAND – MIAMI-DADE COUNTY PARKS AND THE KNIGHT FOUNDATION PRESENT – Margulies Art Collection show
Editorials: M-DC Commission must fill PHT trustee & $830 million bond oversight board slots with only the best people, with the right skills, for the stakes are high for Jackson Health System — 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 thinks WDR should report more on Democratic gubernatorial candidate Rich’s campaign
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.
ARGUS REPORT – Heard, Seen on the Street
>>> Sony Open a major shot in the arm in the economy, causeway bridge not a problem this year, but unattended bag created a security alert Tuesday
The Sony Open Tennis Tournament on Key Biscayne has been an outstanding success and every person that the Watchdog Report talked to enjoyed the event in a big way. The tennis tournament has taken on must play status (though some key players had to drop out because of injuries) and getting over the bridge that is being refurbished by the County and was a nightmare in past years has been a piece of cake this season. Moreover, while this is not Wimbledon, the event took on some of the characteristics of the Davis Cup, where people cheered and had they’re country’s flags draped around them when, for example a Columbian player was competing. The Sony brings in tens of millions in economic impact and has grown over the 30 years it has been held on the tony Key and for more go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2014_Sony_Open_Tennis
Anything unusual happen?
On Tuesday night, an unattended bag caused a security concern and people were asked to leave quickly, though it turned out to be nothing. However, by Thursday, federal security forces were on the ready, with their weapons on the ready, monitoring the event said a number of people that attended later in the week and the Sony Open will end this weekend with the finals matches.
>>> Defendant Sentenced for Providing Material Support to Terrorists
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 the members of the South Florida Joint Terrorism Task Force (“JTTF”), announce today that Hafiz Muhammed Sher Ali Khan, 77, was sentenced to 25 years in prison by U.S. District Judge Robert N. Scola, Jr., for providing material support to terrorists, including the Pakistani Taliban. According to public records, defendant Hafiz Khan was the Imam at the Miami Masjid in Miami, Florida. The indictment did not allege that the masjid participated in the defendant’s scheme. Khan was convicted by a jury on March 4, 2013, after two months of trial, on charges of conspiring to provide, and providing, material support to a conspiracy to murder, maim and kidnap persons overseas, 18 U.S.C. 2339A, and conspiring to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, specifically, the Pakistani Taliban, 18 U.S.C. 2339B.
U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer stated, “The sentence today demonstrates that no matter who you are or what your motive may be, financing terrorism will not be tolerated by our criminal justice system, and will be punished severely. Today’s sentence sends a powerful message to anyone who thinks they have a reason to support terrorism: you cannot use the freedoms of this country to support terrorism. It will not be tolerated. You will be brought to justice.” “Terrorists in Pakistan have lost a reliable source of funding and the man responsible for that funding, Hafiz Muhammed Sher Ali Khan, is now paying the price for his actions,” said Xanthie Mangum, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Miami. “Terrorism remains the FBI’s top priority.” The Pakistani Taliban, also known as Tehrik‑e Taliban Pakistan, Tehrik‑I‑Taliban, Tehrik-e-Taliban, and Tehreek‑e‑Taliban, is a Pakistan-based terrorist organization formed in or around December 2007 by an alliance of radical Islamist militants. On September 1, 2010, the United States Department of State formally designated the Pakistani Taliban as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act. According to the evidence at trial, Khan, with the help of persons in South Florida and Pakistan, sent money and other material support to Pakistani Taliban contacts and sympathizers overseas. The Pakistani Talibans objectives include resistance against the lawful Pakistani government, enforcement of strict Islamic law known as Sharia, and opposition to the United States and coalition armed forces fighting in neighboring Afghanistan. The Pakistani Taliban has committed numerous acts of violence in Pakistan and elsewhere, including suicide bombings which resulted in the death of civilians as well as Pakistani police, army, and government personnel, and also provided financing and training for the attempted bombing of New York City’s Times Square in May 2010.
According to the evidence at trial, Khan sought to aid the Pakistani Talibans fight against the Pakistani government and its perceived allies, including the United States, by supporting acts of murder, kidnapping, and maiming in Pakistan and elsewhere, in order to displace the lawful government of Pakistan and to establish Sharia. Khan transferred money from the United States to Pakistani Taliban supporters in Pakistan, primarily using bank accounts and wire transfer services in the United States and Pakistan. These funds were intended to purchase guns for the Pakistani Taliban, to sustain militants and their families, and generally to promote the Pakistani Talibans cause. Khan also solicited and collected money in the United States for that purpose, taking great care to conceal his activities. In one recorded conversation introduced as evidence at trial, Khan stated that money cannot be sent openly to the Pakistani Taliban, but must instead be sent covertly through its supporters. Khan also used a madrassa he founded in Pakistan (where he was born) to provide shelter and other support to Pakistani Taliban militants. In another recorded conversation introduced as evidence at trial, Khan claimed that children from his madrassa have gone to train to kill Americans in neighboring Afghanistan. Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Department of State, Broward Sheriff’s Office, Miami-Dade Police, City of Miami Police, City of Miramar Police, City of Margate Police, and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and the members of the South Florida Joint Terrorism Task Force. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys John Shipley, Sivashree Sundaram, and Michael Patrick Sullivan, from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, and Trial Attorney Bridget Behling from the Counterterrorism Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. 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.
>>> Congressional Candidate Pleads Guilty to Violation of the Federal Election Campaign Act
Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Mythili Raman, Acting Assistant United States Attorney for the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice, and Michael B. Steinbach, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, announced today that Justin Lamar Sternad, 35, pled guilty before U.S. District Court Judge Robin S. Rosenbaum to violating the Federal Election Campaign Act (Election Act) in connection with the 2012 Democratic Party primary election for Florida’s 26th Congressional District. Sternad, 35, of Miami, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Judge Robin S. Rosenbaum in the Southern District of Florida. Sternad pleaded guilty to all counts of a criminal information that charged him with one count of conspiracy to make false statements to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), one count of making false statements to the FEC and one count of accepting illegal campaign contributions.
Sternad was a candidate in the 2012 Democratic Party primary election for Florida’s 26th Congressional District. According to court documents, Sternad engaged in a conspiracy to accept illegal campaign contributions and file false statements with the FEC in order to conceal the true source, amount and nature of the funds used by his campaign. Sternad admitted that his campaign accepted cash and checks in excess of Federal Election Campaign Act limits, and that he filed statements that intentionally misled the FEC about his campaign’s activities. During the campaign, illegal cash contributions from co-conspirators were used to pay for a rental car and the design, printing and distribution of campaign flyers.
According to court documents, Sternad reported to the FEC that he made loans to his campaign in the amount of $63,801, when he knew that he had actually loaned fewer than $300. In total, Sternad accepted over $70,000 in misreported campaign contributions. Judge Rosenbaum set sentencing for May 31, 2013 at 10:00 a.m. At sentencing, Sternad faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine up to $250,000 on each count. Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Senior Litigation Counsel Thomas J. Mulvihill and Richard C. Pilger, Director of the Election Crimes Branch of the Public Integrity Section of the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls.
>>> Press release: Zogby Report Card: Vladimir Putin is laughing at Obama’s sanctions
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 weekly White House report card that President Obama has few good options in his duel with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and U.S. sanctions are being scoffed at by Moscow. “The president visited the pope. Thus ends the positive portion of our report. Please click on the link below to view this week’s grade: http://zogbyanalytics.com/news/424-zogby-report-card-vladimir-putin-is-laughing-at-obama-s-sanctions
>>> Frost Museum at FIU has tinning exhibit of Pulitzer Prize photographs over the decades, a must see collection
The Frost Museum at Florida International University is holding a unique exhibit of photos from past Pulitzer Prize winners and some of the photographs will rip your heart out, when the visual tragedy is brought to life in a photo. Here is the information on the exhibit: Capture the Moment: The Pulitzer Prize Photographs February 12, 2014 – April 20, 2014 -Capture the Moment consists of photographs from every Pulitzer Prize photographer, from the year of the first prize, 1942, to the present. Presently, there are 166 photographs included. The exhibit includes dramatic and poignant news and feature photographs, including Joe Rosenthal’s World War II photo of the raising of the flag by U.S. Marines on Iwo Jima (1945 Pulitzer); the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (2006 Pulitzer); Robert H. Jackson’s 1963 photo of Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald and Nathaniel Fein’s shot of Babe Ruth watching his number being retired at Yankee Stadium (1949 Pulitzer). >>> Capture the Moment: The Pulitzer Prize Photographs was developed by Business of Entertainment, Inc. NYC (www.bizzent.com), Cyma Rubin, Curator, in association with the Newseum (www.newseum.org) in Washington, D.C. and for more go to http://thefrost.fiu.edu/exhibitions.htm
>>> With the Watchdog Report closing in on 15 years, I thank all of you that have supported the effort, not for the faint 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. However, 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. In addition, the WDR or myself, has affected and easily saved 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, The Miami Herald, to WLRN, and WPBT Channel 2 over the years.
>>> Grovite Johnson passes at 61, family man, educator and local activist for good, he will be missed
Albert Johnson, 61, of Coconut Grove, passed Thursday night while at the Sony Open with his wife Yvonne, a physician when he did not wake from what seemed to be a nap at the event, and he was a great family man and educator. Johnson graduated from the University of Miami and he also got his Juris Doctor from the Coral Gables University and he was a big booster of The U, and he was about to be honored by La Salle High School where he graduated years earlier for his achievements as a alumnus and he will be missed, by Yvonne, his son A.J., Jasmine, and older daughter Jessica. A.J. texted to his list Thursday night that his Dad had passed and a viewing is scheduled at the Range Funeral Home Sunday from four to 6:00 p.m., in the Grove, and a memorial is planned on Monday April 7 at 10:00 a.m. at Crist Episcopal. Johnson was a mover and shaker in the Grove for years, was a superb volleyball player and over all athlete who touched the lives of thousands of Miami-Dade Public Schools students, and the love they had for him was clear when they ran into each other and he would beam at the students and listen to their tales, yet he had a dry sense of humor, and a serious side blended with a warm heart. He also produced the Miami Jazz Festival in the early 2000s, and all that he touched in his life will miss him. Al may you rest in peace my friend. More information on the services will be forthcoming in www.miamiherald.com .
>>> Miami Commissioner Sarnoff placing his bets on Gov. Rick Scott, tells Mayor Regalado, his goal is to raise “$300,000,” for his reelection
Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff is adding financial juice to the Gov. Rick Scott campaign and he told Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado that he is hoping to raise “some $300, 000,” for the governor’s reelection campaign and he and his wife Teresa were at the top of the Republican Governor’s Association invite for the local Scott fundraiser held in Coral Gables that also featured former GOP Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney. At the home of healthcare billionaire Miguel “Mike” Fernandez, recently. Sarnoff, once was a Republican, then switched to the Democratic Party in his 2006 initial race against appointed Miami Commissioner Linda Haskins who he beat in District 2 votes back then, two to one, in a brutal race, where she out fundraised him considerable back then. Since then, he was an early Barack Obama supporter; his photo with the president was prominent in his commission office, where there still is a photo of Sarnoff with former President Bill Clinton at the receptionist desk.
Further, years earlier he was at the front of leading a few hundred Obama voters going to the polls riding on a fire truck back in 2008, and his home fencing in Central Grove was plastered with Obama campaign signs back then. However, in the 2012, presidential race there was not one sign for Obama at the home, and he seems to have taken a page out of former GOP Gov. Charlie Crist’s political playbook, who is expected to take on Scott if he can get past former state Sen. Nan Rich, D-Weston in the Democratic Party’s primary.
Sarnoff who is termed out in 2015 on the Miami commission dais may be looking for a state post to continue his political career that locally has suffered and his options for elected office are limited, though people suggest he might try a run for mayor of Miami, but given the city’s demographics, that alternative is considered a long shot.
The Watchdog Report caught up with Fernandez on Saturday and when it came to the recent kafuffle when he resigned from the Scott campaign. He said, “It has been blown out of proportion,” and he expects Scott “to be reelected,” this fall. Moreover, when WPLG Senior Political Reporter Michael Putney, asked Scott about the recent controversies. The governor demurred, saying that he was confident with his campaign’s progress and the some $30 million that had been raised for the campaign so far, guaranteeing he will have the cash to fill the airwaves with tough campaign spots hitting Crist.
The former governor is a better campaigner when he has the wind to his back like in 2006 when he ran a sunny campaign that was managed by his “maestro,” former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux, R-FL, but they have since ended that relationship after Crist ran as an independent, and later become a Democrat in 2012. Moreover, Crist has embraced Obama and his fundraising base trying to compete with Scott’s clear financial advantage, which currently has Crist leading in the recent polls, but is expected to be a tight race come November. >>> http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/the-buzz-florida-politics/rick-scott-mitt-romney-team-up-for-rga-fundraiser/2169386 and Sarnoff was also referenced in an “adult and strong language” blog,” done by Al Crespo.
What about former Sen. Rich?
Rich, a Democratic Party stalwart has had difficulty getting her name recognition up around the state and the Broward official while known there, has got to get a clearer message out to voters if she expects to rise in the polls that show her trailing to Crist in statewide polls. She is a life long Democrat and her press releases state she wants to direct more funding to education, and supports many other Democratic policies, but Rich needs visibility in the media and it remains to be seen if her campaign catches fire in the coming months up to the party’s primary this August.>>> Editor’s note: Rich will be interviewed on WPLG Channel 10 www.wplg.com next Sunday on Michael Putney’s show, This Week in South Florida.
>>> Press release: Gov. Scott announced the reappointments of Dave Farmer and Marielle Kitchener to the Big Cypress Basin Board.
Farmer, 47, of Naples, is the owner of Keystone Development Advisors. He is reappointed for a term beginning March 28, 2014, and ending March 1, 2017.
Kitchener, 44, of Naples, is an environmental specialist with Turrell, Hall, & Associates Inc. She is reappointed for a term beginning March 28, 2014, and ending March 1, 2017. The appointments are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.
>>> Press release: Gov. Scott today released the following statement about news outlets reporting the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles is considering tying their employee bonuses to the number of tickets they issue to motorists: “The idea that FHP would tie officer bonuses to the number of tickets they write is absolutely outrageous and wrong. All state worker bonuses should be based on better – not worse – outcomes for the people of Florida who pay the taxes to fund state government. “Floridians paying more in tickets is not a better outcome. Period. If this idea comes across my desk, I will reject it.”
>>> 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.
>>> Homeless Trust asks BCC to add signage legislation, telling motorists how to donate “spare change,” for homeless services and meals, some $40 million donated by drivers on local streets report state’s
The Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust voted Friday to ask the County Board of County Commissioners to add the issue of supporting having road way sign legislation added to the county’s legislative package in Tallahassee, similar to when a organization maintains a road. The idea is using FDOT highway signs that spells out a way for people to contribute their “spare change,” directly to the Homeless Trust to provide more services and meals, rather than donate on the side of the street with panhandlers, that is big business, and brings in some $40 million said a local study of the donations, said Ron Book the longtime Homeless Chair.
Book said it was a way to discourage panhandling and a convenient way for people to make contributions that would be different from the Trust Parking Meter donation program where people put change into the non-working meters.
Book said the “idea is to further discourage the 2.5 million residents that live here,” and if the legislation was passed in the state legislature. People would have the option to put spare change “to good use, and was a way to donate change and 100 percent of that money would go to services and meals,” but he also noted the Board of County Commissioners would also have to buy into the idea as well as the legislature. During the discussion Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado weighed in saying “not all panhandlers are homeless.” “A lot are professional,” panhandlers he thought. Regalado noted the Miami inner city is dealing with about 400 of the chronically homeless, (And through the mayor’s office has helped take “37 veterans off the streets of Miami.”) and while the city tried to create a “no panhandling zone, it [only] sort of worked,” he said and there were “Constitutional Issues,” and he noted in Broward County panhandling was made a “misdemeanor.” At certain road intersections based on life safety issues, said Book. In addition, the legislation Book is looking to get passed would just offer counties and cities the option to install some of this signage change and did not involve any “criminalization,” and was only “creating signage about another way to donate,” to eliminate homeless in Miami-Dade County, Book said.
>>> CODI committee monitoring parking policy change at JHS, only first two hours free for the disabled
The Commission on Disability Issues (CODI) is watching the new parking policy being instituted at the Public Health Trust recently, a couple of the board members told the Watchdog Report last week. The Trust is charging patients with disabilities after two free hours of parking at the Jackson Health System, unless the patient qualifies for free parking. However, some CODI members are watching how the policy works noting for many people with disabilities the two-hour time frame is to short they thought. They also noted that CODI “had not” been consulted about the policy change by any member of the Trust administration.
>>> PortMiami Director Johnson expected to be tapped to run county’s water & sewer department
The word is that Water and Sewer Director John Renfrow is leaving Miami-Dade at the end of April http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/03/26/4021283/portmiami-director-may-take-over.html#storylink=misearch and Miami Port Director Bill Johnson is expected to pick up the leadership gauntlet in the last couple of years, Johnson is still a county employee. Johnson who has taken on challenging or troubled projects in the past oversaw the construction of the AAA arena in the late 1990s, was then tapped to finish the Arsht Performing Arts Center that was to cost $255 million but ended up costing $472.9 million and was 20 months late in the opening, and then there was the Port assignment and he has been the facilities biggest cheerleader and traveled the globe talking up the Port. He also tried to be the new director of MIA and most recently applied to be The Bacon Council’s new executive director but that also did not pan out.
However, Johnson, who in the past said, he does what he is told when it comes to Mayor Carlos Gimenez and any assignment must be shocked at this new challenge. For there is nothing sexy about the massive infrastructure problems that the department has, and needs billions of dollars in new pipes, and the Department is no way the glamorous position of running the Port or MIA. Moreover, Johnson at public engagements mentions often that he could be making much more in the private sector rather than at the county and it will be interesting to see if he takes this new position, that to say the least is a much lower profile position, though very critical to the county’s residents as a whole.
>>> GMCVB press release: RECORD ACCOMMODATIONS AND FOOD SERVICE JOBS IN GREATER MIAMI AND THE BEACHES REPORTED FOR FEBRUARY 2014 MARKING 50 MONTHS OF CONSECUTIVE JOB INCREASES
Greater Miami’s Accommodations and Food Service jobs increased +2.4% in February 2014 compared to the same period in 2013. This marks 50 months of consecutive increased employment in Greater Miami’s Accommodations and Food Service Industry.
|Greater Miami Accommodations and Food Service Jobs|
|February 2014||February 2013||% Change|
MIAMI-DADE COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS
>>> ETHICS ESSAY CONTEST ENCOURAGES STUDENTS TO ‘THINK HIGHER, FEEL DEEPER’
Press release: Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS), the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity, LRN, the Miami-Dade County Youth Fair & Exposition and The Betsy-South Beach have partnered to present the Elie Wiesel Foundation Prize in Ethics Essay Contest. M-DCPS is the first district in the nation to offer the prize at the high-school level. Thousands of young people have participated in the Foundation’s Prize in Ethics at the college level since its inception in 1989.
Open to Miami-Dade high school juniors and seniors, the essay contest encourages students to apply Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel’s call to action to “think higher, feel deeper” about urgent ethical issues confronting them in today’s world. Wiesel encourages a continued “thirst for learning” and “a thirst for discovery” among students.
District winners will be chosen from school site winners and announced at a special awards ceremony on March 31, 2014, 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m., at The Betsy-South Beach, 1440 Ocean Drive, Miami Beach. The ceremony will include remarks from Superintendent of Schools Alberto M. Carvalho, Nobel Peace Prize winner Professor Elie Wiesel and CEO of LRN Dov Seidman. Following the ceremony, The Betsy will host a special dinner to commemorate this landmark initiative and honor those involved. The winners will receive a combined $7,000 in scholarship prizes provided by the Miami-Dade County Youth Fair & Exposition: First Place: $3,000 scholarship; Second Place: $2,000 scholarship; Third Place: $1,000 scholarship and $250 scholarships each to four honorable mentions.
“I am thrilled that our students are the first high school students to participate in the Elie Wiesel Foundation Prize in Ethics Essay contest,” said Carvalho. “This is an extraordinary opportunity for students to gain a deeper understanding of the impact that personal ethical choices have on their lives as well as the lives of others. Professor Wiesel’s work and writings provide the perfect platform on which students can broaden their concept of important issues pertaining to ethics and character.”
Professor Elie Wiesel was born in 1928 in Sighet, Transylvania, now a part of Romania. He was 15 years old when he and his family were deported by the Nazis to Auschwitz. He is the author of more than 60 books of fiction and non-fiction including his internationally acclaimed memoir, Night. For his literary and human rights activities, he has received numerous awards including the Nobel Prize for Peace. In 1987, Marion and Elie Wiesel established the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity. LRN is the exclusive corporate partner of the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity Prize in Ethics.
“The Miami-Dade school system has distinguished itself as a leader and innovator in education,” said Seidman. “With the initiation of the Elie Wiesel Prize in Ethics Contest for high school students, Miami-Dade is once again at the forefront in recognizing the critical importance of an ethical dimension in education. Even more impressive, it has explicitly committed to developing ethical leaders, especially as students are coming of age in a more interconnected and interdependent world, where their behavior matters more than ever and in ways it never has before.”
PUBLIC HEALTH TRUST
>>> Nominating Council hopefully to get back on track Monday at PHT board meeting, two slots opening up on seven-member board, also will need more top notch citizens with certain skills to oversee how $830 million in new bond money spent
The PHT Nominating Council met Thursday, but did not have a quorum and was unable to set any dates to run ads for people to apply to the PHT board where there are two openings this May, but the Council is expected to gather again on Monday morning at a Special PHT meeting scheduled. And hopefully the recruitment process will be able to get on track and be finalized and people will be able to apply to be on the high profile board that is the premier public oversight board in Miami-Dade and watches over the $1.6 billion Jackson Health System and its some 10,000 employees, physicians and nurses that give world class medical care with affiliations with two universities medical schools.
There are two slots on the PHT seven member board and three applicants who applied before will be contacted to see if they are still interested. Further, the Council Chair Audrey Edmonson noted since the issue of quorum for the Council was becoming a problem. She was sponsoring a county ordinance that would drop the quorum requirement in the future to four members of the nine member Council she said.
What about $830 million bond oversight board?
The Council will also be asking applicants to fill these new board spots made up of citizens with certain skills, to watch over how this new infrastructure money is going to be spent. And the request for these candidates to apply will be done in the near future, and this new oversight board should have one PHT board member suggested PHT member Mojdeh Khaghan, Esq. And Edmonson was receptive to that idea as well, as perhaps a commissioner being added on this new over sight board yet to be created, to oversee how this new capital money will be spent and is critical to Jackson Health System’s future. When it has to compete with other hospital systems that have more upgraded and modern facilities.
CITY OF MIAMI
>>> Bayfront Park’s contamination being addressed, but cost to remediate contaminated public sites in Miami escalading, Cost of Douglas Park clean up coming in at $2.5 million
The City of Miami has another park that is going to be tested at the request of the County’s Department of Regulatory and Economic Resources (DERM) and it is Bayfront Park, managed by the Park’s Trust that this weekend is holding the ULTRA Festival and brings in significant revenue to the City’s general fund. At the Trust board meeting this week, Alice Bravo, an assistant Miami city manager updated Trust board members on the matter that is not as sweeping as some of the city Parks were found to be. She said DERM sent a Feb. 21 certified letter to the city of Miami stating, “Samples collected at the Park, on Jan27, revealed the presence of soil contamination,” and included “arsenic, barium, copper and lead above screening criteria.”
Bravo, along with consultants said, a plan will be submitted to DERM that would include doing 30 boring samples and the cost for the testing would be around $40,000 for the testing. Trust Chair Miami Commissioner Frank Carollo was very “frustrated,” at the time this remediation was taking and to get the plan approved. Since the Park is a very busy venue and brings revenue into the City. And the consultants said in the case of the contaminants on the site “these seem to be more localized,” where there are typographical mounds and the 30 boring sites are hoped to be enough but if not could go to 80 borings and the remediation would be to put two feet of top soil over the “ash.”
Timothy Schmand, the Trust’s CEO said about the clean up and anticipated costs that “remediation was a painful thing for us to do, [but he felt it was] in our best interest to get it cleaned up quickly,” given all the scheduled events planned in the future at the Park. Further, this is an unbudgeted cost to the Trust and while there is, some hope there could be funding from $40 million the County has for a contaminated site on Virginia Key. The cost of cleaning that up is expected to be less than anticipated and the City hopes to tap into some of that left over money to cover the rising costs to clean up some other contaminated Parks such as Blanche Park in the Grove which cost $500,000 for the play area remediation. And a larger area such as Douglas Park is costing $2.5 million for remediation, and all the other City’s parks are still being looked at in this regard and it is currently unknown how much it will ultimately cost to clean-up these community jewels. In addition, Carollo noted as this park contamination issue spreads citywide. The costs “to remove the materials could be astronomical,” he said. Editor’s Note: The Watchdog Report has security guard Erica Mack in my prayers after she was trampled at the Ultra Festival on Saturday night and is at Jackson Memorial Hospital in serious condition. http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/03/29/4026626/police-arrest-22-on-first-day.html
>>> Sgt. of Arms Soler says sayonara to Commission gig, blend of a diplomat and professional police officer
Miami Commission Sergeant–of–Arms Roberto “Max” Soler has left the building. He was given a Miami Commission proclamation on Thursday, and the even-tempered Miami police officer officer, who served a host of details on the force over the years, honored his wife and family. The man in this capacity at City Hall was a blend of diplomat and law enforcement and he did his job at City Hall with professionalism. He has four daughters, a son and the family in the coming weeks will be off to Disney World in Orlando, and the Watchdog Report gives Soler a Tip of the Hat for a job well done and for being a friend over the years.
>>> Miami Protocol Officer Dr. Tinnie moved to communications department, under Zayon
Long serving City of Miami employee Wallis H. Tinnie, Ph.D., who headed up the City’s Office of the Protocol Officer has been transferred to the Miami Communications Department headed up by controversial Angel Zayon, and given the odd management style of Zayon. The Watchdog Report wishes her good luck in this new position.
>>> Dade Heritage Trust press release: Miami City Commission approves MetSquare Archeological Site Mediation Settlement
The City of Miami Commission voted March 28, 2014 to approve a Mediated Action Plan developed for the MetSquare Archeological Site on the north bank of the Miami River at 300 SE 3rd St. The plan will preserve, interpret and showcase in situ remains of the Tequesta Village, the Ft. Dallas well and the foundation and steps of the Royal Palm Hotel, incorporating them into MDM’s new development.
The plan was developed through a mediation process instigated by City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff. Former Judge Angel Cortinas mediated two day-long sessions of negotiations among MDM Development LLC and MDM Retail, LTD., and City of Miami staff, County staff, the State of Florida and preservationists, including DHT CEO Becky Roper Matkov, DHT Incoming President Brian Alonso, DHT Trustee Scott Silver and DHT Advisor Arva Moore Parks.
Speaking in favor of the plan at the Commission meeting, Brian Alonso emphasized that this is a win-win for the developer and the community. Becky Matkov thanked all for their spirit of cooperation and determination, saying “Dade Heritage Trust looks forward to monitoring the progress, participating in the interpretation and celebrating the results as this plan becomes a reality.” Commissioners Marc Sarnoff, Francis Suarez and Frank Carollo voted for the Settlement. Commissioner Keon Hardemon voted against it. Willy Gort was absent.
VILLAGE OF COCONUT GROVE
>>> Downed tree causes traffic snafu last week in Grove, no one injured, but shows need for some trees to be trimmed
A downed tree last week blocking Main Highway during the busy evening rush hour traffic shows the need and danger that exists with the lush vegetation and bountiful tree canopy, and luckily no one was injured by the down tree and reminds Grovites to keep their trees cut back especially if they branch out over the public domain of the street.
CITY OF MIAMI BEACH
>>>M-DC Homeless Trust honors Officer Llamoca for his outstanding work with homeless and helping them get off the Beach’s streets
The Miami-Dade Homeless Trust honored Miami Beach Police Officer Lt. Ysidro Llamoca for his “huge heart” working with the homeless Beach population, said Trust board member Miami Beach Commissioner Deede Weithorn, CPA. Weithorn who took part in a recent homeless census count in January said, the Officer’s “team knows how to do it right,” and the man is a “very special officer,” who also won the Beach’s Community Volunteer Award, as well as the prestigious LEO Award given out by the local Chiefs of Police. In addition, the Watchdog Report gives him a Tip of the Hat for a job well done.
>>> Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club Meeting Date: April 1st, 2014 Meeting Time: 8:30 AM Meeting Place: David’s One, corner of Collins Ave. and 11th Street. Newly elected Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Grieco will be the guest speaker at the April 1st meeting of the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club. Michael will be sharing his experiences during his first few months as a Commissioner as well as discussing some of the issues now before the Commission. There is no charge for attending and everyone is welcome. David Kelsey, Moderator Visit our web site at www.MBTMBC.com (Miami Beach Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club).
CITY OF CORAL GABLES
>>> Press release: Gov. Scott announced the appointment of Ivette Arango O’Doski to the Board of Architecture and Interior Design.
Arango O’Doski, 38, of Coral Gables, is the vice president of government and community relations for The Beacon Council. She fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term beginning March 27, 2014, and ending October 31, 2014.
>>> Got a beef with Gables policing, April luncheon features Police Chief Weiner
Residents who want to hear what it is like to be the Chief of Police for the City of Coral Gables should stop in at this community luncheon for it is a rare opportunity to listen and ask questions about a important municipal service that can touch any of us at anytime if we are not aware and vigilant. Here is the information on the event: Monday April 7th 2014, Speaker from Coral Gables Police Department, Chief Dennis L. Weiner- We will have Chief Weiner from the Coral Gables Police Department speaking at our next luncheon April 7th, 2014. Dennis Weiner is a results producing public sector executive with extensive law enforcement and military experience. He is a leader in empowering Intelligence-led Policing-based operations through Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) systems adoption and implementation. He has advanced knowledge of law enforcement, emergency management, and strategic planning and has excellent communication, motivational and decision-making skills. He is an accomplished professional with demonstrated ability to perform in a fast-paced competitive environment, maintaining quality control while meeting deadlines and budgets.
As a leader, he inspires confidence, respect, trust and a sense of mission. He utilizes a participative and inclusive leadership style to build consensus toward organization and department goals. He researches and implements innovative and cutting-edge crime prevention and law enforcement tactics and programs as part of comprehensive crime control strategies.
As a law enforcement executive, he is committed to integrating leading edge technology into law enforcement operations, and is interested in developing and applying performance measures to police operations and administration. He is a student and practitioner of Intelligence-Led Policing, Crime Analysis, Predictive Policing and Community Policing models and philosophies. As a Navy Security Officer, he is experienced in the operation of maximum-security detention facilities responsible for the transparent and humane custody and control of high value detainees. >>>Upcoming speakers, April 7th , 2014 – Chief Weiner, Coral Gables, April 21st, 2014 – Commissioner Lago, Coral Gables, May 5th, 2014 – Donald Worth, Miami Marine Stadium, May 19th, 2014 – Raquel Regalado, Miami-Dade School Board The Ponce Business Association is a civic non-profit organization. For more information go to http://poncebusiness.com/Calendar_of_Events.html
CITY OF MIAMI LAKES
>>> Gov. Scott taps Javier Vazquez to the Miami-Dade County Expressway Authority.
Vazquez, 50, of Miami Lakes, is an attorney with Berger Singerman LLP. He currently serves as a board member for the Children’s Cancer Caring Center and on the real estate committee for the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce. He received his bachelor’s degree from Florida International University and his law degree from the University of Miami. He fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term beginning March 27, 2014, and ending April 6, 2017.
>>> Press release: Gov. Scott names Armando del Valle to the Florida Real Estate Appraisal Board.
Del Valle, 54, of Miami Lakes, is the vice president of Del Valle & Associates. He fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term beginning March 27, 2014, and ending October 31, 2017. The appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.
VILLAGE OF KEY BISCAYNE
>>> TRAFFIC ADVISORY: RICKENBACKER CAUSEWAY TOLL LANE SCHEDULE
Press release: Toll lanes on the Rickenbacker Causeway will observe the following schedule beginning Tuesday, February 18, 2014: 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Lanes 7 and 8 (the two far right lanes) will be closed. Traffic will be managed through use of all or some of Lanes 1 through 6 depending on the volume of traffic. >>> 8:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. Lanes 1 through 6 will be closed. Traffic will be managed using Lanes 7 and 8 (the two far right lanes). This schedule change will remain in place until further notice.
>>> OTHER STORIES AROUND FLORIDA
>>> Controversial drug court Judge Pollack, takes leave, had $316,324 net worth through Dec. 2012
Broward County drug court Judge Gisele Pollack is in the spotlight this week after her erratic behavior on the court and she has taken leave from the bench after slurring words and other questionable comments from the bench. She has been open about issues with alcoholism and other issues. For more go to
What do we know about her finances?
Pollack through Dec. 2012 had a $316,324 net worth and she lists $116,895 in household goods. Her home is worth $236,780, there is $45,000 in deferred compensation, a Trust has $26,236 in it, there is $23,699 in a checking account, she owes $132,751 on her mortgage, and her dross income for the year was $124,523, states her financial disclosure form for the year.
>>> Humorist Dave Barry is the big name draw for www.browardBulldog.org Event
The BrowardBulldog is having a special event that is featuring Pulitzer Prize winning humorist Dave Barry and the news organization needs community support for they do excellent investigative reporting on Broward and the state and for more information on the event go to:An Evening With Dave Barry Presented by Boardroom Communications and BrowardBulldog.org
Event to be held at the following time, date, and location:
Tuesday, April 8, 2014 from 5:30 PM to 8:30 PM (EDT)
Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale Auditorium
1 East Las Olas Boulevard
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301
|Attend Event||Share this event:
|Boardroom Communications Presents: AN EVENING WITH DAVE BARRY to benefit BrowardBulldog.org on Tuesday, April 8 at NSU’s Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale. Join us for a fun night with best-selling author and Pulitzer-Prize-winning humorist Dave Barry as he discusses parenting and other topics he knows little about. Dave will share his unique insights from his new book “You Can Date Boys When You’re Forty.”
We hope you can make it!
>>> 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.
>>> Former Mutual Benefits Corporation Head Convicted For His Role In $1 Billion MBC Scheme
Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announce that defendant Joel Steinger, a/k/a “Joel Steiner,” (“Steinger”) pled guilty before U.S. District Judge Robert N. Scola, Jr. to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §1349, as a result of his scheme to defraud investors in Mutual Benefits Corporation (“MBC”), which marketed viatical and life settlements.
Steinger is the final defendant to be convicted out of 13 charged as a result of the MBC scheme, which defrauded approximately 30,000 victims. As the de facto head of MBC, Steinger, along with conspirators Steven Steiner, a/k/a Steven Steinger, Michael McNerney, and Anthony M. Livoti, Jr., Esq., along with others, raised more than $1.25 billion from investors before being shut down by federal regulators in May 2004. By the time charges were filed in December, 2009, investor losses were estimated to amount to more than $800 million. Steinger is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Robert N. Scola, Jr. on June 6, 2014.
According to the evidence presented in a related trial and summarized during Steinger’s guilty plea, from approximately 1994 to May 2004, MBC purchased life insurance policies from persons suffering from AIDS, the chronically ill, and elderly persons. Having purchased the life insurance policies, MBC sold fractionalized interests in insurance policy death benefits, known as “viatical settlements,” to approximately 30,000 investors. MBC solicited the investments through an international network of sales agents. In promotional materials, 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. Under Steinger’s direction, MBC misrepresented various important facts relating to its viatical settlements, including, for example, the estimated life expectancies of the insured persons, the supposedly independent role of doctors determining those life expectancies, 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… Co-defendant Steiner was also a founding principal of MBC, was actively involved in MBC’s marketing and promotional activities, and encouraged investors to buy MBC’s investments. On September 3, 2013, Steiner pled guilty to charges in the same case. Steiner was also found guilty by a federal jury in a related case, United States v. Steven Steiner, No. 11-20578-CR-Williams 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. Steiner was sentenced to a total of 15 years in prison.
Co-defendant 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. McNerney pled guilty in this case and was sentenced to five years in prison for his criminal conduct…
Steinger is the thirteenth defendant convicted as a result of the MBC fraud.
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. The MBC case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Rochlin. A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.
>>> Attorney Convicted in Connection with Rothstein Ponzi Scheme
Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Jose A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), and Michael B. Steinbach, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, announce today that a federal jury in West Palm Beach convicted Christina M. Kitterman, 38, of Deerfield Beach, on three counts of wire fraud, after a week-long trial before U.S. District Judge Daniel T. K. Hurley. A sentencing date has not been set. Kitterman was charged with three counts of wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1343. The acts set forth in the charging document were all in furtherance of a “Ponzi” scheme involving the sale of purported confidential settlement agreements in sexual harassment and/or whistle blower cases which were purportedly handled by attorneys at the former Ft. Lauderdale law firm of Rothstein, Rosenfeldt and Adler, P.A. (RRA).
Evidence introduced at trial established that, during the course of the Ponzi scheme, and while she was employed as an attorney at RRA, Kitterman falsely posed as the head of the Ft. Lauderdale office of the Florida Bar Association during a meeting with certain investors in order to explain to the investors the reason why certain payments due to them had not been made. At sentencing, Kitterman faces up to twenty years in prison and a fine of $250,000.00.
U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer stated, “The verdict rendered by the jury today is another step toward bringing Rothstein’s criminal associates to justice. As I have previously stated, the success of Rothstein’s complex scheme to deceive and defraud depended on the complicity of individuals like Christina Kitterman. Kitterman, an attorney, was the fifteenth individual to face criminal charges in connection with this complex financial fraud.” IRS-CI Special Agent in Charge Jose A. Gonzalez stated, “The jury has validated the government’s case sending a strong message that those who knowingly assist in perpetrating investment scams will be held accountable for their actions. Together with our law enforcement partners, we will continue to aggressively investigate and bring to justice those who aided Rothstein in perpetrating this massive fraud.”
“Although Scott Rothstein was the ringleader in a massive Ponzi scheme, he needed help. A jury of her peers has determined Christina Kitterman gave him that help and needs to be held accountable,” said Michael B. Steinbach, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Miami. “Regardless of one’s role, the FBI and its partners are committed to investigate those who swindle investors.” Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of IRS-CI and the FBI. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lawrence D. LaVecchio, Paul F. Schwartz, Jeffrey N. Kaplan and Evelyn B. Sheehan. A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls.
CITY OF PLANTATION
>>> Medical Director For Miami-Based Health Care Clinic Sentenced
To 144 Months In Prison For Role In $50 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme
Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney of the Southern District of Florida, Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Michael B. Steinbach, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, and Christopher B. Dennis, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), Office of Investigations Miami Office announced that a former medical director for Biscayne Milieu, a Miami-based mental-health clinic, was sentenced today to serve 144 months in prison for his role in a fraud scheme involving the submission of more than $50 million in fraudulent billings to Medicare.
Dr. Gary Kushner, 72, of Plantation, Fla., was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Robert N. Scola Jr. in the Southern District of Florida. In addition to the prison term, Kushner was ordered to serve three years of supervised release.Kushner was convicted on Aug. 24, 2012, of one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and one substantive count of health care fraud, following a two-month jury trial.
According to the evidence at trial, Kushner and his co-conspirators caused the submission of over $50 million dollars in false and fraudulent claims to Medicare through Biscayne Milieu, which purportedly operated a partial hospitalization program (PHP) – a form of intensive treatment for severe mental illness. Instead of providing legitimate PHP services, the defendants devised a scheme in which they paid patient recruiters to refer ineligible Medicare beneficiaries to Biscayne Milieu for services that were never provided or were not properly reimbursable by Medicare. Many of the patients admitted to Biscayne Milieu were not eligible for PHP because they were chronic substance abusers, suffered from severe dementia and would not benefit from group therapy, or had no mental health diagnosis but were seeking exemptions for their U.S. citizenship applications.
The evidence at trial further showed that, as Biscayne Milieu’s medical director, Kushner authorized the treatment of patients that he knew were ineligible for PHP treatment. Biscayne Milieu then billed Medicare for millions of dollars in PHP treatments for these patients under Kushner’s name. Evidence further revealed that Kushner would often conduct cursory examinations lasting only minutes before authorizing such fraudulent billings. Various owners, doctors, managers, therapists, patient brokers and other employees of Biscayne Milieu have also been charged with various health care fraud, kickback, money laundering and other offenses in two indictments unsealed in September 2011 and May 2012. Biscayne Milieu, its owners and more than 25 of the individual defendants charged in these cases have pleaded guilty or have been convicted at trial. Antonio and Jorge Macli and Sandra Huarte – the owners and operators of Biscayne Milieu – were each convicted at trial of various offenses and are scheduled for sentencing in April 2013. >>> Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services in coordination with the Medicare Fraud Strike Force. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael Davis, Marlene Rodriguez and James V. Hayes. Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged more than 1,480 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $4.8 billion. In addition, HHS’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with HHS-OIG, is taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers. To learn more about the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), go to www.stopmedicarefraud.gov. A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls.
PALM BEACH COUNTY
>>> And to read all the Palm Beach elected leader’s financial disclosure reports go to http://public.ethics.state.fl.us/results.cfm
>>> Press release: Gov. Scott taps Bette Brown to the Board of Governors, Citizens Property Insurance Corporation.
Brown, 57, of Tavernier, is the chief credit officer for the Community Bank of Florida. She has more than thirty-five years of real estate lending and commercial banking experience. She is the president-elect of the Rotary Club of the Upper Keys. She is also active in the Florida Keys Board of Realtors and the Mariner’s Hospital Board. Brown received her bachelor’s degree from Stetson University and has a graduate degree in banking from the Stonier Graduate School of Banking. She fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term beginning March 24, 2014 and ending July 31, 2014.
>>> Mark your calendar for April 4 – the season’s finale will feature a live concert by Tony Swing at Tropical Park. To stay up to date on all future events, like us on Facebook www.facebook.com/miamidadeparks; and follow us on Twitter @miamidadeparks. You can also see past events on our YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/user/miamidadeparks. Miami-Dade County Parks kicked off its free Noches Tropicales/Tropical Nights 2013/2014 concert season with a star-studded Latin Jazz Gala concert at the Miami-Dade County Auditorium (MDCA) on September 20. The Gala concert was led by 10-time Grammy Award-winning percussionist Edwin Bonilla and his Latin Jazz All-Star Ensemble, and included musical performances by five-time Grammy winning violinist Federico Britos, legendary Cuban flutist Gustavo Cruz and vocalist Lucy Grau. These concerts were made possible by a $100,000 Knight Foundation grant to expand the Noches Tropicales concert series from its home base at Tropical Park to other venues throughout the County and taking on the name of “Tropical Nights”. The Noches Tropicales concerts at Tropical Park are made possible by a $75,000 grant from Target. www.miamidade.gov/parks/.
>>> The Margulies Collection is open to the public Wednesday through Saturday 11am to 4pm Feature Exhibitions: Song Dong | The Wisdom of the Poor: A Communal Courtyard Arte Povera | Calzolari, Kounellis, Pistoletto Anselm Kiefer | Paintings and Sculpture 1986 – 2006 New Painting: Anna Betbeze, Aaron Bobrow, Jessica Jackson Hutchins, Astrid Svangren,Tam Van Tran New Photography: Olafur Eliasson, Jan Hoek, Nina Katchadourian, Domenico Mangano, Zwelethu Mthethwa, Hank Willis Thomas New Sculpture: Ai Weiwei, Nathalie Djurberg, Masao Gozu, Kenny Scharf, Paolo Ventura
New Video: Kota Ezawa, Amar Kanwar We look forward to welcoming you to the Warehouse soon!
Jannis Kounellis,Senza Titolo,1999, plates, iron shelves, bags, plaster, 142 x 79″
>>> M-DC Commission must fill PHT trustee & and $830 million bond oversight board slots with only the best people, with the right skill sets, for the stakes are high for Jackson Health System
With the Jackson Health System in the future looking for top-notch people to serve on not only the seven-member Public Health Trust board, and another nine to eleven people for a new $830 million bond oversight board. The county commission must select the best of the best candidates that apply, for in the coming years the stakes are too high for a misfire in the health system’s management. The smaller PHT board was created to make the governance and decisions more “nimble,” but the Watchdog Report is concerned about too many cooks in the kitchen in the future and is why getting the right people on these two boards is so critical since the nation’s healthcare model is changing dramatically along with reimbursement rates. If JHS will be able to compete in the competitive market place where many hospital systems are years ahead when it comes to IT, and significant diagnostic equipment that the bond is supposed to upgrade and if done right. Will make JHS the community jewel shine brighter than ever before, while giving some $500 million in uncompensated medical care in an academic environment.
Over, the year’s the county commission has rewarded sometimes inferior performance on the PHT by trustees, and even has punished some past trustees who had to make hard unpopular decisions and that cannot be allowed to happen again. For Miami-Dade residents should consider this as a potential last chance for the PHT, and having a dedicated and effective oversight board, that is also smart but nimble is a must, and political interference must be kept to a minimum. If JHS is to soar to the new medical heights this new money could take the public health system. Moreover, commissioners should remember that fact, keep their eye on the ball, and pick only those citizens with the skill sets that will contribute, and have no conflicts. For no one that is just getting their “ticket punched,” as one past trustee once told the Watchdog Report, should apply and certainly not be selected by county commissioners. For the stakes are too high and hopefully county commissioners get that memo?
>>> Can you look into Nan’s campaign for Governor, clear thinking people who love the watchdog Report, will like her…
>>> 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
JEFFREY L. BERKOWITZ TRUST
LINDA MURPHY: Gave a new laptop in Oct. 2001 to keep me going.
WILLIAM PALMER www.shutts.com
Rbb PUBLIC RELATIONS www.rbbpr.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 COUNTY HOMELESS TRUST: www.miamidade.gov/homeless/
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, 2014, 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.