Watchdog Report Vol.14 No. 50 April 20, 2014 EST 05.05.00 – I go when you cannot – Celebrating 15 years May 5th And a Trip down Memory Lane Issue
Argus Report: Easter Weekend in 2000 created the now 15-year-old Watchdog Report after the young Cuban boy Elian Gonzalez was extracted from his relative’s home in Little Havana, and Miami exploded into divisive ethnic chaos
Florida: Crist takes a gamble with refrain, ‘Give me Scott,’ when asked about debating, but he is demurring on debating Democratic Party primary rival Sen. Nan Rich in race, former governor still ridding high in the statewide polls over Gov. Scott — 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: How the mighty have fallen from grace, Ex County Commissioner Miriam Alonso is selling her custom built home near Belen Prep in unincorporated Dade.
Miami-Dade County Public Schools: Cultural Arts Maven Aguirre says his property tax appeals firm has never filed a tax bill challenge “without the property owners consent.”
Public Health Trust: – Applications accepted April 6th to 20th and forms are on line
City of Miami: Ultra trying to mitigate Miami Commissioner’s concerns by hiring Beach Police Chief Ray Martinez to handle security after guard Mack trampled when non ticket holders stormed the gates trying to get into packed techno music festival
Village of Coconut Grove: When it comes to the Historic Grove Playhouse, Grove Village Council will be “truth squad,” says Arts Maven Spring to explain what is going on at county for the beloved property and its ultimate transformation and future reopening since closed in 06.
City of Hialeah: High flying Mayor Robaina tax evasion trial shows, seedy underbelly of local politics, gets a Ferrari from a company he worked for “because he was the mayor”
City of Miami Beach: U.S. Sen. Nelson and subcommittee take road trip to Beach Tuesday to hold hearings on, “Leading the Way: Adapting to South Florida’s Changing Coastline”.
City of Coral Gables: Commission goes with Olazabal as interim manager to replace outgoing Mgr. Salerno
City of Aventura: Former National Fast Food Restaurant Chain Employee and Co-Defendant Plead Guilty in Identity Theft Tax Fraud Scheme
City of Homestead: More trouble for former Homestead mayor Bateman
City of Doral: No Probable Cause was found to a complaint (C14-17) against Doral City Councilwoman Sandra Ruiz that accused her of exploiting her position by intervening in a lawsuit against the city
Town of Miami Lakes: After the former public works, director for Miami Lakes agreed to settle a complaint (C 13-51) that he violated the “reverse two-year rule” by approving public business to a company that previously employed him, the Ethics Commission today approved a Letter of Instruction for Hiram
>>> Other stories around Florida
Broward County: Three Broward Residents Charged with Preparing False Tax Returns for their Clients
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
City of Del Ray Beach: Delray Beach Resident Sentenced in Identity Theft Tax Refund Fraud Scheme
Monroe County: PAST WDR MAY 2007: Small but colorful county has its share of colorful and erstwhile political leaders, but with only 85,000 residents not a big player – To read all Monroe County constitutional officers’ financial disclosure forms go to http://public.ethics.state.fl.us/results.cfm
Community Events: Kristi House luncheon: Breaking the Silence- The month of April is National Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month - Ethics Campaign Conference Confronts Controversial 1997 Miami mayoral election and 2000 presidential elections
Editorials: — 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
Sponsors: Publisher’s mission statement & Subscription information is at the bottom of this issue — Scroll down for all the headline stories text.
>>> Just because you do not take an interest in politics does not mean politics will not take an interest in you. –Pericles (430 B.C.)
>>> If you wish to be deleted, just e-mail me with that message and you are free to e-mail this on to friends.
>>> May you and your family have had a reflective Passover and for readers of the Christian faith, have a great Easter Celebration.
>>> The Watchdog Report publisher will be on WLRN 91.3 F.M. May 5th on Topical Currents hosted by Joseph Cooper and Bonnie Berman from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m., and my readers should listen in to this WDR 15th Anniversary Show.
ARGUS REPORT – Heard, Seen on the Street
>>> Easter Weekend in 2000 created the now 15 year old Watchdog Report after the young Cuban boy Elian Gonzalez was extracted from his relatives home in Little Havana, and Miami exploded into divisive ethnic chaos
Fifteen years ago on Easter Weekend in Miami after the little boy Elian Gonzalez was extracted by federal authorities in his relative’s home in Little Havana, a place that had become “Camp Elian” to the media and the little boy whose mother died on the trip from Cuba had become a passionate cause for the Cuban Exile Community and other Cuban Americans here and the event had ethnically charged the community and with the demographics changing. At the time you had African American’s protesting Cubans in Homestead with Anglos with Confederate Flags and the look on the black protesters faces at the surrealism, was captured in a Miami Herald photograph back then and at that point, I realized nothing I could write could make it any worse.
Further, back then I also realized trying to have an informed community was important, with some $16 billion in government where the large public institutions were like “Giant ships passing in the night,” “Flashing lights at each other,” not knowing what the other was saying or in many ways even carrying. Since they were an independent public institution, but the fact remained if they were in Miami-Dade County, we were on the ship with the 34 other municipalities and what happens in Aventura, Miami Gardens or Miami, had an effect on all of us in some way.
Moreover, with the internet and everyone getting an email address and proudly noting that it was on their business card at the time (This is the spring of 2000, and technology is now years ahead). I began the process of trying to create an information nervous system overlay of the large public institutions for there were not only millions of savings possible, but also enhancing of the community’s quality of life with more coordination between these different entities. Back in 1997. I started in a full time basis going to all the public meetings at Miami-Dade County, the Public schools, and the Public health trust and I saw first hand the lack of communication between the public organizations back then, and also some elected leaders public corruption, and it was clear that the public needed a lobbyist/ reporter dedicated to making government more efficient and accountable yet do it in a just the facts manner.
What about some of the people that inspired me to write the WDR back then?
When I first began publishing the Watchdog Report that many thought I was crazy to do. I got some of my determination and passion from Knight Foundation President Hodding Carter, III who told me what I was doing was “fundamental journalism,” and important here in Miami back in 2000. Along with encouragement from then Miami Herald Publisher Alberto Ibargüen, and the paper’s Editorial Page Editor Tom Fiedler along with news reporters Tyler Bridges and John Dorschner, and since I have a degree in Chinese Studies from The George Washington University and not journalism. I used all these people as my teachers in the very beginning and they helped me mold what is now fifteen years old. >>> Editor’s note: The Argus Report is dedicated to Ibargüen, who emailed me back in May of 2000 saying I should be the “community’s Argus,” the mythical Greek Colossus with 100 eyes guarding the fawn Io, and always vigilant.
And I have written some 30,000 individual stories over the years covering almost every aspect of Miami-Dade and the people that come here, from presidential candidates like John Kerry, John McCain and President Barack Obama and one of the more interesting interviews was with former Soviet Union Leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who came to Miami-Dade College years ago, and during a press gaggle. I was able to ask him a few questions. Further, since back then people and readers have been a great electrolyte of public information and to all the people that supported me in the beginning. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your faith an belief an informed community, made South Florida a better place and our precious tax dollars needed to be watched if we were to curb waste, fraud and abuse of this public money.
How could you physically go to all of these meetings?
>>> PAST WDR MAY 2006: I was able to do these entities simultaneously because all the big local governments are so close together physically, and found in a very small corridor no more than 10 miles or so from each other. Had these government entities been spread out over the county, I could not have covered so many meetings over the years.
But as it is, the City of Miami, Miami Beach, Coral Gables, Miami-Dade County, the Public Health Trust and the county’s public school district all fall within this border and are within striking distance. Further, after so many years I know when to attend certain meetings, and yes people do alert me at times that I should stop by because something may be brewing. It was from a reader that I first heard that there were construction problems at the Performing Arts Center back in 2004, and I broke the story by sending an EXTRA stating the PAC opening was going to be 20 months late, and needed a $67.3 million infusion of new money. And I actually sent that out while the PAC construction committee was meeting and the issue had just been discussed, and some meeting attendees, were worried that “this is going to get out,” then read the story a few minutes later on their Blackberries, “saying it’s out.”
Further, the idea of an EXTRA was the suggestion of Ibargüen, and he also suggested I reference it as a special service of the Watchdog Report and to a great extent. I have learned things from practically everyone I talk to and use the community and its residents as my sounding board. Since I work alone, I run things by a number of people that I might know or meet to see what their take is or view and these comments are considered when I write about a subject.
Further, if I make an error and there is a need for a correction, I use a highlighted 16 font for the correction at the very beginning of the report and if it is a major error like in 2003, when I misquoted Miami-Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas as not supporting something that he did. I sent out a correction literally 15 to 20 minutes later to everyone that received the Watchdog Report at the time.
What about all the documents and audio tapes you have?
Since 1998 I have ever major government document on practically every subject for the public government entities I cover. Included on these documents are my hand written notes of what was said or decided, who and how many people were in the room and if I should watch these people more carefully. Further, I have audio tapes for many of the meetings as well and these have been saved and archived over the years.
In the case of the Public Health Trust trustees, I have each of their notarized 40 page application document with their signature as well as the county’s own extensive background check, and if a trustee does not pull their weight on the board or set the wrong tone. I will do a profile on the wayward one that will include some of this information that is public, as well as their attendance record.
>>> National profile of the publisher in The Tribune papers Jan. 2003 & UNCCH 2004 media study that cites Watchdog Report having 100,000 readers weekly
To read a national story run in the Tribune papers on my life and how this all began done by Orlando Sentinel featured reporter Maya Bell go to: To read the section’s large 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 >>> And to read a University of North Carolina Chapel Hill study on the media in the Southeast United States that mentions the Watchdog Report with 100,000 readers weekly, done back in 2004 and to read the Southern Media Study go to: 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 … – - Cached.
>>> All photos in the Watchdog Report are taken from public government sites, and the Report goes on line at www.watchdogreport.net on Monday sometime during the day usually. >>> If you believe it is important to have someone watching your public institutions consider supporting the Watchdog Report for I am a low cost news service yet I do have to live, thank you! Further, I have been honored over the years by being named a WFOR-4 Hometown Hero in 2000, being profiled in a major way by The Miami New Times, twice in The Miami Herald, and the Orlando Sentinel which ran as a nationwide story on me in the Tribune papers on Jan. 2003 and UNC Chapel Hill naming me one of the top columnists in Florida in a multi-state study of the media back in 2004. I also thank Joseph Cooper for the opportunity to be on the WLRN/NPR showTopical Currents on www.wlrn.org since 2000, including yearly election coverage since then, and also numerous times over the past decade. Further, I am a frequent guest on WWW.WPBT2.ORG on Helen Ferre’s show Issues, and have also appeared on Eliott Rodriguez’s show News & Views.
>>> See what was said about the Watchdog Report in the Miami New Times 2003 — Best of Miami — BEST CITIZEN — Daniel A. Ricker
Three years ago, we said Ricker was our Best Gadfly. Given his dedication and perseverance, this new honor, Best Citizen, is well deserved. Ricker goes to 2,500 mind-melting meetings annually, from the Public Health Trust’s purchasing subcommittee to the Efficiency and Competition Commission to the Alliance for Human Services’ nominating council to the school board’s audit committee. Sometimes he’s the only public observer. Object: to be the Public Citizen for all those out there who can’t attend, and to connect and serve as an information bridge among the special-interest-dominated Miami-Dade governmental institutions that seem so problematic and indifferent to the democratic process.
This month his e-mail newsletter, The Watchdog Report, celebrates its fourth (15th) anniversary. In a former life, Ricker made a handsome living as an international salesman of heart pacemakers. As the hard-working publisher of Watchdog Report, though, he’s struggling financially — this despite the fact that his weekly compendium of meeting summaries, analysis, interviews, and commentary has become essential reading for anyone involved in public affairs. What his written work may lack in polish, it more than makes up for in comprehensiveness. So raise a toast to the man whose official slogan says it all: “A community education resource — I go when you cannot!
>>> 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 plus 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.
>>> Crist takes a gamble with refrain, ‘Give me Scott,’ when asked about debating, but he is demurring on debating Democratic Party primary rival Sen. Nan Rich in race, former governor still ridding high in the statewide polls over Gov. Scott
“Give me Gov. Scott,” said preliminary Democratic Party candidate Charlie Crist for governor, during a press gaggle recently and this new taunt could be the now former governor’s new tag line but it comes with risk. Crist who is refusing to debate state Sen. Nan Rich, D-Weston, is taking a chance with this taunt where he also refused to debate Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez Cantera saying he would get to debate his Lt. governor running mate and not him. http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/04/14/4058827/crist-to-address-west-palm-beach.html#storylink=misearch And Scott has chimed in that Crist should first debate Rich before the primary and then would be a legitimate Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Crist would then be debating the incumbent Scott, and this Crist strategy has real risk in what is expected to be a low voter turnout gubernatorial race.
Crist, now a Democrat after leaving the GOP in 2010 when he ran as an independent is depending on the Democratic Party embracing his candidacy because he beating Scott in the polls and Crist is portraying the race between ‘good and evil,’ when it comes to the incumbents policies and governing style where the healthcare executive keeps the press at bay and does not participate in the usual banter and question answer of past governors. And Crist believes he may have a rallying cry in the moths ahead if he can get past Rich in the August primary and he is considered likely the party’s candidate in the end and Crist has taken to wearing that hat in this upcoming low-key primary where Rich is having difficulty getting likely voter support in statewide polls.
>>> 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.
>>> How the mighty have fallen from grace, Ex County Commissioner Miriam Alonso selling her custom home near Belen Prep in unincorporated Dade.
Ex Miami-Dade Commissioner Miriam Alonso, 74, a former failed Miami mayoral candidate back in the mid 1990s who later spent 13 months in prison on corruption charges http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2002-09-05/news/0209050102_1_miriam-alonso-corruption-charges-grand-theft is selling her custom built house near the Belen Prep School, and she and her husband leonel, 82, are rarely seen by neighbors. Alonso was the highflying county commissioner who represented District 12 on the 13-member commission but for much of her time on the dais. There was a persistent rumors that she was under investigation by state authorities for a secret political slush fund and the Watchdog Report back in the Spring of 2002 crossed swords with the County lawmaker and even sent out an EXTRA right after she was picked up by the FDLE at County Hall for one last interview before her arrest and suspension from the seat by then Gov. Jeb Bush in May of 2002.
Since she served her time in jail, the controversial disgraced politician has since flown under the community radar and it is unknown what her future plans may be, but she is one of the reasons. I am doing the Watchdog Report and since her removal from office. I have always kept an eye on what she was up too. Since many local leaders seem to bounce back and try to seek elected office again.
>>> All the County Commissioners huddle with Mayor Gimenez to discuss union contract issues, no outbursts like some past years, WDR only press outside the meeting
County Commissioners and Mayor Carlos Gimenez held a closed-door executive session on Thursday to discuss union labor negotiation issues said the public meeting notice, and the Watchdog Report sat outside as the meeting was held in the second floor conference room. The county is facing a $200 million budget gap and the union negotiations will be a prominent issue when Gimenez introduces his upcoming budget in the next few months and all the county commissioners were at the meeting, with District 7 Commissioner Xavier Suarez being the first to leave the closed session gathering.
>>> Commissioner Bovo suggests his peers assign a “Staff member,” to focus on the upcoming budget, with a some $200 million funding gap
County Commissioner Estephan Bovo when it comes to the upcoming budget hearings that are public at the Financial Committee he chairs. The former state legislator wants his peers to dedicate a staff member to work with the county’s budget department, so they have a real grasp of the upcoming budget that will be approved in September after two public budget hearings.
>>> Ethics Commission press release: No Probable Cause was found to a complaint (C 13-42) filed against an attorney for not registering as a lobbyist when she represented companies seeking concessions at Miami International Airport. Lillian Ser sent letters to several County officials last year on behalf of two firms seeking concessions — 305 Pizza and Chefs — but contended she was following the language of the Request for Proposal (RFP), which stated that only those who wish to address the County Commission or a County Board or Committee must register to lobby. Ser insisted that her communications with the Airport Director, the Mayor and procurement contract officers did not fall under those categories. A Letter of Instruction will recommend to County officials to amend the language in future RFPs to accurately reflect lobbyist registration requirements in the Ethics Ordinance.
>>> Ethics commission press release: A complaint (C 13-37) filed against the Executive Director of the Ethics Commission was dismissed for Lack of Probable Cause. Serial complaint filer and “blogger” Al Crespo alleged that Joseph Centorino abused his position by investigating a Sunshine Law violation in Hialeah in October of 2013. The COE does not enforce the Sunshine Law. Crespo was advised by COE staff to file his complaint with the Florida Ethics Commission, since it also has jurisdiction over Centorino and would ensure that an independent agency looked into the allegations, but he refused to do so. This past December, the COE referred the complaint to the Office of the Inspector General, which subsequently declined the case. The Independent Ethics Advocate determined that the Hialeah investigation was conducted jointly with the State Attorney’s Office and that Crespo’s allegation was a personnel issue not properly addressed through the complaint process.
>>> PAST MAY 2007 WDR: For ten years the Watchdog Report has watched county hall, four commissioners picked off by authorities over the years
When the Watchdog Report first descended on Miami-Dade County in 1997. It took me almost two years to feel comfortable in county hall as I slowly started to absorb what was going on with the then $4 billion or so in county government. There was talk about corruption on the commission dais and a few county commissioners would ultimately be removed, arrested and convicted and the elected leaders busted cut across the community’s ethnic lines and gender.
The county with a $7 billion budget this year (2007) with over 30,000 employees is an entity of its own that lurches from problem to problem with always the same answer. We have discovered the problem and have put safeguards in place to prevent it from happening in the future and at anyone time there are at least five of the county’s over 60 departments that are going through this process in one way or another.
In addition, strong Mayor Carlos Alvarez disappointed the Watchdog Report when I asked him before the strong mayor form of government countywide vote that passed in January if that would reduce corruption at county hall and he responded “probable not.” He then said any large organization is going to have corruption but I was surprised at how easily he accepted it at the time, thinking lets not raise the bar to high.
Now after years of incredible property tax growth that rose 21.3 percent countywide last year (2007), the property tax numbers are coming down and the state legislature is coming at municipal and county governments with a financial chainsaw that depending on how it plays out, could cut county government here between $100 to 900 million. These cuts would impact everything but public safety like police and fire rescue but it could close parks, libraries and all else that is not critical in nature, but the county has also brought on some of this themselves as this perfect storm gathers in Tallahassee with the final fiscal results still a work in progress at the state capital.
>>> GMCVB press release: RECORD ACCOMMODATIONS AND FOOD SERVICE JOBS IN GREATER MIAMI AND THE BEACHES REPORTED FOR MARCH 2014 MARKING 51 MONTHS OF CONSECUTIVE JOB INCREASES
Greater Miami’s Accommodations and Food Service jobs increased +2.6% in March 2014 compared to the same period in 2013. This marks 51 months of consecutive increased employment in Greater Miami’s Accommodations and Food Service Industry.
|Greater Miami Accommodations and Food Service Jobs|
|March 2014||March 2013||% Change|
MIAMI-DADE COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS
>>> Cultural Arts Maven Aguirre says his property tax appeals firm has never filed a tax bill challenge “without the property owners consent,”
While Superintendent Alberto Carvalho has been on a mission trying to close a potential $60 million property tax variance because of a lag because people are appealing there property taxes, that he has said has become a “cottage” industry, and some of these people are appealing their taxes without even knowing this he has said in the past and has been reported in the media. http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/02/05/3915462/carvalho-miami-dade-schools-tax.html#storylink=misearch
However, some one in the industry and referred to in the media stories Alejandro Aguirre said at the Miami-Dade Cultural Affairs Council Wednesday, that was not the case with his firm. He said, “The Herald claimed we do property taxes for people without their consent,” and Aguirre told the Council that was false and that his firm has “Never done any [property tax appeals] without their consent, he said at the Council meeting. Moreover, the topic is a hot one and has the District lobbying the state legislature to help resolve this vexing problem that faces the nation’s fourth largest public schools district. http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/02/05/3915462/carvalho-miami-dade-schools-tax.html#storylink=misearch
>>> PAST May 2007 WDR: Nation’s fourth largest public school district over past decade has gone through great changes; Watchdog Report was there through it all
When the publisher first started to look at the nation’s fourth largest school district in 1998, it started with a request for the district’s internal audits but all I got back was a little pamphlet using a lunchbox to detail how the billions in public dollars were being spent. However, I kept asking and finally, a woman in the internal audits department took pity on the persistent citizen and she called me.
She informed me that what I wanted was discussed at the school board’s Audit Committee Meeting and gave me the time, date and location of these meetings and since the first one I attended. I have rarely missed one of these meetings over the past decade that acts as a community firewall of oversight that public monies are being spent wisely.
Since then the former long serving audit committee chair has been replaced and there are all new board members. One of the biggest changes since then is these and other board committee meetings are now audio taped and archived after the Watchdog Report kept carping that it was bizarre for a public institution of this size not to have the tapes when I did back then since I relentlessly audio taped and photographed all people present in the rooms at these meetings.
Further, the Watchdog Report has the only audio tapes of what was said at two committee meetings where the board discussed two land deals that would later cause major controversy. A state grand jury later investigated the matter that resulted in land purchase reforms and the creation of a state legislatively mandated oversight advisory board that dissolved just a few years ago.
PUBLIC HEALTH TRUST
>>> Wanted, only the best of the best for two slots on seven-member PHT oversight board, $1.4 billion budget, and 10,000 employees giving world-class healthcare – Applications accepted April 6th to 20th and application on line
The Public Health Trust Nominating Council met Monday at the West Wing boardroom at the Jackson Health System main campus and a quorum was present of the Council chaired by County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson. Edmonson who is also sponsoring a county commission ordinance to reduce the Council’s quorum number from five to four of the nine-member board. Since getting a required quorum had become a problem over the past few years.
The council approved the dates for the request for applications for new PHT board members, where there are two slots open and four candidates names will be submitted to the county commission for its approval, anticipated at the end of spring. The public advertisements and application period for new Trustees will run from April 6 to April 20th, in a variety of newspapers and an application will be on line at www.miamidade.gov, and the application deadline is Apr. 21 at 4:00 p.m. at the County Clerk’s office. The Council will then review the applicant’s qualifications on May 12, select finalists the week of May 19th and after going through a commission committee meeting, the final nominees are expected to be voted on by the 13 member county commission on Jun. 3, state Council documents detailing the expected time line.
People applying to this premier citizen based board must be the best of the best, have no conflicts, will go through an extensive background check, and be able to put in some 30 hours a month for the activity. Further, you have to resign from any other county boards if you are selected, though years ago one. Trustee Martin Zilber refused to do that, and he stayed on the Cultural Affairs Council, despite him signing the form that very clearly stated if he was own the PHT he had to resign and that went on for three years.
Until a county commissioner made a stink about it and was written about extensively in past Watchdog Reports at the time, especially since his attendance record during that time on the Trust was less than stellar and had County Commissioner Sally Heyman publicly chastising him for the poor attendance when he was reappointed. Moreover, it is these types of people that the seven member PHT board does not need given the critical nature of the job and only the best of the best in our community should apply
CITY OF MIAMI
>>> Ultra trying to mitigate Miami Commissioner’s concerns by hiring Beach Police Chief Ray Martinez to handle security after guard Mack trampled when non ticket holders stormed the gates trying to get packed techno music festival
The Ultra Music Festival is trying to get its ducks in a row with the hiring of former Miami Beach Police Chief Ray Martinez, who is retiring in the near future and the former Miami Police Officer would be in charge of security for the techno event that left one private security guard in the hospital and recovering after she was trampled by non ticket holders trying to get into the event and a guard rail failed to hold and the yearly event has become a political ping pong ball with both Mayor Tomas Regalado and Commissioner Marc Sarnoff asking it to be moved to a different venue besides Miami Bayfront Park. Which is considered to small to handle such a massive event with such large crowds of concertgoers. Sarnoff, in the media has said the hiring of Martinez will not change his position and the Miami Commission this Thursday will be taking up the matter at 10:00 a.m., after a previous discussion was cancelled to allow supporters of the ULTRA event to attend and a petition has thousands of people signing it in support of keeping the festival in Miami and not moved elsewhere as is being suggested by Miami leaders. http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/04/18/4067377/hiring-ex-police-chief-is-part.html
However, as was reported in past Watchdog Report’s, Miami Commissioner Frank Carollo is hoping the five-member commission will not rush to judgment on the matter. Since the annual event brings in over $70 million in economic benefit to the area and hotels and restaurants are booked solid and ULTRA is seen as a real economic shot in the arm and the city hosts other large-scale events like the Calle Ocho Music Festival. Where hundreds of thousands of people descend on the fabled street and while crowded is kept under control with a strong Miami Police presence since its creation years ago and is a community favorite event.
>>> Brazilian Minister of Sports drops in at Miami City Hall
The Brazilian Minister of Sports, Aldo Rebelo visited Miami City Hall on tax day and he is going to all the big cities, visiting the mayors around the world promoting the 2014 World Cup and the man and his entourage likely stopped in to see Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez. Since MIA is a significant transit hub for people trying to get to the event in Brazil and will have over 50,000 passengers coming through MIA during the World Cup Soccer Championship matches http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/04/17/4065832/miami-will-be-world-cup-crossroads.html and for more got to http://www.theguardian.com/football/2014/mar/17/brazil-sports-minister-small-protests-2014-world-cup
>>> Ethics Commission press release: Probable Cause was found that Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado violated the Ethics Ordinance by failing to report the gift of airfare and lodging when he traveled to Argentina with his daughter, School Board Member Raquel Regalado, last summer. The trip was paid for by the privately-funded Buenos Aires Convention and Visitors Bureau and the mayor attended several events promoting development in Miami. Members of the City Attorney’s office had advised Mayor Regalado that he did not have to disclose the trip as a gift, based on a misapplication of Ethics Commission guidelines on tickets to special events where an official function is performed. In several other cases, the COE has determined that travel to a foreign locale cannot be compared to attendance at a local sports or entertainment venue, and that such expenses must be reported as a gift. Since the Mayor relied on the advice of his city’s legal staff in not reporting the gift, the COE dismissed the complaint (C 14-16) against him and instead will issue a Letter of Instruction to the City Attorney’s office.
Press release: The City of Miami seeks applications for appointment to the Civilian Investigative Panel (CIP) in order to fill two vacant positions. This panel is an independent group of citizens who investigates and conducts inquiries and evidentiary hearings into allegations of police misconduct. THE CIP consists of thirteen members, twelve of whom are appointed by the City Commission and one by the Chief of Police. All members of the CIP, with the exception of the Chief’s appointment, must be permanent residents of the City of Miami, or work or maintain a business within the city. Members are required to have a good reputation for integrity and community service. Panel members serve on a volunteer basis and must be willing to commit significant hours to the CIP.
Applicants will be subject to a background check. No appointee or member of the appointee’s immediate family (spouse, children, parents, siblings) may be currently employed by the City of Miami, nor be a sworn former employee of the City of Miami Police Department. No appointee can currently be a party or party’s legal representative in litigation against the City of Miami. Applications may be downloaded on the City of Miami’s website: http://www.miamigov.com/cip/pages/Application/ or obtained from the Office of the Civilian Investigative Panel at 970 SW 1 Street, #305, Miami, FL 33130. Please contact the CIP office at (305) 960-4950 for any further information.
VILLAGE OF COCONUT GROVE
>>> When it comes to Historic Grove Playhouse, Grove Village Council will be “truth squad,” says Arts Maven Spring to explain what is going on at county for the beloved property and its ultimate transformation and reopening since closed in 06.
The future fate of the Historic Coconut Grove Playhouse was the top discussion at the Miami-Dade Cultural Affairs Council meeting Wednesday and Michael Spring, the department’s director and now part of Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s inner circle told the members that a public hearing recently to get public input from Grovites was held but that there is a broad spectrum of ideas of what to do with the facility closed in 1996. Spring said there are a number of “conspiracy theories,” being promoted by some “Grove activists,” but the plan is to have the “Coconut Grove Village Council,” be the “truth squad.” When it comes to what is going on at the Playhouse,” Spring said, when it came to having a informed community voice in the Grove that could tell people what is really happening to the beloved site and has passions running high in the tony community.
He said a request for a “notice for Professional Consultants,” is being reviewed by the county attorney’s office over the next few weeks,” and the proposal will involve a host of disciplines including “architectural, engineering and traffic consultants,” and when this activity is finished. He said then they “will start the actual work on the Coconut Grove puzzle,” and the project will be a “design bid,” and will involve the City of Miami Parking Authority, that is currently running the parking lot. Further, Spring said he has talked to MPA Executive Director Art Noriega and explained to the organization that the planned parking garage on the site must synergistically fit into the ultimate development design. He further noted that the garage “would not be funded out of the $20 million” the county has for the Playhouse restoration project, and while the Grove Community is passionate in getting the theater open, where it is a major economic driver. It is clear many residents are still split on what the final vision should be, a number of Facebook Pages are sprouting up, and some of the postings are not accurate, Spring considered. Here is a Grove Blog that gives a flavor of what some Grovites might be thinking, go to http://coconutgrovegrapevine.blogspot.com/
CITY OF HIALEAH
>>> High flying Mayor Robaina tax evasion trial shows, seedy underbelly of local politics, gets a Ferrari from a company he worked for “because he was the mayor”
The Watchdog Report stopped in Thursday to the federal trial of former Hialeah Mayor Raul Martinez charged by federal authorities for tax evasion and charging a local Ponzi schemer 36 percent ( with part of the loan paid in cash envelopes annually) for significant loans and failing to report the income on his taxes. The high flying Miami-Dade County Mayoral Candidate, the consummate salesman politician with a big smile and bear hug for all, sat in the defendant docket in a much lower key way, on Thursday next to this wife and some of the governments witnesses detailed how the mayor was able to receive a Ferrari as part of his salary with a company. And had the witness saying when asked why this was done. “It was because he was mayor,” he told the large diverse jury pool. http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/04/19/4068771/hialeah-mayors-testimony-highlights.html
CITY OF MIAMI BEACH
>>> U.S. Sen. Nelson and subcommittee take road trip to Beach Tuesday to hold hearings on, “Leading the Way: Adapting to South Florida’s Changing Coastline”.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla. is taking a road trip to Miami Beach on Tuesday and is holding hearings in the city’s commission chambers to discuss Global Warming and its impact on Florida’s changing coastline. The Beach is already planning in the future for this sea level rise issue estimated to cost some $ 200 million in infrastructure improvements, in the decades ahead and depending on tides has streets in the southern tip of the Island under water and a nightmare for the local residents. Nelson, reelected in 2012 has made the environment a important part of his political legacy in the nation’s most exclusive club, and environmentalists should attend the public Subcommittee meeting and listen to what national lawmakers are saying about the important subject, that in many models show large swaths of the state’s coastline being flooded or under water in the decades to come with out significant modifications of the shoreline.
>>> Public announcement: City Hall, Commission Chambers – City of Miami Beach
WASHINGTON, D.C. The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation’s Subcommittee on Science and Space will hold a hearing at the Miami Beach City Hall on Tuesday, April 22, 2014 at 10:00 a.m. titled, “Leading the Way: Adapting to South Florida’s Changing Coastline”. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) will chair this hearing on the 44th anniversary of Earth Day.
CITY OF CORAL GABLES
>>> Commission goes with Olazabal as interim manager to replace outgoing Mgr. Salerno
The Coral Gables Commission on Wednesday tapped Carmen Olazabal as the interim city manager after the surprise retirement of Manager Pat Salerno and a national search will be done for his replacement and the commission is scheduled another meeting Monday at 6:00 p.m. in the commission chambers to pick the search firm. http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/04/18/4066140/new-interim-city-manager-named.html
CITY OF AVENTURA
>>>> Former National Fast Food Restaurant Chain Employee and Co-Defendant Plead Guilty in Identity Theft Tax Fraud Scheme
Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, José A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), and Steve Steinberg, Chief, Aventura Police Department, announce that Tekia Jones, 37, of Hallandale, and Ivory Covington, 29, of Miami, each pled guilty to one count of access device fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1029(a)(3), and one count of aggravated identity theft, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1028A(a)(1). Sentencing is scheduled for June 24, 2014 before U.S. District Judge William P. Dimitrouleas. According to court documents, Jones was an employee of a national fast food restaurant chain and had access to employees’ names, social security numbers and dates of birth, but did not have permission to possess the employees’ information outside of her employment. On March 10, 2013, during an inventory search of a car driven by Covington, but shared and controlled by Covington and Jones, 118 names, social security numbers and dates of birth were found that belonged to former and current employees of this national fast food restaurant chain, along with two GreenDot Visa prepaid debit cards.
The defendants face a maximum sentence of ten years in prison for the access device fraud charge, and a mandatory term of two years in prison, consecutive to any other term in prison, for the aggravated identity theft charge. Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of IRS-CI and the Aventura Police Department. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Gera R. Peoples. A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.
CITY OF HOMESTEAD
>>> More trouble for former Homestead mayor
Ethics commission press release: The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust (COE) today found Probable Cause to a complaint (C 13-50) that former Homestead Mayor Steven Bateman violated the Conflict of Interest and Code of Ethics Ordinance by accepting a round trip flight on a private jet without disclosing it as a gift. The December 17, 2012, journey from Opa-Locka Executive Airport to Tallahassee was for a meeting with the governor allegedly arranged by Dade Medical College. The six passengers included College President Ernesto Perez and other high-level executives of the school along with then-Mayor Bateman. The cost of the flight is valued between $450 and $850 – well beyond the $100 threshold for required gift reporting. If found in violation of the Code, Bateman could be fined and/or reprimanded.
CITY OF DORAL
>>>> Ethics commission press release: No Probable Cause was found to a complaint (C 14-17) against Doral City Councilwoman Sandra Ruiz that accused her of exploiting her position by intervening in a lawsuit against the city and suggesting it be settled. The suit involves a former Doral employee who is a friend of Ruiz, but the investigation found insufficient evidence that the councilwoman violated the Ethics Code. The Commission found that, while there may have been an appearance of impropriety, the Code did not require that Ruiz recuse herself from participating in discussions about the lawsuit and the complaint was dismissed.
CITY OF MIAMI LAKES
Ethics Commission press release: After the former public works director for Miami Lakes agreed to settle a complaint (C 13-51) that he violated the “reverse two-year rule” by approving public business to a company that previously employed him, the Ethics Commission today approved a Letter of Instruction for Hiram Siaba. It advises Mr. Siaba to keep the rule in mind when he transitions between government and private work. The Letter also advises the Town’s administration to be more diligent in supervising individuals who previously worked in the private sector to insure these types of conflicts are avoided.
>>> OTHER STORIES AROUND FLORIDA
>>> Three Broward Residents Charged with Preparing False Tax Returns for their Clients
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 Steven Tidas, of Tamarac, Stenor Prosper, of Parkland, and Sylvanie Junior Pierre, of Lauderdale Lakes, were charged in a thirty-five count indictment for unlawfully enriching themselves by filing materially false and fraudulent tax returns for their clients for which they obtained fees. All of the defendants were charged with one count of conspiracy, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371, and numerous counts of assisting in the preparation of false tax returns, in violation of Title 26, United States Code, Section 7206(2). All of the defendants had their initial appearances this morning before U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry S. Seltzer.
The defendants served as officers of Value Tax Services, Inc. and/or Value Financial Group, Inc., both of Sunrise. The defendants prepared tax returns for individuals which falsely claimed tax credits for being a first time home buyer, when the defendants knew the taxpayers had not purchased a home and did not qualify for the credit. The defendants also prepared tax returns for individuals which falsely claimed that the taxpayers had household help income, or inflated household help income, and they falsely inflated other income or deductions in order to increase the amount of the taxpayers’ refunds. If convicted, the defendants each face a maximum of five years in prison for the conspiracy charge, and a maximum of three years in prison for each count of preparing false tax returns. Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of IRS-CI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Cynthia R. Wood. An indictment is only an accusation and the defendants are 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.
>>> April 16 is the day for residents to weigh in on new ethics czar at Broward County Hall, with 31 municipalities some uniform hearing and enforcement mechanism is necessary
Broward County Inspector General John Scott is expected to make his pitch for a centralized ethics officer for the county and the 31 municipalities in Broward County on April 16 at 10:00 a.m. in room 430 at the Broward County Government Center in Ft. Lauderdale. County Voters created The IG office in 2010 and Scott is the first IG, and the former federal prosecutor is asking for changes in how conflicts and ethics cases are handled. See the press release from his office
http://www.broward.org/InspectorGeneral/PublicationsPress/Documents/OIG14004PressRelease.pdf >>> and for more on the issue go to http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2014-03-06/news/sfl-broward-ethics-czar-gets-second-look-20140305_1_ethics-code-czar-idea-broward-league
What happened at the meeting?
While the County’s League of Cities is against a new ethics czar, because municipal attorney’s give the opinions already. IG Scott found there was a wide array of opinions on issues of ethics and the idea may have to be approved by the Broward County Commission or possible by Broward voters and for more on the meeting held at government center last week got to: http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2014-04-16/news/fl-ethics-officer-20140416_1_ethics-code-review-panel-panel-endorses and here is part of that story “”’t will ensure clarity in the application of the ethics code,” Inspector General John Scott said of the concept. “We would have a centralized opinion giver.’”.. ‘The Broward League of Cities, however, opposed the measure, arguing it would only add another costly layer to government. “You don’t take a shotgun to a gnat,” said Susan Starkey, league president and Davie town council member.’” And is quoted From the Sun Sentinel story on the panel meeting.
>>> PAST WDR May 2007: Broward’s elected officials go for the gold when it comes to competing with Miami-Dade’s sometimes bizarre incidents
Broward County, Miami-Dade’s neighbor to the north with around 1.8 million people has tried to keep its collective head down by saying everything is going fine there when it comes to politics, but history says otherwise. I first started going north on Tuesday’s, the county commission meeting day in 2001 and the county with 30 municipalities is a smaller version in many ways of Miami-Dade but they will never admit that.
Further, the county’s elected county commissioners, and other elected county leaders are a colorful lot that are starting to give Miami-Dade a run for its money when it comes to controversy, scandal, and sometimes just bizarre behavior.
The botched 2002 election thrust county Supervisor of Elections Miriam Oliphant into the limelight and her budget expansion of the department and oversight did not sit well with the majority of county commissioners at the time. The battle of wills resulted in an ongoing contentious battle between Oliphant and the commission until she was removed by Gov. Jeb Bush.
Since then, I have had dust ups with former County Commissioner Ilene Lieberman, Property Appraiser Lori Parrish and a number of other officials and my response each time has been to run every significant leaders yearly financial disclosure forms. Back in 2002 or 2003, the Watchdog Report first reported that Broward Sheriff Ken Jenne had some outside income listed in his years IRS 1040 tax return but I did not appreciate the significance of this new income until other news organizations later fleshed it out.
Further, as has been reported in past Watchdog Reports, there was a taproot of Miami-Dade campaign contributions to the tune of over $400,000 to all the candidates in county commission races alone in 2004. Further since then with each election cycle and I continue to be shocked at the magnitude of these outside contributions coming from Miami-Dade.
>>> Residents can review they’re county commissioners financial disclosure forms on line — Residents of Broward County can now review they’re county commissioners financial disclosure forms on line and to see the inner financial workings of these elected officials go to http://public.ethics.state.fl.us/results.cfm
>>> Thank you for using the Broward County Commission Agenda E-mail Notification System. A new Broward County Commission Agenda is available. Point your browser to http://www.broward.org/commission/welcome.htm to view
the new agenda.
PALM BEACH COUNTY
>>> And to read all the Palm Beach elected leader’s financial disclosure reports go to http://public.ethics.state.fl.us/results.cfm
DEL RAY BEACH
>>> Delray Beach Resident Sentenced in Identity Theft Tax Refund Fraud Scheme
Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Jose A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), announce that Jeffrey Emil Groover, 53, of Delray Beach, was sentenced today before U.S. District Judge Robin Rosenbaum to 60 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. Groover was ordered to pay $350,373.86 in restitution. Groover previously pled guilty to the indictment, which charged him with making and presenting false claims to the Internal Revenue Service, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 287. According to court documents, prior to March 2012, victims’ personal identification information was used to electronically file fraudulent federal tax returns and obtain tax refunds via U.S. Treasury checks and refund anticipated loan checks, payable to the victims whose tax returns had been fraudulently filed. Groover’s part in this scheme was to deposit the fraudulent tax refund checks into two business accounts, Affordable Pest Protection and Useful Products, companies he owned and controlled. Groover attempted to use those proceeds for himself and to pay others involved in the scheme… In sentencing the defendant to a sentence significantly above the sentencing guideline range, the judge noted the defendant’s extensive criminal history, his recent arrest for a new identity theft crime while on bond awaiting sentencing, and the large number of victims who suffered, some for years, as a result of his repeated commission of identity theft crimes. The judge also noted that while serving a 46 month sentence for identity theft in 2004, the defendant provided testimony to the Senate Special Committee on Aging, in which he explained how easy it was to commit identity theft using the internet and how his 46-month sentence would cause him to never commit such crimes again. Since the 46-month sentence had not deterred Groover from committing new crimes, the judge imposed a 60-month sentence. 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.
>>> PAST WDR MAY 2007: Small but colorful county has its share of colorful and erstwhile political leaders, but with only 85,000 residents not a big player
What can you say about a county with a tourist tag line of the Conch Republic and also includes the eclectic city of Key West? The Watchdog Report would never have reported on anything that went on in the small county with 85,000 residents but they came to my attention because of their lack of taking care of the Homeless population there and not providing a shelter for their domestic violence victims. Since then the elected leaders have moved to resolve some of their social issues rather than to just send them to the larger county to the north Miami-Dade for these services.
>>> Elected leaders financial disclosures on line at , www.ethics.state.fl.us
>>>Kristi House luncheon: Breaking the Silence- The month of April is National Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month. Please join us Friday, April 25, 2014 at Jungle Island from 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. What better way to give back to your community than to help a child-victim of sexual abuse and sex trafficking heal from the trauma of their abuse? Together, we can end this epidemic! One hour of your time can heal countless children. You must RSVP by Friday, April 18, 2014. Through the generosity of our sponsors, there is no cost for attending our luncheon. However – we are certain guests will be compelled to make a gift to Kristi House in order that we may continue to bring the specialized care these children need to restore their lives. Space is very limited – call to reserve your seat today. Bianca Fernandez – 305-547-6802
>>> Ethics Campaign Conference Confronts Controversial 1997 Miami mayoral election and 2000 presidential election
The Miami-Dade Ethics Commission is holding an event that is focused on the elections in South Florida over the years and the thrown out 1997 election of Miami Mayor Xavier Suarez, because of widespread voter fraud. However, he was never charged, but the scandal is one of the reasons I started to do the Watchdog Report, and this should be a fascinating discussion.
>>> Campaign Conference Confronts Controversy
Press release: Could an election recount similar to the Bush v. Gore 2000 dispute occur again? Some of the key players in that historic legal battle will recount their experiences during one session of a one-of-a-kind Political Campaign Ethics Conference on Friday, May 16, 2014, at St. Thomas University School of Law. The unique daylong event, presented by the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust and the St. Thomas University Center for Ethics, offers a full schedule of panel discussions, lectures and breakout sessions sure to intrigue candidates, campaigners and political junkies of all sorts.
The impact of the controversial “Citizens United” ruling allowing corporations unlimited contributions will be debated by John Bonifaz, the head of an organization committed to overturning the Supreme Court decision, and James Bopp, a legal advisor for Citizens United. Another session featuring former adversaries Xavier Suarez and Kendall Coffey will look back at the 1997 Miami mayoral election that was overturned by an absentee ballot scandal and fast forward to current efforts to stem ballot scams. Party activists Al Cardenas and Dan Gelber will examine the latest efforts to balance concerns of voter fraud with tighter restrictions on voter access. Veteran politicians and legal minds will discuss ethnic and racial innuendo that sometimes sneak into campaigns.
More than 40 speakers, including Justice Gerald Kogan, Mark Caputo, Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Joseph Klock, Jr., George Knox, Ben Kuehne, Theresa Lepore, Patricia Mazzei, Buddy Nevins, J.C. Planas, Irene Secada, Dr. Brenda Snipes and Katy Sorenson will participate. Breakout session topics include campaign consultants, handling media coverage, the election supervisors’ guide for candidates, phantom contributors and ethical campaign practices. Florida State Senator Jeff Clemens will provide an update of ethics and elections legislation from the 2014 legislative session. The luncheon speaker will be Chuck Malkus, author of The Ultimate Ponzi: The Scott Rothstein Story. >>> The conference runs from approximately 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the St. Thomas Law School, 16401 NW 37 Avenue in Miami Gardens. The cost, which includes breakfast, lunch and all materials, is $90, but early registers (prior to May 1) will be charged only $75. Current students pay $50. Attorneys can earn continuing legal education credit. A complete program and registration information can be found at ethics.miamidade.gov.
>>> The Margulies Collection will be closed for the summer and will reopen in the fall.
Why has the Watchdog Report publisher kept at it for 15 years, because we blow about $200 million collectively yearly in fraud, abuse, ineptitude and corruption
People ask me all the time why I keep at this and the reason is I have community history now, know all the players after ten years of watching, and with $14 billion in public money when you just add up the county, the school district, and the Public Health Trust. My goal has been to watch over and try to prevent the $200 million or so of public money wasted through fraud, abuse, ineptitude and corruption yearly, while trying to keep the public institutions and public informed about what each of the other public institutions are doing, as best I could.
Recently I received a letter from a person from the media who thought what the Watchdog Report was trying to do was important and he wanted to know more about the “organization” and the term threw me for a loop. Other people have asked how many staff I have, is it five or six people, they suggest. But in fact, the Watchdog Report staff is limited to one person that collects the news and attends meetings all week, then spends Saturday and Sunday putting a few of the stories together, and it is then sent out Sunday night.
In 2000, I realized that if someone was willing to work essentially 24/7 and write all weekend there was a news hole that could be filled and that is what I have tried to do week after week, year after year. Last year for example on the Sunday night of Thanksgiving Weekend a Watchdog Report went out, and also on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve there was a report and some readers e-mail me back that it is kind of comforting knowing that someone is out there watching, even on holidays.
Further, I have never particularly enjoyed writing but I consider the written word a tool and disseminating information is the goal trying to make South Floridians more informed, as we face a wide range of challenges ranging from the environment, to affordable housing and healthcare costs, to name just a few.
All public issues that require the use of scarce public money must be treated with fiscal respect, for the good times are over for soaring property tax revenues and with all the demands for public money going up and funding going down. Someone being a community sentinel and watchdog seemed to make sense to me back then to today, with the goal to watch over how portions of this money is used and spent, and I ultimately ended up filling the bill back in 2000. Since I was a single man, with no children, but understood the local public institutions and the players running them and that is why I have continued to do this for all these years.
>>>PAST WDR 2007: $50 million spent fighting public corruption, $20,000 goes to six-papers that do not exist, and Watchdog Report grosses $48,000 last year, below entry county transit position
In a community that spent $50 million over five-years fighting public corruption, and funded five community periodicals $20,000 each that did not exist, the Watchdog Report has survived on a gross income of $48,000, which is less than an entry position in the county’s transit department.
Further, I have also saved directly or indirectly tens of millions of public dollars over the past 15 years and it is why I kept doing this non-stop 24/7 since May 5, 2000. The publication will soon turn 15 and I would like to thank all my past and current supporters for this has been a strange fork in the road of my life.
And If you enjoy having an outside news source, that brings you the news up-close and personal while also helping the community save millions of dollars of the $14 billion in public government funds. Please do what you can to support the Watchdog Report. For in the scheme of things this publication costs very little and at a time we are losing press assets keeping someone with almost an 18 years watching your government in the field is needed now more than ever.
For government is more responsive and accountable to tax payers if they are being watched and that is where I come in. For I go when you cannot, and for many of my readers that is a very comforting thought. In addition, Consider becoming a sponsor today to keep this community educational resource available bringing you breaking and weekly news on almost a real time basis.
>>> 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 SUPT. http://superintendent.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.