Watchdog Report Vol.15 No. 1 May 11, 2010 EST. 05.05.00 I go when you cannot – Celebrating 15 Years – Mother’s Day Issue


Argus Report: Arsht Center has six “consecutive years of a balanced budget,” after a original rocky start and CEO Richard says “the energy is real,” in the halls and with the performers, since acoustics are outstanding, said Zubin Mehta, after conducting a orchestra in the Knight Concert Hall

Florida: Crist rolls the dice with comments about U.S. Cuban embargo not working, and he may take a trip there to meet the people, Gov. Scott’s campaign fires back at the about face, but millions in negative television ads not reflected in Crist’s popularity in new polls over Scott with a 10 point edge — State and county leaders’ financial disclosures will be on line, some are there now,, sea change for transparency of elected official’s finances

Miami-Dade County: Dist 8 race between incumbent Bell and Levine Cava heating up with both candidates competitive on fundraising

Miami-Dade County Public Schools: After over a decade, Board Member Perez gets a challenger, but he is not well funded compared to her $106,000 campaign war chest

Public Health Trust: JHS begins to get first bite of $830 million bond with County commission approval of issuance that includes nine member oversight board to watch over how this new money is spent

City of Miami: Legal fee of $225,219 for Pottinger litigation to modify homeless consent decree causes Miami commission debate, DDA asked to consider paying a bigger share than $75,000 pledged by downtown development agency where around 60 percent of the homeless are found, Sarnoff cries foul given massive Miami tax base in urban core

Village of Coconut Grove: When it comes to the Historic Playhouse, $15 million in county GOB, the money could be used for other than “restoration” if county commission approves the change in scope or intent; there is some flexability with how this money can be spent

City of Miami Beach: The City of Miami Beach is rolling out a new App to make finding and paying for parking a lot easier in a municipality known to be a parking nightmare and the city is launching the feature on Monday.

City of North Miami: Ethics Commission Clarifies Standards on City Hiring, Mayor’s Travel

>>> Other stories around Florida

Broward County: Will $800 million school board bond be a tough sell in Democratic Party stronghold, and what mechanism will provide oversight of how money is spent after past scandals in construction department

Palm Beach County: Former CEO of Publicly Traded Company Sentenced in Securities Fraud Scheme — Residents can review they’re top County Officials financial disclosure forms on line at

Monroe County: New state Funding for infrastructure projects throughout the 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

Community Events: 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: With JHS getting $830 million bond proceeds, it must be combined with enhanced patient customer service, across the board if public system is going to compete with other healthcare systems and facilities in South Florida — 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:

LETTERS: Congrats on sweet Fifteen. Reading W.D.R. on plane from Xi’an to Shanghai. Fantastic country to visit.

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. I apologize if you get this WDR and had asked to be deleted. The IT disaster is to blame and I will again delete anyone again that does not want to get the Report.

>>> The Watchdog Report publisher would like to thank the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation for funding by the Knight Foundation with technical support from the Knight Center for International Media within the University of Miami’s School of Communication 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.

>>> The Watchdog Report publisher was on WLRN 91.3 F.M. May 5th on Topical Currents hosted by Bonnie Berman from 1:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m., I discussed how I got into doing this fifteen years ago and to listen to the show go to

>>> The Publisher would like to wish all the Mothers of the World a Happy Mother’s Day, and we all have one, and if they have passed reflect on their lives and the fond memories you have of them and how Mom shaped you and your families lives.

ARGUS REPORT – Heard, Seen on the Streets

>>> Arsht Center has six “consecutive years of a balanced budget,” after a original rocky start and CEO Richard says “the energy is real,” in the halls and with the performers, since acoustics are outstanding, said Zubin Mehta, after conducting a orchestra in the Knight Concert Hall

John Richard, the President  & CEO of the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts Center of Miami-Dade County spoke at the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce monthly luncheon Wednesday and the man is a “Culture Vulture.” And the Arsht Center, “specializes in firsts,” he told the packed audience.  Further, since he first arrived from New Jersey years ago. He has continued the trend of the PAC making money and not running with a significant deficit like when the twin hall Center first opened back in 2006.

Richard, said 2013 was “the sixth consecutive fiscal year with a balanced budget.” He is the third CEO since the first one Michael Hardy was given the boot years ago, when the PAC first opened after substantial operating losses occurred when the facility first opened in 2006 and run by Hardy. However, back then, the PAC was becoming a public relations nightmare for Miami-Dade County elected officials and this community controversy put pressure on the Miami-Dade County Commission to support a new enclosed stadium for the Miami Marlins. Since the PAC that was originally to cost $255 million eventually ended up costing $472 million and was 20 months late to complete. And gets some $6.5 million in public funding in a fiscal year but now is becoming a global draw and tourism magnet given the vast variety of shows that are performed.

Further, the Arsht Center has created significant economic development to the tune of some $1.3 billion in new investment in the surrounding area now lined with condominiums and this economic public private development project has created a “Town Square,” for Miami. He also noted a broad swath of the community’s children are exposed to culture and the Center, given its free extensive events for school children that has Rock Odyssey in its fifth year of hosting thousands of 5th grade school children and the PAC also features cultural “summer camps,” Richard said.

Richard noted the goal at the Arsht Center is “to create memorable moments,” and the community now has a “voracious appetite” for seeing the productions and the man noted when it came to attendance and ticket sales, “that 30 percent were new people to the Center,” he said.  Richard also noted the twin halls acoustics were done right and the Knight Concert Hall has such outstanding acoustics that world renowned conductor Zubin Mehta remarked “I could hear every string,” in the orchestra and getting the Halls acoustics right were one of the many challenges the builders faced when it was being constructed.

What about the role of volunteers and benefactor’s?

The Performing Arts Trust is over seen by a volunteer board and numerous philanthropists have donated to the Arsht Center. And philanthropist Adrienne Arsht made a substantial donation years ago and that money helped stabilize the PACs finances and she even periodically acts as an usher taking patrons to their seats at performances. And she even got the nearby Metro Mover station named after her, which the former banker and investment maven thought was a great honor at the time she was being honored.

>>> Press release: Zogby Report Card: Obama rebounds on jobs, help to Nigeria

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 had a better than usual week, rebounding from last week’s ‘F’ on the back of a good jobs report, help to Nigeria to find kidnapped school girls and even some jokes. “A better week. First the economic news was better with 288,000 new jobs created, 179,000 of those in the private sector. The unemployment rate came down to 6.3 percent. (Critics remember this: the numbers of those who leave the workforce is not a new revelation. It has always been with us and in the calculation and it includes retires, disabilities, and those who have given up.)

Please click on the link below to view this week’s grade:

>>> 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. … >>>  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 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 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. And I would not be still doing this if my life was not saved at South Miami Hospital in February 2010 and for that I am forever grateful to the skilled physician and vascular surgeon Jorge Rabaza, M.D.

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 rolls the dice with comments about U.S. Cuban embargo not working and he may take a trip there to meet the people, Gov. Scott’s campaign fires back at the about face, but millions in negative television ads not reflected in Crist’s popularity in new polls over Scott with a 10 point edge

With Gov. Rick Scott still trailing in the polls after spending millions on a barrage of political attack ads against former Gov. Charlie Crist around the state. The GOP is wondering if Scott will be able to carry the election with his present campaign style, and people and voters are still having difficulty connecting with the former healthcare executive who does not have the ease and experience of campaigning. Versus Crist who is a happy warrior when it comes to mixing it up with voters and the media and the former Florida Attorney General made a impromptu stop at the iconic Cuban American restaurant Versailles last week and he later dropped a bombshell in the anti Castro haven that he might consider a trip to the Island. Both Scott and Crist over the year’s have condemned the Cuban dictator’s regime but Crist is arguing now that the long standing embargo by the U.S. is not working and local Republican leaders and elected officials are condemning the remarks.

Further, Crist is using former state Sen. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach as a campaign surrogate and in an email over the weekend. Gelber a former Florida Attorney General candidate slams Scott for the funding cuts to education since he took office, wrote the former senate majority leader. Further Crist still has to get through state Sen. Nan Rich’s, D-Weston campaign in the Democratic Primary in August, though her name recognition and fundraising is low in comparison to Crist and Scott who expects to raise some $100 million for his campaign.




>>> Gov. Scott press release: Governor Scott Announces 2014 Governor’s Sterling Award & Sustained Excellence Award Recipients ~ Florida Sterling Council Honors Three Role Model Organizations~

Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Sterling Council today announced the Orange County Public Schools Operations Division; and the Walton County Tax Collector’s Office will receive the prestigious Governor’s Sterling Award and that the Florida Department of Health in Miami-Dade County will be honored with the Governor’s Sustained Excellence Award. Awarded by the Florida Sterling Council, the Governor’s Sterling Award is the highest award an organization can receive for performance excellence in Florida. “The Governor’s Sterling Award winners reflect our focus of making Florida the best state in the nation to live, work and raise a family. I congratulate this year’s top-performing Sterling Award recipients,” Governor Scott said. “This award is the highest recognition an organization in Florida can receive for performance excellence.”

2014 Governor’s Sterling Award Recipients-  For 22 years, the Governor’s Sterling Award has recognized organizations and businesses in Florida that have successfully achieved performance excellence within their management and operations. The Orange County Public Schools Operations Division provides essential goods and services to more than 187,000 students and 22,000 employees in 184 schools and 16 facilities located in Orange County, Florida. The Operations Division manages the core functions of Transportation, providing 906 school buses to transport 60,000 students each day, Food and Nutrition services, which serves 29.5 million breakfasts and lunches to students each year, Safety and Security Services that assists schools and work locations by providing uniformed security, school resource officers, comprehensive fire and health inspections, and intrusion alarm management; Building Code Compliance that works with Facilities and Construction Management; Environmental Compliance that collaborates with departments, work locations, and schools managing efforts such as recycling, waste management, and indoor air quality.

The Operations Division demonstrates a focus on cost containment through improved efficiency and sustained performance. For example, the division’s budget decreased from $85 million during 2008-2009 to $81 million for 2011-2012. During this period, the division consistently posted an under-budget aggregate return of $38 million, which afforded more dollars for the classroom. The Division’s Food and Nutrition Services not only increased student meal participation by $2.4 million from 2007 to 2012, it has consistently met the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s nutritional requirements; the program is now 100 percent self-funded with revenue generated from food sales, grants, and funding reimbursements. Transportation Services demonstrates several important best-in-class operational results, including sustained on-time arrival of buses of better than 98 percent each year, from 2010 to 2013. In addition, the transportation cost per student has reduced from $914 in 2010 to $869 in 2013. The Orange County Public Schools Operations Division is a first-time recipient of the Governor’s Sterling Award.

The Walton County Tax Collector’s Office is a team comprised of 32 members striving to deliver a variety of government services as cost-effectively and efficiently as possible, while equally focused on delivering those services with care, compassion, and understanding. The organization has created a culture to leverage the diverse skills and talents of team members, at the same time recognizing the contribution each one makes in reaching the team goals. Creating an environment where team members feel valued and genuinely cared for has led to a high-performing team with bottom-line results. In Fiscal Year 2013, the agency demonstrated that continuously pursuing improvement in work processes pays off by achieving a 99.9% transaction accuracy rate. Developing new service offerings, learning new work processes and integrating new team members over the past two years provided the agency the opportunity to demonstrate their value of embracing challenges and change. The result was a consistently maintained 100 percent processing of tax mail payments within 24-hours of receipt from Fiscal Year 2011 to Fiscal Year 2013. A collective team focus on caring for each customer and their family helped the agency achieve overall wait times in Fiscal Year 2013 of 2.9 minutes and maintain a customer satisfaction level of 98 percent. The Walton County Tax Collector is a first-time recipient of the Governor’s Sterling Award.

2014 Governor’s Sustained Excellence Award Recipient This award is an annual award to recognize Florida organizations that have previously received the Governor’s Sterling Award and are sustaining excellent results, continuing to pursue systematic performance improvement.

Florida Department of Health in Miami-Dade County, a unit of the Florida Department of Health, is the county health department located in Miami.  It provides population- and community-based services to the county’s 2.5 million residents and more than 12.6 million annual visitors.  It is responsible for assessing, maintaining and improving health and safety within the county. The department’s core competencies include: collaboration and partnerships; public health emergency preparedness; epidemiology, disease control and prevention; public health environmental regulations; and public health promotion and services.  The department has maintained high levels of customer satisfaction, with an overall satisfaction of 98.1 percent for 2013-2014, while the percent of customer services recommended remained high at 98.2 percent. The percentage of 2-year-old children fully immunized who are existing County Health Department clients has seen a steady improvement from 2009 to 2013, increasing from 90 percent to 98 percent. Within the community, the department has maintained high customer engagement, as demonstrated by participation in hospital forums and consortium activities, with 79 percent of the hospitals actively participating in forums, while the Consortium for a Healthier Miami Dade coordinated 95 community activities designed to improve community access to services or provide necessary information to enhance overall community health.  The Florida Department of Health in Miami-Dade County is the only organization to be recognized as a three-time recipient of the prestigious Governor’s Sterling Award (2012, 2006, and 2002).>>> About the Governor’s Sterling Award
Established in 1992, the Florida Sterling Council is a public/private not-for-profit corporation supported by the Executive Office of the Governor. Sterling’s Annual Conference is exclusively designed to teach participants how to elevate performance and increase productivity. Nearly 500 executives and professionals gather at this event for a one-stop source for education, information and inspiration. The conference concludes with the recognition of best practices, the Team Showcase Champion, and the presentation of the Governor’s Sterling Awards, the highest award an organization can receive for performance excellence in Florida. For more information, contact John Pieno at (850) 922-5316 or visit

>>> And if you ever thought about adopting a child, check out the great kids on the Children’s Trust’s Heart Gallery page 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.


>>> Dist 8 race between incumbent Bell and Levine Cava heating up with both candidates competitive on fundraising

The Miami-Dade County Commission District 8 race is heating up with incumbent Commissioner Lynda Bell being challenged by political newcomer but long time social activist Daniela Levine Cava and both of the women have raised considerable money. Bell has $329,906 in her campaign war chest and Cava has raised $257,065 for her campaign and the District stretches from below Pinecrest to the City of Homestead. After the commission’s 2010 redistricting process that removed Pinecrest from the commission district and the tony Village is being represented by County Commissioner Xavier Suarez since it is now in Commission District 7.

In past years Commissioner Katy Sorenson represented the district but she did not run again in 2010 and has been heading up the Good Government initiative at the University of Miami. And Bell, the former one term Mayor of Homestead won the close election back then and she benefited from the strong voter surge during that election of Tea Party voters back then.  Levine Cava is getting support and the backing of the Democratic Party and Bell is a conservative expected to get help from the local GOP in the non partisan race for a seat on the 13 member county commission dais in August.

>>> “Who would have thought,” said Commission Chair Rebeca Sosa to the media when it came to a controversy concerning doing a back ground check on people on county selection committees, to ensure they don’t have a conflict of interest when voting on procurement recommendations. The county creates some 70 selection committees, and the auditor’s office will do the non criminal background check with the existing staff he has, said Commission Auditor Charles Anderson and they will validate what is on a signed affidavit that selection committee members sign before the procurement process begins but it was only after extensive discussion by commissioners that the legislation sponsored by Sosa passed, with County Commissioner Barbara Jordan voting no.

Will the property appraiser issue be on the ballot?

The Miami-Dade County Commission in a tight 5-6 vote shot down the idea of asking voters to clarify if they wanted the County’s Property Appraiser’s office to be independent and a Constitutional Office, like most are around the state. It would also have made the office a “partisan office” versus non partisan currently now. The item was sponsored by County Commissioner Estephan “Steve” Bovo who argued it currently is essentially a county department in the way it is run and funded. However, commissioners had a problem with the language since the office holder could not be recalled since it was a “Constitutional Office,” and only the governor can remove the County Clerk, and state attorney under state law.

Commissioner Dennis Moss was initially supportive until he became aware of the not being able to be recalled aspect of the legislation. Since commissioners and the mayor can be recalled by voters. “What is good for the goose should be good for the gander,” Moss said and he did not support the potential ballot language at Tuesday’s county Commission meeting. For more:

>>> Water & Sewer Director Johnson jokes his new assignment is as “the toilet czar,” given the billions being spent to correct infrastructure under s federal decree

Bill Johnson, the new Miami-Dade County Water and Sewer Director in charge of implementing a multi billion dollar replumbing of the county’s extensive sewer facilities that will proceed under a federal judge’s watchful eye since the county entered into a federal consent decree on the matter. The Watchdog Report Tuesday asked Johnson, the former Port of Miami director how this new assignment was going and he joked. “Just call me the toilet czar,” and the long serving county employee is expected to get the job done, even though it is not as glamorous as some of his past assignments over the decades.

>>> GMCVB press release: In the months of January – March, the 2% Tourist Development Tax (TDT) collections for Greater Miami (excluding Miami Beach, Bal Harbour and Surfside) show an increase of 5.8 % when compared to the same time last year in 2013. The 3% Convention Development Tax (CDT) shows a 4.8% increase compared to the same time last year in 2013. The 2% Hotel Food and Beverage Tax collections from hotels in Miami-Dade (excluding Miami Beach, Bal Harbour and Surfside) show an increase of 2.0% compared to the same time in 2013.

2% Tourist Development Tax
January – March 2014 January – March 2013 % Change vs. 2013
$8,207,718 $7,759,712 +5.8%
3% Convention Development Tax
January – March 2014 January – March 2013 % Change vs. 2013
$24,141,537 $23,036,733 +4.8%
2% Hotel Food & Beverage Tax
January – March 2014 January – March 2013 % Change vs. 2013
$2,245,579 $2,200,730 +2.0%

>>>> Press release: Former Miami-Dade Department of Public Works Employee

Charged with Accepting $150,000 in Bribes from Contractor

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, and Jose A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), announce the filing of a one-count information charging Garfield Perry, 66, of North Miami Beach, with conspiring to accept bribes in connection with programs receiving federal funds and to commit extortion, all in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371. Perry is scheduled to appear in federal court on Friday, May 9, 2014, at 2:00 p.m. before U.S. Magistrate Judge Alicia Otazo-Reyes.

According to the information, from at least 2002 through 2009, Perry was the Roadway Lighting Coordinator for the Department of Public Works in Miami-Dade County. In this capacity, Perry was responsible for, among other things, overseeing the maintenance of more than 22,000 street lights in the county’s roadway system. The information charges that from 2006 through October 2009, Perry accepted bribe payments from a Manufacturer’s Representative totaling approximately $150,000. Perry regularly directed the Manufacturer’s Representative to make the bribe payments by paying down debts owed by Perry, including payments on two home mortgages, one car loan, two home insurance policies, two car insurance policies, and eight credit cards. Perry accepted as bribe payments from the Manufacturer’s Representative, cruise vacations, domestic and international airline tickets, payments for hotels and theatre tickets. Perry regularly directed the Manufacturer’s Representative to make bribe payments by issuing checks payable to third parties, and, after the checks were cashed, determined the manner in which the proceeds were to be split. Perry falsely certified to Miami-Dade County that he was not engaged in any outside employment and did not receive any gratuities. In return for the bribe payments, Perry helped to ensure that lighting products used in Public Works’ projects were represented by the Manufacturer’s Representative. If convicted, Perry faces a possible maximum statutory sentence of up to five years in prison.

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI and IRS-CI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey N. Kaplan. An information is only an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at or on

>>> Ethics Commission press release: After Probable Cause was found last month (C 14-18) that Miami-Dade firefighter Phyllis Sloan-Simpkins violated the Ethics Code by making presentations before a County advisory board, despite being told previously by the Ethics Commission that she is prohibited from doing so, the COE today issued a Letter of Instruction to her. Firefighter Sloan-Simpkins is explicitly instructed not to appear before any board or agency on behalf of her private non-profit organization (Majestic’s Youth & Arts Academy) or any third party.   Firefighter Sloan- Simpkins has stated that she understands the restrictions and will now utilize other individuals to make presentations on behalf of her organization.

A different Miami-Dade firefighter, John Watler, who runs a fitness center during his off-duty hours, was charged with failing to follow requirements of the Ethics Ordinance to disclose the income obtained from his second job, despite receiving training over the years instructing county employees to do so.  Firefighter Watler stipulated to the Ethics Commission’s finding of Probable Cause to the complaint (C 14-26), and has accepted a settlement agreement to pay a $500 fine. Firefighter Watler formed Top Rank Fitness, Inc., in 2012, but never received permission required to allow him to engage in outside employment, nor did he filed a Statement of Outside Employment, which is mandatory for county workers.

In other matters today, Ethics Commission Executive Director Joseph Centorino reported that registrations for the COE’s Political Campaign Ethics Conference on Friday, May 16, at St. Thomas University Law School, have been very strong, and that he anticipates a highly successful conference covering a variety of campaign-related topics. He also noted that C-Span will be present to record several sessions for airing on the channel during the summer.  Registration and information can be found at

Finally, there was changing of the guard with retirement of an original Ethics Commssion member and the swearing in of its newest member.  Dr. Judith Bernier, Academic Program Director for the Labor Center, was sworn in today and served at her first meeting as Ethics Commissioner. She is the Commission appointee of the Florida International University Labor Center. She replaces Dr. Dawn Addy, who served on the Commission for 13 years.

Meanwhile, serving for his final Ethics Commission meeting was original member Kerry Rosenthal. Rosenthal, a Miami attorney and partner with the law firm Rosenthal, Rosenthal, Rasco, was appointed by the Miami-Dade League of Cities in 1998. He served several years as Chair of the Ethics Commission. His replacement will be announced by the League prior to the Commission’s June 12 meeting. Still to be named to the Ethics Commission is a representative of St. Thomas University School of Law to fill the seat vacated last month by University of Miami Professor Charlton Copeland.>>> The Ethics Commission was created in 1996 as an independent agency with advisory and quasi-judicial powers. It is composed of five members, serving staggered terms of four years each. Through a program of education, outreach and enforcement, the Commission seeks to empower the community and bolster public trust.


>>>> After over a decade, Board Member Perez gets a challenger, but he is not well funded compared to her $106,000 campaign war chest

Board Member Marta Perez, Ph.D. for the first time since she has been in office on the school board has a challenger this election cycle. Perez with $106,000 in her campaign war chest, she represents Dist 8 and her challenger is Lawrence Roy Orihuela and he has zero for his campaign to unseat the long serving board member, who briefly gave a shot in 20004 running for Miami-Dade County Mayor, but she failed to gain traction with voters back then. Further Perez has become an attorney as well as educator and over the years she has become beloved by many in the community for her scrappy style, and demand for ethics and transparency, but over the year’s she has failed to garner the top leadership spot since Nov.1998. When she was first elected to the nine member board. She is a Republican in a non partisan race and over the years has campaigned for Republican candidates in national and state races. She has been the school board’s vice chair and she was a major advocate of creating an internal ethics committee to review conflicts of interests in the nation’s fourth largest public schools district. And to review her financial disclosure form go to



>>> JHS begins to get first bite of $830 million bond with County commission approval of issuance that includes nine member oversight board to watch over how this new money is spent

The Miami-Dade County Commission Tuesday approved the issuance of $830 million in bonds and created a nine member oversight board to watch over how this new money is spent after countywide voters approved the bond in November for massive upgrades in the facilities at Jackson Health System. The over sight board will have a diverse group of people free of conflicts and the item was sponsored by Commissioner Audrey Edmonson, and she noted during the discussion that the county commission “always had final approval,” on these expenditures at JHS.

However, County Commissioner Juan Zapata was concerned that the oversight board needed to be more independent and could be swayed by the county commission that approves the appointments, though Edmonson said the nominating process had worked well so far and she did not anticipate any problems with this selection process that had Commissioner Dennis Moss requesting the new oversight board be representative of the community’s demographics.


>>>Legal fee of $225,219 for Pottinger litigation to modify homeless consent decree causes Miami commission debate, DDA asked to consider paying a bigger share than $75,000 pledged by downtown development agency where around 60 percent of the homeless are found, Sarnoff cries foul given massive Miami tax base in urban core

A legal bill to pay the attorney’s that worked on getting the Michael Pottinger Etal decree modified in the federal courts that detailed how the city had to deal with the homeless and these people were mostly found in downtown Miami has cost the city a bundle coming in at $225,219. For the law firm headed up by former U.S. Attorney Tom Scott. Commissioner Marc Sarnoff had been pushing this litigation and the new compromise of the federal decree that ended up being successful in the courts, and the Miami Downtown Development Authority (DDA) had agreed to pick up $75,000 of the legal costs but this new number ran into resistance on the Miami commission Thursday when Commissioners Francois Suarez (and he said “no one in my district asked me to modify the Pottinger agreement,”), and Commissioner Frank Carollo balked at the payment. Suarez said he felt,” sticker shock, and [the amount] was unexpected,” and he suggested maybe a “50/50 split,” and Carollo objected to the attorney fees coming out of the city’s general funds and felt the DDA should pick up a higher share of the legal costs. Since downtown residents would be benefitting the most said Carollo. And when Sarnoff objected noting the large considerable tax base in the urban core. The three men bickered if the city’s general fund should pay for it all. And Commissioner’s asked Sarnoff, the chair of the DDA, to go back to his board and to see if they could up the contribution to the legal fund. Further, commissioners and staff did not question the billing hours and the city attorney told them these were legitimate costs but the question was who would be paying for the legal challenge.

However, Sarnoff noted the urban core contributes much more to the municipal tax base than other areas of the city and that it was unfair for the DDA to shoulder so much of the burden. Since other areas of the city would benefit, but that had Suarez noting none of his constituents ever brought up “the Pottinger case,” and it really was “primarily a downtown,” issue he thought.






>>> Commission appointed Review panel to try to sort out why CIP “dysfunctional,” created by 76 percent of city voters back in 2001tomonitor Miami police

The Civilian Independent Investigative Panel created by citywide voters back in 2001 and approved by 76 percent of the city’s voters to investigate police shootings after a number of controversial deaths and came on the heels of the Elian Gonzalez extraction on Saturday of 2000 Easter Holiday by federal authorities. And Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado gave a “Historical perspective,” noting that at the time there were widespread demonstrations and civil unrest and this combined with the disenchantment in the African American community that the police needed additional oversight in their activities after rash of recent shootings that continues to this day.

Commissioner Francis Suarez said the CIP was “dysfunctional,” to the media and the commission agreed to set up a panel to review why it was taking so long to close investigations an a internal dispute and for more on the CIP dispute go to

What about Commissioner Gonzalez and Police Chief Timoney?

When it comes to the CIP over the years since its creation Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado and Commissioner Wilfred Gort are the only two elected officials’ at the dais back in its infancy and it was pushed by now deceased Commissioner Arthur Teele, Jr., a close Regalado ally and the CIP butted heads with Miami Police Chief John Timoney over a free Lexus SUV he drove for over 12 months and he also said publically that he believed the panel did not have jurisdiction over the matter.  And then Commissioner Angel Gonzalez, Gort’s predecessor in the office also was highly critical of the board and some of its statements and he would not fill appointments to the CIP, and Gonzalez also tried to whack back the budget, and was also critical of a couple of CIP members that lived in the Grove condominium Grove Isle, believing they were elitist and not representative of the city of Miami as a whole he argued at the time years ago.

>>> When it comes to hedge fund companies coming to Miami, Commissioner Sarnoff says that asked about Ransom Everglades’s school and how to get accepted for their children.

During a Miami Commission zoning meeting concerning a new master plan for the Ransom Everglades School in Coconut Grove. Commissioner Marc Sarnoff said the question of getting into the school was one of the first things company executives asked before they would come here. And he noted at the time that a number of hedge funds were looking at Miami and one is apparently moving from California. Sarnoff at the zoning meeting could not heap enough compliments on the school’s Head mistress, and now we know why and the zoning request passed. After Ransom officials said there would also be better cooperation and coordination between the Miami police offices directing traffic on the Historic Main Highway location that creates a traffic nightmare when students are dropped off or picked up by parents.

Ethics Commission press release: The COE today found No Probable Cause to a complaint (C 13-29) that top officials in the City of Miami exploited their official positions when relatives of Deputy City Manager Luis Cabrera were hired for part-time positions in the City’s Parks and Recreation Department. Commissioners accepted that the evidence was insufficient to prove that any city official exerted pressure on the Parks Director to hire Juan Carlos Cabrera (Luis Cabrera’s step-brother) or his wife, Dayami Davila (Luis Cabrera’s step-sister-in-law), and that the Director was operating within his authority to hire them. However, Commissioners expressed concern that the city’s hiring processes were not sufficiently transparent to allay public suspicion of improper influence. Commissioners requested that a Letter of Instruction be drafted for city officials expressing their concerns and recommending changes and the adoption of recommendations by the City’s Independent Auditor General. Miami City Attorney George Wysong stated before the Commission that changes to the city’s temporary hiring procedures to make the process more transparent and less vulnerable to the unfair influence of city employees are already under way.

>>> EC press release: Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado’s failure to report a trip to Argentina last summer prompted the Ethics Commission to issue a Letter of Instruction to the Miami City Attorney’s office.   Travel and hotel expenses for the mayor’s trip, during which the mayor attended several events promoting development in Miami, were paid for by the privately-funded Buenos Aires Convention and Visitors Bureau.

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 regarding tickets to special events where an official function is performed.  Because he had relied upon legal counsel, the complaint against Mayor Regalado (C 14-16) was dismissed.  The Letter cites a Florida Ethics Commission opinion that travel at the expense of any agency other than the official’s agency should be considered a gift, and provides a checklist for Miami and other municipal attorneys to consider when advising about reporting travel.

>>> EC press release: While Ethics Commissioners last month found No Probable Cause to a complaint (C 13-38) that Kira Grossman, a former attorney for the Miami Parking Authority, violated the Ethics Ordinance by using her City e-mail account and computer to promote a political fundraiser for then-mayoral candidate Francis Suarez. The Commission did not find Probable Cause because the fundraiser was advertised as a networking event, but it indicated concern that Ms. Grossman’s actions strayed close to a misuse of her government-owned computer for a private purpose. Today the COE approved a Letter of Instruction, noting that Grossman’s behavior was very close to crossing the ethical line, as evidenced by a 2 to 1 vote against finding probable cause.  It also reminds Ms. Grossman and all public officials and employees that government resources may not be used to support a political campaign and should not be used for any purpose other than official business.


>>> When it comes to the Historic Playhouse, $15 million in county GOB, the money could be used for other than “restoration” if county commission approves the change in scope or intent, there is some flexability with how this money can be spent

PAST WDR: 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 >>> Update: And the county’s 2004 GOB where $15 million was allocated, it was for the “restoration,” of the historic theater, and that will have to be factored into any future plans for this money.

What else is possible at the site?

County Cultural representatives held a public meeting last Friday for input with people hearing what any possible future plans might be for the Historic Theater and while in the Initial County $2.9 billion GOB passed by countywide voters in 2004 and covered funding some 400 projects. In that document it says the $15 million was for the “restoration,” of the historic and iconic structure but under county policies how this money could be used is not restricted to just the restoration. The county has modified dozens of these projects since the money first became available around 2006 depending on the current situation, scope and timing has been an issue before these county bond funds were released, however, it always takes a vote by the County Commission to approve the release of these bond monies. And because of that, the role of Miami-Dade County Commissioner Xavier Suarez becomes more critical in this evolving process that wont really come to fruition until the end of the summer, and a firm is picked to deal with the overall Playhouse structure and any future plans that will include a parking garage on the site, but will be designed to be synergistic with the Theater.

>>>>Coconut Grove Grapevine turned nine years recently, no easy task to achieve

The Coconut Grove Grapevine turned nine recently and editor Tom Falco gets a Tip of the Hat from the Watchdog Report, for having just just celebrated my 15th anniversary. I know reaching such a milestone is no easy task that includes receiving a variety of slings and arrows over the years. To read the Grove blog go to


>>> The City of Miami Beach is rolling out a new App to make finding and paying for a parking lot easier in a municipality known to be a parking nightmare and the city is launching the feature on Monday and below is the press release on the matter.

Miami Beach Parking Made Simple & Easy Launch of New Apps to Find & Pay for Parking from Your Phone (ParkMobile and ParkMe Miami Beach on iPhone and Android Devices)

Monday, May 12 10:30 a.m. – 11: 00 a.m.Parking Lot across from Miami Beach City Hall (Behind The Fillmore) 1700 Convention Center Drive, Miami Beach. Miami Beach introduces new mobile payments program for parking. You can find an on-street or off-street parking space and pay for it all from an iPhone or Android cell phone.

As an introductory to the new service, ParkMobile user fees will be waived between May 12 – 25, 2014. Registered Miami Beach residents receive 43 percent discount on metered parking in South Beach ($1.00 instead of $1.75 an hour). Registration begins Monday, May 12. The ParkMobile app is also linked to the live parking locator app, ParkMe Miami Beach, which provides live information on municipal parking availabilities throughout the city. ParkMobile ambassadors will be available throughout the week, following the launch, at various on- and off-street parking lots. Both apps (ParkMobile and ParkMe Miami Beach) are free to download on iPhone and Android.


>>> Ethics Commission Clarifies Standards on City Hiring, Mayor’s Travel

Ethics Commission press release: The Miami-Dade County Commission on Ethics and Public Trust issued a Letter of Instruction today to top officials of the City of North Miami as a result of an ethics complaint (C 14-21) against Deputy City Manager Lumane Pluviose Claude prompted by the city’s hiring of her husband for three contract positions, allegedly violating a county rule that prohibits the relatives of city officials from contracting with that city. The Ethics Commission found Probable Cause last month for three counts of violating the ethics code, but dismissed them since Dr. Claude herself was not found to have been connected to the temporary jobs or her husband’s hiring.  The Letter reminds city administrators that employing a family member of someone in the upper levels of government not only creates an appearance of impropriety, but may also violate state nepotism laws.



>>> Will $800 school board bond be a tough sell in Democratic Party stronghold, and what mechanism will provide oversight of how money is spent after past scandals in construction department

The Broward School Board and the administration of Robert W. Runcie are moving forward to ask countywide voters to approve a $800 million Bond for school infrastructure improvements and some IT upgrades, but after past scandals and construction dollar misuse and a critical grand jury report on the district’s Construction and maintenance operation. This bond, while needed could be a tough sell with skeptical voters after this past track record in a county that is a Democratic Party stronghold.

A similar $1.2 billion bond passed by 69 percent of the county’s voters in Miami-Dade last November and it includes an independent citizen based oversight board to watch over how this new money is spent. (Which Runcie is also calling for). However, Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho was the point of the public relations spear along with most of the school board members in the countywide vote. However, Carvalho was coming off a string of awards including most recently being named the nation’s Superintendent of the Year and while Runcie says he has righted the ship in many ways. He does not have the popularity or name recognition that Carvalho has here during his tenure at the District that started back in Sept. 2008, to Runcie’s who came a couple of years ago from Chicago to the Broward schools District. And Broward school Board Chair Patricia  Good will have to amp up the discussion throughout the county along with Runcie if this bond is going to be approved by the county’s voters in the fall.


>>> 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 to view

the new agenda.


>>> Former CEO of Publicly Traded Company Sentenced in Securities Fraud Scheme

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), Miami Field Office, announce that Richard Altomare, 65, of Palm Beach County, was sentenced yesterday for his participation in a securities fraud “pump and dump” scheme. Altomare was sentenced to 37 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. On February 21, 2014, a federal jury in Fort Lauderdale convicted Altomare on four counts, including one count of mail fraud and three counts of securities fraud. According to the indictment and evidence presented during the trial, Altomare was the former CEO of Universal Express, Inc. Between 2000 and 2003, Altomare and other company insiders sold 500 million unregistered shares of Universal stock to the public, and then issued a series of false press releases in order to offset the resultant negative pressure on the stock price. On March 8, 2007, a Final Judgment in a civil action brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission was entered against Altomare. Among other things, the order prohibited Altomare from “participating in an offering of penny stock, including engaging in activities with a broker, dealer, or issuer for the purposes of issuing, trading or inducing or attempting to induce the purchase or sale of any penny stock.”

Despite the order, Altomare persuaded a start-up financial services firm based in Jacksonville called Sunset Brands, Inc. (SSBN), whose shares traded on the over the counter “penny stock” market, to bring him in as a consultant to attract investors and help write their press releases. Instead, Altomare used his access to the company to carry out a “pump and dump” scheme to defraud investors. In early 2013, Altomare met with a former business associate and conceived a scheme to artificially inflate the share price and trading volume of SSBN stock to enrich himself and his associate. Unbeknownst to Altomare, his former associate had become an informant for the FBI. During recorded conversations and meetings with the informant, Altomare promised to compensate him with SSBN stock to induce his cooperation in the scheme. Altomare’s plan was to have his former associate purchase shares of SSBN stock to mislead investors into believing that SSBN’s share price was rising, and that there was a public market for SSBN stock. Altomare also used his access to SSBN’s press releases to further the scheme. Altomare agreed to cause SSBN, which was unaware of his plans, to issue positive press releases about the company to follow and coincide with the illegally induced purchasing by the informant. The purpose of the press releases was to make it appear that SSBN’s stock price was rising because of the positive news, and to conceal the market manipulation scheme from regulatory authorities. Altomare’s plan was to sell, or “dump,” the stock he and the informant controlled after the share price had been artificially inflated, and then split the proceeds with the informant. Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI, and the assistance of the Miami Regional Office of the Securities and Exchange Commission. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alejandro O. Soto and Kevin J. Larsen. 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

>>> And to read all the Palm Beach elected leader’s financial disclosure reports go to


>>> Gov. Scott press release for infrastructure projects in Monroe County – $6,000,000. The project consists of constructing a wastewater treatment plant, transmission main and wastewater collection system to serve the communities from Lower Sugarloaf Key through No Name key. The transmission and collection system will serve approximately 9,000 homes. This is an increase of an original loan for $65,000,000.

Islamorada – $6,000,000 -This project is for the construction of a regional wastewater collection and transmission system for the Village of Islamorada. Approximately 6,765 homes will be served by this system. This is an increase of an original loan for $71,000,000.

Marathon – $27,300 -This project is complete and included collection, transmission, treatment, and disposal with storm water collection and treatment in Marathon’s service area 3. Approximately 1,459 homes that are currently on septic tanks and cesspits will be served by an advanced water treatment plant. This is an increase of an original loan for $12,500,000.

Marathon – $519,000-This project is complete and involved creating wastewater and storm water infrastructure in Marathon’s service area 5 that replaced approximately 1,278 septic tanks and cesspits. This is an increase of an original loan for $21,000,000.

Key Largo – $2,560,000 -This project is complete and involved the construction of an advanced water treatment plant with a capacity of 2.3 million gallons per day that will eventually serve all of Key Largo. This is an increase of an original loan for $55,500,000.

Key Largo – $4,200,000 – This project consists of the construction of a new digester as well as the conversion of an existing digester into a third Sequencing Batch Reactor to provide additional capacity. This expansion is necessary because Islamorada will be sending all of their effluent to Key Largo for treatment and disposal.

>>> 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. And to review her financial disclosure form go to

>>> Elected leaders financial disclosures on line at ,


>>> 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

>>> The Margulies Collection will be closed for the summer and will reopen in the fall.


>>> With JHS getting $830 million in future bond proceeds; it must be combined with enhanced patient customer service, across the board if public system is going to compete with other healthcare systems and facilities in South Florida

With the Jackson Health System “Delivering miracles everyday,” and it being one of the finest public healthcare systems in the world, and now beginning to get $830 million in new bonding funds that was approved by the Miami-Dad Commission last week. Given how healthcare systems have evolved and that all health systems will have to be competitive and that includes the facilities (where a concierge service level is available in many cases).

Jackson management must focus on customer service in the short run to mitigate and attract paying patients in the years to come. And while the new bond money is great, it did not come with the requisite magic wand, to upgrade elevators and operating rooms and other equipment. After the county commission shifted some $1 billion in unfunded costs onto JHS back in 2000 and while at the time it was some $70 million in costs, but as the years ticked by it grew to the larger number. And given the current competitive health system landscape, that has one local hospital using signs when people check in that says, “Director of First Impressions.” All JHS employees must begin to up their customer and patient service game for while it is a public hospital, healthcare delivery has changed dramatically and from the people in billing, or others doing scheduling for physicians. They must become customer service fanatics and while in the past years earlier leadership has tried to change the culture. People have to realize that working “At Jackson is not a right but a privilege,” and while the healthcare is great thanks to the physicians and nurses plus the affiliation with the University of Miami Miller Medical School and now FIU.

It will take years to complete the extensive upgrades and it must be combined with a radical change of the support culture to compete in this new healthcare world and county commissioners must minimize their involvement in this new bond money and let the PHT board do its job and to treat this precious public money wisely and responsible for if it is not used wisely and effectively to transform the hospital system, there will never be another chance in the future, and after 90 years of being the public medical crown  jewel. This new $830 million bond money must be used effectively, if this important institution is to prosper and thrive in the decades to come.


>>> Congrats on sweet Fifteen. Reading W.D.R. on plane from Xi’an to Shanghai. Fantastic country to visit.





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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.


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>>> 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 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. … >>>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

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