elginjones3web.gifCRIMINAL MISSPENDING
Former Bal Harbour Director of Tourism Jose Raul Lima was arrested and charged with one count of grand theft this week over the misuse of his official Village of Bal Harbour expense credit card. Among other things, prosecutors contend that Lima made unauthorized purchases for eyeglasses, groceries, dry cleaning and pet grooming services for a total of $14,963.73 in personal items. The spending spree occurred between 2003 and 2008, during which he also obtained $3,313.66 in cash advances from the card, which was provided to him as part of his duties as tourism director. He has fully reimbursed the Village for the improper spending, but has now been criminally charged over his transgressions.

President George W. Bush held his final press conference this week, but instead of showing contrition for his abysmal performance and misdeeds over the past eight years, he was defiant, if not delirious. Bush defended the callous no-response to the Hurricane Katrina disaster, and thumbed his nose at the fraud and perjury used to trick the world into backing his unwarranted Iraq war. This is regrettable, but I’m glad he is on his way out, and hopefully in the coming years, he will come to realize how he has forever damaged, if not destroyed, the Republican Party. Or, perhaps, how he destabilized the world, and drove the country into what could turn out to be the worst economic plunder in America’s history. Don’t forget the way he tricked religious leaders into believing he would champion their causes with his Faith-Based Initiative. So long, Mr. President, we wish you well, but please don’t waste time leaving town.

Qualifying has ended for a number of municipal elections that will be held on March 10. One of the most hotly contested races will be that for the District III Fort Lauderdale city commission seat. This race is already contentious, and it could get down and dirty. Those who qualified for this race are Bobby DuBose, Nadine Hankerson, Pamela Adams and the commission-appointed incumbent, Magdalene Lewis. Keep an eye on this one.

Two South Florida community colleges may soon convert to “state” colleges. Broward College changed its name from Broward Community College last year, and a name change for Palm Beach Community College is expected soon. Both colleges will begin offering four-year degrees by July 1 if they are approved by the state Legislature. The schools could then be eligible for more state funding, and could use “state” in their official names.

U.S. Rep. Kendrick B. Meek (D-Miami) has announced he is seeking the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate in 2010. Meek is in his fourth term as a congressman, and friends have been calling him the Florida version of Barack Obama. That may be the consensus of his supporters, but Meek is likely to suffer  from the same lack of support from the Florida Democratic Party that other statewide black candidates have felt.  We’ll see.

The city of West Park is on borrowed time, financially, and it’s difficult to see how the city can survive in the coming years. It looks as if City Manager Russell Benford is hedging his bet. Benford is one of the 12 finalists for the city of Dania Beach’s city manager job. The opening became available after commissioners abruptly fired Ivan Pato just before the Christmas holiday.