elgin_jones_web_13.jpgEJones@SFLTimes.com

ABOUT TIME
The prolonged economic downturn with its foreclosures and unemployment has brought a number of issues to the forefront. One of those is the impact credit rating reports have on the ability of the unemployed to find a job. Many governmental entities and private companies require job applicants to agree to have their credit histories checked in order to be considered for a job. In today’s economy, that means a record number of people are being locked out of job opportunities due to poor credit scores, which, in many cases result from the state of the economy. State Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando, has filed a bill that would restrict employers in most instances from using credit histories when making hiring decisions.


WELFARE RESTRICTIONS
Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Valrico, has introduced a bill that would place further restrictions on what items may be purchased with food stamps and welfare debit cards. Her proposal would also restrict where the ATM-compatible cards may be used. Sweets, for example, would be prohibited and using the debit cards would be banned from ATMs located in certain facilities, such as strip clubs and casinos.

Palm Beach County

LOCATED
Gwendolyn A. Lewis, a 59-year-old woman who suffers from dementia, was reported missing from her Boynton Beach home this past Sunday morning. She was found more than 20 miles away in Deerfield Beach in Broward County hours later. There is no indication how she got there. She appeared to be safe and unharmed.

THE FINALISTS
The search for a new superintendent for the School District of Palm Beach County has come down to three finalists. They are Janis Andrews, 58, Constance A. Jones, 61 and Tom Watkins, 58. Andrews is an assistant superintendent with the district. Jones is the chief academic officer with the Lee County School District and Watkins is an education consultant. Board members are expected to make a hiring decision later this month.

Broward County

OFFICER HONORED
Fort Lauderdale Police Officer Craig Sheehan has been honored as the department’s 2011 Officer of the Year.  Sheehan works the midnight shift in a tough neighborhood. He is credited with making 42 felony and 71 misdemeanor arrests last year. His efforts also helped recover 20 stolen vehicles and solve 18 burglaries.

MISSING TEEN
Naketa Leiba, 17, who had been missing for nearly a week, was found at an apartment just three blocks from her home. She told police she had run away and was staying with a friend. Her family last heard from her on Feb. 1, when she supposedly got off her school bus. Naketa earlier had told her parents that a man who appeared to be in his 60s had been following her and offering her rides when she got off the bus. The nonprofit Peas in their Pods group canvassed neighborhoods and distributed flyers seeking clues of Leiba’s whereabouts. Something is not right here and police say more details are forthcoming.

BHM PROMOTIONS
Sheriff Al Lamberti, who is off and running for re-election, still hasn’t named any women or minorities to his senior command staff. Lamberti made diversity a major platform of his campaign in 2008 and the clock has been ticking for him to make good on that commitment. Lamberti reportedly has been making plans to promote Col. Wiley Thompson, who is black, to undersheriff during February, which is also Black History Month. Sources say current Undersheriff Tom Wheeler has not been informed of that possible move. Wheeler has been out campaigning and collecting ballot petition signatures for Lamberti’s re-election bid.

MISSING DRUGS
An investigation by the Broward Inspector General’s Office has uncovered missing narcotics and gross mismanagement in the Broward County Medical Examiner’s Office under former medical examiner Dr. Joshua Perper. Also criticized in the report is Linda Krivjanik, who is the investigative supervisor in the medical examiner’s office. She is accused of alleged misconduct related to the disposal of drugs and also other issues.

Miami-Dade County

ON THE CARPET
Laurie Futterman, a teacher at David Lawrence Jr. K-8 Center, was called on the carpet by the school’s principal, Bernard Osborn, over comments she made at a North Miami City Council meeting about privatizing city waste disposal operations. It had nothing to with her teaching job, still Osborn received a call from Mayor Andre Pierre, who supports privatization. Osborn’s action was ridiculous and outrageous and the Miami-Dade School District should address his abuse of authority.

RACETRACK KICKBACKS
Steven Cross, a former track supervisor of Calder Race Course, and former contractors Israel Campos and Mark Cantrell have been charged with stealing $4.5 million from the Miami Gardens-based horse-racing track in an alleged kickback scheme in which contractors would allegedly submit false invoices for supplies that were never delivered. When Calder paid the invoices, the three allegedly divided the money.

POLICE SHOOTING

Homestead police shot and killed a 16-year-old and an investigation is underway to determine why it happened. The family of Danny Cruz say they are seeking copies of surveillance video from the Chevron gas station located at 801 N. Roosevelt Blvd. in Homestead to see what caused an officer to shoot him. Danny was a customer and something happened to cause the store clerk to push an alarm panic button. Police say when officers arrived they ordered Danny to show his hands and when he did not he was shot. Police say they found a handgun in his jacket pocket. Miami-Dade police are handling the investigation. Officer, Elvis Ackerman, 31, has been placed on routine administrative duty.

BROWN WINS
Voters returned incumbent Sharon Butler to the city commission of Florida City and elected newcomer Avis Brown to a commission seat. Brown is a retired educator and longtime community advocate who received strong support from the Haitian community.

Photo: Elgin Jones