Gov. Rick Scott unveiled his budget proposal at a Tea Party rally that was held in the rural town of Eustis which has a near 80 percent white population. The rally was a protest against President Barack Obama and the healthcare reform legislation. If the choice of the rally as his venue was not odd enough, Scott’s budget proposals are similarly strange, calling for drastic job and tax cuts. Scott, who won the gubernatorial contest as a Republican, is in for a political reality check, as even some leaders in the Republican-controlled state legislature are already criticizing his budget as unrealistic.
Palm Beach County
THE SHOOTINGS CONTINUE
One woman was killed and two men wounded during a shooting that occurred in the Fremd Village community of Pahokee this week. Details are few and the suspects remain at large. One man was shot in the hand and the other in the leg and both were expected to survive. It was the latest round of violence that plagues the Pahokee, Belle Glade and South Bay areas. Police are asking anyone with information to call Palm Beach County Crime Stoppers at 800-458-8477.
STATE TROOPER GUILTY
Ariel Valentin, a 33-year-old former Florida Highway Patrol trooper, has pleaded guilty to simple battery and official misconduct charges. Valentin will serve five years probation and is barred from working in law enforcement again. His conviction involves a 2009 accident that he was dispatched to investigate. At the scene, he let one of the drivers leave. The other driver was a female who lived near the scene. Valentin asked her if they could go to her home where he could search and questions her and she agreed. The woman alleged she was threatened with arrest over an expired tag unless she consented to sex. Following an investigation, Valentin was charged with committing sexual battery while in a position of authority, which carries up 30 years in prison, but he reached a plea deal on the lesser charge.
BLACK HISTORY FILM FESTIVAL
The Riviera Beach Black History Film Festival began this week. A series of movies is being shown on certain nights during Black History Month to highlight less known events involving blacks in American history. The showings are taking place at the Riviera Beach Public Library, 600 W. Blue Heron Blvd. For more information, call 561-845-4195.
CHIEF UNDER FIRE
West Palm Beach Police Chief Delsa Bush has broad support in the community, received good performance reviews and has been praised for her professionalism. Still, three of the four candidates running for mayor have indicated they would move to fire her if elected. It stems from tense contract negotiations between the police union and the administration of outgoing Mayor Lois Frankel. The union wants pay raises, the candidates want the union’s support and Bush is caught up in the fight.
OFFICER OF THE YEAR
Fort Lauderdale Police Officer John Graul has been selected Officer of the Year for the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge #31. The 14-year veteran, who works in the patrol division, received his department’s officer of the month award several times. He has also received numerous commendations for his work that has included the apprehension of carjacking suspects, decreasing burglaries and reducing overall crime in the district where he works. Graul was honored at the FOP’s Annual Police Officers Award Banquet held last week.
THE THRILL IS GONE
The historic Downbeat Club, which has operated since the 1950s, has been sold. Owner Gloria Royster reached an agreement to sell the property with a local church in the northwest Fort Lauderdale area where the nightspot is located. Royster plans to open up shop in another location but this is the end of an era. The Downbeat was a place where common folk could a cut rug and enjoy themselves without hurting their pocket books. It was the last remaining neighborhood-based black night club in the county. The women were plentiful and the liquor was priced just right …or so I am told.
DEPARTMENT CLEAN UP
Sgt. Peter Bigelsen, who was accused, along with then Police Chief Richard Perez, of circulating dozens of racist and offensive e-mails from his police department account, will serve 10 days unpaid suspension. Perez was fired and even though a good majority of the e-mails appeared to have been initiated from Bigelsen’s e-mail account, disciplinary action against him was based on the recommendations of City Manager Joseph Gallegos.
John V. Gilles, director of the FBI’s Miami office, has quietly formed an anti-corruption task force targeting Broward County. The secretive operation consists of FBI agents and law enforcement personnel from local police departments and state agencies. The task force is operating separately from the Broward State Attorney’s Office and local authorities. Good!
Miami-Dade Police Officer Juan Carlos Rodriguez, 24, was arrested after being accused of fondling two teenage girls during a traffic stop on the night of Jan. 11 in West Kendall. The four-year veteran has also been relieved of duty without pay. Authorities allege Rodriguez pulled over a car at the intersection of Southwest 88th Street and 157th Avenue around 10:30 p.m. and fondled the girls, who were passengers in the car. During their investigation Miami-Dade police said they found he had allegedly committed similar acts on other girls during traffic stops and more charges are possible.
David Munoz, a 27-year-old masseur at the ritzy Doral Golf Resort and Spa, was arrested and charged with one count of sexual battery. Last month, Munoz was giving a customer a massage when he began to rub her inner thighs. Then he went a step further and massaged her unmentionable areas, police said. Police were called to the spa and, under questioning, Munoz allegedly confessed.
Miami-Dade police are searching for 73-year-old Samuel Jerome Farmer, who was last seen around 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 5, at the Masonic Lodge at 11785 NW 17th Ave. in North Central Miami-Dade. He was driving a gold-colored 2004 Chevy Impala and has not been seen since. The car has a Florida tag, number 182-XWM. Farmer is 5-foot-6, weighs 225 pounds, has brown eyes and wears glasses. Police are asking anyone with information on Farmer's whereabouts to call 305-418-7201 or 305-476-5423.
Elgin Jones may be reached at EJones@SFLTimes.com