At one time, Gov. Charlie Crist was likely the state’s most popular governor ever. Today, he has slipped in the polls, trailing rival Marco Rubio for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination. For the first time, Rubio has kept pace with Crist in fundraising during the past quarter. If that wasn’t enough, Crist’s hand-picked chairman of the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF), Jim Greer, is resigning amid allegations of lavish personal spending of party funds. It has also been revealed that Greer’s right-hand man, and RPOF executive director Delmar Johnson, has been secretly working as a fundraiser for various campaigns, leading to speculation about his loyalty and fairness to all candidates. Johnson is also a former Crist campaign aide. What it boils down to is that Crist’s campaign is in trouble.
The South Florida Times has expanded its distribution throughout Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties. In addition to hundreds of new racks, the newspaper is now being sold in select Wal-Mart, CVS, Publix, Walgreens and Winn Dixie Stores, as well as Sunoco gas stations. Another major expansion is underway, and the newspaper needs drivers to manage routes, one day per week. Interested parties should contact Circulation Coordinator Robert Beatty II at 954-356-9360, or via email at: riibeatty@SFLTimes.com
Surfside Police Officer Woodrow Brooks was arrested last week and charged with insurance fraud, official misconduct and grand theft. The charges stem from his participation in schemes to defraud insurance companies by filing false police reports on staged vehicle accidents in 2009. Police say Brooks was recruited by his friend, Federico Elias, who asked him to help with the scam. Brooks agreed, and both have confessed. Brooks is a three-year veteran of the department, and remains on unpaid suspension pending the outcome of the case. Book’em, Dano!
An unnamed 14-year-old student at Miami Central High School was arrested on Tuesday, Feb 9 and charged after allegedly carrying a gun outside the school. The .22 caliber gun was not loaded, but the student showed it to other students during the bus ride to school. The other students alerted authorities, who made the arrest before the student entered the school. Very good.
TROUBLE IN THE LAND
Deerfield Beach City Commissioner Sylvia Poitier could be the target of a criminal investigation by federal authorities and/or the Broward State Attorney’s Office. The situation involves the Westside Deerfield Businessmen Association, a community development housing organization (CHDO) that is run by Poitier’s daughter and other extended family members. I interviewed Poitier about this very issue more than three years ago, and she was adamant that she had no conflict. I disagreed, and she apparently went on about her business. It didn’t look good then, and it appears to be even worse now. At the time, Poitier said she was a volunteer for the organization, and that’s why she had an office at the organization’s facility. Blogger and community advocate Chaz Stevens has filed complaints with numerous state and federal agencies over Poitier’s votes to award the organization grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and funds from other sources. He has also asked for criminal investigations into the group’s tax returns and financial records, and is scheduled to meet with prosecutors in State Attorney Michael Satz’s office. Acting City Manager Burgess Hanson’s staff reportedly met with HUD authorities about the issue this week, also. More on this later, but it’s a mess.
Broward school board members, at their Tuesday, Feb. 9 meeting, raised the possibility of more layoffs, unpaid furloughs and other cutbacks to balance the budget. Superintendent Jim Notter’s staff told board members that the district has lost $60 million to $100 million in state funds, and will have to make cuts to balance the budget. Amazingly, there was no mention of salary cuts for the overpaid administrators, or board members, or cutting travel and selling off unused school property or equipment.
SHERIFF AND THE CITY
Pompano Beach Mayor Lamar Fisher and city commissioners voted to continue negotiating with the Broward Sheriff’s Office to keep providing law enforcement services, but the numbers show the city may no longer be able to afford the department. Some residents and business owners want the city to dump BSO and re-start the city’s own police department, which was dissolved when the city contracted with BSO in 2000. If BSO is dumped, more than 300 jobs could be on the line, some of which would be replaced by Pompano Beach. There was overwhelming support for keeping BSO, but city officials say they can provide better services, at a lower price than the $38.4 million BSO is proposing for this year. Even if BSO is to remain, city officials say they want City Manager Dennis Beach to oversee department staff, which is ridiculous. Sheriff Al Lamberti in no way can allow his employees to be managed by another entity.
Palm Beach County
Qualifying for the March 9 municipal elections in numerous Palm Beach County cities took place on Tuesday, Feb. 9. Amazingly, of the eight people who qualified to run for office in Lake Park, including incumbents Jeff Carey, Patricia Osterman and Kendall Rumsey, none is black. No black candidates filed to run. The U.S. Department of Justice sued the 76-year-old town last year, alleging that the town systematically diluted the black vote. Lake Park has a 48-percent black population, compared to 38-percent white, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, but only white candidates have been elected to office since the town’s incorporation. Many of those black residents are renters, not property owners. In the face of the lawsuit, the town voted to change its voting system from an at-large system to a top-tiered system. Under the new system, the top vote-winners are elected to office, without the possibility of a runoff based on percentages. This year, all four of the town’s commission seats are up for re-election, and the top four vote getters will be elected to office. Something in the milk just isn’t clean here.