After nearly 20 years with the same cellular phone company, I switched to a new provider this week. My decision came after years of trying to get my old provider to lower its ridiculous rates, and improve service. I was ignored, and the situation got worse. The new company I’m using is Wal-Mart’s Straight Talk service. The $45-a-month plan provides unlimited phone, text and data, and the coverage is nationwide. That price is a third of what I was paying, and there are no contracts or penalties. I’ll let you know how it goes, but right now I am more than pleased. Wal-Mart’s entry into the cellular business has already forced other companies to lower their prices, and if they do not match this plan and improve service, you might see some of them go out of business. Now, we need to convince Wal-Mart CEO Mike Duke to make another run at starting a bank, and maybe even a personal finance company.
HOMEOWNERS CASH BACK
As a result of a lawsuit filed by Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, more than 2,700 Florida homeowners will get payments of $6,000 or more from mortgage giant Countrywide Financial Corporation. The checks are part of a $16.9 million settlement stemming from the company’s alleged steering of borrowers into mortgages that they could not afford, or that had misleading loan rates and penalties. Good.
Palm Beach County
ANOTHER KIDDIE PORN ARREST
Walter David Devault, 21, was arrested by a multi-agency anti-child pornography task force on charges of possessing 99 pictures of so-called “kiddie porn.” The arrest came after agents tracked his movement over the Internet and then arrested him at his home Friday, Feb, 12. There, they found the images. He is being held in the Palm Beach County jail on $297,000 bail.
DEADLY DUI ACCIDENT
By the time you read this, the mega-billionaire owner and founder of the Palm Beach International Polo Club in Wellington could be charged in a fatal DUI accident. The charge stems from a Friday, Feb 12 accident in which John Goodman allegedly ran a stop sign in his $250,000 Bentley, and crashed into a car driven by 23-year-old Scott Wilson, who was killed. Palm Beach County police drew blood from Goodman, and say they suspect he was under the influence at the time of the accident. Police are awaiting the results of toxicology tests.
Jerry Stewart, 65, of Deerfield Beach, died Sunday, Feb. 14 after a long illness. Active in his community, sports and youth activities, Stewart was a fixture in Deerfield Beach for decades. Among other endeavors, Stewart was one of the city’s first black police officers. He was a husband and a father. One of his children is Sebrina Philpart-Brunson, who in 1996 donated a life-saving kidney to her father. She is also one of the few female referees in men’s Division I NCAA football. The viewing and wake for Stewart will take place Friday, Feb. 19, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at Rahming-Poitier Funeral Home, 379 South Dixie Highway in Deerfield Beach. Services are scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 20, at Cathedral Church of God, 365 South Dixie Highway, Deerfield Beach. For additional information, contact Rahming Funeral Homes at 954-698-0202.
FOLLOW THE MONEY
At its Tuesday, Feb 16 meeting, the Deerfield Beach City Commission voted to hire Kessler International, a New York-based auditing and corporate investigations firm. Kessler will audit the city’s Community Development Department operations, particularly under former City Manager Mike Mahaney, to determine how the city has distributed local, county, state and federal grant funds. Expect Kessler to also investigate funds granted to the Westside Deerfield Businessmen Association (WDBA), a Community Housing Development Organization (CHDO) headed by City Commissioner Sylvia Poitier’s daughter. Poitier voted to approve some of those funds, and there are questions about whether any of the money was funneled back to Poitier or her other family members. This doesn’t look good.
CITY IN CHAOS
Homestead city officials are dealing with a mess inside crumbling city hall, and I’m not talking abut the building. Rather, it’s the mounting controversies and scandals that have permeated the city for years, and that are now being uncovered. From racist emails to graphic sexual text messages, personnel problems and myriad lawsuits, Homestead has troubles. To make matters worse, Acting City Manager Sergios Purrinos is not providing any plans for addressing the problems. Mayor Steve Bateman and the other council members inherited a mess. Even if just some of the rumors coming out of city hall are true, the situation will get worse before it gets better, and heads may have to roll before that happens.
HOSPITAL IN CRISIS
Jackson Health System, which operates numerous medical facilities, including Jackson Memorial Hospital, is in financial crisis. The hospital is facing a $200 million-plus deficit this fiscal year, and it could be even worse once the numbers shake out. CEO Eneida Roldan said 20 to 25 percent of the budget must be immediately cut to keep the hospital afloat. Unions were contacted this week, and given notice to expect widespread cuts, and certain layoffs. What a mess! Jackson provides all types of services to the needy, as well as specialized care, and it may be time for Gov. Charlie Crist to look into this.
MIAMI HEADED FOR BANKRUPTCY
The city of Miami is in financial crisis. Budget Director Michael Boudreaux is warning commissioners that the city is on a fast track toward “bankruptcy and maybe receivership.” Commissioner Marc Sarnoff placed the blame on City Manager Pete Hernandez, and says he wants him gone. Hernandez has not implemented layoffs and other cuts that the commission approved in 2009. The city has instead been dipping into its reserves to stay afloat. If this sounds familiar, it is. In the 1990s, then-Gov. Lawton Chiles empanelled an oversight board that managed the city’s finances back to stability when it went bankrupt then. For taxpayers’ sake, Gov. Charlie Crist should take a close look at Miami’s current situation.