elgin_jones_web_13.jpgEJones@SFLTimes.com

DISGRACEFUL FAILURES

After nearly a month of increasing outrage over the apparent cover-up in the murder of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Gov. Rick Scott finally spoke publicly about this travesty. Scott appointed a special prosecutor and vowed to have a thorough investigation conducted but that’s not enough. The state attorney and the medical examiner should be suspended from office pending the outcome of this investigation. Scott’s late arriving effort is just one of many failures by public officials in this tragic case. Sanford City Manager Norton Bonaparte Jr.’s disgraceful and pathetic excuses for not, at the very least, suspending Police Chief Bill Lee are astonishing. His waffling and attempts to justify his inaction will go down in history and if he does not resign, the city council should fire him.

 

Palm Beach County

 

SUICIDE WATCH

Millionaire polo magnate John Goodman is on suicide watch in the Palm Beach County Jail after being convicted of vehicular homicide, DUI manslaughter and failure to render aid in the 2010 death of Scott Wilson. Goodman, 48, ran into Wilson’s car in the wee hours of the morning, forcing Wilson’s car into a canal, where he drowned. Goodman then left the scene on foot without calling 911 or attempting to help Wilson. Goodman’s attorney Roy Black says he will appeal. Sentencing has yet to be scheduled; Goodman faces up to 30 years in prison.

 

CONGRESSMAN HASTINGS

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has ranked U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar, as the number one member of the House of Representatives who pays fees or salaries to “family members” from their congressional office. Hastings refutes this and he is correct. The watchdog organization conducted a study on “family members” and based its findings on the salary paid to Patricia Williams, who is Hastings’ deputy district director. Williams has long been rumored to be Hastings’ girlfriend, but that is not confirmed. In any event, she is not a family member. Despite this inaccuracy, the organization still ranked Hastings first among the 435 members of the House.

 

POLICE STUDY

The Boynton Beach Police Department saw five of its 160 officers arrested in 2011 and it continues to deal with scandals and other issues. Now city commissioners have delayed  a  study to evaluate the department and its operations. City Manager Lori LaVerriere recommended a company but commissioners disagreed on the type and scope of any study. Police Chief Matt Immler is defending his department. Commissioners will meet at a later date to resolve the issues and then decide on awarding a contract to complete a study.

 

Broward County

 

DUI DEATH

Thomas Hilgner, 45, of Cooper City has been charged with DUI manslaughter in the death of his wife after causing an accident on Florida’s Turnpike near Plantation. He was riding a motorcycle with his wife as passenger on Aug. 7 when he crashed into a truck. The impact threw the couple from the motorcycle and they were rushed to a hospital, where his wife was pronounced dead. A lengthy investigation determined that Hilgner was riding the motorcycle under the influence of alcohol.

 

T-MOBILE LAYOFFS

Philipp Humm, chief executive of T-Mobile, announced a large layoff and closure of several call centers, including the one in Fort Lauderdale where nearly 500 workers will lose their jobs. The

wireless carrier is consolidating operations after a merger with AT&T was called off in the face of regulatory opposition. It is the second largest layoff in Florida this year, following an announcement from Miami-Dade’s Jackson Health System in February that it would layoff 920 workers.

 

BATTLE BREWING

Residents of northwest Pompano Beach are organizing in opposition to the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) proposals to rezone land along Hammondville Road between Interstate 95 and Dixie Highway. The CRA director is former Fort Lauderdale City Manager Floyd Johnson and former Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner Carlton Moore is a consultant. Residents are now turning to Legal Aid of Broward, which is already suing Fort Lauderdale’s CRA over alleged gentrification and schemes to take property from minority residents. Legal Aid attorney Janet Riley has been quietly gathering documents in Pompano Beach and a lawsuit could be on the way.

 

YOUTH EMPOWERMENT

Mathes Guice, director of the Men’s Ministry at Koinonia Worship Center in Pembroke Park, has announced the dates of its annual Community Response Conference.  This year’s gathering, entitled “Working Together to Develop Youth Into the Next Generation of Leaders,” will be held April 11-12. The Broward County Sheriff’s Office, Broward County Public Schools and other organizations are partners for the event at which the Rites of Passage Program will be presented. The program serves middle school-age boys, providing mentoring and leadership skills and seeks to reduce delinquency. There will be an economic empowerment component and other workshops. It will take place at Koinonia Worship Center, 4900 W. Hallandale Beach Blvd., Pembroke Park.  For more information, including the schedule, call 954-239-4297.

 

Miami-Dade County

 

CRIME OR INCOMPETENCE?

The Miami-Dade Public Schools is not providing public records related to a number of issues concerning Homestead Senior High School. Like too many public agencies, the school district has a history of playing games when asked to turn over such records. Intentionally refusing to hand over public records can constitute a crime and result in civil penalties, or both, according to Florida’s Sunshine Law. Superintendent Alberto Carvalho was asked to intervene but has not responded to questions about his employees’ inaction. School board members are ultimately responsible and we will see how they respond.

 

POLICE ACTION

North Miami Beach Police Chief Larry Gomer is responding to complaints from residents and business owners about brawls and other disturbances caused by rowdy students who attend Maverick High, a charter school. Police are constantly making arrests and responding to calls at and around the school. City Manager Lyndon Bonner now wants the school to help foot the bill, which is likely to lead to a legal showdown. Stay tuned.

 

ANOTHER CRISIS

The Homestead Housing Authority is once again mired in controversy. This time it is the process used to select a firm to manage the agency’s properties for farm workers. Director Oscar Hentschel and agency attorney Gilberto Pastoriza are conducting the negotiations, without input from board members. One of those members, Lois Jones, has been making a brave effort to bring transparency to the troubled agency and it’s high time something is done. Homestead City Council members should conduct a review and determine whether the Housing Authority Board requires revamping and stop the embarrassments.

 

Photo: Elgin Jones