elginjones3web.gifHARD TIMES
BJ’s Wholesale Club announced on Tuesday, April 14 that the chain will begin accepting food stamps at its 180 stores across the country, including the 28 locations here in Florida.  This is an obvious move to retain some of the company’s customers who have now found themselves on food stamps, and you can expect other retailers that had various reasons for not accepting food stamps to change their policies as well.  Welcome to hard times.

At present, there are numerous property insurance bills making their way through the state Legislature, and not a single one will bring relief to homeowners.  All of them are intended to keep insurers from pulling out of the state by allowing them back-door methods to increase rates, and drop certain customers.  It will be interesting to see if Gov. Charlie Crist splits with the Republican-controlled Legislature and vetoes any of the bills that make it to his desk.  Crist will surely run for the U.S. Senate, and the “people’s governor” is being watched to see if he sides with voters or the insurance industry.

Palm Beach County

Led by Commissioner Fred Fetzer, Delray Beach city commissioners voted on Tuesday, April 14 to review ways to stop single-family homes from being used as “halfway” houses for released inmates and drug-treatment organizations. Residents in some neighborhoods are fed up with the practice, claiming it brings crime and other unrest. Some of the items under consideration include restricting single-family homes from being rented to more than six different tenants per year, and only allowing three unrelated tenants to reside in a home at the same time, which is ridiculous. There are ways to address the issue, but this isn’t it.

Belinda Leighton, 36, was arrested on Easter Sunday, after speeding through residential neighborhoods in western Boca Raton at speeds that reached more 100 miles per hour, according to police.  She was drunk and also had her 13-year-old son and nine-year-old daughter in the car.  She was threatening to kill her children.  She was being held on two counts of child neglect and driving under the influence.

In 2008, Riviera Beach Mayor Thomas Masters successfully got an ordinance passed that outlawed droopy pants, the kind that expose underwear or skin.  Since that time, dozens of people, mostly young black males, have been cited for violating the ordinance.  Now, attorneys in Palm Beach County Public Defender Carey Haughwout’s office are challenging the law.  They argue it violates freedom of expression and due process.

Palm Beach County Tax Collector Ann M. Gannon has implemented a plan that allows property owners to pay their tax bill over time, in four installments, between June 1 and March 1, instead of all at once.  It is intended to provide some relief to homeowners who may not be able to pay the full bill due to the current economic circumstances, and is available to those who owe $100 or more in taxes.

After a seven-month investigation, Michele Ammirato, 48, of Boynton Beach has been charged in the Sept. 17, 2008 traffic death of 87-year-old Priscilla Servant, also of Boynton Beach.  Servant was crossing the street in the 2600 block of South Federal Highway when Ammirato struck and killed her, but kept going.  When she finally did pull over, she told police she didn’t stop due to heavy traffic.  Investigation and tests revealed she was driving with a suspended license, and was under the influence of alcohol, according to police.  She also had cocaine in her system, police said. Ammirato is charged with vehicular manslaughter, DUI manslaughter, driving with a suspended license and leaving the scene of a crash involving a death, according to authorities.

Broward County

Attorney and military veteran Roshawn Banks has opened a campaign account and is the first candidate to announce for the Group 15 Broward County court judge seat.  The election will take place in 2010.  The seat is being vacated by retiring incumbent Judge Steven Shutter.

Robert Moran of Lighthouse Point, founder and president of Fort Lauderdale-based Moran Yacht & Ship, pleaded guilty in federal court on Tuesday, April 14 to filing false income tax returns and not reporting $3.4 million in a UBS AG bank account in Switzerland.  The money was being held in the name of Winter Drive Investments, a Panamanian corporation he controls.  Amid the financial collapse and under increased pressure, UBS agreed to provide U.S. regulatory agencies information on hundreds of U.S. citizens who have offshore accounts in their banks. Book ’em, Dano!

City of Deerfield Human Resources Director Marva Gordon resigned on March 30, amid an investigation into her use of city funds intended for job-vacancy advertisements. Since 2006, Gordon instead used some of the money to place ads in the journals of organizations with which she is affiliated in her native Panama, her local church, and other groups around the country.  Gordon was also accused of misusing sick-leave time.  City Manager Mike Mahaney hired the Weiss, Serota, Helfman, Pastoriza, Cole, & Boniske law firm to investigate the matter. Their findings determined that Gordon did not violate city sick-leave policy, but did violate city procurement practices by making unauthorized expenditures with her sorority and other organizations with which she has personal involvement.  Mahaney referred the matter to the Broward Sheriff’s Office, which determined that no crimes were committed.

Miami-Dade County

Jason Beckman, 17, is being held in the killing of his father, South Miami City Commissioner Jay Beckman, on Easter Sunday, according to authorities.  The teen allegedly killed his father with a shotgun blast as the father showered. Jason Beckman told police he was showing his father how he had assembled the gun when it went off, police said. But – according to months of postings on Internet sites – Jason made no secret of “hatred” for his father.

Voters in Coral Gables returned incumbents Maria Anderson and Ralph Cabrera to office during the Tuesday, April 14 election. Voters also approved 12-year term limits for commissioners and eight-year term limits for mayors.

Adam Kaufman, 36 a former South Plantation High School social studies teacher and wealthy condominium developer, was arrested by Hollywood police on Tuesday, April 14 on murder charges, according to authorities. The charges stem from warrants issued by Aventura police in the November 2007 death of his wife, Eleonora. Police allege that Kaufman strangled her to death at the couple’s $850,000 luxury, waterfront home in a gated community in the city.  Kaufman is senior vice president of Global Marketing Group, a family-run company that develops luxury condominiums throughout the country.  He originally called police to their home and stated he found his wife dead on the bathroom floor after she took a fall. But after changing his story over the course of the 17-month investigation, he has been charged in the case and is being held in the Broward Main Jail with no bond, awaiting transfer to Miami-Dade County, police said. At the time of her death, the couple had two children, ages 1 and 3 years old.