elginjones3web.gifDECISION TIME
Last year, a Quinnipiac University poll had Gov. Charlie Crist ahead of Marco Rubio by 46 points in the Republican U.S. Senate primary race. This week, Rubio leads Crist by a 23-point margin. By the time you read this, Crist may have already dropped out of the Republican primary to run as an independent. If Crist does make the switch, it will benefit U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, the Democratic primary leader, hurt Rubio’s chances, and make Crist the favorite in a three-way contest.

Brian Splain, 46, was arrested on Sunday, April 18, and charged with grand theft after being caught allegedly stealing a load of sand from Coco Plum Beach on Marathon Key. His loaded-down truck got stuck on the beach, and police were called. Investigators determined that he was drunk. He was also charged with criminal mischief and driving under the influence.

Allen West, a Republican who is challenging incumbent Democrat U.S. Rep. Ron Klein, was seen as a fringe, long-shot candidate. If fundraising counts for anything, West has tallied over $2 million overall; $838,450 of which came in the first quarter of 2010. West is a favorite of extreme, right-wing tea party groups, due mostly to a series of popular YouTube videos in which he extols his neo-conservative views. One video, in which he says Americans were “tricked in 2008,” and in which he urges people to pick up “bayonets and charge this enemy,” has gotten more than 2 million views.

Palm Beach County

Former Palm Beach County Corrections Deputy Ann Griffith-Levene, 44, has allegedly been fired over her relationship with two inmates, in violation of department regulations. A sheriff’s department investigation revealed that Griffith-Levene had inappropriate relationships with Olie James Goad, a 42–year-old inmate she met while he was in the Palm Beach County Jail. The 13-year veteran deputy also allegedly carried on a relationship with Goad after he was released. Goad’s girlfriend tipped off officials about the relationship. The former deputy is also accused of being involved with another inmate, Andre Pierce. Whew!

It’s tax time, and IRS tax refund checks are starting to roll in. Scams abound. For example, Marlene Fuentes-Diaz, 35, of Boynton Beach, was arrested Friday, April 16 after she attempted to cash a $3,500 counterfeit refund check at a check-cashing store. She is charged with uttering a forged instrument, scheme to defraud, and attempted grand theft. Book’em, Dano!

Miami-Dade County

Larry Johnson, an outspoken official with the Council 79 local of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union in Miami, has been fired without explanation. AFSCME represents non-management workers with public entities. As a union representative, Johnson complained that the union was not adequately representing its members, and that it refused to process discrimination allegations against various public employers. Johnson ended up filing his own discrimination complaints against his union with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and has now been fired. He has amended his complaint to include retaliation claims, and he is fighting the termination.

On Sunday, April 18, at the St. Petersburg apartment where she lived, 33-year-old Elfleter Bolden was brutally beaten over the head by a man who then ran over her with his car. She died at the scene, and the man fled. That suspect was identified as Oliver Samuel, 30, who was taken into custody at Memorial Park in Hialeah on Tuesday, April 20. He will be returned to St. Petersburg to face charges.

Broward County

Levi G. Williams, an attorney, has announced his resignation from the Broward College (formerly Broward Community College) Board of Trustees, effective May 31, 2010. Williams served on the board for 11 years, after he was appointed in 1999 by then-Gov. Jeb Bush. Williams effectively led the effort to increase minority enrollment. He also increased career and contracting opportunities for black people at the college. His resignation serves as a blow to the school, and to South Florida.

Vicente Thrower, 30, is a former member of several Pompano Beach advisory boards. He was arrested and charged with four public corruption felonies last week. Thrower is accused of using his official position on the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) to obtain lobbying contracts. Thrower has worked on the campaigns of numerous politicians, including U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, the late Pompano Beach Mayor E. Pat Larkins and former Broward County Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion. He was also appointed to city boards by Commissioner Woodrow Poitier, and to a county advisory board by Broward County Commissioner Kristin Jacobs. It is unclear how Thrower was able to connect himself to so many politicians, but he clearly has talent. Eggelletion has been convicted on a federal money-laundering charge, and a state public corruption charge. He is scheduled to begin serving 18-month prison sentences on both charges on May 3. The state charge involves bribes that Eggelletion took from father and son developers Bruce and Shawn Chait. Thrower introduced the Chaits to Eggelletion several years ago. Go figure.

Alfred Sewell, 44, was shot by a Wilton Manors police officer who responded to a burglar alarm at a doctor’s
office on Tuesday, April 20. The incident happened around 1:30 a.m. at 2713 N. Andrews Avenue. Police say Sewell was spotted trying to break into the office, and made a threatening move toward the officer, who then shot him. Sewell was listed in critical condition.

There are only five black judges in Broward County. They are Circuit Court judges Elijah Williams, Ilona Holmes and Kenneth Gillespie; and County Court judges Mary Robinson and Ian Richards. Williams, Gillespie and Robinson are all up for re-election. Williams is being challenged by Alan B. Schneider. Robinson is facing Jordan Howard Breslaw, and Gillespie is also expected to face competition. Based on the steep challenge of black people being elected to countywide office in Broward, two thirds of the current number of black judges could be wiped out in the November election.