REPUBLICAN LEADER ARRESTED
Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents arrested Jim Greer, 47, the former chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, on Wednesday, June 2. Greer was charged with organized fraud, money laundering and four counts of grand theft. The charges stem from his alleged misuse of Republican Party funds and his allegedly steering contracts to a company he partly owns.
A TAXING PROBLEM
As predicted, South Florida has suffered a historic drop in property values, which could be crippling for some cities and other governmental agencies. Palm Beach County values dipped 11.8 percent, Broward County had a 12.1 percent decline, and Miami-Dade County’s drop was 13.4 percent. In Broward, the city of West Park had a 26.8 percent drop, the highest in the county, according to numbers released by Property Appraiser Lori Parrish. In Miami-Dade County, Homestead Mayor Steve Bateman and other council members will have to make due with a staggering 30.3 percent drop. Many governmental agencies are cutting jobs and raising taxes to cope. But even that may not be enough for some of them.
Palm Beach County
ARREST IN TEACHER’S DEATH
Lawrence L. Hunt, 20, was arrested on Tuesday, June 1 and charged with second-degree murder in the death of Calvin Williams. The victim was a popular, 41-year-old teacher at L.C. Swain Middle School in Greenacres. He was killed by a gunshot. His body was discovered in his Riviera Beach apartment by a friend on May 14. Police have not said what the motive is. Hunt is being held in the Palm Beach County Jail without bond.
MUSEUM CURATOR CHARGED
Charlotte G. Durante, a former Delray Beach city commissioner and board member of the Boynton Beach-based Museum of Lifestyle & Fashion History, was arrested Wednesday, May 27. She is accused of operating a $1.8 million real-estate Ponzi scheme, according to authorities. Durante, 66, is charged with committing an aggravated white-collar crime, organized scheme to defraud greater than $50,000, 23 counts of grand theft over $20,000, three counts of grand theft over $100,000 and 30 counts of grand theft, police say. There is also a charge of money laundering. Delray Beach police allege that between October 2006 and September 2008, Durante took money from investors, supposedly for down payments on real-estate transactions. No deals were ever made, however, and $294,000 of the money went to the museum. Another $327,000 was allegedly used to pay off Durante’s homes in Florida and North Carolina.
Homestead City Councilman Jimmie L. Williams III is trying to oust City Manager Sergio Purrinos, but that will not happen any time soon. Purrinos has been criticized by several council members, but it was Williams who directed City Clerk Elizabeth Sewell to schedule a discussion on his performance at an upcoming commission meeting. This week, Williams pulled the item, and will evaluate Purrinos over the next few months, instead.
During a May 18 city commission meeting, Deerfield Beach Mayor Peggy Noland and the other three white city commissioners raised questions about a request to change the purpose of a $25,000 grant for the upcoming Carl J. Nixon Mango Festival. The money is earmarked to offset costs to provide police, fire and other city services for the event. Instead, festival organizers want the money given directly to them for scholarships. Commissioner Sylvia Poitier, the lone black on the dais, joined members of the audience, including State Rep. Gwyndolyn Clarke-Reed, in raising the specter of racism. At a time when the city is cutting services, laying off workers, and raising taxes, all expenditures should be scrutinized. Commissioner Bill Ganz initiated discussions about changing the use of the funds, and he is right to do so. Over the years, the city has spent millions of tax dollars on the Mango Festival, rarely questioning where the money went. Years of mismanagement by Mango Festival committees, and a pathetic lack of oversight by city officials, have led to an expectation that the money will continue to flow. In the proper situations, Poitier and Clarke-Reed are right to raise concerns about racism. This isn’t one of them.
ELDERLY MAN BEATEN
Robert Rodriguez, 30, and 25-year-old Neil Wilson were arrested on Sunday, May 30 in the robbery and brutal beating of a 68-year-old homeless man. Police say the man, whose name is not being released, was robbed and then beaten at Wolf Park, near Northwest 12th Street and Northwest 42nd Way in Lauderhill early that morning. The elderly man’s condition was listed as “extremely critical,” and the two suspects were being held in the Broward Main Jail with no bond. Book’em, Dano!
CONTEMPT FOR CURSING
During a hearing on May 24, Broward County Judge Lee Jay Seidman sentenced Dwayne L. Mitchell, 45, to 179 days in jail for contempt, after he cursed out the judge. When the judge asked him to give a reason why he shouldn’t becharged with contempt over the tirade, Mitchell cursed him out again. Mitchell was in court to accept a 60-day plea deal on a resisting arrest charge. He reacted when the judge cited his long criminal history, and sentenced him to 364 days instead. He will now have the 179 days added to that sentence, which makes the sentence longer than a year, sending him to state prison. He was back in court on Tuesday, June 1 to face an unrelated attempted murder charge.
Controversy continues in the Democratic Black Caucus of Florida. The Broward County chapter is slated to host the organization’s statewide convention, but the original August date was rescheduled by Dr. Bruce H. Miles, the Tampa-based president of the statewide group. According to information provided by Ruth Roman Lynch, the appointed corresponding secretary of the state organization, U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. and other national figures will highlight the convention, which has been re-scheduled for Sept. 11. But some members of the local chapter, including immediate past president Alan Brown, allege that Miles made the decision without their knowledge or input. The treasurer has now resigned from the local chapter, and others could follow.