elgin_jones_web_13.jpgMOSQUITO THREAT
Mosquitoes are here early and health officials predict this year’s infestation could be one of the worst in recent memory. The early start of the rainy season is responsible and the health risk and concerns cannot be overestimated. There are numerous species of mosquitoes and they carry a number of serious diseases, including dengue fever, West Nile virus and malaria. Officials have been spraying pesticides to control the insects and issuing advisories on how to reduce risks of exposure. For additional information, contact your local health department.

Palm Beach County

West Palm Beach finally has a new police chief. Vince Demasi was introduced to the city and residents this week. City commissioners formally appointed him six months after Delsa Bush resigned last October. Demasi retired as an assistant chief with the Cincinnati Police Department June 14 to accept the job in West Palm Beach. He will earn $140,000 annually.

Authorities raided three Delray Beach businesses in a Congress Avenue strip mall which  allegedly were secret gambling operations. Officers said when they kicked in the doors and entered the businesses, they found bundles of cash and gambling-related items. The businesses had been under surveillance after the authorities received a tip that they had been robbed several times but the robberies were never reported.

Former Boca Raton police chief and Palm Beach County Sheriff Charles McCutcheon has been laid to rest. He served as chief in Boca Raton for 10 years and as sheriff for one year. He was known for pushing his officers to obtain higher education and  advocating for increased pay and benefits for law enforcement officers. He was 83.

Broward County

Megan Williams, a 12-year-old Margate girl who was reported missing last week was found in Walton County in north Florida with a 30-year-old Texas man. Authorities say they pulled over Dana Broberg and found the child with him. The two had been communicating online, police said. Broberg, of San Antonio, was taken into custody.

Kenneth Steffen, who was arrested in 2003 for selling prescription painkillers to undercover Broward sheriff’s detectives on two occasions and convicted, has won a minor court victory. Federal Magistrate Robin S. Rosenbaum ruled that Steffen’s challenge to being held in state prison may go forward. Steffen was released from jail in 2004 on a pre-sentencing agreement and allowed to return to his Oklahoma home to be treated for cancer. Over the next four years, his sentencing date was reset several times, which he never authorized and without his knowledge. When his court date was set, his attorney told him he did not have to appear. As a result, a warrant was issued for his arrest for failing to surrender. The warrant was discovered during a traffic stop and he was returned to Broward County. In 2008, Broward Circuit Court Judge Cynthia Imperato sentenced the terminally ill Steffen to an outrageous 15 years in prison, which could turn out to be a life sentence. His new attorney, Jason Forman of Fort Lauderdale, is seeking to have Steffen released from prison in part because Steffen did not authorize the arrangements made by his previous attorney and was not aware of any requirements that he surrender. The magistrate’s ruling will allow Steffen’s habeas corpus to proceed to U.S. District Court Judge William J. Zloch.

The case of Blanche Ely High School reading teacher Leslie Rainer has taken another turn. Principal Karlton Johnson accused Rainer of referring to a student of Haitian descent as a “chocolate” boy. That caused a stir in theHaitian community and sparked concern among Broward school officials. A 10-day suspension was recommended for Rainer, which she is appealing. But because of the media attention over the allegations, Rainer has not been able to find work this summer, which has caused a hardship. As it turns out, the student, Phillip St. Jean, is not Haitian at all and there are now questions as to the source of the false information. Either way, school officials should have done a better job of investigating the allegations instead of reacting to gossip, rumor and nonsense. There are other irregularities with this case, so stay tuned.

The City of Wilton Manors has changed the way it hires and promotes police officers. The city’s Human Resources department now handles the entire hiring process, without the involvement of Chief Paul O’Connell or the police department. Candidates are ranked and the names of finalists are then forwarded to the police department. 

Miami-Dade County

Florida East Coast Industries Inc. CEO James R. Hertwig has begun negotiations to construct a four-track rail line from Orlando to Miami to connect the Orlando and Miami international airports. The Coral Gables-based company, which operates the 351-mile Florida East Coast Railway along the eastern coast of Florida, estimates the project would cost $1 billion. It is a great idea. The 240–mile line will bring hundreds of jobs to the corridor and will be built using private money which has already been secured. This means Gov. Rick Scott will have to find a different excuse and method for killing this wonderful project.

A federal judge in Phoenix, Ariz., has approved a class action settlement in a $900 million mortgage fraud case. It would have the Miami-based Greenberg Traurig law firm paying $61 million for its role in the alleged scheme. The lawsuit accuses Greenberg Traurig and the Quarles & Brady law firm of helping Mortgages Ltd. of Phoenix and a company called Radical Bunny in a scheme in which they made high interest loans to real estate developers. The Securities and Exchange Commission charged Radical Bunny and four of its promoters in a $197 million securities fraud case in 2009. The founder of the company committed suicide in 2008. Quarles & Brady will pay $26.5 million as part of the settlement. Richard Rosenbaum is Greenburg Traurig CEO. Both firms deny any wrongdoing.