The re-established Homestead/Florida City Human Relations board held its first meeting on Thursday, July 15. The former board was dissolved in 2009 by former Homestead Mayor Lynda Bell and other council members. At time, there was a burgeoning controversy surrounding the participation of Confederate States groups in the annual Veterans Day parade and other events in the city. Rosemary Fuller, the former chair of the board, says it is time to pass the torch, and that she won’t be involved in the board any longer. Pat Mellerson, the former vice chair, said she will attend meetings, but is not sure what her role will be for now. What a shame.
DENGUE FEVER ALERT
The staff of Thomas R. Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has determined that five percent of Key West residents are afflicted with the virus that causes Dengue Fever, and that the outbreak could be spreading north. The disease is spread by mosquitoes. It exhibits flu-like symptoms and severe joint pain. Health officials are urging people to take precautions, such as using repellents and wearing clothing that covers exposed body parts.
Health departments in both Broward County and Palm Beach County will provide free back-to-school immunizations starting on Tuesday, July 20. The shots will be available at various locations throughout each county. For the dates, times and location in Broward County, call 954-467-4856. For Palm Beach County, call 1-800-810-1225.
Palm Beach County
Police are still seeking information on the motorcyclist who fired two shots into the torso of 16-year-old Misael Casarrunias at a traffic light on Thursday, July 8 in Lake Worth. The incident happened at the intersection of Lake Worth Road and Kirk Road around 7 p.m. The two exchanged words, and the suspect then chased the victim through neighborhood streets. When the suspect caught up to the victim at a traffic light, he shot him twice, police said. Casarrunias has now been released from the hospital. The shooter was wearing a multi-colored helmet, and was riding a multi-colored motorcycle of unknown make and model. Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-458-8477.
The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development continued their “Operation Shield” crackdown on public housing fraud this week. Sixteen people were taken into custody Monday, July 12, and more arrests are on the way. Suspects are accused of lying on their applications for public-housing assistance. Among them are Tanisha Henry, a sergeant at the Glades Correctional Institution, who allegedly did not disclose her income, according to investigators; and Sarah Jeannine Belk, who likewise allegedly did not reveal that she had a job earning $55,000 a year.
Fort Lauderdale City Manager George Gretsas won’t have his contract renewed when it expires July 31. Commissioners have tapped Assistant City Manager Allyson Love to fill in temporarily while a national search is conducted. Gretsas was praised for bringing the city’s finances in line, but he also was criticized for ballooning the ranks of upper management, and for micromanaging.
Munawar Toha is the latest “jailhouse genius” to be charged behind bars. Toha is accused of trying to hire a hit man, from behind bars, to kill four witnesses in his murder case. The person who was accepting his collect calls from the jailhouse, though, was not a hit man at all; it was actually an undercover Broward Sheriff’s Office detective. On April 6, Toha, 63, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder in the death of his wife, 41-year-old Surya Sari-Prihatin Toha. She had been missing since March 23. Surveillance video from the business park where he works in Pompano Beach revealed the truth. Even though video showed him pushing his wife’s car, with her body inside, into a lake, he wanted other witnesses killed.
LAMBERTI DROPS PROBE
Amid pressure and accusations that he was aiding the Broward County Commission campaign of Steve Geller, Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti has dropped his ill-advised investigation of Broward County Commissioner Sue Gunzburger. The investigation was the first by the sheriff’s office’s new public corruption unit. The probe sought to determine whether Gunzburger used her influence to get county contracts for her husband’s business. The issue had been around for nearly 20 years, but with zero evidence that anything was done illegally. Not only that, her husband is dead.
A NEW GIG
Former Deerfield Beach City Manager Mike Mahaney has landed a job as the city manager of North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Mahaney is already making it known there that he will not let city business “play out” in the media. It’s that attitude that contributed to his firing in Deerfield Beach. Mahaney made no secret that his main concern was to “protect the city,” which is not a formula for success in this age of instant news and blogs. Mahaney always seemed uncomfortable with the openness of government and easy access to elected officials and employees. One of his most dubious incidents was his suspension of employee Wayne Adams for posting comments that were critical of the city administration on his blog. It didn’t matter that Adams was at home, on his own time, when he posted the blog. Adams appealed the decision, and during the hearing, Mahaney told the arbitrator he wanted to make an example of Adams. The arbitrator ruled in Adams’ favor, and Mahaney never seemed to get over it.
A 17-year-old girl who tried to intervene in a fight between two men was shot in both legs. One of the men was also shot in the stomach. Florida City police say James Ezell, 23, and Mack Atkins, 30, were arguing around 11 p.m. Sunday, July 11 at Fifth Street and Northwest Seventh Avenue. Ezell opened fire, wounding the teen and Atkins. Both victims were airlifted to Ryder Trauma Center. The girl was released on Monday, July 12, and Atkins underwent surgery, where he remained in stable condition. Ezell fled the scene, but surrendered to police on Wednesday, July 14. He is being held on attempted murder charges.