Gov. Rick Scott has ordered an investigation into e-mails that disappeared during his transition. Florida public record laws require certain documents and records, including e-mails, to be maintained for a certain period of time. The e-mails were discovered missing by a reporter with the St. Petersburg Times newspaper. Scott has now asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate. Good move on Scott’s part but the investigation should not be conducted by, this state agency, which is under his control.
Palm Beach County
ANOTHER FAILURE Lydian Private Bank, the largest South Florida-based bank, is no more. Regulators have shut down Lydian and seized its $1.7 billion in assets. It’s the 10th bank in the state to fail this year and the Palm Beach bank’s assets were handed over to Miami-based Sabadell United Bank.
TRANSIT THEFTS Melissa Siladke, 32, an employee with Palm Tran, the mass transit division of Palm Beach County, has been arrested and is facing charges of grand theft, fraud and official misconduct. Her arrest is related to allegations she stole county computers and other equipment and sold them on eBay. Authorities allege Sildake stole more than 100 items and netted more than $11,000 from the sales. She reportedly has admitted to the thefts which date back to 2008. If convicted on all charges, she faces between five and 15 years in prison.
COMPUTER COMMISSIONERS Residents are up in arms over Lake Worth City Manager Susan Stanton’s decision to spend $13,000 on iPads for commissioners and department heads at a time when the city is facing a crippling $4.5 million budget shortfall. There have already been cutbacks and more are on the way. The city has not paid the county for fire rescue service and is seeking to renegotiate its contract with the sheriff’s department because, officials say, they can no longer afford to pay for police service any longer. Stanton says computers are old technology and cost more than $2,000 a piece, compared to $700 for each iPad. Residents say it’s a wasteful luxury at the expense of taxpayers.
FIGHTING BACK Percy Johnson, the former treasurer of the Broward Democratic Party’s Council of Club Presidents, is fighting allegations that he improperly wrote checks to himself. Johnson acknowledged writing checks and he and his supporters say he was authorized to do so. He has offered to re-pay any funds that could not be accounted for. Members of the recently elected board say no one has the authority to grant such permission. The issue was discussed at the organization’s last meeting and Johnson arrived with a court reporter to record the deliberations. He has also retained attorney Johnny L. McCray Jr. and this can only mean a fight.
NOT JUST YET In 2009, former Broward County Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion copped a plea and was sentenced to two and a half years in federal prison for his involvement in an international money-laundering scheme. A short time later, Eggelletion accepted another plea agreement from state prosecutors to serve two and a half years for taking bribes from a local developer. The two sentences were supposed to be served at the same time at a federal prison in Jessup, Ga. Eggelletion entered a drug- treatment program at the prison and was supposed to be eligible for early release last month. Prison officials, without elaborating, say Eggelletion will not be released until February 2012, when his sentence is completed.
LEGAL MESS Gordon Weekes, an attorney with the Broward Public Defender’s Office, has asked a judge to hold Broward Sheriff’s Deputy Andrea Penoyer in contempt. Penoyer is one of the stars of TLC network’s reality show Police Women of Broward County. During a deposition in a case where Penoyer arrested one of his clients, she refused to answer questions about the show. Weekes says only a part of the arrest was televised and he wants access to the parts that were edited out of the program. He also wants to know if Penoyer was being paid to “perform” for the program in the course of her regular duties. Four deputies star in this show and the fact that they are paid, in whatever capacity, raises numerous issues. Someone should have anticipated the legal and ethical mess it has created. To make matters worse, there is also a reality show featuring BSO K-9 units. Another program that is said to be in the works involves BSO motorcycle cops. To allow deputies to be filmed while performing their official duties and paid by the same network is making a mockery of the criminal justice system.
GOTV FIGHT The state and national Democratic Party will mount a major effort in Florida during the 2012 election cycle and Broward County, with its mother load of registered Democrats, will be key. However, a potential power struggle looms between the Broward County Democratic Executive Committee and a new group calling itself “Team Broward.” This new group reportedly has the blessing of Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith. It will vie for “Get Out The Vote” [GOTV] money from the party, political organizations and candidates. Members of Team Broward have been quietly organizing and should officially form in the coming weeks. They will seek to take the lead in the GOTV effort, which is usually performed by the party’s county organizations.
SCHOOL SECURITY The new school year has begun and students attending Miami-Dade public schools will be subjected to random metal detection searches. According to Miami-Dade Schools Police Chief Charles Hurley, they are looking to prevent violence by keeping guns, knives and other weapons out schools.
RACKETEERING Four residents of West Kendall have been arrested and are being accused of allegedly defrauding more than 500 people in a mortgage modification scam. Authorities with the Florida Attorney General’s Office say Ronald Rodriguez, 31, Zoar Rodriguez, 27, Berta M. Cabrera, 54, and Kellyd Rodriguez, 32, took in more that $750,000 from their business, Best Value Homes Inc. All four face Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act charges. Miami-Dade police are asking anyone who may have been an alleged victim of Best Value Homes to call 305-994-1000 or the Attorney General's fraud hotline, 866-966-7226.
SEEKING CANDIDATE Jim Tranthem, a community and education advocate, is not saying if he is being courted to run for public office but he does not deny it. Tranthem says he will discuss the matter later this week. But several people are saying they would like to see him do so. If he does, it will most likely be for a Homestead city council seat.