The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is suing Springfield, MO-based retailer Bass Pro Shop/Outdoor World LLC for alleged employment discrimination against black and Hispanic applicants. Bass Pro Shops sells hunting, camping and fishing gear and other items. The company operates two locations in South Florida. The lawsuit also claims Bass Pro Shops improperly destroyed employment records and retaliated against workers who opposed the hiring practices. Bass Pro Shops and its CEO Johnny Morris are denying the allegations and have vowed to fight the case.
Lobbyists for the banking industry are pushing for legislation that would limit homeowners’ access to Florida courts in order to fight foreclosures. Several Republican lawmakers, as well as Gov. Rick Scott, have expressed interest in the proposal that would make it easier and faster for banks to foreclose on homes. This is a disgraceful idea intended to hurt people and help the banking industry.
The town of Southwest Ranches is accepting applications to fill its vacant town administrator position. The job became open with the death of administrator Charlie Lynn this past summer. The scandal-plagued town is located in the southwestern edge of Broward County.
Palm Beach County
Venus Williams’ interior design company, VStarr Interiors, has been awarded a contract to design and outfit the model residences of the super swanky One Thousand Ocean condominiums. The one-story residences, penthouses and multi-story villas are being constructed on the beach in Boca Raton. The units will be priced from $3 million to $15 million each and the models Williams’ firm will design are expected to entice buyers.
Michael Calhoun is now a Florida National Guard brigadier general. He becomes the first black general in Florida National Guard history. Calhoun, from Lake Worth, joined the Guard in 1977 as a private and worked his way up to general. He is a pharmacist and military medic and also has a master’s degree in strategic studies from the U.S. Army War College.
Shawanda Robinson, 28, is facing one count of arson for allegedly setting her boyfriend’s shirt on fire during an argument at their Tivoli Park apartment in Deerfield Beach. The blaze got out of control and, minutes later, the entire apartment was ablaze. No one, including two infants who were home at the time, suffered any injuries. Residents in seven adjoining units were displaced due to smoke and fire damage.
Assistant Public Defender Olga Levine will challenge County Court Judge Leonard Feiner for his seat. Defense attorneys have quietly whispered that Feiner sides with the insurance industry in lawsuits. This will be Levine’s second run for a judicial seat. She ran unsuccessfully against Broward Circuit Court Judge Jack Luzzo in 2010.
Former Fort Lauderdale police officer Jason Maldonado has been cleared of wrongdoing in the case of a drug dealer he arrested and carried on an affair with at the same time. The dealer was caught in a reverse sting and allegedly possessed enough cocaine to be charged with trafficking. A trafficking charge could have led to a life sentence if the case was transferred to federal authorities. The dealer agreed to cooperate and reached a plea deal. South Florida Times reported she was able to avoid jail time by entering a court program intended for addicts charged with minor drug possession for personal use. Following that report, prosecutors opened an investigation into Maldonado and the circumstances surrounding the plea arrangement. Assistant State Attorney Jeanette Camacho wrote in a memo closing the case that prosecutors were aware of the amount of cocaine the dealer possessed.
Last week, Broward Sheriff’s deputy Brent Wooddell was arrested for allegedly stealing money confiscated from what he thought was a drug bust. It was actually a reverse sting that targeted him. Wooddell was highly regarded by BSO brass but, according to sources, he worked under a cloud of suspicion for years. More on this later.
Earlier this year Hezekiah Jones complained about receiving a $900 water bill for a closed account at a home he moved out of years ago. City of Deerfield Beach officials have yet to provide an explanation, but Jones is not alone. The city’s Finance Department has been quietly dealing with billing errors for its water, sewage, and garbage services. At present officials are quietly trying to reconcile dozens of accounts that received city services for years without ever being billed for them. It’s a mess, but the cat is out of the bag, so stay tuned.
OUT OF BUSINESS
After more than 26 years, the 14th largest landscaping company in the U.S. has planted its last tree and closed it doors. Nearly 700 workers around the state have been laid off. Vila & Sons Landscaping filed for bankruptcy in August. Founder and President Juan Vila will watch as the company’s blue-and-yellow trucks and other equipment are auctioned off in October. The Miami-based company had locations throughout Florida, providing landscaping, grounds maintenance and construction services to cities, counties and private developments. At its height, the company grossed more than $50 million annually.
The City of North Miami Beach has laid off 17 police officers after the police union and the city were unable to reach a wage and benefits agreement. City Manager Lyndon Bonner said the city’s finances were in much worse shape than expected when he took over several months ago and he warned he would lay off workers if no agreement was reached. North Miami Beach is facing a $7.5 million budget shortfall and 113 more officers could be let go in October.
Homestead Mayor Steve Bateman has been cleared in a Miami-Dade State Attorney’s criminal investigation into electricity bills being waived by city officials. Homestead operates its own electricity plant and the director of the city’s billing department reported an incident to police alleging he was directed to wipe out a $10,000 bill for one person, under orders from then City Manager Sergio Purrinos. Purrinos told investigators the order came from Bateman.
Photo: Elgin Jones