The community is still mourning the death of Amanda Collette, the 15-year-old Dillard High School student who was tragically shot and killed at school after rejecting the romantic advances of another student, Teah Wimberly, who is also 15. The two girls had known each other for most of their lives, but that didn’t stop Wimberly, who was undergoing counseling for emotional issues, from the killing, according to school officials and police, who say she confessed to the crime. Wimberly is charged with first-degree murder and firing a weapon on school grounds. This is a horrible incident that never should have happened. Hopefully, new policies will be implemented to try and prevent similar incidents in the future. While we are comforting Collette’s grieving family, we should also say a prayer for Wimberly and her family as well, because two families lost daughters last week.
On the heels of President-elect Barack Obama’s historic win, a number of people are now saying they are inspired to serve, and will get more involved in politics. One such person is our own Joy-Ann Reid, a South Florida Times writer and radio show co-host who has confirmed she is considering a run for the chairmanship of the Broward Democratic Party. If she does file to run, Reid will likely compete against current party Chairman Mitch Ceasar and former Congressman Peter Deutsch, who is also rumored to be a candidate, in next month’s election. Wow!
The Miami-Dade County School District has approved $89 million in budget cuts. Employees working outside the classroom will face 10-percent salary cuts, and staff will be re-structured, due to a $125 million budget shortfall. Whew!
In a blistering report, an arbitrator has overturned a one-day suspension without pay served by city of Deerfield Beach employee Wayne Adams. City Manager Mike Mahaney and Human Resources Director Marva Gordon issued the suspension after a Broward Sheriff’s Office investigation they requested determined that Adams was one of a number of people who were posting derogatory and inflammatory comments on an Internet blog about department heads, from his home computer on his own time. During the course of that investigation, BSO detectives and an assistant state attorney falsely claimed in court subpoena documents that Adams was distributing child pornography over the Internet, in order to obtain his personnel computer and cell phone records. The arbitrator rejected the arguments put forth by city officials, who testified they were making an example of Adams in order to send a message to other employees. This is yet another example of wasted tax dollars used to pursue something that certainly wasn’t nice, but as the arbitrator ruled, was not a violation of any enforceable city policy or rule. In the course of this ill-advised investigation and disciplinary action, Adams’ reputation was soiled and his name will forever be unfairly linked to someone who was involved in child pornography. Taxpayers should hold onto their wallets, because you can expect the lawsuits to start flying.
Joseph Leaf, 26, of Wellington, has apologized after admitting he set fire earlier this month to at least two homes and several cars in that area, which is west of West Palm Beach. At a hearing this week, the judge showed little pity. In 2002, Leaf was accused of setting fires, but no charges were filed after he completed a pre-trial intervention program. This time, I don’t think he will be so lucky. He was being held in the Palm Beach County Jail on arson charges with a $702,500 bail. Book’em Dano!
Broward County Mayor Lois Wexler’s one-year term in the mayor’s seat came to an end, as she and colleagues voted to elect fellow Broward County Commissioner Stacy Ritter to serve in that ceremonial position over the next year. While Commissioner Wexler’s term has ended, she served the past year with distinction, and was extremely effective. We have no reason to believe Ritter will not serve with equal efficiency, but Wexler has set a standard that will be difficult to duplicate.
ANOTHER JEWELRY HEIST
Two jewelry couriers from New York reported being robbed of more than $500,000 worth of gems and gold jewelry outside the Embassy Suites Hotel on Northwest 53rd Street in Boca Raton this week. The victims told police the robbers blocked them in their parking space, got out, and broke their windows to get into the car. Once inside, they struggled over vests the couriers wore that carried the goods. The men also took a suitcase from the trunk that held more jewelry.
CONSTRUCTION CON MAN
Police arrested and charged Douglas Livingston, 41, an agent with Home Team Advantage, Inc., a home remodeling firm based in Delray Beach, on two counts of fraud and grand theft of more than $50,000. Authorities say the Oakland Park man took money paid to the company as down payment for renovations of at least four homes in Delray Beach, but never started, or failed to complete, any work. Livingston has been charged with similar crimes during the time when he ran a company called HomeCo Unlimited. Ironically, in 2004, he was also charged with 70 counts of extortion, theft and fraud after allegedly failing to complete remodeling work on numerous homes in Broward County, even though he had collected down payments and deposits. During the trial in that case, which took place this past February, Livingston suffered head and other injuries in a car crash. His attorneys said he was incompetent to stand trial, so the judge declared a mistrial and the case remains unresolved. As of press time, he was being held in the Palm Beach County Jail on $50,000 bond in this latest case.
MISSING IN ACTION
Remember Marsha Ellison? She is the president of the Fort Lauderdale branch of the NAACP, the civil rights organization. In recent months, we have chronicled the wrongful prosecution case of former BSO detention deputy Raymond Hicks, the eviction of the family of Henry and Andrea Bonner from their home, the police shooting of homeless woman Sheila McCray and countless other incidents in which citizens have compelling cases that their civil rights may have been violated. All of them told the South Florida Times that they have filed, or tried to file, complaints with the civil rights organization, but to no avail. They also claim to have been ignored by the organization, which has not even returned their calls. Times are hard, and maybe there are some plausible explanations for the NAACP’s continued inaction, but this is getting embarrassing. Maybe I will have to issue an Amber Alert for the NAACP in Broward, to see if we can locate them.
The St. Lucie County School District has suspended Wendy Portillo, a kindergarten teacher at Morningside Elementary School, for one year without pay after she subjected a disruptive student to humiliation. This past May, Portillo ordered a 5-year-old student who suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism, to come to the front of her classroom. Then, she asked his classmates to vote on whether he should be kicked out for disciplinary reasons. Fellow students were asked to express how his conduct affected them, and they ended up voting overwhelmingly to oust him. After his parents found out, they contacted school officials, who began their investigation.
William Dillon, 49, a Brevard County man who has served 27 years of a life sentence in prison on murder charges, has been granted a new trial after DNA tests contradicted eyewitness testimony used to convict him in 1981. The judge also ruled he could be released on the condition of posting $100,000 bail and wearing a monitoring device.