Ricardo Salinas, the Mexican banking billionaire who pioneered high-interest-rate micro loans to poor people around the world, is considering starting up operations in the U.S. His company, Grupo Elektra, is looking at the possibility of opening more than 10,000 of its bank branches in the U.S. They would provide micro loans and micro life insurance policies to the poor. It is in response to the widening numbers of impoverished Americans who are unable to open accounts at credit unions or traditional banks. The company would compete with the payday loan industry. Some major U.S. banks already offer payday loans to their customers. Wells Fargo does so in several states and will begin providing them in Florida next year. Consumer groups are concerned, as they should be. When Wal-Mart wanted to start its own bank, the banking industry was up in arms, fearing lower-cost competition. Now a foreign company is poised to enter this market, with outrageous fees, and there is not a peep from Wall Street.
Palm Beach County
Former Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office corrections sergeant Faulton C. Kemph pleaded guilty to falsifying records. Kemph and six other deputies were charged after an investigation found they manipulated overtime records in the department’s computer system.
Captain Randy Maale of the West Palm Beach police department has been suspended for one week over his relationship with a female officer whom he supervised. An internal investigation found Maale carried on a personal relationship with the woman, which created hostilities within the department. Maale is appealing the suspension.
Edwin Molina, 37, of West Palm Beach was arrested on aggravated battery and child-abuse charges. Police said he came home drunk and threatened to commit a murder-suicide of himself and his 1-year-old daughter. Molina is also accused of knocking his girlfriend down when she tried to intervene as he put a knife to his daughter’s throat. The child was unharmed. Molina took a dozen oxycodone pills and slit his wrist in a suicide attempt, police said.
CAIN NEEDS TO EXPLAIN
The Rev. O’Neal Dozier, pastor of the Worldwide Christian Center in Pompano Beach, was scheduled to perform the invocation at Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain’s campaign stop last week. Cain’s campaign organizers pulled Dozier just prior to his taking the stage and replaced him with another minister. Cain’s campaign has not offered an explanation. Dozier is a member of a local Tea Party group and its members are furious over the move. Dozier says he does not know why he was pulled from the program.
While campaigning for the job in 2008, Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti made diversity within the department a key component of his platform. But the Broward Sheriff’s Office currently has no blacks, Hispanics or women among its law enforcement senior command. The last was an African American, Lt. Col. Danny Wright, who retired earlier this year. Lamberti has no shortage of qualified minorities and the reason his command does not even remotely reflect the Broward County community is unknown. The next election is less than a year away, so expect Lamberti to quickly promote at least one black, an Hispanic and a female.
Former Coral Springs Mayor Scott Brook dropped out of a race for the Legislature and now we may know why. Brook is the target of a complaint filed with the state Ethics Commission related to his votes for projects by developers Bruce and Shawn Chait. The commission staff has found probable cause to believe Brook broke state ethics laws when he accepted a boat trip, meals and drinks from the Chaits at the 2006 Fort Lauderdale Air and Sea Show. Brook was a member of the Broward County Planning Council which voted a few weeks later on the Chaits’ projects.
UNION BOSS PROBED
Broward Teachers Union president Pat Santeramo is under investigation for allegedly reimbursing union employees for donations they made to state and federal candidates. The practice is illegal and Santeramo is in serious trouble, if the allegations are true. Records show 26 employees were reimbursed a total of $20,000 in campaign contributions since 2008.
Residents of 18 single-family homes constructed by Habitat of Humanity in Dania Beach are unhappy with the affordable housing organization. The families say they are being forced to form a homeowners association against their wishes. They are also questioning why they haven’t closed on their homes yet, even though they moved in more than a year ago. They have retained an attorney and the accusations are flying. It’s a mess.
Opa-locka police Capt. Arthur Balom, 44, has been charged with allegedly protecting and conspiring with a violent drug trafficking gang that operated in the North Miami-Dade city. FBI agents accused Balom, of Miramar, with providing unspecified assistance to the drug ring. Balon is also named as a suspect in the robbery of a Brink’s armored vehicle in Miramar in October that left one person dead. Seven other suspected members of the ring have also been taken into custody.
Jackson Health System, the public healthcare network in Miami-Dade County, announced it lost $9.6 million in October. Chief Executive Carlos Migoya also announced that 240 positions would be cut, with 170 employees slated to be laid off. The rest of the positions are vacant and will be abolished.
The U.S. Department of Justice is conducting a non-criminal review of the high number of shootings by the Miami police Department. Seven black men were shot by Miami police over a recent seven-month period, and some of them were unarmed. Miami has more police-involved shootings per capita than any other department. Officials announced that a civil investigation into the shootings is underway. New Police Chief Manuel Orosa expressed support for the investigation.
Photo: Elgin Jones