L.A. Fitness International LLC has reached a deal to acquire 171 Bally Total Fitness clubs for $153 million. Bally’s is in bankruptcy and is restructuring. The deal leaves Bally’s with 100 remaining clubs nationwide. The company has 13 locations in South Florida and those will now be turned into L.A. Fitness clubs.
Palm Beach County Commission Chairwoman Shelley Vana and her colleagues are considering a ban on Internet cafés which they suspect are offering patrons unregulated sweepstakes and video gambling. They also want to place a measure on the ballot for voters to decide whether to allow gambling at the Palm Beach Kennel Club greyhound racing track and Palm Beach International Airport.
The Rev. Harold Ray, senior pastor of Redemptive Life Fellowship Church in West Palm Beach, is being accused of mishandling millions in Department of Housing and Urban Development funds intended to build low-income housing. He has denied any wrongdoing. The church received the housing grants through the city of West Palm Beach. HUD conducted an audit of the program which the city operates with Redemptive Life and found rampant waste and possible fraud. The city may also have to repay HUD more than $4 million in funds unaccounted for.
County Commissioner Priscilla Taylor wants to explore making the county’s constitutional officers appointed positions instead of elected. The property appraiser, the supervisor of elections, the tax collector and the sheriff would be affected. The theory is that money could be saved by ending functions that overlap among the agencies and consolidating resources. It would also take the politics out of those offices. A change to the county charter would be needed and the mreasure could be on the ballot in 2012.
A SWAT team from the Broward Sheriff’s Office and deputies from the Marion County Sheriff’s Office swarmed the home of Lighthouse Point Commissioner Thomas Hasis. They conducted a search for a shotgun believed to have been used in the murder of a Marion County woman in August. The woman was killed in her driveway by a shotgun blast. At the time, she was in a heated custody battle with her ex-husband, a longtime friend of Hasis, who is also an attorney. Hasis was assisting the man but not representing him. No shotgun was found in the home.
Anthony Roman has been charged in the home invasion robbery in Plantation on Sept. 12 in which a woman was tied up and tens of thousands of dollars in cash, jewelry and other items were stolen. Palm Beach Gardens police have also charged him with a home invasion robbery that took place on Oct. 17. The victims had security alarms installed at their homes by Security Tech Inc. The authorities allege that Roman paid an employee of Security Tech for details about the victims’ homes. The employee, Christopher Michaelides, who is cooperating with police has said Roman offered him $10,000 for security details about the homes. Book’em, Danno!
Broward County Commissioner Stacy Ritter has admitted violating state election laws by failing to report thousands of dollars in campaign donations and using campaign funds for personal items for herself and her husband, lobbyist Russ Klenet. She will pay $8,300 in fines and has admitted to 11 violations. The Florida Elections Commission, in turn, will drop 17 misdemeanor counts of election law violations. Ritter could still face criminal charges by the Broward State Attorney’s Office. The complaint was filed by activist and attorney Brenda Chalifour, who is not pleased with the settlement.
The Broward Sheriff’s Office is reportedly planning to hold a ceremony on Dec. 20 in which several people will be promoted. According to sources, Director of Administration Wiley Thompson will be the next Undersheriff. Capt. Fernando Gajate will be promoted to major and will oversee the Human Resources Department and Capt. Robin Larson will become a major. The new chaplain could be Rasheed Baaith, who retired from BSO as a community specialist earlier this year. Major William Knowles, who runs BSO operations in Pompano Beach, will be promoted to lieutenant colonel if he takes the bait, uh, I mean job. BSO is not confirming these pending moves but there is a lot of buzz in air.
The Miccosukee Indian tribe has filed a lawsuit accusing its former attorney, Dexter Lehtinen, of malpractice and giving poor tax advice. The tribe says it paid Lehtinen more than $50 million over the past 20 years for legal representation. Among other things, he advised them on millions of dollars in payouts from casino proceeds to their members. The Miccosukees distribute more than $10 million each quarter to members. Lehtinen says the tribe is not subject to taxes but the Internal Revenue Service says they owe millions for unpaid taxes and unreported revenue. Lehtinen is a former U.S. attorney whose wife is U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami.
40 YEARS & PAROLE
Former Coral Gables High School student Andy Rodriguez, 19, has been sentenced to 40 years in prison over the schoolyard stabbing death of fellow student Juan Carlos Rivera in 2009. He was convicted of second-degree murder. The sentence must be followed by 10 years of probation.
Weiser Security of Miami Lakes will lay off 72 employees in anticipation of a rollback in its contract with Miami-Dade County to provide security at county facilities. The contract is scheduled to end in 2016 but the company says it is being assigned fewer sites to patrol, making the layoffs necessary.
A civil rights complaint has been filed against the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity over new unemployment procedures that Gov. Rick Scott signed into law in June. It requires unemployed workers to pass a skills test to qualify for unemployment benefits. The tests can only be completed online and people without a computer or Internet access are being denied benefits. The complaint was filed with the U.S. Department of Justice on behalf of the Miami Workers Center. It cites a lack of assistance or accommodation for people who cannot operate computers.
Photo: Elgin Jones