Deerfield Beach Mayor Al Capellini and Commissioner Steve Gonot were arrested last week. Gonot is accused of theft from his campaign account after he allegedly wrote a check to a friend for campaign office equipment that was not delivered until months later, after an investigation had begun. Capellini is charged with voting on a development project that involved his company, which also had a contract on the project to do engineering work. Both cases will be resolved one way or another, but the charges against Gonot came as a shock, and he stands a good chance of being acquitted. Gonot is a staunch advocate of ethical conduct from public employees and officials, and he made it his business to demand accountability. If it is determined that he is guilty of the charges, it will be an even bigger shock because such an act would be totally out of character for him. As for Capellini, it was an open secret that he would be indicted. His firm had contracts on countless projects in Deerfield Beach, where he was mayor. One project that has not come up is the research complex at Southwest Third Avenue and Southwest Fifteenth Street, where a Home Banc branch is located. Capellini’s firm, Atlantis Engineering, worked on that development. Items came before the city commission countless times for votes. Whether Capellini properly disclosed his relationship with that project remains to be seen, but this was a controversial project, and makes me wonder why it’s not being investigated. In any event, both men are innocent until proven guilty, and we’ll keep a close look out for any new developments. The scandals are not over in Deerfield Beach, trust me.
Gov. Charlie Crist suspended Deerfield Beach Mayor Al Capellini from office this week, just days after Capellini was indicted on corruption charges. This meant that Vice Mayor Sylvia Poitier became mayor. She presided over this week’s commission meeting.
J.P. Taravella High School’s marching band, located in Coral Springs, has been invited to perform in the inaugural parade on Jan. 20, where President-elect Barack Obama will be sworn in as the 44th president of the United States.
Fort Lauderdale police officer Kenneth Warr Jr. was arrested and charged with domestic battery after he got into a fight with his girlfriend. City officials have placed Warr on suspension for now, but you can expect him to get fired, because the incident reportedly involved a pretty good beating, and that’s a no-no.
The teacher’s unions are in a dogfight with Broward School District Superintendent Jim Notter and Miami-Dade School District Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho — and their respective districts – to get raises. Being the union man I am, I believe you can’t blame teachers for seeking raises, because they certainly deserve them. But the timing could not be worse. The state Legislature will convene in January to deal with a $2.3 billion budget shortfall, and schools will surely get hit even more. There will likely be layoffs, and the union should be calling for pay cuts of administrators in order to keep any cuts from directly impacting the classrooms. At a time when people are losing homes, cars and their life savings, there will not be a lot of sympathy for teachers, who at least have jobs. The unions should rethink their strategy, because it will get worse before it gets better, and they should work to ensure their members are not laid off, instead of worrying about raises at this time.
Tammy Kongkham, 35, a woman who was on the run after kidnapping her two daughters from a Philadelphia, Pa.-area foster home in October, is now in custody. Her 10-year-old daughter was placed into state custody after she was found alone at a mall on Dec. 4, scavenging for food. Kongkham is being held without bail in the Broward Main Jail, and the 8-year-old daughter was found with her on Tuesday, and is now also in state care.
TV STATION SALE
WXEL-TV Channel 20, the public television station in Palm Beach County, is up for sale. The Palm Beach County School District is the suitor, and a deal could be reached after the new year begins
One man was killed, and three others were shot on Tuesday night when a gunman walked up to a group of people gathered at a corner in the 1600 block of NW 8th Ave. in Fort Lauderdale. The condition of the surviving victims, or what sparked the incident was not released, and anyone with information is asked to contact Crime Stoppers, anonymously, at 954-493-8477.
Broward Sheriff’s Office detectives arrested 53-year-old Vito DiBenedetto, a city of Lauderhill building inspector, on bribery charges on Monday of this week. Investigators allege that on at least two occasions, he demanded payoffs from a contractor performing work in the city of Lauderhill. He set up meetings with the contractor, where he agreed to use his influence as a building official to get permits issued, and inspections approved. During those two meetings he accepted a $5,000 payment each time. On Monday of this week, detectives watched as DiBenedetto allegedly accepted another $10,000 he requested from the builder. He was arrested and taken into custody on charges of bribery, extortion by a state officer and unlawful compensation by a public official. Book’em, Dano!
Pedro Garcia handily defeated Gwen Margolis in a special election in Miami-Dade County to become the first elected Property Appraiser in that county. Garcia had been the Property Appraiser, as a county employee. The special election cost taxpayers more than $3.5 million, and there are already calls for the position to be returned to an appointed county staff position, to avoid the cost of holding elections.
Derrick Days, a 10-month old toddler, was shot and killed last weekend after a masked gunman walked up to a group of people who were playing dominoes at a table, and opened fire. The violent incident unfolded at a home on Northwest 22nd Avenue, in Brownsville, an unincorporated neighborhood in Miami-Dade County. The child was sitting on his father’s lap when he was killed. Another man, 22-year-old Pierre Roche, the son of a city of Miami police officer, was also killed during the assault. The shooter fled in a white Dodge Ram pick-up truck. Police are asking anyone with information about the shootings to contact Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers, anonymously, at 305-471-8477.
Airborne Health, the Florida-based company that makes Airborne dietary supplements, has agreed to pay $7 million to settle allegations from 32 states that it made false claims stating that its products prevent colds. Airborne became popular with airline passengers who were tricked into believing the citrus-flavored lozenges prevented them from catching colds during flights. The company also sells similar products that were touted as cold and flu remedies. As a condition of the settlement, the company is barred from making medical claims about its products, and it comes after a $30 million settlement with the Federal Trade Commission and consumers in a private class-action lawsuit over false advertising in August. I think I’m going to sneeze.