elgin_jones_web_13.jpgFlorida mortgage delinquencies at the end of 2010 were the highest in the nation. According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, more than 24 percent of mortgages in Florida were in foreclosure or more than one payment behind. Nevada was second, with 22 percent. The Florida Hardest-Hit Fund (HHF) is accepting applications from people who need help paying their mortgages to avoid foreclosure. The program is funded by the federal government and is intended for the unemployed or under-employed. Homeowners who meet the criteria can receive up to 18 months of mortgage payments or funds to pay up to 18 months of past-due mortgage payments. For more information, call the Florida Hardest-Hit Fund at 1-877-863-5244 or visit FlHardestHitHelp.org.

Palm Beach County

Controversial Palm Beach County Schools Superintendent Art Johnson should have been fired but he reached a $428,000 deal with the school board and resigned instead. Johnson’s ridiculously sweet package includes $150,000 in severance pay, $114,992 in accrued sick leave and $43,230 for unused vacation time; also, $35,250 will paid to cover his health insurance until June 2014. Additionally, he will receive his salary for the next 90 days.

Shanique Scott, 28, is looking to unseat incumbent Esther Berry, 64, for Seat 1 on the South Bay City Commission. After a 10-year hiatus, former commissioner Dorothy Davis, 65, is getting back into politics to challenge Mayor Shirley Walker-Turner, 62, for Seat 2. City commissioners select a person from among themselves to serve as mayor and Walker-Turner is seeking her fourth consecutive term. South Bay is a tiny town located along U.S. Highway 27 near Belle Glade. The election is March 8 and this depressed rural western Palm Beach County community sorely needs a youth movement but that won’t happen this time out.

First it was Derrick Daniels and now a second Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office detention deputy, Vantavia Jackson, 32, is facing charges of allegedly facilitating a fight between inmates. Their arrests center on inmate Taurus Turnquest, 34. He was released from his cell on Dec. 12 so he could attack 36-year-old fellow inmate Lajuane Dunnaway. Turnquest made several threats to kill Dunnaway and the two were supposed to be kept isolated. Daniels, 39, allegedly released Turnquest from his cell and he stabbed Dunnaway and cut him on the neck, shoulder and arms. Daniels is charged with tampering with evidence, negligence, aggravated battery and official misconduct. Jackson is accused of failing to report or document the fight in jail logs and is charged with negligence and official misconduct.

Broward County

A statewide grand jury issued a total rebuke of the Broward School District, its elected board members and Superintendent James Notter. Rampant corruption, mismanagement and incompetence in the district are so bad, the grand jury said, that it wanted to dissolved it but the state constitution does not allow for that.

The grand jury’s devastating findings about the sorry state of the Broward School District has caught the attention of Koinonia Worship Center Men’s Ministry. The group’s upcoming annual conference will focus on the dysfunctional district and youth education. The “Saving Youth and Developing Them for a Better Tomorrow” conference will discuss solutions to the district’s ills and its hapless 39 percent graduation rate for black males, which the third worse in the nation.

The conference will take place March 23-25 and the keynote address will be delivered by the Rev. G. Vincent Lewis, chief ministerial officer of Miami’s Antioch Missionary Baptist Church. A number of religious organizations and public agencies will participate in the gathering, including School Board member Robin Bartleman and School Superintendent James Notter.Panel discussions will feature representatives of the Broward Sheriff’s Office, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, the Broward Public Defender’s Office and the Broward State Attorney’s Office.

The sessions will take place at Koinonia Worship Center, 4900 W. Hallandale Beach Blvd., Pembroke Park. It is free and the organizers are encouraging the public to attend. For more information, including specific times, call 954-964-2901.

Damian Bassetti
, 32, is in custody and facing charges of armed robbery, burglary and impersonating a police officer. Broward Sheriff’s Office officials allege that Bassetti entered an Oakland Park home last week wearing a mask and t-shirt with “police” written across the chest. He allegedly pepper-sprayed the victim and shocked him with a stun gun before demanding his oxycodone pills and leaving.

Kyow Desir
, 17, has been arrested in connection with a shooting that wounded two people on Jan. 18 at Mayo Howard Park in the 1100 block of Southwest 11th Way in Deerfield Beach. Authorities say Desir and two other suspects opened fire on a group of people who came to the park to buy drugs. All of the victims survived their wounds. Desir is charged with three counts of attempted murder. The other suspects remain on the loose.

Tomas Bautista
, 40, remains in the Broward County Main Jail on an immigration hold after being arrested on a charge of sexually molesting a dog. Broward Sheriff’s deputies arrested Bautista after responding to a call alleging he was raping his roommate’s dog. The roommate arrived home to find his dog bleeding in their backyard. Bautista was passed out near the dog with his pants down, police said

Miami-Dade County

Former NFL star player Dave Duerson, 50, was found dead in his apartment in Sunny Isles Beach this past weekend, from a self- inflicted gun shot wound. Duerson was a member of the Chicago Bears’ famed 46-defense that transformed professional football during the 1980s. Funeral arrangements are pending.

Travis McNeil was one of seven black men killed by Miami police officers under questionable circumstances since July. Miami Police Chief Miguel Exposito has come under fire over his handling of the shootings and his reaction to residents’ concerns. At least one Miami city commissioner has called for Exposito’s firing. The chief scheduled one-on-one meetings with the victims’ families. It’s a good step but it should have been done long before now.


Elgin Jones can be reached at EJones@SFLTimes.com