NOT DEAD YET
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is spearheading an effort to get the $2.4 billion the federal government set aside for Florida to help build a high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando. Gov. Rick Scott rejected the funds, saying if the line is built the state would be saddled with unacceptable operational and maintenance costs in the future. The Florida Supreme Court ruled Scott has the authority to reject the money. Nelson is pushing a plan in which a consortium of local governments would receive the funds and operate the rail line. Good.
The Florida Department of Health is proposing to cut 1,608 jobs and consolidate dozens of divisions. The plan is part of a reorganization intended to streamline operations. If the proposal is accepted, the state would no longer provide primary-care services at county health clinics. It would also mean some services offered to the needy will be privatized or eliminated altogether, which is shameful.
The Florida Lottery’s Lucky 7 raffle tickets will go on sale March 21. At $10 per ticket, players will have a chance at winning the seven $700,000 top prizes; seven second-place prizes of $70,000; seven third-place prizes of $700 and 700 fourth-place prizes of $70. The overall odds of winning the top prize are one in 142,857. Good luck.
Palm Beach County
CITIES IN PERIL
State auditors and Palm Beach County commissioners alike are acknowledging that some of the $400 million that has been provided to the cities of Belle Glade, South Bay and Pahokee was not spent as intended. Millions are unaccounted for and commissioners plan to turn off the spigot. All three cities are located in western Palm Beach County, around the southeastern perimeter of Lake Okeechobee. All three have been operating in the red for years and require subsidies to balance their budgets. What will ultimately happen to the municipalities is anyone’s guess but the situation cannot continue.
Gene Picerno, a 49-year-old detective with the West Palm Beach Police Department, has been acquitted of driving under the influence. The case involved a 2009 incident in which Picerno, who was in an unmarked car and wearing plainclothes, pulled over a motorist who honked her horn at him. The woman claimed she was stopped in the roadway for no reason. Palm Beach County Sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to the scene believing someone was impersonating a police officer. They testified that Picerno reeked of alcohol and that he told them he had been drinking beer and took Xanax pills. Picerno refused a breathalyzer test and his driver’s license was suspended.
Luther Hardin, 58, abruptly resigned as president of Palm Beach Atlantic University last week. It turns out Hardin was under investigation in Arkansas for alleged involvement in a scheme to embezzle $300,000 from his former employer, the University of Central Arkansas. He turned himself in and this week he pleaded guilty to wire fraud and money laundering charges. He faces up to 20 years in prison.
State Rep. Perry E. Thurston Jr. of Plantation was elected Democratic leader in the Florida House of Representative for the 2012-2014 legislative sessions. If the Democrats gain control of the House during that period, Thurston would likely become Speaker.
WHOPPER AND FRIES
Tara Lyons, 38, was taken into custody this week at a Burger King restaurant in Oakland Park after she went wild inside the joint. Lyons purchased a sandwich in the drive-through lane and then went inside to see the manager because she believed someone had spit on her sandwich. Surveillance video shows Lyons climbing across the counter and going on a rampage. She threw food and chased employees out of the restaurant. She was booked into the county jail on burglary and assault charges.
DOWN GOES STERN
The David J. Stern law firm based in Plantation will cease operations at the end of this month. The firm had the leading foreclosure practice in the state and is currently under federal and state investigation for allegedly submitting thousands of fraudulent documents in foreclosure court cases. The firm is now trying to voluntarily dismiss more than 100,000 foreclosure cases it has pending in Florida courts. This is great news.
ANOTHER PAY DISPUTE
Cassandra Moye is a former city of Deerfield Beach maintenance worker who was suspended for not greeting Mayor Peggy Nolan back in 2009. The ridiculous suspension was eventually rescinded but Moye was subsequently laid off, along with dozens of other city workers, in 2010. Now Moye and some other employees are alleging the city owes retroactive shift differential pay. The amount of money involved has not been disclosed but union officials have filed a grievance. Managers are not disputing that the employees worked second and third shifts, but are vowing not to pay the money, according to union officials.
DIRECTOR UNDER FIRE
Timothy P. Ryan, director of Miami-Dade County’s Corrections department, is coming under fire once again. This time it is over Ryan’s alleged failure to honor fallen officers in his department. The allegations are being leveled by Walter Clark, a retired sergeant with Miami-Dade Corrections. Clark says he has repeatedly requested meetings with Ryan and Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez over the issue but his calls have not been returned.
The Doral Golf Resort & Spa has been hit with yet another sexual abuse lawsuit. It is the fourth case filed by women alleging they were sexually assaulted while getting massages at the spa. Two of those women are alleging that masseur David Munoz, 27, assaulted them. Munoz was arrested on sexual assault charges earlier this year in connection with one of the women’s allegations.
ON THE MOVE AGAIN
South Florida Times Circulation Coordinator Robert Beatty II has added three major retailers to the newspaper’s distribution network. Beginning immediately, the newspaper is available at Hess, Chevron and RaceTrac gas stations and food marts throughout the Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade County areas. They join hundreds of other retailers such as Wal-Mart, Borders, Publix, CVS, Winn Dixie, Dollar General, Walgreens and Barnes & Noble where the newspaper can be purchased.