Lauderhill Mayor Richard Kaplan and other city officials have implemented an excellent program in which they use funds seized from criminal activities to provide $1,000 scholarships to students in the city. The money won’t pay for everything, but it’s a help, and serves as an example of the good that elected officials can do. They presently have four scholarships available. To apply, call 954-730-3010.
The city of Tamarac donated about 6,380 prepared meals, left over from Hurricane Wilma in 2005, to the Cooperative Feeding Program, which provides meals to people in need. The move could end up costing the city. About 60 of the meals had expired, and some are speculating they are the source of illnesses that people suffered after eating them.
Joshua Kirkwood, 19, and Ray Wilson, 36, both of Lake Worth, had an ongoing feud over a woman. Kirkwood is now being held on first-degree murder charges, accused of fatally shooting Wilson in the chest with a handgun this week. Police are not releasing many details, but he was arrested inside a house after a dragnet that included helicopters, K-9s, and dozens of officers was launched.
Keep an eye on Deerfield Beach City Commissioner Sylvia Poitier, who is up for re-election next year. Poitier has been reaching out to
all segments of the community, including the city’s growing Brazilian population. At the same time, a number of her former allies have been conducting a not-so-quiet effort to draft an opponent to run against her. One of those who acknowledged being approached to run is the Rev. Nathaniel Knowles, pastor of the Emmanuel Christian Center. When I asked Knowles about it, he laughed, and said he has made no final decision, but doubts he would run. Knowles is the husband of Linda Knowles, whom Poitier defeated in the last election to win the seat.
The Rev. Gaston Smith, pastor of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Liberty City, is facing one count of grand theft over his alleged pilfering of $10,000
from grant monies provided to the Friends of MLK, Inc., a non-profit organization he founded. According to a Miami Herald report, Smith is placing blame
on Miami City Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones, who is also under investigation for allegedly steering a developer’s money to political allies. In an October 2007 interview with police and prosecutors that was secretly recorded, Smith alleged that Spence-Jones secured the grant and then pressured him into paying her “consultant” fees. He also told them it was the commissioner who set up the organization in the first place. He refused, however, to accept a plea deal or testify against her. That being the case, his comments to police are just as bad as testifying against her, and none of it bodes well for Spence-Jones, who denies any wrongdoing.
Kathy Carden, an assistant principal at Independence Middle School in Jupiter, was placed in charge of the school after Principal Gwendolyn Johnson was removed amid an ongoing probe into inflated enrollments and fake grades. Now, Carden has been removed from the school as well, after teachers told investigators she, too, was aware of the scam. Barbara McQuinn has now been tapped to run the school, on an interim basis, until the investigation is concluded.
Lauderdale Lakes City Manager Anita Fain-Taylor has been very aggressive about financial matters related to fired city employee Geri Peterkin, who was accused of misusing city funds. But Fain-Taylor refuses to respond to questions about expenditures her own staff has made on behalf of some commissioners. There are indications those tax dollars were used on personal items, and not city-related business as required. I have new information that may shed light on the issue, so stay tuned.
During a recent conversation with state Rep. Perry E. Thurston Jr., I discussed with him how baseball played an integral part in America’s history, particularly when it comes to blacks. The much-lauded Negro League helped to break down racial and social barriers, while giving an oppressed generation hope, not to mention something to do. At present, baseball and softball leagues in black neighborhoods have for the most part dried up, and it is a shame. Thurston said he is committed to doing whatever it takes to reverse this trend. Well, he can count me in, and hopefully others will join him in his efforts. It may not be the only contributing factor, but arguably, the systematic elimination of youth baseball programs can be directly related to the explosion in youth crime, drug use, and violence.
Octavia Fuller is 28 years old and, other than an unpaid traffic ticket, has never been in any trouble. She is one of several people who have alleged that investigators with the Broward Sheriff’s Office pressured them to say they knew something about Timothy “Backarms” Johnson’s alleged involvement in the killing of BSO Deputy Chris Reyka. Johnson is being held on armed robbery charges and Fuller either was, or has, a relationship with him. She has cooperated with the investigation, but insists she knows nothing of Johnson’s alleged criminal activities. A number of people have filed complaints with the North Broward branch of the NAACP, asking president Willie Lawson to call for an independent investigation. Some say they have been harassed, or pressured to give statements, or they would face charges themselves. This week, Fuller was in fact arrested, on burglary charges related to an incident she says she has no clue about. The arrest came, she says, after investigators told her they would let her go if she would give a statement, and she told them she knew nothing. These are very serious allegations, and they are getting out of hand. Several different people have made similar accusations, and they are increasing each week. It’s time for an investigation, by an outside agency, to prevent further deterioration of the already-waning confidence citizens are expressing in the sheriff’s office.
Abdel Odeh, 19, a clerk at the Star 7 Food Store located at Northwest 55th Avenue and West Oakland Park Boulevard in Lauderhill, is being held on attempted murder charges after shooting a customer, investigators say. Christopher Morgan, 30, was shot after the two argued over a product. Morgan threw a drink at Odeh while demanding, and getting, his money back, investigators say. Odeh told police Morgan then threatened to return with a gun as he left the store. That’s when Odeh retrieved his gun, followed Morgan into the parking area where the arguing continued, and Odeh fired two shots, investigators say. One shot hit Morgan in the chest. He was rushed to the hospital and was listed in critical condition, suffering paralysis in some parts of his body.
Palm Beach County law enforcement agencies have already identified and are monitoring more than 130 gangs operating in the county, and it’s getting worse. From Pahokee out west to the southeast section of the county in Boca Raton, these gangs – which consist mostly of blacks and Hispanics – are wreaking havoc, and something has to be done. We will not “arrest” our way out of this mess, but it may be time to give up on the hardened criminal element and turn our focus to the children in elementary school, before it is too late.
ELGIN JONES. EJones@SFLTimes.com