Friday, December 27, 2013

Judge Okays Release Of ICE Agent Charged With Bribery, Extortion

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A federal judge has ruled that a veteran U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent facing multiple charges that range from bribery to extortion can be released from federal detention while he awaits trial.

In an afternoon hearing, Federal Judge William Turnoff agreed to the release of Juan Martinez after his defense attorney showed that money which would be put up to meet his $250 thousand bond came from legal sources.
Martinez, a Special Agent with ICE, is charged with; 8 counts of extortion, 2 counts of bribery and 2 counts of false writing.

When he is released, Martinez will be outfitted with an ankle monitor to help enforce his 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. curfew.  He will have to surrender his weapons and passport.  He was also warned not to go anywhere near a train station or airport.

“If you sneeze wrong, I will revoke your bond,” said Judge Turnoff.
“Yes, sir,” replied Martinez.
In Martinez’s Kings Bay neighborhood, Teny Sharoff told CBS4’s Gary Nelson that she’s known Martinez for “many years” and described him as “a fine man” who has done many good things for her and others.
“He is innocent of these charges,” said Sharoff. “He is not guilty.”
According to prosecutors, federal investigators were led to Martinez in 2011 while following a money trail from a Colombian company.
Investigators reportedly tracked a man with $110,000 dollars cash to Bayside where they said that he gave that money to Martinez. As investigators looked into Martinez’s actions, they allegedly found more illegal activity.
Martinez, 47, is accused of extorting money from Colombian Company 1, a commercial and residential company located in Pereira, Columbia.
Martinez allegedly took bribes to bring people into the country by falsely claiming they were witnesses in drug cases. He’s also accused of taking liquor, airline tickets, a diamond ring and watch from individuals telling them that they could avoid prosecution.
The object of the conspiracy, per the indictment, was, “for Martinez and his con-conspirators to unlawfully enrich themselves by using Martinez’s official position to obtain large payments from Colombian Company 1,” along with other company individuals.

Martinez allegedly told the company, along with certain individuals associated with it, that is was about to be put on the Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list by Office of Foreign Asset Control, a Treasury Department list that freezes assets and prohibits any dealings with U.S. entities.
Martinez allegedly offered to keep them off the SDN list if they made large payments to Martinez and others.
Silvia Pinera-Vazquez, Martinez’s attorney, said that her client is innocent.
“We disagree with the government 100-percent. Agent Martinez has been a law enforcement agent for over 20 years. He has dutifully served his country. He denies every single paragraph of that indictment and is looking forward to a trial where is innocence will be proven,” said Pinera-Vazquez.
A spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued the following statement: “ICE takes accusations of misconduct very seriously. As the matter is currently under investigation, it would be inappropriate to comment on this specific case. As public servants working for a law enforcement agency, every employee at ICE is held to the highest standard of professional and ethical conduct.”

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Drug Court JudgeTo Enter Rehab After Court Meltdown During Which She Slurred Her Words, Ended Session Early And Screamed At Staff

  • Judge Gisele Pollack spoke in a slurred voice before ending a court session abruptly after an hour and a half
  • She was later seen screaming at her assistant and demanding her car keys
  • She presides over Broward County's misdemeanor drug court
  • Pollack did not show up for work the next day but appeared the day after
  • She said she will be entering a rehabilitation program over the holiday break
By Alex Greig

A Florida drug court judge is headed for rehab herself after an erratic performance at the bench last week.
Broward County Court judge Gisele Pollack, 55,  resided over the court for an hour and a half before abruptly walking out and ending the Tuesday's court session.

Audio of the incident recorded Pollack telling defendants they have to get clean in a slurred voice.
Addiction issues: After a brief and erratic appearance in court last week, Judge Gisele Pollack abruptly ended the session
Addiction issues: After a brief and erratic appearance in court last week, Judge Gisele Pollack abruptly ended the session

Addiction: The judge has made no secret of her struggles with drugs and alcohol
Addiction: The judge has made no secret of her struggles with drugs and alcohol

'You have to be warned... being clean...' she mumbled to a defendant.
'What?' said the defendant, confused.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, she was later seen yelling at her judicial assistant, demanding that her car keys be returned.
Treatment program: Judge Pollack established the Broward County misdemeanor drug court to help people addicted to drugs avoid criminal records
Treatment program: Judge Pollack established the Broward County misdemeanor drug court to help people addicted to drugs avoid criminal records

Pollack did not appear in court Wednesday, but returned to work Thursday where she did not address the incident but told a packed court of graduates of the misdemeanor drug court program that they must 'remain vigilant.'

She told Local 10 Thursday that she is suffering from depression.
'I have some health issues,' she said. 'I’m going into treatment for them. I have two weeks off starting [Friday]. I’m going to be in an intense outpatient program.'

'I'm a good judge and I'm going to ask you to please work with me,' she said.

Pollack, who has never made a secret of her past alcohol and drug abuse problems, was elected to the bench in 2004.

A year later, she established the misdemeanor drug court.

'Defendants prepared to go through a treatment program and six months worth of testing, supervision and staying clean would have the charges against them dismissed,' Pollack has said of the program.

Attorney Eric Schwartzreich, who is advising Pollack after Tuesday's breakdown, says the judge has had issues in her personal life recently.
A brief recess: Judge Pollack will be spending two weeks in rehab before returning to court in the new year
A brief recess: Judge Pollack will be spending two weeks in rehab before returning to court in the new year

Personal issues: Pollack has recently lost her mother and her son is reportedly seriously ill
Personal issues: Pollack has recently lost her mother and her son is reportedly seriously ill

'She’s had some severe personal tragedy in her life,' Schwartzreich told the Orlando Sentinel.
'Her mother recently passed away, and they were very close. It’s been really devastating for her.'

According to News 10, Pollack's son is suffering a serious illness, which could also have served to tip her over the edge.

Broward Public Defender Howard Finkelstein, a longtime friend of Pollack's, says he hopes people will be accepting of her struggle.

'If this causes the people to not have faith and not have trust in what goes on in that drug courtroom, then she will have to step aside,' he said. 'My hope is is people will wrap their ever-loving arms around Judge Pollack just as she has wrapped her arms around thousands of people.'

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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Foster Care Deaths Are A Failure Of Both Parties So FL Governor Scott Can Rest Easy

 Blog postings are by the founder and Executive Director, Kevin Cline, a former foster child. Link below

Picture Did I say rest easy?
I meant the man should be ashamed of him self but the Democratic Party can join the Republican Party in the dunce corner for those who help keep the status quo in place.
This is all while they put up a front for people in the public, who will be outraged for a day, from the latest tragedy.
Once all the moral outrage and bandwagon threads and comments about murdering the parents, castrating/sterilizing the poor on one end of the extreme and pay the child welfare worker more money as a response to a child murdered in foster care on their watch…once that is all done, officials will go back to business as usual until the next tragedy and then we will do it again.
Sorry Democrats but Republicans don’t have the monopoly on foster care deaths. Don’t point fingers if your own record is just as reprehensible. The foster care system is not one that is run better by either party. Democrats will claim they care about children more but in all honesty, when it comes to serious concrete changes, neither party has been a leader.
When something horrible happens that makes the news, democrats will always respond by advocating a bigger child welfare budget which includes increases for child protection investigations, hiring more state/county employees, more for foster care, and adoption but always includes a smaller piece of the pie for FAMILY PRESERVATION and REUNIFICATION. Most interesting enough is no connection drawn to the idea that if even a portion of this new found government wealth could be spent on helping families they supposedly care about, exponentially more families would be kept intact and far fewer kids would be entering the system. I’m not naive though and I fully realize that money cant solve this deep rooted problem.
Child welfare agencies have a culture and personality disorder and I feel in the end, that the only way things will change in the end is if we switch back to the days when child protection from an investigative standpoint was a police matter. One in which the police officer could investigate and then arrest if the case seemed to warrant it based off the evidence. These cases would be completely handled in criminal court and not dependency court.
This switch would involve caseworkers switching almost completely from a role of aggressive adversary.  we need to go back to where police handled the serious cases and child welfare workers served essentially as SOCIAL WORKERS. Today child welfare workers enjoy almost impenetrable legal immunity, unlimited power and no oversight combined with quotas and performance targets  as well as both reasonable and unreasonable public expectations. This all combines for a messed up system that aggressively recruits kids to take, then aggressively recruits middle and upper middle class families to take those kids but once they gain those families the system leaves them high and dry minus the money of course. this of course results in good parents being burned out and bad ones having their free reign on the kids they are supposed to be “protecting from the big bad parents”
Republicans can sometimes argue for the same things but tend to yell a bit more about getting government out of the way and sometimes a bit of lip service for parents rights which gets the democrats screaming screw the parents, its all about the kids….The poor family unit is what gets left out of the equation at the end of the day by both parties. Neither party talks about poor family integrity and how the system could be systematically changed so that it actually works for and with poor families who make up over 95 percent of child welfare involved families. Its always middle class middle class middle class and oh yeah middle class. In the end, its always how the system can take more children to cover its arse and appease a public which for a generation has been taught to loathe and hate child welfare involved families and so the public supports the taking of these children from poor families and it becomes unwilling to challenge a system full of angels doing god’s work.
Its bad PR to these days, akin to hugging a child molester, to publicly support child welfare involved parents and their kids together as a family because if we support them together, these kids are no longer false orphans in need of saving by those with means on both sides of the isle.
I do, in closing ask, how fair it is for a family to lose its foundation, the children, for being poor and maybe being homeless or not having  enough to eat or leaving the child with a relative who is too young because you have to work or smoking medical marijuana but still providing and raising your kids just fair is it that this happens and the parents are the monsters that every member of the public wants a piece of, while time and time again no one cares about the system we have all allowed to be created which takes from poor and gives to those with means, treasure for which we cant spare nor do we want to and when we fight back because that child ends up dead, raped, starved or xyz we are just angry. Don’t pay us any mind. we just lost our kids.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Rick Scott Stands Alone

Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) re-election bid will be challenging. Between his poor record, weak poll numbers, and credible challenger, the Republican is going to need some help to get another four years in Tallahassee.

 But if he’s hoping on getting that help from his lieutenant governor, Scott should prepare a back-up plan.

In March, an ugly scandal unfolded and Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll (R) was forced to abruptly resign from office. Though Carroll has not yet faced criminal charges, her company is accused of helping oversee a fraudulent veterans’ charity and using gambling at Internet cafes to launder money.
The governor wasn’t connected to the scandal, but it nevertheless left Scott looking for a new #2 in his administration, who can also serve as his running mate during the 2014 campaign. How’s the search going? Not well (thanks to my colleague Tricia McKinney for the heads-up).
Seminole County Sheriff Don Eslinger on Monday formally declined Gov. Rick Scott’s offer to be considered as a possible lieutenant governor, becoming the second person on Scott’s four-person short list to turn him down.
Eslinger sent an email to his staff saying he was “flattered and honored” to be considered but that he will keep the job that he was first elected to in 1990. Last week, St. Johns County Superintendent of Schools Joseph Joyner also rejected Scott’s offer.
Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll

In case this wasn’t obvious, the Tampa Bay Times report added that the withdrawals from two of Scott’s top contenders “create the perception that no one wants to be the governor’s running mate in 2014.”
Yes, actually it does. Indeed, the Miami New Times added, “It seems almost too obvious to state that a key requirement of being lieutenant governor is actually wanting to be lieutenant governor, but that’s apparently something Gov. Rick Scott didn’t take into account during his long, dragged-out search to replace disgraced ex-Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll…. It’s not exactly good news when the two lowest-profile candidates on the list announce they have no interest in the job.”
The governor apparently had a short-list of four, which is now down to two – a state senator and a county commissioner, both of whom are from the Tampa area.
If they also decline, I’d just note that Florida has a 7% unemployment rate, so presumably the Republican governor will find someone who’s available  and willing to stand alongside Rick Scott for the next five years. 

It is time to give Rick Scott a pink slip.

Petitioning Esther Jacobo For Full Investigation Into DCF Florida

Dear Esther Jacobo:
Robin K. Jensen

Thank you for your time and consideration into this matter. I am sure after your review of this case, you will see a pattern of lies and manipulation on the part of Ms.Robin K. Jensen Lawyer for DCF in Sarasota Florida.

I also ask that you request the court tapes to listen first-hand how easily a Lawyer can manipulate their status to abuse citizens under the color of law. We are petitioning for a full investigating in this case.

Randy Kluge

DCF caught kidnapping

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Florida Congressman Charged With Cocaine Possession

WASHINGTON D.C. (CBSMiami/AP) – A Florida congressman has been charged with cocaine possession after what officials described as a “buy and bust” operation Tuesday.
Representative Henry “Trey” Radel was arrested October 29th in the District of Columbia. A one-sentence court document did not add any details about his arrest.

 The first term Republican congressman from Southwest Florida was charged Tuesday with misdemeanor possession of cocaine. His next court appearance was set for Wednesday.
In a statement expressing regret, the 37-year-old Republican freshman lawmaker said he struggles with alcoholism and intends to seek treatment and counseling. Radel made no mention of his political future.
A Drug Enforcement Administration official said Radel was arrested after buying cocaine from an undercover law enforcement officer. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release details of the case in his own name, said Radel was identified to authorities as a cocaine buyer by his suspected dealer. The dealer had been previously arrested as part of a separate drug investigation led by a federal task force.
“In facing this charge, I realize the disappointment my family, friends and constituents must feel. Believe me, I am disappointed in myself, and I stand ready to face the consequences of my actions,” Radel said in a statement.

 “However, this unfortunate event does have a positive side. It offers me an opportunity to seek treatment and counseling,” his statement said. “I know I have a problem and will do whatever is necessary to overcome it, hopefully setting an example for others struggling with this disease.”
The cocaine possession charge, a misdemeanor, carries a statutory maximum of six months in prison and a fine of $1,000.
A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner said the allegations are a matter for the courts.
“Beyond that, this is between Rep. Radel, his family and his constituents,” said Boehner spokesman Michael Steel.
Radel, 37, was elected in 2012 to represent the 19th District of Florida, which includes the Gulf Coast communities of Fort Myers and Naples. He was a radio host before becoming a congressman. He is married and has a young son.
(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Monday, November 11, 2013

Rick Scott Has Raised $18 Million Even Though Most Floridians Can't Stand Him

Since the day he was elected, Rick Scott has been one of the most unpopular governors in America, often hovering below 30 percent in polls. He's tried everything from casual Fridays to flipping hamburgers in local restaurants to boost his numbers. But the most recent Q poll still shows nearly 60 percent of Floridians simply don't like the guy.

So how the hell has Scott has already racked up nearly $20 million for his re-election campaign? Oh right, from the corporate giants who do love him. The Tampa Bay Times tallied up Scott's fundraising this weekend for his political action committee, Let's Get to Work, and found that 2,600 donors have already pumped about $18.5 million into the effort.
Polls aside, that kind of cash gives Scott a major head start over any Democratic challenger who will have to spend a considerable chunk of change to navigate a testy primary to get to the gubernatorial race.
(Keep in mind, $18 million is already more money than Alex Sink spent on her entire losing campaign to Scott in the last race.)
And Scott can thank some huge businesses for his campaign wealth. His biggest donor is Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida, which surely appreciates Scott's refusal to set up the Obamacare exchanges that could lower premiums for ordinary residents; the company has donated $637,500 to the governor.
Next is the Seminole Tribe of Florida -- a big fan of Scott's willingness to listen to new gambling proposals -- with just over $500,000. Also on the list are Florida Power & Light and right-leaning magnates such as Wayne Huizenga and Las Vegas powerbroker Sheldon Adelson.
We're a long way from the 2014 governor's race, but what exactly would it say about Florida democracy if Scott spends his way to re-election on the financial back of his corporate followers while ordinary Sunshine State residents can't stand his face?

It's the will of the people*!
(*"People," meaning "corporations," per the U.S. Supreme Court.)
Follow Miami New Times on Facebook and Twitter @MiamiNewTimes.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Mom gets children; DCF gets skewered

By Carol Marbin Miller

A young Miami mom was stripped of the right to raise her four children. The father of the youngest child was allowed to keep the girl.
Just another day in child-welfare court.
But then a child welfare judge in Miami discovered information that troubled him: A social worker who gave damaging testimony against the woman — while lavishing praise on the father — had had sex with the father, at least according to the man himself. Another case worker whose testimony also was damaging to the mother had told colleagues she wanted to adopt her children after the mother lost all rights to them.
Calling the actions of the two child welfare workers — as well as their bosses and lawyers — “reprehensible” and “manifestly unconscionable,” the judge returned the four children to their mother this week. In a 40-page order tinged with anger, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael A. Hanzman said the reversal was necessary in order to undo a miscarriage of justice.
Circuit Judge Michael A. Hanzman

Hanzman, who presides over child welfare cases in Miami’s Allapattah juvenile courthouse, wrote that the woman could not have received a fair trial because state child welfare “agents withheld information that demonstrated bias on the part of two material witnesses.”
The Department of Children & Families “and its cadre of private sector agents are a collective prosecutorial arm of the state, charged with a public trust,” Hanzman wrote in the order, signed Tuesday. “The constitutional rights of the families brought into our dependency courts depend upon the faithful and impartial exercise of that trust. When it is betrayed — as it was in this case — due process is denied.”The mother, Hanzman added, “was entitled to a fair trial. She instead received the ‘parental death penalty’ in a proceeding infected by bias and conflict…The parties prosecuting her knew the process was contaminated, but took no corrective action. The fact that the lives of this family would be permanently altered — and the mother’s constitutional rights severed — was of no moment. The state simply trampled on those constitutional rights in its zeal to win at all costs.”
Child welfare officials in Miami-Dade had some harsh words in return for the judge. They said he had just recently ignored warnings from them and left an infant in the care of a relative who accidentally smothered him.
The woman at the center of the controversy, and her children, are not being named by the Miami Herald to protect their privacy.
Neither of the caseworkers named in Hanzman’s order — “lead witness” Tatiana Ashley and Michelle Sales, both of the CHARLEE foster care program — remain with CHARLEE, said a spokeswoman for the Our Kids agency, which oversees private child welfare programs in Miami under contract with DCF. Ashley was fired for “performance” issues unrelated to Hanzman’s order, and Sales resigned, the spokeswoman said.
Neither woman could be reached by the Herald for comment.
DCF’s ethics watchdog cleared the two women of wrongdoing in a lengthy report last August.
The Inspector General was asked to investigate the mother’s claims in January by an Our Kids’ regional manager. The IG, Christopher T. Hirst, concluded the mother’s allegations regarding Ashley could not be substantiated without a witness to the alleged affair. Likewise, Hirst wrote that there was no proof that Sales lied on the witness stand, and that her desire to foster or adopt the children did not create a conflict of interest.
DCF’s interim secretary, Esther Jacobo, who was leading DCF’s Miami district when much of the controversy unfolded, said Friday her agency is most concerned with the future welfare of the mother’s children — not with what has already occurred.
Esther Jacobo
“The claims of unethical behavior by these caseworkers were thoroughly investigated by the DCF inspector general and not substantiated. Now, two years later, our attention must be centered on these children — their safety, security and emotional health. With all the information and facts in hand, my sincere hope is that the judge will do what is best for the safety and well-being of these children.”
Hanzman’s return of the four children occurs at a time of deep animosity between the judge and Miami child welfare administrators.
Earlier this week, a Miami infant born with medical concerns owing to his mother’s drug use died at the home of his adult half-sister in Broward. Hanzman, records show, sent the boy to live with his half-sister over the objections of DCF lawyers, an Our Kids foster care provider and the Broward Sheriff’s Office, which had conducted a study of the woman’s home and concluded she was not fit to care for the boy. Records suggest the half-sister may have accidentally smothered the infant while sleeping with him on a couch.
The mother at the center of Hanzman’s order this week emerged from a troubled home herself, sources told the Herald. Now 23, the woman “aged out” of foster care at age 19 with four small children, and sources say DCF continues to harbor serious concerns about her ability to raise the kids.
In July 2010, the agency’s hotline received a report that the mom and the youngest child’s father had an altercation. The children remained “safely” in the mother’s care, the judge wrote, until March 2011, when a relative complained that the father had pulled a gun on him.
When DCF was alerted to the incident by the mother, the agency placed all four children in foster care. Two months after that — and after the mom had mostly completed a laundry list of tasks designed to improve her parenting skills — the woman was arrested on a shoplifting charge. DCF abruptly reversed course, filing a petition to terminate the woman’s parental rights.
The mother, a petition said, had been “unable to gain the necessary insight required” to safely parent her children.
At trial in August 2011, Ashley, the case worker, testified that, while the mom had completed parenting, domestic violence and anger classes, and although she was “bonded” with her children, Ashley had “concerns as to her parenting,” the judge wrote.
Broken system
As to the youngest girl’s father, the one who had allegedly wielded a gun, Ashley was far more complimentary. She testified that he was always “appropriate” in his visits with the little girl, and that she had no concerns about his parenting skills. Ashley recommended that he retain rights to the now-4-year-old daughter.
Sales, the order said, worked with the mother and her kids from October 2010 through the following January. Sales dropped the case, she testified, because she became fearful of the mother following a fight she witnessed between the mother and another woman. The mother insists that no such incident occurred, the judge wrote.
At a hearing on the mother’s concerns over the fairness of her trial, and in comments to the inspector general, Ashley strongly denied having a sexual relationship with the father. The father himself acknowledged the affair. The caseworker had begun “flirting” with him “while the two were in her car discussing what he had to do to get his daughter back,” the man testified. “They eventually wound up in the back seat having intercourse,” Hanzman wrote.
And, although the inspector general wrote that there were no witnesses, the father’s brother testified that he was at his mother’s house when the father and Ashley were in a bedroom having sex.
The mother of the children arrived at the father’s house in August 2011 while he and Ashley were “fooling around” in a back bedroom, the father testified. The father’s brother alerted him that the mother was walking up the stairs to see him. She confronted the couple and hit the father with a mop stick, the judge’s order said.
The caseworker, the father testified, told him that neither she nor CHARLEE were eager to sever his rights to the youngest child. He said he failed to disclose the sexual relationship out of fear that it would interfere with his custody rights.
As to Sales, numerous people — including several employees of CHARLEE — testified that she wanted to adopt the children.
So concerned were CHARLEE administrators about Sales’ desire to adopt the kids that they asked an Our Kids boss if it made sense to transfer the case to another foster care agency “to avoid any kind of conflict of interest.” The administrator, Hanzman wrote, refused the transfer request. Another judge who was presiding over the case was never told about the alleged conflict.
That omission, Hanzman wrote, “can only be charitably characterized as blatant incompetency.”
Read more here:

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Broward Judge Charged With DUI

FT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – A Broward judge spotted driving erratically in Boca Raton Tuesday night was arrested and charged with driving under the influence.
Just before 10 p.m., police received a call about a driver of a white Mercedes-Benz driving erratically in the area of 49 NE 2nd Street. The caller said the driver seemed to be impaired.
“I want to report a drunk driver. I’m driving north on Federal Highway in Boca Raton,” said the caller. “He’s all over the road.  He nearly side swiped me twice.  He’s gotta be drunk.”
“ Was it a male or female driver? “ asked the 911 operator. “I couldn’t see but he’s really dangerous,” the caller said.
When police pulled over the car about an hour later, it turned out to be a female behind the wheel, Judge Imperator.
Judge Imperator
About an hour after that call, a Boca Raton police officer pulled over the driver of a white Mercedes-Benz at 2400 W Palmetto Park Road. The officer “observed the vehicle driving erratically. The vehicle nearly struck another vehicle at one point,” according to the probable cause affidavit.
When asked why she was pulled over the driver, identified as 56-year old Cynthia Imperato, replied because she weaving.
In the report, the officer noted that Imperato had a strong smell of alcohol on her breath, her eyes were red and glassy, her speech was slow and slurred, and her face was flushed.
When asked to get out of the vehicle, Imperato refused and then told the officers she was calling her attorney. The officers noted in the report that she had trouble dialing the phone.
After refusing repeated requests to get out of the car, the officers opened the driver’s side door and asked her a final time. She did, but had to use the car door to push herself up, according to the report.
After refusing to take a breath test or walk in front of a patrol car for a DUI test, Imperato was placed under arrest and her car was towed.
“In the criminal justice system, she’s going to be treated just like anyone else who’s accused of DUI,” said Nova Southeastern University Law Professor Bob Jarvis.
He said Judge Imperato will likely be investigated by the Judicial Qualification Committee and eventually have to stand before Florida’s Supreme Court Justices. “Based on previous cases with judges who have been accused of first time DUI, what the Florida Supreme Court will do is publicly reprimand her, slap her on the wrist tell her not to do it again,” figures Jarvis.
CBS4′s Ted Scouten tried speaking to Judge Imperato at her home but no one came to the door.  On her courtroom door, there was a sign saying she was out sick. When this is all over, chances are she’ll keep her place on the bench.
“She’ll have that public embarrassment, but other than that, she’ll be able, in all likelihood  hold on to her judgeship.”
Imperato has been a Broward circuit judge since 2003

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Florida Pays $800K To Fix Governor’s Mansion

TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/AP) — Did you know your hard-earned tax dollars are paying for upgrades at Gov. Rick Scott’s Tallahassee mansion? Gov. Scott has repeatedly pledged to slash government spending since his 2010 election yet more than $800,000 has been spent for substantial improvements to the Greek Revival mansion where he and his wife live.

Taxpayers have footed the bill for things like the cleaning of oriental rugs and refinishing the oak flooring at “the People’s House,” a sprawling edifice at 700 North Adams Street that serves as private residence as well as official entertainment venue for the state’s chief executive. Some money, though, has come from lobbyists and corporate donors with business before Scott and the Republican-controlled Legislature.
Nearly $3 million was spent during Jeb Bush’s eight years in office, but that included some expensive, post-9/11 security upgrades. And what has been spent under Scott far exceeds the money spent while Charlie Crist was in office.
Most of the money spent on the mansion— nearly $600,000 — has come from taxpayers and goes toward upkeep of the grounds and what is called the “public side” of the mansion, which includes the garden and rooms where public receptions are held.
But more than $200,000 spent on both public rooms and on the personal quarters used by the Scott family came from a handful of the state’s most powerful companies. Records from the Governor’s Mansion Foundation show that U.S. Sugar, Florida Crystals and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida each donated $100,000.

On top of that came $20,000 gifts from fundraiser and lobbyist Brian Ballard; Scott’s political adviser, Tony Fabrizio; and George Zoley, the CEO of private prison company The GEO Group, which runs two Florida penitentiaries.
House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, questioned the state spending money on the mansion while it has been pushing cutbacks elsewhere.
“Maybe the first place in government cutbacks is where you are staying at,” said Thurston.
Thurston also said he was surprised to hear about private donations for the mansion and said he doubted anyone in the public was aware of it.
“There’s a real concern there,” said Thurston. “What are they expecting to receive from their contributions?”
Scott, a multi-millionaire who owns a mansion in southwest Florida, did not put any of his own money to the renovation effort, although foundation records show that he and his wife donated furniture, lamps and exercise equipment valued at more than $93,000.

I want your tax dollars for myself
Scott spokeswoman Melissa Sellers would not answer questions about whether accepting private money might risk posing a conflict of interest. Her answer in an email was that “mansion foundation members raise money.”
Located 10 blocks north of the Capitol building, the governor’s mansion is hidden from view by aging commercial properties that sit along a Tallahassee main street. Large iron gates block the street in front of the mansion, keeping visitors away. Ballard said he was glad to make his 2011 donation, which came at a time when there were discussions of using the private money to help purchase the commercial property. The idea was to create a kind of “mansion park” that might qualify as a national historical landmark.
“I believe in Tallahassee and I live here,” Ballard said. “I think we should more things to make Tallahassee a special place. Rick Scott certainly doesn’t need money from me. If they asked again, I would do it again. And I would do it if it were for Gov. (Bob) Graham, Gov. (Lawton) Chiles or Gov. Crist.”
The long list of renovations to the governor’s mansion includes a $2,000 mirror for first lady Ann Scott’s bathroom and $38,000 in new rugs. Private money paid for those items. The mansion also boasts new wallpaper, pillows, furniture, drapes, paint, window repairs, new screens for the swimming pool and an upgraded kitchen.

First lady Ann Scott
The amount of public money spent on the mansion the last three years far exceeds what was spent between 2007 and 2011, when Crist was governor. State records show slightly more than $27,000 was spent during Crist’s term, although he spent most weekends outside Tallahassee.
Nearly $3 million was spent between 1999 and 2007 when Bush was governor, but that includes nearly $1 million to acquire property near the mansion and to close the street due to security concerns.
Ben Wolf, a spokesman for the Department of Management Services, said improvements paid for by taxpayers were for historical preservation, to improve health and safety and for routine maintenance of the 60-year-old building. For example, Wolf said, the walls and ceilings hadn’t been painted in more than 15 years.
Wolf said that the repairs were undertaken after an assessment by DMS, which manages real estate owned by the state among other functions. The improvements were not done at anyone’s request, Wolf said.
Melissa Sellers, a spokeswoman for Scott, also said that neither the governor nor the first lady requested any renovations.

But minutes from a May 2011 meeting of the Governor’s Mansion Commission— the state panel that assures the home maintains its original structure and character — show that first lady Ann Scott voiced concern about the home’s condition to state officials.
“It’s important to me to maintain its beauty and showcase its history, making the mansion a welcome destination for all guests,” said the first lady, who had run her own interior design business before her husband was elected and has pushed to make the mansion more available to public events.
Carol Beck, mansion manager and curator, was quoted as telling the group that top DMS officials “have been exceptionally proactive in addressing concerns of the first lady and myself as it relates to the current condition of the interior and exterior of the mansion proper, as well as the grounds.”
Sellers said that Ann Scott has been traveling a lot lately to spend time with her grandchildren and unavailable for questions about the mansion.
Meanwhile, Scott — who just announced he would seek to cut another $100 million in “government waste” next year — is known to be a strong supporter of the costly renovation to The Grove Plantation, the 180-year-old historic home of the late Gov. LeRoy Collins. It sits on a 10-acre site adjoining the governor’s mansion and could be opened to the public as soon as next year.
(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Child-Protection Worker Accused Of Falsifying Reports

October 10, 2013|By Erika Pesantes, Sun Sentinel, By Erika Pesantes, Sun Sentinel
A Broward sheriff’s employee entrusted to help shield kids from harm didn’t even bother to meet five children she needed to watch over, possibly compromising their safety, authorities say.

Sandra Marti
Sheriff’s child investigative specialist Sandra Marti has been arrested, accused of falsifying reports that stated she had met with the children, according to a sheriff’s report. Instead, Marti simply arranged for parents to send her cellphone photos of the children, the report said.
Marti was jailed Wednesday on multiple counts of falsifying reports, records show.
“The falsification of official records, and the potential risks that any kind of falsification could pose for children, will not be tolerated,” said Dennis Miles, the regional managing director for the state’s Department of Children and Families’ Southeast Region.
Marti submitted the falsified records involving the five children between Dec. 1, 2011, and June 30 this year, the Sheriff’s Office said. Detectives found that those children are doing well, sheriff’s spokeswoman Keyla Concepcion said.
“We have gone back and made sure that all of those kids were safe, and the original allegations had been addressed,” she said.
An investigation into Marti’s actions began in June when a child’s mother phoned the Broward Sheriff’s Office. The mother said she planned to send Marti a photo of her son, but couldn’t because she had lost Marti’s phone number, an arrest report said.
That was a red flag for Marti’s supervisor, Concepcion said.
Detectives from the Broward Sheriff’s Public Corruption Unit reached out to several parents who each similarly detailed Marti’s instructions to send her photos of their children. They all said their sons and daughters did not meet with her on instances when she indicated they had, according to an arrest report.
Marti, a civilian employee, is currently suspended without pay, Concepcion said. Marti, 57, of Coral Springs, has been employed with the Sheriff’s Office for nine years.
She previously worked in pre-trial services and community control supervision of offenders, and later began working as a child investigative specialist.
Detectives have reviewed all of Marti’s cases since July 2010 — when she began working in the Child Protective Investigations Section — and only found five cases “in which she acted inappropriately,” Concepcion said.
Marti, who was freed from jail on a $5,000 bond, could not be reached for comment Thursday despite several attempts to contact her via a relative.
As part of their role, child protective investigators take a look at allegations of abuse, neglect or abandonment that come into the DCF hotline. Those cases range from neglecting to offer a child medical attention, to leaving minors who cannot care for themselves home alone, to sexual abuse, DCF spokeswoman Paige Patterson-Hughes said.
However, it was not known Thursday what circumstances led Marti to each of the cases for which she allegedly falsified reports.
“It’s important for there to be the appropriate contact with the potential victim and other people involved,” Patterson-Hughes said. “Not following through clearly is a problem.”
In the case that helped start the investigation, Marti filed a report indicating she met a child on June 13 this year, authorities said. But in a sworn statement, the boy’s mother said Marti did not meet her son and instead asked the mother for a cellphone photo.
According to the arrest report, investigators found that Marti filed a report in January 2012 stating that she had met with another child. But that boy’s mother also gave a sworn statement that said Marti didn’t see her son.
The scenario repeated itself in December 2012, when Marti said in a report she visited a 7-year-old girl at Croissant Park Elementary School in Fort Lauderdale, an arrest report said. But the school’s assistant vice principal said she had no record of an investigator visiting the child at the time, the report said.
Marti allegedly also asked that girl’s mother to send a cellphone snapshot of her other child, a 2-year-old girl. The mother, in a sworn statement, said she did as instructed.
In April 2013, Marti gave a 16-year-old boy’s mother her business card and asked that his photo be emailed to her, the report said. The boy told investigators that he never met Marti, but did take a photo of himself on his cellphone and emailed it to Marti.
Patterson-Hughes said meeting people is essential: It offers investigators clues to anything else that should be taken into account during their investigation.
“Clearly, when you’re talking to a person, you’re oftentimes taking in more than the words. You’re looking at other aspects, the behavior, the demeanor and the circumstances that brought you to the person in the first place,” Patterson-Hughes said.
Marti also is accused of falsifying a report that said she had met with a parent, authorities said.
In May this year, Marti allegedly filed a report stating she had met with the father of a child who had an open case, authorities said. The father told detectives that he had a telephone conversation with a child protective investigator, but did not meet the investigator in person, the arrest report said.
Miles called the allegations against Marti a “serious matter” and commended the Sheriff’s Office for investigating. In an emailed statement Thursday, he said that DCF “will work with [sheriff's] investigators to ensure the integrity of other cases which involved this investigator.”

Suspended Homestead Mayor Arrested On Election Law Violations

HOMESTEAD (CBSMiami) – Just a few months after he was arrested and charged with two felony charges of unlawful compensation or reward for official behavior; suspended Homestead Mayor Steve Bateman was arrested again Friday on seven counts of election law violations.
Homestead Mayor Steve Bateman
According to CBS4 news partner the Miami Herald, Bateman surrendered and was released on his own recognizance. The new charges are separate from the original charges, but are still part of the overall investigation of Bateman, the Herald reported.
The specific charges relate to unlawfully failing to dispose of campaign funds under Florida law.
Bateman’s first arrest was connected to a secret consulting gig with Community Health of South Florida and construction projects, first reported by CBS4 News.
He allegedly used his elected position to get the consulting job with CHI.
Bateman had been mayor of Homestead since 2009, but lost his bid for re-election last month.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Governor Phony Rick Scott?


Fourteen months from the next election, Gov. Rick Scott’s sales pitch is clear. He portrays himself as the education governor, the defender of the environment and the advocate for open records. He’s the jobs governor, and he has empathy for Floridians without health coverage. Don’t be fooled by the packaging. It’s a facade that hides reality, and Florida deserves better.

Scott organized a three-day summit last week to tackle controversies over the coming Common Core State Standards and the discredited school accountability system now in place. He promotes the $1 billion in new money public schools received this year and his effort to give teachers raises.
The reality is Scott failed to show up at his own summit to listen to the concerns of school superintendents and others. Instead he ate dinner privately with former Gov. Jeb Bush, whose passion for education is unquestioned even if some of his views are controversial.
This year’s per student funding is the highest of Scott’s three years as governor. But it is still lower than each of the five previous years under his predecessors, Charlie Crist and Bush. Scott also signed into law the legislation that siphons off school construction money to privately run charter schools. And the governor’s last two hand-picked education commissioners have shown more interest in advocating for charter schools and expanding voucher programs than in creating successful public schools.
Now there is another interim education commissioner, and the revolving door in Tallahassee leaves local school districts without clear direction from the state. Will Scott fold on Common Core and the student assessments needed to make them work?
The governor staged another media show last week to promote a worthy project to improve water flow into Everglades National Park. That is a drop in the bucket compared to the damage he has done to the environment.
The governor decimated growth management and eliminated the agency that enforced it. He fought the federal government over clean-water standards, neutered the water management districts by slashing their tax base and manipulated the regulatory process to put politics above science. His money for Florida’s springs is hardly meaningful. The deal he cut with the federal government on restoring the Everglades put the deadline off again. And to raise money to buy sensitive lands, the state’s solution is to sell land it already owns.
Scott is still looking at toll roads to nowhere across the middle of Florida. The state still has no cohesive energy policy. And the governor’s environmental agency is more focused on quickly approving the requests of developers than on protecting wetlands. A news conference on one worthy project cannot mask years of bad policy.
Scott inaccurately claims he is more than halfway toward meeting his pledge of creating 700,000 jobs, and he keeps cranking out the news releases. Last week: 100 jobs at Boeing in Miami; 105 new air cargo jobs in Orlando; 200 jobs at technology company Citrix in Fort Lauderdale. The week before that: 40 jobs at the moving and storage company PODS in Clearwater.
Many of the jobs Scott counts won’t be created for years, if ever, and the bigger picture is darker. The state’s unemployment rate has been stuck at 7.1 percent for three months, better than the national average of 7.4 percent. A report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics says the labor force expanded in the Tampa Bay area, Jacksonville and Orlando in the past year but in other areas — South Florida, the Panhandle, Bradenton, Sarasota and Lakeland — the labor force contracted. And the jobless rate in Pasco and Hernando counties is still 8 percent or higher.
Scott’s heavy-handed attempt to lure companies from other states is a public relations nightmare, and it isn’t working. While Florida now has roughly as many jobs as before the recession, people earn less and there are more part-time jobs. Jobs in the low-paying leisure and hospitality sectors are up. Better paying jobs in construction, manufacturing and professional/business services are still down.
The bottom line: The job situation is not nearly as rosy as Scott projects.
Health care
After Florida failed to persuade the courts to block health care reform, Scott called for the state to accept billions in federal dollars and expand Medicaid to 1 million uninsured residents. “I cannot, in good conscience, deny Floridians the needed access to health care,” he declared in February.
Then he stopped listening to his conscience. Scott sat by as House Speaker Will Weatherford blocked expansion, and he has dropped the issue. What the governor has done is reject millions in federal dollars to implement health care reform and left the creation of an insurance exchange to the federal government. He also foolishly signed into law a ban on state regulation of health insurance rates for two years.
New U.S. Census figures show nearly 1 in 4 Floridians lack health insurance, the second highest rate in the nation. Hospitals in Orlando, Vero Beach and elsewhere are laying off workers and reducing pay in part because the new Medicaid dollars aren’t coming.
Scott isn’t expanding access to health care. He is working against it. He is making it harder for hospitals to make ends meet, harder for the uninsured to get coverage and harder for businesses to comply with the federal law.
Scott promised an unprecedented effort toward government transparency: Regular releases on the Internet of nearly all emails received or written by the governor and his top staff. The goal was to eventually extend the service, known as Project Sunburst, to Scott’s 11 agencies as well.
Sunburst has been a bust. Efforts to meet a seven-day window in posting emails to the site routinely goes unmet and are incomplete. Agencies were never added to the project and Scott and his aides avoid creating public records when they can. Scott’s chief of staff isn’t shy about reminding subordinates that anything they send to him by email is a public record. Contrast that with the first e-governor, Jeb Bush, who was such a believer in efficient communication his state portrait includes his Blackberry in the background.
It’s not just Sunburst. The governor also helped kill one of the most promising efforts for open government. He refused to take ownership of a software project, Transparency 2.0, that would have allowed the public to easily track how state government allocates and spends taxpayer money. The project died from neglect.

Ex-chief Of DeSoto Jail Pleads Guilty


Published: Monday, October 28, 2013 at 5:34 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, October 28, 2013 at 5:34 p.m.
DESOTO COUNTY – Ray Kugler, the former sheriff’s captain in charge of the DeSoto County jail, has agreed to plead guilty to lying to FBI agents — a federal felony.

Ray Kugler
According to court documents, an FBI special agent and an agent with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement interviewed Kugler June 24 as part of the agencies’ investigation into allegations of abuse and civil rights violations in the jail made by Jody Holland, a former inmate.
Holland, 43, says DeSoto deputies beat him on three occasions, slamming his head into a concrete wall, punching him in the face and chest and choking him nearly unconscious.
Sheriff’s officials — including Kugler — initially denied that any staff member used force on Holland, but the Sheriff’s Office started an investigation after being contacted by the Herald-Tribune.
The FBI, FDLE and Sheriff’s Office internal affairs detectives started several investigations. Kugler retired while being investigated. Three other jail staffers were fired. One other was disciplined.
The plea
According to the federal plea agreement, the agents asked Kugler about a request to transport Holland to a local hospital — a request Holland and others say Kugler denied.
“The questions asked, and the responses provided by Mr. Kugler, were material to the investigation of whether DeSoto County jail staff, including Mr. Kugler, were willfully and deliberately indifferent to the serious medical needs of inmate J.H. (Holland),” the plea agreement states.
Kugler denied knowledge of the conversations during which he allegedly refused medical care — assertions that investigators claimed “were false.”
“In fact, Mr. Kugler was aware of the request to transport inmate (Holland) to (DeSoto Memorial Hospital) on May 25 2013 and willfully and deliberately denied such knowledge to S/A Roncinske and Agent Walsh,” the plea agreement states.
Kugler’s lawyer, Fort Myers defense attorney Joseph Viacava, said, “Because of his lack of criminal history, the controversy over the charge itself and his numerous years of public service, it is very unlikely he will serve any jail time, which of course is up to the court.”
“The charge is disputed, but the jury could conclude he did mislead, which is unintentional,” Viacava said. “They thought he was the boss in charge of all this, because he had the original dispute with the guy over some remarks, but they found out he had nothing to do with it.”
Viacava would not allow Kugler to be interviewed by the Herald-Tribune while the sentence is pending.

Moving forward
Holland said he expects more indictments in the case, which has been before a grand jury.
“I want the people who smashed my head — who tried to kill me,” he said. “I am glad it is moving forward.”
Holland said he is still suffering the effects of a mild concussion and from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of the beatings.
Deputies arrested Holland on April 21 for allegedly battering his girlfriend, Christine Routson, a nurse who worked at the jail until she resigned while under investigation.
Holland has denied the charges.
He spent the night in jail after that April arrest and was later released subject to a domestic violence injunction that ordered him to stay away from Routson.
She has alleged that Holland violated this court order on at least three occasions.
Holland was arrested May 25 on charges of violating the injunction and taken to the DeSoto jail, where he claims the more serious assaults began.

DeSoto jail

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Governor Rick Scott Is Still Hiding Money

Posted on September 23, 2013 by Guest Blogger
This year the Florida Legislature passed a new blind trust law. The ink had not dried on Gov. Rick Scott’s signature before he decided to test the new law. Scott wanted to make sure the money he had made documented on his questionable personal portfolio was in line with the new law, a law that he and his Republican cronies helped write.
Rick Scott made sure he “stacked the deck” beforehand. According to the Tampa Bay Times, five of (the Ethics Commission) nine members (were) appointed by the governor. “The governor has hit all the requirements of the statute,” said the panel’s general counsel Christopher Anderson, who added that Scott was “ahead of the game” in 2011 and complies with the new law.
Governor Rick Scott
Scott asked for the commission’s opinion to ensure the blind trust complies with a new law. “The governor has hit all the requirements of the statute,” said Anderson.
The voting public conveniently forgets what Scott did. The Sun Sentinel reports that Scott perpetrated fraud that “ was and still is the biggest Medicare fraud case in U.S. history and ended with the hospital giant Columbia/HCA paying a record $1.7 billion in fines, penalties and damages.” Scott was co-founder and CEO of Columbia/HCA in the 1990s, when the FBI launched a massive, multi-state investigation that led to the company pleading guilty to criminal charges of overbilling the government.
If fines and penalties of $1.7 Billion are any indication that big money was made then one must think there was a lot of it. Medicare insurance fraud is big money and Rick Scott made a bunch of it. The Tallahassee Democrat indicated that the amount of money that may have been made, “When Scott first sought office, he reported a net worth of $218 million, while the filing he turned in earlier this summer showed that his net worth was nearly $84 million as of the end of 2012.”
The fact that Scott refuses to take any money for being governor, 12-cents a year, allows him to do, basically, whatever he wants when filling out financial disclosure forms. It seems doubtful the state of Florida’s Republican Legislature really cares what he makes. The state is saving $130,00 in salary per year. reported that “Gov. Rick Scott was worth $83.77 million as he wrapped up his second year in office, according to a newly posted financial disclosure form. The blind trust, which accounts for $72.8 million, made $3.1 million in interest last year.”
Dan Krassner, executive director of Integrity Florida, questioned the independence of the blind trust since the company managing Scott’s account — Hollow Brook Wealth Management — included Scott’s portfolio manager for 10 years. An accountant at the company also worked for Scott for 12 years. Old cronies? It must depend on who’s asking.
The question here is not whether Scott is crooked but just how much of that crooked money did he keep? Think about it when standing in the voting booth next year.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

U.S. Sues Florida Over Disabled Children In Nursing Homes

MIAMI – The U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit against Florida on Monday, accusing the state of unnecessarily keeping about 200 disabled children in nursing homes and cutting services that would allow them to receive care at home. Once they do get to the facility, federal officials said many stay for years, some literally grow up in a nursing home.

Federal investigators say they visited six nursing homes around the state and identified roughly 200 children who didn’t need to be there and could benefit from being care for at home or in the community. But instead, the children languish in facilities, sharing common areas with elderly patients and having few interactions with others, rarely leaving the nursing homes or going outside. Investigators noted the children are not exposed to social, educational and recreational activities that are critical to child development. Educational opportunities are limited to as little as 45 minutes a day, according to the lawsuit.
Investigators also said Florida is violating the federal Americans with Disabilities Act and is infringing on the children’s civil rights by segregating and isolating them. The average length of stay is three years,
The federal government threatened a lawsuit in September if the state failed to make changes to the system,
Health Care Administration Secretary Liz Dudek
but Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Liz Dudek first denied the allegations, then repeatedly stated the problems had been fixed. In the past, Dudek stressed the agency does not limit medically necessary home health services and that parent ultimately decide where to put their children in a nursing home.

State health officials and Attorney General Pam Bondi did not immediately respond to requests for comment Monday.
Parents have said they have are desperately fighting to get services to keep their children at home.
“(The state) pressures parents to place parents in institutionalized settings and then give them no way to get out,” said attorney Matthew Dietz, who filed a lawsuit two years ago against the state that mirrors the federal lawsuit.
Pam Bondi
He said the state has not addressed the issue, despite official claims.
The waiting list for services at home or in the community has jumped from 14,629 in 2005 to more than 21,000 in 2012, with more than half waiting longer than five years. Currently, state policy does not give priority on the waiting list to children in nursing homes, federal officials said.
At the same time, the state turned down nearly $40 million in federal funds for a program that transitions people from nursing homes back into the community. The state has also been paying community-based providers less, reducing payments by 15 percent last year because of legislative budget cuts. Yet the state implemented policies that expanded nursing home care by offering facilities a $500 enhanced daily rate for caring for children, which is more than double than what the state pays for adults, according to federal investigators.
EARLIER: The U.S. Justice Department is suing Florida, saying the state is unnecessarily keeping hundreds of disabled children in nursing homes.
According to the lawsuit filed Monday, federal officials visited six nursing homes around the state and identified roughly 200 children who didn’t need to be there and could receive care at home.
Federal officials concluded the state has made it difficult for disabled children to get medical services that would allow them to move home. According to the lawsuit, Florida’s system has led to unnecessary segregation and isolation of children, often for years.
The federal government threatened a lawsuit in September if the state failed to make changes to the system.
State health officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Check back at for more on this developing story.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Stacy Ritter Settles Election Violations: More Than Half Are Dropped

Stacy Ritter

Florida’s elections police have agreed to drop more than half the charges against Broward County Commissioner Stacy Ritter, including all those that accused her of deliberately breaking state elections laws.

It is a major personal victory for Ritter, part of a settlement in a case stemming from her 2008 county commission election.
The settlement is recommended by the staff of the Florida Elections Commission.  It still must be formally approved by the Florida Elections Commission, which will consider it early next year.
As part of the settlement obtained first by, staff investigators will drop the claim there that Ritter was guilty of “falsely reporting or deliberately failing to include information” on her campaign financial reports.
Also dropped were allegations that Ritter failed to “report the purpose” of $5,348.66 in reimbursements to her husband, Russ Klenet, who managed her campaign. In addition, claims were dropped that Ritter took money after she was unopposed in June 2008 and failed to return some of those contributions.
Of the 28 original allegations which the elections commission staff originally found probable cause, 17 were dropped.
The 11 that remain are largely technical.  They include only the allegation that Ritter failed to report 11 contributions of $500 apiece.
She had agreed to pay an $8,300 fine for the 11 violations.
Ritter has admitted many times she failed to report the 11 contributions, blaming “accounting and data entry by staff during my 2008 campaign”.  The allegations that remain appear to back her version of what happened.
Ten of the contributions are from real estate companies owned by two Coral Springs developers and given on the same day, April 10, 2007, and no doubt processed at the same time.
She told me more than a year ago that a glitch somehow prevented the April 10 contributions and one on Oct. 9, 2007 from appearing on the list filed with the Supervisor of Elections. She said then:
“Although any bookkeeping errors were clearly unintentional, I take full responsibility.”
In her 2008 race, Ritter raised more than $190,000.  The allegations that remain involve $5,500 in contributions not reported.
The case has dragged on for more than a year after a complaint was filed by one of Ritter’s political enemies — a lobbyist for Dania Beach fighting the runway expansion at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. Ritter was a driving force behind the expansion project.
In September 2010 that the commission staff announced that it found probable cause to believe she violated state election laws 26 times. Negotiations have been going on since then between the staff and Ritter’s lawyer which resulted in last week’s settlement.