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249 posts from July 2010

July 29, 2010

Cabinet rejects Sink's appeal for diversity and names veteran on parole board

Tena Pate Gov. Charlie Crist and the Cabinet rejected an appeal by CFO Alex Sink Thursday to increase the diversity of the Florida's Parole Commission and reappointed Tena Pate (left) to the three-person commission, also making her chairman of the board and agency for the next two years.

Sink urged the group to instead appoint Cassandra Jenkins, a law enforcement officer, juvenile justice consultant and criminal justice instructor at Florida State University, because "there has been no diversity on our parole board for more than eight years."

She said "we know we have many, many African American victims of crime, a large percentage of people coming before the parole board that are African Americans and yet, for eight years, we do not have a parole board that reflects the diversity of our population."

Pate, who was originally appointed to the commission by former Gov. Jeb Bush in 2003, "has been serving very, very capably,'' Sink said, and urged the future governor and Cabinet to appoint her when another opening emerges in January.

Later, Sink sent her colleagues a letter urging them to replace the retiring chairman of the commission before January, when a new administration and Cabinet take office. Download Governor and Cabinet 7-29-10

Continue reading "Cabinet rejects Sink's appeal for diversity and names veteran on parole board" »

Crist promotes Liem to permanent DBPR secretary

Another interim secretary in the Crist administration got a promotion today as Gov. Charlie Crist named Charlie Liem the Secretary of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation. He has been the agency's interim secretary since November 2009 and had previously been the agency's chief of staff. Liem, 62, has worked in state government for 25 years in the executive branch and legislature.

“His proven leadership has benefited businesses throughout our state, and I am confident his expertise will continue to help our businesses and economy thrive,” Crist said.

Klein consultant to discuss poll with PACS

Democratic Congressman Ron Klein, in a feisty battle with Republican challenger Allen West, has not yet released any internal poll results. A Klein poll briefing that made its way to our inbox today states that his consultant, 4CPartners, planned to hold a conference call at 2:30 p.m. today with PACS, Klein and Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

The notice states that the event is a "political update and poll briefing with Congressman Klein's pollster with the PAC community on the state of the race in FL-22."

The notice was accompanied by a one-page Klein campaign document outlining why the race is competitive including that CQ Politics had moved it from the "safe Democratic" to "likely Democratic" category. The document also cites the big bucks raised on both sides: West has raised $3.5 million and has $2.1 million cash on hand while Klein has $2.9 million cash on hand. The document omits that Klein is ahead due to carrying over cash from a previous race.

We asked campaign spokeswoman Sarah Rothschild if the poll results would be released to the media. She wrote:

"Congressman Klein hosted a briefing today to provide an update on the state of his race and public polling on the political environment. His campaign has not conducted any new or recent polling."

Judge tosses Amendment 9 from ballot

A judge removed from the November ballot Thursday a proposed constitutional amendment that would have blocked the state from implementing a health care plan similar to President Barack Obama's federal plan, saying the ballot summary was "manifestly misleading."

“Someone voting on the amendment reading those introductory statements would have a false understanding of what they were voting on,” said circuit judge James Shelfer in a ruling from the bench.

It’s the third legislative proposal that has been declared misleading by judges and knocked off the November ballot. Other proposals dealt with the Leigslature’s power to draw new political boundaries and give property tax breaks to people with second homes and businesses.

The first sentence of the summary says the amendment would “ensure access to health care services without waiting lists, protect the doctor-patient relationship, (and) guard against mandates that don’t work.”

Shelfer ruled those phrases are not addressed in the proposal’s text and that the amendment does not guarantee any of those things.

Meggs on the stand: 'I will take the punishment'

By turns combative and contrite, veteran Florida prosecutor Willie Meggs told a judge today that he accepts full responsibility for the release of grand jury testimony of ex-House Speaker Ray Sansom and former college president Bob Richburg.

State law limits release of grand jury testimony in a criminal case to only the parties involved, but three newspapers got it, too. Defense lawyers want Meggs thrown off the Sansom case because of prosecutorial misconduct in that instance and others.

Meggs testified that he had 16,000 pages of court documents copied to a disk at a private printing center at the request of defense lawyers, and he inadvertently included the transcripts of Sansom's and Richburg's testimony before they were given to the newspapers on June 20, 2009. He said he immediately contacted St. Petersburg Times reporter Alex Leary and ordered the testimony taken off the paper's website.

"I called Alex Leary," Meggs testified. "I said, 'Take it down,' and he took it down immediately."

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So Fla condo war rages between Meek, Greene -- and Crist

Gov. Charlie Crist hasn't done an actual event for his U.S. Senate campaign in weeks, though critics would say the lines between his campaign and public office are indistinguishable. Anyway, guess where he's going as a Republican-turned-independent U.S. Senate candidate on Monday? The Jewish Center at Century Village in Pembroke Pines -- holy ground for the Democratic party.

The influence of the Democratic-heavy retirement condos of South Florida has been on the wane in recent years but could matter in a low-turnout, mid-term election. And the longtime Democratic frontrunner, U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek of Miami, could be in trouble on Aug. 24.

Palm cards -- the endorsements handed out by influential condo leaders -- are starting to trickle out. At the top of the card approved by Marvin Manning, president of the Democratic club at Century Village in Boca Raton is Meek's chief rival, Jeff Greene. Greene only became a Democrat in 2008, but has been sending mailers to the heavily Jewish retirement communities that note his experience living in Israel and teaching Hebrew school.

"The function of the primary is to select a team, and in looking at the polling, Meek is always at the bottom of the list,'' Manning said. "Greene came from nowhere and is in contention. We feel he makes a stronger candidate for the ticket."

Also supporting Greene, a billionaire who is bankrolling his own campaign, is one of the most powerful Democratic leaders in Broward County, Diane Glasser.

"I personally do not think that Kendrick Meek can ultimately win this race,'' she said. "If Jeff does, he helps the ticket...Jeff has unlimited resources and is doing what needs to be done."

But in a coup for Meek, he will lead the palm card at Century Village in West Palm Beach -- where Greene's mother lives.

"The fact that his mother is there is wonderful, but our board came together and decided Kendrick was the best choice,'' said the club president, Sam Oser. "He's been a Democrat. He's a congressman...Jeff of course is new on the block and we're hoping people like him will be active in the future."

In Sansom case, prosecutor Meggs goes on trial

Former House Speaker Ray Sansom and his two co-defendants were back in court today, but the focus of the hearing is Willie Meggs, the outspoken state attorney who's prosecuting the case. Meggs has been the elected state attorney for the Second Judicial Circuit for 25 years.

Lawyers for all three defendants want Circuit Judge Terry Lewis to dismiss grand theft charges and have Meggs removed from the case because of prosecutorial misconduct, including illegally releasing witnesses' grand jury testimony to reporters and improper questioning of witnesses before grand jurors.

"This is really hard for us, professionally," said Jimmy Judkins, the attorney for Destin developer Jay Odom. "We've had personal relations with Mr. Meggs for 30 years, some of us."

Meggs declined to make an opening statement, and Hank Coxe, the attorney for former Northwest College State College President Bob Richburg, called Meggs as a witness. Sansom's lawyer, Steve Dobson, said the hearing could last for as much as six hours.

Sansom, Odom and Richburg face a felony charge of illegally using tax money from the Legislature to build a college building that Meggs says was to have been used as a hangar for Odom's executive jet business. All three men have denied wrongdoing.

-- Steve Bousquet, Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau

Down in polls, McCollum declares 'We are going to win this election'

Attorney General Bill McCollum suggested "polls vary a lot" and he is not worried about the latest Quinnipiac survey showing him down 11 points in the Republican governor's race to rival Rick Scott.

"The fact of the matter is we know we are down a little bit to Mr. Scott," McCollum said before Thursday's state Cabinet meeting. "We are going to close strong and we have the resources to do it and we are going to win this election."

McCollum pointed to the poll by the Florida Medical Association -- one of his chief supporters -- that showed him down four points. "We have a long way to go and there are a lot of undecideds in that polls itself," he added.

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Q Poll: Rick Scott and Jeff Greene lead by double digits

Whether its the Democratic or Republican primary, outsider millionaires are leading the pack in the Florida governor and Senate races, according to Quinnipiac University's latest poll of likely Florida voters.

In the governor's primary, Republican Rick Scott leads Attorney General Bill McCollum by 11 percentage points -- 43-32, the poll says.

In the Senate primary, Democrat Jeff Greene leads Rep. Kendrick Meek by 10 points -- 33-22. Greene has gained the most ground since the last Q poll on June 10. Then, Greene trailed Meek by 2 percentage points (27-29).

Like Scott, Greene then poured his millions into advertising and watched his poll numbers rise. Neither Greene nor Scott have held elected office before. McCollum has held or run for office for the past 30 years. Meek has been in Congress and the Legislature for more than a decade.

“If there was any doubt that enough money can make a political unknown into a front-runner, the Democratic Senate primary and the Republican primary for governor should lay them to rest,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

“Both Greene and Scott have come from nowhere to hold double-digit leads with just a little more than three weeks until the voting.” 

The poll only concerns the Aug. 24 primary. So there's no numbers concerning independent Gov. Charlie Crist and Republican Marco Rubio in the overall Senate race. Nor does the poll include questions about Democrat Alex Sink or independent Bud Chiles in the overall governor's race.

July 28, 2010

More stores close under Greene bankruptcy

The latest on the gas station chain bought less than one year ago by Democratic Senate candidate Jeff Greene from The Johnson City Press:

A landlord that has closed 12 APPCO convenience stores got U.S. Bankruptcy Court permission to close another nine last week, but APPCO’s owner beat it to the punch by closing two of the stores. APPCO owner Sunshine Energy, embroiled in a battle with former APPCO owner Jim MacLean over the 28 store properties he still owns, last week closed APPCO No. 11, at Broadway and East Main streets, and APPCO No. 40 in Elizabethton. Sunshine Energy filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy June 10, days after MacLean’s Management Properties Inc. began repossessing some of the properties it owns. By June 10, 12 of the company’s 47 stores were closed, and have been since. The latest closures came shortly after Bankruptcy Judge Marcia Parsons ruled last week that MacLean could repossess nine more stores (including a half-dozen in the Johnson City area) that had been protected by Sunshine’s bankruptcy filing. That decision followed on Parsons’ June 24 refusal to let Sunshine reopen the 12 stores MPI had closed between June 2 and June 9, and applied to stores that state courts had ruled before June 10 could be repossessed. For its part, MPI has filed a motion to have the entire bankruptcy case as a “bad faith filing,” contending Sunshine only filed to prevent repossession of the stores...The additional stores slated for closure include the Broadway and Elizabethton stores, stores on South Greenwood Drive and East Unaka Avenue in Johnson City, two stores in Gray, and one each in Boones Creek, Roan Mountain and Mountain City. Sunshine shuttered APPCO 11 around Wednesday of last week and removed the pumps the next day, the owner of the store located next door said.