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3 posts from October 27, 2013

October 27, 2013

Absentee-ballot case now turns to two other ex-aides to Joe Garcia


Miami Congressman Joe Garcia’s former chief of staff began serving a 90-day jail sentence last week, becoming the first person convicted for submitting hundreds of phony absentee-ballot requests online during last year’s elections.

But despite Jeffrey Garcia’s sentence, the investigation into the scheme isn’t over.

Still pending is what prosecutors from Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle’s office will do about the campaign underlings who recruited their relatives to fill out the ballot request forms without voters’ permission.

Attorneys for campaign manager John Estes and volunteer Giancarlo Sopo — who later became the congressman’s communications director — argue their clients were victims lied to and manipulated by Jeffrey Garcia, who they say was pulling the campaign strings even though he held no official title other than “consultant.”

Both young men had asked Garcia up front if it was OK to file the online requests, the lawyers said. Each form required checking off a box affirming that the person making the request was the voter or an immediate family member.

“Jeffrey Garcia told my client that he had vetted this with an attorney, and that it was all fine,” said Gus Lage, Sopo’s attorney.

More here.

Troubled past casts cloud over Dade Medical College's chief executive


On the surface at least, Ernesto Perez seemed to be a most remarkable South Florida success story.

Perez grew up in Little Havana from a Cuban-American family of modest means. He dropped out of Coral Gables Senior High in the 10th grade, eager to chase a career as a heavy metal musician.

Though he never achieved rock ’n’ roll fame, Perez struck gold as an educational entrepreneur. He founded Dade Medical College in 1999, and in the lucrative world of for-profit colleges, Perez’s own lack of education wasn’t an obstacle. The college grew quickly to include multiple campuses, and the now-wealthy Perez became politically active and influential.

But Perez, 45, resigned as president/CEO last Tuesday, hoping to distance the school from a slew of recent problems. He faces criminal charges, lingering ethical questions about his political activities, and a backlash from angry students who describe his school as a rip-off. He remains the company’s majority owner.

Among the issues dogging Perez and his college:

•  Early this year, two of Dade Medical’s nursing programs — Miami and Hollywood —were placed on state probation because graduating students have such a poor record of passing their required licensing exam.

•  In August, Homestead Mayor Steve Bateman was arrested on corruption charges. The charges did not involve Perez, but the arrest highlighted Perez’s unusually close ties to Bateman. Perez hired the mayor’s wife as his real estate broker, and he did so at the same time that he was trying to push through a controversial land deal with the city. The transaction, which is still pending, would sell a cluster of downtown Homestead properties to Dade Medical at a huge discount — Perez would pay less than 40 cents on the dollar. The Miami-Dade state attorney’s office is scrutinizing Perez’s ties to the now-former mayor.

More here.

Wasserman Schultz: Obamacare's working, Rubio's delay plan is "baloney"


ImageIt’s tough to find an Obamacare success story.

But one of them– Plantation resident Carolyn Newman – found her local congresswoman, Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who's touting her case to pushback against Republican criticisms that the Affordable Care Act is a failure because of the problems plaguing its website.

“Obamacare is working,” Wasserman Schultz told reporters Saturday. “It’s working, and when we get the website kinks ironed out, we’re going to make that everybody has access to quality affordable care.”

A 50-year-old cancer survivor, Newman got a letter from insurer Florida Blue that informed her Sept. 26 that it was she cancelling her high-risk plan.

But then came the good news, she said: The plan they were offering had more benefits and a significantly lower monthly premium cost, $640.82 – 49 percent less than she pays now.

“I think I’m going to frame that letter,” Newman told The Herald in a recent interview.

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