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9 posts from November 1, 2013

November 01, 2013

American Airlines CEO, Fla. Attorney General Pam Bondi meet and chat about AA-US Airways merger

There may be a lawsuit between them, but American Airlines CEO Tom Horton and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi still managed a meeting Friday that both described as "productive."
Florida, five other states and Washington, D.C. joined an antitrust suit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice in August seeking to block the merger of American and US Airways. Miami International Airport is a main hub for American, which is one of the largest private employers in Miami-Dade County.
When the suit was filed, Bondi called the proposed merger "anti-competitive and harmful to consumers."

Continue reading "American Airlines CEO, Fla. Attorney General Pam Bondi meet and chat about AA-US Airways merger" »

Charlie Crist makes it official: He's running for governor

The worst-kept secret in politics was confirmed Friday afternoon when the Republican Party of Florida spotted Crist’s official filing with the state Division of Elections.

Read story here


GOP file ethics complaint against Charlie Crist

A top Republican Party of Florida strategist filed a complaint Friday with the Florida Elections Commission alleging that Charlie Crist has violated state campaign law by accepting contributions before officially becoming a candidate.

In a seven-page complaint, Tim Saler attached screen shots of Crist’s campaign logo and website, charliecrist.com. They were dated Thursday, Oct. 31. Crist didn't file to run until Friday. Crist named Sanford Horwitz, a Coral Gables CPA as his campaign treasurer. 

“It would seem impossible that the candidate logo and website were created without Mr. Crist making an expenditure (or accepting a contribution) to do so,” Saler said in the complaint. “If someone other than Mr. Crist created the candidate logo and website, something of value has been created that should be treated as a contribution to Mr. Crist’s campaign for Governor.”

Saler said Crist was in violation of Florida Statute 106.021

Serious complaint or a political stunt? 

Read it for yourself: Download Cristcomplaint

Former FIU Prez Maidique nominated for university system chancellor but hasn't said if he will apply


The worst-kept secret in town -- that AT&T Florida President Marshall Criser III would be the leading candidate to be the next university system chancellor -- is indeed true. He and 18 others are in the running to lead the state's 12 public universities, though many of the folks who applied have seemingly thin resumes.

There were some surprises: former U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart wrote a letter nominating former Florida International University President Modesto “Mitch” Maidique for the job. Maidique has until Monday to decide if he will accept the nomination and formally apply.

He has the academic credentials that Criser lacks but is in his 70s and may not actually want the job. 

Maidique served at FIU for 23 years until his retirement in 2009. FIU grew from a commuter school to a major research university under his tenure, and he was given much of the credit.

James "Jim" Purcell, commissioner of the Louisiana Board of Regents, may also be a leading candidate. Put another way, he is the state university system chancellor in Louisiana, just with a different title and on a smaller scale. 

There were some who wondered if Florida Polytechnic University interim President Ava Parker would submit her name. She did not. Now folks will wonder if that means Parker is eyeing the permanent job at Florida A&M University.


Continue reading "Former FIU Prez Maidique nominated for university system chancellor but hasn't said if he will apply" »

Irv Slosberg asks for investigation of unemployment benefits website

Alarmed by reports that Florida’s new $63-million website isn’t working properly, Rep. Irv Slosberg is asking Florida House leaders to conduct an investigation.

“It has come to my attention that the recently implemented Department of Economic Opportunity unemployment benefits system, CONNECT, has delivered unacceptable and egregious results,” Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, said in a statement Friday. “The Legislature and Executive Branch must demand improvements be made to the CONNECT program in a swift, effective manner and should supervise the implementations.”

It’s the second plea for an investigation by a Democratic lawmaker this week. On Wednesday, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson asked the U.S. Department of Labor to investigate the new CONNECT website.

Slosberg directed his statements to Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, who chairs the House’s Government Operations Subcommittee. Slosberg said he’s “dismayed” that Boyd didn’t schedule a committee meeting on the topic of the DEO website next week, and asks that the committee hold a meeting on it in December and conduct a bipartisan investigation into the matter.

But Boyd said the DEO isn’t under his committee, and instead is under the House’s Transportation and Economic Development committee. On Tuesday, that committee will hear a report from DEO officials about the CONNECT website.


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Disgraced Miami attorney asks Florida Supreme Court to reinstate him as a lawyer


Not long ago, Henry "Hank" Adorno swaggered in Miami's legal and political circles.

Then his career crashed because of pure greed. Three years ago, the Florida Supreme Court suspended Adorno after he pocketed excessive legal fees in a multimillion-dollar case against the city of Miami.

This past week, the disgraced Adorno asked the high court to reinstate him as a lawyer in Florida. Among the legal heavyweights filing sworn statements with his petition: Former Supreme Court Justice Raoul Cantero (who had been a partner in Adorno's now-defunct law firm); Cesar L. Alvarez, CEO of the Greenberg Traurig law firm; and Dean Colson, partner with Colson Hicks Eidson.

In October 2010, the state Supreme Court upheld a lower-court ruling that cited "reprehensible" behavior by Adorno for collecting huge legal fees while excluding almost all Miami property owners from a $7 million class-action settlement against the city over illegally imposed fire fees.

The seven justices -- Cantero was no longer on the high court -- unanimously threw out an earlier, more lenient punishment, a public reprimand, recommended by a judge acting as a referee in the Florida Bar's malpractice case against Adorno.

The Bar recommended a six-month suspension for the two ethics violations found earlier in 2010 by the referee, Broward Circuit Judge Jack Tuter.

Adorno, once the chief assistant to then-State Attorney Janet Reno and former partner with attorney George Yoss, had run one of Miami's most recognizable law firms. The firm was politically connected, gaining a lot of government work and representing high-profile figures over the years. 

After the scandal, his firm, Adorno & Yoss, broke up and gave back $1.6 million in fees that Adorno had collected in the settlement -- but kept about $400,000.


UPDATED Suspended Homestead mayor arrested over campaign finance violations

By Lidia Dinkova

After Steve Bateman was reelected Homestead mayor in 2011, he threw himself a party.

Two years later, he is paying for it.

On Friday, the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office arrested Bateman, charging him with breaking state election law with some of his post-election expenditures.

The state attorney stayed tight-lipped about the charges, saying only that Bateman faces seven misdemeanor counts for allegedly spending campaign contributions illegally. The expenditures took place from Nov. 6 to Dec. 23 in 2011, according to the state attorney.

“Whoop-de-doo!” Bateman said to emphasize that he did nothing wrong. “I am allowed to spend campaign money to buy my campaign workers lunch. It’s all very innocent, and they are reaching out to poke at me.”

More here.

This post has been updated.

UPDATED Investigators raid North Miami mayor's business in absentee-ballot requests case

@PatriciaMazzei @NadegeGreen @LDixon_3

Investigators raided the private business office of North Miami Mayor Lucie Tondreau on Friday seeking evidence linking her to unlawful absentee-ballot requests that her political campaign may have submitted online earlier this year.

The search marked the third investigation in six months by the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office into bulk requests filed in violation of Florida law, which allows only voters or their family members to submit the forms online.

Tondreau, who was elected in June, denied any involvement in the fraudulent ballot requests.

“I don’t get involved in those types of things,” she said. “Let them search. We don’t have anything to hide.”

Prosecutors working with Miami-Dade and Miami Beach police and the county inspector general’s office executed a search warrant early Friday at the North Miami office of Tondreau and Associates, the mayor’s public-affairs consulting company. An Internet Protocol computer address that was used to submit the suspect requests was apparently traced to Tondreau’s office.

“This was a lead we received and needed to look into,” said Ed Griffith, a spokesman for State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle. The tip came into her absentee-ballot fraud task force, he added.

More here.
This post has been updated.

All in a (Broward) night: GOP takes up a gay marriage while (mostly) Dems hold LGBT town hall. Where does an R politician in a D district go?


Broward’s lone Republican County Commissioner Chip LaMarca spoke at the LGBT Town Hall in Wilton Manors Monday night -- missing fireworkers about gay marriage a few miles away at the Broward Republican Executive Committee meeting.

LaMarca said he didn’t know that BREC -- a group he chaired a few years ago -- planned to vote about whether to remove their secretary for her pro-gay marriage stance. (The group overwhelmingly backed Cara Pavalock -- hat tip Broward Politics.) Earlier this year, BREC voted in social conservative Tom Truex but that appeared to be for reasons unrelated to gay marriage.

We caught up with LaMarca to ask why he went to the town hall -- also attended by his Democratic opponent Ken Keechl, the county’s first openly gay mayor who LaMarca ousted in 2010.

“It was a community event in my district,” said LaMarca, who is running for re-election in a left-leaning eastern Broward district in 2014. “Though I don’t have Wilton Manors (in my district anymore) I have a significant gay population in Oakland Park and Fort Lauderdale. I wanted to stay up on the issues and hear from different people living there.”

During his short speech, LaMarca didn’t mention gay marriage (he told Naked Politics he supports civil unions and other protections but not gay marriage.) Instead, he told the group that he came to listen and made a nod to the importance of gay tourism and business in Broward.

“We want people to come here and spend their money on our destination. ... There is a climate we need to create for people to come here.”

Gay rights issues aren’t likely to win it or lose it for either candidate -- County Hall has long been pro-gay rights and that won’t change. Support in the gay community helped Keechl win in 2006, but so did his strategy to bash incumbent Republican County Commissioner Jim Scott for his involvement in a controversial development plan. (And the Democratic wave that year helped too.) Keechl lost four years later after he was criticized for rampant campaign spending (and a GOP wave helped the underfunded LaMarca).

This time LaMarca has the fundraising advantage: he has raised about $94,000 while Keechl raised $26,000. The key factor for both sides will be turnout -- Broward has had very low turnout in non-presidential elections in recent years.