Thursday, October 29, 2009

Orlando Sentinel: Who's taking on Grayson? Anyone? Hello?,0,2819143.column
Who's taking on Grayson? Anyone? Hello?

Mike Thomas


October 13, 2009

"This is an unstable man who has come unhinged."

National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Andy Sere on U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson.

The path to a long political career in Central Florida is win that first election, stay out of trouble and win the rest by default.

And now comes U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, who dynamited that model, calling Republicans knuckle-dragging obstructionists who want the sick to "die quickly."

If this fits the definition of unstable and unhinged, it certainly seems to have served a very lucid purpose.

The Republicans are cowering in knock-kneed terror.

Potential challengers are dropping out with comical regularity.

The last credible challenger standing is former state Sen. Dan Webster, who is so conflicted he can't say yes and he can't say no.

So he ponders away while the Republicans cross their fingers for a savior.

"I don't have to be in elective office," Webster says. "I am happy coasting right now. It's great."

You don't enter a race against someone like Alan Grayson with this mindset. You go into this race needing to be in Congress more than you need to breathe.

Despite all this, Orange County GOP Chairman Lew Oliver says this about Grayson, "I guarantee he's going to lose."

Oliver is an unstable man who has come unhinged.

"We'll have at least three or four candidates running," he says. "A couple will be credible or substantial people. A couple others will fall into the noncrackpot category."

If you're not a crackpot and always wanted to see Washington, call Lew immediately.

The Republicans look like a bunch of Chihuahuas yapping at the Rottweiler behind the fence. But this Rottweiler not only is snarling and frothing at the mouth, it also went to Harvard.

It is a crazy and smart Rottweiler.

So there is lots of yapping, but nobody is about to open the gate and take him on.

Consider state Rep. Steve Precourt.

Last week he boldly announced that Grayson was an "egomaniacal, socialist, loose cannon."

Then he announced someone else would have to do something about it because he wasn't running.

Yap. Yap. Yap.

Orange Mayor Rich Crotty once was considered the Republicans' best hope. In June, Grayson released a seven-page letter explaining in detail how he would gut Crotty over Crotty's leadership of the expressway authority.

In early July, Crotty said he had made a decision and would announce it shortly.

Days turned to weeks, weeks turned to months — until finally, the mayor gave us his verdict.

He could beat Grayson "handily." But he wasn't going to run.

Pretty slick. He declared victory and bowed out of the race.

The Republicans also tried and failed to recruit Florida House Speaker Larry Cretul of Ocala.

At one point, CNL Financial Group President Tim Seneff seemed like a perfect choice. He had no political record to attack, and he had deep pockets to offset what is expected to be a lackluster fundraising cycle.

Seneff didn't dawdle like the politicians. A couple days after his name surfaced, he opted out.

This leaves Dan Webster.

He was supposed to make an announcement last week. Then he was supposed to make one Monday. I called him, and he still hadn't decided.

He is doing his best Rich Crotty impersonation.

Webster sounds very much like someone pondering whether to jump off the roof.

The Republicans are yelling: Jump! Jump!

And his family is yelling: Don't! Don't!

His family loves him, and the Republicans are using him.

"That's the way it is in politics," Webster says. "People need you when they need you."

In 10 minutes, I didn't hear a single positive thing from him about entering the race.

I think he is happy here in Central Florida, near his six kids, near his five grandkids, running his air-conditioning business, going to his church.

The alternative is that he could open the gate and go in the backyard with the crazy, frothing Harvard Rottweiler and get the worst mauling of his political life. If he wins, the prize will be going to a faraway city he doesn't like, starting life in his 60s as a freshman congressman in the minority party.

If Webster opts out, Oliver says, there will be plenty of people ready to take his place.

"His [Grayson's] solid support is below 30 percent," says Oliver.

"He loses to a generic Republican in several polls I have seen."

All he has to do is get one of those generic Republicans to run.

Mike Thomas can be reached at 407-420-5525 or

Copyright © 2009, Orlando Sentinel

USDOJ Press Release: Former County Commissioner Indicted

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For Immediate Release
October 29, 2009 United States Attorney's Office
Southern District of Ohio
Contact: (937) 225-2910

Former Butler County Commissioner, Dublin Attorney Each Charged with Conspiracy and Tax Crimes

CINCINNATI—A federal grand jury here has indicted former Butler County Commissioner Michael A. Fox and Dublin, Ohio attorney Robert C. Schuler, alleging that they conspired to improperly benefit from Butler County contracts involving a company doing business with the county, and that the men failed to report income from the deals on their federal income tax returns. Fox is also charged with mail fraud involving honest services for failing to disclose conflicts of interest in Ohio ethics disclosure statements he mailed annually from 2004 through 2007. Schuler is charged with perjury for allegedly false testimony he gave to a federal grand jury on October 1, 2008.

Carter M. Stewart, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, Keith L. Bennett, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Cincinnati Division (FBI) and Jose A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS) announced the indictment today.

The eight-count indictment charges each defendant with one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, and one count of filing a false income tax return. The indictment charges Fox with four counts of mail fraud involving honest services. The indictment also seeks forfeiture of any property which is derived from proceeds traceable to the offenses alleged in the indictment, including but not limited to a sum of money equal to $460,000.

The indictment alleges that Fox, 60, of Hamilton, solicited and accepted money from individuals and businesses which were Butler County contractors from 2001 – 2005 when he was a member of the Butler County Board of Commissioners.

Many of the charges stem from a contract between Butler County and NORMAP Telecommunication LLC, in 2001 to install a county-wide fiber optics communications system. Schuler bought NORMAP after the company received the contract. Schuler received approximately $1,824,281 from Butler County. The grand jury charges that Schuler and Fox arranged for $360,000 to be transferred to a bank to pay off a line of credit in Fox’s name in March 2002 and an additional $100,000 was later transferred to a consulting company Fox owned in September 2002.

The indictment alleges that Fox also received payment from other individuals and businesses doing business with the county.

The indictment alleges that Fox committed mail fraud when he mailed his Ohio Ethics Commission Financial Disclosure Statements omitting the payments he received and failing to disclose conflicts of interest in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007. The indictment charges that Fox filed a false income tax return for 2002 when he failed to disclose and pay income taxes on the payment. The indictment charges Schuler with filing a false income tax return for 2002 by failing to report business income he received. Schuler, 46, of Dublin, is charged with making false statements in October 2008 to a grand jury investigating the circumstances surrounding the $360,000 transfer to Fox.

Each count of mail fraud involving honest services and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud is punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment. Filing a false income tax return is punishable by up to three years imprisonment, plus taxes, penalties and interest. Perjury is punishable by up to five years imprisonment.

Each man is scheduled to have an initial appearance before a U.S. Magistrate Judge today.

An indictment is merely an accusation. All defendants should be presumed innocent until and unless convicted in a court of law.

USDOJ Press Release: Bill Allen and Richard Smith, Former Officers of VECO Corporation, Sentenced for Roles in Alaska Public Corruption Scheme

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For Immediate Release
October 28, 2009 United States Attorney's Office
District of Alaska
Contact: (907) 271-5071

Bill Allen and Richard Smith, Former Officers of VECO Corporation, Sentenced for Roles in Alaska Public Corruption Scheme

WASHINGTON—Bill J. Allen and Richard L. Smith were each sentenced in separate hearings today for their participation in a corruption scheme in which they provided approximately $395,000 in corrupt payments to public officials from the state of Alaska, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division. Allen and Smith were sentenced in U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska by U.S. District Court Judge John W. Sedwick.

Allen, 72, the former chief executive officer of VECO Corporation, was sentenced to 36 months in prison, a $750,000 fine and three years of supervised release. Smith, 64, the former vice president of community and government affairs for VECO Corporation, was sentenced to 21 months in prison, a $10,000 fine and three years of supervised release.

Both defendants pleaded guilty on May 7, 2007, to three-count informations charging each with bribery; conspiracy to commit bribery, extortion under color of official right, and honest services mail and wire fraud; and conspiracy to defraud the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) of the U.S. Department of the Treasury. According to court documents, Allen and Smith conspired with at least five members of the Alaska legislature to provide illegal financial benefits to several Alaska elected officials in exchange for those officials’ support on legislation pending before the Alaska state legislature. Allen and Smith also pleaded guilty to one substantive count of bribery, and admitted that they provided approximately $395,000 in benefits to public officials from the state of Alaska in connection with the scheme.

The Allen sentencing was handled by Deputy Chief James M. Trusty of the Criminal Division’s Gang Unit, Trial Attorney Kevin R. Gingras of the Criminal Division’s Appellate Section and Trial Attorney Peter M. Koski of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section. The Smith sentencing was handled by Trial Attorney M. Kendall Day and Deputy Chief Raymond Hulser of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section. The case is being investigated by the FBI and IRS Criminal Investigation

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Huffington Post: Senator Reid Gets No Republican Support for Resolution Honoring Hispanic Media

For the past week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's office has been looking for a Republican co-sponsor for an utterly non-controversial resolution honoring the legacy and role of Hispanic media.

None came, his office confirms. On Tuesday, Reid introduced and passed a resolution designating October 25 through October 31, 2009, the "National Hispanic Media Week" in honor of the Latino Media of America. The Nevada Democrat was joined by Sens. Robert Menendez (New Jersey), Mark Udall (Colorado) and Kirsten Gillibrand (New York) -- all of whom are Democrats.

The resolution was your typical no-thrills, superficial fare that often takes up Senate business. Just last month, for instance, North Carolina's Republican and Democratic senators (Richard Burr and Kay Hagan, respectively) introduced a resolution congratulating "the High Point Furniture Market on the occasion of its 100th Anniversary as a leader in home furnishing" (a thrilling legislative breakthrough).

In the case of the current resolution, however, there are obvious political sensibilities at stake. The Hispanic community, which has felt demonized by harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric from congressional Republicans and conservative media personalities, has gravitated further and further from the GOP tent. By declining Reid's efforts to sign on to a rather milquetoast resolution, the party may only exacerbate the alienation.

When a similar resolution honoring Hispanic media was introduced and passed in 2005, former Sens. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) and Mel Martinez (R-FL) attached their names to the list of co-sponsors. And that was two election cycles before it became abundantly clear that the Republican Party was losing serious ground among Hispanic voters.

Read more at:

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Cliches by the Carload, Some Fifteen (15) Grammatical Errors in One Little 'Ole Paragraph, RANDY BRUNSON Announces to Run for County Commission

From the local hate website,

I personly (sic) believe That (sic) elected officals (sic) sould (sic) not endorse candidates. Although (sic) I will have to say I have been endorsed by elected officals (sic). If it happens this time it will no (sic) be reported by me. But someone that (sic) makes statements like (sic). I like all the candidaes (sic), or I (sic) going to say (sic) out of it, or it might be bad for my business
eventhough (sic) if I could I would support xyc, or many other statements. If you don't want to help and support your candidates then don't. But just vote. I hink (sic) that as a candidate we would like to know how you feel

I officially filed Friday Oct. 23 ed at 4:15 PM for dist.2 county commission.

Who I am
Some of my accomplishments

Will be on My Web Site the first of Nov.
Press release this comming (sic) Wed.
Election in Aug. 2010

This is one of my invitions (sic), if you want to have fun and want to make a difference
please join our team.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Another Abramoff-connected Republican Bush Operative Sentenced to Federal Prison for Abusing the Public Trust

See below.

USDOJ Press Release: Former GSA Chief of Staff David Safavian Sentenced for Obstruction of Justice and Making False Statements

Department of Justice Press Release
For Immediate Release
October 16, 2009 United States Attorney's Office
District of Columbia
Contact: (202) 514-7566

Former GSA Chief of Staff David Safavian Sentenced for Obstruction of Justice and Making False Statements

WASHINGTON—Former General Services Administration (GSA) Chief of Staff David H. Safavian was sentenced today to one year in prison on charges of obstruction of justice and making false statements in connection with the investigation into the activities of former Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, the Department of Justice announced.

In addition to the prison term, Safavian was sentenced today to two years of supervised release by U.S. District Court Judge Paul L. Friedman of the District of Columbia.

Safavian was found guilty by a federal jury in June 2006 of obstruction of justice and making false statements, but the verdicts were later vacated by the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and remanded for a new trial. A federal jury once again convicted Safavian of one count of obstruction of justice and three counts of making false statements on Dec. 19, 2008.

The jury in the second trial heard evidence that while Safavian assisted Abramoff in connection with the lobbyist’s attempts to acquire GSA-controlled properties, Abramoff took him on a luxury golf trip to Scotland and to London. The jury found that over the span of three years, Safavian made false statements in an attempt to conceal the fact that around the time of the golf trip he aided Abramoff with business before the GSA. The false statements included statements made to a GSA ethics officer and a GSA Office of Inspector General (GSA-OIG) Special Agent as well as falsely certifying a financial disclosure form.

The jury heard evidence at trial that Safavian’s efforts to cover up the assistance he provided Abramoff continued after he left the GSA in November 2004 to become the Administrator for the Office of Federal Procurement Policy at the Office of Management and Budget. The jury found that in May 2005, Safavian made false statements to an FBI Special Agent investigating Abramoff’s lobbying activities. According to evidence introduced at trial, Safavian told the FBI agent that he was unable to assist Abramoff with GSA-related activities around the time of the golf trip because he was a new employee at GSA.

Abramoff pleaded guilty in January 2006 to charges of conspiracy, honest services mail fraud and tax evasion and was sentenced in September 2008 to four years in prison in addition to the 22 months he served prior to the sentencing date. To date, 20 individuals, including lobbyists and public officials, have pleaded guilty, been convicted at trial, or are awaiting trial in connection with the ongoing investigation into the activities of Abramoff and his associates.

The case was prosecuted by Senior Litigation Counsel Nathaniel B. Edmonds and Trial Attorney Albert Stieglitz Jr. of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Trial Attorney Justin V. Shur of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section. The investigation of this case was led by the FBI with assistance from the GSA-OIG. The ongoing investigation of the Abramoff matter is being led by the FBI.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Have You Heard? Can You Name the First Government Agency on the First Coast to Ban Discrimination Against Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Employees?

Answer: The Anastasia Mosquito Control District of St. Johns County (AMCD), by unanimous vote at their October 15, 2009 meeting, voted to ban discrimination on the basis of "sexual orientation." The vote was 5-0.

Kudos to AMCD Chair Janice Bequette and Commissioners John Sundeman, Jeanne Moeller, Vivian Browning and Ronnie Radford for supporting the policy change. I salute them.

I am proud of our AMCD for supporting equality and I call upon every other governnental and private employer in St. Johns County to follow their example.

I was proud to help pass a resolution in the American Bar Association House of Delegates in Denver in February 1989 calling for such changes. My mentor, the Honorable Nahum Litt, who was then Chief Judge of the U.S. Department of Labor, was a member of the ABA House of Delegates and he helped lobby fellow judges and delegates to support the resolution, which twice before had been defeated. Numerous states and cities now ban such discrimination. Our Commander in Chief, President Barack Obama has called for ending anti-gay discrimination in the military.

Perspicacity and perseverance always work -- so does optimism.

It is reported by "Out in America" that "since 1990, seven counties and ten cities in Florida have amended their fair employment and housing laws to cover sexual orientation, and/or gender identity or expression. Such laws are in effect in Broward, Leon, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Orange, Palm Beach and Pinellas counties, as well as in the cities of Gulfport, Gainesville, Key West, Lake Worth, Miami Beach, Orlando, Sarasota, St. Petersburg, Tampa and West Palm Beach."

Thus, AMCD is the first governmental agency in the First Coast to respect Gay rights. It will not be the last.

As playwright Tony Kushner wrote in Angels in America, "only in politics does the miraculous occur.”

Thursday, October 15, 2009


House OKs airline safety bill
By Jerry Zremski
Updated: October 14, 2009, 3:48 PM /

WASHINGTON � The House today approved a sweeping airline safety bill that aims to correct the problems brought to light by the Feb. 12 crash of Continental Connection Flight 3407 in Clarence, which claimed 50 lives.

By a vote of 409 to 11, lawmakers approved legislation that � if eventually agreed to by the Senate � would dramatically boost the amount of flight time a pilot needs to get hired by a commercial airline. The bill also would make it far easier for airlines to see pilots' flight records before they are hired.

In addition, the bill imposes stringent training requirements to make sure pilots know how to operate stall recovery systems and forces airlines to develop fatigue risk management systems for pilots.

"This bill, when enacted into law, will be the most significant increase in raising the standards of pilot qualifications since 1958," when the Federal Aviation Administration was established, said Rep. James L. Oberstar, D-Minn., who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

The easy passage of the bill strengthens the hand of the families of Flight 3407, who have been fighting for such tough safety measures to be included in a Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill later this year.

Most importantly, the House bill boosts the number of flight hours required for newly hired commercial pilots from 250 hours to 1,500 hours. That increase stems from revelations that the pilot of Flight 3407 reacted inappropriately to the plane's stall warning and that the co-pilot had never flown in icing conditions.

"Being a commercial airline pilot is not an entry-level position," said Rep. Chris Lee, R-Clarence.

At this point, the increase in required flight hours for pilots is not included in an FAA reauthorization bill that's expected to be up for a Senate floor vote later this year, although that bill includes other safety measures.

A House-Senate conference committee is expected to merge that Senate measure with an FAA bill the House approved earlier this year and the new House aviation safety legislation.

The Buffalo area's three House members all pushed for the aviation safety measure.

"The tragedy of Flight 3407 awakened Western New Yorkers to the lack of training and standards in the regional airline industry," said Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport. "Today I'm proud that the House is moving forward with legislation that I believe includes a strong new set of guidelines for improving passenger and crew safety."

The bill requires pilots to have an Airline Transport Pilot license -- and the 1,500 flight hours it requires -- before being hired at a commercial airline.

However, the bill is not quite as strong as it was when it emerged from the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee at the end of July.

Complaints from university aviation programs led committee leaders to add a new section of the bill that would allow the FAA to include university class time in that 1,500-hour flight time requirement if the class time is deemed to provide superior training than actual flying would.

"We are disappointed with the potential loophole in regards to pilot qualifications," said Kevin Kuwik, one of the leading family advocates.
"But, on the whole, the bill contains many positive measures and we will continue to fight for the Airline Transport Pilot license requirement."

Lawmakers stressed, though, that the families had already done much to improve air safety.

"Out of tragedy comes promise for safer air travel for all passengers moving forward," said Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo. "This bittersweet legislative victory demonstrates the good that can come when a community and government join together to create positive change."

Miami Herald: Crist calls for grand jury on public corruption

Crist calls for grand jury on public corruption

Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau
Responding to a ``rash of crimes'' by public officials, Gov. Charlie Crist announced Wednesday that he wanted to empanel a statewide grand jury to root out corruption.

But while Crist talked tough about the need for reform at a press conference, he refused to discuss his close ties to indicted political player Alan Mendelsohn, a Broward eye doctor who had once falsely claimed he could bribe Crist.

Mendelsohn, who has pleaded not guilty to federal fraud charges, funded attack ads against at least one Crist gubernatorial opponent in 2006, held fundraisers for the then-attorney general and later persuaded Crist to write a personal letter to the University of Florida to admit Mendelsohn's son to medical school.

Crist made Mendelsohn a member of his gubernatorial transition team in 2007.

``What I can air out for you is the concern this administration has for a number of cases. It doesn't center around one case at all,'' Crist said when asked about Mendelsohn.

``Since I have been governor, unfortunately, I have had to remove over 30 people from public office,'' Crist said. ``That's almost one a month. And it's obvious to me that something's wrong with the system.''

The big problem: Money, said Ben Wilcox, executive director of Common Cause Florida, a good-government advocacy group.

``To run for office, you have to raise so much money, too much money,'' Wilcox said, ``and the ones who want to give it are special interests whose bottom line is to influence public policy.''

Wilcox said that, with such big money at stake, it's inevitable that questionable activity surfaces.

Crist has set fundraising records, pulling in $6.7 million in contributions since announcing his U.S. Senate candidacy in May. He is scheduled to appear Oct. 30 at an Arizona fundraiser with that state's former governor, Fife Symington, who was convicted in 1997 on federal fraud charges. His conviction was overturned and President Clinton later pardoned him.

Aside from Mendelsohn, two other Crist fundraisers have drawn scrutiny:

• Harry Sergeant III, Crist's college fraternity brother and fundraiser, employed a foreign national who allegedly gave illegal campaign contributions to Crist through an intermediary listed as ``H.S.'' in a federal indictment.

• Sergio Pino stepped down in 2006 as Crist's campaign finance chairman amid a grand jury probe into whether he raised funds illegally. Pino was never charged.

With back-to-back scandals, Broward's overnight reputation as the state's corruption capital is built on a series of sensational cases filed in federal court last month that charge several politicians and public figures with fraud and other offenses.

• Mendelsohn, a Hollywood eye doctor and fundraiser, was charged in a 32-count indictment with manipulating a major contributor to give his political action committees more than $2 million on the basis of false promises.

Mendelsohn is accused of illegally spending at least $624,000 on himself, his mistress and politicians -- including funneling $87,000 to an unnamed former elected official.

The formidable GOP fundraiser also is accused of conning a Fort Lauderdale viatical insurance executive, Joel Steinger, into donating more than $1.5 million based on Mendelsohn's claim that he bribed Crist and other officials to shut down state and federal investigations into Steinger's company, Mutual Benefits Corp.

Prosecutors say Mendelsohn fabricated everything to boost his reputation as a Tallahassee insider with clout and connections.

• Broward School Board member Beverly Gallagher is accused of accepting $12,500 from FBI agents posing as consultants for contractors who were trying to land school construction projects. The money was in exchange for her lobbying on behalf of a glass company seeking subcontracting work on a $71 million renovation project at Hollywood Hills High School.

At a November 2007 social event, Gallagher spoke with the undercover FBI agent posing as the glass company's representative. Three months later, Gallagher met with the agent, who said the firm was having trouble getting pre-qualified for a contract. He asked if he could hire her as a ``consultant.''

Gallagher agreed, the complaint says, helping the company set up a meeting with Michael Garretson, the school district's deputy construction superintendent, so the glass company could get pre-qualified. Garretson is not named in the complaint.

The undercover agent told Gallagher he was paid $4,000 by the glass company, which he split with Gallagher at a restaurant; He gave Gallagher a day planner stuffed with the cash, which she put ``in a plastic bag in which she had placed leftovers from her meal,'' the complaint said.

According to the complaint, Gallagher later influenced a schools committee to recommend a particular construction company for the Hollywood High renovation project. The undercover agent told Gallagher he was paying her for ``hooking up'' his glass company for subcontracting work on the big job. She agreed.

• Broward Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion allegedly helped three men launder $23,000 collected as part of a Ponzi scheme. The others arrested were Ron Owens and Joel Williams, both Broward businessmen. The third defendant is Bahamian attorney Sidney Cambridge. The allegations against Eggelletion are not related to his public office.

In 2006, undercover agents told Eggelletion they were interested in opening an offshore bank account for a ``nonexistent European, high-yield investment fraud scheme that was sending out `made up' statements to clients,'' the criminal complaint says.

The politician said he had contacts in the Bahamas. He and the others helped set up the bank account in the Bahamas to wire $900,000 derived from the alleged Ponzi scheme, the complaint said; Eggelletion was to get kickbacks from the deal.

In February 2008, Eggelletion met Owens and took a black leather day planner containing $15,000 cash -- Eggelletion's partial share of the proceeds, the complaint said. To establish their relationship with Eggelletion, undercover FBI agents donated $5,000 to the commissioner's private golf foundation.

• Fitzroy Salesman, while serving as a Miramar commissioner, accepted $5,840 from FBI agents posing as contractors attempting to land business with the city of Miramar, the complaint says.

An FBI undercover agent and a cooperating witness met with Salesman in April 2006 to get construction work. According to the complaint, Salesman accepted an envelope containing $1,000 from the agent and then made a phone call to a person Salesman said was a high-ranking Miramar city official.

The complaint said Salesman asked the city official if he had any no-bid $50,000 jobs available, and made an appointment with the official for that month, adding he would bring the person he thought was a contractor.

Salesman told the contractor that the city official ``owes me'' because he had gotten him his job and raises in the past, the complaint said. That city official arranged for the contractor to meet another official regarding the design and construction of a gazebo project that had been destroyed by Hurricane Wilma. Salesman also paved the way for the contractor to do renovation work on a municipal gym, the complaint says.

• Two Broward businessmen are charged with conspiring to pay $150,000 to unnamed Miramar officials in return for municipal construction work, a complaint says. Arrest warrants issued in late September named Celestine Skippy Aniekwu, a project manager for Gulf Building Corp. in Fort Lauderdale, and Luke Facarazzo Jr., president of Luke's Landscaping in Hollywood.

They're accused of scheming with FBI undercover agents posing as asset managers for a Northeastern construction firm seeking municipal work in Miramar.

No Miramar officials have been named or charged in connection with the arrests. Facarazzo surrendered to authorities and was released on bond. But Aniekwu is being sought by federal authorities. He's recorded in the FBI sting operation as saying he paid $50,000 to one Miramar official in November 2008, according to the complaint.

The official was not identified. FBI officials are investigating whether he paid that money to any official.

Marc Caputo can be reached at

© 2009 Miami Herald Media Company. All Rights Reserved.

Florida Sun-Sentinel -- Crist calls for statewide corruption grand jury

South Florida

By Josh Hafenbrack and Paula McMahon

Tallahassee Bureau

7:19 PM EDT, October 14, 2009


Citing an apparent "culture of corruption" taking root in South Florida, Gov. Charlie Crist on Wednesday called for a statewide grand jury to take a sweeping look at honesty-in-government in Florida.

The panel will have the authority to indict public officials and make recommendations for changes in state law, the governor said.

"Today we take a stand to root out public corruption," Crist said, adding his action sprang from "an unsettling string of crime, unconscionable violations of the public trust by public officials, predominantly in South Florida."

Crist called for the grand jury -- comprised of 18 citizens who will meet in secret -- in a petition to the state Supreme Court, which is expected to comply with the request. The grand jury will be scheduled to meet for one year, meaning its findings could be released just before the 2010 election. Crist is a candidate for U.S. Senate.

Democratic Party spokesman Eric Jotkoff questioned Crist's motives for calling for the grand jury, calling it a "half measure" since the governor has not moved for a similar probe into dealings in the Republican-run state Legislature. Earlier this year, House Speaker Ray Sansom, R-Destin, stepped down from his post amid a scandal involving a Republican Party fundraiser. He is under indictment, although most charges have been dropped.

While the grand jury will be statewide in scope, South Florida has emerged as an epicenter for public corruption. This month, Broward County Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion and School Board member Beverly Gallagher were arrested, as was Republican fundraiser and Hollywood eye doctor Alan Mendelsohn, who served on Crist's gubernatorial transition team. Since 2007, three Palm Beach County commissioners landed in jail in a federal corruption sting.

All those cases, however, were pursued by federal prosecutors, not the state. Federal authorities have more far-reaching tools to combat corruption, including the federal "honest services" law that requires public officials to act in the best interests of their constituents.

Broward State Attorney Mike Satz and his Palm Beach County counterpart, Michael McAuliffe, said state corruption laws are too weak and vague to be effective.

McAuliffe said current laws fail to give "clear notice to public officials when they cross the line." Many state anti-corruption laws that do exist are third-degree felonies that involve no jail time, he said.

"I would like to see a [statewide grand jury] focus on the state legislative front to give us new laws so the 20 state attorneys around Florida can be more effective anti-corruption crusaders," McAuliffe said.

In Tallahassee, statewide prosecutor William Shepherd stressed that the grand jury ordered by Crist is not meant to affect ongoing federal investigations in South Florida. In fact, the statewide grand jury will cover new ground, he said, taking a "broad-based look at our government, identifying shortcomings. ... Public service is no blank check for corrupt self-dealing."

In Broward, the GOP moneyman Mendelsohn is accused of siphoning money from the $2 million he raised for political campaigns in the last decade to pay a mistress and other personal expenses. Gallagher, the School Board member, is alleged to have pocketed a bribe that she slipped into a leftover bag at a restaurant. And ex-commissioner Eggelletion got snared for his alleged involvement in a money-laundering scheme.

Pointing to the scope of corruption in Florida, Crist noted he's suspended or removed about 30 people from public office since becoming governor in January 2007. That includes former Hollywood Commissioner Keith Wasserstrom and former Deerfield Beach Mayor Al Capellini.

Critics, though, wonder whether a year-long grand jury is the best route, given the state Legislature already has the power to stiffen corruption laws in the 2010 legislative session, which starts in March.

Florida has had 18 statewide grand juries, designed to combat organized criminal activity that crosses county lines. Recent juries have looked into gangs, check-cashing fraud schemes, identity theft and illicit prescription drug sales. Often, results have been mixed because they have authority to make suggestions but not take final action.

What's more, Florida leaders have known for years that state public corruption laws lack teeth. In 1999, then-Gov. Jeb Bush created a task force that recommended a broader definition of public corruption and a stiffer, 15-year maximum sentence for bribery. Even with Bush pushing the idea, a watered-down version didn't pass until 2003.

Bids to further strengthen the state's corruption laws await legislative action. Sen. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, is pushing legislation to extend the federal "honest services" law to state prosecutors, among other bills.

"I appreciate Crist doing the grand jury, but frankly, what we need is political will," said Gelber, a former prosecutor running for attorney general in 2010. "We don't need to wait a year. We have the ideas now."

Josh Hafenbrack can be reached at or 850-224-6214.

Copyright © 2009, South Florida Sun-Sentinel


MICA wants pilots to have 1500 hours experience (unless you go to Embry-Riddle or other aviation university). MICA's playing politics with pilot and airline safety. His sneaky, last-minute amendment succeeded -- he made a pig's breakfast of airline safety.

Time for him to go.

Buffalo News: House vote set today on training for pilots -- But new provision revises flight hours

By Jerry Zremski
News Washington Bureau Chief
Updated: October 14, 2009, 8:55 AM /

WASHINGTON — The House is expected to vote today on new airline safety legislation — but because of a backroom deal among lawmakers, the measure is not quite as tough as the families of Flight 3407 victims would have liked.

The final version of the bill, unveiled Tuesday, includes an entirely new section aimed at placating collegiate aviation programs. The provision allows an undetermined amount of university class time to be counted toward the 1,500 "flight hours" the bill would require before a pilot could join a passenger airline.

The requirement still would rise sharply from the current 250 hours.

But the behind-the-scenes addition of that new language — included at the request of a powerful Florida lawmaker whose district includes a prominent flight school — didn't exactly thrill those who lost loved ones in the February crash of Continental Connection Flight 3407 in Clarence Center.

"This is kind of out of the blue," said Susan Bourque, whose sister, Beverly Eckert, was among the 50 people who died in the crash.

Indeed, even some of the bill's co-sponsors — such as Rep. Chris Lee, R-Clarence — did not know the changes had been made.

"I'm a little mystified," Lee said. "I'm always surprised with the ways of Washington."

Lee and the Flight 3407 families stressed, though, that even with the changes, the bill represents an extraordinarily strong effort to bolster flight safety.

The legislation also would impose stringent training requirements to make sure pilots know how to operate stall recovery systems and would force airlines to develop fatigue risk management systems for pilots.

Democrats and Republicans on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee worked together on the bill, which the committee approved unanimously July 30, just a day after it was introduced.

But Embry-Riddle University and other universities with aviation programs later complained that the 1,500-flight-hour requirement would cause prospective students to shun them in favor of local flight instructors who offer plenty of hands-on experience.

In response, Rep. John L. Mica of Florida — the top Republican on the committee, which oversees aviation, and the congressman from the district that includes Embry-Riddle's campus — went to work.

Negotiations with Rep. Jerry F. Costello, an Illinois Democrat and chairman of the aviation subcommittee, produced the compromise, which allows the head of the Federal Aviation Administration to decide how much classroom time can be counted as flight time under the 1,500-hour requirement. The classroom time would have to "enhance safety more" than would additional hours in the cockpit, the insertion says.

FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt and other pilots who testified at a House hearing last month voiced strong support for a 1,500-hour fight-time requirement, which has reduced the concerns of the Flight 3407 families.

"I'm a little bit nervous about this," said Mike Loftus, a former Continental pilot whose daughter, Maddy, died in the crash. "If it were anybody other than Randy Babbitt in that job, I would be worried" that the flight-hours requirement would be genuinely weakened.

Only two weeks ago, Mica called Bourque to reiterate his support for the 1,500-hour flight time requirement.

Neither Justin Harclerode, Mica's spokesman, nor Tim Brady, dean of Embry-Riddle's College of Aviation, returned calls seeking comment on the new language in the bill.

The provision raises a key question about the legislative process: Can senior lawmakers insert language into a bill that has already been approved by the committee?

"In essence, yes," said Jim Berard, a spokesman for the Transportation Committee.

Such last-minute insertions are not unusual. Lee cited that fact, and the flight-safety insertion, as reasons for his push to require that all legislation be made public 72 hours before a final vote.

The new provision conflicts with legislation introduced last week by Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., which does not give the flight schools a break on the 1,500-hour flight time requirement.

"There is no question that we should be raising the training requirements for commercial pilots," Schumer said. "The Senate's version of this legislation goes right to the heart of the problem, and I will work with the conference committee to put the Senate's stronger language in the final bill."

The Flight 3407 families will push for that, said Kuwik, who called the insertion of the new language into the House bill "our introduction to politics."

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

USDOJ Press Release: Minneapolis Packaged-Ice Company Agrees to Plead Guilty and Three Former Executives Plead to Customer Allocation Conspiracy

Department of Justice Press Release
white spacer
For Immediate Release
October 13, 2009 United States Attorney's Office
Southern District of Ohio
Contact: (937) 225-2910

Minneapolis Packaged-Ice Company Agrees to Plead Guilty and Three Former Executives Plead Guilty to Customer Allocation Conspiracy -- Company Agrees To Pay $9 Million Criminal Fine

WASHINGTON—A packaged-ice company, headquartered in St. Paul, Minn., has agreed to plead guilty and to pay a $9 million criminal fine for allocating customers, the Department of Justice announced today. In addition, three of the company’s former executives pleaded guilty for their roles in the conspiracy to allocate customers.

According to a one-count felony charge filed under seal on Sept. 10, 2009, and unsealed today in the U.S. District Court in Cincinnati, Arctic Glacier International Inc. engaged in a conspiracy to suppress and eliminate competition by allocating packaged-ice customers in the Detroit metropolitan area and southeastern Michigan, beginning Jan. 1, 2001, and continuing until at least July 17, 2007. Under the plea agreement, which must be approved by the court, Arctic Glacier has agreed to cooperate with the Department’s ongoing investigation.

According to separate one-count felony charges, also filed under seal on Sept. 10, 2009, and unsealed today in the U.S. District Court in Cincinnati, Frank Larson, Arctic Glacier’s former senior vice president of operations, and Keith Corbin, the company’s former vice president of sales and marketing, participated in the same conspiracy beginning at least as early as March 1, 2005, and continuing at least until July 17, 2007. According to an additional one-count felony charge filed under seal on Sept. 10, 2009, in the U.S. District Court in Cincinnati and unsealed today, Gary Cooley, the company’s former vice president of sales and marketing, also participated in the conspiracy from at least as early as June 1, 2006, until July 17, 2007. Under the three separate plea agreements, which must be approved by the court, the former executives have agreed to cooperate with the Department’s ongoing investigation.

In court documents, the Department said that the three former executives and Arctic Glacier, conspired with another packaged-ice competitor to allocate packaged-ice customers in southeastern Michigan and the Detroit metropolitan areas. As a part of the conspiracy, Arctic Glacier, its former executives and other co-conspirators exchanged information for the purpose of monitoring and enforcing adherence to the agreed customer allocations and refrained from competing for the allocated customers.

Arctic Glacier, Larson, Corbin and Cooley are each charged with allocating packaged-ice customers in violation of the Sherman Act, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine for individuals and a $100 million fine for corporations. The maximum fines may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims if either of those amounts is greater than the Sherman Act maximum fines.

These charges stem from an ongoing antitrust investigation into the packaged-ice industry. As a part of the same investigation, Home City Ice Company pleaded guilty on June 17, 2008, for its participation in a conspiracy to allocate customers and territories in the packaged-ice industry. The investigation is being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s Cleveland Field Office and by FBI offices in Ann Arbor, Mich.; Indianapolis, Ind.; Dallas, Texas; and Cincinnati and Toledo, Ohio.

Anyone with information concerning customer or territorial allocation agreements, or other anticompetitive conduct in the packaged-ice industry, should contact the Cleveland Field Office of the Antitrust Division at 216-687-8400.


See below. He also met with lobbyists for the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Interesting....


Jacksonville-Area Congressmen Have Interesting Foreign Ties
By Jack Adams

There's an interesting new website that is making waves in Washington, DC. is focused solely on bringing sunshine to the interactions of members of Congress with lobbyists of foreign governments. Not merely limited to lobbyist interactions, the site also looks at campaign contributions from lobbyists who represent foreign governments. According to the site, Northeast Florida's US Representatives and Senators appear to have some rather interesting connections.

Ander Crenshaw, the reliably conservative Republican representing District 4, has met with lobbyists representing foreign nations, some of whom would hardly be seen as allies by most conservatives--Azerbaijan (9 interactions since late-2007), Egypt (1 interaction), Libya (6 interactions) Turkey (1 interaction) and Egypt (1 interaction). Crenshaw also accepted a 2008 campaign contribution from a lobbyist for Cassidy & Associates, a firm that represents Pakistan.

Corrine Brown, the liberal Democratic stalwart in District 3, appears to have a fondness for a less controversial foreign government--Morocco. She met with lobbyists representing the country 6 times in 2008. It should be noted that all of those visits were said to be in regards to the plight of Western Sahara refugees. Brown has also met once with lobbyists representing Egypt and Azerbaijan. She has met with representatives of the government of Republika Srpska 6 times. Brown has also accepted campaign donations from 5 lobbyists who represent foreign nations in 2008, including representatives of Egypt, Japan and New Zealand.

Bill Nelson (D), Florida's Senior Senator, has met with lobbyists representing a number of countries, including Turkey, Qatar, Haiti, Ethiopia, the United Arab Emirates, Dubai and Korea. His political contributions include lobbyists who represent Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and New Zealand.

Former Senator Mel Martinez (R), who recently resigned before completing his term to join a Washington, DC law firm, met with lobbyists representing the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Egypt, Turkey, Iraq, the United Kingdom, Cyprus, Equatorial Guinea, Mexico, Serbia and Taiwan. Martinez accepted a number of campaign contributions from lobbyists representing foreign governments, including representatives of Poland, the United Arab Emirates and Montenegro.

John Mica, the Republican Representative in Florida's 7th District, appears solely focused on the nation of Turkey, meeting with lobbyists 5 times in 2007 about the country. His donor list includes lobbyists representing New Zealand and the United Arab Emirates.

Cliff Stearns, a Republican who represents the 6th District of Florida, met with lobbyists from Azerbaijan, Turkey and Morocco. He accepted campaign contributions from lobbyists representing Pakistan.

Ander Crenshaw appears to have the most intriguing visitor list of all of Northeast Florida's Congressmen. The nation that seems to have captured his attention the most is the relatively obscure former Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan. Interestingly enough, Azerbaijan produces roughly 800,000 barrels of oil a day. Crenshaw's close ties to the oil industry were highlighted in a 2008 Folio article by Billie Bussard. Crenshaw also frequently met with lobbyists representing Libya, a nation that until very recently was considered by the US as a country that was a "sponsor of terrorism." Libya's economy, of course, is almost solely dependent on oil production.

Abel Harding contributed to this story.

Ralph Nader Calls It "The Deferred Bribe"

So disgraced ex-Senator Mel Martinez (R-FL) is going to advise clients on government affairs, litigation, financial services, real estate, energy, defense, infrastructure development and other matters, according to a DLA Piper press release.

He can now receive what Ralph Nader would called "the deferred bribe."

See below.

POLITICO: Martinez heads straight to K Street

Martinez heads straight to K Street
By: Kenneth P. Vogel
September 24, 2009 07:54 PM EST

It used to be that lawmakers were coy about any ideas they had about heading for K Street, waiting until their terms ended before announcing they were beginning a more lucrative career.

But in recent years, members of Congress planning to become lobbyists have not been able to wait. In fact, when Florida Republican Mel Martinez this week accepted a position with the mega-lobbying and law firm DLA Piper — less than two weeks after resigning from the Senate — it brought to five the number of former lawmakers since 2007 who have abandoned their constituents midterm and almost immediately resurfaced with lobbying firms, according to data provided by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

“This used to be considered unacceptable, but it really is a growing phenomenon,” said Meredith McGehee, who lobbies for stricter lobbying and ethics regulations for the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center. “The reality is that the money has gotten so big and so tempting these days, that I think a lot of these members are saying, ‘I don’t think I’ll go back into political office, first of all, and, the money is just too big to turn down.’”

Martinez was traveling in Brazil and could not be reached for comment, but in February, his office insisted he would serve until the end of his term in January 2011 before retiring from Congress to spend more time with his family. Last month, though, he reversed course, announcing he would step down as soon as Florida Gov. Charlie Crist appointed a successor.

That prompted some quick recruitment outreach by DLA partner Ignacio Sanchez, who has been active in Republican politics and knew Martinez — a former trial lawyer, Orange County, Fla., mayor, secretary of Housing and Urban Development and Republican National Committee chairman — from Florida legal circles and their shared interest in Cuban-American issues.

“When he announced he was going to retire and let the governor appoint someone to finish out the term, I immediately talked to him and said, ‘You really ought to consider looking at our firm. I think you would really do well, and we would love to have you,’” Sanchez told the Blog of LegalTimes.

Sanchez, who was traveling with Martinez and also could not be reached, told the BLT that

Martinez met with folks from DLA before heformally stepped down from the Senate but stressed that the firm extended “no financial terms, no offer, no details” to Martinez until after he resigned Sept. 9.

“We didn’t have any discussions with him until he decided to leave the Senate, and we didn’t conduct any negotiations with him of any sort until he had left the Senate,” said John Merrigan, a DLA partner.

Merrigan pointed out that DLA has employed many former members of Congress, including former House Majority Leaders Dick Gephardt and Dick Armey, and employs ethics experts to ensure compliance with congressional rules and restrictions.

A 2007 law requires members of Congress to disclose negotiations with prospective employers.

The Secretary of the Senate’s office, which would be the repository for such disclosures, had not received one from Martinez as of Thursday.

But Sanchez’s outreach would not have invoked the rules, said Brett Kappel, a lobbying lawyer, though Craig Holman, who lobbies for stricter disclosure requirements for the nonpartisan group Public Citizen, said the rules leave wiggle room.

The pre-employment negotiation provision was prompted partly by former Louisiana Rep. Billy Tauzin’s acceptance of a job heading the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America in 2005, a year after he helped write a law that expanded Medicare payments for prescription drug, which redounded to Big Pharma’s benefit.

Tauzin, a Republican, waited until after his term expired to take the PhRMA job, which reportedly paid him $2.5 million a year. But in December 2007, then-Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) left Congress with years left in his term to create a lobbying firm, while Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) stepped down in November 2007, only to accept a position in 2008 with the lobbying firm Dickstein Shapiro.

In 2008, Rep. Al Wynn (D-Md.), who was defeated in a primary, and Rep. Richard Baker (R-La.) left before their terms expired to take lobbying jobs — Baker with the Managed Funds Association: and Wynn with Dickstein Shapiro.

Lobbyists’ salaries are not public information, but last year, Martinez’s new firm DLA, which registered nearly 50 lobbyists, reported more than $11.8 million in lobbying revenue, which doesn’t include legal and consultation fees unrelated to lobbying.

Martinez, who is barred from lobbying his former colleagues for two years, will advise clients on government affairs, litigation, financial services, real estate, energy, defense, infrastructure development and other matters, according to a DLA press release announcing his arrival.

In the release, DLA’s Global Chairman Francis B. Burch Jr., boasted of Martinez’s clout “on both Capitol Hill and in his home state of Florida,” as well as his “significant network of international contacts, particularly in Spain and in Latin America, which will be a major area of growth and expansion for DLA Piper over the next year.”

According to the firm, DLA has an office in Tampa, and Martinez will spend the bulk of his time working from Florida.

© 2009 Capitol News Company, LLC

DLA Piper Law Firm Press Release: "US Senator Mel Martinez joins DLA Piper"

News & Insights > News
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29 Sep 2009
US Senator Mel Martinez joins DLA Piper
Former Florida Senator and HUD Secretary brings decades of legal and legislative experience and expands the firm’s reach into Latin America
Press Release
DLA Piper announced today that former United States Senator Mel Martinez has joined the firm’s Government Affairs practice as a partner. Martinez was a member of the United States Senate representing Florida from January 2005 to September 9, 2009. He brings extensive legislative and legal experience to the firm and will advise clients on government affairs, litigation, financial services, real estate, energy, defense, infrastructure development and other matters.

Senator Martinez comes to DLA Piper with a career spanning both the public and private sectors. In addition to his Senate service, he previously served as United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Mayor of Orange County, Florida and General Chairman of the Republican National Committee. Martinez also has over 25 years in private legal practice, with a focus on civil litigation. In his legal practice, he conducted numerous trials in state and federal courts throughout Florida involving a wide array of product liability and insurance coverage matters.

“Senator Martinez has served the federal government as a US Senator and as Secretary of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as the State of Florida proudly over a long and decorated career in public service,” said Francis B. Burch Jr., Global Chairman of DLA Piper. “Senator Martinez is highly respected on both Capitol Hill and in his home state of Florida. He also has vast experience and a significant network of international contacts, particularly in Spain and in Latin America which will be a major area of growth and expansion for DLA Piper over the next year.”

“DLA Piper’s global footprint and international networks provide me with the ideal platform to return to private legal practice, while allowing me to stay close to home and my family,” said Martinez. “The firm has market-leading practices in areas like financial services, energy, real estate and defense, where I know I can make a significant contribution. Working in DLA Piper’s offices in Florida, I look forward to helping the firm grow its practice in Latin America and collaborating with a team of distinguished lawyers and professionals with the highest level of legislative knowledge and diplomatic skill.”

A Preeminent Government Affairs Capability

DLA Piper’s Government Affairs group is well positioned to counsel clients in a wide range of legislative and administrative advocacy matters including antitrust competition and trade regulations, electronic commerce and privacy, federal affairs and legislative practice, international trade and state affairs, among others. Co-chaired by former Michigan Governor and former United States Ambassador to Canada Jim Blanchard and former Assistant Attorney General at the Department of Justice Thomas M. Boyd, the Government Affairs group includes lawyers and other professionals who have held senior elected, appointed and staff positions in all branches of federal and state governments and possess the necessary knowledge and insight to guide clients through successful advocacy campaigns before legislative and executive branch decision makers as well as independent federal agencies.

About Mel Martinez

Martinez has a distinguished and diversified career in public office. As a United States Senator, Martinez focused on numerous public policy and legislative issues, serving in leadership roles on numerous Senate committees including Ranking Member of the Sea Power Subcommittee of the Armed Services Committee, Chairman of the Subcommittee on African Affairs of the Foreign Relations Committee and Ranking Member of the Special Committee on Aging. In addition, he was also a member of the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs as well as Energy and Natural Resources committees. While in office, Martinez also served as General Chairman of the Republican National Committee from January through September 2008, leading the transition in leadership following the 2006 election cycle. He was the first Cuban-American to serve in the United States Senate, and the first Cuban-American to chair a major party.

Martinez also served as the United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development from January 2001 through December 2003. Following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, he was instrumental in the rebuilding efforts of lower Manhattan, authorizing $400 million to retain and attract residents to Lower Manhattan, and was also one of the first public officials to call for stronger regulation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. He also established the America’s Affordable Communities Initiative, pursued reform to the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act and revived the Interagency Council on Homelessness.

Senator Martinez also served as Mayor of Orange County, Florida from November 1998 through January 2001, where he managed a budget of $2.8 billion as well as a staff of 9,000 employees.

Prior to his public service, Martinez was in private practice for 25 years.

Martinez earned a B.A. and J.D. from Florida State University.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Federal Trade Commission Press Release: FTC Remedies Interlocking Directorate Between Google and Apple

Statement of FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz

Regarding the Announcement that Arthur D. Levinson Has Resigned from Google’s Board
On October 12, 2009, Google announced that Arthur D. Levinson, the former Chief Executive Officer of Genentech and a member of the corporate boards of both Google and Apple, is stepping down from Google’s board. Earlier in the year, Apple announced that Eric E. Schmidt, CEO of Google, who had also been a director of both firms, was stepping down from the Apple board.

“Google, Apple, and Mr. Levinson should be commended for recognizing that overlapping board members between competing companies raise serious antitrust issues and for their willingness to resolve our concerns without the need for litigation,” said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz. “Beyond this matter, we will continue to monitor companies that share board members and take enforcement actions where appropriate.”

Section 8 of the Clayton Act (“interlocking directorates”) prohibits, with certain exceptions, one person from serving as a director or officer of two competing corporations.

Office of Public Affairs

Board considers $86K sound wall

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009 at 1:27 am by Shaun Ryan

St. Augustine City Commissioners said Monday that they’ll consider approving a 14-foot-high, 150-foot-long sound-dampening wall at Hamilton D. Upchurch Skate Park on Red Cox Drive to help eliminate the irritating “ker-thump” of skateboards for nearby homeowners.
The $86,000 wall would reduce the sound level by nine to 12 decibels. But the commission declined to make a decision Monday to go forward.
Chief Operations Officer John Regan had recommended installing a wall that high but told the board he’d like more scientific research about how well it could work.
“If the board erects a 14-foot wall, changes the demographics of the park (to children only) and keeps the metal rails off, you’ll have a facility that will be compliant (with the city’s noise ordinance),” he said.
The commission’s frustration with the wall’s cost was evident Monday.
Mayor Joe Boles said, “This has been a nightmare from the beginning. I’ll never enter into a public-private partnership again. Not while I’m here.”
That money could have been used to help pave Riberia Street, he said.
The park was initially hailed as a successful partnership between the city and private entities that wanted to support skateboarding.
But homeowners on Flamingo Drive complained for months that the constant crash of skateboards hitting the park’s concrete surface ruins the peace of their homes and yards.
Homeowner Patricia Pribisco said, “A lot of us were against it.”
Her neighbor, John D. Hodgin, said the city’s sound tests showed that even on a slow skating day, the meter at his house recorded 160 “impulse events” per hour.
“People who speak for the park are well-meaning, but only the families who live near the park know what it’s like to live there.”
But the city sold their neighborhood on the skate park by promising an eight-foot earthen berm that would eliminate noise. The berm was never built and Regan said Monday that recent sound engineering tests show that a berm wouldn’t have worked anyway.
Commissioner Leanna Freeman said, “Somebody designed the park without a noise barrier.”
Vice Mayor Errol Jones said, “Yes, but we signed off on it. We approved it.”
Boles said, “It was sold to the community as a beginner’s skate park. It has been anything other than a beginner’s park. It’s a hangout. If you’re old enough to drive, drive to Treaty Park. If we had put it together as we originally proposed, it wouldn’t be the nuisance it is.”
Boles, a skater himself once, said he wanted an age restriction limiting it to youngsters.
But City Attorney Ron Brown said that would be difficult to enforce.
Jones said, “I’m tired of our city passing ordinances that we’re not prepared to enforce.”
Regan said the city had imposed a budget of $75,000 for a noise-dampening wall.
“This is a very difficult engineering problem,” he said. “But it’s not that difficult a construction project. The higher we make it the more it will be in compliance (with city noise ordinances).”
After the commission’s decision not to make a decision, Flamingo Drive resident Susan Hill said, “We hope the process will continue. An efficient noise berm would be in everyone’s best interest.”

Signature filed bogus lawsuit, it is dismissed

See below. Our County Commissioners wisely decided to have County staff manage our St. Augustine Ampitheatre, and they've done a fine job.

The County Attorney was right -- Signature had no breach of contract claim.
Signature also had no experience running entertainment venues -- it was a startup company that thought it could throw its weight around to take the public fisc.

Kudos to the County Recreation staff for proving that government can be run more like a business and meet peoples' needs -- the ampitheatre is successful and has brought new visitors to our area.

Signature got no relief from the Courts -- case dismissed.

Judge tosses Signature suit -- Traynor: 'No breach of contract' found in group's fight over design of amphitheatre

Publication Date: 10/10/09

A St. Johns County judge has decided there was no breach of contract over management of the St. Augustine Amphitheatre because there was no contract.

Signature Entertainment, of Ponte Vedra Beach, thought it had a deal with the county, but, instead, was responding to a "request for proposal and not an invitation to bid," Circuit Judge J. Michael Traynor wrote in his Oct. 6 ruling.

"(T)he selection of (Signature Entertainment) was simply an agreement to negotiate a contract and not the forming of a contract between the parties."

Traynor dismissed Signature's complaint "with prejudice," meaning it cannot be refiled.

That hasn't necessarily discouraged Bruce Lucker, the company's president and CEO.

Lucker said Friday that his attorney is examining the decision, and, "We are evaluating our legal options."

He said he was "not concerned, but surprised" that the judge had ruled he couldn't refile the complaint.

Not surprisingly, St. Johns County Attorney Patrick McCormack was pleased with the ruling.

"The county is gratified for the well reasoned decision rendered by the Court in this matter," McCormack said. "Furthermore, taxpayer dollars will be saved."

As it dismissed Signature's proposal, the County Commission decided in March 2007 to have the Parks and Recreation Department manage the Amphitheatre.

According to the County's financial projection, Signature would bring in more money than the County could but would also have more expenses.

The expectation was that Signature would lose $341,000 in its first year, while a County-run facility would lose $116,000.

Signature notified the County Commission in April 2007 that it was due $575,000 in "expenses and lost profits" after the company was dropped as the proposed manager.

"We were not treated fairly, honestly or ethically (by the County Commission)," Lucker said at the time. "We were told to negotiate a contract, and we hired an attorney (who) negotiated every single segment of that contract.

"We spent an inordinate amount of money."

Under the anticipated terms of an agreement, Signature was to be paid $96,000 per year for the first five years of managing the Amphitheatre. Five years of lost salary made up most of the damage amount, Lucker said at the time.

Legal fees made up the rest.

McCormack cautioned the company two years ago not to pursue a suit, saying its claims were "without legal merit."

"We tried to avoid litigation here," McCormack said Friday. "We presented to them the reasons why we felt that the County had a strong position.

"My opinion at the time was, 'Just say no.' I didn't think they had a claim.

"But we hired outside counsel to review the matter, to basically give us a second opinion. And we invited them to get a second opinion."

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© The St. Augustine Record

George Gardner's St. Augustine Report: VIC ventilation errors - who pays?

George Gardner's St. Augustine Report: VIC ventilation errors - who pays?

Commissioners approved $100,000 for immediate remediation and the hiring of a construction litigation attorney to oversee who's going to pay for an apparent design flaw that forced closing of our Visitor Center (VIC) restrooms until January.
"This project was handled by outside contractors," City Attorney Ron Brown told commissioners, "and right now there's a lot of finger-pointing among them."
A ceiling collapse over the restrooms revealed excessive moisture in the overhead ventilation and air-conditioning systems. While corrections are made, portable restrooms have been placed outside the VIC. More upscale temporary facilities are expected to be set later this week.

Department of Nincompoopery

Well now. The VIC was rebuilt in 2006. Now, "hot air had been hitting cold duct work, creating moisture, which in turn dissolved dry wall and encouraged the mold."

Ceilings over the bathrooms collapsed. People could have been hurt, or killed.

It's going to cost us $100,000 to fix? I don't reckon. The City needs to tell the architect/engineer to notify their professional liability insurance carrier. Contractors generally do what the architect says to do -- that's why they're called contractors and not architects.

Who was the architect? Who picked 'em and why?

Isn't this architectural negligence, when "hot air [is] hitting cold duct work, creating moisture, which in turn dissolved dry wall and encouraged the mold?"

We don't trust the City of St. Augustine to fix a building without ceilings collapsing on the bathrooms.

Think of Government House, a true treasure. We don't want the City of St. Augustine to muck up this federally-reconstructed building with more mismanagement.

We need a St. Augustine National Historical Park, Seashore and Scenic Coastal Parkway.

We don't need to place our history ihn the hands of those City burghers who perpetrate three screwups every month.

Whether dumping solid waste in our Old City Reservoir or semi-treated sewage effluent in our saltwater marsh, or building a skate park that did not include a sound barrier berm, or discriminating against African-Americans with environmental racism and Apartheid employment policies, the City of St. Augustine is badly managed and badly needs reforming.

What do you reckon?

Ceilings collapse in visitor center bathrooms

Publication Date: 10/08/09

An unexpected — and unfortunate — configuration of the Visitor and Information Center’s ventilation system has led to moisture buildup in the attic, causing bathroom ceilings to collapse and spurring the growth of black mold.

The city closed both VIC rest rooms Wednesday and said repairs could take three to four months.

John Regan, chief operating officer, said the building’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning system is “incompatible” with the space where it operates.

“We want to preserve indoor air quality, so we’re isolating the bathrooms from the rest of the VIC as a precaution,” Regan said. “We don’t know what the cost will be, and we don’t know all the causes. We have not come to any conclusions.”

Nine portable toilets now stand adjacent to the VIC. They’ll soon be replaced by “high-quality portable rest rooms” for the coming busy tourist system, he said.

Regan said hot air had been hitting cold duct work, creating moisture, which in turn dissolved dry wall and encouraged the mold.

Parts of the men’s room ceiling remains on the floor, the spots of black mold visible.

VIC director Sharon Langford said the moisture problem affects only the bathrooms.

“The rest of the VIC is open,” Langford said. “We welcome visitors and answer their questions about where to go, sell train and trolley tickets and operate the gift shop. We’re still open and fully functioning.”

The VIC was built in 1935 as the city’s Civic Center. It was extensively renovated, adding the bathrooms and a lobby, when the Downtown Parking Facility was built in 2005 and 2006.

Regan said his immediate goals are two:

* Eliminating the mold by disinfecting the attic and replacing the ruined dry wall.

* Review the design and create a system that is appropriate for the building.

The redesign will be done by an “individual design team, he said.

“We are investigating all the issues,” he said. “We’ll give the City Commission a briefing Monday night during City Manager comments.”

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© The St. Augustine Record

Chautauqua reenactment at the beach

Neighbors: South Beaches
By Lorraine Thompson
Tuesday, October 13, 2009 ; Updated: 12:36 AM on Tuesday, October 13, 2009
The City of St. Augustine Beach will look back at the area's unique history with a Chautauqua as part of the coastal city's 50 years of incorporation celebrations. A Chautauqua reenactment will take place from 4 to 9 p.m. Sunday at the St. Augustine Beach Cultural Arts Center, located in the former St. Augustine Beach City Hall adjacent to the pier and Pier Park.

For more than a century the area has been the playground for prominent people who have embedded their names in history. The area was also part of the Chautauqua adult education movement in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Chautauqua brought entertainment and culture for the community with speakers, teachers, musicians, entertainers, preachers and specialists of the day.

The area which was incorporated as the City of St. Augustine Beach in 1959 was once developed as a Summer Chautauqua in the early 1900s and at one point was called Chautauqua Beach.

Special Chautauqua guests from the past who will mingle with visitors will include the likes of Henry Flagler and his last bride Mary Lilly Keenan Flagler, Jesse Fish, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and Maria Pacetti.

Chautauqua speakers include David Nolan, local historian; Thomas Rahner, native St. Augustinian and drama professor emeritus, Flagler College; Susan Parker, executive director of the St. Augustine Historical Society; and Sandra Parks, author, owner of Anastasia Books and former city commissioner.

Legendary author Stetson Kennedy will be on hand to sign the recently released third edition of his classic, "Palmetto County." Stuart Pacetti will demonstrate the making of a seine net. Photos on loan from locals whose families have lived in the area for generations will don the walls of the former City Hall.

Events will take place in the building and in tents that will be set up in the area. Admission is free. There will be a cash wine bar and snacks and coffee for sale. For information, call Melissa Stuart at 501-1253.


Friday, October 02, 2009

Congressman JOHN LUIGI MICA's Son Applying For Lobbyist Job At Fertilizer Institute?

Congressman JOHN LUIGI MICA's son (J. CLARK MICA) was a Bush-appointed $106,000/year Schedule C appointee lobbyist at the Department of Housing and Development.

Is young MICA now in the process of applying for a job at the Fertilizer Institute in Washington, D.C.?

Were J. CLARK MICA to be hired as a lobbyist by the Fertilizer Institute, his employment there would be pure poetry in motion. J. CLARK MICA's father's rhetoric most often resembles fertilizer. J. CLARK MICA's father (JOHN LUIGI MICA) is a an oleaginous Congressman toiling for transportation interests, his uncle DAVID is a Big Oil lobbyist and his uncle DANIEL is a lobbyist for credit unions. Congressman JOHN LUIGI MICA has said he loves lobbyists, some of the best people he knows.

You can watch Ken Burns' National Parks specials at your leisure on Saturday and Sunday

Tomorrow, Saturday, watch the first three episodes from Noon to 6 PM on WJCT, followed by ninety minutes on three First Coast NPS parks.

Sunday, watch a profile of park advocate Wallace Stegner at 11:30 AM, followed by the three First Coast NPS park specials from 12:30 to 2 PM, followed by the final three Ken Burns Parks programs from 2 PM to 8 PM.

Then it's time to activate and advocate for the St. Augustine National Historical Park, Seashore and Scenic Coastal Parkway.

A St. Augustine National Historical Park, Seashore and Scenic Coastal Parkway Will Stop "Developers" in Their Tracks

Just as in so many sacred, beautiful, historic places, where rich and powerful and influential organizations were ready to destroy history and nature, the National Park Service is empowered to stop "temple destroyers" here in St. Augustine.

From the Yellowstone to Grand Canyon to the Everglades, the National Park Service (like the Mounties), has rescued our landscape from predators.

Here in St. Augustine, NPS can buy land or accept donations from developers and stop the reign of ruin of the likes of ROBERT MICHAEL GRAUBARD and others who destroy history and nature (including a 3000-4000 year old Indian village next to St. Augustine High School).

Tonight is the last episode of Ken Burns' PBS series, "THE NATIONAL PARKS -- America's Best Idea." We've learned a lot from it -- it is the courage of individuals that helps makes a national park -- the courage to ignore the nattering nabobs of negativism, the name-callers, the mediocrities, the mendacious negatives -- people "who know not that they know not that they know not."

As Robert Kennedy said in South Africa, “each time a [person] stands up for an ideal or speaks out for the rights of others, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples can form a current that can sweep away the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

United States of America v. DONALD FRANK MINTMIRE

In 1980, in Washington, D.C., then-associate Barnett, Alagia & Carey lawyer DONALD FRANK MINTMIRE told me that the law was essentially boring, rotely applying rules to facts.

That's one point of view, which is about as uninspiring and unenlightened as it gets.

From the sound of the Florida Trend article about his federal criminal conviction (below), DONALD FRANK MINTMIRE found ways to make the law far more interesting and lucrative -- namely, obstruction of justice. As the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals found in the case of United States of America v. DONALD FRANK MINTMIRE, his modus operandi included embroiling his own son in his "box job" securities marketing schemes.

Corporativists apparently believe that "the family that preys together, stays together."

For those Northeast Florida lawyers who think they can "laugh all the way" to the proverbial bank based on influence and hubris, hair-brained "get rich quick" schemes, there is a lesson here.

I'm going to write a song, "The eyes of Justice are upon you." (sung to the tune of "The Eyes of Texas")

The United States Department of Justice is ever-vigilant, and watching you.

What do you reckon?

Florida Trend: Sour Grapefruits

Ex-lawyer Donald Frank Mintmire

Sour Grapefruits
By Mike Vogel - 2/1/2008

Henry T. “Skip” Clements tells this story: There he was, a citrus entrepreneur from Florida, in an auditorium in Philadelphia in 1997, sitting in the front row
between the chairmen of Boeing and General Motors, an invited guest to hear the president of China give a speech. The two corporate big shots ignored Clements and talked across him, especially after he told them, “I sell oranges for a living.”

The Chinese president concluded his remarks to a standing ovation, exited the stage and stopped near the three men.“Thank you, Mr. Clements, for being here. Hope you can join us for dinner,” the Chinese president said. He left without a word to the two chairmen. The Boeing head turned to Clements and said, “What did you say you do for a living?” Recalls Clements,“I smiled and walked away.”

The tale follows a template for plenty of other Clements stories: The lowly outsider, dismissed by the elite, redeemed at the end — with those who dismissed him getting their comeuppance.

The Philadelphia meeting became just a piece of a much larger story — one that Clements hasn’t been able to make fit his template. It’s a story of a crooked lawyer, a scam — and Clements, the dreamer, who says he wound up going from “the king of the citrus industry to being homeless in just a number of days.” He craves an ending of his own writing, one with his redemption — and retribution for those he blames for his downfall.

Silver-haired, big and broad-shouldered, Clements, 56, is a U.S. Marine veteran. A Long Island native, he came to Stuart on Florida’s east coast after the Vietnam War. He earned a bachelor’s in education in 1974 at Florida Atlantic University, didn’t want to teach and went into the citrus business. In a few years he became a partner in a packinghouse, where fruit is processed and packed.

He became an investor and officer in a private-sector consulting business in Stuart that taught companies how to prevent industrial espionage. When that consulting business ended, Clements returned to citrus.

Stuart lies in the Indian River citrus region where, as Doug Bournique, executive vice president of the Indian River Citrus League, says, the “Rolls-Royce” of fruit is grown. The problem in the 1990s was that growers were producing citrus like Fords. Prices fell by a third. Grapefruit and orange growers statewide needed a new market. Says Dan Richey, former chairman of the Florida Citrus Commission and third-generation grower, “Obviously, we’re drooling when we see the population China has.”

Growers and Florida urged the U.S. government to pressure China to open its market. Clements had another idea. Using Washington contacts, he wooed the Chinese directly. For backing for his Clements Citrus, he got an investment from Joseph Rizzuti, an accountant in nearby Palm City, and later from other local business luminaries.

After Clements invited the Chinese ambassador to Martin County and hosted his visit, he landed on National Public Radio — bringing out the TV crews and politicians who had until then ignored him. Clements became a celebrity, and his efforts and love of the spotlight made him a household name in Stuart for a time. The Stuart News, which sent a reporter with Clements to China, wrote that Clements “literally could save Florida’s $8-billion local citrus industry.”

Clements, in an interview, leafs through binders of his memories: The photos of him with Chinese officials, a close-up of the dinner — the actual meal on the plate — that was served at one function. It all culminated in 1998, when he received permission to bring Florida citrus into China under an exemption to its overall ban. “To be the only person in the largest market in the world. It was just amazing,” he says.

The industry, to put it mildly, was skeptical. For one, many growers and packers suspected the Chinese were only making a show of opening their market to get favorable trade treatment. Second, there was Clements himself and his reputation in some quarters for self-promotion. Among those who knew Clements, most said “this isn’t adding up,” says Richey, the former citrus commissioner. “There was never any substance to his deal that we could see.”

“To be the only person in the largest market in the world. It was just amazing,” says Clements.

Says a friend of Clements, Gordon Hunt, the state’s former international citrus marketing director: “Some people think the world of him, and others say, ‘What a pain in the ass.’ ” Still, says Hunt, who later served briefly on Clements’ corporate board, Clements was responsible “hands down, more than anybody in the state” for opening China to Florida citrus.

In any case, Clements’ monopoly was short-lived. China broadened the deal beyond Clements, officially opening its markets to Florida citrus in 2000. Meanwhile, Clements and Rizzuti had been forecasting huge growth for their company, with Rizzuti suggesting in a local newspaper that $1 billion a year in sales is possible by the end of the decade. But by then, even with a nearly two-year head start, Clements had yet to ship anything. He had no groves, no packinghouse and minimal funding.

A search for financing brought Clements and his cohorts to attorney Donald F. Mintmire. A Kentucky native then in his early 50s, Mintmire had his law practice in Palm Beach, a few blocks from where he lived in a 5,425-sq.-ft. home held in the name of his wife, Patricia, who was prominent as an officer (and eventually board chair) of Planned Parenthood of Palm Beach and Treasure Coast Area.

Mintmire had a measure of prominence, too. He had represented Henry Rolfs, the quixotic Palm Beach millionaire who blew his fortune in the 1980s buying run-down properties across the waterway in West Palm Beach with a vision of redeveloping the area. Rolfs failed, but under different ownership his holdings became the CityPlace residential and commercial development that now dominates downtown West Palm Beach.

To help Clements get the money he needed to begin exporting, Mintmire provided a shell corporation. Despite the connotation of “shell game,” a shell is a legitimate, inexpensive and fast way for a private company such as Clements Citrus to go public, by merging with an existing publicly held company that has no operating business. The idea is that since the shell has — or quickly can get — approval for public trading of its stock, the merged entity can sell new shares to raise money without the delay and expense of an initial public offering. Mintmire made the marriage between Clements Citrus and a shell.

In May 2000, Clements made his first shipment to China — five containers of orange juice and oranges. In August, the company’s president said baseball great Willie Mays had agreed to be a spokesman for a U.S. rollout of the juice. In September 2000, shares in the newly named Clements Golden Phoenix Enterprises began trading. The stock immediately went up $2.25 a share to $7 as locals looked to catch Clements’ star.

Clements and those locals, however, didn’t know that the shell Mintmire provided wasn’t legitimate. It was a “box job,” a company with figurehead investors and someone behind the scenes in secret control of the public float of the stock and therefore able to profit by manipulating how many shares are sold and when. It gets its name because all the shares and control literally can be carried around in a box.

Mintmire, federal investigators came to believe, was experienced with box jobs. According to testimony at a later trial, Mintmire assembled figurehead investors in somewhere between five and 21 companies through his son, Mark, who lived in Atlanta. It worked like this: Mark Mintmire gave cash to friends and acquaintances at The Highlander, an Atlanta bar. Each Mintmire pal got about $900. Each would then write a check for $800 — keeping $100 for his trouble — to buy shares in the company Mintmire was creating.

The Highlander Bar in Atlanta

While the friends appeared to be actual shareholders, in the process of buying the shares they would sign documents surrendering their power over the stock to whoever was the bearer of the certificate. One man, Kevin Bell, wouldn’t learn he was principal, president and promoter of the shell company Clements merged with until years later — news he got from government investigators. From them, Bell also learned he approved the Clements merger. On paper, for a time, Bell had substantial gains on “his” stock — without ever knowing it.

To get the stock market to allow the company to be traded, Donald Mintmire provided assurances to National Association of Securities Dealers market regulators that the original investors were “sophisticated investors.” In reality, Bell was an electrician who, contrary to just one of the representations that Mintmire made to regulators, had a personal bankruptcy in his past.

In short, as then-federal prosecutor Mark Johnson later argued to a jury, Mintmire lied and created an artificially large number of shareholders to get a company stock listed. In the first week that Clements Golden Phoenix traded amid great excitement in Stuart, Mintmire surreptitiously cashed out of stock, netting more than $500,000, investigators later found. With his son, he netted a total of $250,000 on another company, they discovered.

Judging from a later search warrant affidavit, Clements Golden Phoenix graduated from “box job” to pump and dump. The company put out press releases to goose the stock price, according to evidence investigators gathered. As the price rose, the only ones to benefit were some of the original “investors.”

Meanwhile, insiders like Clements and the people who spent $3 and $5 per share — a total of $2 million — to buy into a private placement before the company went public couldn’t sell because their shares were restricted.

Perhaps they wouldn’t have wanted to — the company’s prospects looked good, with Clements talking up $3 million in commitments from Chinese buyers and a new brainstorm, exporting cranberry juice. With his picture on the OJ can, he talked of being the Colonel Sanders of citrus in China. And Florida Trend (this writer, in fact) cited Clements as an authority on the market [“The Last Great Canker War?” February 2001].

Those who bothered to look at the actual financial statements the company filed with the SEC would have had reason to pause. True, they were full of pronouncements about plans to build a packinghouse. But the company was bleeding cash, mostly for marketing and trips to China.

The reality of its breakthrough? Clements Golden had only a permit to sell in China and two agreements with food brokers to represent them there for a piece of sales — there were no guarantees in the contract that anybody in China would buy anything. Indeed, in its brief run, Clements Golden chalked up only $337,302 in sales, according to its SEC filings — and Clements now says he doesn’t know how it could have brought in that much. He says the company was never paid for what it shipped to China.

‘Not a close call’

In December 2000 — barely three months after it went public — the stock began collapsing. Clements, frustrated that no money was coming in from the stock trading to replenish the company as he expected, became convinced he was being played. In April 2001, he went public in the media and visited federal authorities. Clements as whistleblower was born. The company sacked him. CFO Rizzuti filed a court action to evict him from a house he had lent him. The car Clements used was repossessed — so was his boat. He says he found out his health insurance was canceled when he was hospitalized for a heart catheterization.

Investigators, Clements says, have asked him pointed questions about how he could have been so ignorant. He says he trusted others and was busy in China. “You were dealing with a neophyte when it came to stock,” he says. “Should I have known? I don’t know. Maybe.”

Johnson, who prosecuted the case and is now in private practice, says, “I’m confident (Clements) didn’t get any money. He just didn’t really understand how the financing worked, and he didn’t like it and was never very diligent about pursuing it. ... He still doesn’t really understand. Frankly, he’s not a detail guy, anyway. He’s a salesman.”

As it happens, in 2001 investigators from the SEC in Boston looked at another Mintmire-created company that had aroused suspicion. An SEC enforcement lawyer, in part using Mapquest, was intrigued to find that so many “sophisticated investors” happened to be in their early 20s and live in the same area of Atlanta as Mark Mintmire. “I mean, most of them don’t have money to invest in the stock market in the first place, and if they were going to invest, they wouldn’t invest in a company like that,” SEC attorney Lauchlan Wash later testified.

When questioned in 2003 by SEC lawyers about that company, Mark Mintmire invoked his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. Donald Mintmire testified for two days, not admitting to any crime but saying he had merely loaned the young people the money, though conceding that perhaps they didn’t know it was a loan.

In Florida, a grand jury led by Johnson and an IRS agent named Andrew Schmit investigated Clements’ complaints. Johnson traveled to The Highlander bar to meet the young figurehead investors. “Once we saw them, we thought this is going to be a fun case to try. Sophisticated investors?” One young man, who played in a band, told him, “Wow, man, there’s got to be some lyrics in this.”

But the SEC never issued so much as a cease-and-desist order to anyone involved in Clements Golden. The grand jury, however, did indict Mintmire for obstructing the grand jury investigation into Clements Golden and conspiring to thwart the investigation of that second company investigated out of Boston.

In a two-week trial in 2005, Mintmire didn’t testify. His defense consisted of reminding jurors he wasn’t on trial for fraud. His attorney, William Richey of Palm City, said Mintmire had come clean to the SEC. “He told them very bad things, much worse than what they’re alleging” in the two counts, Richey told jurors. The “Keystone Kops” government, he said, had mistaken being a lawyer representing a client — and getting paid in stock — with obstructing justice.

Jurors didn’t buy it and neither did the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. “This is not a close call,” District Judge R. David Proctor wrote for the appellate panel in November in finding there was sufficient evidence for the jury to convict Mintmire.

Mintmire, 61, is scheduled to begin serving a 21-month prison sentence this month. He was disbarred. At least some other companies he was involved with now have the taint of having been represented by a convicted felon. He declined to be interviewed for this article. His son Mark could not be reached.

Richey, the elder Mintmire’s attorney, says that at their request, the judge directed the prison system to put Mintmire into an alcohol abuse treatment program while he is serving time. “It was our position that it contributed to the problem,” he says. “I think that Don Mintmire is a wonderful person,” Richey says. “If you look at the sentencing reports on him, he’s been involved in charity very deeply his entire life both in terms of giving his time as well as his money and so has his wife. This is just a very great tragedy.”

Mintmire’s comeuppance, however, isn’t enough for Clements. He wants to see others charged. From the way he talks, tops on his list is Rizzuti, the former CFO who had him evicted. In a brief telephone interview, Rizzuti says it’s been three years since any government agency has shown any interest in the case and that the statute of limitations has run out. He says he’s innocent of any wrongdoing and declined an extensive interview.

“I’m not going to engage Skip Clements ever again if I don’t have to,” Rizzuti says. “The guy’s crazier than a hoot owl. He won’t let it go. Anything he can do to show himself as the victim and keep it in front of people. A lot of people lost money on the stock. So did I. Everyone lost their ass on this deal. I’ve moved on.”

Clements, nearly seven years after he got the boot as CEO, says he can’t move on. He says he can’t get a job because his reputation and credit are ruined. He briefly worked as a teacher. An investigator suggested he try Wal-Mart. Clements lives at a friend’s house and says he can’t afford the gas to drive to nearby Miami to visit his daughter, who has leukemia. “I’m doing the right thing, and I’m paying for it,” he says.

The case has become an obsession for Clements. Johnson says that Clements expects vindication to “turn his life around and allow him to get a job. ... I think he’s overly optimistic it will change everything.”

Clements hopes that once Mintmire tastes prison, he will turn on others. He’s become a gadfly, writing letters, holding press conferences, scolding the government and then-U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales for inaction. When Gonzales resigned in August, Clements held a press conference to take partial credit.

Clements is taken aback at the notion that the government could ignore Clements Golden to focus on larger frauds that are commonplace in south Florida. “I’m going to keep going,” he says. In fact, he adds, he’s just getting something in the mail to the new Attorney General.

Calculated play?

China never took off for anyone. China represents only 1.5% of all frozen juice exports from the United States. The latest data show no China imports of Florida oranges and rank it as only the 15th export market for grapefruit with just 10,000 cartons, compared to 4.6 million cartons for Japan, the largest market. Former Citrus Commissioner Richey says a major problem was that exporters who did ship to China had difficulty getting paid. Says the citrus league’s Bournique, “We thought it was going to be a tremendous market, but it was a flop.” The whole affair makes Johnson wonder whether the Chinese were being sincere with Clements. After all, if a country wanted to appear to be opening its market, without really doing so, would it give a permit to a major juice company or to a guy on a financial shoestring without groves or a packinghouse?