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Charles T. Wells

Charles T. Wells

By Dan Christensen, BrowardBulldog.org

When former Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles T. Wells retired in March 2009 he did not file final financial disclosure forms required by state law and judicial canons.

He belatedly did so this week after Broward Bulldog inquired about that omission.

Supreme Court justices, like lower court judges and other officeholders, must annually disclose for public inspection their sources of income, business interests, assets, liabilities and net worth.

Florida’s Code of Judicial Conduct, the ethical standard for the state’s judges, says judges “shall file a final disclosure statement within 60 days after leaving office.”

By Dan Christensen, BrowardBulldog.org

Charles T. Wells

Charles T. Wells

Weeks after casting the deciding vote to approve a controversial ballot petition in December 2008, former Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles T. Wells joined a law firm aligned with the petition’s sponsor.

The high court’s 4-3 ruling gave life to a push by developers and statewide business interests – led by the Florida Chamber of Commerce – to blunt a possible change in the state constitution to greatly expand citizen powers over local development.

Wells landed a senior job at GrayRobinson, an influential Orlando-based corporate firm allied with the petition’s sponsor, a political action committee called Floridians for Smarter Growth. He says he got the job because of his six decade old friendship with the firm’s co-founder, J. Charles Gray.

GrayRobinson announced Wells’ hiring on March 3, 2009. But in an interview with Broward Bulldog, Wells said he might have accepted the job in January 2009, while the case was still before the court for a possible rehearing.

“I don’t really remember. I may have,” Wells said. “As I say, I was wrapping things up at this point.”

Gray did not respond to a request for comment.

By Dan Christensen, BrowardBulldog.org

As Broward’s courthouse task force steamrolls ahead with its $328 million building plan for a new downtown government high-rise, it will have to do so without Broward Public Defender Howard Finkelstein.stackingdiagram3

Finkelstein has resigned, claiming the task force established to assess the need for a new courthouse has morphed into a body that’s now looking to decide “who gets contracts and for how much.”

“I also find it distressing that members, myself included, are now being approached by lobbyists and companies who want a ‘piece of the pie’ dollars for construction issues,” Finkelstein said in a March 26 letter to task force chairwoman, County Commissioner Ilene Lieberman.

The letter was posted on JAABlog, an online source of Broward courthouse coverage run by local lawyers.

The task force is made up of a dozen lawyers, judges and elected officials who came up with plans for a new courthouse that were approved by the county commission last summer.

By Dan Christensen, BrowardBulldog.org

In this architectural rendering, the First Presbyterian Church is in the foreground. Behind it are the proposed Family Life Center and separate parking garage/office building along Las Olas Boulevard.

In this architectural rendering, the First Presbyterian Church is in the foreground. Behind it are the proposed Family Life Center and separate parking garage/office building along Las Olas Boulevard.

Three years ago, Fort Lauderdale’s First Presbyterian Church lost a fight with neighbors to build $25-million family center, parking garage and other facilities in the city’s historic Colee Hammock district.

The defeat, however, wasn’t a knockout.

The church goes back to the city’s planning and zoning board April 21 with a new proposal intended to address neighbors’ concerns.

Some of Fort Lauderdale’s oldest and most influential names have a stake in the outcome – as congregation members or nearby homeowners. They include: Huizenga, Bryan, Egan, Maus, Blosser, Stiles, Horvitz, Cobb.

Church leaders say the proposed construction on church-owned land south of Las Olas Boulevard between Tarpon Drive and Southeast 15th Avenue is desperately needed to fulfill its ministry.