Broward Health commissioner quits amid governor’s inquiry into testimony in Jenne case

 By Dan Christensen, BrowardBulldog.org 

Kimberly Kisslan as BSO general counsel in 2007. Photo: BSO

Kimberly Kisslan as BSO general counsel in 2007. Photo: BSO

Broward Health Commissioner Kimberly Kisslan resigned Friday – two days after BrowardBulldog.org reported how she’d testified under a grant of immunity to the federal grand jury that investigated disgraced sheriff Ken Jenne.

Kisslan, who quit amid an inquiry by Gov. Rick Scott’s office, did not explain her decision in a resignation letter released Friday evening.

“I am tendering my resignation from the Board of Commissioners of the North Broward Hospital District, effective immediately,” Kisslan wrote.

The governor appointed Kisslan to a four-year term on the governing board of Broward Health only three months ago. Scott didn’t know then of Kisslan’s role in Jenne’s criminal scheme and her immunized testimony amid the federal corruption investigation that gripped Broward in 2007.

“We were not aware of this information when we announced the appointment,” said John Tupps, a spokesman for the governor. He did not respond to a further request to explain why a background check did not reveal this information.

Broward Health, whose legal name is the North Broward Hospital District, is among the largest tax-supported public health systems in the nation. Kisslan’s departure leaves just four of the board’s seven seats occupied.

Kisslan, the city attorney in Sunrise, was the sheriff’s legal counsel under Jenne. She represented the Broward Sheriff’s Office, but also did personal work for Jenne that landed her before the grand jury.

The work involved helping Jenne to coordinate the demolition of a home with code compliance issues that the sheriff owned in Lake Worth. Kisslan teamed with Philip Procacci, a Broward Sheriff’s Office vendor Jenne had asked for assistance, to make it happen, court papers say.

Procacci, a developer who leased office space to the sheriff’s office, ultimately paid $8,130 to demolish Jenne’s house. Jenne never repaid the money and ultimately pleaded guilty to a number of charges that included not reporting the payment on his behalf on his federal income tax return. He immediately left office.

Kisslan and Procacci appeared before the Lake Worth Code Enforcement Code Board as Jenne’s representatives on June 28, 2001. Kisslan later wrote Jenne a memo about what occurred, but “deliberately chose not to put the memorandum on BSO letterhead because she recognized that she was doing work not for BSO but rather for Jenne personally,” court papers say.

While the demolition was being arranged, Procacci also was negotiating an amendment to an existing BSO lease for a building in Plantation. Two days after Kisslan and Procacci’s appearance in Lake Worth Jenne signed a deal with Procacci that committed BSO to lease an additional 5,000 square feet of space for five years at an added cost to BSO of $348,000.

Kisslan was “the attorney who negotiated the lease extension and signed the extension as a witness,” says the factual statement signed by prosecutors, Jenne and his lawyers.

The sheriff’s counsel works for the sheriff in his official capacity, not for the sheriff personally. Yet records show Kisslan worked with Procacci to obtain the demolition for Jenne while knowing the sheriff was handing Procacci a valuable BSO lease extension.

Kisslan did not respond to several requests for comment.

Candidates for gubernatorial appointments complete a seven-page questionnaire in which they are asked to discuss their qualifications and provide references.  They are also asked to declare whether they’d ever been arrested, charged or indicted or had a probable cause finding that they’d violated Florida’s Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees.

Kisslan answered “no” to the two latter questions about possible past problems. Her references were Fort Lauderdale lawyer Edward A. Dion, a former county attorney who was her boss at BSO; Broward Circuit Judge Elijah H. Williams and retired Broward Circuit Judge Robert A. Rosenberg.

A graduate of South Broward High School who obtained her law degree from the University of Florida in 1991, Kisslan worked for Jenne’s law firm, Conrad, Scherer & Jenne, until not long after Jenne became sheriff in 1998 and hired her to work at BSO.

Kisslan stayed 10 years. She left in July 2008 to go to work for the Law Office of Stuart R. Michelson. Michelson, the husband of then-County Commissioner Ilene Lieberman, had just been awarded a controversial, no-bid contract to be Sunrise City Attorney. Kisslan was his assistant until she took over as Sunrise’s $173,000-a-year city attorney in 2011.

Governor’s choice for Broward Health board got immunity to testify in Jenne case

By Dan Christensen, BrowardBulldog.org 

Former Sheriff Ken Jenne the  day he pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges in September 2007. Photo: WSVN

Former Sheriff Ken Jenne the day he pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges in September 2007. Photo: WSVN

Gov. Rick Scott’s recent choice to serve on the governing board of tax-supported Broward Health testified under a grant of immunity before the federal grand jury that investigated disgraced former sheriff Ken Jenne.

Attorney Kimberly Kisslan’s grand jury testimony is secret. But her role in Jenne’s case is contained in court papers filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in September 2007 to explain the factual basis for Jenne’s guilty plea to various corruption charges.

Kisslan, currently the city attorney for Sunrise, was the sheriff’s legal counsel under Jenne. She represented the police agency, but also did personal work for Jenne that landed her before the grand jury.

The work involved helping Jenne to coordinate the demolition of a home with code compliance issues that the sheriff owned in Lake Worth. Kisslan worked with Philip Procacci, a Broward Sheriff’s Office vendor Jenne had asked for assistance, to make it happen, court papers say.

Procacci, a developer who leased office space to the sheriff’s office, ultimately paid $8,130 to demolish Jenne’s house. Jenne never repaid the money and ultimately pleaded guilty to a number of charges that included not reporting the payment on his behalf on his federal income tax return.

DEMOLITION AND A DEAL

Kisslan and Procacci appeared before the Lake Worth Code Enforcement Code Board as Jenne’s representatives on June 28, 2001. Kisslan later wrote Jenne a memo about what occurred, but “deliberately chose not to put the memorandum on BSO letterhead because she recognized that she was doing work not for BSO but rather for Jenne personally,” court papers say.

Kimberly Kisslan as BSO general counsel in 2007. Photo: BSO

Kimberly Kisslan as BSO general counsel in 2007. Photo: BSO

While the demolition was being arranged, Procacci also was negotiating an amendment to an existing BSO lease for a building in Plantation. Two days after Kisslan and Procacci’s appearance in Lake Worth Jenne signed a deal with Procacci that committed BSO to lease an additional 5,000 square feet of space for five years at an added cost to BSO of $348,000.

Kisslan was “the attorney who negotiated the lease extension and signed the extension as a witness,” says the factual statement signed by prosecutors, Jenne and his lawyers.

The sheriff’s counsel works for the sheriff in his official capacity, not for the sheriff personally. Yet records show Kisslan worked with Procacci to obtain the demolition for Jenne while knowing the sheriff was handing Procacci a valuable BSO lease extension.

Kisslan did not respond to several requests to discuss her private legal work for Jenne, her immunity deal with the U.S. Attorney’s Office or to say whether those matters came up during her pre-appointment discussions with the governor’s office.

The governor’s office, asked for comment about the matter on Monday and again Tuesday, declined to say whether it was aware of Kisslan’s immunized grand jury appearance.

“We are looking into it,” spokesman John Tupps said Tuesday evening.

Broward Health, whose legal name is the North Broward Hospital District, is among the largest public health systems in the nation. Gov. Scott appointed Kisslan to a four-year term on the district’s board of commissioners on July 19.

IMMUNITY RAISES QUESTIONS

Anthony V. Alfieri, Director of the University of Miami School of Law’s Center for Ethics and Public Service, called Kisslan’s appointment “troubling.”

“When an appointee is caught up in a federal criminal justice investigation of public corruption that results in a conviction, in which the appointee is granted immunity and in which her conduct raises questions about her candor and conflicts of interest, that should be relevant to the governor in making an appointment,” said Alfieri. “It certainly is important to Floridians to know that not only the best and brightest, but the best principled and right-minded people are serving the people of Florida.”

“If in fact this is coming to light the first time then it suggests that Kisslan deliberately declined to disclose this fact,” said Alfieri. “And to the extent that her nondisclosure shadows the appointment process it suggests that process may have been flawed and that it may not have been a full and fair deliberation.”

Candidates for gubernatorial appointments complete a seven-page questionnaire in which they are asked to discuss their qualifications and provide references.  They are also asked to declare whether they’d ever been arrested, charged or indicted or had a probable cause finding that they’d violated Florida’s Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees.

Kisslan answered “no” to the two latter questions about possible past problems. Her references were Fort Lauderdale lawyer Edward A. Dion, a former county attorney who was her boss at BSO; Broward Circuit Judge Elijah H. Williams and retired Broward Circuit Judge Robert A. Rosenberg.

A graduate of South Broward High School who obtained her law degree from the University of Florida in 1991, Kisslan worked for Jenne’s law firm, Conrad, Scherer & Jenne, until not long after Jenne became sheriff in 1998 and hired her to work at BSO.

Kisslan stayed 10 years. She left in July 2008 to go to work for the Law Office of Stuart R. Michelson. Michelson, the husband of then-County Commissioner Ilene Lieberman, had just been awarded a controversial, no-bid contract to be Sunrise City Attorney. Kisslan was his assistant until she took over as Sunrise’s $173,000-a-year city attorney in 2011.

During the 2007 grand jury investigation, Miami criminal defense lawyer Scott Srebnick represented Kisslan for $400 an hour at taxpayer expense. Over two months, the cost to BSO was $11,500.

Typically, prosecutors offer limited immunity to witnesses who have declined to answer questions on the ground that their truthful answers may tend to incriminate them. Agreements that confer such immunity are known as “queen-for-a-day” letters.

On his March bill, Srebnick charged BSO for a half hour telephone conference on March 16 with Kisslan and an assistant U.S. attorney (AUSA). Three days later, he billed again to “review immunity letter” and attend another conference with Kisslan and the prosecutor. On March 20, he billed four and a half hours for yet another conference between his client and the government.

Srebnick’s bill for April outlined further conferences and meetings. They include charges for a four-hour “AUSA debriefing” of Kisslan on April 10 and another six hours for Kisslan’s “grand jury appearance in Fort Lauderdale.” 

Sudden turnover at the top, financial downgrade raise flags about state prison provider Corizon

By Dan Christensen, BrowardBulldog.org inmatehealth

The two top executives of a state vendor who negotiated a $1.2 billion contract with the Florida Department of Corrections to provide medical care for thousands of state prisoners were abruptly dismissed on Wednesday.

Tennessee-based Corizon, operating subsidiary of Valitas Health Services, declined to discuss the reason for the departures of Chief Executive Officer Rich Hallworth and President Stuart Campbell.

The move, however, followed a Sept. 23 announcement by Moody’s Investors Service that it had downgraded approximately $360 million in Valitas’s corporate debt securities – changing the company’s rating outlook from stable to negative and increasing the likelihood of default.

Last week, BrowardBulldog.org reported that Corizon, which began work in August at 41 state correctional facilities in north and central Florida, was sued 660 times for malpractice across the country in the last five years. Nearly half of those cases remain open. Of those that are closed, 91 – one in four – ended with confidential settlements.

Wexford Health Sources, which has a five-year agreement worth $240 million to provide health services to state inmates in South Florida, was hit with 1,092 malpractice claims – suits, notices of intent to sue and letters from aggrieved inmates – from January 1, 2008 through 2012. Wexford paid a total of $5.4 million to settle those cases.

Among the reasons cited by Moody’s for Valitas’s deteriorating financial position are the recent loss of prison health contracts with Maine, Maryland, Tennessee and Pennsylvania, as well as “competitive pricing pressure” elsewhere.

New Corizon CEO Dr. Woodrow Myers, left, and former CEO Rich Hallworth

New Corizon CEO Dr. Woodrow Myers, left, and former CEO Rich Hallworth

Corizon/Valitas is the nation’s largest provider of healthcare services to correctional facilities, in charge of medical care for 410,000 inmates in 29 states. The company could be upgraded financially next year if earnings increase, according to Moody’s.

Yet the sudden departure of the two executives who landed the enormous Florida contract, and Moody’s generally weak financial portrait of the company, are raising prior concerns about Corizon’s performance.

In 2006, when known as Prison Health Services, Corizon walked away from a 10-year, nearly $800 million contract with Florida to provide healthcare to thousands of inmates in state prisons in South Florida.

The Sun-Sentinel reported then that a spokesman said the contract had “underperformed financially.”

“The company said higher than anticipated use of hospitals located off prison grounds was the main reason it was ending the agreement,” the newspaper reported.

The Department of Corrections awarded Corizon the contract in 2005 “despite protests from legislators and competitors who said the company’s bid was too low to provide quality service.” That bid was $80 million less than its nearest competitor, the newspaper said.

While there is concern that history might be repeating itself, a Corizon spokesman offered reassurance that was not the case.

“This change in company leadership should not impact day-to-day operations with Corizon’s clients. The company will continue to focus on patient safety and exceeding client expectations in every aspect of our service delivery,” said spokesman Pat Nolan.

Florida Corrections spokeswoman Misty Cash said the state is not concerned about Corizon’s future performance.

“The placement of a new CEO at Corizon will have no impact on our contract with the company. The Department of Corrections looks forward to working with new CEO Woodrow A. Myers Jr., M.D. and his leadership team.”

Corizon announced the appointment of Myers as CEO on Thursday, effective immediately. Myers is a Valitas board member and former executive vice president and chief medical officer of Indiana-based WellPoint.

Valitas is majority owned by Beecken Petty O’Keefe & Company, a Chicago-based private equity management firm. It reported revenue of approximately $1.2 billion for the twelve months that ended June 30.

 

Lagging in South Florida, Broward County has no on-demand video of public meetings

By William Hladky, BrowardBulldog.org 

A screen shot from an on-demand video of a meeting last month by the Miami-Dade County Commission. Broward commissioners don't make on-demand viewing of their meetings available to the public.

A screen shot from an on-demand video of a meeting last month by the Miami-Dade County Commission. Broward commissioners don’t make on-demand viewing of their meetings available to the public.

Unlike most local governments, the Broward County Commission limits the amount of sunlight that shines on its meetings.

Broward is the only county in Southeast Florida, and the only major government in Broward County, that does not archive its recorded commission meetings for later on-demand viewing online by the public.

Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Monroe counties, the Broward School Board, and 18 of 31 Broward cities – including Fort Lauderdale – provide on-demand video or audio web viewing. Only Broward’s smaller municipalities lack this service.

More than 85 percent of Broward’s population resides in cities that offer on-demand web video or audio viewing of commission or council meetings.

Many governments also provide anytime viewing for meetings that occurred months or even years earlier. For example, Coral Springs has archived online video recordings of every city commission meeting since the start of 2007.

Fort Lauderdale started putting video of every city commission conference and regular meeting online in August 2012. The Broward County School Board keeps videos its meetings available online for the last six months.

Individuals wanting to watch a video of a prior Broward County Commission meeting must file a public records request to obtain a DVD copy of the session. A DVD copy costs $8 plus postage if it is mailed.

The Broward County Commission broadcasts live regular meetings and public hearings on its web page and on cable television. The meetings are re-webcast and most of the time re-broadcast on cable once, at 5:30 pm the Friday following the meetings.

FLORIDA’S SUNSHINE LAW

While Florida’s Sunshine Law only requires governments to keep general written minutes of their proceedings, on demand videos increase transparency by preserving the “richness of the discussion” that leads to decisions, said Carla Miller, founder a non-profit organization called City Ethics that provides local governments with ethics training and programs.

“If you don’t do digital recordings there is a…suspicion,” she said. “Anything that decreases the public trust is not good…Withholding things on line will always bring up suspicion.”

Broward residents have reason to be suspicious. According to the Justice Department, Florida led the nation in federal public corruption convictions between 2000 and 2010.

Integrity Florida, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research organization, reported that public corruption was a factor in Forbes Magazine’s decision to list the greater Fort Lauderdale metropolitan area as the seventh most “miserable city” in the United States in 2012. Forbes ranked Miami #1. West Palm Beach was fourth.

Daniel Krassner, executive director of Integrity Florida, supports on-demand video or audio web access, noting that many people are at work during commission meetings and are only able to watch them later. The Broward Commission meets regularly on Tuesdays starting at 10 a.m. Public hearings begin at 2 p.m.

“There is a difference between transparency and providing easy access,” said Krassner. “Putting them on line would be a best practice for open accessible government.”

Still, there appears to be no urgency to make on-demand video happen any time soon at County Hall.

“There are other things in the pipe line ahead of (on-demand video of commission meetings),” said Broward Mayor Kristin Jacobs. Jacobs pointed out that commissioners were briefed last week about efforts to redesign existing county web sites for mobile devices. “We are really excited about it,” she said.

ON-DEMAND SYSTEMS RELATIVELY INEXPENSIVE

Jacobs said, too, that Broward’s limited budget hinders archiving videos of commission meetings for on-demand viewing by the public.

In fact, many on-demand systems are relatively inexpensive.

In Jacksonville, the city purchased a $250 digital recording device and after each governmental meeting city staff links an audio recording on its web site for on-demand use.

“It’s not a hard thing to do,” said Carla Miller, who is also director of Jacksonville’s Office of Ethics, Compliance and Oversight.

Broward School Board spokeswoman Cathleen Brennan said her board’s more sophisticated video system cost $12,485 to operate this year.

Fort Lauderdale pays Granicus, a California corporation, $2,290 a month to operate the city’s on-line video system. Granicus started managing the city’s system in 2012. The city’s startup cost with Granicus was $27,825.

Chaz Adams, Fort Lauderdale’s public information officer, stressed in an email that Granicus’ cost covers not just online web access to meeting recordings but it also covers many aspects of the city’s “workflow management system.”

Government on-demand web services range from the sophisticated to the simple, from the easy to the difficult to access.

Fort Lauderdale’s system is one of the more sophisticated. Once a video recording is selected, that meeting’s agenda appears below the screen. Clicking an agenda item moves the video to that part of the meeting where the item is discussed.

Miami-Dade County’s online video archives feature more than commission meetings. Also to be found are meetings of various committees, including county finance, health and social services, public safety and animal services.

William Hladky can be reached at whladky@browardbulldog.org

 

Florida prison officials didn’t ask, companies didn’t tell about hundreds of malpractice cases

By Dan Christensen, BrowardBulldog.org prison

The Florida Department of Corrections awarded a five-year, $1.2 billion contract to provide medical care for thousands of state prisoners in north and central Florida to Corizon, a Tennessee company that was sued 660 times for malpractice in the last five years.

Nearly half of those cases remain open. Of those that are closed, 91 – one in four – ended with confidential settlements that Corizon declined to discuss. Corizon began work in August providing care at 41 correctional facilities.

A second contractor, Pittsburgh-based Wexford Health Sources, signed a five-year, $240 million contract in December to provide medical services to state inmates in nine institutions in South Florida.

Wexford, however, was hit with 1,092 malpractice claims – suits, notices of intent to sue and letters from aggrieved inmates from January 1, 2008 through 2012. Records say Wexford settled 34 of 610 closed matters for a total of $5.4 million, as well as another case that ended in a $270,000 jury verdict against the company.

The Department of Corrections, headed by Secretary Michael D. Crews, hired Corizon and Wexford to lead Florida toward millions of dollars in savings promised by the massive privatization of inmate healthcare enacted by Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Along the way, however, the corrections department never asked the corporations bidding for those lucrative jobs to disclose their litigation histories — how often they’d been accused of malpractice, where those cases were filed and the outcomes.

Neither Crews nor Dr. Olugbenga Ogunsanwo, the assistant secretary for medical and health services, agreed to be interviewed for this story. Corrections spokeswoman Misty Cash, however, called the state’s contracting process “comprehensive.”

Florida Corrections Secretary Michael D. Crews

Florida Corrections Secretary Michael D. Crews

“The selection of Wexford and Corizon was transparent,” she said. “Both companies provided the required and requested documentation as outlined in the procurement and bidding process.”

Government agencies elsewhere in Florida typically require corporate bidders to provide litigation histories in order to assess the quality and reliability of their services, as well as their ability to limit potential liability.

Prisons are obligated under the Eighth Amendment to provide prisoners with adequate medical care.

The problematic litigation histories of Corizon and Wexford raise questions about the quality of inmate care promised by those companies and paid for by Florida’s taxpayers.

“What really troubles me about this is the fact that the department didn’t ask these very basic, elemental questions any system would ask,” said Eric Balaban, a staff attorney for the National Prison Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. “These two vendors were taking over Florida’s massive health care system and you’d think they would have asked hard questions to determine if these companies can provide these services within constitutional requirements.”

BrowardBulldog.org obtained the litigation records from the Broward Sheriff’s Office using Florida’s public records laws.

BSO obtained them from Corizon and Wexford during their unsuccessful bids this summer to provide healthcare services for inmates at the Broward County Jail. Each company complied, to varying degrees.

Prison companies don’t like to discuss lawsuits filed against them, and neither Corizon, created by the 2011 merger of competitors Prison Health Services and Correctional Medical Services, nor Wexford would comment for this article.

LITIGATION AS ‘TRADE SECRET’

Corizon, in fact, initially tried to block the release of its litigation history by claiming it was exempt from disclosure as a “trade secret.” The company rescinded that claim in late August, after its work for the state had begun and after being told litigation was being contemplated by this news organization to force disclosure.

While Corizon told BSO it had been sued 660 times, it did not provide the requested list of cases.

One example, however, can be found in the court file of 24-year-old Brett Fields.

Fields was sent to the Lee County Jail on July 6, 2007 after being convicted of two misdemeanors. He was healthy, except for a bump “about half the size of a tennis ball” on his left arm – the result of a spider bite, the court records say.

On Aug. 6, after a month of sporadic, ineffective and “lax” treatment by Corizon staff, Fields “felt his back go sore and numb.” The next day, his legs began to twitch uncontrollably, with the pain becoming unbearable after midnight on Aug. 8, records say.

Fields could no longer walk by the time he saw a physician’s assistant about 9 a.m. who checked Fields’ his leg and foot reflexes and found none. Fields was given Tylenol and returned to his cell.

Early on Aug. 9, Fields “felt his intestines escaping from his rectum.” Fellow inmates begged Corizon’s staff to take him to the hospital. Instead, nurse Bettie Joyce Allen “obtained some K-Y Jelly, and pushed the intestines back in,” the records say. Hours later, at a local hospital, doctors found an abscess compressing his spine.

A jury awarded Fields $1.2 million in 2011 after finding Corizon solely responsible for what happened. The award included $500,000 in punitive damages. Fort Lauderdale attorneys Gregg Lauer and Dion Cassata represented Fields.

The verdict was  upheld last year by an appeals court that observed prompt treatment “could have averted permanent damage to his legs, but he did not receive that treatment because Prison Health (Corizon) delayed his treatment.”

PROBLEMS ACROSS THE U.S.

In addition to the lawsuits and claims filed against them, Corizon and Wexford both have faced withering official criticism about the delivery of care to inmates.

  • Idaho – In 2011, the Associated Press reported that Corizon was fined $382,000 by the state “for failing to meet some of the most basic health care requirements outlined by the state.” Last year, an expert appointed by a federal judge to review Corizon’s medical care at one prison near Boise found “inhumane” conditions.
  • Pennsylvania – Corizon paid a $1.85 million fine to Philadelphia after investigators determined the company had used a front company as a subcontractor to meet city requirements for minority-owned vendors.
  • Maine – In 2011, a state agency review of Corizon’s operations there found that the company maintained medical records poorly and had failed to fulfill contract obligations. The head of Maine’s American Civil Liberties Union later told the state’s Public Broadcasting Network that those problems rose to “a systemic constitutional dimension.”
  • Mississippi – In December 2007, the joint legislative committee criticized Wexford and the state’s Department of Corrections for failing to ensure that all inmates received timely access to quality medical care. Wexford was also assessed more than $930,000 in fines for maintaining staffing levels that were not in compliance with contract minimum – fines the committee said had not been collected.
  • Arizona – Wexford and the state’s corrections department agreed in January to terminate Wexford’s medical services contract in the wake of accusations the company improperly dispensed medicine to inmates and wasted state resources, according to the Arizona Republic. Wexford was awarded a three-year contract seven months earlier. Arizona hired Corizon to replace Wexford.

Florida has had its own problems with the two companies.

In 2006, Corizon, then known as Prison Health Services, backed out of a 10-year state prison healthcare contract saying it wasn’t making enough money. The company had won the contract only months before with a bid that was millions lower than its competitors.

In 2004, Florida legislative auditors called Wexford’s medical care “problematic,” according to the Miami Herald. In 2002, the newspaper reported that the Florida Correctional Medical Authority had reprimanded Wexford the year before for poor medical care following the deaths of two inmates.

Florida let bygones be bygones when it hired Corizon and Wexford to help achieve the 7 percent in cost savings mandated for privatization by the legislature. Corrections spokeswoman Misty Cash said taxpayers would save $3 million a month because of those contracts.

Some contend Florida’s emphasis on savings has eclipsed questions about the quality of the medical care for inmates that taxpayers are purchasing.

Michael Hallett is a professor of criminology at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville who has written about prison privatization. He said quality of care simply isn’t much of a concern when it comes to prisoners.

“Most people feel, as long as they achieve their 7 percent savings who cares how they treat inmates?” he said.

Hallandale finds allies amid aggressive response to county’s request for CRA documents

By William Gjebre, Broward Bulldog.org hbcralogo

A group of Broward cities have reached an agreement with the county Inspector General’s Office to turn over financial documents from their redevelopment agencies, temporarily heading off a possible court battle over the county’s claim that it has jurisdiction to investigate those agencies.

The Inspector General’s Office requested those Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) documents earlier this month citing its authority under the county charter, but after encountering resistance agreed instead to request them using Florida’s public records law.

Hallandale Beach city commissioners, criticized this year by the Inspector General for mishandling millions of dollars in CRA funds, sounded the battle cry at a meeting on Monday with a vote to explore teaming up with other CRA cities to obtain a legal ruling about the county’s authority over CRAs.

Commissioners approved several aggressive measures aimed squarely at the Inspector General’s Office, including a requirement that the county pay the city copying and other fees for any CRA financial documents it receives under the Public Records Act.

Commissioners authorized the city to file its own public records request for the Inspector General’s file on its completed yearlong probe of Hallandale Beach, including information about the sources of the allegations that helped start the investigation. Likewise, the commission also approved asking the Inspector General to specify the authority it believes it has under county law, or any legal ruling, to investigate CRAs.

MILLIONS AT STAKE

The Inspector General’s request for CRA records from city halls’ across the county signaled the opening of a broad inquiry into the potential misuse of funds and a possible attempt to recover from those cities millions of unspent taxpayer dollars.

Hallandale Beach maintains the Inspector General does not have the authority to investigate CRAs, and that CRAs are under the jurisdiction of the state.

“The jurisdiction question has to be resolved,” the Hallandale Beach CRA’s attorney Steven Zelkowitz told the CRA’s board of directors Monday. In Hallandale, as in many other cities, the city commission also sits as the CRA’s board.

Zelkowitz is expected to seek support for any legal action from eight other cities that challenged the IG’s request under the county charter for the financial documents. Those cities are: Lauderdale Lakes, Dania Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, Coral Springs, Deerfield Beach, Pompano, and Davie.

“I feel comfortable that we have support,” Zelkowitz told Hallandale commissioners. The cost of any legal action would be spread among the participating cities, he said.

Plantation, the tenth city to receive a letter from the Inspector General, is not part of the challenge. Mayor Diane Bendekovic said her city had already provided the requested documents under the original request.

Hallandale Beach Mayor Joy Cooper, who leads the pushback effort against the county, blamed county officials for “a witch hunt” against cities whose CRAs receive property tax funds from the county.

“I’m tired of the Inspector General wasting taxpayers’ money,” Cooper said. “We welcome an investigation by the proper authority,” Cooper said, adding that the Inspector General is not that agency.

OTHER CRA CITIES CONCERNED

Hostilities between Hallandale and the county flared again following the Inspector General’s letter to Hallandale Beach and nine other Broward cities seeking a variety of CRA financial documents. This time, Hallandale’s concerns were shared by others.

Attorneys and officials representing eight CRA cities challenged the Inspector General’s assertion of jurisdiction under the county charter. They met last week with Jennifer Merino, general counsel for the Inspector General.

Zelkowitz said an agreement was reached in which the Inspector General’s Office would rescind its letter citing charter authority and re-issue a letter seeking the information under Chapter 119 of Florida’s statutes, the public records act.

The county also agreed to push back the date when the documents were due to be produced by about two weeks. The records had been due on Friday.

Merino told Browardbulldog.org her agency agreed only to “clarify” its request letter, saying the agency always wanted the documents under the public records law even though the original letter cited the county charter. She also said her agency is only conducting an “inquiry” for information and not an investigation.

According to Zelkowitz, the Inspector General’s office refused a request by the cities to jointly seek a ruling in Broward Circuit Court on whether does or does not have investigatory authority over CRAs. He also said the Inspector General failed to cite specific provisions giving it investigatory authority over CRAs.

Merino, maintaining that the Inspector General’s Office has the authority, said her office felt it “was not the right time” to seek such a court ruling.

“We are not trying to throttle any investigation,” Zelkowitz told Hallandale commissioners. “We want the right investigative agency to do the investigation.”

In June, Broward County commissioners, expressed frustration when told by county staff that their authority to audit Hallandale Beach’s CRA was limited by both state and county law. They vowed to change state law to gain control. The commissioners created the Inspector General’s Office several years ago.

In Hallandale, several of Mayor Cooper’s colleagues expressed a different kind of frustration as the tug-of-war continues with the Inspector General’s Office.

“We spent enough taxpayers’ money on this,” said Vice Mayor Alexander Lewy.

But Commissioner Michele Lazarow, the lone dissenting vote in Monday’s commission action, has called for state officials to seek an Attorney General’s opinion on the city’s use of CRA funds, and for an outside audit of the CRA to determine if funds have been misused in the past.

William Gjebre can be reached at wgjebre@browardbulldog.org

Broward commission looks to defy Gov. Scott on access for Obamacare ‘navigators’

By William Hladky, BrowardBulldog.org 

Protestors from the Broward Democratic Party, Service Employees International Union, the Broward AFL-CIO and the “online action hub” Fight for Florida outside the office of State Representative George Moraitis, R-Fort Lauderdale, on Thursday. The activists support Medicaid expansion under Obamacare. Photo: William Hladky

Protestors from the Broward Democratic Party, Service Employees International Union, the Broward AFL-CIO and the “online action hub” Fight for Florida outside the office of State Representative George Moraitis, R-Fort Lauderdale, on Thursday. The activists support Medicaid expansion under Obamacare. Photo: William Hladky

Heavily Democratic Broward County is expected to join Pinellas County in resisting Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s decision to bar Obamacare enrollment advisors from state health department facilities.

Broward Mayor Kristin Jacobs will offer a resolution at Tuesday’s county commission meeting that would allow Affordable Care Act “navigators” and counselors at Florida Department of Health facilities in Broward County. The commission, which is dominated by Democrats, is expected to approve the proposal.

Jacobs has scheduled a news conference after the vote where Obamacare outreach efforts will be publicized.

In her resolution, Jacobs adopted Pinellas County’s argument that the state cannot prevent Obamacare advisors from health department buildings because the county owns most of those facilities.

Of the eight Florida health offices in Broward, the county owns seven of the buildings and leases them to the state Health Department.

The state health department notified its county health field offices two weeks ago that Obamacare navigators, federal employees trained to help people obtain health insurance under the new system, would be barred from “the grounds of the health departments.” That notice caused several Pinellas County commissioners in that mostly Democratic county to protest.

The protest apparently forced state health officials there to backtrack. The Tampa Bay Times reported last week that Obamacare enrollment navigators would be allowed into health department buildings in Pinellas County.

“It is criminal that anyone would put their foot out to trip up that process for sharing (Affordable Care Act) information,” Broward Mayor Jacobs said in an interview. “You can’t tell us that we can’t do that in our own facility.”

“Reaching out to the public and letting them know what their options are for health care is an important mission for government…for the little guy,” she added. Jacobs, a Democrat who cannot run for re-election as a county commissioner because of term limits, will run for a Florida House seat next year.

The signature achievement of President Obama’s first term, the Affordable Care Act is under attack by Republicans across the country who are determined to undermine it. One tactic has been to head off people from enrolling for health coverage when the program kicks in Oct. 1.

Scott opposes the federal Affordable Care Act. Florida has declined $51 billion in federal money to expand Medicaid to help cover 3.8 million uninsured for the next ten years.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, another Republican, has expressed worry that any personal information navigators collect may not stay private.

Jacobs labeled Bondi’s claim “not true” and a “smoke screen” to taint Obamacare.

The Affordable Care Act kicks in October 1. Navigators and “certified application counselors” will be at various locations throughout the county to help uninsured persons enroll in a health plan.

Navigators are paid by federal grant dollars. Certified application counselors receive no federal money. They work for private organizations that requested Obamacare training to certify their staff.

Jacobs said that only seven navigators have been assigned to Broward County, which has one of the largest uninsured and underinsured populations in the state.  “That alone makes outreach difficult,” said Jacobs.

The mayor added that Obamacare counselors are needed at county health department buildings because that’s where persons who lack adequate health insurance regularly go.

Federal money to train and hire navigators in Broward went to the Epilepsy Foundation of Florida and Advanced Patient Advocacy. Unlike in Pinellas County, Broward government received no federal money for navigators.

Jacobs expects more counties to push back against the state’s restriction on Obamacare counselors. She said that at last week’s meeting of the Florida Association of Counties, “Everybody was having the same conversation. ‘What were they thinking? Why are they doing this?’” Jacobs said. “So I expect this (resistance) will continue to happen county by county.”

Jacobs’ resolution calls for the county administrator to notify the Florida Health Department director that Broward will “provide access to all appropriate county facilities and property for navigators and other lawfully authorized personnel to carry out the advisory mandates of the (Affordable Care Act), including facilities leased by from the county by the Florida Department of Health…”

William Hladky can be reached at whladky@browardbulldog.org

 

 

 

Broward commissioners move to retake contract power; change would reverse 2010 reforms

By William Hladky, BrowardBulldog.org 

From left, Broward Commissioners Chip LaMarca, Stacy Ritter, Martin David Kiar, Vice Mayor Barbara Sharief, Lois Wexler,  Dale V.C. Holness, Mayor Kristin Jacobs, Sue Gunzburger and Tim Ryan

From left, Broward Commissioners Chip LaMarca, Stacy Ritter, Martin David Kiar, Vice Mayor Barbara Sharief, Lois Wexler, Dale V.C. Holness, Mayor Kristin Jacobs, Sue Gunzburger and Tim Ryan

The Broward County Commission has taken its first step to snatch back power to influence the awarding of contracts.

Commissioners last week unanimously agreed to hold a Sept. 24 public hearing to consider changing bid rules at the county’s Aviation Department to require that staff rankings of bids for airport concession contracts be approved by a vote of the commission. After the hearing, commissioners are expected to vote to make the change.

More change is in the air. Commission discussion also centered on becoming more involved in all contract selection committees.

Involvement in contract selection committees would reverse changes to the county’s Code of Ethics, enacted in 2010, which banned commissioners from committee participation.

The 2010 ethics code was championed by reformers seeking to prevent lobbyists from using campaign contributions to influence the votes of commissioners serving on selection committees.

The Aviation Department currently does not need the approval of the county commission before recommending the hiring of a concessionaire, unlike what’s required regarding recommendations for other large contracts involving the procurement of goods and services.

Aviation concession contracts cover food and beverage sales, taxi service, retail and duty free stores, advertising, pay phones, business technology service centers, airport public and employee parking facilities, self-service baggage carts, entertainment rentals and automated retail sales.

COMMISSIONERS NOW HAVE FIVE DAYS

Aviation regulations state that once the county administrator sends a memo to the commission listing how concession bids are ranked, the bid ranked first will be accepted for contract negotiations unless a commissioner expresses a concern within five working days.

The department’s concession rules have existed for decades and were not amended when changes were made several years ago to how procurement contracts were chosen.

Commissioners first learned about the airport’s concession procedures in August when a lawyer for MERABroward, a company that lost a bid for a multi-million dollar concession contract to upgrade concessions at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, complained at a public meeting.

In July, BrowardBulldog.org reported than an aviation selection committee ranked MERABroward third among three bidders although MERABroward offered to pay the county the highest annual minimum fee, pay airport concession workers the highest hourly wages, invest more in capital improvements, and pay the county a higher percentage of retail proceeds than the other two companies.

MERABroward, whose parent company is MERA Corporation which operates in Mexican and Ecuadorian airports, is located in Lake Worth.

On May 30, County Administrator Bertha Henry sent the commission a memo ranking Host International, a large airport concession company headquartered in Bethesda, Md., as first to upgrade airport concessions. Apparently not noticing the memo, no commissioner objected to the rankings and the Aviation Department already has entered into negotiations with Host to work out details of the contract.

“None of us caught it,” Commissioner Lois Wexler said in an interview. “We shook our heads at the last meeting” when commissioners learned they were not needed to approve the bid rankings.

Once of the Aviation Department and Host International iron out a contract, it will face an up-or-down commission vote.

The commission is expected to vote on the negotiated Host International contract later this fall.

Wexler introduced the proposal to require a commission vote to accept Aviation Department staff bid rankings. She said the Aviation Department supports the change.

‘FOLLOWING THE MONEY’

“I’m very interesting in following the money” to make sure it is properly spent, Wexler said, adding, “I don’t think it is in the best interest…not to have commissioners involved in the procurement process.”

“The procurement process right now is no better than 3½ years ago when county commissioners were on (selection committees),” Wexler said.

At last week’s meeting, Mayor Kristin Jacobs said she wanted commissioners to be able to serve on contract selection committees not as voting members but “at the table, not with your mouth taped at the back of the room…” Commissioners, the public’s elected representatives, should have the ability to question and talk to contract selection committee staff members, she said.

The county’s Cone of Silence Ordinance was modified in 2011 to prevent commissioners from communicating with county staffers who serve on such committees during competitive procurements.

Broward County Attorney Joni Armstrong Coffey told the commission the county’s ethics code would likely have to be altered to allow commissioners to talk to staff who serve on selection committees. This is “because the ethics code prohibits a commissioner from…interfering with the process,” Coffey added.

Both Wexler and Jacobs said Broward County Inspector General John W. Scott should be consulted before any changes to the ethics code are made.

Wexler said she is “not leaning toward” voting to approve the negotiated Host contract once it comes before the commission. County staff, she said, has yet to explain to her why Host was selected.

“The process is tainted,” she said. “It is more like a crap shoot. I’m not sure how I’m going to vote on it.”

Wexler is also concerned about MERABroward’s ability to deliver on its promises. Most significantly, she’s suspicious of MERABroward’s promise to pay the county $1.9 million more annually than Host International’s offer, or $19 million more over the life of the proposed ten-year contract.

By way of example, Wexler noted that when media company Clear Channel received an Aviation Department advertising concession contract in 2007 it agreed to pay the county $1.5 million annually. Since 2009, however, the county has fought Clear Channel’s continuous efforts to reduce its “minimum annual guarantee,” she said.

William Hladky can be reached at whladky@browardbulldog.org

 

 

Broward opens broad inquiry into misuse of property tax dollars by CRAs; millions at stake

By William Gjebre and Dan Christensen, BrowardBulldog.org iglogo

The Broward Inspector General’s Office has opened a broad inquiry into the potential misuse of public funds across the county with written requests sent to at least nine cities with a Community Redevelopment Agency to hand over a variety of financial records for inspection.

One official with knowledge of the inquiry told BrowardBulldog.org the Inspector General’s review is “the beginning of a long term process.”

Frank Schnidman, an attorney and senior fellow at Florida Atlantic University’s School of Urban and Regional Planning, said the Inspector General’s request for records is all about millions in tax dollars and who should control them.

“It’s about time that somebody was trying to hold CRAs accountable. The Inspector General’s Office might not be the right mechanism to do that, but it’s about time,” Schnidman said.

CRA’s administer programs within districts designated by local governments under state law as community redevelopment areas.  Boards made up of local government officials or persons appointed by the local government run them.

Tax increment financing is used to fund CRAs, which receive tax revenue generated by increases in real property value in their area over a baseline number determined when the CRA is created. By law, those revenues – the “increment,”— are put into a CRA Trust Fund that’s dedicated to the redevelopment of the area.

KEEPING TABS ON CRAS

In sending letters to the CRAs the Inspector General’s Office is carrying out a vow made earlier this year amid its investigation of Hallandale Beach’s CRA to keep close tabs on municipal redevelopment groups that receive half their funds from property taxes collected by the county.

Identical records requests were sent to at least eight of the 10 Broward cities with CRAs that receive county funding – Hallandale Beach, Hollywood, Fort Lauderdale, Lauderdale Lakes, Davie, Pompano Beach, Margate, Deerfield Beach and Plantation. An official in Coral Springs, the 10th city, said that city has not received a letter but expects one soon.

While some CRA officials express uneasiness, others welcomed the Inspector General’s action.

“I think they are looking for general information, but they may want to see if there is anything that’s improper,” said Will Allen, administrator at the Davie CRA. “They won’t find anything wrong here.”

In Hallandale, City Commissioner Michele Lazarow said, “I don’t think it is an accident that the letter was sent” shortly after the Inspector General issued a critical report against the Hallandale Beach CRA.

Earlier this year, the Inspector General charged that Hallandale Beach city officials had “grossly mismanaged” millions of dollars in CRA funds. The office said it found at least $2.2 million in questionable expenditures between 2007 and 2012.

Mayor Joy Cooper challenged many of the county’s allegations. Asked to comment about the Inspector General’s new request for documents, she said the city “will respond accordingly.”

The Inspector General’s office asked the cities to produce:  

*A copy of the ordinance that established the CRA Community Redevelopment Trust Fund. Hallandale Beach, for instance, did not have a separate fund for the first 16 years of the agency’s existence.

*Bank statements for the redevelopment trust fund accounts for the months of September and October for the years 2009-2012.

*The CRA’s general ledger account ending balances from 2009-2012

*Any and all CRA capital improvement plans for 2009-2012.

*Documentation for the disposition of all money remaining in the redevelopment trust fund at the end of fiscal year ending September 20, 2012 that was later used to reduce indebtedness for pledged funds.

*Records regarding all money deposited into escrow accounts from 2009-2012 for repayment of CRA debts.

Schnidman said the records that were sought indicate that the county’s agents are attempting to determine if the CRAs have complied with the requirements of state statute – 163.387(7) – regarding how tax increment trust fund balance amounts are to be treated at the end of the fiscal year.

Under the law, Schnidman said, those balances are supposed to be proportionally returned each year to each taxing authority, such as the county, that paid into the CRA.

“What the Inspector General is doing is he’s trying to figure out which of the county’s CRAs are in violation of the law and need to return all this money they’ve husbanded away,” said Schnidman. “It’s millions of dollars.”

WILL OTHER COUNTIES FOLLOW BROWARD’S LEAD?

At a time of tight municipal budgets, the Inspector General’s gambit could reverberate it city halls across the state.

“I wonder if other counties will follow this effort by the Broward IG’s Office in the continuing revenue discussions between some counties and their CRAs,” said Schnidman. “The threshold question is by what authority is the Broward IG seeking this information from Broward County Dependent District CRAs that it arguably does not have jurisdiction over?”

City officials in Hallandale briefly challenged the Inspector General’s authority over its CRA, but later backed off that position.

In Margate, where the CRA has focused on “streetscape” improvements along Atlantic Boulevard and State Road 7, City Attorney Eugene Steinfeld took a wait-and-see approach to the county’s inquiry.

“It sounds like they are just gathering information,” Steinfeld said.

Lauderdale Lakes CRA executive director J. Gary Rogers welcomed any new oversight.

“They are doing their job,” said Rogers.

In 2012, following up on a story the year before by BrowardBulldog.org about missing redevelopment funds, the Inspector General found that Lauderdale Lakes had misspent $2.5 million in CRA funds. The city is repaying the money to the CRA.

“We were investigated and employees were terminated,” Rogers said. “We came close to a big financial disaster” under a previous administration, added Rogers who was not with the city at the time.

“I got no problem with them looking at us,” Rogers said. “They want to make sure we are spending money appropriately.”

William Gjebre can be reached at wgjebre@browardbulldog.org

On 9/11 anniversary, push in Congress to win day in court for victims of terrorism on U.S. soil

By Dan Christensen, BrowardBulldog.org survivor911

Twelve years after al Qaeda hijackers flew jetliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon – killing nearly 3,000 people – a renewed push is underway in Congress to ensure that victims of terrorism on American soil can hold its foreign sponsors to account in U.S. courts.

In the House next week, New York Congressmen Peter King, a Republican, and Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat, are expected to introduce the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA). New York Democrat Charles Schumer will sponsor the same bill in the Senate.

Congressional aides would not discuss the bills in advance of filing. Sen. Schumer, however, has said JASTA is needed “due to flawed court decisions that have deprived victims of terrorism on American soil, including those injured by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, of their day in court.”

JASTA’s second purpose: to choke off the money pipeline flowing to al Qaeda and other terrorist groups by making those who fund them liable for damages in American courts.

“JASTA will allow all victims of terrorism in the U.S. what was intended by Congress – the right to hold terrorist financiers accountable in civil court,” said Sharon Premoli, who was in her office on the 80th floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center when the first plane struck.

“I’m all for this new bill. It’s important to deter terrorism and provide justice for victims,” said Rachel Ehrenfeld, an authority on terrorist financing and director of the New York-based noprofit American Center for Democracy.

HUNDREDS SUED, A DOZEN REMAIN

In the wake of 9/11, thousands of survivors, family members and business interests that suffered billions of dollars in losses sued several hundred defendants alleged to have provided financial and other material support to al Qaeda and others terrorist organizations. Those lawsuits were consolidated into a single sprawling federal case in 2003.

Among the defendants were the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, an official Saudi charity and several Saudi princes. In 2005, however, the Saudis were dismissed from the case, principally on grounds of sovereign immunity.

The courts for other technical reasons of jurisdiction later dismissed most of the rest of the defendants. One striking reason: Under the Alien Tort Statute defendants must be shown to have committed a wrongful act in violation of international law, but the plaintiff/victims did not do so because no definition of “terrorism” existed “under customary international law as of September 11, 2001,” according to New York’s Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

Today, only about a dozen defendants remain, according to plaintiff’s attorney Jodi Flowers, of the Motley Rice law firm in Mount Pleasant, S.C.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY

On Monday, Flowers and other attorneys for the 9/11 plaintiffs took their case to the Supreme Court in an attempt to overturn a trio of adverse rulings by the Second Circuit in April.

Schumer and others contend the courts have misconstrued the law and Congressional intent that specifically authorized lawsuits and created exceptions to the doctrine of sovereign immunity in cases of terrorism.”

“SUBSTANTIAL EVIDENCE” 

“Substantial evidence establishes that (the Saudi defendants) had provided funding and sponsorship to al Qaeda without which it could not have carried out the attacks,” Schumer said in 2011.

If passed, JASTA would put Saudi Arabia and similar deep pockets back on the liability hook. Sen. Schumer and Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa) first introduced JASTA in December 2009. It was reintroduced in 2011 with broad bipartisan support, but drew little media attention and did not become law.

9/11 Families for Justice Against Terrorism, a group that represents more than 6,600 survivors and relatives, said it expects “a strong bipartisan cast of co-sponsors” this time, too.

The group started an online petition drive where JASTA supporters can urge Congress to pass it.

Terry Strada is a member of the 9/11 group. Her husband, Tom, worked at Cantor Fitzgerald and died in the North Tower.

She said JASTA would overturn the “erroneous” court rulings that held American courts have no jurisdiction when it comes to foreign terrorist financiers who gave their money abroad – even when an attack took place in the U.S.

“The problem can best be understood by example: If we discover someone intentionally gave aid or money to the Boston Marathon bombers and that money had been given to them outside our borders – no accountability from a civil action would be possible,” she said.

TWO PROBES, QUESTIONS REMAIN

Two official accounts of 9/11 – Congress’s Joint Inquiry and the 9/11 Commission – have not told the public the complete story about what happened and why, particularly regarding who funded the hijackers.

For example, 28 pages were redacted from the Joint Inquiry’s report regarding “specific sources of foreign support for some of the September 11 hijackers while they were in the United States.”

Further, former Florida Sen. Bob Graham, who co-chaired the inquiry, has said that neither Congress nor the Commission were told about an FBI investigation into apparent connections between the hijackers and a Saudi family with ties to the Royal family who abruptly fled their Sarasota area home two weeks before the attacks.

BrowardBulldog.org first disclosed the existence of the post-9/11 inquiry in Sarasota two years ago. “The public still does not know the whole story about who bankrolled the attacks. It is still a secret,” Strada said. “Graham, after learning about the hijackers’ Sarasota cell, has been calling for a reopening of the 9/11 investigation and the transparency that has been totally absent over the past 12 years.”

Terrorism expert Ehrenfeld, while supportive of JASTA, is skeptical of the U.S.’s intentions about getting at the root of problem because “politics are dictating who is considered a terrorist and who is not.” “I have many doubts because if the government wanted to do something serious, the government would have done it already,” Ehrenfeld said.

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