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By Dan Christensen, BrowardBulldog.orgBus9734-01

A whistleblower’s allegations about possible corruption and wasted public funds at Broward County Transit (BCT) have sparked a quiet internal county investigation that’s already led to the suspension of one ranking transit official.

The unidentified county employee’s accusations are in a 12-page whistleblower complaint filed with the county’s Office of Professional Standards in March.

Broward Bulldog has obtained a copy of the complaint that does not name the whistleblower, whose name is also protected under state law.

The most serious claim in the complaint: Two top transit officials appear to have “misled” the county commission into wrongly awarding a $13.3 million, no-bid contract last year to a North Carolina company that sells digital communications equipment for buses.

The First Presbyterian Church is in the foreground. Behind are the proposed Family Center and parking garage/office buildings.

The First Presbyterian Church is in the foreground. Behind are the proposed Family Center and parking garage/office buildings.

By Dan Christensen, BrowardBulldog.org

First Presbyterian Church’s $20-million plan to build a big new family center and a parking garage off Las Olas Boulevard finally returns to Fort Lauderdale City Hall next week for a zoning board showdown with irate neighbors in historic Colee Hammock.

After several delays, the board is expected to approve or reject construction on June 16 following final arguments from supporters and opponents. But with both sides vowing to appeal, the five-member city commission will likely make the final decision amid political fireworks this summer.

The row is a classic power struggle involving some of the biggest names in town. It could shape the size and style of development for years to come on the lesser eastern stretch of Fort Lauderdale’s swankiest boulevard.

By Dan Christensen, BrowardBulldog.org

Charles T. Wells

Charles T. Wells

Retiring Florida Supreme Court Justice Charles T. Wells knew he faced a conflict of interest in his relationship with his future employer at Orlando’s GrayRobinson when he disqualified himself from cases involving the law firm on Dec. 30, 2008.

But that did not stop him 30 days later from participating in a ruling that, in effect, backed a statewide political fight led by prominent members of his soon-to-be employer.

The group that lost the ruling – Florida Hometown Democracy – now wonders if Justice Wells’ vote was unduly influenced by his employment opportunity at GrayRobinson.

“It doesn’t smell good,” said Palm Beach environmental attorney Lesley Blackner, Florida Hometown Democracy’s president. “When I found out he was going to work for GrayRobinson it seemed like there was a high potential for conflicts of interest.”

UPDATE: Fort Lauderdale’s planning and zoning board will meet June 16 at 6:30 p.m. to decide whether to approve First Presbyterian’s proposed expansion plans.

By Dan Christensen, BrowardBulldog.org

Fort Lauderdale City Hall

Fort Lauderdale City Hall

Fort Lauderdale’s planning and zoning board can’t get its act together to take a vote on First Presbyterian Church’s controversial building plans in historic Colee Hammock.

The board announced Wednesday that it had canceled Thursday’s special meeting to consider the church’s rezoning request because it couldn’t get enough members to show up.

It was the second time this month the nine-member board has said it couldn’t muster a quorum.

The board will nevertheless convene at 6:30 p.m. in the city commission chambers at City Hall to set a new date to hear the matter.

By Dan Christensen, BrowardBulldog.org

Wheelabrator's North Broward Waste-to-Energy plant

Wheelabrator's North Broward Waste-to-Energy plant

The first shot was fired last week at Oakland Park City Hall in a brewing rebellion among Broward cities over the high cost of garbage disposal.

County officials have offered a proposal they say will save the cities nearly $49 million a year over what they now pay to get rid of their trash – plus get them a share of a $12 million bonus that giant Waste Management is willing to pay if they sign up early for another 10 years.

But some outraged city leaders say those contract renewal savings are not nearly enough.

They contend that Waste Management has used its local trash monopoly to make enormous profits on the backs of Broward customers and they fault the county’s Resource Recovery Board – and RRB chair and Broward Commissioner Ilene Lieberman – for not moving to end that monopoly by putting the $1.5 billion deal out for competitive bids.