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By Dan Christensen, BrowardBulldog.org

Pablo Ibar

Pablo Ibar

Seth Penalver

Seth Penalver

Broward prosecutors said this week that they have cleared a Florida convict of involvement in one of the county’s most notorious crimes – the 1994 video-taped murders of a Miramar club owner and two models.

For nearly a year, the quiet investigation of inmate William Ortiz had caused the postponement of the Supreme Court ordered retrial of accused killer Seth Penalver.

Ortiz, whose name did not come up in three previous trials, is serving a life sentence upstate for burglary, assault and carjacking in Broward County. He was implicated by at least two witnesses who came forward to identify Ortiz last March after one saw a Spanish television broadcast of part of the home surveillance video in the so-called Casey’s Nickelodeon murders.

But Chief Assistant Broward State Attorney Charles Morton said Miramar detectives now discount Ortiz as a suspect.

 By Dan Christensen, BrowardBulldog.org

Tough-talking Broward Property Appraiser Lori Parrish called it a “tax dodge” four years ago when Pastor Frederick “Sonny” Irons asked her to grant his $1.9 million Fort Lauderdale waterfront estate tax-exemption as a church.

The Seafarer's Church of the Creator

The Seafarer's Church of the Creator

“Everyone knows what a real church is, and this isn’t it,” Parrish told the Sun-Sentinel after she rejected Irons’ request.

But Parrish has changed her mind about Irons’ tiny Seafarer’s Church of the Creator.

In December, without announcement, Parrish settled a three-year-old lawsuit with Irons by agreeing to grant his application for tax-exempt status for 2006, but not for 2005. The deal reversed Parrish’s original decision to deny the exemption for both years and meant Broward’s tax collector couldn’t collect about $33,000 in property taxes assessed for 2006.

More importantly, Parrish has given her official blessing to a perpetual property tax exemption for the two-story brown brick home at 1309 SW Fifth Court where Irons and his wife, Judy, reside. That means the valuable parcel astride the north fork of the New River is now legally a church and parsonage, and the city and county can no longer collect taxes on it.

By Dan Christensen, BrowardBulldog.org

Lincoln Diaz-Balart

Lincoln Diaz-Balart

Mario Diaz Balart

Mario Diaz Balart

South Florida congressmen are dropping left and right.

First, it was liberal Democrat Robert Wexler. He bolted mid-term last month to take a job running a Middle East think tank.

Now, it is conservative Republican Lincoln Diaz-Balart. He announced last week he won’t be running for a 10th term later this year.

Diaz-Balart, who represents voters in southwest Broward and central Miami-Dade, sought to burnish his legacy and expound on his achievements in a short departure speech that had little do with Broward. He did not say why he was leaving.

That, of course, is stoking a political guessing game.

Broward Democratic Party boss Mitch Caesar thinks Diaz-Balart’s decision to step down has a lot to do with protecting his brother, Miami U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, from possibly career-threatening political reform.

pbsjLogoBy Dan Christensen

The slow motion fall of embattled PBS&J boss John Zumwalt moved rapidly toward closure over the weekend with the announcement that he had been replaced as company chairman and would soon resign.

Zumwalt’s ouster by PBS&J shareholders after five years as the company’s powerful chairman and chief executive officer was a surprise. His decision to leave on March 1 “for personal reasons” was an about-face.

John Zumwalt

John Zumwalt

Three weeks ago, Zumwalt informed employee-shareholders he would step down as day to day CEO later this year to spend “the coming months” developing PBSJ’s plans for future growth. He said nothing about giving up the chairman’s post, and had sought re-election to the board.

PBS&J is among Florida’s largest government contractors and donates heavily to political campaigns. In Broward, its highest profile job today is as co-leader of the design engineering team for the county’s $810 million runway expansion at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

Fort Lauderdale Police Department

Fort Lauderdale Police Department

By Dan Christensen, BrowardBulldog.org

Daniel M. Zavadil no longer carries a badge. The Fort Lauderdale Police Department fired him last fall after he admitted to signing someone else’s name on an official document.

Zavadil lost his job after authorities concluded he was unfit to serve as a city police officer because of a “lack of integrity and poor judgment.”

But he’s still good enough to be a Florida lawyer.

The Florida Bar identifies Zavadil as a “member in good standing” on its public website. It lists Zavadil’s 10-year discipline history as “none.”

Officer Zavadil was admitted to the practice of law on May 4 while relieved of duty with pay and under investigation by police internal affairs. He was dismissed by the city in November for falsifying a defendant’s signature and conduct unbecoming a police officer.