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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.

 UPDATE: May 19: Fort Lauderdale’s zoning board voted this evening to hold a special meeting at 6:30 p.m. on May 27 to decide whether to approve  First Presbyterian Church’s controversial expansion plans.   

UPDATE, MAY 18: Wednesday’s expected vote by the Fort Lauderdale zoning board on First Presbyterian Church’s controversial expansion plans has been delayed. The reason: city officials have learned there won’t be enough board members on hand to make a quorum. The board’s next regular meeting is June 16, but a special meeting could be convened before then, said city spokesman Chaz Adams. Broward Bulldog will post the date and time when it’s announced.

 

By Dan Christensen, BrowardBulldog.org

 Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner Romney Rogers has been on the job little more than a year, but today he’s the man to watch in a high-profile zoning fight between expansion-minded First Presbyterian Church and its angry neighbors.

Romney Rogers

Romney Rogers

Rogers’s district includes historic Colee Hammock – home to the church and hundreds of nearby homeowners.

Church leaders argue $20 million in new buildings are desperately needed to fulfill the church’s ministry. The Colee Hammock Homeowners Association says the buildings are too massive and will disrupt the neighborhood and depress property values. They also fear that the church wants to use the buildings to open a school – something the church has denied.

The zoning board is expected to decide whether to recommend the project to the commission at its May 19 meeting. The board postponed a decision last month when an overflow crowd of speakers for and against caused a meeting to run past 1 a.m.

People on both sides want to know whose side Rogers is on. That’s because he’ll likely account for two of the five votes that will ultimately decide who wins — his own and Mayor Jack Seiler’s. Seiler’s general policy is to follow the lead of district commissioners on votes in their backyard.

By Dan Christensen, BrowardBulldog.org

NASA

NASA

As oil continues to gush from a severed pipeline on the Gulf of Mexico seabed, a consortium of law firms stretching from Fort Lauderdale to Texas is preparing for its own kind of cleanup.

The first wave of more than a half-dozen lawsuits landed in federal court in New Orleans last week – one week after the disaster began with an explosion and fire aboard the oil rig Deepwater Horizon 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana. The rig sank two days later.

“I suspect there will be thousands of lawsuits,” said Broward lawyer Walter G. “Skip” Campbell, who plans to file suit this week in New Orleans on behalf of gulf shrimp and oyster farmers.

To date, authorities have said they can’t choke off the flow of an estimated 210,000 gallons of oil a day that’s pouring from the damaged pipe and rising nearly a mile to the surface. An enormous, still-growing oil slick threatens economic interests and wildlife habitat for hundreds of miles of coastline from Louisiana to Florida.