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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

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.

Vivian Blake

Vivian Blake

By Dan Christensen, BrowardBulldog.org

Vivian Blake’s peaceful death in a Kingston, Jamaica hospital bed March 21 is a grim contrast to his life steeped in violence – much of it in South Florida.

Blake, formerly of Miramar, was a founder of the “Shower Posse,” a politically connected drug gang that got its name from the bullets it rained down on its enemies.

Despite the dope, death and political muscle that still defines the gang today, Blake died of natural causes at age 53.

Federal authorities on the front lines of the cocaine wars in the 1980s and early 1990s said the Shower Posse and its offshoots murdered about 1,400 people nationwide. That’s more men, women and children than live in the town of Sea Ranch Lakes.

Ron Book

Ron Book

By Dan Christensen, BrowardBulldog.org

Flagged by Broward officials for a conflict of interest, county lobbyist Ron Book has agreed to stop pushing for a new state law that county officials say would seriously undermine Broward’s pretrial intervention program and cost local taxpayers millions.

The new law is being sought by another of Book’s clients, the Florida bail bond industry. It would restrict access to county-run pretrial release programs by establishing new, statewide eligibility requirements for defendants seeking to get out of jail, forcing the county to spend more in keeping inmates behind bars.

County support for the pretrial program has wavered over the years; nevertheless, critics say Book should not be involved in representing the bail bond industry on the issue.

Broward County pays Book $53,000 a year plus $2,000 in expenses to lobby in Tallahassee.

At Tuesday’s commission meeting, Commissioner Lois Wexler said that if passed the law would “decimate” local pretrial release programs and place huge financial burdens on counties across the state.