Ron Book

Ron Book

By Dan Christensen,

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.

The Florida Supreme Court

The Florida Supreme Court

By Dan Christensen,

Following up on a decision three years ago that barred judges and court clerks from hiding civil court cases from public view, the Florida Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the same ban on secrecy also applies to criminal cases.

Also on Thursday, the justices wrote new rules forbidding the falsification of official court records – including the public docket – to shield informants.

The Miami Herald reported in 2006 how judges and prosecutors in Miami-Dade had altered the public docket to cover up the felony convictions of informants.

“That’s a clear victory for the public,” said Miami First Amendment attorney Thomas Julin. “It ensures we’re not going to have falsified records in the public court files that are misleading to the public.”

By Dan Christensen

As Broward commissioners prepare to publicly debate the merits of a proposed new ethics code, a county contractor is accusing county officials of unfairly playing politics when handing out multimillion-dollar contracts.

Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport

Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport

CH2M Hill, the international engineering giant, says it ran into a buzz saw last year when it sought the lucrative job of lead designer for the $810-million expansion of the south runway at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

“I have personally never witnessed such a politicized selection process,” said CH2M Hill President Mark Lasswell in an unusually frank letter to commissioners and staff. CH2M Hill has several other contracts with the county, including a general services contract at Port Everglades.

Scott Rothstein

Scott Rothstein

By Dan Christensen,

Attorneys and accountants for the court trustee in the messy bankruptcy of scamster Scott Rothstein’s collapsed law firm have asked a judge to authorize nearly $2.2 million in fees for less than three months’ work.

The biggest slice of that plump pie – more than $1.2 million – was billed by Berger Singerman, a South Florida law firm with deep ties to the Democratic Party.

“It is a significant amount of money, and there will be significant legal fees that will continue to accrue. There is a massive amount of work,” said firm partner and bankruptcy expert Paul Singerman.

Others that asked for large initial fees in the case last week: Miami accounting firm Berkowitz Dick Pollack & Brant ($611,640), and Miami law firm Genovese Joblove & Battista ($324,805).

scalesofjusticeBy Dan Christensen,

The smoke has cleared in the recent public dustup between State Attorney Michael Satz and Public Defender Howard Finkelstein over the quality of justice in Broward County.

Neither man has changed his mind.

Finkelstein still contends Satz favors the influential and the police over the average citizen when it comes to charging decisions. Satz calls that assertion “false and irresponsible.”

Still, important change has taken place – change that could someday spread out from the Broward courthouse and across the state.


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