PBC looks to limit impact of Trump visits on Lantana Airport

Trump (Getty Images)

Palm Beach County has drafted a resolution seeking relief from temporary flight restrictions that impact the Lantana Airport during President Trump’s trips to his Mar-a-Lago mansion on Palm Beach.

The resolution, up for discussion when county commissioners meet on Tuesday, states that: “The frequent imposition of TFRs have resulted in, and will continue to result in, significant losses to the aviation businesses operating at the Lantana Airport.”

Temporary flight restrictions during Trump’s visits have impacted all airports in the county, but they have been particularly costly for the Lantana Airport, located six miles south of West Palm Beach.

A county report in February noted that the airport lost $30,000 in business during one of Trump’s visits.

The county’s resolution directs County Administrator Verdenia Baker or her designee to work with the county’s congressional delegation, the U.S. Secret Service, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Homeland Security to find a way for the Lantana airport to continue operations during Trump’s visits.

PBC residents get chance to weigh in on state constitution

Should Florida’s constitution be amended? How should it be amended?

Palm Beach County residents will have a chance to weigh in on that statewide discussion on April 7, when the Constitution Commission swings through the county to get input.

The commission, which hears testimony, performs research and identifies important issues, will hold a public hearing at Florida Atlantic University’s Stadium Recruiting Room at 777 Glades Road in Boca Raton from 9 a.m. to noon. The meeting is free and open to the public.

The commission meets once every 20 years and travels around the state to get input from residents.

105-year old WWII vet honored by PBC

William J. Ely, a 105-year old Delray Beach resident, said there are three reasons he has lived so long: good luck, good genes, and the love and caring of his wife, Helen, to whom he was married for 70 years before her death in 2014.

Ely, believed to be the oldest living graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, was honored by the Palm Beach County Commission on Tuesday.

Commissioner Steve Abrams, whose district includes Delray Beach, presented Ely with a proclamation honoring his 33 years of service in the Army, including service in the Pacific during  World War II.

Ely earned an Army Distinguished Service Medal, a Bronze Star, a Silver Star and two Legions of Merit.

After receiving his proclamation, those attending the commission meeting gave Ely a sustained standing ovation.

ely

(Eliot Kleinberg/The Palm Beach Post)

Palm Beach County ethics panel tosses two complaints

ethics logoA Delray Beach city commissioner and a Palm Beach County Community Services Department supervisor were cleared Thursday by the Palm Beach County Commission on Ethics.

The commission found “no probable cause” that Commissioner Shelly Petrolia benefited by nominating a customer of her outside business to the city’s Site Plan and Review Board. According to a memo, on June 7, Petrolia nominated Cynthia Freeburn as one of seven applicants; Freeburn was not picked. The memo said Petrolia did not reveal she and her husband, real estate brokers and had sold Freeburn a home and recently had listed her current home for sale. But an ethics commission memo ruled the $8,885 the Petrolias earned from Freeburn did not meet a $10,000 minimum to constitute a code violation and that she received no direct benefit in exchange for nominating Freeburn.

The commission also found no probable cause that Kathryn McNealy used her official position to manipulate the time sheets of two department employees. A former supervisor alleged McNealy put in hours for two co-workers for time they did not work. But a memo said a commission investigation found no evidence of that and noted the complainant signed off on many of the questioned time sheets and that one of the workers actually ran out of vacation and leave time and accrued some 80 hours of unpaid leave.

County, water management district still at odds over Ag Reserve land

Palm Beach County and the South Florida Water Management District remain at odds over a 571-acre tract of land in the Agricultural Reserve, and the district’s governing board has not accepted the county’s invitation to have a meeting to hash things out.

At issue is whether the county will agree to the district’s request to sell the jointly-owned land in the reserve, a 22,000-acre farming zone located west of Boynton Beach and Delray Beach.

The county, using money from a bond issuance approved by voters, purchased the 571 acres in 2000 with the intent to keep it in preservation or agriculture.

The district later bought a 61 percent stake in it with plans to use the site for a reservoir. But the district has shelved those plans and wants to sell the land.

Some residents, however, are concerned that selling the land to a private party could one day lead to its residential or commercial development. Those residents are not mollified by plans to expand conservation easements aimed at preventing development.

Several commissioners share those concerns and rejected a staff recommendation that they join the district in a sale.

Instead, commissioners directed staff to arrange a meeting with the governing board of the district, which has indicated it will sue the county to force a sale if one isn’t mutually agreed upon.

County Administrator Verdenia Baker reported back to commissioners that the district’s governing board “essentially felt that a meeting would be premature.”

Baker said the district directed its staff to work with their counterparts at the county on three issues: ability to obtain state funding the county would use to buy out the district; identifying a third party/environmental groups to hold the conservation easements and evaluate potential projects on which the district would use proceeds from the sale of the 571 acres.

“Unless we receive objections from the BCC, County Staff intends to work with District Staff to explore these three(3) issues and report back to the Board for further direction at either the February or March meeting,” Baker wrote to commissioners.

Verdenia Baker
Verdenia Baker

 

Jury recesses in 2015 drug-buy slaying near Florida Atlantic University

Henry (PBSO photo)
Henry (PBSO photo)

A jury Thursday morning recessed for the week in the first-degree murder trial of Donovan Henry, the alleged mastermind behind a robbery last Dec. 29 near Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton that left 19-year-old FAU student Nicholas Acosta dead.

Acosta
Acosta

Boca Raton police say Henry went to the University Park apartments that night to buy marijuana from Acosta, a fellow student. Acosta’s girlfriend, Kayla Bartosiewicz, opened the door for Henry, whom she recognized from a party, she told police.

Once Henry was inside, the rest of the men came in wearing masks and hoodies. Rodrick Woods shot Acosta twice, took a bag of marijuana and the group left, police said.

Assistant State Attorney Brian Fernandes has argued that, while Henry did not pull the gun, he was the mastermind because he knew Acosta and wanted his stash of marijuana.

Defense Attorney Scott Skier argued the state presented no evidence to prove Henry planned the robbery. He said the testimony they were relying on against his client was that of Woods, a convicted murderer. Woods, identified as the gunman, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in exchange for testimony against the other men. Woods has said Henry asked him to help steal the marijuana from Acosta.

Appeals Court: Palm Beach County elections chief’s records charge was “reasonable”

Bucher
Bucher
trout
Trout

Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher imposed a “reasonable”  fee on U.S. Congress write-in candidate W. Michael Trout, the 4th District Court of Appeal said in a ruling released Wednesday.

Trout, a failed write-in candidate in November’s re-election of U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, also had challenged Deutch as a write-in in 2014.

After the 2014 election, he submitted a public records request to inspect the official ballots associated with his congressional race “at the earliest reasonable time possible, including ballots deemed to be cast in [Trout’s] name, and those deemed by [the Supervisor’s] office to be invalidated,” the appeals court’s ruling says.

Bucher responded six days later, saying counting the 145,881 ballots in 211 precincts would take require her and three other staffers to do work beyond that for a usual records request. She said she’d have to charge Trout up to $189.21, which he had to submit in advance as a deposit.

Florida’s Sunshine Law says records custodians can charge only the hourly pay of the lowest-paid person qualified to fulfill a request. Bucher argued that it was reasonable for her, as head of the elections office, to supervise Trout’s inspection of the ballots — and to charge her hourly wage.

Trout refused to pay the deposit and sued in Palm Beach County Circuit Court, then appealed when the judge ruled against him.

Boca Raton Unitarians make good on threat to withdraw as voting site in mosque controversy

Bucher
Bucher

A Unitarian congregation in Boca Raton has made it official, withdrawing as a voting site to protest Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher’s pulling a polling place out of a Boca Raton mosque.20161112-bucher-letter-withdrawal

On Wednesday, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Boca Raton forwarded to reporters a formal letter of withdrawal that it sent Bucher on Nov. 12.

“We are saddened that it has come to this. Religious discrimination, and Islamophobia in particular, have been increasing dramatically, even more so since the election,” the group’s secretary, Charlie Cormier, said in an email to reporters. “We had hoped that our county government would not succumb to pressure from

Islamic Center of Boca Raton
Islamic Center of Boca Raton

that segment of our community. We continue to hope that other government offices resist similar pressures in the future.”

 

The group — which said it has served as a polling place for decades, most recently for precinct 4160 — had threatened on Aug. 21 to withdraw after the election if Bucher did not restore the mosque in time for the Nov. 8 vote, which she didn’t. It said its rules forbid to rent to any group that discriminates.

Bucher earlier this summer had selected Islamic Center of Boca Raton, at 3480 N.W. Fifth Ave. near Florida Atlantic University, then decided in July not to use it after she received as many as 50 calls advising her to move the site, with some callers warning her they’d try to block voting or even would call in a bomb threat in order to clear the building.

After the move, Bucher told The Palm Beach Post Editorial Board she felt she had to move the site “when we had a heightened threat that they (phone callers) were going to impede voters. I was very disappointed in our community and saw we have a lot of work to do.”

Bucher’s office didn’t immediately comment Wednesday on the Unitarians’ action.

581-acre chunk of Ag Reserve could be up for sale

The South Florida Water Management District has designed a 581-acre piece of Palm Beach County’s Agricultural Reserve to be surplus and available for sale, increasing the prospect of more development in a farming zone some fear is being gobbled up by builders.

The district co-owns the 581 acres with Palm Beach County. A majority of the seven-member county commission would have to agree to a sale.

Last year, when the district first began discussing the idea of declaring the land surplus and taking bids on it, Commissioners Paulette Burdick and Melissa McKinlay opposed private ownership of the land, which is part of a 624-acre tract purchased with public money in 2000.

Check back later today with http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com for more on this story.

 

PostonGrowth Post on Growth sig

 

Palm Beach County ethics panel cites county worker, two Delray Beach staff

ethics logoA former analyst for Palm Beach County’s Department of Environmental Resources Management faces ethics charges for allegedly trying to intimidate a business owner into giving him an auto repair discount, and two Delray Beach employees received “letters of instruction” for incidents in that city, in rulings Thursday by the county’s Commission on Ethics.

The charges against analyst Rowan Hughes stem from a November 2015 report by the Palm Beach County Office of Inspector General that said he “threatened or intimidated members of the public by falsely identifying himself as a well field inspector and making statements that he would have to conduct a well field inspection following a business’ refusal to reduce the price of repairs to his personal vehicle.”

The county fired Hughes Dec. 21, 2015, after he admitted driving the county vehicle for personal use, ethics commission documents show.

The panel also ruled Thursday that Joseph Lang, a firefighter paramedic and a rescue driver, was paid $10,834 from the city in 2014 and 2015 for an outside business he owned that supplied and serviced automatic external defibrillators for city buildings and fire-rescue trucks.

And the panel ruled Rashod Smith, a supervisor for the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, let Tennille Decoste, the city’s Human Resources administrator, hold a Thanksgiving Day dinner for her family and friends after hours in the city’s Pompey Park Recreation Center.

To read more, go later to mypalmbeachpost.com.