Judge won’t toss suit over Palm Beach County comment times


Plaintiffs may proceed to trial with a suit over whether public meetings laws are usurped when the Palm Beach County Commission gives citizens a total of three minutes to comment on a laundry list of agenda items, a Palm Beach County judge ruled Friday.

Circuit Judge Lisa Small refused a county motion to toss the suit filed Feb. 17 by Alex Larson and Fane Lozman, two regulars at county commission meetings, who demanded the county either stop using a “consent agenda” or not limit speakers during that discussion. They say it violates Florida’s Government in the Sunshine Law.

County Attorney Denise Nieman (center) speaks with County Commissioner Hal Valeche during a meeting of the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners Tuesday, January 27, 2015. Commissioners voted unanimously to ask Uber to stop operating in the county unless the company follows the current county law regulating taxis and limousines. (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)

Members of the public get three minutes to comment on a single regular agenda item. But they get three minutes total to comment on the “consent agenda,” a collection of items, mostly housekeeping in nature, that commissioners dispose of with a single vote, unless a commissioner pulls an item for further discussion.

“We’re going to win,” Larson, whose birthday was Friday, said after the hearing. County Attorney Denise Nieman, who did not argue the case but attended, said she was disappointed, “but we understand and we respect the judge’s order and we’ll move forward.”

To read more, go later to mypalmbeachpost.com.

Inspector General audit: control issues at Palm Beach County economic agency

OIGAn audit of Palm Beach County’s Department of Economic Sustainability revealed $175,319 in questionable expenditures and another $13,691 that potentially could be returned to taxpayers, the Palm Beach County Office of Inspector General said this week.

The Inspector General’s audit found “control weaknesses and operational areas that need improvement,” the agency said in a summary issued Wednesday.

It said the agency needed better oversight of its grants program, citing projects from the 2013 and 2014 budget years that in one case didn’t go to the lowest bidder and in two others had $30,000 in change orders that weren’t properly reviewed

The report said Economic Sustainability officials already have made some changes and will study the rest of the recommendations.

To read more, go later to mypalmbeachpost.com.


Palm Beach County Clerk Bock: I’ll close Royal Palm Beach center on Fridays



Describing it as yet another consequence of what she’s called deficient money from the state, Palm Beach County Clerk and Comptroller Sharon Bock said Friday she’s closing her “Midwestern Communities” service center in Royal Palm Beach on Fridays.

The new hours start Aug. 5 at the center, at 200 Civic Center Way, Suite 500.

Bock has said her budget took a $2.6 million cut this budget year, leading to layoffs and branch closings. She already closed operations on Fridays last year at her offices in the North County and South County courthouses.

To read more, go later to mypalmbeachpost.com.

Raining cats and dogs: Palm Beach County offers $4 adoptions next week


Adopting a pet will cost you less than lunch for four days next week.

From Thursday through Sunday, July 28-July 31, Palm Beach County Animal Care & Control will offer adoptions for just $4 at its headquarters at 7100 Belvedere Road, West Palm Beach.

Hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

All newly adopted-pets will be spayed or neutered and microchipped, will be current on vaccinations, and will go home with a free bag of pet food and more.

Visit www.pbcgov.com/animal for more information or to see a listing of all animals available for adoption.

Palm Beach County summer spelling bee set for Thursday

Palm Beach County Youth Services’ second annual countywide spelling bee is set for 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday at Palm Beach Central High School.

About 110 summer camp students from throughout Palm Beach County will participate. Individual county-run camps conducted local bees at their sites to select a boy and girl each for Thursday’s event. Top finishers will receive trophies.

Helping host the event are the County Attorney’s Office, the Library System, and Parks and Recreation. Sponsors include The Palm Beach Post, the Literacy Coalition, Prime Time, the Children’s Services Council, the School District of Palm Beach County, and the Early Learning Coalition.

For more, call Youth Services at 561-242-5737 or visit www.pbcgov.com/youthservices.

Palm Beach County code enforcement chief promoted

Bulkeley (Alexandra Seltzer/Post)
Bulkeley (Alexandra Seltzer/Post)

Ramsay Bulkeley, Palm Beach County’s Code Enforcement director for the past three years, has been promoted to Deputy Director of the Planning, Zoning and Building Department.

The PZB Executive Director, Patrick W. Rutter, advised county staff of the promotion on Thursday. Rutter said that Bulkely was in private law practice before joining the county.


County staff drafting ordinance to establish PACE program

Palm Beach County staff members are drafting an ordinance establishing a program to help residents finance energy-efficient improvements to their property.

County commissioners directed staff to write an ordinance establishing the Property Assessed Clean Energy program, which would allow qualified residential or commercial property owners to voluntarily finance improvements and repay through a non-property tax assessment that is repaid through their annual tax bill.

Contractors doing the work would have to be certified with the county’s Contractors Certification Division.


Tuesday Palm Beach County Commission workshop canceled

palm-beach-county-logoNext Tuesday’s planned Palm Beach County Commission workshop is canceled.

County Administrator Verdenia Baker said Thursday that only one item would have been on the agenda, and the county decided to move it to this week’s regular commission meeting.

That item was the panel directing staff to draft an ordinance establishing a Property Assessed Clean Energy program. It allows a qualified residential or commercial property owner to voluntarily finance energy efficiency improvements and repay through his or her annual tax bill.

The commission schedules workshops around once a month.

Palm Beach County Elections chief Bucher: We were warned of bomb scare if mosque used for voting

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Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher moved a polling place from a Boca Raton mosque to a city library after callers warned they’d try to block voting or even would call in a bomb threat, she explained Wednesday in her first public comment on the controversy.

“We began receiving complaints from voters,” she said Wednesday in an email to The Post Editorial Board for an editorial published on line Wednesday evening.

“Some felt uncomfortable voting at the Islamic Center,” the email continued. “When we received a call that indicated individuals planned to impede voting and maybe even call in a bomb threat to have the location evacuated on Election Day (no name was given during the call), we located the Spanish River Library which is two miles away from the center as an alternative voting location and I called the Center’s President.”

Bucher replied to the inquiry from the Editorial Board but for three days has not responded to a Post reporter’s phone calls and emails requesting details and comment.

Bucher last week switched the voting site for Precinct 4170 from the Islamic Center of Boca Raton to Boca Raton’s Spanish River Library, Bassem Alhalabi, the mosque’s president, told The Palm Beach Post on Monday.

On Tuesday, Boca Raton-area U.S. Reps. Lois Frankel and Ted Deutch issued statements suggesting the move was discriminatory.  The county’s other two members of Congress, Reps. Alcee Hastings and Patrick Murphy, and U.S. Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, so far have not responded to requests for comment submitted Tuesday and Wednesday.

Also on Tuesday, Florida Family Association, a Tampa-based group that campaigns against Islamic-American relations urged people to support Bucher’s decision.  The group said it was responding to “pressure” being put on Bucher by the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.  CAIR on Monday had raised the possibility of legal action if Bucher didn’t change her mind.

Bucher is up for reelection to the non-partisan elections supervisor post in the Aug. 30 vote.

McKinlay asks IG to look into Minto support for Westlake

Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay has asked the county’s inspector general to look into the support Minto Communities has pledged to the county’s newest city, Westlake.

Westlake’s interim city manager, Ken Cassel, told council members on Monday that Minto Communities will cover any budget shortfall for the next five years.

Minto is the largest landowner in Westlake, and, as such, represents nearly all of the new city’s tax base. The developer plans to build at least 4,500 homes in the area.

McKinlay, whose district represents Westlake, has asked Gov. Rick Scott to investigate the circumstances of the city’s incorporation, which some view as a Minto-inspired move that will allow the builder to go beyond the development limits it had agreed to two years ago with the county.

McKinlay wrote Inspector General John Carey on Wednesday, inquiring about “the legality of a landowner funding the same council that will ultimately decide the landowner’s permits, land use and quasi-judicial zoning issues.”

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

Commissioner Melissa McKinlay
Commissioner Melissa McKinlay