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13 posts from January 31, 2013

January 31, 2013

Thanks but no thanks on bonus, PBA tells governor

Even before Gov. Rick Scott publicly touts a new bonus plan for some state employees, a union representing some of those workers has in effect told the governor, "Thanks but no thanks."

The union is the Florida Police Benevolent Association (PBA), which represents officers in the Florida Highway Patrol and other agencies. The PBA said it would seek across-the-board raises for its members instead of what Scott is proposing, which is a one-time $1,200 lump-sum bonus for employees.

"We appreciate the governor's acknowledgement that the officers deserve an award for their outstanding accomplishments," PBA executive director Matt Puckett said in a statement. "But we believe base salary increases are long overdue. Some officers have gone six years without a wage increase due to state budget constraints."

Puckett said the PBA would seek pay increases "through the legislative budgeting process" and that the union is "hopeful that the governor will have a change of opinion." Public school teachers are the only group Scott is recommending receive an across-the-board pay raise, of $2,500 each.

The PBA and Scott have an interesting history. The union strongly supported Scott's Democratic opponent, Alex Sink, in the 2010 race for governor, and ran a memorable TV spot that accused Scott of endangering public safety with a plan to cut $1 billion from the state prison budget. After the election, Department of Corrections employees voted to replace the PBA as its bargaining unit with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

-- Steve Bousquet

WP: Jeb's foundation works to change laws that benefit funders

From the Washington Post's education blog reports: A nonprofit group released thousands of e-mails today and said they show how a foundation begun by Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor and national education reform leader, is working with public officials in states to write education laws that could benefit some of its corporate funders.

A call to the foundation has not been returned.

The e-mails are between the Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE) and a group Bush set up called Chiefs for Change, whose members are current and former state education commissioners who support Bush’s agenda of school reform, which includes school choice, online education, retention of third-graders who can’t read and school accountability systems based on standardized tests. That includes evaluating teachers based on student test scores and grading schools A-F based on test scores. John White of Louisiana is a current member, as is Tony Bennett, the new commissioner of Florida who got the job after Indiana voters rejected his Bush-style reforms last November and tossed him out of office.

Donald Cohen, chair of the nonprofit In the Public Interest, a resource center on privatization and responsible for contracting in the public sector, said the e-mails show how education companies that have been known to contribute to the foundation are using the organization “to move an education agenda that may or not be  in our interests but are in theirs.”

Here are the excerpts about Florida specifically: 

Continue reading "WP: Jeb's foundation works to change laws that benefit funders" »

Sex, a Senator, money and an FBI raid: The story of Menendez pal Sal Melgen

By most appearances, Dr. Salomon Melgen embodies the great American immigrant success story: A native of the Dominican Republic, Melgen has earned renown as one of South Florida’s leading eye surgeons. He owns a sprawling, waterfront home in North Palm Beach valued at about $3 million. He gives generously to charities and rubs elbows with prominent politicians.

“He’s a man that loves the limelight. He always has,’’ said Patricia Goodman, 70, a former office administrator and personal assistant to Melgen, who is now at the center of two FBI probes, one involving published allegations that he provided free trips to the Dominican Republic and prostitutes for U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat.

Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has called the allegations a politically motivated smear by a right-leaning website.

FBI agents raided Melgen’s West Palm Beach office Tuesday night, apparently seeking records related to the second investigation, one involving possible Medicare fraud. The feds continued to search the premises on Wednesday, joined by agents from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, suggesting that the raid was linked to Medicare.

Lawrence Duffy, a criminal defense attorney representing Melgen, said his client is unaware of the reason for the FBI raid.

“The government has not informed Dr. Melgen what its concerns are,’’ Duffy said in an email to The Miami Herald. “However, we are confident that Dr. Melgen has acted appropriately at all times.’’

Goodman said Melgen never hosted a fundraiser for Menendez during the time that she worked for the doctor from about 1989 to 1999. But she planned all of Melgen’s parties during those years, and said he helped raise millions for political campaigns — and had a blast doing it.

More here

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/01/30/3209385/complex-portrait-of-doctor-linked.html#storylink=cpy