« March 12, 2013 | Main | March 14, 2013 »

18 posts from March 13, 2013

March 13, 2013

Carroll's legacy: A ban on Internet cafes?

Within hours of Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll's resignation going public, a leading senator said it's time the Legislature considered shutting down all Internet cafes in Florida. Carroll was questioned by law enforcement authorities as part of a broad racketeering investigation of a St.  Augustine based non-profit that runs a string of Internet cafes.

"I'm going to suggest that we move a little faster now on that," said Senate Rules Committee Chairman John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine. "Maybe a ban. Now I believe that evidence has come out that indicates that these things are exactly what we thought they were. They've been corrupted. There's a problem with them."

In the past, Thrasher and other senators have favored a moratorium on Internet cafes, which would grandfather those already in existence. But Carroll's past work for Allied Veterans of the World may ratchet up the political support for tougher action in a year in which the Senate's No. 1 priority is ethics reform among elected officials.

Anti-gambling sentiment has been stronger in the House than in the Senate in recent years. The House has been more supportive of an Internet cafe ban and passed a ban in the 2011 session but the Senate refused to go along. House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, remains a strong supporter of an Internet cafe ban. The House bill outlawing the cafes (HB 155) is sponsored by Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami.

"It's been the largest expansion of gambling the state of Florida has ever had, and we never passed a law to do it," Weatherford said. "There's been a manipulation of the state's laws that have allowed these unregulated entities to pop up all over the state of Florida ... This clearly sheds light on what is really happening out there."

Said Weatherford: "My hope is our friends in the Senate will see this for what it is, and utilize the opportunity to do the right thing for Florida."

-- Steve Bousquet

Legislators react to Carroll resignation, pitch Flores as replacement

Legislators reacted with sadness upon hearing the news Wednesday of the resignation of Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll but wasted no time considering replacements. 

"Jennifer Carroll is a very dear friend and anytime you see a friend go through something difficult, your heart goes out to them,” said Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando. "I think she did probably what was the right thing to keep the governor’s agenda moving forward. And so it won’t be a distraction. But it still hurts. It hurts for her, it hurts for her family.” 

Gardiner said he served in leadership in the Florida House with Carroll. “I just feel for her and her family,” he said.

Gardiner also said that he continues to believe Florida should “do away” with internet cafes. “I think they’re taking advantage of loophole in the law,” he said. “I’ve been pretty consistent. I don’t want to regulate them, I want to do away with them.”

Hours after Carroll's resignation, some South Florida political observers took to Twitter to recommend Sen. Anitere Flores, a Miami Republican, be tapped for the job. Their hashtag of choice: #Anitere4LT.

Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, endorsed that idea. Flores "has all the great qualities of leadership. She's got the background, the experience,'' Detert said. "Geographically she fits. Being Hispanic doesn't hurt in Florida. She's an attractive candidate, smart woman...I don't know if she's interested or where she stands."

House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston called Carroll a dedicated public servant. "I'm very saddened by it,'' he said. "I wish the best to her and her family."

Rep. Dana Young, R-Tampa, said she was fond of Carroll. "She's going to definitely be missed in the Tampa Bay community because of her strong advocacy on behalf of the military and MacDill Air Force Base. We will miss her."
Republican Party of Florida director Lenny Curry, who is from Carroll's hometown of Jacksonville, called Carroll a "great leader for our party and our state.
"She was a terrific advocate for Florida’s military and economic development efforts,'' Curry said in a statement. "Her resignation is disappointing, but she made the right decision to protect both her family and the work she has done to move our state forward over the
last few years.”

Former Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, who has sponsored a bill to last year to ban internet cafes,  continued his push to get the Florida Senate to agreed to the effort. 

"The Florida House voted to shut down these illicit gambling operations last year,'' he said in a statement. "The Florida Cabinet unanimously agreed. It's now time for the Florida Senate to act to end this scourge on our state."

His bill was written by the general counsel for the Seminole County sheriff, the office that first began the probe and helped to draw federal investigators into the search.

 -- Rochelle Koff, Kathleen McGrory, Toluse Olorunnipa contributed to this report

Former Miami-Dade commissioner appointed Miami Beach city manager

Miami Beach commissioners have selected a new city manager.

Former Miami-Dade Commissioner and Doral City Attorney Jimmy Morales won the job unanimously Wednesday. Up next: contract negotiations.

Morales turned teary-eyed at Miami Beach City Hall when he got the job.

"I'm a little emotional. This place is special to me," said Morales, who graduated from Miami Beach High, where he was student government president. "I keep thinking about my dad ... loved Miami Beach."

Morales said the job presents incredible opportunity, citing the redevelopment of the convention center as one.

"I'm not here as a politican," he told commissioners after the vote. "I hope to be a very solid administrator."


Fallout is fast for Allied Veterans, lobbying team resigns

The lobbying team who represented Allied Veterans, and its software company International Internet Technologies, terminated its relationship yesterday in light of the federal investigation into racketeering when they determined that the company has misrepresented itself to them, said its former spokeswoman Sarah Bascom.

The lobbying team:

   Sarah Bascom
   H. Douglas Bruce
   Carlos M. Cruz
   Scott Dick
   Richard E. Gentry
   Ron Greenstein
   Jeff Hartley
   Eliakim Nortelus
   William Gregory Turbeville

International Internet Technologies and its owners and affiliates have spent $340,000 in campaign contributions in the last election cycle and $195,000 in the 2010 cycle. Allied Veterans also gave $25,000 to Gov. Rick Scott for his inauguration and the money went to the Wounded Warriors program. 


Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll resigns over links to Allied Veterans

Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll resigned Tuesday in the wake of federal investigation into a chain of internet cafes that she once represented, Gov. Rick Scott's office announced on Wednesday.

Carroll was interviewed early Tuesday by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which is assisting in a national probe of Allied Veterans of the World, a Florida-based nonprofit that operates a chain of internet cafes.

Search warrants were issued Monday in Oklahoma and Tuesday across Florida as a part of the federal probe. Fraternal Order of Police Jacksonville director Nelson Cuba was arrested, and others were detained in Semonole County in connection with the racqueteering investigation.  Download Search warrant

The investigation was conducted by the IRS, Secret Service, FDLE and sheriff’s offices in Jacksonville, Volusia County and Seminole County, where the probe began. Investigators said that Allied Veterans tried to scheme and defraud the public and governmental agencies by misrepresenting how much of its proceeds were donated to charities affiliated with Veterans Administration.

The investigation focuses on Allied Veterans' claim that it was a member of the Veterans Administration and that 70 percent to 100 percent of the profits were used for charitable purposes. Federal investigators allege that the centers are essentially gambling operations that front as charities, and gave only 2 percent of the $290 million earned between 2007 and 2012 to charitable operations. 

Search warrants were issued in 44 internet cafe locations in Florida from Duval to Monroe and Sarasota counties and as far north as Leon County. There were also warrants issued for several locations in Central Florida counties of Seminole, Volusia counties. Much of the probe began with investigators in the Seminole County sheriff's department sources said. 

However, authorities said, the centers are actually gambling operations, with charitable purposes getting just 2 percent of the $290 million earned from 2007 to January 2012. Charities are considered to be operating effectively when they spend at least 60 percent on programs.Carroll's public relations firm, 3 N. and J.C. Corporation, is currently inactive, according to the Florida Division of Corporations. Scott's office said in 2011 that Carroll had ended her affiliation with Allied Veterans.

Carroll was criticized in 2010 for introducing  legislation to legalize sweepstakes games like those in cafes operated by Allied Veterans. Then, as in now, Allied Veterans and other internet cafe operators took advantage of a loophole in state law that some say should be closed while other say internet cafes should be legal but regulated.

Carroll later withdrew the proposed law, saying it was filed erroneously and that she wasn't interested in legalizing internet cafes, the Florida Times-Union reported.

Carroll served in the House from 2003 to 2010, becoming the first African-American female Republican to be elected. Scott selected her as his running mate in September 2010 and they took office in January 2011.

 In the process, she became the first African-American elected statewide in Florida and the first female elected lieutenant governor.  

Investigators said the centers transferred money to Allied Management, a wholly owned subsidiary of Allied Veterans, and steered money to International Internet Technologies, and other companies affiliated with its owners. 

 Scott's chief of staff Adam Hollingsworth said Carroll resigned of her own volition and released the following statement:

“Individuals were arrested Monday for a racketeering and money laundering charges in connection with Allied Veterans of the Worlds illegal gambling companies. Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll consulted for Allied Veterans while serving as a member of the Florida House of Representatives in 2009 and 2010. She was interviewed by Florida Department of Law Enforcement officers Monday regarding her work with the company. Lt. Gov. Carroll resigned in an effort to keep her former affiliations with the company from distraction from the administration’s important work on behalf of Florida families. She made the right decision for the state and her family.”

Rick Scott's lieutenant gov., Jennifer Carroll, quits amid federal gambling racketeering case

Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll has abruptly resigned after the firm she once consulted for is linked to Jacksonvillle racketeering case (background here).

"Effectively immediately, I hereby resign the Office of Lieutenant Governor of the State of Florida. It has been an honor to have served the State of Florida in this capacity," she wrote in her resignation letter. Download Carroll

Gov. Rick Scott plans a Wednesday afternoon news conference.

Carroll, whose son plays for the Miami Dolphins, ran for Congress in 2000 as a political newcomer. She lost to Democratic Rep. Corrine Brown despite outspending Brown 2-1. In 2001, Carroll said she talked with Vice President Dick Cheney about a job on his staff.

Later that year, Carroll was nominated by Gov. Jeb Bush to run Florida's Department of Veterans Affairs. Her nomination was confirmed. She resigned about a year later to run again for Congress. She lost.

In 2003, she was elected to the state House in District 13, where she has served ever since. She was appointed deputy majority leader by Speaker Johnnie Byrd in 2003 and served as a majority whip from 2004-2006.

News of a shakeup in Scott's administration began rippling through Florida political circles last night. The Times Union reported the resignation first

--Tia Mitchell 

This bulletin will be updated as more information becomes available.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/03/13/3283230/florida-lt-gov-jennifer-carroll.html#storylink=cpy

Scott roasted at Press Skits

Gov. Rick Scott yukked it up last night for the first time at the Capitol Press Corps Skits, the “sometimes” annual roasting of all things Tallahassee.

A no-show his first two years, Scott and several of his aides walked in late as show emcee and AP writer Gary Fineout had already taken the stage and was unloading the first of the evening’s many jokes at Scott’s expense.

Fineout was explaining how he recently got elected president of the press association and had “advice” for Scott.

“You can get elected to something without spending $73 million (sic) of your own money,” Fineout said as Scott sat down at a table directly in front of the stage.

Scott seemed to enjoy himself, and stood up in mock applause after a couple of jokes. More than 1,000 of the town’s political class attended the 58th annual skits to raise money for the Barbara Frye Scholarship Fund for journalism students.

Always a ribald affair, this year’s skits were where memes went to die. Both “Call Me Maybe” and “The Harlem Shake” were go-to gags for members of the press and the Florida House. Videos showed the acting chops of Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz.

Lampooned on stage were a Twitter-obsessed Attorney General Pam Bondi, Lieutenant Gov. Jennifer Carroll, desperate to stay on the ticket, belting out Aretha Franklin’s “Respect”, and, of course, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, dousing himself in water.

But Scott got most of the ribbing. In one skit, Troy Kinsey showed off again, playing a poll-driven Scott morphing into former Gov. Charlie Crist. Birthday boy Steve Bousquet did his uncanny Johnny Cash impersonation, singing, to the the tune of “Ring of Fire”: “Gov. Scott really should retire. The Tea Party says he’s going to get fired. And Charlie Crist rehired.”

News did break during the skits. In a video short, Republican bad boy and former Scott spokesman Brian Burgess (now a consultant with Meteoric Media Strategies) revealed what happened to Reagan the dog. It involves a shovel.

Lt. Gov. Carroll once represented internet cafe chain targeted by feds

A national probe of of a Florida-based non-profit that operates a chain of internet cafes has led to the arrest of several of the organization's leaders and the heads of Jacksonville's police union. Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll owned a firm that once handled public relations for the company, Allied Veterans of the World.

Carroll's company, 3 N. and J.C. Corporation, is currently inactive, according to SunBiz. Allied Veterans paid her for consulting and communications work during the same time that Carroll was serving in the Florida House. A Florida Times-Union columnist wrote in 2010 that she also starred in television ads that commended the organization for her charity work.

 Carroll was criticized in that same Times-Union column for introducing  legislation to legalize  weepstakes games like those in cafes operated by Allied Veterans. Then, as in now, Allied Veterans and other internet cafe operators took advantage of a loophole in state law that some say should be closed while other say internet cafes should be legal but regulated.

Carroll later withdrew the proposed law, saying it was filed erroneously and that she wasn't interested in legalizing internet cafes, the columnist said.

Scott's office said in 2011 that Carroll had ended her affiliation with Allied Veterans.

Continue reading "Lt. Gov. Carroll once represented internet cafe chain targeted by feds" »