By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
Geeky yet informative business weekly Miami Today recently bestowed its Bronze Award for "visionary leadership" to Eduardo Padrón, president of Miami Dade College. Padrón has also received further recognition, in the form of an investigation by the Florida Department of Education's Office of the Inspector General (OIG).
The investigation was prompted by a whistleblower complaint filed in July 2003 by Adis Vila, MDC's former vice president for external affairs. She levied fifteen allegations of improper, and in some cases criminal, conduct by Padrón, college trustees, and other administrators. The most serious charge was that Padrón, private lawyer Rene Murai, and two MDC trustees were involved in a scheme to buy the Freedom Towerfor an "inflated" price. In exchange, the sellers (the family of the late Jorge Mas Canosa) would make a two-million-dollar "donation" to the college's nonprofit foundation. According to some legal experts, such a scheme could have constituted fraud, official misconduct, bribery, and extortion, had the deal been consummated.
But get this: The OIG deemed this charge "unsubstantiated." Since the college eventually decided not to acquire the historic building, the report determined MDC did not use improper procedures in the Freedom Tower acquisition process. In addition, "since no purchase took place we cannot speculate if state funds were to be utilized."
Vila says the OIG report was "biased" in favor of Padrón and wonders what became of the twelve allegations the inspector general did not investigate. "All they say [in the report] is that they're not going to look into them," she complains.
Oddly enough, the OIG did aver another of Vila's charges -- that Padrón improperly transferred $9.5 million from the college's Community Endowment Fund to the MDC Foundation in early 2003. (His stated reason for that, according to college records, was to get a matching grant of state funds from the Florida legislature, which raises questions about the OIG's aforementioned insistence that it could not speculate about Padrón's intention to use state funds for the purchase.) The OIG said Padrón violated a state administrative rule when he transferred the $9.5 million. It concluded that MDC "may not be utilizing best business practices," and suggested the college could benefit from an "internal audit."
A request for comment from Padrón was answered by college assistant attorney Francine Steelman, who said MDC is preparing a formal response to the OIG report.
Sara Kim was so enamored of her Boston terrier, Bella, that she created an entire Website, www.zookiedoo.com, in honor of the black-and-white puppy. On April 17 Kim and boyfriend Elliot Silver walked Bella east on Lincoln Road to the beach. At the end of the serpentine brick path between the Ritz-Carlton and the Decoplage, Bella played in the sand around one of the palm trees bordering the walkway and the beach. Thirty minutes later, Bella convulsed and collapsed.
Silver, an attorney and real estate agent who lives in Surfside, rushed the puppy to the Pet House Clinic on Collins Avenue, but Bella was already dead. Dr. Oscar Paez-Castro performed a necropsy and found sand, grass, and an unidentified gelatinous substance in Bella's stomach. Her blood contained high levels of phosphorus -- a key ingredient in most fertilizers.
"I think the dog died from the fertilizer, and I think the city needs to fence off those trees," says Silver.
The property where the palms are planted is owned by the City of Miami Beach. The city's risk manager, Cliff Leonard, told The Bitch the puppy couldn't have been poisoned by the ground around the trees because the city uses a nontoxic fertilizer called Horta-Sorb. Leonard was unhappy to hear that, according to The Bitch's research, Horta-Sorb isn't a fertilizer -- it is a gel polymer intended to absorb water and fertilizer. Leonard eventually informed The Bitch the trees are fertilized with Agriform, a high-concentration, slow-release fertilizer tablet that contains nitrogen, potash, and phosphorus.
The sudden appearance on Monday of concrete dividers around each tree is "purely coincidental," according to city spokeswoman Nanette Rodriguez.
As our nation cycles through various primary-colored terror level alerts, rest assured that U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and Homeland Security Secretary Thomas Ridge are doing their utmost to prevent you from having, if not a yellow, orange, or red day, at least a green one. Earlier this month, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents, with local assistance from the Hialeah Police Department, paid a visit to Headquarters Tobacco & Gift Shop in the "City of Progress" and confiscated the store's entire inventory of glass pipes.
Owner Paul Cecil estimates the federales pinched $40,000 in glass bongs, crystal pipes, and other alleged drug paraphernalia from his shop, which is located near Hialeah's Westland Mall. It is no secret the federal government is cracking down on head shops and their suppliers. In 2003 the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration launched operations "Headhunter" and "Pipe Dreams," which resulted in the indictments of 50 individuals, including comedian Tommy Chong. In late 2003 he was convicted and sentenced to nine months in prison on federal drug charges for distributing thousands of bongs and marijuana pipes across state lines via the Internet.