UPDATED: Coral Springs Pols Charged With Sunshine Law Violations; the Dahmer Theory Gets Herald Backing; Oil Industry Has Way With Sentinel

Ever since author Arthur Jay Harris showed me the evidence, I've been a believer that Jeffrey Dahmer killed Adam Walsh.

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So after more than two years, after Harris' book has been published, after the Daily Business Review published an article on it more than two years, after stories I've done, and after an ABC Primetime special on the case, it's good to see one of the local daily newspapers finally take the story seriously.

The Miami Herald, with the help of Harris, published an in-depth piece on the case Sunday that puts together some of the more compelling evidence that one of the nation's most notorious serial killers is responsible for one of America's most notorious unsolved crimes. The case involving the main suspect, serial killer Ottis Toole, doesn't hold any water, yet the Hollywood Police Department and Walsh's father, John Walsh of America's Most Wanted fame, continue to cling to the idea that it was Toole. John Walsh lashed out 

at Harris' findings. I can't imagine what kind of nightmare this continues to be for Walsh, and I won't judge his reaction. I just have to look at the facts for myself, and they tell me that Dahmer is a more viable suspect than Toole.

But what will never change is that the Hollywood Police Department did a stunningly terrible job on the Adam Walsh investigation from start to finish. It lost evidence, including a car, and brushed off witnesses who got in the way of its theory. Strictly amateur hour.

-- The State Attorney's Office announced this morning that two Coral Springs commissioners, Vincent Boccard and Tom Powers, were charged with violating the state's Sunshine Law. The pair allegedly met secretly with police officers at Bru's Room Sports to discuss several issues, including a police salary freeze. Here's the news release:

The Broward State Attorney's Office today charged Coral Springs commissioners Vincent Boccard and Tom Powers with violating Florida's Sunshine Law that gives citizens the right of access to governmental proceedings. 

The charges allege that on March 11, the two commissioners met privately with Coral Springs police officers Michael Hughes and Christopher Swinson at a Coconut Creek restaurant to discuss the City Commission's police salary freeze and other city issues. 

The policemen are officials in the Fraternal Order of Police II Lodge No. 87, the union that represents all Coral Springs Police Department officers.

Among other things discussed at the private meeting, which was held at Bru's Room Sports Grill, was the renewal of City Manager Michael Levinson's employment agreement; a change in the city charter requiring all city department directors to report directly to the city commission as opposed to reporting directly to the city manager; and the replacement of Police Chief Duncan Foster upon his retirement.

The Sunshine Law is applicable to any gathering of two or more members of the same board at which they discuss any matter that could come before that board in the foreseeable future. Violation of the Sunshine Law is a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in the Broward County Jail and/or a fine up to $500. 

Governor Christ [sic] has the discretion to suspend an elected commissioner who is charged with any misdemeanor arising directly out of that commissioner's official duties. If convicted, an elected commissioner may be removed from office by an executive order of the governor.

-- Lastly, did you catch the front page of the Outlook section in the Sun-Sentinel's Sunday paper?

It amounted to a promotional ad by the oil industry for offshore drilling in Florida under the guise of an analytical newspaper piece. Here's the lead:

As debate swirls around the proposal to open Florida's coastal waters to energy exploration and with Florida's unemployment rate approaching 12 percent, it is more important than ever to analyze the potential economic effects that the creation of a new energy industry could have on our state.

In my estimation, the economic impacts of opening our state's coastal waters to energy exploration would be a huge net positive. According to our projections, even at a low estimate, offshore drilling could boost Florida's economy by more than $7 billion a year and create more than 40,000 jobs. 

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Fishkind

So who is the author of this cheerleading article for the oil companies? Why it's Hank Fishkind, a hired mercenary consultant who is on the payroll of, yes, the oil industry to promote offshore drilling in Florida. Fishkind is a hired gun who often represents developers and is rather infamous for denying the existence of a housing bubble back in 2006 and 2007. In February 2007, Fishkind declared, "Florida's housing markets bottomed out in 2006 across most of the state." He's been calling bottoms ever since as real estate prices keep getting lower.

Moral of the story: Don't listen to Fishkind.

The Sentinel, unfortunately, didn't get the memo. I know the newspaper is shorthanded these days since its parent company, Tribune, is in bankruptcy and something like $13 billion in debt, but turning to this huckster to educate its readers on an issue as sensitive and important as offshore drilling is a betrayal of its supposed mission as a member of the free press.

Although there's no disclaimer at the top of the article where Fishkind's seemingly harmless byline sits, the paper does mention at the end that he served as "economics advisor to Florida Energy Associates, which advocates for offshore drilling."

While the Sentinel is running Fishkind's selling points as journalism, real newspapers have been trying to figure out who is behind the notoriously secretive Florida Energy Associates. The St. Pete Times got pretty close to figuring out, but it's a very secretive organization. What we do know is that it has deep pockets, has hired 20 prominent lobbyists to push its agenda, and has Hank Fishkind (and, through him, now the Sentinel) in its pocket.

To understand what Fishkind is all about, when the North Broward Hospital District wanted to get an "independent" endorsement of an insider deal involving a medical office building that would have wasted tens of million in taxpayer money and enriched land baron Austin Forman, the district hired Fishkind. And he came through with a flimsy report that said the deal was A-OK. Here's an excerpt from a column I wrote at the time:

Because Fishkind offered no explanation for this fantastic conclusion, I called him about it. He abruptly hung up after a couple minutes, saying he didn't like the tenor of my questions. In lieu of his defense, I did some looking into his previous work and found that he has a long history of backing audacious developers' plans at the expense of the public.

Currently, he's best-known as a top cheerleader for the controversial plan by the St. Joe's Company to have state taxpayers finance a $210 million airport -- along with roads and infrastructure -- on its isolated property in the Panhandle. The plan stinks, but who cares? St. Joe pays Fishkind good U.S. currency.

Back in 2000, the Orlando Sentinel revealed that Fishkind wrote a report justifying an $84 million land price for a parcel actually appraised at just $8.8 million. According to the Sentinel, he was paid by a homeowners' governing district to conduct the study and, at the same time, was employed by the developer that was selling the land. Sweet.

Fishkind also sits on the governor's Council of Economic Advisors, which adds one more Bush connection to the MOB debacle. And it was general counsel William Scherer who recommended Fishkind's hiring -- the same Scherer who has strong business and political ties to Forman and Bush.

Fishy. 

Looks like the Sun-Sentinel's sister newspaper in Orlando knew about Fishkind's methods. Too bad our local rag didn't notice or, worse, didn't care.



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