"Crooked" Crist, Writer Quits, and a BSO Helicopter Bit

-- Gov. Charlie Crist made a national list of "Crooked Candidates" compiled by the group Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington (CREW). Mentioned was Crist's close association with indicted former Florida Republican Chairman Jim Greer.

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Crist
Not mentioned: Crist's extensive ties to Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein. That's a bit of a shocker, since at least a casual mention of Rothstein -- who poured hundreds of thousands toward Crist and the state GOP -- would certainly help make their point. Instead, the group went way back and talked about allegations that Crist protected Lou Pearlman, the boy-band guru behind the Back Street Boys and 'NSync, when Pearlman was running a scam in Florida:  

"As attorney general, Gov. Crist also failed to fully investigate boy-band mogul Lou Pearlman. Mr. Pearlman, who ran a $300 million investment scam, was eventually indicted by federal authorities and pled guilty of fraud, conspiracy and money laundering charges. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison. A lawsuit brought by investors claimed Gov. Crist and Florida regulators knew about the scheme but turned a blind eye for four years. The suit alleges Mr. Pearlman got a pass from the then-attorney general because he had donated at least $12,000 to Gov. Crist's campaign."

Twelve grand. Chump change. Interesting nonetheless. Here's a link to the list, which also includes Marco Rubio and Kendrick Meek.  

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Pelegrin
-- When Miami Herald sportswriter Pete Pelegrin quit the newspaper -- and journalism -- yesterday, he did it in a very public way.

But you wouldn't know it now, since Pelegrin's final blog post, written yesterday morning, was zapped from the newspaper's website by the Herald. You can still see a cached version of Pelegrin's post on Google (click here to read it).

Pelegrin quit basically because he felt that the Herald was shortchanging him, his beat (Florida International University sports), and his blog. Gee, an abused and burned-out blogger? Who could ever imagine that?  

-- And finally I heard back from BSO on the EC135 helicopter. Sheriff's spokesman Jim Leljedal wrote me that the copter was actually used and that BSO was actually spending about $2.9 million total on it, including upgrades. The original $2.1 million to purchase the copter is coming from a reserve fund held by the County Commission, and $800,000 in upgrades will come from the sale of a fourth, older helicopter.

Should BSO have spent the money now, amid steep budget cuts, layoffs, and threatened cuts in basic services like school resource officers?

"There is never a good time to spend millions on tools (not toys) but it is necessary," Leljedal wrote. "Fire trucks are expensive too, and they're seldom used, but we've got to have them. BSO helicopters serve double duty, law enforcement and fire rescue, and we save a lot of lives by providing the only medevac service in Broward County, but it comes at a cost."

See inside for Leljedal's complete email.

The text:

Our intention is to have a fleet of three helicopters so that two of them are always airworthy and ready for missions. We currently have four, but one is for sale.

Aircraft are high maintenance items. They have to be maintained to strict FAA standards, and beyond that, they cannot break down when they're flying a lifesaving medical mission, or a law enforcement mission for that matter. 

The aircraft we acquired is a used EC135. This is the same aircraft we are currently flying and transitioning to replace all aircraft with to standardize our fleet, a decision that has proven successful for one of the nation's most successful commercial carriers. Standardization increases efficiency and safety. This aircraft was valued at approximately 2.5 million. We acquired the aircraft for approximately 2.1 million with funds held in reserve in a helicopter replacement fund ($1.7 million held by the County Commission). An additional $800,000 will be spent outfitting the aircraft for the police/ medevac missions. The money spent on this retrofit will come from the sale of our Astar helicopter, the oldest in the fleet. Should we have kept the Astar, it would have cost us an additional $850,000 over the next 24 months for mandatory maintenance.

This acquisition also reduced our training budget by $16,000. We have also reduced our maintenance labor costs as the Astar required 5-6 days to perform a 100 hour inspection, the EC135 only one day. We perform approximately 7 inspections annually. Additionally we can stock more parts for one model aircraft reducing downtime. We spend less time training in 2 different model aircraft as opposed to 3. Required FAA check rides for our Part 135 operation are reduced from 24 to 16 annually.

There is never a good time to spend millions on tools (not toys) but it is necessary.  Fire trucks are expensive too, and they're seldom used, but we've got to have them. BSO helicopters serve double duty, law enforcement and fire rescue, and we save a lot of lives by providing the only medevac service in Broward County, but it comes at a cost.

 Hope this helps,

Jim

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