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Commissioner Bogen Co-sponsors “Ban the Box” Ordinance to Help People Get Jobs​​

People applying for a job in Broward County government will no longer be initially asked if they’ve been arrested or have a criminal background.

Commissioners unanimously voted to “ban the box,” a phrase that refers to the check box on employment applications that asks about a person’s past criminal wrong doing.

“I think we are leading the way here by setting an example that we ought to ensure everyone has an opportunity to provide for themselves. We’re talking about people who have paid their dues, are back into society and want to provide for themselves and their families,” said Broward Commissioner Dale V.C. Holness, who first brought the ordinance to the Board for approval. Mayor Marty Kiar and Commissioner Mark Bogen also sponsored the ordinance.

The new law means that a person wouldn’t be asked about a prior criminal record or authorization for a background check until they’re among a pool of potential finalists for a particular job.

“What we want to do is ensure that opportunities are open for all,” said Commissioner Mark Bogen.

“The fair thing to do is to give anybody who is looking for a job, the opportunity to apply for a job. There has to be a fair and consistent process,” said Commissioner Chip LaMarca.

“I’m fine with banning the box, but it may be delaying the inevitable. As long as we narrow the list down to a pool of qualified applicants first and then do a background check, I’m good with this,” said Vice Mayor Barbara Sharief.

“If you do the background check and substantiation of all of the information on an application then you are making it fair on numerous levels. You have a pool of people, everybody gets a background check and then you go from there,” said Commissioner Beam Furr.

If an applicant is among those considered a potential finalist for a position and a background check reveals a criminal history, the person would be given a copy of the findings (as allowed by law) and an opportunity to respond and offer mitigating circumstances.

The “Ban the Box” ordinance does not apply if in conflict with federal or state law. Some jobs are exempt from the new ordinance including positions at the airport, seaport or those that involve working with children and other vulnerable populations.

Sun Sentinel: “Broward courthouse air quality complaints exposed”

By Brittany Wallman

Original article here.

In a dramatic, courtroom-like session, a Broward commissioner and State Attorney’s Office employees accused the county Tuesday of downplaying mold and poor air quality at the courthouse.

The county has known about air quality problems in the courthouse and planned to tear down the building in downtown Fort Lauderdale just south of the New River, between Andrews and Third Avenues. But the new courthouse tower next to it is more than a year late in opening. Assistant County Administrator Alphonso Jefferson, the point person on the project, has not been able to say when it will be complete.

Tuesday, Commissioner Mark Bogen invited employees of the Broward State Attorney’s Office to the County Commission meeting. They claim the air is causing respiratory and sinus problems, and even breast cancer.

One assistant state attorney, Elizabeth Kata, told commissioners Tuesday that she developed a serious rash that sent her twice to the emergency room. She dealt with five doctors and had a biopsy and stitches, she said. Doctors said her skin was reacting to something; she said it was the air in the courthouse.

“It sounds to some like it’s not that big of a deal,” she said, “but it’s affecting our lives.”

Bogen, an attorney, called an expert witness to the podium to support his claim that complaints of illnesses caused by mold in the courthouse have been treated too skeptically by the county. And then Bogen called top county employees to the podium and grilled them on what they’d done about it, and when.

“We keep being told there’s no problem, that these people are making it up, they’re just exaggerating, maybe they’re looking to sue the county, to make a lawsuit, this can’t be real, of course. This is what we got Monday,” Bogen said, waving a 400-plus page air quality report citing visible mold, high dust levels and water damage. “I’m outraged by it.”

He said he didn’t think county staff cared about the health of courthouse workers, and concluded the lengthy session by calling the county’s response to the complaints “b——-.”

County Risk Management Director John Burkholder, Facilities Director Scott Campbell and County Administrator Bertha Henry said the county has investigated every complaint about air quality that has come in over the years. They said they’re in the process of deep cleaning the affected areas, and not for the first time, though they couldn’t say how many times they’ve taken action.

Burkholder disputed claims, including from Monica Hofheinz, the State Attorney’s Office’s executive director, that the county’s air quality reports “always come back as within the acceptable standards.”

“We have not said there’s not problems,” Burkholder said. “We’ve said some areas were within the [acceptable] ranges and some were not.”

Commissioner Barbara Sharief suggested employees in the courthouse were partially to blame, reporting that they continually cover air vents to prevent proper circulation. Campbell confirmed that was happening.

But Commissioners Lois Wexler and Tim Ryan said the county should be more proactive in addressing known air quality problems in the 1950s-era central courthouse.

“What can we do to get on top of this?” Ryan asked.

County staff said they’d come back with a plan.

bwallman@sunsentinel.com or 954-356-4541. On Twitter @BrittanyWallman and @BrowardPolitics.

SouthFloridaReporter.com: “Broward Good News Celebrates Jim and Jan Moran and the JM Family Foundation”

Broward Good News and Commissioner Mark Bogen honored Jim and Jan Moran and the JM Family Foundation for their decades of community service in Broward County.

Commissioner Bogen presented JM Family Enterprises representative, Kim Bentley, with a proclamation listing the significant contributions made by Jim and Jan Moran.

“This highlights a legacy of thoughtful, compassionate philanthropy,” said Commissioner Bogen. “Beyond his amazing career, Jim was dedicated to giving back.  Jan, his partner in life and chairman and president of The Jim Moran Foundation, shares his strong commitment of making a real difference in the lives of others.”

“You all know it takes a village and I have worked closely with many of you on projects.  It’s an honor to be here to accept this proclamation on behalf of our CEO Colin Brown.  Thank you,” said Bentley.

In 1984, Jim Moran founded the Youth Automotive Training Center to provide mechanical training, academic education and life skills management to South Florida’s at-risk youth.

In 1988, the JM Family Foundation gave $1 million gift to Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale.  In November 2000, Jim and Jan Moran announced a $6 million Challenge gift and in 2006, announced a $26 million Challenge to assist in the development of the Jim Moran Heart and Vascular Research Institute.

Jim and Jan established the Jim Moran Children’s Fund through the Community Foundation of Broward, as a part of a $1 million Challenge to the community, and, in 1995, they issued a $500,000 Challenge with the United Way of Broward County, establishing the organization’s first endowment.

The Moran’s also launched the Boys & Girls Clubs of Broward County’s Capital Campaign, for which they served as General Chairpersons for more than four years beginning in 1995.  This effort, one of the most successful Capital Campaigns for any Boys & Girls Clubs in the United States, raised $21.8 million.  The Capital Campaign funds were used to upgrade the nine existing units and build three new Clubs, including the Jim & Jan Moran Unit in Deerfield Beach.

In 2001, the Moran’s offered a significant Challenge to Nova Southeastern University (NSU) to enable the University to revolutionize the family center outreach services provided to parents and childcare workers throughout Broward County.

Longtime supporters of Women in Distress (WID), Jim and Jan Moran provided the lead gift for the organization’s 1995 capital campaign when the Jim & Jan Moran Family Center opened in Fort Lauderdale.  In 2009, Jan announced the Moran Challenge Grant and made a personal gift to assist with the Project SAFE Place Capital Campaign for the new Jim & Jan Moran Family Center campus in Deerfield Beach.  Successful in encouraging others to give, the Challenge raised more than $1.9 million and an additional $665,062 in matching funds.  In 2014, WID presented Jan with a Lifetime Achievement Award for her more than 20 years of leadership as an advocate for children and families.

The Broward Good News initiative brings good news to the public by highlighting the successes of the County, residents, small businesses, good Samaritans and other events that result in a positive outcome for Broward residents and visitors.  Broward Good News recognitions take place on Tuesday during regularly scheduled Commission meetings beginning at 10:00 a.m.

Sun Sentinel: ‘Consumer Bogen’ launching fraud protection program

By Brittany Wallman

Read original article here.

Marjory Lyons is a former educator who writes books. She’s 87. She’s smart, and accomplished.

But for a few moments one recent afternoon when scam artists came calling, she said, “I was stupid.”

Her story and others like it are the inspiration for a new fraud protection program one Broward commissioner is launching next week.

Commissioner Mark Bogen, an attorney, said he wants to fashion himself as the “consumer commissioner,” a version of what Public Defender Howard Finkelstein famously does with his “Help Me Howard” persona.

The program is a bit unorthodox in that it’s going to be operated out of a commissioner office — rather than in the non-political bureaucratic arena — and some may see it as a political ploy.

Bogen said he’ll help anyone, even those who can’t vote for him when he’s on the ballot next, in 2018.

“I don’t think government is doing enough for the consumer,” Bogen said. “We have numerous resources to protect people from losing their life savings, property, identity. If they call my office, I can help them.”

South Florida has been called the organized fraud capital of America, with scams about fake lottery winnings, bogus IRS liens and phony credit card alerts like the one Lyons was targeted with.

Lyons believed the caller who claimed to be from her bank and told her that her credit card had been used by a stranger. The caller mentioned Lyons’ son, Michael, though she got his last name wrong.

Had Lyons charged $1,200 at Home Depot? Had she charged $600 at Macy’s? What was her credit card number? Could she hand her credit card over to a bank representative who was on the way over? A suspect was trying to use her card “right now,” and police were holding him, she was told.

“I was frantic. I was responding,” Lyons said. ” … I was crazy. My dog needed to go out. Everything was happening.”

She called her son, who rushed over. But not before a woman appeared at the door and took her credit card. By the time her son reported the crime, $4,000 had been swiped from her bank accounts. Eventually she got the money back, but she tried to warn others.

Bogen is sending out a mailing next week about his program. Those who need help because they’ve been scammed or suspect someone is trying to defraud them can call 954-357-7002.

Broward Beat: “Mt. Trashmore Landfill Deal Rejected In Rare Defeat for Leading Lobbyist”

By Buddy Nevins

Read the original article here.

A deal involving the fetid Mount Trashmore collapsed Tuesday when county commissioners dealt a rare defeat to one of Broward’s über lobbyists.

Sometimes the good guys win.

Commissioner Mark Bogen: Tuesday’s hero

Broward Commissioners rejected the waste deal after hearing from critics, who argued that it would result in environmental problems and could conceivably result in higher disposal costs for residents.

The deal’s defeat was a thrashing for Mike Moskowitz, a leading Broward Government Center lobbyist. In addition to the landfill, Moskowitz currently represents the Florida Panthers, airport leasees and a firm doing paratransit, among others.

It was Moskowitz who proposed the deal to county officials.

Moskowitz’s client was Mount Trashmore owners Waste Management, which paid beaucoup bucks in fines due to the landfill’s environmental problems. Neighboring communities complained about the smell for years.

The deal would have shut down one of two Broward incinerators. And it would have also allowed construction of a trash transfer station at the landfill.

Commissioners objected to both closing the incinerator, which some critics say could eventually add waste to the landfill.

A Waste Management competitor’s take on the now-dead deal:

Disposing of waste in a landfill cost less than burning it in an incinerator. Closing the incinerator would add to Waste Management’s bottom line.

Opponents to the deal included:

* Coconut Creek, whose residents are plagued with the landfill’s smell. They objected loudly to commissioners and vehemently oppose any expansion of the landfill.

“The city has been frozen out of the negotiations,” complained an attorney for Coconut Creek. The deal “doesn’t pass the smell test,” quipped Jack Shifrel, a long-time Democratic activist in the city.

* Various garbage collection competitors to Waste Management, such as Sun-Bergeron.

Competitors feared the new agreement would allow Waste Management to use a new pricing scheme wedged into the agreement to push them out of business.

A Sun-Bergeron representative said the new pricing scheme could have made it unprofitable for Waste Management competitors to dispose of waste. Once competitors left the county, Waste Management would have Broward waste to itself and could charge anything it wanted.

Sun-Bergeron hired its own lobbyist Bernard “Bernie” Friedman and former County Commissioner Ilene Lieberman, who along with the firm’s General Counsel Aleida “Ali” Waldman urged commissioners to stop the deal.

* Other cities in Broward. City officials also questioned whether shutting down the incinerator and expanding the landfill would affect future disposal costs.

The hero at Tuesday’s meeting was newly seated Commissioner Mark Bogen.

Tackling his first highly controversial issue since taking office in January, Bogen, a lawyer, prepared for the debate like he was entering a courtroom.

Bogen’s research turned up two audio tapes. They were the Smoking Guns.

On the tapes, the disembodied voice of a Waste Management lawyer made promises to two different government bodies a few years ago – Coconut Creek and a county regulatory agency. The lawyer appeared to pledge that the landfill would not increase the amount of waste it accepted.

Contrary to that promise, Waste Management has been increasing the amount of trash being funneled to Mount Trashmore.

Bogen drilled Moskowitz relentlessly, focusing on the promises made on the tapes.

Moskowitz defended himself. He insisted that the promises were worthless because they were not contained in a legal document.

To emphasize the point, Moskowitz made what I consider a major political faux pas.

He said something like, “They (Waste Management) are bound by the document they signed, not the statements they said.”

He seemed to be telling commissioners:

Don’t believe what I say. Just believe what I put in writing.

Ouch.

Based on that statement, can commissioners rely on any promise Moskowitz made during Tuesday’s meeting?

Maybe that’s what commissioners were thinking when they rejected the Moskowitz deal and sent negotiators back to the table to decide the future of waste disposal in Broward County.

Sun Sentinel: “Elections chief agrees on absentee ballots postage, ethics opinion on attorney politicking”

By Brittany Wallman

Read the original article here.

There’s one less excuse for not voting in the coming elections. The absentee ballots won’t require postage.

Broward Supervisor of Elections Dr. Brenda Snipes has agreed to send absentee ballots postage-paid, after county commissioners made the request in hopes it would increase voter turnout.

Snipes also has agreed to seek a Florida Bar ethics decision about whether she should continue allowing her office’s contract attorney to contribute to or participate in political campaigns on the side.

Snipes made the decisions after meeting for three hours Wednesday with Broward Commissioner Mark Bogen, who had challenged Snipes at a recent budget workshop.

County commissioners can’t tell Snipes how to run her office; she’s a countywide elected official. But they can ask.

The county announced the detente Thursday in a “joint statement” from Bogen and Snipes.

[UPDATED] Elections attorney Norris-Weeks: Effort for appointed position “awful and racist’
Bogen, elected after a litigious 2014 season involving his District 2 seat, complained that the attorney representing the elections office in the lawsuits had contributed to one of his opponents.

Bogen asked Snipes not to allow attorney Burnadette Norris-Weeks to be involved in political campaigns, or if she is, to withdraw from giving legal advice to the elections office in those races.

Asked at the budget workshop several weeks ago, where Norris-Weeks was not present, Snipes said she couldn’t commit to the ethics request at that time.

She has now agreed to seek a Florida Bar ethics opinion on the matter, and to follow it.

“That’s a great first step,” Bogen said Thursday.

Norris-Weeks contributed to one of Bogen’s opponents in last year’s county District 2 race. But she also represented the elections office in litigation over that race. Norris-Weeks gave to both sides in at least two other 2014 County Commission races — Barbara Sharief’s and Chip LaMarca’s — giving checks from either her personal account or from Right Consulting LLC, in which she’s a managing member.

In the 2016 elections, she has given via Right Consulting to Commissioner Dale Holness, campaign contribution records show.

She also supported the Fort Lauderdale City Commission candidacy of Donna Guthrie in the race won in February by Robert McKinzie. That race also became embroiled in litigation.

Several commissioners asked Snipes to send absentee ballots postage-paid. She said she’ll do it, the joint statement says, “so long as the commission provides the necessary funding.”

Here’s the joint statement:

County Commissioner Bogen and Supervisor of Elections Snipes Meet to Identify Solutions to Issues Raised in a Recent Commission Budget Workshop

Broward County Commissioner Mark Bogen and Supervisor of Elections Dr. Brenda C. Snipes scheduled a meeting recently to discuss several issues from a County Commission budget workshop. The three -hour meeting focused on issues of establishing policies for contributing to political campaigns and the feasibility of adding prepaid postage to the absentee ballot return envelope, a measure that could increase voter participation and turnout.

During a recent budget workshop, County Commissioner Bogen and Supervisor of Elections Snipes engaged in heated discussions about the needs for an ethics policy for the SOE’s general counsel. Bogen claimed that a conflict, or an appearance of a conflict existed when the attorney for the supervisor contributes to a campaign and also provides legal advice to the SOE. Snipes disagreed stating that her attorney did not participate in the canvassing of returns and was not the attorney for the canvassing board. Also, at the budget workshop Bogen voiced concern that voters should not have to pay anything to return absentee ballots. Snipes agreed but there was disagreement on where funding for the absentee ballots would come from within the SOE’s budget.

Yesterday, Commissioner Bogen and Dr. Snipes met to resolve their differences. Following the meeting, the parties agreed that Snipes’ attorney would seek an ethics opinion from the Florida Bar and abide by the opinion provided. On the second issue regarding pre-paid postage placed on return envelopes for absentee ballots, Bogen and Snipes agreed that by having postage on absentee ballots, voter turnout may increase and the need for voters to return their ballots by a third party would be eliminated. So long as the Commission provides the necessary funding, Dr. Snipes will initiate this program that will benefit all Broward voters.

“I applaud the Supervisor of Elections in seeking to resolve our differences and look forward to working with her on behalf of all Broward voters,” said Bogen