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Judge refuses to dismiss charges in ‘pill mill’ case
week of December 6, 2018

A motion to dismiss charges against defendants accused of operating a “pill mill” in Vero Beach was rejected by Judge Cynthia Cox during a three-hour hearing on Nov. 30. Attorneys for the 12 defendants in the high-profile case argued the charges should be dismissed because undercover detectives “lied” about their identities and engaged in extreme methods to produce fake documents used to “entrap” those charged. “This is not about our clients breaking the law,” said Daniel Aaronson, a Fort Lauderdale attorney who spoke on behalf of the other attorneys present. “This investigation was started for political reasons and nothing else.” Aaronson alleged that investigators for the Indian River Sheriff’s Office began harassing Stuart Pain Management Center staff and clients the first day the clinic opened for business in Vero Beach in 2011. He claimed the Indian River Board of County Commissioners ordered the investigation after attempts to stop the clinic from opening failed. “Police began pulling people over every day as they left the clinic and used those opportunities to search and seize” drugs, Aaronson said. READ FULL STORY


Indian River hospital’s medical education program expands
week of December 6, 2018

Dr. George Mitchell, a longtime critical care physician at Indian River Medical Center, has been named the hospital’s first director of medical education. His appointment comes as the hospital launches an expansion of existing third- and fourth-year medical school rotations, potentially beyond the dozen or so students who train each year at IRMC as part of the current program with Florida State University’s Fort Pierce medical school campus. If the incoming Cleveland Clinic leadership agrees, and if in the weeks ahead Cleveland’s merger with IRMC passes regulatory hurdles, future graduate residencies and fellowships could be available here to medical school graduates from around the country and abroad. All parties speak guardedly about those more advanced programs, but it’s clear that the groundwork is being laid for graduate medical education should Cleveland Clinic choose to have it here. “We can certainly look at it and see what makes the most sense,” Cleveland Clinic Florida’s CEO and president Dr. Wael Barsoum told Vero hospital officials last March. READ FULL STORY


Great white shark Katharine returns to our waters
week of December 6, 2018

Along with the annual migration of snowbirds, another repeat visitor arrived for Thanksgiving and the holidays: Katharine the Great White Shark. Katharine, who is more than 14 feet long and weighs 2,300 pounds, popped up about 30-to-40 miles off Melbourne on Nov. 23, Black Friday, then surfaced three times about 30 miles off Fort Pierce on Nov. 28. Her whereabouts are tracked by a satellite tag she wears on her dorsal fin that was implanted by the nonprofit ocean advocacy group OCEARCH when it caught her off Cape Cod, Mass., in 2013. Whenever she surfaces, her location is beamed from the tag to a satellite and then downloaded to OCEARCH computers. The organization posts her tracks, along with those of numerous other sharks and marine animals around the world, on its website ocearch.org. Katharine – named for Cape Cod native Katharine Lee Bates who wrote “America the Beautiful” – has attracted a large group of admirers over the 36,000 miles she has travelled in the past five years. With more than 56,000 Twitter followers at @Shark_Katharine, she is especially popular in Florida where she has made several trips to both the Atlantic and Gulf regions. READ FULL STORY


Historic day for Vero electric customers and staff two weeks away
week of December 6, 2018

Unless something goes awry, 50 Vero electric employees will clock-in for their first day of work with Florida Power & Light on Dec. 17. They’ll get new badges, new uniforms and new FPL fleet trucks. Then at 10 a.m., FPL and the city’s lawyers will host a public ceremonial closing in City Council chambers at Vero Beach City Hall. “Our attorneys in coordination with FPL attorneys will have most if not all the signatures prior to the seventeenth,” said Vero Beach City Manager Jim O’Connor. O’Connor said the closing ceremony is being coordinated by FPL’s Regional External Affairs Manager Amy Brunjes, a key player who has been pushing for the Vero electric deal since the beginning, encouraging local leaders and pro-sale activists to hang in there. “There will be an appreciation luncheon [after the ceremony] ... to thank the many community leaders and customers who have supported us over the years,” said Brunjes. Vero’s Director of Electric Utility Operations Ted Fletcher will be one of the 50 employees – who know Vero’s system and customer accounts well – making the transition from working for a municipal-owned utility with 34,000 local customers to an investor-owned utility with 4.9 million customers statewide. READ FULL STORY


Opponents of island Publix launch campaign to stop project
week of December 6, 2018

Opponents of Publix’s plans to build a supermarket-anchored strip mall in Orchid have stepped up their efforts, asking residents of nearby subdivisions to join them in an email campaign to derail the project. Dozens of residents of the Old Orchid and Seasons at Orchid communities already had sent a barrage of emails urging town officials to reject Publix’s proposal, citing increased noise, traffic, crime, light intrusion and potential environmental damage they say would accompany the commercial development. Last week, a group that identified itself as “The Seasons 32963 Committee” distributed flyers in the Summerplace and Oceanaire Heights subdivisions, where residents were invited to “Come Join The Protest Against Publix.” The flyers, placed in mailboxes, asked residents to send emails to Orchid Town Manager Noah Powers expressing opposition to Publix’s plans. They wrote that they wanted Powers “to be deluged with emails from extremely upset neighbors saying ‘NO’ to Publix,” adding, “It is still fairly early in the overall process.” READ FULL STORY


Do-over Vero Beach City Council election set for Feb. 26
week of December 6, 2018

Thankfully for anyone who is sick of hearing about election challenges and lawsuits, Vero Beach has settled litigation filed by disqualified City Council candidate Linda Hillman and a trial will not be needed. On Nov. 29, Circuit Judge Paul Kanarek issued an order in response to a joint motion to settle the case filed with the court that day. “The City of Vero Beach will hold a special election at the City’s expense on February 26, 2019, and Plaintiff Linda Hillman shall be on the ballot, as well as the other candidates, as stated in the September 7, 2018 letter from the City to the Indian River County Supervisor of Elections in the order listed in the letter,” Kanarek wrote. That means Brian Heady who, like Hillman, was removed from the Nov. 6 ballot for incomplete paperwork, will benefit from Hillman’s fight. Per the judge’s order, Heady will be on the Feb. 26 special election ballot with Hillman, plus the four candidates voters had to choose from last month – incumbents Laura Moss and Tony Young, plus challengers Robbie Brackett and Bob McCabe. READ FULL STORY


Cleveland Clinic names future president of Vero hospital
week of December 6, 2018

With the merger of Indian River Medical Center and the Cleveland Clinic all but a done deal, the trickle-down of talent has already begun. Two top physicians at the prestigious health system’s Cleveland flagship hospital have been tapped for leadership positions here. Gregory Rosencrance, an internal medicine doctor who heads Cleveland Clinic’s Medicine Institute, has been named president of Indian River Medical Center. The publicly-owned hospital is expected to become Cleveland Clinic Indian River as soon as state and federal regulatory agencies clear the merger, expected sometime in January. Rosencrance, who joined Cleveland Clinic after a long tenure at West Virginia University, will replace interim IRMC President and CEO Karen Davis, who has led the hospital since the retirement of Jeff Susi at the end of 2017. Davis is going back to her previous position as a healthcare consultant with the firm Alvarez and Marsal. The move to Vero will be a return to Florida for Rosencrance. He formerly chaired the Department of Internal Medicine at Cleveland Clinic Florida in Weston. Since February 2016, he has chaired Cleveland Clinic’s Medicine Institute, which includes primary care, family medicine, pediatrics and infectious diseases among other specialties. READ FULL STORY


County overrules attorneys to keep battling Brightline
week of November 29, 2018

Indian River County Commissioners have committed another million dollars to fight Virgin Trains USA, formerly known as Brightline, and are proceeding with a federal lawsuit against the company – even though their own attorneys warned them a court victory will not keep high-speed trains from running through Vero Beach. Commissioners voted 4-1 on Nov. 21 to reject a multimillion-dollar offer from Virgin Trains USA to have the county drop its pending lawsuit opposing the company’s plans. Oral arguments for the lawsuit begin Nov. 27 in Washington. “I agree, overall, it’s not a perfect agreement; but as the outside legislative counsel to Indian River County, I recommend that the commission of IR County vote in favor of the proposed settlement agreement,” Steve Ryan, the attorney the county hired to represent it in the federal lawsuit, wrote in a prepared statement. The statement was read to commissioners by county attorney Dylan Reingold. Like Ryan, Reingold encouraged the commission to carefully consider Virgin Trains USA’s offer to pay millions of dollars to improve railroad infrastructure, including installation of more than $2 million for safety fencing and up to $8.2 million in maintenance upkeep over the next 14 years. READ FULL STORY


End of an era near
week of November 29, 2018

Three weeks ago, Vero Beach Mayor Harry Howle signed more than 300 closing documents, and the paperwork was placed safely in escrow awaiting this Tuesday’s vote at which the Florida Public Service Commission unanimously approvee the $185 million sale of the city's electric utility to Florida Power & Light. Former Shores Mayor Brian Barefoot announced last week at a town council meeting that FPL was gearing up to close the sale before Christmas should the vote go as expected. Vero City Manager Jim O’Connor confirmed that the city staff was planning to turn over the utility to FPL on Monday morning, Dec. 17 after a tentatively scheduled closing at the law office of Carlton Fields attorney Nat Doliner in Tampa. READ FULL STORY


New School Board declines to rubber stamp Rendell’s demotion of CFO
week of November 29, 2018

The new, post-election School Board seems more prepared than the prior board to keep an eye on Superintendent Mark Rendell. Shortly after being sworn in on Nov. 20, the board's three new members and returning member Laura Zorc refused to rubber-stamp Rendell’s demotion and transfer of Chief Financial Officer Carter Morrison. In July, Rendell accused Morrison of transferring $2.3 million from one school district fund to another without his knowledge. Though evidence showed secretive inter-fund transfers were common at the district and known to Rendell – allegedly used as a way to hide money from the teachers union and charter schools, or to fund expenditures not approved by the School Board. Morrison was put forward as the sole culprit and an outside lawyer was brought in to conduct an investigation. Morrison has been missing in action since the July 31 meeting where Rendell made his public accusation, and the school district has refused to clarify his status or whereabouts, claiming the investigation into Morrison's actions exempts the district from fulfilling public records requests, as typically required under Florida's Sunshine Law. READ FULL STORY


Vero Council puzzler: What to do about City Marina
week of November 29, 2018

When it comes to the Vero Beach City Marina, the only thing City Council members agree on is that it isn’t living up to what they want in a first-class mooring, fuel service and storage facility to serve residents and tourists. After that, some council members want to lease the marina to a private company on a long-term basis, some favor hiring someone to take over the management and upkeep, and some want to give the existing staff one more chance to get the marina shipshape. After fishing around for management proposals for a while, the City Council had the purchasing department put out a Request for Proposals (RFP) for companies wishing to lease the marina. hat effort resulted in two worthy proposals, including one from a company formed by a coalition of well-respected, established Vero families. Spearheaded by members of the Kennedy citrus family and Proctor Construction, the group pitched a deal to undertake the much-needed capital repairs, manage the marina and pay the City of Vero Beach $300,000 annually to lease the marina property. READ FULL STORY


Will undocumented immigrants still get free care at the E.R. after Cleveland Clinic takeover?
week of November 29, 2018

Within Cleveland Clinic’s otherwise generous financial aid policy, a little-noticed requirement of legal U.S. residency is getting closer scrutiny as the health system’s takeover of Indian River Medical Center inches toward implementation. As it stands, the policy indicates low-income immigrants without green cards or other documentation would not be eligible for free care at the soon-to-be Cleveland Clinic Indian River, apart from emergency room treatment when life or limb is threatened and stabilization is mandated by federal law. Currently, there is no requirement of legal U.S. residency to receive free or reduced-cost care at IRMC. The Hospital District does not ask the question on its application for a care card, and only asks whether the patient has lived in the county six months. Hospital District chairwoman Marybeth Cunningham said earlier this month it’s an issue that attorneys from Cleveland Clinic and the Hospital District are discussing. The requirement of U.S. residency for financial assistance is spelled out on the Cleveland Clinic Foundation website and several other places, but it apparently went unnoticed here until Vero Beach 32963 brought it to the attention of several trustees following a District meeting in late September. READ FULL STORY


Additional airlines seen interested in flying to Vero Beach
week of November 29, 2018

Nearly three years after Elite Airways began offering commercial, nonstop jet service between Vero Beach and Newark, N.J., the company’s success here has created a buzz heard throughout the industry – so much so that other airlines have taken notice. Some of them are now exploring the possibility of adding Vero Beach to their route systems. “We’ve been talking to different airlines all along, but now they’re seeing what Elite is doing here and it has gotten their attention,” Vero Beach Regional Airport Director Eric Menger said. “They see the numbers, that Elite has been profitable here, and they’re looking to see if there’s an opportunity for them.” Elite officials have said repeatedly that Vero Beach has become the airline’s most successful market, from which it offers year-round flights to and from Newark and seasonal service to Asheville, N.C.; White Plains, N.Y.; and Portland, Maine. According to the airport’s website, most flights are operating “at or near 100-percent capacity” through the winter months and “consistently in the 80 to 90 percent range” during the slower summer months. READ FULL STORY


Who will be named to fill property appraiser vacancy?
week of November 29, 2018

Gov. Rick Scott was preoccupied in recent weeks with his bid to become a U.S. Senator, so word on the streets is there’s no big rush to fill the Indian River County property appraiser’s office in the wake of David Nolte’s death. Nolte’s funeral was two weeks ago, but the vacancy was not a huge shock. The man who held the property appraiser’s job for nearly four decades died battling an extended illness – not of a sudden tragedy. The work of government must go on, but too much of Nolte’s term has elapsed to mandate a special election. So it appears there will be a gubernatorial appointment. Which governor – Scott or Ron DeSantis? Who knows. Nolte made it known that he wanted his loyal deputy, Sissy Long, to be elevated and serve out the balance of his term until January 2021, giving Long the strategic advantages of incumbency in the next election. But as news spread that Nolte had passed away in hospice care and his friends mourned, pragmatic party leaders floated names removed from Nolte’s immediate circle who could step into the job. READ FULL STORY


PSC staff puts electric sale back on track
week of November 22, 2018

The team that’s worked on the Vero electric sale to Florida Power & Light for nearly a decade knows better than to get too excited over small victories, but a staff recommendation published Friday by the Florida Public Service Commission’s top legal, financial and technical personnel is pretty fantastic news, just the same. After a one-day extension of the Nov. 15 due date for the report, the staff reversed its previous opposition to FPL booking a $116.2 million acquisition adjustment as part of the Vero electric purchase. Last summer, the staff objected to the adjustment, or overpayment, saying that the Vero case did not present “extraordinary circumstances” that would warrant FPL paying more than twice the book value for the utility’s assets and 34,000 electric customers. That extra cash, which makes up the bulk of the $185 million sale price, will allow Vero to extricate itself from two long-term wholesale power agreements with the Orlando Utilities Commission ($20 million) and the Florida Municipal Power Agency ($108 million). READ FULL STORY


Hospital District nominates 3 for Cleveland board
week of November 22, 2018

The face of the soon-to-be-combined Cleveland Clinic and Indian River Medical Center began to emerge last week as the Indian River County Hospital District trustees picked a slate of candidates for a seat on hospital’s new board of directors. Cleveland Clinic must now decide which of the three candidates becomes the Hospital District’s single representative on the new 17-member board. The candidates are real estate broker and former St. Edward’s School board chairman Dale Sorensen; ophthalmologist and City Council member Val Zudans; and retired computer services and IT executive and IRMC board member Matthew Reiser. In a separate, nearly unanimous vote, the District Board picked one of its own trustees, Karen Deigl, as well as one community member, attorney John Moore, to serve on a committee created in the hospital takeover agreement, expected to be finalized in January or February. The Commitment Integrity Committee, as it is called, is intended to ensure Cleveland upholds its 10-year, $250 million commitment to IRMC’s new incarnation, Cleveland Clinic Indian River – including a vow to maintain several key areas of treatment at the hospital. READ FULL STORY


Florida vote: Claims again of irregularities – but not here
week of November 22, 2018

The supervisors of elections from each of Florida’s 67 counties meet twice each year to discuss the latest technology, security threats and other issues connected to their jobs. The hot topic for the 2018 midterms? “We had cyber-security pounded into our heads,” Indian River County Supervisor of Elections Leslie Swan said. “It was all about intrusion-detection systems and how to prevent hacking. And after all that, it turned out to be something totally different.” It turned out to be another Florida election in which Palm Beach and Broward counties made national headlines for disputed results, botched recounts, equipment glitches and legal challenges – all of which provided late-night comedians with plenty of material. “We’ve all heard the jokes about Florida’s elections,” Swan said, referring to the mocking the state has endured since the hanging chads of the 2000 presidential race. “But a big reason we end up in the national spotlight is because we’re a large state and a swing state that’s evenly divided. READ FULL STORY


Brightline foes may be nearing the end of the line
week of November 22, 2018

Indian River County officials are scheduled to return to federal court on Nov. 27 to make what will likely be their final legal stand in the effort to derail All Aboard Florida’s plans to run high-speed passenger trains through Vero Beach. That’s when Indian River and Martin County officials, who are also part of a lawsuit filed in February, were supposed to make their case that the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration improperly subsidized All Aboard Florida’s Brightline trains with tax exempt bonds, while violating the National Environmental Policy Act. The two counties have already spent more than $7 million on the lawsuits and Martin County officials recently publicly stated they cannot afford to keep fighting. Martin, it turns out, now wants to settle with All Aboard Florida. But Indian River County Administrator Jason Brown said that Indian River has not yet given up the fight, and said the county has declined offers by All Aboard Florida to negotiate the issue. “This issue remains in litigation,” Brown said during a recent phone interview. “We’re not involved in any negotiations; it’s in litigation.” READ FULL STORY


Judge issues stern rebuke to deputies, dismisses charges against Vero man
week of November 22, 2018

Cocaine possession charges against a Vero Beach man have been dismissed by Judge Cynthia Cox, who issued a stern rebuke to three Indian River County sheriff’s deputies. Cox said the deputies gave questionable, contradictory testimony in court and failed to provide necessary evidence, including video and audio footage that mysteriously disappeared. In dismissing the charges against Sean Bresnahan, 25, on Nov. 14, Cox also scolded deputies Andrew Ward, Quang Le and Richard Henson for conducting an illegal search and unlawfully detaining the suspect longer than necessary. In a nutshell, the deputies, a trainer and trainee, stopped Bresnahan for speeding, found his license and registration in order, did not give him a ticket, and then stalled, keeping him from leaving until a canine unit arrived to seek drugs in his car. Police cannot detain a citizen indefinitely, or search his or her vehicle for drugs, unless they have probable cause – a legitimate reason to think that drugs are present – which the judge said was lacking. READ FULL STORY


Water rates to go up in the county for many in new year
week of November 22, 2018

The Indian River County Commission approved new utility rates at the Nov. 13 meeting, although it must still pass a rate resolution, probably in January, before new rates take effect March 1, 2019. This is the first rate change in 19 years. The biggest jump in rates will be felt by builders who need water and sewer lines installed for new homes. Some people who use large amounts of drinking water and multi-dwelling properties such as trailer parks that send unusually large amounts of water into the sanitary sewer system will pay more as well. On the other side of the ledger, reuse water users will end up paying about a third of what they pay now. The decision to alter some utility rates came after the commission got the results of a utility rate study it commissioned in 2017. Raftelis Financial Consultants of Orlando found most fees are at appropriate levels to cover operations, upkeep, future expansions and debt service, but several changes were suggested. READ FULL STORY


Sebastian River hospital gets an improved grade
week of November 15, 2018

If hospitals are to heal patients, they must first heal themselves. That appears to be just what Sebastian River Medical Center is doing after turning an F safety grade received last spring – one of only two in the state – to a more respectable C. The two-letter grade improvement came in the twice-yearly Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade, issued to 2,600 hospitals and publicly posted online. The fall grades were announced last Thursday, though they had been known to hospital executives for three weeks prior. That would explain the confidence of Steward’s newly installed CEO, Kyle Sanders, and COO, Ralph Taylor, who also serves as chief nursing officer, earlier this month when they gave a tour of a $60 million renovation at the facility. Along with transforming the rear façade of the U.S. 1 campus into its main entrance, the project is expected to improve safety scores even further, executives said. “This addition is the first step of modernizing the campus,” said Jeff Nicholas, vice president of Steward Health Care real estate. “And even beyond the project, we’re doing improvements generally.” The renovation will add 90,000 square feet, with seven operating rooms, two endoscopy rooms, a bronchoscopy suite and 48 private rooms on the top two of three floors. The wing is expected to open in late 2019 or early 2020. READ FULL STORY


Plans for Publix in Orchid seem on track despite foes
week of November 15, 2018

Plans for a new Publix at the east end of the Wabasso Causeway in Orchid appear to continue to be on track, despite opposition from potential neighbors who live just outside the town. Only moments after being sworn in last Friday, the Orchid Town Council heard an update from Town Manager Noah Powers on plans submitted last month by Publix for a scaled-down 31,000-square-foot Publix and five other retail shops on Route 510 immediately west of Jungle Trail. New to the council are Simms Browning and Patti Oertie-Phaneuf. Returning incumbents include Paul Knapp, Harold Ofstie and Robert Gibbons. Ofstie and Gibbons will continue as mayor and vice-mayor, respectively. Powers and members of the council have received scores of complaints about Publix’s plans, mostly from people who live in Old Orchid and The Seasons, subdivisions outside the town of Orchid that are near the project site. Those residents are worried about visuals, noise, lights, traffic, security and quality of life. They’re also upset that they won’t get a vote in the final decision. READ FULL STORY


Vero’s TV 10 sold to Spanish-language network
week of November 15, 2018

After more than two decades on the air, WWCI-CD, better known as Vero’s TV 10, has gone dark. Owner Jose Guerra was clearing out the last of the equipment and paperwork last week after finally agreeing to pull the plug on the orders of the new owner: Spanish-language network Azteca America. The half million-dollar deal closed in August. But Guerra, 80, kept the signal up, managing to fill the station’s final weeks with re-runs of past shows and the occasional short newscast. Today, a generic message informs Comcast subscribers that former programming is unavailable. To its small-town cadre of fans, TV 10 was anything but generic, its on-air “personalities” earning cult status: Josefina, the 71-year-old body-builder, Bob and Bob, the wine guys, and Marcia Littlejohn, the popular talk show host. WWCI-CD, the longtime local “must-carry” station, aired on Comcast’s channel 11. But it also broadcast the old-fashioned way – from a TV tower behind its original home on 12th Street, with a transmitter situated south of that at the county dump station off Old Dixie Highway. Though he wasn’t sure why, Guerra said his engineers preferred to do their work there after dark. “You should have seen the rats,” he said. “They had to take a gun.” READ FULL STORY


Surprise gift adds pre-Christmas magic to fundraiser for children with cancer
week of November 15, 2018

Carol Prezioso, managing broker for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, was feeling good as she drove home on a recent Monday night from a successful fundraiser for Sunshine Kids, an organization that "adds quality of life to children with cancer by providing them with exciting, positive group activities." Her mood changed abruptly when she got what she says was a "mortifying" phone call. The Oct. 29 "celebrity chef" event, organized by Berkshire Hathaway and held at Fujiyama Japanese Steakhouse, had attracted 110 people who came to watch Berkshire agents and friends entertain guests by cooking hibachi style, assisted by Fujiyama chefs. After costs, the dinner had raised $7,500 for Sunshine Kids. The only problem was Prezioso had forgotten to give the restaurant a check for the $3,300 owed for "food, beverages, tax, tip, venue, services, master chefs who assisted and celebrity chef training” before heading home. “The call was from one of the celebrity chefs telling me I forgot to pay." Prezioso immediately called Fujiyama manager Tao Feng Zhao to apologize. He told her it was OK, she could bring a check by the next day. READ FULL STORY


Upgrades ahead for historic Jones Pier
week of November 15, 2018

Construction is set to begin in spring 2019 on two long-awaited projects designed to improve recreational access to scenic and historic preserves on the barrier island’s lagoon shoreline. The Indian River County Commission last week executed a cost-sharing agreement with the Florida Inland Navigation District (FIND) to fund $260,000 worth of improvements to the historic Jones Pier Conservation Area on Jungle Trail adjacent to Indian River Shores, plus another $281,700 to open the Oyster Bar Marsh Conservation Area – located a short distance north of Round Island Park – to the public. Both projects are expected to be completed in 2020, according to Beth Powell, the county's conservation lands manager. Anglers currently fish from the renovated Jones Pier docks, which were first constructed by the pioneer Seaborn Jones family in 1907 to facilitate shipping their farm produce by water. Now the historic family homestead and fruit stand are slated for restoration and, after that, expected to display museum exhibits, according to Powell. READ FULL STORY


Merchon green, defeated for school board, picked to chair racial equity committee
week of November 15, 2018

Merchon Green was obviously disappointed when she lost her election bid to become an Indian River County School Board member, but the defeat left her free to accept the chairmanship of the Equity Committee, a potentially important oversight position. The Equity Committee was created by a September court order to oversee the school district’s compliance with a desegregation order that has been in effect for 51 years. The panel has two members chosen by the School Board and two by the NAACP, which represents black students and parents. Green was chosen as committee chair on Thursday, Nov. 8, by the four members that had already been appointed to the Equity Committee. In running for the School Board, Green’s campaign planks had included addressing the 31-percent achievement gap between black and white students, as well as the school climate, in which black students are disciplined nearly three times more than white students. She was a member of the school district’s student code of conduct committee that met a dozen times over eight months for many hours in an effort to make the school climate less punitive and punishments less subjective. She was also a member of the African-American Academic Achievement Plan Committee, which was dissolved by the court order, its responsibilities transferred to the Equity Committee. READ FULL STORY


Old Vero Council may yet see completion of electric sale
week of November 15, 2018

No matter the outcome of the Linda Hillman election challenge case set to go to trial before Judge Paul Kanarek on Dec. 17, the presently seated Vero Beach City Council could, theoretically, still get the sale of Vero electric over the finish line before an election is certified. Hillman sued saying she was unfairly disqualified as a candidate and removed from the Nov. 6 ballot after a blank signature page in her qualifying paperwork was discovered. She and her Tallahassee-based attorney Mark Herron are asking for last week’s election – in which nearly 5,000 Vero residents voted – to be tossed out and for a new election to be held, with a brand-new qualifying period that would allow Hillman, disqualified candidate Brian Heady and others to jump into the race for three seats. Kanarek ordered the City of Vero Beach Canvassing Board not to certify last Tuesday night’s results, which would have returned Councilman Tony Young and Councilwoman Laura Moss to office, and ushered Robbie Brackett into the third seat, which is being vacated by Vice Mayor Lange Sykes, who did not seek re-election. Instead, the matter will be decided in court the week before Christmas. READ FULL STORY