Palm Beach County to Atlanta Braves: No bed tax money available for spring training complex

The new spring training home of the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals is quickly taking shape in West Palm Beach, as you can see in the video below.

But plans by the Atlanta Braves to move to John Prince Park in suburban Lake Worth are going at a much slower pace.

 

Palm Beach County Administrator Verdenia Baker met with two top Braves officials in her office this past Monday but she said there wasn’t much progress.

Atlanta Braves vice chairman John Schuerholz
Atlanta Braves vice chairman John Schuerholz

In fact, she said the team officials still haven’t presented her with a written proposal of how they plan to pay for the $100 million facility they want to build in no the south end of John Prince.

Baker also said she told the Braves not to expect the county to contribute revenue from a local hotel tax.

The County Commission did pledge so-called “bed tax” money last year for the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, the $144 million complex south of 45th Street where the Astros and Nationals will play starting in January.

But Baker said she told Braves chairman Terry McGuirk and vice chairman John Schuerholz earlier this week, “There are no bed tax dollars. It is not there.’’

She said the Braves indicated hope that Lake Worth and other towns near John Prince Park might contribute revenue to the project.

Baker said she has no plans to discuss the Braves during Tuesday’s County Commission meeting.

“There’s nothing to discuss,’’ she said. “They’re telling me they’re on a time crunch. I told them I still need a written proposal.’’

Frankel raises sober home gripes during House debate

U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel took to the House floor on Thursday during debate on a sweeping drug abuse and overdose bill to push her mission to regulate sober homes.

The Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Reduction Act, HR 5046 makes no mention of sober homes but Frankel said the “over-proliferation” of sober homes in neighborhoods is a related issue.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Assistant Secretary Gustavo Velasquez (right) and Congresswoman Lois Frankel (left) addressed members of the media in the Crest Theatre library in Delray Beach after meeting with local leaders to discuss sober homes Monday, May 2, 2016. (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Assistant Secretary Gustavo Velasquez (right) and Congresswoman Lois Frankel (left) addressed members of the media in the Crest Theatre library in Delray Beach after meeting with local leaders to discuss sober homes Monday, May 2, 2016. (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)

“We are seeing thousands, thousands of sober homes in South Florida disrupting services and the health and safety of neighborhoods,” Frankel said during her brief comments in support of the bill. The unscrupulous operators of shady sober homes obstruct the recovery of addicts and do not help addicts integrate back into society, Frankel said.

While Florida lawmakers and local officials have struggled for years to reign in sober homes, Frankel took the cause to Washington last year when she announced that she would explore avenues for cities and counties to oversee sober homes while “protecting the rights of addicts.”

The Americans with Disabilities Act defines “disability” to include alcoholism and drug addiction. The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful for cities to discriminate on the basis of disability status, including addiction. Sober home operators have used these laws to fend off regulations on how and where they can operate.

Although Frankel’s efforts have gained widespread support, she rankled the media and some stakeholders when she met behind closed doors on May 2 with a high-ranking official of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)and about 30 local leaders after leading them on a tour of some Delray Beach sober homes.

Read more of The Post’s coverage of corruption in the county’s billion dollar drug treatment industry.

 

Fired Palm Beach Shores cop accused of rape wanted $575K to settle case

Former Palm Beach Shores officer Charles Hoeffer attends an arbitration hearing where he is arguing for his job back in West Palm Beach, FL on May 5, 2016. Palm Beach Shores police chief says FBI is not going to pursue charges against Hoeffer, who is alleged to have committed sexual assault. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
Former Palm Beach Shores officer Charles Hoeffer attends an arbitration hearing where he is arguing for his job back. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

The former Palm Beach Shores officer fighting to get his job back after being accused of rape wanted $575,000 to make himself go away.

On the day before his arbitration hearing last week, Charles Hoeffer’s police union lawyer proposed a settlement that would also allow the former officer to retire in good standing.

“We will accept a lump sum of payment of $575,000.00,” Police Benevolent Association lawyer Larry Fagan wrote in an email to the lawyer representing Palm Beach Shores. “We’ll pay the taxes.”

The town rejected the offer.

Hoeffer spent nearly two years on paid leave while the Riviera Beach police, prosecutors and the FBI investigated claims that he twice raped a blind woman while on duty in 2014. Prosecutors and the FBI decided not to charge him with a crime.

Ten other women have accused him of rape, sexual harassment or domestic violence over his 27-year career. One of those women is a former Palm Beach Shores police dispatcher who is now suing the town.

He was fired in January after his police certification expired, an unusual loophole that Hoeffer is fighting. An arbitrator is expected to rule on the case in July.

Fagan calculated the large settlement sum because he said Hoeffer, 54, could work another 8 to 10 years. At the time he was fired, he was being paid $56,622 annually, including supervisor’s pay.

Ten years of pay, with 3 percent increases, would be nearly $650,000, not counting overtime, special details and the supervisor’s pay, which is about $3,000 per year.

That, plus $18,866 in back pay and 750 hours of accrued vacation, holiday and sick leave would total $691,300, Fagan calculated in the proposal.

Despite that amount, Hoeffer was willing to take the $575,000 in a lump sum, Fagan wrote.

Palm Beach Shores chief: FBI won’t charge officer accused of rape

The FBI investigated and decided not to bring charges against a former Palm Beach Shores police officer accused of twice raping a blind woman in her home, the department’s police chief said today.

Charles Hoeffer of the Palm Beach Shores Police Department
Charles Hoeffer of the Palm Beach Shores Police Department

During an arbitration hearing for former officer Charles Hoeffer, Chief Duncan Young said two FBI agents met with him in April, and last week they told him they had found “no evidence of a criminal nature to proceed” with the case.

The State Attorney’s Office also decided not to bring charges in the case, Young said.

Duncan fired Hoeffer in January when his state certification lapsed following nearly two years on paid administrative leave.

The Palm Beach Post reported in February 2015 that 11 different women had made accusations against Hoeffer during his career, including allegations of domestic violence, inappropriate touching, sexual harassment and making sexual comments to women while on duty.

Hoeffer is fighting the unusual firing, saying he wasn’t notified his four-year mandatory certification was going to expire. He needed retraining to maintain it.

Young said that Hoeffer, an officer with various police departments since 1987, should have known.

Young said he intentionally didn’t tell the officer about the upcoming recertification because be wanted Hoeffer gone.

“I don’t believe Mr. Hoeffer is of good moral character,” he told an arbitrator this morning.

Hoeffer has been dogged by misconduct allegations, including a separate rape allegation in 1996 that prosecutors declined to charge. At least 11 women have made accusations against him, including allegations of domestic violence, inappropriate touching, sexual harassment and making sexual comments to women while on duty.

He was fired from Delray Beach Police Department for attacking his ex-wife, Riviera Beach police fired him on the 1996 rape allegation, but he won back his job.

He’s been with Palm Beach Shores police for eight years. In 2014, a blind woman told police that he had twice raped her in her home. The department hasn’t yet completed its internal investigation in that case.

A decision by the arbitrator could be months away.

Palm Beach Shores chief: FBI won’t charge officer accused of rape

The FBI investigated and decided not to bring charges against a former Palm Beach Shores officer accused of twice raping a blind woman in her home, the department’s police chief said today.
During an arbitration hearing for former officer Charles Hoeffer, Chief Duncan Young said two FBI agents met with him in April, and last week they told him they had found “no evidence of a criminal nature to proceed” with the case.
The State Attorney’s office also decided not to bring charges in the case, Young said. 
Hoeffer was fired in January, when his state certification lapsed following nearly two years on paid administrative leave. 
Hoeffer is fighting the unusual decision, saying he wasn’t notified his four-year mandatory certification was going to expire. He needed retraining to maintain it.
Young said that Hoeffer, an officer with various police departments since 1987, should have known.
Young said he intentionally didn’t tell the officer about the upcoming recertification because be wanted Hoeffer gone.
“I don’t believe Mr. Hoeffer is of good moral character,” he told an arbitrator this morning.
Hoeffer has been dogged by misconduct allegations, including a separate rape allegation in 1996 that prosecutors declined to charge. The Palm Beach Post found that 11 different women had made accusations against him over his career, including allegations of domestic violence, inappropriate touching, sexual harassment and making sexual comments to women while on duty. He was fired from Delray Beach police police department for attacking his ex-wife, Riviera Beach police fired him on the 1996 rape allegation, but he won back his job. He’s been with Palm Beach Shores police for eight years. In 2014, a blind woman told police that he had twice raped her in her home. The department hasn’t yet completed its internal investigation in that case.
A decision by the arbitrator could be months away.

Sun doesn’t shine on HUD’s closed-door sober homes meeting with local leaders

At least 15 elected officials were among a roster of more than 50 government leaders from Palm Beach and Broward counties who met behind closed doors Monday in Delray Beach.

The purpose of their meeting: To discuss with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development possible strategies for how towns and cities can draft local laws aimed at stemming the influx of sober homes.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Assistant Secretary Gustavo Velasquez (center) and Congresswoman Lois Frankel (center right) speak with local leaders about sober homes at the Crest Theatre in Delray Beach's Old School Square Monday, May 2, 2016. (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Assistant Secretary Gustavo Velasquez (center) and Congresswoman Lois Frankel (center right) speak with local leaders about sober homes at the Crest Theatre in Delray Beach’s Old School Square Monday, May 2, 2016. (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)

Some of those elected officials serve on the same board.

Among the attendees: West Palm Beach mayor Jeri Muoio and city commissioner Shanon Materio; Boynton Beach mayor Steven Grant and city commissioners Christina Romelus and Joe Casello; and Boca Raton mayor Susan Haynie and councilman Robert Weinroth.

But the public and media were not allowed to attend.

Florida’s Government-in-the-Sunshine law contains open meetings requirements that apply to almost all state and local public bodies with the exception of the courts and the state Legislature, which have their own constitutional provisions.

The law says meetings at which public business is to be transacted or discussed must be opened and noticed to the public. The courts have interpreted that to mean that “any discussion by two or more members of the same board or commission in which foreseeable action will be taken,” Barbara Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation, a Tallahassee nonprofit focused on open government, has said.

An agenda for the meeting refered to the gathering as a “Sober Home Listening Session.” The meeting included discussions on how local governments might be able to eventually draft laws regulating sober homes.AGENDA

Congresswoman Lois Frankel, who hosted the meeting, said the gathering was closed to the media at the request of HUD officials.

“They wanted to have a frank and open discussion,’’ Frankel said at a post-meeting press conference.

She said there was “a concern’’ by HUD that “everything they say comes back in litigation. Instead of us sitting there all day with everybody being exact and not being able to explain what the issues were, that’s the reason. It was really for legal reasons that they didn’t want it (open to the press).’’

Photographers were allowed in to take still shots, but only after being told not to record any of the meeting with audio or video devices.

One Delray Beach resident said she tried to attend but was not allowed.

The meeting was encouraging for government leaders who attended. They are optimistic HUD officials will work with the Department of Justice on “a joint statement” clarifying federal laws that protect recovering drug addicts and alcoholics.

The joint statement could help local towns and cities in their efforts to draft laws regulating sober homes.