Trails in the Sand by Peter Traciet, the Street Detective
Ol’ Peter is giving thanks this holiday season for the plentiful dirt that has us covered up to our neck in news.
Peter scurried through the dirt at Fort Lauderdale High School and watched as Lori Alhadeff of District 5, Jeff Holness of District 5, Brenda Fam of District 6, Nora Rupert of District 7 and Allan Zeman of the countywide, at-large seat were all sworn in for their respective School Board seats.
Missing from the lineup was Rodney “Rod” Velez of District 1 who won the seat in the November election over Marie Murray Martin. It appears Velez didn’t wake up on the right side of dirt because he was buried under sand because of his 1994 conviction of aggravated battery with a firearm.
The Detective sleuthed that Velez could not effectively take the oath and “swear” that he is qualified to hold the position because he neglected to file for and be granted clemency for his 1994 felony conviction.
In the article, A Case for Study” Traceit warned of this when digging excavated a police report that describes how Velez pistol-whipped a man in Hollywood causing him “great bodily injury” as detailed in the police affidavit. While the victim lay “semi-conscious and bleeding profusely from the head”, a weapon was found under the seat of his car. Velez was ultimately adjudicated guilty of a second-degree felony, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. He was placed on probation for two years and ordered to pay a $200 fine.
Murray Martin and other concerned constituents questioned whether Velez was eligible to run for and hold an elected office being that he is a convicted felon. When Traceit went digging in the Florida Constitution, what was learned that once Velez completed the terms of his probation and paid his fine, he was eligible to register and vote, but holding an elected office was still in question.
Under the new clemency rules, ex-felons are automatically entitled to have their rights restored, including the right to hold political office, but they must first submit a formal request to the Florida Commission on Offender Review and Office of Executive Clemency. Rights are restored without a hearing, but the application is required for rights restoration. Word on the street is that Velez might not have had much faith in winning the seat because Traceit is told he didn’t even file his clemency application until AFTER he won the seat.
It appears that Velez’s pistol packing attitude got him nowhere with Governor Ron DeSantis. Traceit is told Velez traveled through the sand tunnels to the state Capitol to meet with DeSantis in an effort to plead a case to be seated as a Board member. It appears that he entered the fight with a 22 pistol when Desantis showed up with an AR-15. The DeSantis Detector Test determined, “Velez is NOT to be sworn in.”
So, the question lingering in the dirt is three-fold: Will Velez be able to take his seat once he is granted clemency?; If not, will it go to the #2 candidate, Murray Martin; or Will Desantis appoint someone to the seat. Ol’ Traceit might be able to dig up a name from the sand that starts with an F and ends with an I and has an OGANHOL in the middle.
Traceit cannot move on from the swearing in of Board members without addressing who swore in each member. Alhadeff was sworn in by her husband, Dr. Ilan Alhadeff; Nora Rupert was sworn in by her children, Dylan, Jared and Brenna Rupert; Dr. Allen Zeman was sworn in by his father, Keith Zeman; Brenda Fam Esq. was sworn in by Apostle Domingo Vasquez and Tom Powers and Dr. Jeff Holness was sworn in by Senator and former District five Board member, Dr. Rosalind Osgood and Murray Robinson.
It appears that Dr. Osgood was not confident enough to show her physical presence at the meeting, but elected to be streamed in from a remote location. The Detective is told that Osgood did not disappoint. She gave a riveting sermon that no one actually heard because technology sound failed just as it was getting good and was only restored at the very end. Traceit is hearing someone was in the sand tunnels looking for the sound technician to give him the balance of the down payment for a job well done. Might this also be the person who showed up to the Board meeting and referred to Osgood as a “silent Board member who showed up for work today” in reference to her swearing in Holness?
Ol’ Traceit will be digging in the sand to uncover whether Holness will be a free thinker in his position, or whether he will reside between the dirty dwellings of Osgood and President Anna Fusco of, The Broward Teachers Union who endorsed and now “owns” him, by her words. It is well known that Osgood has not and will not give up her influence on Cartwright and the Board without a sand fight. The Detective surmises that as long as Osgood and Fusco are on the same page, Holness will be able to breathe, but when the case comes (probably sooner than later) where the two ladies disagree,
Holness will be sputtering dirt from every orifice in his body to get clean.
The second order of business for the day had The Detective swimming through the tunnels to the KC Wright Building to witness the reorganization of the Board. Alhadeff was voted in as chair of the Board in a 6-2 vote. Fam and Torey Alston, the former Board Chair voted in the negative. The Detective was dumbfounded in utter disbelief to witness Debra Hixon voted in as Vice-Chair without any nay-sayers. But Hixon might not be there long as Ol’ Traceit is hearing pounding in the sand calling for her removal for her inappropriate involvement with FTX. Traceit is told Hixon has been on the payroll for bankrupted FTX and it is questionable of her using her position as a Board member to entangle staff and students with the organization for her personal benefit. Hixon is not well versed on Sunshine Laws or laws involving ethics of elected officials. Might she also face removal and make a space for someone whose last name is written in the sand with an F at the beginning, and I at the end and a OGANHOL in the middle?
Once the Board chair and vice-chair were named, Traceit hung around to see if any of the Board members would make a play in the sand to bring Dr. Vickie Cartwright back as Superintendent for a third time. Would this be a violation of Sunshine Laws as it was not advertised? Traceit is told that no one is sure, including the Interim Board Attorney, Marilyn Batista. Lucky for her, the idea got no tracks in the sand.
The Detective left thinking how this reorganization of the Board today will impact tomorrow’s business. The Reform Board, whether liked or not, shook up the sand in the hourglass and challenged the status quo of corruption, mediocrity and the culture of fear and retaliation. Peter is wondering if this new Board a sign of an about-face to the old status quo which will only lead to more Grand Jury reports, arrests, suspensions and removals. Only time will tell.
Ol’ Peter dusted the sand off as the day’s work came to an end. The sand tunnels await tomorrow and The Detective will return to the tunnels digging for clues and news.