The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida on December 1, 1997 · Page 96
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December 1, 1997

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The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida · Page 96

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West Palm Beach, Florida
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Monday, December 1, 1997
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Page 96
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MONDAY, DECEMBER 1, 1997 t The Palm Beach Post msl SECTION a IN ACCENT Second Sight narrators help open new worlds. JERI BUTLER, ID , .J NEWS A LOCAL (High turnover hampers public defender's office and Litty were dating at the time an got married shortly after. j "She was extremely irate. She came into my office, pointed her finger at me and said, l Know yoi wrote a complaint against Tom. Don'l ing political clout Last year, when Harpring ran for county judge, he wrote a letter to the Indian River County sheriff, complaining that deputies were campaigning for Harpring's opponent Litty confronted Harpring and said she was concerned the letter would hurt her relationship with the sheriff, Harpring said. Barnett said his problems with Litty started when he filed a judicial complaint against County Judge Thomas Walsh four years ago. Walsh Rather, it is part of the expected turnover of an agency filled with high stress. "Every three or four years, they go through the same thing," said Jeff Garland, a private defense lawyer who worked for the public defender in the early 1980s, before Litty arrived. "That's kind of like the tides. They come and go." But two lawyers who left, Ken Barnett in Stuart and Jim Harpring in Vero Beach, said defending clients is not as important to Litty as protect But her flock has hardly been faithful in following her advice. In the past three months, 11 of the office's 29 lawyers have left, 10 through resignation, 1 by firing. Among their complaints: B Litty puts politics first and has an aloof management style. The caseloads are large. The pay is too low. Litty, 40, the elected public defender for the four counties of the Treasure Coast, doesn't see the recent departures as a sign of problems. Politics, low pay and heavy caseloads are the reasons public defenders say they are leaving. By Noah Bierman Palm Beach Post Staff Writer FORT PIERCE At a recent staff meeting, Treasure Coast Public Defender Diamond Litty handed out fresh copies of her "Public Defender's Ten Commandments." No. 1 on the list: "Thou shalt be happy." try to deny it . . . Litty made a rule that all lawyer in her office must notify her befori tliPi.m , i-im i i . n-.;-- :V " ' " V litty I. - filinp comolaints acainst judges and o . i VUlVt UfcSV vw Barnett calls it the "Barne Please see DEFENDER ud removal M m plan for creek! 4 Generous bikers deliver the goods Santa's helpers took the form of 2,000 bikers Sunday, delivering toys to the Indrio Schoolhouse. gets new look 1 St. Lucie River E. Ocean Blvd. I n-i nth ct iH-iTo WW i At?1 7S ' With am A j A.V Field IA1) "MMonterey Rd.. , 1 : 1 ' I r 7 . . V I . ' y ,., , f y k '"'''tsrfi v Jy . ?, x - T Xi0' if- n lilted i W Y U'l (;'i'-'. . ;;i..' -jT i. i MARK HEMPHILLStaff Artisf -I? the $100,000-$150,000 estimated for the original plan. . On the other hand, Capra and. others worry their property valuef will sink as the creek becomes unnavigable. "It's one disgruntled property owner holding bacfc about 60 property owners," h$ said I i Stuart has a proposal to remove about 10,000 cubic yards of mud from the Krueger Creek bed. By Cara Anna Palm Beach Post Staff Writer STUART The last time the city wanted to dredge Krueger Creek, it wound up in a two-year fight with the state Department of Environmental Protection about arsenic levels. An administrative judge cleared that up a year ago, saying the DEP was wrong to use a rule not yet officially adopted to deny a permit for the project. The city is working on a new DEP-friendly plan to remove about 10,000 cubic yards of mud from the creek bed, but the question of arsenic remains. And a handful of people who live along the creek want answers before a permit is granted. The city commission will have a special meeting Dec. 10 to discuss the project and the objections. Joseph Capra, a local engineer who lives on the creek, said he has been talking with the DEP about a plan to place the mud on a small barge, let it dry and unload it into dump trucks in his back yard. The mud would be taken to an industrial site on State Road 76 between Interstate 95 and Florida's Turnpike. The original plan had the silt being spread on vacant lots beside the creek to dry. The DEP said arsenic, a carcinogenic heavy metal, can be released as hazardous dust as the mud dries. "What's the difference?" asked Nelo Freijomel, who lives along the creek. "The arsenic is going to become airborne anyway." He said his concern is for neighborhood children. Another concern is that property owners along the creek would have to help pay the dredging bill. The cost is unknown, but it will be more than , By Joe Vidueira Palm Beach Post Staff Writer STUART They didn't exactly conjure images of the jolly old elf, but the 2,000 bikers who took to the road Sunday for disadvantaged kids would have made Santa Claus proud. With Barbie dolls, teddy bears and Walkman radios strapped to their bikes, the motorcyclists rode 30 miles from , the Top Dog Cafe in Stuart to the historic Indrio Schoolhouse in northern St Lucie County to give away the toys, drink beer : and eat barbecued burgers. "Bikers love kids," said ".. D.F. "Deacon" . Alchermes, a former priest and local chapter president of ABATE (American Bikers Aimed Toward Educa- tion) of Florida, an organization that sponsored this charity run - and puts on many others ",- throughout the state. "These gifts are for kids . who wouldn't otherwise have a decent Christmas," said Alchermes, whose biker clothes, . long hair and tattoos belie his social activism. "We try to give : back to the community and ' show we're not bad people just because we ride these loud ma-.-; chines." The bikers collected V enough toys to fill three trucks . to benefit the United Way's White Doves project, which turns over the gifts to the Dale Cassens School for handi-" : capped students in Fort Pierce, . and the Hope Rural School in " Indiantown and other social ;,. service agencies. ; Z The bikers blamed the in-' termittent rain for a smaller turnout than last year when more than 3,500 bikers showed up with about 4,000 toys. But this year's crowd included some notable local bikers, including U.S. Rep. Mark Foley, R-West Palm Beach; Martin County Sheriff Bob Crowder; and St. Lucie school district finance director Larry Clancy. "Our children are spoiled rotten, so it's a good feeling to make truly needy kids happy," said Jennifer Fusco, who with her husband Rocky owns a local tattoo shop. Capra said that with the new, ' plan, the potential for "airborn anything" will be minimized. The ' plan has not yet been given to tha DEP. 1 Bruce Jerner of the DEP office in Port St. Lucie has been talking to Capra about the barge idea, ana "it sounds like what they're doing is going to be consistent with the department's take on it," he said But the DEP can hand out permits left and right, and a third party with a valid complaint can still stop a project, he said. Meanwhile, the source of tha arsenic is not known, and JerneJ said the DEP "doesn't really have an actual number" to apply to arsenic levels in this kind of situa tion. Tests in 1994 showed ai$ average arsenic level of 2 parts pel million, with a high of 5.9. After a brief argument at Morif day's city commission meeting be tween Capra and Freijomel, the special meeting was moved froiji January. "We've got to sit dowij andget this aired out," said Com missioner Charlie Foster. "This problem is, is there an expert everyone will believe?" J Staff photos by JASON NU1TLE : r 'A He doesn't look like Santa Claus, but 7-year-old Kyle Mun-son (top) knows what's in his dad's heart Sunday. Tim Munson and other bikers prepare to make the Holiday Bike Run for Toys from the Top Dog Cafe in Stuart to Indrio Schoolhouse in northern St. Lucie County and present toys to disadvantaged children. Wendell Gilchrist (left) decided to wear his handy pink gorilla suit to the occasion. Down syndrome doesn't j keep Ben from his school t. V - " 'A Foster parents seek same rights as natural family ,3 The suit highlights a painful issue that lurks in most conflicts between foster families and child welfare agencies. By Mary Ellen Flannery Palm Beach Post Staff Writer WHITE CITY Years ago, Georgia Parsons decided her youngest son, the one who hugs strangers and struggles to say scissors, would attend a regular kindergarten at White City Elementary. Parsons imagined he'd get invitations to birthday parties, make red paper turkeys for the refrigerator door and sing in school pageants. Despite his extra chromosome, the one that causes Down syndrome and makes Ben a little slower than his classmates, he would do just fine. "It seems like a dream, and I guess it is," Parsons said. "But if you don't have a dream, you can't live the dream. If you don't have aspirations, you will never realize them. This has been a dream come true." In August, Ben became the first Down child to spend his school day in a regular classroom, right between 6-year-olds Emily Macy and Kaleb Robbins. He has a big purple pencil and supply box with his name on it, a collection of paper turkeys and friends. The little girls in Jennifer Lynch's class make sure Ben has PAUL J. MILETTEStaffPhotographei! Ben Parsons (right) congratui 1 a. r: i r. . ..." i laies naimunao ruig witn a huffl after getting a word right in Ian guage exercises at White Ele t . C-U I In October, Circuit Judge Karen Martin rejected emergency pleas by the couple and the child's court-appointed guardian-advocate to return her to them. She said the Joneses, then unlicensed, had no standing in court, and state law wouldn't let the court interfere with DCF's authority to place children. The Joneses cared for more than 500 foster children over the past 24 years. They were among the first to be licensed as a medical foster home, the state's most demanding level of care for children with severe medical problems. DCF and Children's Medical Services said they closed the home in August because Mary Frances Jones was hostile toward nurses and caseworkers and didn't keep medical records up to date. They also said children who were adopted from the home or removed from it improved after they left. Please see FOSTERAffl By Mary McLachlin Palm Beach Post Staff Writer I WEST PALM BEACH Do foster families have the same rights as biological families tinder the U.S. Constitution? h They do, asserts a lawsuit filed in Palm teach Circuit Court, and state welfare officials violated those rights when they shut down the Palm Beach Gardens foster home of Louis and Mary Frances Jones and removed three disabled children from it v The suit highlights a painful issue that lurks in most conflicts between foster families and Child welfare agencies the emotional bonds that develop between foster parents and children, and whether those bonds create a "family" with legal rights that government can't ignore. At least one federal court has said they do, and the U.S. Supreme Court has hinted at the same conclusion without ruling on it directly. A similar ruling in Florida could restrict the state's power to remove children without warning and over foster parents' objections. A lawyer for the state Department of Children and Families said the agency hasn't prepared its response to the Joneses' suit, which was filed Nov. 17. The Joneses are suing the Department of Children and Families to get back one of the children removed from their care, a 3 '2-year-old girl they'd kept since infancy and wanted to adopt. They're also trying to get their foster home license reinstated through a state appeals process and will get a hearing before an administrative judge within three months. crayons at the art table while ig-l noting the boys who accuse themt of hoarding pink. Like their teacher, the little girls ask Ben to speak in full sentences, not simply point" to the crayons. "Ben, say 'I want crayons ' " orders 6-year-old Aida Esquivei ' Please see DOWN5:

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