The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida on March 2, 1996 · Page 107
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The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida · Page 107

West Palm Beach, Florida
Issue Date:
Saturday, March 2, 1996
Page 107
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SATURDAY, MARCH 2, 1996 The Palm Beach Post msl SECTION B BAT BURGLARS Antique baseball equipment is stolen from a truck parked in a Fort Pierce gas station. STORY, 2B PAYING RESPECTS Friends remember Okeechobee Detective David Brough, who died Friday after battling cancer. STORY, 2B Witt. rj.-Psf-HEji ni"j?'r LOCAL NEWS Resigning HRS chief urges By JIM REEDER Palm Beach Post Staff Writer FORT PIERCE Wilbur Williams said goodbye to his staff Friday, telling them to keep building on the foundation of HRS District 15's first two years and working to help the poor. ' "You are very much needed," .Williams told about 130 Treasure Coast employees of the state Department of Health and Rehabilita- TREASURE COAST JENSEN BEACH JENSEN BEACH Garth Snyder, 67, of Jensen Beach, who crawled through thick smoke to pull neighbor Louis Fancher from a burning mobile home at Ocean Breeze Park in 1995, was among 17 people honored Thursday by the $ Carnegie Hero Fund Com- mission. The Pittsburgh-I based commission, founded I by steel magnate Andrew j Carnegie in 1904, honors 'I those who risk their lives to save others. Each hero re- ceives $2,500 and a medal. During the Feb. 14 fire, I Snyder groped along the floor to find Fancher in the smoke-filled trailer, taking j turns outside to gulp air. t Fancher, 71, was seriously I burned and died the next day at a Miami hospital. Snyder, who works as a part-time parks maintenance su- pervisor in Marcellus, N.Y., and spends winters in Jensen Beach, said the Carne- i gie award is "a real thrill and certainly a great honor. I J truly believe I happened to be the one there at the time and did nothing different '' ! than what you or anyone else would have done for someone in need. I just wish ' Mr. Fancher could have sur- vived." IN COURT FORT PIERCE A ! jury convicted Paul Jen-"j kins, 20, of second-degree , murder with a firearm Fri-Jday in the October 1994 I shooting death of Robert . , 'Dowling, 29. The shooting occurred during a quarrel over Dowling's wife, sheriffs deputies said. Prosecutors charged Jenkins with first-degree murder and argued that he wanted to kill Bowling so he could have Dowling's wife. Jenkins' attorney, Bob Watson, argued , ;that Jenkins shot in self-de-; 'fense after the two men ar- gued over the woman. STUART Former Miami Dolphins and Los Angeles Rams running back Cleveland Gary was ordered Friday to pay a $150 fine for failing to complete his community service on time. The same judge last month threatened him with 15 days in jail for failing I to complete 100 hours of community service work. Gary, 29, had been charged with two counts of violating probation after he was twice 'caught driving with a suspended driver license. Gary told the judge he spent the last five weekends cleaning Martin County beaches to finish his community service work. Last month, Gary also paid a $2,000 fine ordered .after his arrest. y Fairlawn 2nd-grade teacher judged St. Lucie's best in '96 By JOSE PATINO GIRONA Palm Beach Post Staff Writer : PORT ST. LUCIE Shirley Helton, a second-grade teacher at Fairlawn Elementary School, was named the 1996 St. Lucie County Teacher of the Year, at a ceremony Friday at Club Med. I Helton, who has taught for 21 years, was selected out of 34 teachers in the district. The run-ners-up were Susan Reeder, a history and economics teacher at tive Services. "There is an element that doesn't care about the poor, doesn't care about the people you serve. "I care about what happens to them and if you want to do something for me, you continue to care for them," he said. "You are needed to be sure welfare reform doesn't become welfare removal." Williams resigned Thursday at the request of HRS Secretary Ed Let's See Them Grade This Paper FORT PIERCE - Daniel White, 6, sends toilet paper up to Assistant Principal Barry Lait at Lawnwood Elementary on Friday. Lait and Principal Mike Hitsman (under umbrella) promised to sit on the roof during the 2'2-hour lunch period if students earned 2,500 points in a reading contest. Some students passed up candy bars or notes of support. But Daniel's first-grade teacher, Lisa Patrick, decided they might need a little something extra. Port St. Lucie High; Peter Rinelli, a teacher of English for Speakers of Other Languages at Bayshore Elementary, and Debra Tedder, a second-grade teacher at Lawn-wood Elementary. Even when Helton, 44, was growing up in Kentucky she wanted to "be a teacher, she said. She would play school with her brother and cousins, and she would be the Please see TEACHER2B Feaver, who said he has lost confidence in Williams' management of the district, which covers Martin, St. Lucie, Okeechobee and Indian River counties. Feaver also forced Dr. John Witte, District 15's deputy administrator for health, to retire after an investigation found he submitted false travel vouchers for reimbursement and used the state's long-distance telephone system A - It x J ST"! - rw'WWlMMMMMili'iiM VV - Winner Shirley Helton (right) and 1 1 I i i ' I f . I 1 mJtmmm mi . "A T 1 I , t- ..I L - -. - - staff to keep mission alive for personal use. Williams' forced resignation came after disclosures that Williams ignored recommendations to fire Robert A. "Bob" Dees, an investigator who admitted having sex with a woman during working hours. The woman said she thought she was under investigation and would do anything to keep from losing custody of her adult dis- 4 PAUL J. MILEnEStaff Photographer runner - up Susan Reeder react. abled daughter. Feaver has ordered HRS's Inspector General's Office to look into the Dees case. The office also investigated complaints that Williams intimidated his staff with threats of libel suits and other action if they disagreed with him. An 18-page report released Friday said investigators found 36 questionable travel vouchers Firm may run Home Finders, repay debts The court gave GLF Management Services 45 days to investigate the company and decide. By SUSANNAH A. NESMITH Palm Beach Post Staff Writer FORT PIERCE Circuit Judge Scott Kenney approved a contract Friday that would allow a management company to take over Florida Home Finders and reimburse the owners and tenants for money they lost when Home Finders' escrow accounts were allegedly raided by its former owners. GLF Management Services has 45 days to investigate Florida Home Finders to determine if is interested in buying it. GLF officials were unwilling to pay accountants and lawyers to look into Home Finders' finances until they got a promise from the court that they could buy it if they wanted to. If they decide to buy Home Finders, GLF officials have agreed to replace all money missing from Home Finders' escrow accounts, as well as ..jJay Home Finders' creditors, including the court-appointed receiver who is managing the company. Officials estimate the final purchase price will be less than $3 million. Home Finders was taken over by the court after auditors from the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation found that $2.5 million was removed from company accounts and converted to a certificate of deposit. The certificate was used by Brian Schiff and Ian Law as collateral on a loan to buy the company from Atlantic Gulf Communities. Schiff and Law's real estate licenses have been suspended and Kenney Jury in civil suit won't hear about molestation victims By JILL TAYLOR Palm Beach Post Staff Writer PORT ST. LUCIE Jurors in a civil lawsuit over sexual child abuse at the former Glendale Montessori School in Stuart won't hear about dozens of other children identified as victims or listen to their testimony, a judge ruled Friday. Eight lawsuits are pending on behalf of former Glendale students and their families. One is scheduled for trial this summer and attorney Robert Parenti argued that jurors should be able to hear about other children abused under circumstances similar to those of his 11-year-old client. Former Glendale owner James Toward pleaded guilty to molesting six preschool boys at his school. He was sentenced in 1989 to 27 years in prison. Former school office manager Brenda Williams pleaded no contest to abusing five of the same boys. She served about half of a 10 year prison term and is on probation and living in Vero Beach. Lawyers representing the former school, Williams, Toward and his wife, Rosario, and several teachers also named in suits argued that claims by other students have nothing to do with the lawsuit on the 11-year-old's behalf. The boy was about 3 at the time of the alleged abuse, but it wasn't discovered until years later, long after the criminal case was finished. Part of the plea agreement in Toward's case was that no more charges would be filed even if more victims surfaced. where Witte sought reimbursement for use of his car in the Treasure Coast area. Witte agreed he did not make the trips shown on 14 vouchers, was unsure about 14 others and offered explanations for eight other questionable vouchers. The report also said Witte Please see RESIGN2B has appointed receivers to manage the company. Attorneys for Atlantic Gulf Communities and for Schiff and Law opposed Kenney's decision to approve the contract, arguing that the receivers and GLF refused to negotiate with them. The attorney for AGC said her client wanted GLF to agree not to sue AGC in the future and in return, AGC was willing to cancel a $1 million debt AGC officials claim Home Finders owes them. "We're not a wrongdoer here," .said Holly Skolnick. "We just want to make sure that it's over for us." If GLF buys Home Finders, the company will be able to file claims against the people and organizations involved in removing money from the escrow accounts. The attorney for GLF told Kenney that his client was unwilling 'to make any deals with AGC until after the tenants and owners had been reimbursed. "It's not a lot of money per person, but it's important money to a lot of people," said attorney Guy Bailey. "We are not willing to give that up to somebody else." Florida Home Finders, based in Port St. Lucie, manages about 3,500 rental homes from offices in six Florida cities. Homeowners have been paid only partial rents since the company was taken over by the court in September. And some tenants who have moved out since then have not been reimbursed for their deposits. Families of the original six victims all settled lawsuits out of court, but the insurance company representing the school has launched a vigorous defense in the remaining cases. "This is a witch hunt. We do not believe this child was molested," defense attorney John Kirst said, referring to the boy named in the civil suit scheduled to go to trial first. The law allows so-called "similar fact evidence" to be introduced during (rials if there is a clear connection between incidents. But Parenti wasn't able to provide specifics of most of the evidence he wanted to introduce and retired Circuit Judge Thomas O'Connell said he won't allow it during trial. Parenti listed the detective in the criminal case as a witness along with a man who dressed as a woman and claimed to have had sex with Toward, but statements from either witness have not been taken by Parenti and they were not in court Friday. Parenti also did not have statements from Rosario Toward and Brenda Williams to support his contention that they would admit to abusing children or to allowing students to be abused. In fact, both have denied all allegations since the investigation began in 1987. Williams and James Toward both said they entered pleas and agreed to prison terms to avoid possible life sentences if convicted , and to eliminate the threat that others would also be arrested. The case is tentatively set for trial in June. t

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