Tampa Bay Times from St. Petersburg, Florida on May 15, 2008 · 8
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Tampa Bay Times from St. Petersburg, Florida · 8

St. Petersburg, Florida
Issue Date:
Thursday, May 15, 2008
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8A I Thursday, May 15, 2008 St. Petersburg Times SrftiSSpTrj For other viewpoints and letters to the editor, go to opinion.tampabay.com OPINION jj :. ''-'sZ::t Newspaper . FMindadlSM tampabay.com PaulC.Tash Chairman, CEO and Editor NEWS DEPARTMENT Neil Brown Executive Editor & Vice President 1 Stephen Buckley Managing Editor Chrittina Montgomery Managing Editortampabay.com Jeanne Grlnstoad Deputy Managing EditorWorld Robert W. Hooker ; Deputy Managing Editor Patty Cox Deputy' Managing Editor Presentation Joeeph Childs ' ,., Managing EditorClearwater BID Stevens North Suncoast Editor Jack Sheppard Assistant Managing EditorSports Mike Wilson Assistant Managing Editor . Newsfeatures OPINIONS Philip L Gailey Editor of Editorials & Vice President Tim Nickens Deputy Editor of Editorials BUSINESS OPERATIONS Marty Petty Publisher & Executive Vice President ' VICE PRESIDENTS . Andrew P. Corty Corporate Secretary Richard Reeves Sales & Marketing Joe Deluca Tampa Publisher Jana L. Jones Chief Financial Officer Jana Peppard Corporate Communications DIRECTORS Sebastian Dortch Human Resources Ben Hayes Operations Jerry K. Hilt Audience Development Moya Neville Advertising Tim Aston Chief Information Officer Nancy Waclawek Corporate Giving 4l Uniting Tampa Bay Former leaders W.L Straub 1901-1912 Paul Poynter 1912-1938 Nelson Poynter 1938-1978 ' Eugene Patterson 1978-1988 Andrew Barnes 1988-2004 Share your opinions Letters for publication should be addressed to Letters to the Editor, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. They can be sent by fax to (727) 893-8675 or through our Web site at: wvifw.tampabay.comletters. They should be brief and must ' include the writer's name, address and phone number. Times editorials Food fiasco costs inmates, taxpayers A s the Florida Department of Corrections finally begins to levy some serious fines against prison food contractor Aramark Corp., sick inmates aren't the only ones who need some answers. Taxpayers may well be getting the short end of this deal, and Gov. Charlie Crist needs to keep asking questions. The Aramark contract, signed seven years ago by Gov. Jeb Bush, has been subject to so little scrutiny the department's own inspector general wrote last year that "most documents related to food service performance prior to 2004 (have) been purged from department files." The inspector general's report, released eight days after Crist was inaugurated, found that Aramark had pocketed a $10.5-mil-lion windfall by charging for meals it never served and by substituting cheaper ingredients without approval. "Even if Aramark's original cost proposal was based on a break-even operating margin," the report stated, "FY 2005-06 compensation of $71-million was an excessive amount to pay for the reduced quality and percentage quantity of meals that the depart ment received." To its credit, the department now is beginning to do something about it. Aramark has been fined $241,499 this year, more than the previous six years combined. Department officials are also raising questions about a chili meal served April 25 at Santa Rosa Correctional Institution in Milton. Some 277 inmates reported diarrhea and nausea following the meal. The concern here goes well beyond upset stomachs. Food plays a significant role in prison security. Experienced prison guards know that inmates who are not adequately fed can and do strike out at their captors. Fights can break out from the slightest change in cafeteria procedures. Given the connection between Aramark and Republican political causes, questions about the con tract were raised from the very start. Bush's first privatization czar quit the job when she found out that the governor was interested less in saving tax money than he was in transferring government services to private companies. The department's "Cost-Value Analysis" last year, in fact, raises serious questions about whether Aramark ever saved taxpayers money. The original bid was never compared to the department's direct costs, and the company then took shortcuts. As more and more inmates stopped eating Aramark meals, the company charged as though it was still serving them. Then it began serving ground turkey instead of ground beef, at a savings of 57 cents a pound. In other words, it was cutting corners and still charging taxpayers top dollar. The state auditor general's office, is now conducting its own investigation, and Crist should be eager to hear the results. The department projected in 2006 that it could rehire staff and serve 5 percent more meals, at greater quality, for $7-million less than Aramark charged. If that estimate is even close to being accurate, he will want to end this privatization fiasco. PatOliphant I Universal Press Syndicate TruH tff WtKE SO RUIN THE. COUNT. rW.lFVOU P ky Your CARDS RGHT, fj X-f EL Why was informer put at risk? Tallahassee officials did the right thing by asking Attorney General Bill McCollum to review how 23-year-old Rachel Hoffman became a police informant and wound up a murder victim. There are troubling questions about how Tallahassee police recruited the Countryside High and Florida State University graduate for a sting and how they failed to protect her when it went horribly wrong. When police served a search warrant on Hoffman's apartment in April and found marijuana and ecstasy, she agreed to become an informant in exchange for" avoiding charges and a trip to jail. Police never told prosecutors about the search or her recruitment, even though Hoffman already was in a pretrial diversion program to resolve earlier charges of marijuana possession and resisting arrest. That was a mistake, and the department's argument that notification wasn't necessary because Hoffman was in diversion rather than on probation does not hold water. Leaving prosecutors out of the loop leaves too much room for abuse by police. If the idea behind keeping Hoffman out of jail and not informing prosecutors was to maintain secrecy, police failed to impress upon her the importance of keeping quiet. She sent a text message about the undercover operation to her boyfriend, and her friends told the Tallahassee Democrat she was afraid. McCollum should look closely at how police prepared Hoffman for the operation. . . It is common for police to use low-level drug users to go after bigger dealers. But this was a young woman with a history of marijuana possession who' was supposed to buy 1,500 ecstasy pills, 2 ounces of cocaine and a gun. That sudden escalation could have raised suspicions and triggered a change in location for Hoffman's meeting with two men arrested in Orlando on charges of robbery and kidnapping. Why police did not prevent her from abandoning the agreed upon location for the meeting and why they lost track of her until her body was found two days later in Taylor County are among the questions left to be answered. Rachel Hoffman agreed to help Tallahassee police and become an informant in order to avoid drug charges. The police arranged the terms without notifying prosecutors or her lawyer, then failed to help her when she needed it most. They let her down, and McCollum needs to determine why it happened and recommend reforms. Rachel Hoffman, 23, was killed last week while serving as a police informer. Your letters tampabay.comletters to write us Call it Operation Deceive the Public I May 12, editorial Journalists could use help of retired military officers Shameful negligence puts soldiers at risk May 8, editorial Troops deserve better than to be sacrificed for profit You write, with scarcely concealed outrage, that 12 American soldiers have been electrocuted by faulty electric wiring at American military bases in Iraq ' and Afghanistan, where an American contractor, ,1 KBR, negligently installed the wiring. You also note that KBR has been paid $30-billion by the American military, which not only failed to properly inspect KBR work but actually collaborated with KBR in an . attempted coverup to deflect KBR blame. These combat troops - victims of the military-. industrial complex that President Dwight Eisen-;. hower deplored died believing they were fighting to protect us from terrorist barbarity. Surely they deserved better from their military leaders who allowed them to be sacrificed on the altar of corporate profitability. Joseph H. Francis, St. Petersburg ; Rachel Hoffman ; Victim of the war on drugs The police said that Rachel Hoffman did not follow protocol on a drug sting. Rachel Hoffman wasn't a professional police informer with undercover training. Rachel Hoffman was a student sent into a life-threatening situation by professionals who knew that drug dealers who are involved with the quantities of drugs that Hoffman was sent to buy were the kind of people that have the potential for extreme violence. And the police wanted her to buy a gun from these people? The professionally trained police knew the risks of sending Hoffman, a college student who wanted to be a chef, into this potential death trap. facnal Inicr ncprc anH 1arTi-niiantiH7 Hmcr Hoal- u ers are a world apart, but in the eyes of the police they are both the same type of criminal. Rachel Hoffman should have never been arrested in the first place. If her life was negatively affected by her Your editorial refers to "the reality being reported by journalists on the ground." It was my experience during my career in the Naval Air Systems Command that whenever a major media outlet presented a story on my area of expertise, military aviation, it inevitably contained numerous important errors. Often they were so serious that they turned the conclusions offered to the public 180 degrees away from reality. To give just one example, after the 1988 shoot-down of an Iranian airliner by the USS Vin-cennes, the Washington Post seized on a misstate-'ment of Iran's F-14 Tomcat attack capabilities by one junior U.S. Navy officer. The Post put that misinformation in a front page headline when they could have easily found the facts in a copy of Jane's All the World's Aircraft. In my opinion journalists should be glad to have the information from the in-depth access given retired military officers of broad experience. Instead of attacking the Department of Defense and the retired military, they would serve the public interests better by using that knowledge, experience and breadth of vision to determine the facts instead of printing unreliable information based on selective reporting and limited experience. James Klapper, Oldsmar A questionable source Your editorial criticizing retired military officers for deceiving the public deserves a critical response from this retired military officer. This entire article was based on a report by the New York Times, a notorious ultraliberal, antimilitary, anti-Pentagon newspaper. This by itself makes the report and your editorial suspect Your editorial was not supported with specific ' names of military officers or what they said that would deceive the public Without specifics, your readers must rely on the veracity of the New York Times and the St. Petersburg Times. This reader doesn't. JackVanderbleek, colonel, U.S. Army, retired, St. Petersburg Deceivers and dupes Every day there are new revelations of how the Bush administration has tried to make sure that the American people are never given the truth , of events leading to the war, the way the war is being carried out, and its success or lack of it Surely by now there cannot be any more thinking Americans who believe much of what the administration says. The Bush administration has become like any other person who tells lies; Even if they tell the truth, they are no longer believed. The editorial blamed news media for not digging deeper and there is certainly a lot of blame to be laid there. I would go one step further and blame some of my fellow citizens. As long as people spend their time on mindless television shows and are more concerned with the latest divorces of the stars and the latest unreal "reality shows," they won't know reality until it hits them in the face. As it will. Lucy Fuchs, Brandon lenge Johnson will offer us a level of character and competence that exceeds the incumbent's offering. Tyler J. Hudson, Tampa "Players' ID'd in Lutz deaths I May 14. story Tasteless word choice How dare you! Two children and their mother are horribly murdered - and you call them "players'? I wonder how you would feel if the story was about your relatives? I am not related, nor do I even-know the family involved, but your choice of words , made me sick! You need a course in diplomacy. C.T. Corson, New PortRichey drug use, then treatment might have been in order, but to put Hoffman in the company of gun and drug dealers is unconscionable. The vast majority of illegal drug use involves marijuana, and if it were decriminalized the funding for police agencies would drop dramatically. The police agencies don't want to lose this funding so the information that we are fed demonizes marijuana. Our draconian drug laws also give the worst elements of our society, like the people that murdered Rachel Hoffman, money and power. My heartfelt sympathies go out to Hoffman's parents and loved ones. Gene O'Brien, Palm Harbor Buddy Johnson An insult to voters The recent and disturbing stories about Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Buddy Johnson cast significant doubt on his ability to discharge the duties of his office. Competence and class are among the most basic traits we ought to demand of those who serve the public, .and Johnson's actions indicate an acute lack of both. Johnson's bizarre, paranoid, and woefully ignorant testimony is an insult to the voters of his county. Let us hope that the candidates who chal-

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