Pam Bondi Archives - Page 2 of 23 - SaintPetersBlog

Pam Bondi alleges Pinellas, Hillsborough motels committed price gouging

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi filed three actions Thursday against lodging businesses in the Tampa Bay area alleging price gouging while the area was under a state of emergency for Hurricane Matthew.

“As Hurricane Matthew strengthened into a dangerous category four storm, more than a million Floridians and visitors were urged to evacuate,” Bondi said. “Many of these people turned to these businesses for safe shelter but could not afford a room. During any emergency, it is extremely important that we come together as Floridians to ensure our citizens and visitors are safe. I personally visited one of these locations during the state of emergency and was disgusted by the way people seeking shelter were treated.”

The actions were filed against businesses in Pinellas, Hillsborough and Polk counties.

Bondi filed a complaint in Pinellas County against Shanti CC Clearwater, LLC, d/b/a Red Roof Inn Clearwater, Shanti CC Holding, Packard Hospitality Management, LLC, and Michael Goldstein for allegedly charging unconscionable and excessive prices during the state of emergency.

According to the complaint, Red Roof, located in Clearwater, raised room rates for at least 27 guests by 80 percent and up to 200 percent, with some guests being charged $140 more than the average nightly rate charged before the state of emergency.

In the Hillsborough case, Bondi alleges Mitch & Murray Hotels, Inc., d/b/a Days Inn/MPR LLC, a business located in Tampa, and owner Jamil Kassam engaged in unconscionable pricing practices during the state of emergency.

The complaint alleges this Days Inn raised room rates for at least 23 guests by a minimum of 70 percent and up to 300 percent, charging some guests $150 more than the average nightly rate charged before the state of emergency.

Additionally, the hotel allegedly forced several existing guests who reserved rooms and checked in before the evacuation days, to vacate because they could not afford the grossly increased nightly rate.

The Polk County complaint was filed against, SKAN, LLC, a Florida corporation doing business as Sleep Inn & Suites, and Nilayam S. Patel, Suresh B. Patel and Kusum S. Patel for allegedly charging unconscionable and excessive prices during the state of emergency. According to the complaint, Sleep Inn & Suites, located in Lakeland, raised room rates for at least 25 guests by 140 percent to more than 400 percent, charging some guests $200 more than the average nightly rate paid before the state of emergency.

At the time of the alleged price gouging, Hillsborough, Pinellas and Polk counties were under a state of emergency for two storm events, Hermine and Matthew.

All three of these complaints seek civil penalties, disgorgement, injunctive relief, restitution and other statutory relief against the defendants for violation of state laws.

 

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Will Weatherford’s decision enhances, not removes, future options

I think Will Weatherford’s just-announced decision not to run for governor in 2018 merely delays the inevitable. I believe he will be Florida’s governor eventually, and that will be a good thing.

Weatherford, the Land O’Lakes Republican, is a smart, articulate, center-right conservative in the Jeb Bush tradition. He has a strong legislative resume, including a turn as House Speaker. At age 37, he also is young enough that he can afford to wait eight years, which is another way of saying “Merry Christmas, Adam Putnam.”

The sea certainly does seem to be parting among Republicans for Putnam to make his move on the governor’s mansion. Florida CFO Jeff Atwater has shown no appetite for the job. Attorney General Pam Bondi is more likely targeted for a job in Washington.

Weatherford would have been a formidable challenger, but says his top concern right now is family.

He has four children – the oldest is 8, the youngest is 2. Last year he and his brothers Drew and Sam launched Weatherford Partners, a venture capital group, and serves as managing partner. Tellingly, he did not fall into the Republican conga line in the presidential race. He said he did not vote for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.

His decision to sit out the governor’s race this time removes a lot of drama, for sure. Weatherford and Putnam are pals, but so were Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio and we saw how that went.

If Weatherford had gotten into the race, it could have gotten bloody for Republicans. Having two candidates as strong and well-known as Putnam and Weatherford could have split the party, but what this does is increase the likelihood of a Putnam coronation for the nomination.

It allows Putnam to stay low-key for the next year or so, stockpiling cash and support while waiting for the Democrat slugfest between Gwen Graham (assuming her husband’s prostate cancer doesn’t worsen) and possibly Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

Weatherford can campaign now for Putnam, and wouldn’t a photo of the two of them together on a platform make for a mighty fine poster for Republicans?

Weatherford will need to find a way to stay in the public eye. As he saw with Jeb Bush, sitting on the sidelines for too long in politics means someone else is getting all the headlines. A cabinet job or gubernatorial appointment to a public post could both keep him in the news and allow him to tend to family matters.

Deciding for now to wait doesn’t remove Weatherford’s options. If anything, it enhances them. If his aim is to one day sit in the governor’s chair – and, really, why wouldn’t it be – then stepping back now doesn’t hurt his chances one bit.

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Nearly 40 apply to Joe Negron for Constitution Revision Commission

A former Senate President, Secretary of State, and state Supreme Court Justice have applied to Senate President Joe Negron for a seat on the panel that reviews the state’s constitution every 20 years.

At last tally, 39 people had applied for one of Negron’s nine picks to the Constitution Revision Commission, according to a list provided by his office. They include:

— Former Sen. Don Gaetz, a Niceville Republican who was term limited out of office this year. Gaetz also served as Senate President 2012-14.

— Lobbyist and former lawmaker Sandra Mortham, who also was the elected Secretary of State 1995-99. One of the changes from the last commission was making the position appointed by the governor.

— Retired Florida Supreme Court Justice Charles Wells, who was on the bench 1994-2009. Wells also was chief justice during the 2000 presidential election challenge and recount.

This will be the fourth commission to convene since 1966, and the first to be selected by mostly Republicans, suggesting it will propose more conservative changes to the state’s governing document than previous panels.  

Both Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran have said they want the commission to revisit redistricting, for instance, specifically, a rewrite of voter-endorsed amendments from 2012 that ban gerrymandering — the manipulation of political boundaries to favor one party.

As governor, Rick Scott will choose 15 of the 37 commissioners, and he also selects its chairperson.

Negron and Corcoran each get nine picks. Pam Bondi is automatically a member as attorney general, and Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Labarga gets three picks.

Under law, the next commission is scheduled to hold its first meeting in a 30-day period before the beginning of the Legislature’s 2017 regular session on March 7.

Any changes it proposes would be in the form of constitutional amendments, which would have to be approved by 60 percent of voters on a statewide ballot.

Others who applied to Negron are former state Sen. Dennis Jones, a Republican, and former Sens. Eleanor Sobel and Chris Smith, both Democrats.


Ed. note: This post was originally based on a list released Monday evening. The Senate provided a new list on Tuesday, in which the list has grown to 39 applicants, including new Sens. Dana Young and Gary Farmer, and Magdalena Fresen, sister of former state Rep. Erik Fresen. That list is below:

LAST NAME FIRST NAME COUNTY OF RESIDENCE
Berger Jason Martin
Boggs Glenn Leon
Christiansen Patrick Orange
Crotty Richard Orange
Cullen Lisa Brevard
Curtis Donald Taylor
Dawson Warren Hillsborough
Duckworth Richard Charlotte
Edwards Charles Lee
Farmer Gary Broward
Fresen Magdalena Dade
Gaetz Donald Okaloosa
Gentry WC Duval
Hackney Charles Manatee
Heyman Sally Dade
Hoch Rand Palm Beach
Hofstee Michael St. Lucie
Ingram Kasey Martin
Jackson John Holmes
Jazil Mohammad Leon
Jones Dennis Marion
Kilbride Robert Leon
McManus Shields Martin
Miller Mark Martin
Moriarty Mark Sarasota
Mortham Sandra Leon
Plymale Sherry Martin
Rowe Randell Volusia
Schifino William Hillsborough
Scott Anne Martin
Smith Chris Broward
Sobel Eleanor Broward
Specht Steven Escambia
Stargel John Polk
Thompson Geraldine Orange
Wadell Gene Indian River
Wells Charles Orange
Winik Tyler Brevard
Young Dana Hillsborough
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Will Pam Bondi stay or will she go now?

Attorney General Pam Bondi played coy with the press Tuesday over continued questions about whether she would be joining President-elect Donald Trump’s administration.

Bondi, an adviser to Trump’s presidential transition team, met with him Friday at Trump Tower in New York.

After that meeting, she told the press, “I’m very happy being the Attorney General of the state of Florida right now.”

Asked again after the Florida Cabinet meeting, she joked with a reporter, “I knew you were going to be asking that question today!”

“And I’m not prepared to answer anything,” she quickly added. “I’m not going to confirm or deny anything right now.

“I went to New York at the request of the President of the United States-elect, and frankly I don’t think anyone should come out of those meetings and talk about anything that was said. I think all of that is and should remain confidential until the appropriate time.”

Bondi was an early Trump supporter, and a possible pick for U.S. Attorney General or White House counsel.

Trump instead named Republican U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions and Don McGahn, former chief counsel to the National Republican Congressional Committee, for those posts.

She’s still being talked about to head the Office of National Drug Control Policy because of her work against pill mills and designer drugs. Its head is referred to as the nation’s “drug czar.”

But it’s still unclear what taint a contribution she accepted from Trump might have.

Trump ponied up a $2,500 penalty to the IRS after his charitable foundation broke the law by giving a contribution to one of Bondi’s political fundraising panels. The $25,000 contribution came from Trump’s charitable foundation on Sept. 17, 2013.

If Bondi does leaves for Washington, it would fall to Gov. Rick Scott to name a replacement, who would serve the remaining two years of her term.

If Scott had anyone in mind, he wasn’t saying Tuesday. Asked repeatedly, the governor told reporters: “I’m hoping she doesn’t leave.”

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Pam Bondi meeting with Donald Trump on Friday

Attorney General Pam Bondi is meeting with President-elect Donald Trump on Friday.

A Trump transition spokesman disclosed the meeting during a Thursday conference call with reporters. He didn’t mention the topic of the conversation.

Bondi, who supported Trump for the presidency, has been mentioned for a spot in his administration.

But Trump already has tapped Republican U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions for attorney general and Don McGahn, former chief counsel to the National Republican Congressional Committee, for White House counsel.

Bondi now is being mentioned as a pick for “drug czar,” in charge of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, because of her work against pill mills and designer drugs.

It’s unclear what effect a contribution she accepted from Trump will have.

He ponied up a $2,500 penalty to the IRS after his charitable foundation broke the law by giving a contribution to one of Bondi’s political fundraising panels.

The $25,000 contribution came from Trump’s charitable foundation on Sept. 17, 2013.

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State leaders certify general election results

It’s official.

The state Elections Canvassing Commission — made up of Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, and CFO Jeff Atwater, all participating by phone — certified the results of the Nov. 8 General Election Thursday. The meeting took less than two minutes.

“It was a record year in Florida,” said Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who presided over the meeting. “We had more people early voting and voting by mail in the history of Florida. I’m very pleased about that.”

Turnout was around 74 percent, which was on par with the 2004 presidential election. It isn’t the highest turnout the state has experienced; that happened during the 1992 general, when the state experienced 83 percent turnout.

Detzner said there were no major issues during the voting process, and called it a “very successful election.”

“We showed the world, we showed Florida, we showed the nation that Florida knows how to conduct elections,” he said. “We’re proud of the voters, proud of their initiative, their passion to vote. But I think the year and the history of 2000 are past us now, and the election of 2016 proved that.”

The certified results include the results of House District 118, which underwent a recount. The race between Republican David Rivera and Democrat Robert Asencio was hotly contested, and was forced to go through both a machine and manual recount.

Election records show Asencio received 31,412 votes, or 50 percent of the vote. Rivera received 31,359 votes, or 49.96 percent of the vote.

“The votes have been counted and the certification has occurred,” said Detzner. “We certified the election, and he had more votes in the election.”

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Bill Nelson wants probe into Florida’s use of driver records

Sen. Bill Nelson wants a federal investigation of how Florida uses the personal information of its 15 million licensed drivers.

The Florida Democrat wrote U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Friday asking her to probe whether the state is selling information for marketing purposes without the drivers’ consent in violation of federal law.

Nelson made the request after WTVT-TV reported that 75 companies are getting information in bulk from the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, and that the agency is not doing anything to ensure the information is used properly.

“In this new era, when identity thieves are causing real damage to millions of hardworking families, the fact that the state is making a profit by selling Floridians’ personal information on the open market is simply unconscionable,” Nelson’s letter says. “I ask that your agency investigate whether the State of Florida is fully adhering to the intent of the law, as any deviation could be severely harmful to the millions of people who trusted the state.”

The agency has collected $150 million in the last two fiscal years from companies requesting driving records. Its executive director, Terry Rhodes, said in a statement that the agency “does not sell driver or motor vehicle information” and that the driving records were handed over as required under federal laws and the state’s public records laws.

Beth Frady, a spokeswoman for Rhodes, added that the money collected from companies was based on fees that were set by the Florida Legislature.

Rhodes and her agency report to Gov. Rick Scott and the three elected members of the Florida Cabinet.

Scott’s office and Attorney General Pam Bondi did not comment on Nelson’s letter and instead referred all questions to the agency. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said Friday in a statement that he has requested the agency to “provide me with a full update regarding this important consumer and personal privacy matter.”

WTVT reported that some of the companies obtaining driver records had no websites or storefronts, and were not registered to do business in Florida. One operates out of a condominium near Fort Lauderdale, but did not respond to the station’s requests for comment.

WTVT said it began investigating after noticing that Florida residents doing transactions with the agency would then receive direct marketing ads.

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South Florida is still ‘skin tight’

Call him Ismael, and don’t be surprised if he turns up in Carl Hiaasen‘s next ripped-from-the headlines novel.

Ismael Labrador is a very real purveyor of strip mall surgery and beneficiary of Florida’s laughably lax enforcement of laws aimed at protecting the public against charlatans peddling plastic surgery on the cheap.

As owners of South Florida plastic surgery “clinics,” Labrador and his ex-wife Aimee De la Rosa cater to people with little money and less self-esteem. The Miami Herald’s Daniel Chang brings us the details, which would be shocking if we hadn’t heard this story so many times before.

Labrador has been on the state’s bad guy radar since 2007, when Miami-Dade police investigators discovered he employed unlicensed doctors to work on real people with unrealistic dreams of looking more Kardashian-like. He beat the rap by accepting a $30,000 fine and a wrist slap from the regulators, along with some community service, the nature of which Chang’s story mercifully spares us.

In the decade since, Labrador and his former missus retrieved a boatload of complaints from injured patients, some of whom ended up in area hospitals with “debilitating injuries and infection.”  Three deaths have been linked to their bargain basement beauty treatments.

Some customers trusted their instincts and decided not to go through with surgery. It took Attorney General Pam Bondi to get their deposits back, and, in exchange, her office agreed to drop an investigation into the facilities. We’ll see how that works out, because Florida has not seen the last of Labrador.

Spokeswoman Giannina Sopo says her clients will carry on following a “rebranding” as Eres Plastic Surgery. In a statement to the Herald that might have been crafted by a drunk alumnus of The Onion, she wrote:

“Like so many of our patients, we too are opening a new chapter in our lives with our rebranding effort. We have worked from the inside out to improve all aspects of patient care and we are in compliance with all local, state, and federal regulations that regulate cosmetic surgery centers and businesses.”

The rebranding includes a promise that doctors and nurses will monitor patients closely before and after their surgeries.

Well, it’s never too late for surgeons and surgical nurses to do stuff that mothers knew to do since before Hippocrates was born. But don’t bet the Brazilian butt lift that Eres will.

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Mitch Perry Report for 11.16.16 – Who will be our next Secretary of State?

Now that the shock is starting to wear off over Donald Trump’s stunning upset in the presidential election a week ago, the biggest story in national politics is what he intends to do with his enormous power and who will help him do it.

That means the selection of cabinet officers, with the most high-profile position being that of secretary of state.

George W. Bush picked Colin Powell immediately after winning the recount election in late 2000; Barack Obama picked Hillary Clinton quick after his election in 2008 — what does Donald do?

The two names floated for the position are not being welcomed with universal approval, to say the least. I’m talking about Rudy Giuliani and John Bolton.

Because of his passionate advocacy for Trump during the campaign season (to put it politely), Rudy apparently has the pick of the litter of jobs in the new administration, and he wants State. But what’s his experience there? Apparently it consists of giving a lot of speeches and consulting work.

Then there’s his business background, which includes lobbying for Citgo, a U.S.-based subsidiary of the Venezuelan oil conglomerate, as well as business with Qatar, which could be problematic when he has his confirmation hearing before the Senate.

Then there’s the decision to invade Iraq, arguably the biggest foreign policy debacle in the U.S. since Vietnam.

Trump stood out during the campaign for his strident opposition to it, boasting he was always against it. Though that claim was disputed, the more salient point was how, more than any other Republican running in the race, he assailed the war in incendiary terms, freaking out some of the GOP establishment (i.e. Jeb Bush and friends).

Rudy was for the war. So was Bolton. Bigly.

Again, this comes down to: What Does Donald Believe? If he thinks that the invasion of Iraq was such a horrible thing, how could he choose as his top emissary to the world somebody who fervently believed it was the right thing to do?

Maybe this is a big head feint, or maybe there isn’t any prominent person in the GOP who was against the war with the credentials and gravitas to lead at State? It’s one of the many, many questions the whole world will be interested in learning about very rapidly.

In other news …

Dan Rather was in St. Petersburg last Friday night. The 85-year-old reporter said we’re now in a “post-truth” era.

For the first time in his time as president, Barack Obama endorsed more than 150 Democrats running for legislative seats around the nation. In Florida, he backed 13 Dems — and at best will come out 6-7 on those picks.

The Tampa Bay Bucs’ Mike Evans heard enough negative feedback, no doubt, to have a change of heart about sitting down for the national anthem in the Trump era. Among his leading critics was Pinellas County state Sen. Jack Latvala.

Lisa Montelione is backing Luis Viera to succeed her in the Tampa City Council District 7 seat.

Pam Bondi and attorneys general in four other states and the District of Columbia announced a deal regarding ticket pricing with the NFL.

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Joe Henderson: Looks like Pam Bondi is movin’ on up

It great to have choices, especially the kind in Pam Bondi’s world these days.

If there was any doubt about her clout with President-elect Donald Trump, that was put to rest when she was named to his transition team executive committee late last week.

This is as close to being brought into the official Trump family as one can get without bloodlines. It’s a team of power figures that includes Trump’s children, several important lawmakers, and key insiders whose work helped him win the election.

Trump clearly believes Bondi deserves “insider” status.

“I’m honored to serve President-elect Donald J. Trump in making this historic transition and assisting in finding the best individuals to bring change to Washington on Day 1, grow our economy, protect our children and families, and be unafraid to stand up for Americans,” Bondi said in a statement.

No one will be surprised if Florida is looking for a new attorney general soon. I don’t think Trump brought Bondi in this close to merely shake her hand when the transition is done and say, “Hey, thanks. Appreciate it. See you in four years.”

And Bondi, who is nothing if not ambitious, must know this is the time to jump. It won’t be long until the wrestling match for slots in the 2018 statewide and U.S. Senate races begin in Florida (I know, I know … sorry) and Bondi doesn’t seem to have a natural fit anywhere.

She hasn’t been mentioned in any serious chatter about running for governor. Her current boss, Gov. Rick Scott, seems to have his eye on Bill Nelson’s Senate seat. Bondi’s best bet might be to get what she can now with Trump and see where that takes her.

If she does join the administration, there are a lot of people who will consider it a quid-pro-quo for Bondi’s look-the-other-way performance on questions about consumer rip-offs in Florida by Trump University. The $25,000 campaign check Trump wrote for Bondi’s 2014 race might come up a time or two — or several thousand.

It sure has the look of something cozy.

That’s the thing about her, though.

That ambition-driven interior is covered by a Teflon exterior. Nothing seems to stick to her. Don’t forget, Bondi originally backed Jeb Bush for president, only to swear allegiance to the candidate who insulted and trashed him.

Trump won Florida by 1.3 percent, or about 120,000 votes out of about 9.3 million cast. Did Bondi’s support help swing the necessary votes his way? I doubt it. I think Trump voters chose him for reasons that had nothing to do with Bondi’s endorsement.

Once she was on Trump’s team, though, she was all in — and the incoming president didn’t forget that. Now that the race is over, she has moved to the head of the line for whatever awaits. I suppose it’s possible she could come back to finish her remaining two years as attorney general.

At this point, though, it seems a lot more likely that she is headed uptown.

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