by Arnaud and Naja Girard…… This must be an all time record for how fast a small City like Key West can vet, vote, and authorize payment on a 12.5 million dollar deal. In just 2 weeks time the City dispatched 12.5 million dollars to a private company that will provide affordable housing [for up to $2709/month] for rent-burdened Key West workers. The last leg of this race to closing played out this week: the County’s Land Authority pledged the entire City reserve plus $300,000 [continue reading…]
by Arnaud and Naja Girard……. It all started with a dead body being hauled down US 1 on the back of an open-bed pickup truck. That was the unceremonious business practice of the new Monroe County Medical Examiner, Dr. Thomas Beaver. Families complained. Then employees at the Medical Examiner’s office began leaving. The first one to leave, Ryan Moe, claimed he was subjected to abusive treatment. He told the Keynoter last May that Beaver would leave him alone to conduct critical autopsy procedures, “He’d have [continue reading…]
by Naja and Arnaud Girard……. After 58% of voters rejected the purchase of Peary Court six weeks ago, some City Commissioners have a new plan: give the City’s affordable housing funds to a private company that wants to buy the entire former Navy housing complex on White Street for 60 million dollars. The City would pay the buyer 12.5 million. In exchange, the buyer would deed restrict the 157 existing units and any other units constructed on the 24 plus acre property for use as [continue reading…]
by Arnaud and Naja Girard……. Taking a look behind the scenes at the ill-fated 55 million dollar Peary Court purchase proposal has opened a door into the shadowy marshland of Key West politics. An investigation by The Blue Paper reveals possible Sunshine Law violations, officials concealing information from the public, and a blurry line between public office and the interests of private organizations.
by Arnaud and Naja Girard……. From power trip to assault of patrons, some Duval Street bouncers seem poorly trained or out of control. The Blue Paper sampled this week’s bar brawls to report on the issue. Robert Lee Klieves can’t remember why he was put into a helicopter with a brain bleed and flown to Kendall Regional Trauma Center in Miami last Saturday night. He is 60 years old, from Hudson, Florida. He came to Key West for his “first real vacation in 20 years” to [continue reading…]
by Arnaud and Naja Girard……. Even though the debate at City Hall this week was not officially about race, it shed an unflattering light on Key West’s cultural divide in ways that no journalist could express better than the passionate speakers did on Tuesday night. You’re just going to have to listen for yourself and be amazed. But before you click on the video, we need to make you privy to a few basic facts and to the one little secret that no one “in the know” that night had [continue reading…]
by Naja and Arnaud Girard……. This week FEB Corporation and Roger Bernstein, the wannabe owners/developers of Wisteria Island, have lost their case before the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. When most local politicians seemed all too ready to allow real estate moguls to build their posh hotel resort, who would have thought that an old Navy letter penned almost a century ago was going to place the federal government in front of the bulldozer and save the last desert island in Key West harbor? The [continue reading…]
Wisteria, the last desert island in Key West harbor, will not be developed any time soon. A three judge panel of the Eleventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that a 1951 letter from the U.S. Navy to the State of Florida was more than enough to meet the requirements to establish the U.S. claim of ownership and to start the twelve-year statute of limitation running under the Quiet Title Act. F.E.B. Corporation’s owner, Roger Bernstein, has recently spent considerable time and money lobbying the County [continue reading…]
El Galeon will be at the Historic Seaport through Sunday March 27, tours are from noon to 8:00 pm, tickets: $15.00 Hōkūle’a will be here through noon Friday March 25 [or longer depending on weather] For more information about the El Galeon and the Hōkūle’a visit their websites linked below: Website for El Galeon: http://www.elgaleon.org/ Website for Hōkūle’a: http://www.hokulea.com/ DID YOU LIKE THIS STORY? SUPPORT THE BLUE PAPER Help us continue to bring you local investigative journalism… Click on the image to make a donation [NOT tax deductible].
by Naja and Arnaud Girard……. Two years ago when we asked where Matthew Shaun Murphy was we were given records showing that Murphy was a criminal at large; his name on the FDLE “Wanted” list. When we asked to see FDLE’s investigative report we were told there wasn’t one. But after spending a month verifying rumors of Murphy’s death at the hands of a KWPD officer, we found him… in Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital. He had been there for over 3 years, left in a [continue reading…]
Commentary by Naja and Arnaud Girard……. Over 56% of voters said “No” to the purchase of Peary Court in spite of the housing crisis. The $55 Million project to save 157 units rented at $2400/month appeared an uphill battle from the start. “Jimmy [Commissioner Weekley] is saying he prays that Peary Court tenants will not be evicted by the next owner,” says citizen advocate Christine Russel, “I think Jimmy and others who pushed this should pray the mysterious next owner pays at least $55 Million [continue reading…]
by Naja and Arnaud Girard……. The image of the gray PT Cruiser parked sideways on South Beach with the huddle of Key West police officers who’d just realized the man they’d piled on top of had stopped breathing is probably going to remain in the memories of Key Westers for a long time. What went wrong on that Thanksgiving morning in 2013 has been the center of considerable controversy. “My dad always had this dream of spending a winter in Key West,” Treavor Eimers, Charles [continue reading…]
by Naja and Arnaud Girard…….. The investigators of the disappearance of over $21,000 from the HOB daycare program seem to have found a convenient “bad apple.” Thirty-two year old Tina Godfrey was in charge of collecting the money. She didn’t file the proper paperwork, money is missing, and unbelievably enough, it seems “she has done it before.” In some sort of bizarre Japanese ritual at last Tuesday’s School Board meeting Superintendent Porter stoically reprimanded himself. He gave himself a 5-day suspension for not catching the thief [continue reading…]
by Naja and Arnaud Girard……. Buying the old Navy housing project at Peary Court might be the City’s last opportunity to preserve some semblance of a working class community. However, most residents interviewed appear unable to move past a sense of indignation over the proposed sale price for Peary Court (which has nearly doubled in just two years) or their suspicion that officials did not fight hard enough to get a better deal, if they fought at all. Background: On August 30, 2013 Peary Court was sold to White Street [continue reading…]
by Naja and Arnaud Girard……. A one-room efficiency for $1,836/month, a one-bedroom for $2,097, a two-bedroom for $2,358. Those are the “affordable” rates that will prevail for the rental of 70% of the 213 affordable residential units the County Commission has approved for a Big Coppitt Key waterfront development project. Those rents are defined in the code as “moderate-income affordable.”
by Naja and Arnaud Girard……. Donald Roberts lives in Peary Court with his mom Ruby. They rent one of the 48 deed restricted “affordable” units. Their situation is puzzling. With a combined annual income of under $55,850, they qualify for “low-income affordable workforce housing.” Their rent should be $1,571/month, yet they pay around $2,400/month. At that price, their 2-bedroom deed restricted affordable unit at Peary Court is pretty much market rate. So what happened to the hard fought victory that nearly four years ago “saved” 30% [continue reading…]
Commentary by Naja and Arnaud Girard……. The School Board is still scrambling to unravel the mystery of $20,000 in day-care funds that went missing over a year ago. Let’s put this amount into perspective. The annual 2015/2016 budget for the Monroe County School District is $163.7 Million. This amount includes 95.1 Million for operations and 26.8 Million for capital improvements. How seriously is the School District guarding that money? Meet Joseph Clements.
Commentary by Naja and Arnaud Girard……. Key West’s City Commissioners are considering the purchase of the old Navy housing at Peary Court. According to Commissioner Weekley, the real estate deal will relieve some of the effects of the dire housing crisis that bleeds the island of its workforce. Yet The Blue Paper discovered this week, that the City is also discretely considering loosening its land development regulations, easing the requirement that developers provide affordable housing.
by Naja and Arnaud Girard……. Some recent independent home inspection testing at Peary Court has brought a worrisome result. “My mold assessment led me to advise the tenants to vacate the apartment,” says Hugh Johnson. Johnson is the owner of “Inspect Key West.” He’s a Florida licensed home inspector and mold assessor. On March 15th voters will decide whether the City should purchase the White Street property, including the 49 buildings that were once used as Navy housing.
Commentary by Naja and Arnaud Girard……. **UPDATE Jan 5, 2015 6:15 pm** City Manager pulled the item from the agenda… ~~~~~~~ Surveyors hired by the City want $29,116 for travel, meals, and hotel expenses to inspect the housing units at Peary Court. The survey is part of the due diligence process associated with the possible purchase by the City of the old Navy housing on White Street. As part of their $165,951 cost estimate, Saltz Michelson Architects, a Fort Lauderdale firm, also wants $61,610 to perform [continue reading…]
Medical Examiner: Human Tissue Found in Dog Feces by Naja and Arnaud Girard……. It was 6 months ago. A local liveaboard boater had made an emergency call to the U.S. Coast Guard in Key West, reporting the gruesome discovery of a man dead inside his sailboat. The scene was not for the faint of heart. The body had been decomposing for days and a severed limb was found on the cockpit floor. Left open was the question of cause of death. Speculation ran wild – fanned by [continue reading…]
by Naja and Arnaud Girard……. It was not the Sistine Chapel, but the ceilings were painted with beautiful scenes of Florida Keys’ waters, with schooners and fishermen. The artists had been Cuban refugees who long ago paid for their stay at “The Kerr House” by redecorating the inside of the old conch house. When we visited the house at 410 Simonton Street seven years ago there were seven apartments bursting with local residents. Today we read in a redevelopment plan that the house will soon become [continue reading…]
Commentary by Naja and Arnaud Girard……. Two years ago, on Thanksgiving morning, paramedics were called to assist an old man on South Beach. KWPD officers on scene told them that the man had been running away from police on the beach and had suddenly collapsed in the sand and when they got to him he had no pulse and they began CPR. An investigation by The Blue Paper was going to bring to light a very different story, including two bystander videos showing the suspect, [continue reading…]
by Naja and Arnaud Girard……. The State’s Variance Review Committee blasted the local Health Department, questioning officals’ apathy in letting the Boondocks Grill, Draft House and Miniature Golf on Ramrod Key expand and operate, for years, without requiring a proper sewage disposal system. The landmark restaurant had a septic tank/leach field system permitted for 65 seats, but along the years they expanded the restaurant, increasing to 210 seats and paved over the leach field in the process. The Blue Paper obtained the audio recording of the [continue reading…]
by Naja and Arnaud Girard……. Following the shootout that nearly killed a Monroe County Sheriff’s deputy on Stock Island on October 24, 2015, Sheriff Rick Ramsey issued an order making it mandatory for all officers to wear their bullet proof vests when in the field. [Deputy Josh Gordon who had been shot in the chest by a suspect had been saved by his bulletproof vest that night.] The documentary above takes a closer look at safety concerns for deputies and innocent bystanders during Felony Traffic Stops involving armed and [continue reading…]
by Naja and Arnaud Girard……. The Monroe County Sheriff released video of a gun battle that took place weeks ago on Stock Island. [See video below] Dashcam from two deputies’ cruisers show the October 24th high speed chase of Timothy Thomas, who was wanted in connection with an armed robbery in Key West. In the video Thomas drives a stolen Ford Mustang over 70 miles/hour down a Stock Island narrow street. The car then speeds out of control and slides into a fence at the [continue reading…]
by Naja and Arnaud Girard……. [Note: This article was written and published prior to the Sheriff’s release of the dashcam video. You will find an update at the end of the article including both Deputy Gordon and Deputy Lariz’ dashcam video excerpts as posted by the MCSO on youtube this morning.] It was about 9:45 pm on Stock Island. Tony Alfonso’s kids were playing in the front yard. “We were having a sweet sixteen party for my daughter,” says Tony. In a few minutes their home [continue reading…]
by Naja and Arnaud Girard……. The documents often begin with: “I, J. Robert Dean do solemnly swear” and thereafter the facts seem to change and contradict each other depending on what Dean needs to do to stay in power. On Wednesday Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority [FKAA] Board Chairman Bob Dean provided Supervisor of Elections, Joyce Griffin, with a new sworn affidavit. In response to those who accuse Dean of unlawfully sitting on the FKAA Board and of not being a Key West resident, Dean now [continue reading…]
Supervisor of Elections, Joyce Griffin, confirms that FKAA Board Chairman Bob Dean voted in the City election during the early voting period that ended Saturday. Dean was given a “provisional ballot” in light of the “Voter Challenge” filed by State Attorney Catherine Vogel last month. This means that his vote will not be counted unless the City of Key West Canvassing Board decides to accept Dean’s proof of residency in Key West. A State Attorney investigation concluded last month that Mr. Dean resided in Key Haven [continue reading…]
by Naja and Arnaud Girard……. Board member Cara Higgins challenges Chairman Dean’s eligibility to represent District 3 (Key West) on FKAA board… Watch The Blue Paper exclusive video… Special thanks to Colby Fisher for all his great work in un-covering this story! DID YOU LIKE THIS STORY? SUPPORT THE BLUE PAPER Help us continue to bring you local investigative journalism… Click on the image to make a donation [NOT tax deductible].
Naja and Arnaud Girard……. As the “Conch Train” slows down at the corner of Eaton and Elizabeth, the conductor blows the whistle. The train’s blaring PA system floods the street: “That’s right folks, you just made it to the top. Key West’s highest point, Solaris Hill! 18 Feet above sea level! That’s where you would want to be in a hurricane!” Resident Bob Sanders says he hears that pitch over and over, all day long. There have been many other complaints about sightseeing busses, trolleys, and [continue reading…]
by Naja and Arnaud Girard……. Is the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority taking on water? Two weeks ago an FKAA board member, Melva Wagner, was forced to resign. She had continued receiving benefits and payments as a board member even though she had moved away from her district almost a year ago. This week it’s FKAA’s Chairman, J Robert Dean, who seems to be walking the plank. “I have reason to believe,” wrote State Attorney Catherine Vogel, after concluding her criminal investigation, “that James Robert Dean is attempting [continue reading…]
by Naja and Arnaud Girard**……. UPDATE: 9/18/2015 Click here for updated article: State Attorney Challenges FKAA Chairman’s Right To Vote In Key West Elections As of Thursday afternoon, the office of the Monroe County State Attorney has begun investigating the Chairman of the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority [FKAA] Board of Directors. J Robert Dean (aka Bob Dean), the man who for years has been presiding over a board that commands a $50 million annual operating budget and over $200 Million in Keys central sewer construction contracts, may have [continue reading…]
Why did they lie? It was a simple matter: Whether Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority board member Melva Wagner was still living in the Keys or whether she had moved out of her house [in foreclosure] on Summerland Key and settled up the coast, in Naples. What meant so much to FKAA that its attorneys would go along with a deceptively complicated story about a homestead declaration and claim, so recklessly, that Wagner was still a bonafide member of the FKAA Board of Directors? It has been [continue reading…]
by Naja and Arnaud Girard……. FDLE reprimanded Special Agent Kathy Smith with a 5-day suspension. Agent Smith was accused of having intentionally signed a false affidavit in order to secure a $461,000 bank loan. Agent Smith became engulfed in controversy in 2014 while leading the investigation of the in-custody-death of 61-year old tourist, Charles Eimers. According to her critics, a serious conflict of interest had caused her to participate in a KWPD cover-up of Eimers’ death: Special Agent Kathy Smith was investigating officers who, on [continue reading…]
by Naja and Arnaud Girard……. The Blue Paper received a report, claiming “manipulation and interference with data” at FKAA, that raises legitimate questions about millions of dollars worth of water bills sent to FKAA customers throughout the Keys. Jon Lipsky wrote: “Because the database is used to generate bills for consumers and because the Aqueduct Authority is a public entity, an external audit of the database and billing records is highly recommended.” Lipsky is a retired FBI agent specializing in forensic analysis of documents and databases.