Feb 052016
 
lady justice

lady justice

by Dennis Reeves Cooper…….

Several weeks ago, we published a story about Key West Assistant City Manager Greg Veliz’ criminal record. He is a convicted felon, having spent three years in the penitentiary back in the early 1990s on major drug charges. He and his partner in crime were caught bringing in cocaine by the boatload. As a result, he cannot vote, serve on a jury, hold public office or possess a firearm– for the rest of his life– unless he goes through the clemency process to try to get his civil rights restored.

Here is an update on that story– not necessarily an update on Veliz’ situation, but an update on information that was not included in our original story: 1. Details concerning the clemency process available to a convicted felon who wishes to have his or her civil rights restored. 2. A proposed state constitutional amendment that could restore a convicted felon’s voting rights immediately after completion of his or her sentence, including probation.

I need to make an editorial comment here. When our original story appeared, it generated a lot of pro and con conversation concerning an assistant city manager who can’t vote– and other ramifications of his criminal record. Many readers took the position that Veliz has “paid his debt to society.” That may or not be true. There is still a $50,000 fine– part of the original sentence– that remains unpaid. When Veliz got out of jail, the state authorities waived that fine because Veliz convinced them that he was too poor to pay. But now, as assistant city manager, he makes $120,000 per year. He can afford to pay. Also, there is the matter of a convicted felon demonstrating (or not) a desire to rejoin society– like applying to have his or her civil rights restored, so he or she can at least vote and serve on a jury. Twenty years after getting out of prison, however, Veliz has apparently not bothered to do that. Having said that, we do know that he has been encouraged by friends to go through the clemency process– but it is not known if he has taken any action because felons’ applications to have their civil rights restored are not public records.

THE CLEMENCY PROCESS. The process is cumbersome, but doable. So why wouldn’t any convicted felon who really wants to “rejoin society” at least make the effort to get their civil rights restored? Such an effort would start by looking at the website of the Florida Commission on Offender Review– fcor.state.fl.us. That is the office that deals with all requests for clemency, such as pardons and restoration of civil rights. That website is where the Application for Clemency is found. The application is only one page, but applicants are required to attach certified copies of all documents related to all felony convictions, including indictments, judgments, including sentencing (including fines) and probation orders. Although applicants may choose to have a lawyer assist them with the clemency process, they are not required to have one. But if Veliz is going through this process or plans to, it is likely that he would have a lawyer. He can certainly afford one. Did I mention that he makes $120,000 per year in his city job? Way more than most Key Westers. The good news, however, is that there is no application or filing fee.

Applications for clemency are received by the Office of Executive Clemency where they are screened for eligibility concerning time restrictions (how long since the sentence has been served) for various offences. This office also reviews court records that are required to accompany applications. The paper work for applicants initially found to be eligible for clemency is sent to a team of investigators in the field. After an investigation has been conducted and a report prepared, these applications are sent to the Executive Clemency Board for final decision-making. Now we’re in the Big Time. The Executive Clemency Board, which meets four times a year, is made up of the governor, two cabinet members who are also statewide elected officials, and the State Attorney General. A hearing may or may not be required before a decision is made by the board. In Veliz’ case, the governor and other members of the board may or may not have questions about the unpaid $50,000 fine. A favorable decision by the board results in the issuance of a certificate of Restoration of Civil Rights. This does not restore the right to possess a firearm, however. This requires a separate application.

POTENTIAL CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT. For the past year or so, civil rights and voting rights groups have been conducting a petition drive in an effort to get a measure on the 2016 ballot that, if approved by the voters, would amend the Florida Constitution and restore voting rights to many convicted felons who have completed their sentences, including probation. The amendment would not apply to those convicted of murder or sex crimes. Nor would the amendment restore other civil rights that have been stripped from convicted felons in Florida– serving on a jury, holding public office and possession of a firearm.

To get the proposed amendment on this year’s November ballot, supporters need to have collected a minimum of 683,149 valid voter signatures by February 1, 2016– like the end of this month. How supporters are doing so far may suggest how Floridians feel about restoring voting rights to convicted felons. A story published last July in the online publication Florida Politics quotes one organizer of the petition drive as saying that only about 50,000 signatures had been collected. Another organizer said that maybe 100,000 signatures have been collected– still way more than 500,000 signatures short.

 February 5, 2016  Posted by at 1:26 am Issue #152 No Responses »
Jan 292016
 
Me and Mel

by Dennis Reeves Cooper……. Anyone who might want to make a list of the most famous people who have ever lived in Key West would have to include treasure salvor Mel Fisher fairly high on the list. Even I had heard of him when I sailed into Key West on my sailboat for the first […]

 January 29, 2016  Posted by at 1:16 am Issue #151 No Responses »
Jan 152016
 
YES, IT IS A LITTLE EASIER NOW FOR KEY WESTERS TO TRAVEL TO CUBA. BUT CUBA AIN'T "OPEN" YET-- NOT BY A LONG SHOT!

Music Video by local artist Miguel Perez, “90 Miles”, miguelperezmusic.com by Dennis Reeves Cooper……. Last week, I was doing some research, looking through some of the early issues of The Blue Paper when I ran across a little article headlined “U.S. Could Authorize Travel to Cuba.” According to that article, which was published in our April […]

Jan 012016
 
AN ASSISTANT CITY MANAGER WHO CAN'T VOTE -- or Serve on a Jury, or Hold Public Office or Possess a Firearm. So What's the Big Deal? This is Key West, After All

Journalism as a Contact Sport Commentary by Dennis Reeves Cooper……. If you are convicted of a felony in Florida, you lose more than your freedom for a few years (or more than a few years)– you lose a number of civil rights– like voting, serving on a jury, holding public office and possessing a firearm. […]

 January 1, 2016  Posted by at 12:38 am Issue #147, Journalism as a Contact Sport 1 Response »
Dec 182015
 
UPDATE: KATHY REITZEL HAS APPEALED JUDGE JONES' RULING IN HER UNLAWFUL FIRING CASE. IF SHE WERE STILL ON THE JOB, WOULD SHE HAVE UNCOVERED AND QUICKLY DOCUMENTED ACCOUNTABILITY IN THE HOB FINANCIAL SCANDAL?

Commentary by Dennis Reeves Cooper……. Well, there’s another financial scandal at the Monroe County School District. More than $20,000 has gone missing from the daycare program at Horace O’Bryant School. And apparently, School District officials have absolutely no clue as to what may have happened to the money. No clue at all. None. Was the […]

Dec 112015
 
JIM SCHOLL: THE ONLY KEY WEST CITY MANAGER WHO HASN'T BEEN FIRED OVER THE PAST 25 YEARS

  by Dennis Reeves Cooper……. I sat down this week with City Manager Jim Scholl to talk about the state of the city, problems, accomplishments, politics and a variety of other topics. To say the least, Scholl is “special” in terms of city history. Over the past 25 years, he is the only city manager […]

Nov 272015
 
An Eclectic Potpourri of History at the Little Library on Fleming Street

  by Dennis Reeves Cooper……. Back in another life, one of the things I did to make a couple of bucks was to write history books for companies and organizations. All that was required was that they actually had histories (usually a couple of file drawers of old photos and documents)– and money to pay […]

 November 27, 2015  Posted by at 12:48 am * Featured Story *, Issue #142 No Responses »
Nov 132015
 
What You Don't Know About the Humble Beginnings of the Sunset Celebration in Key West

by Dennis Reeves Cooper……. Key West’s daily celebration of sunset is famous around the world. Today, “going to sunset” is a must-do for millions of tourists who visit the Southernmost City every year. Lots of locals, too. And it’s more than just the spectacle of the sun sinking into the Gulf of Mexico, it’s also […]

 November 13, 2015  Posted by at 12:52 am * Featured Story *, Island Voices, Issue #140 1 Response »
Nov 062015
 
City Commissioner Sam Kaufman: Do Good - But Do It Within Budget

by Dennis Reeves Cooper……. We here at The Blue Paper wanted to know what kind of city commissioner newly-elected Sam Kaufman is going to be. So, armed with questions ranging from affordable housing and homelessness to marijuana and the opening of Cuba, I made an appointment with Commissioner Kaufman and drove out to his law […]

 November 6, 2015  Posted by at 12:58 am * Featured Story *, Editorial, Issue #139 3 Responses »
Oct 302015
 
Oxymoron: Parking in Old Town

by Dennis Reeves Cooper……. Oxymoron is defined as a figure of speech that is incongruous and seemingly self-contradictory. Thus, I present to you the phrase “parking in Old Town.” The problem here is not that there is no place to park in Old Town. There are lots of places to park. It’s just that there […]

Oct 232015
 
What You May Not Know About the Citizen Review Board

by Dennis Reeves Cooper……. The Citizen Review Board (CRB) is a big deal. Now 13 years old, the CRB is an independent city agency with the authority to investigate complaints involving Key West police officers. The reason this is a big deal is that, before 2002, there was no such agency here. Citizen complaints often […]

 October 23, 2015  Posted by at 12:36 am * Featured Story *, Issue #137 17 Responses »
Oct 162015
 
State Attorney Will Take No Further Action in the Bob Dean Case

STATE ATTORNEY SPOKESMAN: “WE STILL THINK IT’S OBVIOUS THAT ROBERT DEAN LIVES IN KEY HAVEN.” BUT, BY LAW, THAT OPINION IS TRUMPED BY THE CANVASSING BOARD. Commentary by Dennis Reeves Cooper……. A couple of weeks ago, Bob Dean– through his attorney, Michael Halpern– virtually slapped State Attorney Catherine Vogel right in the face. Following a […]

 October 16, 2015  Posted by at 12:52 am * Featured Story *, Issue #136 23 Responses »
Oct 162015
 
1980: Refugee Crisis in Key West

History by Dennis Reeves Cooper……. The refugee crisis in Europe has been much in the national news in recent months. An estimated half million refugees from the Middle East– especially from war-torn Syria– have flooded into Europe and governments there are struggling to cope. If you were living in Key West in 1980, you will […]

 October 16, 2015  Posted by at 12:50 am * Featured Story *, Issue #136 2 Responses »
Oct 092015
 
***BREAKING*** CANVASSING BOARD RULES THAT BOB DEAN LIVES IN THAT LITTLE APARTMENT ON BAHAMA STREET AND NOT WITH HIS WIFE IN THAT BIG HOUSE IN KEY HAVEN. WE'RE NOT MAKING THIS UP

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2-BxnL_COmE&feature=youtu.be Video by Naja and Arnaud Girard……. Commentary by Dennis Reeves Cooper……. Suppose that you are inclined to tell people that you own the Cow Key Channel Bridge and, furthermore, that you are willing to sell it for a reasonable price. And suppose that you hear that there are three Key West residents who might […]

Oct 092015
 
A GOOD-NEWS STORY ABOUT A CITY GOVERNMENT AGENCY. WHAT'S GOING ON HERE?!

by Dennis Reeves Cooper……. If you are a longtime Key Wester and a longtime reader of The Blue Paper, you know that when I ran the paper from 1994 until 2012, Code Enforcement (or Code Compliance, as the department is now known) was in the news a lot. And why not. Allegations of corruption were […]

Oct 022015
 
WILL KEY HAVEN RESIDENT BOB DEAN REALLY VOTE IN THE KEY WEST ELECTIONS NEXT WEEK? HIS LAWYER SAYS HE WILL. THE STATE ATTORNEY SAYS HE SHOULDN'T

[responsive_youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7_P_wOXDfQ8] Commentary by Dennis Reeves Cooper……. Several years ago, I moved from one apartment to another here in Key West. At that time, I still owned Key West The Newspaper– The Blue Paper– and I was, therefore, a little more concerned about “appearances” than I am now, as an old retired guy. I knew that when […]

Jan 162015
 
JE SUIS CHARLIE!

by Dennis Reeves Cooper This is a followup to my letter to the editor that was published last week. It was in reference to the massacre of eight employees at a small newspaper in Paris by Islamic terrorists. The newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, which specializes in satire, had published cartoons that made fun of the Prophet […]

 January 16, 2015  Posted by at 1:00 am Issue #97, Journalism as a Contact Sport 16 Responses »
Jan 092015
 
Dennis Reeves Cooper On Charlie Hebdo Tragedy

By now, you have probably heard the news from Paris: A little newspaper was raided by presumably Islamic terrorists after the paper published cartoons which made fun of the prophet Muhammad. At least 10 employees of the paper were shot dead. Back in 2006, employees at a Danish newspaper received death threats after publishing similar […]

Sep 192014
 
BLUE WALL OF SILENCE COST CITY ALMOST $300,000!

by Dennis Reeves Cooper….. By now, you have probably read in the daily paper or heard on the radio that the City of Key West has agreed to pay former Key West cop Matt Klosowski $ 287,500 to settle a six-year-old whistle-blower lawsuit. But you probably don’t know the rest of the story. The real […]

Sep 122014
 
BODY CAMERAS FOR COPS?

By Dennis Reeves Cooper……. Apparently, enough is enough. Use of  excessive force by police officers, that is– real or imagined. More and more police departments across the nation are equipping officers with body cameras that can record both audio and video. The increasing use of this new technology has two goals: (1) Help try to […]

Sep 052014
 
VOTER ALERT: IN THE WAKE OF THE EIMERS GRAND JURY SCANDAL, STATE ATTORNEY VOGEL IS UP FOR REELECTION IN 2016

State Attorney Catherine Vogel’s office is corrupt. This statement might appear to some readers to be an attempt on my part to be a bit sensational. But it’s not. Informed government-watchers reading this are more likely to simply yawn and silently ask, “So what’s your point?” I have been reporting to my readers for years […]

Apr 252014
 
IS THE USE OF EXCESSIVE FORCE A PATTERN WITHIN THE KWPD?

by Dennis Reeves Cooper……. Alleged use of excessive force by Key West cops has been the talk of the island since retired General Motors worker Charles Eimers, 61, died after a rough arrest last Thanksgiving Day on South Beach. But its not like this is the first time that “excessive force” and other police wrong-doing […]

 April 25, 2014  Posted by at 12:00 am * Featured Story * No Responses »
Nov 082013
 
TWENTY YEARS LATER:  Was Harry Powell Right?

by Dennis Reeves Cooper……. NOTE: For years, the large piece of undeveloped Navy property at White Street and Palm Avenue was used as a park by Key Westers. So when the Navy announced that the property, known as Peary Court, was to be developed for military housing, many locals protested. They argued that the Navy […]

Sep 132013
 
THE DAY THE BLUE PAPER ALMOST TOOK OVER SOLARES HILL

by Dennis Reeves Cooper……. If you are a longtime reader of Key West The Newspaper, you may know that I retired last November after running the paper for 18 years. But I may have one more adventure in me, so I have applied to join the Peace Corps. While that application is pending, I told […]

Aug 302013
 
THE BUBBA BUSTS REVISITED

by Dennis Reeves Cooper……. If you are a longtime reader of Key West The Newspaper, you know that, after 18 years of publishing The Blue Paper, I retired last November. Since that time, I have been finishing up several personal projects– like sorting out 18 years of back issues to donate to the history department […]

 August 30, 2013  Posted by at 12:00 am * Featured Story * No Responses »