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Nursing Homes to Hold Summit over Generators

September 19th, 2017 by Mike Vasilinda

As investigations into how 8 people died at a South Florida nursing home continue, Mike Vasilinda tells us Governor Rick Scott is ordering all of the states adult living facilities to be generator equipped within 60 days.

Inspection reports from March, by the Department of Heath and Human Services, show emergency call buttons where 8 people died in a nursing home last week didn’t always work. One patient was being showered only once every ten days.

The South Florida Sun Sentinel published radio conversations from EMT workers at the scene.

“We have an additional signal seven in room 226.”

These are radio calls between responding EMT workers. A Signal seven is a dead body.

“How many signal sevens we got so far unaccounted for according to reports?”

“We’re gonna have two additional at this point.”

Governor Rick Scott has now ordered every nursing home in the state to have a generator and four days fuel supply up and running within 60 days.

 

The State’s nursing home association plans a summit on the generators Friday.

“There is local zoning, permitting, plans and construction. The cost of generators” says Kristen Knapp of the Florida Health Care Association.

Legislation has also been filed requiring every nursing home to have a generator.

The Governor’s order requires nursing homes to have fuel for for days. Legislation already filed calls for five.

Cost and zoning regulations are seen as the biggest impediment to meet the orders timeline say Knapp.

“One sixty bed facility indicated it was a couple hundred thousand dollars, we saw a larger size building upwards of eight hundred thousand dollars.”

In a statement, Rehabilitation Center administrator Jorge Carballo says the home was in compliance with current backup requirements including ice and generator fuel. The homes generator did not power it’s air conditioning.

Governor Rick Scott moved last week to revoke the nursing homes Medicaid eligibility. In addition to how the home responded to the emergency, there are also questions about how state regulators responded to numerous calls from the homes administrator.

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Governor’s Office Responds to Nursing Home Story

September 16th, 2017 by Mike Vasilinda

Governor Rick Scott’s communications team responded to our story below, and asked we distribute the following statement.

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Lawmakers to Focus on Nursing Home Deaths

September 16th, 2017 by Mike Vasilinda

State lawmakers will consider major changes to nursing home regulations in the state following the deaths of 8 residents in Irma’s aftermath. As Mike Vasilinda tells us,  The Rehabilitation Center of Hollywood Hills is also pushing back against charges it negligently let the patients die.

As patients were dying in South Florida, Both the Governor and Bryan Koon, the top emergency manager,  were fielding questions about nursing home safety.

Q:”The nursing homes are running our of fuel, some them may not have generators in    the first place. What’s the progress there?” Koon was asked Tuesday.

“Well, Multiple fronts. trying to get the regular power back up online” responded Koon.

“We’re talking to all of our nursing homes, our ALF’s because you know they trying to make sure they have the power to take care of their citizens” Scott told reporters minutes later.

 

 

Now, The center were 8 deaths occurred has released a timeline of calls to state officials asking for help. They  began at 5:34 Monday afternoon. the first call went to the number Governor Rick Scott was publicizing.

“We have a hotline here. It’s 1-800-342-3557. Call us.” Scott said Tuesday.

By 10 Pm Monday the center says five more calls were made for help.

State Senator Anitere Florida chairs the Health and Human Services Appropriations Committee

 

“There is no reason what so ever those individuals should have been in a home that hot for that many days. It’s..there’s no need for it” said Flores, who also said there was a 100 percent chance nursing home changes would be taken up by lawmakers.

Legislation requiring generators at adult living facilities and nursing homes has submitted to bill drafting. The next step will be to file it.

Kristen Knapp of the state’s nursing home association says it tirelessly advocated help for its members before and after the storm.

“And the home in question is not a member?”

“It was not a member of the Florida Health Care Association. That’s correct.”

“And so, you would not be advocating or they would not be calling you?”

“We did not have communication with them.”

After the investigations, there will likely be plenty of blame for everyone.

The Emergency Operations Center Public Information Office tells us it does not specifically track which calls come in at the hotline number, which is where the Rehabilitation Center made its first call Monday afternoon.

 

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Groups call for Irma Election Delay

September 16th, 2017 by Mike Vasilinda

The League of Women Voters, Florida, and a coalition of other groups has asked Governor Rick Scott to delay as many as ten elections scheduled for the rest of the money and the first ten days of October. Governor Rick Scott has already denied the Democratic party’s request to delay a special election in Miami. Now Marti Monroe of the League is asking Governor Rick Scott to reconsider the delay.

“We want them to vote. We want them to be informed. we would like to have a Governor who is interested in increasing voter participation. And we look of this leadership rethinking this, and opening the doors to the voters of our state by delaying this election. what’s two weeks?” asks Monroe.

Elections are pending in Miami-Dade, Levy, Marion, and Hillsborough counties.

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Finding Gas: There’s an App for That!

September 14th, 2017 by Mike Vasilinda

Gasoline remains in short supply as returning residents are consuming supplies. As Mike Vasilinda tells us, the state has partnered with a Boston company, GasBuddy, that helps motorists find fuel.

Fuel is moving into Florida, but the app GasBuddy shows more than half the stations in major cities are lacking gas.

Executives from the app were touring the State Emergency Center this week. GasBuddy was designed to help motorists find the cheapest fuel….but when storms started hitting, Patrick DeHaan, the company’s Senior Petroleum Analyst, quickly realized it’s users could help pinpoint shortages.

 

“This information is all being funneled to various levels of government now, to make sure everyone’s got really good information to make decisions on getting these fuel networks back to normal” DeHaan told us at the EOC.

 

The program lists a station as green if it has gas and power, yellow if fuel is limited, and black if there is no power.

GasBuddy nailed it at this station. It has no gas.

A block away, we also found limited fuel at this Chevron, just as the app said we would.

Where it missed the boat was at this Marathon station. It was listed having limited fuel. We found a dozen people filling up.

PJ Sattar is the owner.

 

”You look like you have a lot of gas here? we asked.

“At the moment, yeah. To survive the day, I would say” says Sattar.

Q:”This says maybe not. It may not be accurate?”

“It’s not accurate because yesterday it said I had no gas and I did have gas” Sattar told us.

 

GasBuddy also got it right at this station which was listed as having fuel. It has all you could buy.

We asked GasBuddy’s Patrick DeHaan what lessons were learned.

“Ah, the lessons for us, you now, obviously to maintain services, we’re going to have to beef up our capability.”

Availability and prices posted come from input from the apps users and they’re  accurate only at the time of the post.

The firm first added gas availability to the app during Hurricane Harvey in Texas. It also allows motorists to report price gouging, which it defines as at least 150 percent of the normal price for gas.

 

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Where’s the Relief?

September 13th, 2017 by Mike Vasilinda

Many areas of the state are still without adequate gas, food and water, but as Mike Vasilinda tells us, The Governor, Emergency Management Director, and the head of the National Guard all say it is on the way.

Irma’s sheer size has complicated relief efforts, leaving few places out of harms way to stage relief supplies.

We asked Governor Rick Scott  ”Governor, what would you say to those folks who have perhaps lost hope because they haven’t seen food, water, or gas yet, and they were expecting it?”

His response: “I think if you go all around the state, people are working hard to get it to everybody. You know, I tell everybody, we have a hot line here. It’s 1-800-342-3557. Call us. You call us about anything and we’re going to do everything we can to get you all the resources you need.”

 

This time laps photography shows the frenetic activity of more than 100 people working long shifts to get supplies out into the state. These are the people who will answer the phone at the number the Governor wants you to call.

And planners say if you are not seeing the kind of relief you think you should be seeing in our neighborhood, it’s because somebody else needs it more.

We also asked Emergency Director Bryan Koon:”People are looking for specifics. They are starting to lose hope. what do you say to them?”

Koon responded: “I say all this room, the purpose of all the people in this room is to do everything we can to restore Florida back to normalcy. we’re working on restoring the power. we’re working on getting the fuel back in the ground.”

And with the storm now gone, National Guard Adjutant General Michael Calhoun says relief is on the way.

“I think the main effort we have today is have about 16 aircraft in the air, to sling low pallets down to the points of distribution, so the citizens can have something to eat, some water, some food, until power is restored” says the Commander of the State’s National guard.

And buyer beware. As more businesses re-open, price gouging complaints are surging.

As of 9AM this morning, more than 9000 price gouging complaints have been received by the state, and we have been told the phone has been ringing off the hook again today. We are still waiting for the days totals.

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Tim Tebow: Your are Not Alone

September 13th, 2017 by Mike Vasilinda

Former Gator Quarterback Tim Tebow has been touring damaged areas of the state. He accompanied the Governor this morning to thank the efforts of those working in the state Emergency Operations Center. We asked what he would say to those losing hope that relief is on the way.

“There are a lot of people who are hurting. A lot of people have fear and doubt about the unknown, and maybe they’ve lost a lot of their possessions. But there people who love them and are praying for them, and are there to support them. And so we want people to know they are not in it alone. and that people genuinely love and care about them, and that’s something that can be life changing” says the former star athlete.

Rick Scott got a laugh from the EOC staff introducing Tebow, saying he was there to answer questions about FSU football. As most know, Tebow played for FSU’s arch rival, the Florida Gators.

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Restaurants Slowly Opening

September 13th, 2017 by Mike Vasilinda

If you are looking to grab a meal out in the middle of hurricane recovery, the FL Restaurant and Lodging Association, which works with state emergency managers to plan recovery, says the best thing you can do, is to look where power is back on.

“The first thing to do is find outwore the power is on. Our industry is going to get back in business as soon as its safe for employees to get in. Certainly we have some re-entry issues in certain places. law enforcement makes the call on that, but we’re working very closely with local law enforcement to insure that as soon as its safe, we’re some of the first people in so we can get back open. So, it’s where the power is, where the roads are passable, likely the restaurants will be open” says Geoff Luebkemann, FL Rest. and Lodging VP.

 

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Insurance Advice: Do it Now to Collect Later if Needed

September 9th, 2017 by Mike Vasilinda

As Irma’s landfall becomes imminent, Mike Vasilinda tells us one of the most important things you can do is collect all your important papers and keep them safe and dry.

For most people, their home is their single biggest asset. This is what governor Rick Scott has been saying every day this week.

“Remember, we can rebuild your home, but we can not rebuild your life” say Scott.

After safety, the first thing homeowners evacuating, or staying can do, says insurance expert Fred Karlinski, is too keep important papers safe.

“Insurance papers. Life papers. Passports, marriage certificates, things like that” advises Karlinski.

Next on the list: Document the house. Inside and out.

“Insurance experts say the best thing you can do is document your belongings, then so something with the video. Don’t leave it on your phone.”

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis suggests emailing the photos or video to yourself.

“Put them in a virtual place. Who knows, you might lose your phone. The phone battery may be dead.  It may get water logged. who knows” says the CFO.

Michael Peltier with Citizens Insurance is advising customers not to sign a contract with anyone without first calling your agent or the company.

“The danger of signing something in haste is you don’t know what you are signing. You may be signing away your rights to handle your own claim, and we don’t think that’s a good idea” says the Citizen’s Spokesman.

CFO Patronis says two hundred thousand insurance adjusters are now on standby.

“They’ll create little villages, we’ll create one to go out there to help the outreach of connecting people together and filing the claims process to get them back to some normalcy” says Patronis.

In the end, everyones advice mirrors the Governor’s. Be safe first, worry about everything else later.

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Price Gouging Rampant as Irma Approaches

September 8th, 2017 by Mike Vasilinda

More than 25 hundred price gouging complaints have been filed with the state since yesterday morning (WED), and as Mike Vasilinda tells us. the phones continue to ring off the hook.

1100 price gouging complaints were filed online overnight thru Thursday morning. Water and gas prices remain at the top of the list. Hannah Cope says water was the most egregious complaint she received.

“Someone was charging over seventy dollars for a pack of water” she told us.

Attorney General Pam Bondi is taking one gas supplier, Chevron to task.

“We’ve received multiple complaints about Chevron, especially in south Florida. Some of the prices were seven dollars, some were six. Whether they were charging that, I don’t know. Chevron, if you weren’t, reach out and tell me, because I need to know that because you will not be taking advantage of our citizens” says Bondi.

The Attorney General hopes that by singling out one supplier, everyone else will pay attention and keep their prices low.

There are 50 call center employees at the State Capitol. Calls Thursday were averaging a hundred an hour. Call Center Specialist Jack Hagadorn says the calls were non stop.

“we’re here today till eleven, and it’s not slowing down” says the Call Center Specialist.

Operators are working as many as 15 hours a day, but they’re less grumpy than the people on the other end of the phone. Martin Green was happy to be helping.

“Yeah, they feel like they’re being taken advantage of at at time they are most vulnerable. Right now, the whole state is” Green told us.

The Attorney General says those preying on the public are simply stealing with possible life threatening consequences.

“You’re supposed to be helping you fellow human being at a time of crisis, not hurting them.  And I’m going to do everything in my power to destroy them if they are hurting our citizens” says the Attorney General.

we asked: “And what do you find more effective, the fine or the bully pulpit”.

“Both” she responded.

Companies found to have violated the law face fines of up to twenty five thousand dollars a day.

You can file a price gouging report online at myfloridalegal.com, ,or you can call 1-866-9-No-Scam.

Price Gouging Package Script: 

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Fleeing Florida as Irma Approaches

September 7th, 2017 by Mike Vasilinda

Traffic in North Florida is picking up as tourists head home early and Floridians decide not to go through another storm. Gas, even in north Florida is in short supply.

This gas station was a beehive of activity early Wednesday.

We found motorist Ted Mack filling up. “I’ve got three quarters of a tank. Just topping it off” he told us.

Long lines are common at most stations in the state Capitol as residents prepare for the worst.

Banker Bill Moore drove from station to station until he found one without a long line.

“Everybody I drive by, there is a huge line out there. thirty minute wait” say Moore.

On interstate Ten, traffic was heavier than usual. We met tourists cutting their vacations short.

“We are leaving early because of it” says Helen Armstrong.

And we met long time residents on their way to what they hope will be safer ground.

DeuWayne Wibben retired to Clerawater from Wisconsin.

“We’re from Clearwater, Florida headed to Huntsville, Alabama.”

“And why?”

“To avoid the storm.”

“Getting out while the getting’s good?”

“Exactly” Wibble told us.

Hoping to beat the traffic, Jill and Doug Berlet left Naples at 4am. They’re heading for Montogomery Alabama.

“Why Montogomery? Got friends there?”

“No, no, actually all the hotels on the 75 corridor all the way to Atlanta, booked solid. Booked solid. Every one of them” said doug.

“And when we watched the Weather Channel, it kept trying to hook right, so we figured, we’ll hook left” says Jill.

And the one thing just about every motorist had in common? They worry about the gas supply. Or as one motorist put it, A half a tank is the new empty.

And Sharon, who didn’t want her last name on TV, was behind the wheel of this motor home.

“I was on Sanibel when Charlie came. I learn easy. I don’t learn hard.”

And the traffic and gas supply are only expected to get worse if more evacuations are ordered.

The State’s price gouging hot line is receiving a steady steam of complaints about higher prices on gas, water, and the supplies.

 

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Millionaire Challenges DUI Blood Test Rules

August 31st, 2017 by Mike Vasilinda


The millionaire founder of a South Florida polo club is challenging his DUI manslaughter conviction, arguing before the state’s highest court that rules governing DUI blood tests are incomplete. And As Mike Vasilinda tells us, the ruling has the potential of affecting hundreds if not thousands of other cases.

Millionaire John Goodman is serving 16 years in state prison for killing a 23 year old after running up a large bar tab in 2010.  A blood test following the accident shows Goodman registering two and a half times the legal limit.

“Hear Ye, Hear Ye Hear ye.”

He has been convicted twice. Now Goodman is asking the Florida Supreme Court for a third trial. His lawyer, Jane Kreisler-Walsh is asking the blood evidence be thrown out.

“The FDLE’s blood collection and blood alcohol rules ar both inadequate and inconsistent with the core polices of the implied consent law” says Kreisler-Walsh.

His attorney argues small needles cause clotting. and without reporting the needle size, analysts don’t know to look for clots, which can skew results.

“May it please the court”.

The state was blunt. Goodman has been convicted in two trials. Asst. Atty General

Rachel Nordby says he doesn’t deserve a third.

“Goodman’s challenge seeks an over broad solution in search of a problem that does not exist” she told the court.

Afterwards, we asked his attorney whether the clots could change the result

Q:”Is it possible it could be off that much?”

“It’s possible it could be off that much, but more significantly that there are issues with this blood besides those that I argued here today.”

And if this court says needle size does matter, Hundreds if not thousands of cases could be impacted.

If the court were to rule with Goodman, he would get a third trial without the blood evidence. And anyone who has ever challenged a DUI conviction based on blood evidence could also ask to have their case reheard.

Goodman has been in prison since 2012. He is currently in a prison just 25 miles south of state’s highest court where the arguments were heard today.

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Cop Killer Seeks Life Instead of Death

August 31st, 2017 by Mike Vasilinda

Tampa cop killer Dante Morris, who killed two cops and three others over a 42 day period in 2010 is challenging one of his three death sentences. In the case before the Florida Supreme today, Morris’s was convicted of killing a man he believed was selling drugs on his turf. Morris’s attorney Steven Bolotin, a Polk County Public Defender, argued the case didn’t meet death and the only reason he got the ultimate sentence was because the police murders were tried first, making him a repeat offender, even though the police shootings happened last.

Q:He has three death sentences,  I’m wondering what’s the strategy here.?”

“Well, I mean, the strategy is if you can get rid of one death sentence, then you have a better chance of getting rid of the other two in post conviction” says Bolotin.

Because the murder in question today occurred in 2010 and the jury recommendation was 10-2, Morris is likely to get a new sentencing hearing on at least this case.

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Legal Fees Case for Domestic Violence at Supreme Court

August 31st, 2017 by Mike Vasilinda

The rights of those accused of domestic violence were on trial at the Florida Supreme Court today. A Jacksonville man is seeking several thousand dollars in attorney’s fees from a California woman after her cyber stalking accusations that led to a temporary injunction against him were proven false. Sean Hall and Nicole Lopez knew each other. His attorney, earl Johnson Jr, says while the amount is small, what’s at stake is the right of the falsely accused to be made whole.

“In most instances, these injunctions against stalking and such are used as a shield. But in this case , it was used as a sword. we were able to prove that it was fabricated, fraud upon the court. Perjury upon the court.and we wanted sanctions as attorney fees pursuant to Florida law” says Johnson..

Michael Yokam, the attorney for the woman who sought the domestic violence injunction says a ruling forcing her to pay fees could impact women coming forward in the future.

“It could have a chilling effect. It could create a whole cottage industry of people who will hold themselves out as attorneys for the purpose of seeking attorney’s fees and seeking respondents in these kinds of case” says Yokam.

Earlier this year, lawmakers passed legislation barring the recovery of attorneys fees in Domestic injunctions.  But since the law was not in effect when this case happened, the court could decide either way.

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Congressmen to Fight Chinese Hacking

August 31st, 2017 by Mike Vasilinda

Two congressmen, Neil Dunn of Panama City, and Matt Gaetz of Ft. Walton Beach held a town hall meeting this afternoon at FSU to talk about the Chinese theft of corporate secrets, among them plans for an energy cell being developed by a now defunct Bing Energy, which had partnered with FSU. The two say the Chinese espionage is a problem being overlooked in the nations Capitol.

“Here in Tallahassee, we’re seeing circumstances where  ideas that students and researchers have actually developed here at FSU have been stolen and so we’re looking at ways that we can change the laws in Washington to better protect American ideas and American innovation” says Rep. Matt Gaetz.

“And on a larger scale, we’re being cheated as a nation. As an economy, and our security is actually undermined. it’s a major question, and as one of the panelist said, He thinks it ought to be in the top three or at least the top five areas of concern for the government” added Neil Dunn, who represents Panama City and Tallahassee.

Both promised to push for more exposure of the hacking.

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