Former Fire Dept. Bookkeeper Charged With Theft, False Statements To Feds

May 31, 2013

Tony Gene Broxton, Jr., age 54 of Pace has been charged with theft of public money and making false statements to federal agencies.

The four-count indictment charges that Broxton stole money from the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and made fraudulent statements to both agencies regarding his employment as the treasurer and financial officer for the Pace Fire and Rescue District (PFRD).

Count one charges Broxton with stealing over  $140,000 from the SSA between 2008 and 2013.  Count two charges Broxton with stealing over $60,000 from the VA from between 2009 and 2013.  Count three charges Broxton with falsely stating to the VA that he had no job and no one would hire him due to his disabilities, when in fact he was actively employed by Pace Fire at the time.  And count four charges Broxton with falsely stating to the SSA that he was not paid for his work with the Pace Fire Rescue District and that his wife had worked full-time for PFRD, when in fact Broxton’s wife did not work for PFRD and payments for Broxton’s work as treasurer and financial Officer of PFRD were made directly to his wife, in her name.

Broxton is scheduled for trial on July 8 before Chief U.S. District Court Judge M. Casey Rodgers.  If convicted, Broxton faces a maximum of 10 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine for each count of theft, as well as a maximum of five years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine for each count of making a false statement.

Wildfires Burn Near Bratt, Atmore

May 31, 2013

Separate wildfires burned near Bratt and Atmore  Thursday afternoon.

Just after 5:00, firefighters from Walnut Hill and Century responded to a wildfire in the 3000 block of Highway 168 east of Wiggins Lane.  With the help of two Florida Division of Forestry tractors, the fire was declared under control about 6 p.m.  The fire, about two acres in size, was caused by an illegal burn, officials said.

Also Thursday afternoon, firefighters from Atmore and Poarch responded to wildfire off Industrial Drive near Swift Lumber Company in Atmore. The Alabama Division of Forestry was responding to the blaze as of just after 6 p.m. No structures were threatened.

Suns Beat Wahoos 11-2

May 31, 2013

Jake Marisnick blasted two grand slams in back-to-back innings and led the Jacksonville Suns in an 11-2 rout of the Pensacola Blue Wahoos on Thursday night at Pensacola Bayfront Stadium.

Marisnick became the fifth player in the history of the Southern League to record nine RBI in one game. His night started early with a first-inning RBI double and took off in the seventh. Batting with the bases loaded, after an error on the front end of a possible double play extended the inning, Marisnick unloaded his first career grand slam on a 1-2 hanging breaking ball from Josh Ravin to give Jacksonville a 6-0 lead.

An inning later, Marisnick came up with the bags juiced again and launched a second grand slam, this one on a 1-1 pitch from Ravin. Marisnick finished the night by going 3-for-5 with two grand slams, his fifth and sixth homers of the year, two runs scored and nine RBI. It was the first time since Butch Garcia drove in nine on August 4, 1989 for Charlotte that a Southern League player recorded as many RBI.

Marisnick’s night marred what was a great start for Daniel Renken. The righthander fell to 1-4 despite allowing just one run on four hits in six innings while tying a season-high with seven punchouts. The only run he gave up was in the first inning on a double by Marisnick.

Pensacola couldn’t get anything going on offense until the ninth inning. The Wahoos strung together four singles in the ninth with RBI’s from Devin Lohman and Luis Durango to account for the final margin.

The series continues on Friday night at 7:00 p.m. at Pensacola Bayfront Stadium. Josh Smith (3-5, 4.10) toes the rubber for Pensacola while Bryan Evans (0-2, 9.00) will get the start for Jacksonville.

story by Kevin Burke

Jay Man Dies Following Traffic Crash

May 30, 2013

A Jay man has died as the result of injuries he received in a traffic crash on Memorial Day.

The Florida Highway Patrol said 67-year old Robert Rowley was traveling westbound on Highway 89 near Howard Lane about 4:09 p.m. when he drifted across the center line and off the highway.  His 1994 Ford Explorer struck a road sign and a utility pole, causing the vehicle to overturn onto its side.

Rowley was transported to Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola where he passed away Tuesday, the FHP said Wednesday night.

ECSO Recovers Two Dozen Stolen Highway Signs

May 30, 2013

Deputies have recovered about two dozen highway signs believed to have been stolen from the North Escambia area.

The signs — everything from speed limit signs, to a CR 99 sign, to bridge weight limit, railroad crossing and stop signs — were seized from a home near Walnut Hill after the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office received a tip.

An arrest is expected in the case, according to investigators.

Wednesday, the signs were returned to the Escambia County Road Department and other agencies.

Pictured: About a dozen stolen highway signs at the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office substation in Century on Thursday. photos, click to enlarge.

Nine Arson Related Fires Burn Hundreds Of Acres

May 30, 2013

Seven fires believed to be the work of an arsonist scorched 100 acres in the Berrydale and Jay areas in north Santa Rosa County on Wednesday.

Six of the fires were contained by midnight, but the largest one, known as the Davis Road Fire, continued to burn Thursday afternoon.  The Davis Road Fire was about 50 aces and 70 percent contained.

The Berrydale and Jay fires are believed to be related to two fires that burned in the Indian Ford Road area, consuming about 250 acres.

There were no structures damaged by the fires.

“These fires are all believed to be arson caused,” Joe Zwierzchowski, spokesman for the Florida Forest Service said Wednesday night. “The Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement has a lead on a suspect and will be following up on it.”

Anyone with information on any arson caused wildfires is asked to call 1-800-342-5869. Callers may remain anonymous and could earn up to $5,000 if their tip leads to an arrest.

Under Fire: Inside Armed Shooter Exercise At Area School

May 30, 2013

Gunfire and screams echoed through the hallways of Flomaton High School Wednesday afternoon. A gunman was on campus, holding hostages.

It was all part of a three-day active shooter training program involving multiple law enforcement agencies. And the idea was to make it as realistic as possible, even for the most seasoned of officers.

In one scenario, a single shooter held a hostage at gunpoint in classroom. Officers entered the scenario with no information, other than there was one or more active shooters and hostages somewhere in the building.

For a photo gallery, click here.

Gunfire sounded, and two hostages ran from a classroom into the hallway where the officers, if they reacted correctly, would not shoot them.

“I’m gonna kill you,” the gunman screamed at the hostage remaining in the classroom.

“Please don’t shoot me,” the hostage said, her hands in the air. “I don’t want to die.”

A single officer approached the classroom, his weapon drawn and loaded with 9 mm training rounds.  His eyes scanned the room, his gun following, as he noted our photographer in the corner of the room and confirmed he was not a target. In a real life situation, there could have been innocent children huddled in that corner.

The officer quickly identified the gunman, firing off two rounds into center mass. The officer confirmed the gunman was dead, removing her weapon away from the body. The hostage was safe, the situation seemingly diffused as another officer entered the room. But more gunfire and screams erupted down the hallway, sending the officers running.

The sights, the smell of gunfire, the screams, the realistic 9mm training rounds that strike at over 300 feet per second (which, as one trainer noted, “really hurt” without protective gear), and shell casings flying across the room were all designed for realism. And for adrenaline.


This week’s active shooter training exercise is the first of its kind held in Escambia County, AL, and the first for most of the officers in attendance.

“You really can teach an old dog new tricks,” Flomaton Police Chief Stoney Daw, 72, said after the live fire training. “You can find your weak points and your strong points this way.”

The training, with instructors from the National Center for Biomedical Research and Training at Louisiana State University, was conducted at no cost to local law enforcement agencies. The LASER – Law Enforcement Active Shooter Emergency Response — training’s $35,000 price tab was covered by FEMA and Homeland Security.

“This was the first time we’ve had this type training locally,” Escambia County (AL) Chief Deputy Mike Lambert said. “This class was to train our local officers to go back to their agencies and train others. And this was a rare opportunity for our agencies to train together; that would be very important if we ever respond together to a real incident.”

Agencies taking part in the class included the Escambia County (AL) Sheriff’s Office, Atmore Police Department, Flomaton Police Department, Brewton Police Department, the Escambia County (AL) District Attorney’s Office and the Alabama Marine Police.

For a photo gallery, click here.

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Flomaton High School Principal Scott Hammond had the chance Wednesday afternoon to suit up in protective gear and become involved in the training scenarios.

“It provided insight on how students need to react and how they need to leave the building,” Hammond said.  “I’m very honored our school was used for the exercise. And I’m glad I got the see the other side of a shooter situation.”

Hammond said that despite seeing the realistic training, he still views himself as a first line of defense in the event his campus should ever experience an active shooter.

“Whether or not I am armed, I still think I would try to disarm someone coming in here with a gun,” he said. “These are my students, and I’m going to do everything I can  to protect them.”

For a photo gallery, click here.

Editor’s note: There were no students present during Wednesday’s exercise at Flomaton High School; the school has already dismissed for the summer. photos, click to enlarge.

ECUA, County Battle Over Trash

May 30, 2013

The Escambia County Commission took steps Wednesday directly intended to stop he Emerald Coast Utilities Authority’s plan to stop using the Perdido Landfill and divert waste to a private company.

The commission approved a moratorium on waste-to-energy facilities in the county, requiring any future such facility to receive approval from county commission. And the county will also seek proposals from waste-to-energy type firms.

The ECUA board favors a 15-year contract with Southern Waste Recovery (SWR) that would recover trash that could be converted into a fuel source.

The county, which operates the Perdido Landfill, says ECUA’s business is needed so that the landfill survives financially.

Northview Presents Student Awards

May 30, 2013

Northview High School recently presented end of the year awards to students in grades 9-11.

For a photo gallery, click here.

Awards were presented to the following:

(*HAA = Highest Academy Average)

World History Honors HAA — Megan Bryan
World History Honors Exemplary Student — Penny Banda and Julie Hester
World History HAA — Joshua Borelli
World History Exemplary — Nicholas Lambert
English II Honors HAA — Kyndall Hall
English II Honors Exemplary — Samantha Sharpless
English II HAA — Jessica McCullough
English II Exemplary Student — Cara Thompson
10th grade Reading HAA — Courtney Peebles for highest GPA and
10th grade Reading Exemplary — Jeniya Odom
9th Grade Reading HAA – Jordan Helmken and Lawrence Douglas
9th grade Reading Exemplary — Jessica Barrows

VFW Academic Excellence Award — Emily Walston
VFW Leadership Excellence Award — Kelsea Cohen
VFW Voice of Democracy — Hannah Gibson
VFW Voice of Democracy — Kyndall Hall
VFW Voice of Democracy –Samantha Sharpless

American Legion Academics — Madison Weber
American Legion Leadership — Lane Carnley

READ 180
READ 180 HAA — Destiny Stevens
READ 180 Exemplary — Brianna Taylor

English I Honors HAA — Jessica Amerson
English I Honors Exemplary — Moriah McGahan

9th Regular English I HAA — Lawrence Douglas
9th Regular English I Exemplary — Elizabeth Sanders

Guitar HAA –Austin Adams,
Exemplary — Hunter Dettling
Band HAA — Taylor Brook
Band Exemplary — Kent Smith

Integrated Science HAA — Alliyiah Henderson
Integrated Science  Exemplary — Destiny Stevens

Physical Science Honors  HAA — Jessica Amerson

Environmental Science HAA — Madison Arrington and Courtney Weaver
Environmental Science  Exemplary — Olivia Neal and Chelsea Ward
Spanish 1 HAA — Jessica Amerson, E
Spanish 1 Exemplary — Jordan Taylor
Spanish 2 HAA — Mashama Codrington,
Spanish 2 Exemplary — Marina Gray

Highest GPA chemistry honors Courtney Solari
Exceptional student Jeremy Stacey

Highest GPA chemistry Marina Gray
Exceptional student MashamaCodrington

Pre-calculus: Exemplary Student—MashamaCodrington

Algebra 2 HAA — ikaela Santos
Algebra 2 Exemplary — Kevin Barrow and Alexandria Martin

Algebra 2 Honors HAA — Courtney Solari
Algebra 2 Honors Exemplary — Kyndall Hall

Algebra 1A HAA — Madison Lundy
Algebra 1A Exemplary — Elizabeth Sanders
U.S. History HAA — Mashama Codrington
U.S. History Exemplary – Courtney Weaver

Geometry HAA: Megan Bryan
Geometry Exemplary — Kendal Cobb and Kamryn Brock

Geometry Honors HAA –  Jessica Amerson
Geometry Honors Exemplary — Madison Weber

College Readiness HAA –  Skye Brown

Family & Consumer Science HAA –  Bethany Reynolds
Family & Consumer Science Exemplary — Haylee Weaver and Lawrence Douglas

U.S. History Honors HAA — Courtney Solari

Biology Honors HAA — Kyndall Hall
Physical Science HAA — Sarah Dutton
Physical Science Exemplary — Sykeema McConnico
Biology HAA — E’layzha Bates and Addy Lee
Biology Exemplary — Courtney Peebles

Algebra 1 HAA — MoriahMcGahan
Algebra 1 Exemplary — Lawrence Douglas
Algebra 1B — Kristen Byrd

PE 11th – Holden Moore
PE 10th – Lane Carnley
PE 9th – James Ates

English III Honors HAA and Exemplary — Courtney Solari

English III HAA — Jessica Brown
English III Exemplary — Olivia Neal

2-D Art
9th – Harmoni Till
10th – Breanna Payne
11th – Olivia Neal
9th – Elizabeth Sanders
10th – Beka Carpenter
11th – Natasha Peebles

3-D Art
9th – Elizabeth Sanders
10th Angelique Brown
11th – Rebecca Grim
9th – Laurie Purdy
10th Angelique Brown
11th – Montana Ard

Painting/Drawing HAA — Mallory Ryan
Painting/Drawing Exemplary — Annie Bobo
Ag Outstanding Freshman- Haylee Weaver
Ag Outstanding Sophomore- Tiffani Cruce
Ag Outstanding Junior- Courtney Solari

Scott Signs Citizens Insurance Bill Amid Continued Controversy

May 30, 2013

Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday signed a plan to make changes at Citizens Property Insurance Corp., as officials from the state-backed insurer continued trying to defuse a controversy about a deal to shift policies to a private company.

Scott quickly signed the measure (SB 1770), which legislative leaders sent to his desk Tuesday. It includes a series of steps aimed at reducing the number of homeowners getting coverage from Citizens, such as setting up what is described as a “clearinghouse” where private insurers could intercept policies that otherwise would wind up with Citizens.

The governor, in a statement issued by his office, also pointed to part of the bill that will lead to Scott and Cabinet members appointing an inspector general for Citizens. That move came after reports last year about what Scott described as “egregious” travel expenses among some Citizens officials and the shutdown of an internal compliance office.

“This legislation will bring much needed reforms to better protect the taxpayers who support Citizens Property Insurance,” Scott said in the statement.

The announcement of the bill-signing came as a Citizens committee discussed efforts to try to steer policies into the private insurance market — and a controversial deal approved last week that could funnel up to $52 million to St. Petersburg-based Heritage Property and Casualty Insurance, which would take out as many as 60,000 policies from Citizens.

The deal has been criticized by people such as House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, who issued a statement Friday raising concerns about the payments and a lack of notice about the deal, saying it was “hastily pushed through.” Scott on Wednesday also objected to the way Citizens made the decision, calling for at least seven days notice of such issues.

Citizens President and Chief Executive Officer Barry Gilway agreed with Scott that the state-backed insurer needs to do a better job of communicating about major initiatives, though he said staff members in the past have struggled with how early to present information about potential deals. Also, Citizens officials said they were trying to get the Heritage deal finished quickly so the company could take over policies before the main part of hurricane season.

But Jeff Grady, president of the Florida Association of Insurance Agents, said a lack of information can cause problems with the appearance of such deals.

“There is a point in time in that process to advise — at least advise,” said Grady, who serves as a technical adviser to the Citizens committee that met Wednesday, known as the Depopulation Committee.

During the meeting, Gilway and Citizens Chief Financial Officer Sharon Binnun focused on the insurer’s broader efforts to reduce its number of policies.

As of April 30, Citizens had nearly 1.3 million policies — making it the state’s largest property insurer — but Gilway said it could have had about 1.8 million if Citizens hadn’t aggressively worked to move policies into the private market. Insurance-industry officials and many state leaders have long argued that the large concentration of policies in Citizens would pose a huge financial risk if a major hurricane hits.

Gilway said Citizens should work with private companies so they can remove the best policies, ultimately leaving Citizens as the so-called insurer of last resort for homes that cannot get coverage elsewhere. But Gilway took issue with questions about whether private insurers should be able to “cherry pick” the best Citizens policies.

“My answer to that is absolutely — the companies should be cherry-picking,” Gilway said.

The bill signed Wednesday by Scott includes steps to try to move policies and risks away from Citizens. Along with creating the clearinghouse, for example, it would prevent Citizens from covering new homes in high-risk, environmentally sensitive coastal areas.

By The News Service of Florida

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