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Officials Confirm Holman Prison Correctional Officers Skip Work

Officials Confirm Holman Prison Correctional Officers Skip Work

The Alabama Department of Corrections has confirmed reports that numerous correctional officers at the Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore did not report to work on Saturday. “Some correctional officers assigned to William C. Holman Correctional Facility did not report for the third shift on Saturday,” Bob Horton, ADOC spokesman, said. “As a result, officers from other correctional facilities augmented Holman’s security staff. Prison officials have not reported further incidents.” “Most officers assigned to the facility’s third shift reported to work the following day.  At no time did the officers state that they were participating in a strike, nor did they express any demands or grievances,” an ADOC news release Tuesday afternoon stated. “The Department of Corrections confirms unofficial reports of an officer strike at the prison came from inmate advocate groups and not from department officials.” “Last night at Holman prison an emergency situation developed as ALL of the officers assigned to the second shift waged a historic work strike for the first time in the history of the Alabama Department of Corrections,” prisoner advocacy group The Free Alabama Movement wrote in a statement. “Assistant Commissioner Grantt Culliver was dispatched to the prison, where he then had to order supervisors from another prison, Atmore CF, to report to Holman prison just to be able to serve meals,” FAM added in a press statement. “The officers at Holman, who have been defying ADOC policy and speaking publicly to the media, had communicated their plans to FAM members, and expressed their support for nonviolent and peaceful demonstrations against the human rights conditions existent at Holman,” FAM declared. The strike came the same day as the funeral for Holman corrections officer Kenneth Bettis, 44, of Monroeville who died after being assaulted and stabbed by an inmate at the Atmore facility. The stabbing came in retaliation for being denied an extra tray of food in the facility’s dining hall during the noon meal. Holman has been the center of several prison disturbances and inmate strikes this year. NorthEscambia.com photos.  Read More →

September 27, 2016 | Read the story »

Deputies Seek Info On Couple Caught Using Stolen Checks

Deputies Seek Info On Couple Caught Using Stolen Checks

The Escambia County Sheriff’s Office is seeking the public’s help in identifying two people caught on camera using stolen checks. According to investigators, a vehicle was burglarized and the victim’s purse and checks were stolen. The stolen checks were used by the pictured man and woman at Navy Federal Credit Union.  Anyone that recognizes either suspect or the white vehicle in these photographs is asked to call Crime Stoppers at  (850) 433-STOP or the ECSO at  (850) 436-9620.  Read More →

September 27, 2016 | Read the story »

Wednesday: See You At The Pole

Wednesday: See You At The Pole

The annual See You at the Pole rally will be held Wednesday morning at several North Escambia area schools. Students will gather as school begins to pray in the non-denominational event.  See You at the Pole is a student-initiated, student organized, and student-led event. Students typically pray for their school, friends teachers, government and the nation — often meeting at their school’s flagpole. Local See You at the Pole events include: Northview High School: 8:15 a.m. Ernest Ward Middle School 8:30 a.m. Molino Park Elementary School 7 a.m. Ransom Middle School 8:40 a.m. Tate High School 7:45 a.m. West Florida High School 7:45 a.m. For more information, contact an individual school. Submit See At The Pole photos from area schools to news@northescambia.com. Pictured: See At the Pole events from last year. NorthEscambia.com file photos, click to enlarge.  Read More →

September 27, 2016 | Read the story »


Escambia Man Faces Life Sentence For Abusing Children

An Escambia County man is facing up to life in prison after being convicted of molesting two children. An Escambia County jury convicted Gregory McLean of one count of lewd or lascivious molestation of a victim less than 12 years of age by an offender over 18 years of age and one count of lewd or lascivious molestation of a victim 12 years of age or older but less than 16 years of age by an offender over 18 years of age. On January 15, 2016, the defendant’s cell phone was located in a bathroom trying to video record one of the victims getting into the shower. After the discovery of the cell phone, both of the victims revealed that the defendant had molested them when they were younger. One victim was between the ages of 9 and 10 years of age at the time of the molestation, and the other victim was between the ages of 12 and 13 years of age. Sentencing is scheduled for November 8 in front of Judge John L. Miller. McLean faces a minimum of 25 years in prison with lifetime sexual offender probation up to a maximum penalty of life in prison. McLean will also be designated as a sexual predator.  Read More →

September 27, 2016 | Read the story »


Election Set For State Prison Workers Union

Secret ballots are poised to go out in a union battle over representation for workers in Florida’s corrections system. The ballots will start going out October 10 to the state’s prison and probation workers, who will have until November 14 to return their votes to the Public Employees Relations Commission. The commission will count the ballots on November 15, according to a press release issued Monday by the Florida Police Benevolent Association. The Florida PBA — which served as the collective-bargaining representative for corrections and probations officers for three decades — is attempting a comeback after being ousted by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters in 2011. Teamsters Local 2011 had sought a delay in the election after choosing a new leader, Kimberly Schultz, on August 31. Because of the transition to new leadership, Schultz and her lawyers argued that the Florida Teamsters needed more time to mount a campaign against the PBA. But the Public Employees Relations Commission refused to postpone the distribution of the ballots, saying that to do so “would entangle the commission in an internal union dispute it does not have the authority to resolve.” Delaying the election would also “give the appearance that the commission is violating its duty to remain neutral in matters related to the election campaign,” commission Chairwoman Donna Maggert Poole wrote in a unanimous decision joined by Commissioners James Bax and Curt Kiser.  Read More →

September 27, 2016 | Read the story »


Manufacturers Council Partners With UWF

The Northwest Florida Manufacturers Council (NWFMC) has announced a stronger partnership with the University of West Florida.. The partnership with UWF will provide NWFMC manufacturing members no-cost access to in-depth manufacturing skills training. Examples of the types of training that will be available are Lean Six Sigma, Project Management Professional, and Process Mapping, to name a few. The council is currently working to finalize the course offerings that will provide maximum benefit to members. The partnership will also provide additional administration and marketing support to the council, allowing the council access to the highly experienced and well respected resources available at UWF. This additional support will allow the Council to reach out more broadly in this region, as well as expand existing and establish new skills training programs for both new and incumbent employees. The education, training, and administrative alliance with UWF has been created to complement the quality student development programs already established in the regions’ college network and in the manufacturing academy programs recently launched across Northwest Florida. The Council worked closely with its members and the National Manufacturing Skills Standard Council to implement a formal certification program within our local school system, providing students access to a curriculum specifically designed for achieving success in a manufacturing field. Through funding provided by the State of Florida, managed in partnership with UWF, the Council launched Manufacturing Academies in each of the Council’s 10 school districts. In year one, more than 1,000 middle and high school students in Northwest Florida were enrolled. “As the manufacturers’ council developed plans to strengthen the future of manufacturing in our region, we set the bar high,” said Ed Phelan, VP Operations for Maritech Machine and NWFMC chairman. “The retirement rate of our current manufacturing workforce is frightening. We recognized how critically important a world-class skilled workforce development program is to our future. Manufacturing today is very different from manufacturing a generation ago. It will take a concerted effort from both manufacturers and educators to show students, parents, and the many communities in our region that manufacturing provides high- paying careers for those willing to gain the skills required for a high-tech profession.” Kim Wilmes, President & CEO of Florida’s Great Northwest said, “Manufacturing is a cornerstone of Northwest Florida’s economy with more than 850 manufacturing companies currently in place.” She added, “Given the region’s infrastructure – physical and human – along with its geographic location, Northwest Florida is positioned for growth in advanced manufacturing. To continue this economic driver in Northwest Florida, we must ensure we have the skilled workforce needed to sustain and grow the industry sector. With this in mind, we are pleased to see the new partnership between NWFMC and UWF. Regional partnerships like this one make Northwest Florida a stronger and more attractive place to do business.”  Read More →

September 27, 2016 | Read the story »

Northview Football Names Players Of The Week

Northview Football Names Players Of The Week

Northview High School has named the following as Players of Week following the team’s win last Friday night at Vancleave, MS. Offensive Player of the Week: Entire offensive line for dominating the line of scrimmage and setting a physical tone for 4 quarters (Jared Aliff, Justin Helton, Dustin Bethea, Alston Wiggins, Dillon Clary, Hunter Cofield, Jason Fischer, Keegun Johnston) Defensive Player of the Week: Hunter Edwards: 8 tackles, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 interception and led the defense to only giving up 53 total yards to Vancleave Special Teams Player of the Week: Neikel Robinson: 2 punt returns, 66 yards Dominator: MJ Jones: Hit on #2 on punt return; Devin Stabler: 3rd down tackle on Vancleave sideline. strong>NorthEscambia.com photo by Gary Amerson, click to enlarge  Read More →

September 27, 2016 | Read the story »

Airport Boulevard To Be Closed At Railroad Crossing

Work was scheduled to begin today on Airport Boulevard at the railroad crossing, but now officials say that work will be postponed until next month, likely October 10. An update will be posted when CSX confirms that date with county officials. Airport Boulevard will be closed to both east and westbound traffic at the railroad crossing while CSX crews rehabilitate the track. The closure is expected to take three days, weather permitting. Closures due to railroad crossing repairs will also take place on Monday, Oct. 10 and Tuesday, Oct. 11. At 9 a.m. on Oct. 10 Hancock Lane will be closed to east and westbound traffic, followed by St. John Street at 10 a.m. At 6 a.m. on Oct. 11 East Cross Street will be closed to east and westbound traffic. All three closures are expected to take three days, weather permitting.  Read More →

September 26, 2016 | Read the story »

FWC Offering Hunter Safety Internet Completion Class In Molino

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is offering a free hunter safety internet-completion course this week in Molino. Students who have taken the online course and wish to complete the classroom portion must bring the online-completion report with them. All firearms, ammunition and materials are provided free of charge. Students should bring a pen or pencil and paper. An adult must accompany children younger than 16 at all times. Anyone born on or after June 1, 1975, must pass an approved hunter safety course and have a hunting license to hunt alone (unsupervised). The FWC course satisfies hunter-safety training requirements for all other states and Canadian provinces. The class will be offered September 27 from 6-10 p.m. and October 1 from 7-10 a.m. at the Molino Community Center, 6450 U.S. Highway 95A North. Those interested in attending a course can register online and obtain information about future hunter safety classes at MyFWC.com/HunterSafety or by calling the FWC’s regional office in Panama City at (850)265-3676.  Read More →

September 26, 2016 | Read the story »

State Board Set To Request More Money For Florida Schools

The Florida Board of Education appears ready to request another record figure of per-student funding for public education, setting a starting point for what is annually one of the most politically charged debates over the state budget. But the increase is likely to draw some of the same complaints as it has in the past: While the proposed per-student spending is more than ever in raw numbers, it has not kept up with inflation since a previous high-water mark was set nearly a decade ago. A draft of the request, posted on the Department of Education’s website Thursday, proposes spending almost $20.9 billion in state and local tax dollars next year through the main formula for funding public education in Florida, an increase of $721.6 million. The request is set to be adopted by the board at its meeting Friday, then sent to Gov. Rick Scott and legislative leaders for use in crafting the overall state spending plan for the fiscal year that will start July 1. On a per-student basis, the figure would grow from $7,183.92 in the current budget year to $7,359.85 next year. That represents growth of almost 2.5 percent. That is slightly above the amount that state economists project would flow to schools based on increased tax dollars from local property values if the state invested nothing more. That could allow state budget-writers to substantially increase funding for education with only a portion of the new funding — about $222.2 million — coming from a state budget already expected to be stretched thin. But it also could tangle the politics of the issue after lawmakers and Scott trumpeted an effort this year to hold property taxes flat, offsetting the lost income with state money. That left room for just a 1 percent increase in student funding this year. While Scott and other state leaders have bragged about increasing spending on state schools to record levels, the Florida Education Association teachers union has disputed that idea, saying those pronouncements don’t account for inflation since the 2007-08 budget year, when legislators hit what used to be the historical record. “Florida’s public schools and their students continue to make gains despite tepid financial support from the state,” said Mark Pudlow, a spokesman for the union. “When adjusted for inflation, this proposed budget still doesn’t equal what we were investing on our public schools a decade ago.” The plan to be considered by the board Friday would also do away with the Florida Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarship Program — which received $49 million in the current budget year. Instead, the department would create a $43 million program that would “support bonuses for new teachers who show great potential for and veteran teachers who have demonstrated the highest student academic growth among their peers,” according to meeting materials. Best and Brightest has been controversial because it bases teacher bonuses on educators’ scores on college-admissions tests. State officials were traveling for the board meeting, which will be held in Tampa, and could not immediately be reached to further explain the changes. In higher education, the budget requests an additional $29.1 million for the Bright Futures scholarship program to cover the costs of expanding the scholarships to cover summer courses. And a program aimed at drawing high-achieving students who receive national merit scholarship recognition to Florida colleges would grow by more than 41 percent, to $18.2 million. by Brandon Larrabee, The News Service of Florida  Read More →

September 26, 2016 | Read the story »

Bonus Gallery: Northview Beats Vancleave

The Northview Chiefs beat Vancleave, MS, Friday night. Click here for a photo gallery from Friday night’s Northview at Vancleave, MS game. For game details, click here. NorthEscambia.com photos by Gary Amerson, click to enlarge.  Read More →

September 26, 2016 | Read the story »

Over 5800 Local Ballots Headed To Military, Overseas Residents

The Escambia County Supervisor of Elections Office is sending over 5,800 vote-by-mail ballots to eligible military and overseas citizens. Voters will either receive their ballot by mail or electronically, depending on their chosen method of delivery.  Absent military voters and those living overseas can request, mark and track their vote-by-mail ballots electronically. Vote-by-mail ballots for all eligible domestic voters will be mailed beginning on Tuesday, October 4. The deadline to request a vote-by-mail ballot to be mailed for the General Election is 5 p.m. on Wednesday, November 2. To request or track your vote-by-mail ballot for the General Election, visit EscambiaVotes.com and click “Vote by Mail”, or contact the Supervisor of Elections Office at (850) 595-3900.  Read More →

September 26, 2016 | Read the story »

Bonus Gallery: Niceville Tops Tate

Friday night, the Tate Aggies fell to Niceville High School. For a photo gallery of raw, unedited photos from the game, click here. For a game summary, click here. NorthEscambia.com photos by Kristi Barbour, click to enlarge.  Read More →

September 26, 2016 | Read the story »

FDOT: Weekly Traffic Alerts

Drivers will encounter traffic disruptions on the following state roads in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties as crews perform construction and maintenance activities. Escambia County: Interstate 10 (I-10) / U.S. 29 Interchange Improvements Phase 1 – The inside lanes of U.S. 29 north and southbound near the I-10 interchange will be closed from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 25 through Thursday, Sept. 29 for drainage improvements. 9 Mile Road (from Pine Forest Road to U.S. 29) Widening - Clearing of trees and shrubs on the 2.6 mile segment between State Road (S.R.) 297 (Pine Forest Road) and S.R. 95 (U.S. 29) began Thursday, Sept. 22.  Drivers are reminded to watch for workers and equipment entering and exiting the roadway.  Lane closures are only permitted between the hours of 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. U.S. 29 (from I-10 to 9 Mile Road) Widening – Motorists will encounter lane closures near the U.S. 29/9 Mile Road overpass as workers prepare the area for the bridge replacement. Lane closures will only be permitted between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. I-10 (from Davis Highway to Scenic Highway)Widening – Traffic on Scenic Highway (U.S. 90) northbound will be shifted to the newly constructed northbound travel lanes beginning Wednesday, Sept. 28. The shift will allow crews to install the concrete traffic separator in the median between the north and southbound lanes and open the park and ride facility. Santa Rosa County: I-10 Resurfacing - Intermittent and alternating lane closures east and westbound between the S.R. 87 interchange and the Okaloosa County line from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 25 through Friday, Sept. 30 as crews perform construction activities.  Motorists are reminded the speed limit is reduced to 60 MPH within the lane closure. All activities are weather dependent and may be delayed or re-scheduled in the event of inclement weather. Drivers are reminded to use caution, especially at night, when traveling in a work zone and to watch for construction workers and equipment entering and exiting the roadway.  Read More →

September 25, 2016 | Read the story »

Florida Seat Belt Use At All-Time High

Seat-belt use is up to nearly 90 percent in Florida, the state Department of Transportation said Thursday. Of 31,055 drivers and 7,426 front-seat passengers observed in June, 89.6 percent were using the safety devices, the agency reported. The mark is the highest the state has recorded, with slightly lower percentages each year since 2009 when a law went into effect allowing police to pull over and ticket drivers and passengers for not wearing seat belts. When the law took effect, compliance was estimated at 85.2 percent. A year ago, the mark stood at 89.4 percent. In 2000, seat-belt use was estimated at 60.1 percent. The latest projection is based on observations of motorists taken at 165 sites in 15 counties.  Read More →

September 25, 2016 | Read the story »

Century Health And Rehab To Host Free First Responder Cookout

The Century Health and Rehabilitation Center is hosting a free cookout for all first responders this week. The cookout will be held from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. on  Thursday. All area fire, EMT, and law enforcement employees and volunteers are invited to attend. Pictured: First responders respond to a fire alarm the Century Health and Rehabilitation Center. NorthEscambia.com file photo, click to enlarge.  Read More →

September 25, 2016 | Read the story »

Florida Gov’t Weekly Roundup: The Times, They Are A-Changing

As fall settles over Tallahassee — at least in terms of the season, not the weather — state government is also going through some changes. There’s the actual, physical changes underway at the state Capitol, a construction project meant to repair parking garages and spruce up a main way that people enter the halls of government. There are the personnel changes, as a longtime member of Gov. Rick Scott’s administration retires and another agency head gives way to someone Scott has wanted to bring into state government. And there’s the other seasonal change that takes place every year, as state agencies ready their spending requests for Scott and the Legislature to consider. It marks the unofficial beginning of the process of haggling, bargaining and horse-trading that ends up with lawmakers approving a budget in the 11th hour of the spring legislative session — never before. But just like the green leaves are still on the trees in Tallahassee, there are a few old storylines to dispose of before moving on. And one of them dealt with Attorney General Pam Bondi. BONDI TALKS TRUMP There’s been plenty of speculation in 2016 about whether and how support for presidential nominee Donald Trump might hurt Republicans. But most of that has been speculative. Bondi is one of the few GOP officials to actually see her reputation undermined in real time by her association with Trump. And on Tuesday, just before the start of a Cabinet meeting, Bondi tried another round of damage control over assertions that a $25,000 political contribution from Trump influenced her office in 2013 to dismiss allegations that Floridians had been bilked by the modestly named Trump University. In Bondi’s telling, only a single complaint had been filed by a Floridian against the Trump educational company between the time she took office in 2011 and the time of the donation. She also said she had no knowledge of the complaint at the time it was made and that a lower-level staff member found no justification to investigate. “There was one complaint by one citizen against Donald Trump in 2011,” Bondi said. “I had absolutely no idea, nor would I have had an idea that there was one complaint.” Bondi said she had no regret about the contribution, which was made from Trump’s charity foundation to a political committee known as “And Justice for All,” which helped in her successful 2014 re-election bid. She said her mistake had been in failing to personally address media questions about the contribution earlier. “I hate that this is taking away from all the things we can be doing to help people,” Bondi said. Despite Trump’s statements on the campaign trail that he has given contributions to other politicians to get favors, Bondi said there were no strings attached with the 2013 contribution to her re-election effort. “I would never, ever trade any campaign donation for some type of favor to anyone,” Bondi said. PUTNAM AND THE PARKING DECKS If he still has some spare money lying around, maybe Trump could help the state pay for emergency repairs to two underground parking decks at the Capitol and planned upgrades to a main entry plaza. The potential bill for those changes is a bit more than $25,000 — in fact, it’s 3,000 times as much, or $75 million. Department of Management Services Secretary Chad Poppell, whose agency oversees the complex, said officials should have a better grasp on some of the costs in about a month when updated figures are available on the already-closed Senate garage. “These projects are very complex, about half of the cost is just getting the building ready to work on,” Poppell said. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam had aesthetic and fiscal concerns with the project, describing the minimalistic renderings that Poppell’s office is using to showcase the project as “not particularly attractive” and asking about less-expensive options. “Seventy-five million (dollars), and to only have to show for it two parking garages that are not collapsing on each other and ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessibility, is extraordinary to me,” Putnam said. ALL SHOOK UP? It might be a bit much to say that Scott’s administration underwent a shake-up this week, but there were changes atop two of the agencies that provide services to vulnerable Floridians. Liz Dudek, a longtime state health official who helped lead an overhaul of the Medicaid program, is retiring as secretary of the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, Scott announced Wednesday. Dudek is one of the longest-serving officials remaining under a governor known for agency-head turnover. She has served as secretary since March 2011, shortly after Scott took office. “Liz Dudek has been a part of my team since my first year in office and has spent over four decades serving Florida families,” Scott said in a prepared statement. “She cares deeply about making our state the best place for families. Under her leadership, we have worked to make hospitals more transparent and accomplished historic Medicaid reform.” Dudek will be replaced on an interim basis by Deputy Secretary Justin Senior. The announcement did not explain Dudek’s reasons for leaving the agency, which is primarily responsible for running the Medicaid program but also is involved in regulating hospitals, nursing homes and other health providers. Meanwhile, after having sent his resume to seemingly every human-resources office in state government, Jeffrey Bragg got a government post: The insurance expert will head up the Department of Elder Affairs, which as the name implies oversees services for older Floridians. Just hours after Dudek’s retirement was announced, Scott sent out another press release saying Bragg will serve as secretary of the Department of Elder Affairs. Bragg follows Sam Verghese, who began leading the department in December 2014 and will now “pursue opportunities in the private sector,” Scott’s office said. In a statement announcing the appointment, Scott said Bragg’s experience would prepare him for the job at the department. “He has over 40 years of experience in the public and private sectors, and is a proven leader who is uniquely qualified for this position,” Scott said. “His experience as well as his management skills will bring new ideas to the department. I am confident he will be a great advocate for the elderly in our state.” The 67-year-old Palm Harbor resident, a former executive director of the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Terrorism Risk Insurance Program and senior vice president at Zurich Risk Management in New Jersey, had already tried unsuccessfully for the job of state insurance commissioner and a spot on the Public Service Commission. Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater nixed Scott’s push for Bragg to be insurance commissioner, and a PSC nominating council did not forward Bragg’s name to Scott. SCHOOL ECONOMICS Even in tight budget years, like the one the state will face come July 1, it’s politically expedient for lawmakers to try to hold public education harmless or even spend a bit more on schools. The debate over what that means for 2017 began in earnest Friday, when the Florida Board of Education approved a request to plow another $721.6 million into the main formula for public education. Nearly 70 percent of the new funding would come from local property taxpayers, who will see their bills climb along with their property values. But the money would allow the Legislature to spend $7,359.85 a student, an increase of almost 2.5 percent from the current budget year. The Florida Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, highlighted a common caveat used whenever a new “record” is set on per-student spending: The previous high-water mark was set in 2007-08. “Florida’s public schools and their students continue to make gains despite tepid financial support from the state,” said Mark Pudlow, a spokesman for the FEA. “When adjusted for inflation, this proposed budget still doesn’t equal what we were investing on our public schools a decade ago.” The Department of Education is just one of several state agencies trying to complete legislative budget requests — wish lists that Scott and the Legislature use to construct the budget. For example, state universities are asking for an additional $14.5 million to hire more mental-health professionals as they deal with a 48 percent increase in the number of students seeking counseling. At least eight out of the 12 universities don’t meet staffing standards recommended by experts, because they have more than 1,500 students for each mental-health professional on campus. The inadequate staffing has led to waiting lists, fewer counseling sessions and the need to rely on off-campus services, which are not covered by student health fees. “What we can’t do is see every student who walks in our door for psychotherapy,” said Carlos Gomez, a licensed psychologist and director of Florida State University’s counseling center. “We are referring in record numbers out into the community.” STORY OF THE WEEK: Gov. Rick Scott’s office announced that Liz Dudek, who led the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration for more than five years, is retiring from her post. QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “I attended funerals with the governor. I went to the morgue. We can never let that happen again here in Florida.”—Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Rick Swearingen, remembering the aftermath of the Pulse nightclub shooting and explaining a proposal to set up seven anti-terrorism squads. by Brandon Larrabee, The News Service of Florida  Read More →

September 25, 2016 | Read the story »

Escambia Attorney Indicted On Federal Tax Charges

An Escambia County attorney has been indicted on federal income tax charges. James R.J. Scheltema, 56, of Pensacola, made an initial appearance Friday in the U.S. District Court in Pensacola after a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging him with filing false tax returns and tax evasion. The indictment was announced by Christopher P. Canova, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Florida. The indictment alleges that Scheltema filed false tax returns, claiming a total tax of $18 for 2011  and $1,369 for 2012, when he knew his total tax exceeded that amount. The indictment further alleges that Scheltema attempted to evade paying tax on his taxable income of $598,291 for the calendar year 2013 by failing to file a timely income tax return and later filing a false tax return. The arraignment is scheduled for September 28.  The case resulted from an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service—Criminal Investigation. Assistant United States Attorney David L. Goldberg is prosecuting the case.  Read More →

September 24, 2016 | Read the story »

Escambia Man Pleads Guilty In Federal ISIS Investigation

An Escambia County man has pleaded guilty to federal investigators in an ISIS related investigation. Robert Blake Jackson, 31, of Pensacola, pleaded guilty Friday to making materially false statements in a federal investigation. In October 2014, Jackson’s Facebook profile contained comments, photos, and videos expressing support for extremist terrorist groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS). In January 2015, a Pensacola telemarketing corporation reported they recently fired Jackson for viewing ISIL-related and other terrorist-related websites and videos on his work computer. In June 2015, during an interview with the FBI, Jackson stated that he never posted any pro-ISIL or violent content and that he only used the internet at work to search news sites. At his plea hearing, Jackson admitted that these statements were false. Jackson faces a maximum of five years in prison. Jackson is currently in federal custody at the Santa Rosa County Jail. The sentencing hearing is scheduled for December 12 at the United States Courthouse in Pensacola. This case resulted from an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and the other members of the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force. Assistant United States Attorney David L. Goldberg is prosecuting the case.  Read More →

September 24, 2016 | Read the story »

High School Football Finals

Here’s a look at Friday night’s high school football final scores: FLORIDA Northview 25, VanCleave MS 3 Niceville 39, Tate 3 Graceville 50, Jay 7 West Florida 42, Gulf Breeze 33 Pine Forest 23, Milton 20 OT Catholic 35, PHS 34 L.C. Columbia 40, Escambia 20 Navarre 48, Fort Walton Beach 6 Bay 28, Washington 12 Baker 56 Rocky Bayou 6 ALABAMA Resurrection Catholic  MS 21, Escambia Academy 20 OT Escambia County (Atmore) 34, Hillcrest Evergreen 14 T.R. Miller 34,  Tallassee  27 Carroll 21,  W.S. Neal 0 Flomaton – OFF  Read More →

September 24, 2016 | Read the story »

Boil Water Notice Lifted For East Nine Mile Road, Holsberry Road Area

Effective immediately, the Precautionary Boil Water Notice – PBWN – issued by the ECUA following emergency repairs to a water main on September 20, has been lifted. The affected area included: E. Nine Mile Road, from Palafox St. to Chemstrand Road Holsberry Road Nims Ln., Holsberry Ln., Tulsa Dr., Sprague Dr., Craft St., Saleta St., Strandview Dr. Holsberry Pl. Edith Ln. Allison Ln. Results of two independent bacteriological samples have both returned as clear. PBWNs are issued as a part of the standard protocol following any loss of water pressure, whether as a result of planned maintenance activities or unscheduled repairs.  Read More →

September 23, 2016 | Read the story »

Pediatric Dental Clinic Opens Next Month In Century

Pediatric dental services will be available in Century beginning next month. Escambia Community Clinics will open their new ECC Century Pediatric Dental Clinic at 501 Church Street on October 10. The clinic will provide important oral health care services for children 0 to 20 years of age, and will provide dental exams, dental x-rays, dental cleanings/dental hygiene, dental extractions, fillings and tooth restorations, dental sealants and fluoride varnish, and oral health education. The ECC Century Pediatric Dental Clinic is now accepting calls for appointments Monday through Friday during business hours at (850) 724-4054. The child-friendly clinic will be open every Monday and Tuesday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Once open, same day appointments may be available, depending on clinic schedule. ECC said all children should see the dentist for a dental exam by the time they are 1 year old to help them start off a lifetime of healthy teeth, and tooth brushing should begin by the time the first baby tooth erupts. ECC Century Pediatric Dental Clinic accepts children covered by Florida Medicaid ages 0-20, children with DentaQuest dental insurance, children with no insurance (parents must complete ECC financial eligibility paperwork and receive approval for ECC charity/sliding fee program), and the clinic also accepts some private dental insurances. Organizers said Escambia Community Clinics plans to add a medical clinic at the same Century location in early 2017 as well as a pediatric medical site in the old Winn Dixie in Cantonment. Since 1992, the mission of Escambia Community Clinics  has been to provide comprehensive primary and preventive health care to the citizens of Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties and surrounding areas, with a special focus on access to care for the under-insured, uninsured, working poor and medically needy. ECC currently provides a wide range of services for both children and adults at eleven locations in Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties. During 2015, ECC provided over 98,500 patient visits to 32,622 individuals. ECC locations include a satellite medical location at 748 Highway 29 in Cantonment. Courtesy photo for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.  Read More →

September 23, 2016 | Read the story »

Supreme Court Clears Hunter On Muzzleloader Charge

Christopher Weeks donned camouflage and an orange vest and went hunting in February 2012 with a muzzleloader rifle that had been a Christmas gift from his wife. Then the problems started: A state wildlife officer saw Weeks’ pickup truck parked along a road in the Blackwater Wildlife Management Area in Santa Rosa County. And it turned out that Weeks had been convicted of a felony in the past, which led the officer to charge him with violating a law that bars convicted felons from possessing guns. But more than four years later, the Florida Supreme Court gave Weeks a reprieve Thursday. In a 5-2 decision, justices cleared Weeks on the gun-possession charge because state law treats antique firearms — and their replicas — different from other guns. The ruling said lawmakers exempted firearms manufactured in or before 1918 and their replicas from the prohibition on felons possessing guns. The majority opinion, written by Justice Barbara Pariente, delved into the details about what could be considered a replica weapon and, in a key issue, rejected arguments that Weeks’ rifle didn’t qualify because it also included a scope. “In this case, Weeks wanted to go hunting and, with his wife and his father, researched the law and determined that sections (of state law) allowed him to possess a replica of a 1918 black powder muzzleloader rifle with a percussion cap ignition system. … His rifle was modified only with respect to the attached scope,” said Pariente’s opinion, joined fully by Chief Justice Jorge Labarga and justices Ricky Polston and James E.C. Perry. “When the felon-in-possession statute is construed in the light most favorable to the defendant, Weeks’ rifle’s attached scope did not remove his firearm from the statutory exemption.” Justice Charles Canady wrote a concurring opinion that was joined by Labarga and Polston. But Justice R. Fred Lewis, in a dissenting opinion joined by Justice Peggy Quince, wrote that scope disqualified the rifle from being considered a replica. “Although the firearm may have relied upon an ignition mechanism used by similar firearms before 1918, it also featured a scope that was not found on weapons that were available in 1918,” Lewis wrote. “In my view, such a firearm cannot constitute an antique firearm as defined by Florida law.” Weeks, whose father is a retired law-enforcement firearms instructor, pleaded no contest to the charge of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and was sentenced to three years of probation, the majority opinion said. Despite the plea, he appealed based on arguments that the part of the law dealing with replica firearms was unconstitutionally vague. The 1st District Court of Appeal ruled in Weeks’ favor on the constitutional issue, spurring prosecutors to take the case to the Supreme Court. In her opinion Thursday, Pariente said it was unnecessary to rule on the constitutional issue because the case could be decided by interpreting the definitions and wording in state law. In a brief filed last year, Weeks’ attorney wrote that the muzzleloader, which was purchased at a Bass Pro Shop, was similar to a gun from the Civil War era. by Jim Saunders, The News Service of Florida NorthEscambia.com file photo, click to enlarge.  Read More →

September 23, 2016 | Read the story »

Fire Departments Train At Future Beulah Middle School Site

Thanks to an agreement with the school board, Escambia County firefighters have some extra training this month. The Escambia County School District purchased the former Coastal Airport on Nine Mile Road in Beulah to construct a new Beulah Middle School. The school board has allowed the Beulah Station of Escambia Fire Rescue, along with firefighters from across the county, to use the buildings on the property for training purposes. A groundbreaking is planned at the site at 9 a.m. on October 28 for the new Beulah Middle School. Pictured: Firefighters train on abandoned building at the Coastal Airport Property on Nine Mile Road. Photos for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.  Read More →

September 23, 2016 | Read the story »

Winning $66K Fantasy Five Ticket Sold In North Escambia

Someone is over $66,000 richer this morning after purchasing a winning Florida Lottery Fantasy 5 ticket in Davisville. The ticket sold at the State Line Gift Shop, 11208 Highway 97, was one of three winning tickets sold for Thursday night’s drawing worth $66,188.82. Other winning tickets matching all five numbers was sold in Crystal River and Poinciana. The 298 tickets matching four numbers won $107 each. Another 8,958  tickets matching three numbers are worth $10 each, and 87,885 tickets holders won a Quick Pick ticket for picking two numbers. Thursday’s winning numbers were 05-11-18-28-36.  Read More →

September 23, 2016 | Read the story »

Volleyball Photo Gallery: Central Tops Northview

The Northview Chiefs fell to Central Thursday in high school volleyball action. For a photo gallery, click here. JV 19-25, 22-25 Central wins Varsity 20-25, 18-25, 14-25 Central wins The Chiefs travel to Laurel Hill on Tuesday before hosting Jay next Thursday. NorthEscambia.com photos, click to enlarge.  Read More →

September 23, 2016 | Read the story »

Lawsuit Settled Over Florida Inmate Health Care

The Florida Department of Corrections and former prison health-care provider Corizon have agreed to pay about $2.1 million to settle a class-action lawsuit alleging that the state agency and the company denied hernia operations to inmates to save money. Under the settlement, Corizon agreed to pay $1.7 million to current and former inmates. The Department of Corrections agreed to pay $150,000 for legal fees and costs. Corizon would have to pay the rest of the legal fees and costs, which are capped at $385,000. Florida Justice Institute Executive Director Randall Berg filed the lawsuit last year on behalf of about 2,000 inmates, months before Corizon walked away from a five-year, $1.2 billion contract with the state three years early. According to a consent order given preliminary approval Thursday by U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle, the state and Corizon “continue to vigorously deny all allegations contained in the complaint,” but agreed to the settlement “to avoid costly and protracted litigation.” The three inmates who filed the lawsuit — Tracy Copeland, Archie Green and Amado Parra — will each receive payments of $5,000, plus attorneys’ fees and costs. An estimated 311 current or former inmates who sought treatment for hernias at prisons where Corizon handled health care will receive $2,733.12, and another 1,637 will receive $519.24. The lawsuit detailed numerous inmates’ years-long struggles to get hernia operations. The lawsuit alleged that inmates were repeatedly denied consultations with surgeons or were not allowed to have surgery once doctors decided it was necessary. The consent order approved by Hinkle also will require the corrections agency to change its health-care policy regarding hernias to ensure that prisoners are referred to surgeons for consultations and that the surgeons’ recommendations are carried out. “This settlement is one step toward the overall improvement of medical care for all incarcerated people in Florida,” Berg said in a prepared statement. by The News Service of Florida NorthEscambia.com file photos.  Read More →

September 23, 2016 | Read the story »

No Serious Injuries In Four-Vehicle, One Pedestrian Crash Near Walnut Hill

There were no serious injuries in a four-vehicle crash involving a pedestrian early Thursday morning near Walnut Hill. The accident happened about 5:30 a.m. on Pine Forest Road near Deer Lake Road. Witnesses said hunters in three pickup trucks were parked on the shoulder of the road when the driver of a Ford Expedition left the roadway and rear-ended one truck, pushing the other trucks together. A man standing between the front of one truck and the open tailgate of another truck was struck between the two vehicles, leaving a rounded indention in the tailgate. He refused medical treatment. The driver of the Expedition was transported to Atmore Community Hospital with minor injuries. The accident remains under investigation by the Florida Highway Patrol. Further details have not been released. The Walnut Hill Station of Escambia Fire Rescue and Atmore Ambulance also responded to the crash.  Read More →

September 22, 2016 | Read the story »

Bratt Superhero Boy On A Mission To Thank Law Enforcement

Tyler Carach is a Bratt Elementary School student by day, and an after school superhero that’s on a mission to thank law enforcement officers. Tyler and his mother Sheena, who is a former police officer, created the “I DONUT need a reason to THANK a cop” program  after an encounter with Escambia County Sheriff’s deputies at Gilley’s Store in Bratt during the summer. He asked if he could use some of his own money to buy doughnuts for the officers. He purchased four packs of chocolate doughnuts to share with the deputies. He learned that there are  just over 400 sworn officers in the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office, and he composed a letter to a the Krispy Kreme on 9th Avenue asking for a discounted bulk price. The store manager instead donated 420 doughnuts to the project. Tyler, dressed in a superhero doughnut cape, delivered the doughnuts to Sheriff David Morgan and his department. “It was really cool and fun I love getting to meet one of the dogs and one of the horses and I also found a lizard outside the Sheriff’s Office,” Tyler said. “The sheriff gave me a really cool coin and said it was very special. It was called a challenge coin. I got to go on the command center and also sit in the SWAT mobile — that’s like the Batmobile but way cooler.” Thursday, Tyler continued on his mission to thank every cop in America with a visit to the Flomaton Police Department. He provided each officer with doughnuts and a goodie bag. He was able to test out the siren, public address system and computer in a brand new Dodge Charger patrol car, and he even raced a couple of officers on foot. His request to play with an officer’s pepper spray and Taser was cheerfully denied for safety reasons. “I like cops because they are the best and they are my friends and they like one of my favorite dessert — doughtnuts, he said. “They wear blue and green and those are two of my favorite colors. I like drinking coffee and they like coffee too it helps them stay awake when they have to work all night long to keep us safe.” Tyler hopes to be a law enforcement professional one day. “I want to be a cop to keep people and my family safe like the cops keep me and my family safe,” he said. “I also want to stop bad guys like bank robbers and stuff. I want to be a SWAT because they have riot shields and I want to be a canine because they have dogs and I love them and they are really cute.” Mom Sheena said Tyler is remarkably quiet and reserved at a school and home. But put him in a room of police officers, like Thursday’s visit to Flomaton, and he’s extremely into his zone — even trading tips on dealing with bad guys and making arrests. Through his Facebook page (click here), Tyler is working on finalizing an Adopt-A-Cop program with the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office to connect residents with deputies. He will be collecting goodie bags with items like gum, candy, hand sanitizer, pens, notepads and other item. And he is working on plans to visit more departments, spreading his message one doughnut at a time. “You DONUT need a reason to thank a cop because everything they do is a reason to thank them, so if you see a cop today, take a second to say thank you,” Tyler said. Pictured top: Bratt resident Tyler Carach servers a doughnut Thursday afternoon at Flomaton Police Chief Bryan Davis. Pictured bottom inset: Tyler with members of the Flomaton Police Department. Pictured first below: Tyler checks out the interior of a 2016 Dodge Charger police vehicle. Pictured second below: Tyler’s doughnut mission started with four Escambia County deputies at Gilley’s Store in Bratt. Pictured bottom: Tyler with Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan. NorthEcambia.com photo and courtesy photos, click to enlarge.  Read More →

September 22, 2016 | Read the story »

Deferred Prosecution For Task Force Members; State Still Contends Century Violated Sunshine Law

The four individuals accused of violating Florida’s Sunshine Law won’t be prosecuted, but the State Attorney’s Office remains steadfast that a violation occurred and has the put the Town of Century on notice. The former members of a Citizens Advisory Task Force — Alfonzie Cottrell, Helen Mincy, Sylvia Godwin, and Robert Mitchell — previously pleaded not guilty to a noncriminal violation of the Florida Government in the Sunshine Law. They were charged by the State Attorney’s Office with having a public meeting that was not properly advertised. On July 26, a meeting was advertised in a legal notice to begin at 4:00 p.m. The meeting was actually held at 2:00 p.m., preventing the public from attending. If convicted, each defendant faced a maximum fine of $500. Each defendant has signed a deferred prosecution agreement with the State Attorney’s Office under which charges will be dropped if the defendant has no violation of the law  and resigns their position on the Citizens Advisory Task Force or completes an online training course regarding the Sunshine Law. If the individuals meet the conditions, the charge will be dropped in six months. The State Attorney’s Office said any fees or costs in connection with the case will also be waived. In letters from defense attorney Kim Skievaski to Century Mayor Freddie McCall and the Century Town Council, each of the four task force members resigned their positions effective September 12. Skievaski was hired by by the town at $300 per hour to represent the four defendants. At last Monday night’s meeting of the Century Town Council, McCall, reading from an email from town attorney Matt Dannheisser, said “the state will completely dismiss the charges….nor is there any suggestion much less an admission of guilt”.  In a paragraph of the email McCall did not read to his council,  Dannheisser said he would hold off until the agreement was formally entered into court records before the “issuance of any statement demonstrating that there was no violation in the first instance”.  He said he would meet with the prosecutor to understand his reasoning, and “unless he can convince me that he had a good basis for his action, I will issue a letter supporting the town and explaining that there was no violation and that was likely the reason the persecutor essentially dropped the charges.” After being provided a copy of Dannheisser’s email, Assistant State Attorney Greg Marcille wrote a letter to Dannheisser calling his conclusions “incorrect”. “There was a clear violation of the Sunshine Law by holding a public meeting at a time other than what was advertised in a public notice. The decision to dispose of this case by Deferred Prosecution was not based on the strength of the case but rather on mitigation circumstance. These circumstances, including the age of the individuals, their agreement to resign from the Citizen Advisory Task Force, and the considerable responsibility of the Town of Century in allowing the violation to occur, convinced this office that Deferred Prosecution was appropriate,” Marcille wrote. “The Office of the State Attorney has always taken a strong position regarding the enforcement of Florida’s Government in the Sunshine Law and Florida’s Public Records Law. We will continue to take this position in the future,” the assistant state attorney concluded. A public notice published on NorthEscambia.com and in the weekly Tri-City Ledger newspaper in Flomaton, AL, stated that the Town of Century’s Community Development Block Grant Citizen’s Advisory Task Force (CATF) would meet at Century Town Hall at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, July 26. “The public notice for the CATF meeting provided by our firm had a typographical error that listed the time for the meeting as 4:00 p.m. instead of the correct time of 2:00 p.m.,” town consultant Robin Phillips of Jones-Phillips and Associates said, adding that letter sent to the CATF member specified a 2:00 meeting time. “There was never any intent on the Town’s or on our part to mislead or misinform anyone.  It was an unintentional typographical error, ” Phillips said in a letter to NorthEscambia.com. Marcille said his office will continue to stand behind a letter from State Attorney Bill Eddins to McCall. The letter reads: “This office has completed its review of allegations that members of the Citizens Advisory Task Force violated the Florida Government in the Sunshine Law by holding a public meeting at a time other than what was advertised in the public  notice. Based upon our review, we have determined that a Sunshine Law violation has occurred. As a result of that decision, we have filed noncriminal infraction charges against the members of that task force. We have also determined that the Town of Century bears considerable responsibility in this matter. “In this case, public notices were advertised on NorthEscambia.com and in the Tri-City Ledger that the Citizens Advisory Task Force would hold a public meeting on July 26, 2016, at 4:00 p.m. The time listed on the notice was incorrect and should have stated 2:00 p.m. The meeting  was held at 2:00 p.m. and concluded before 4:00 p.m. As a result, this meeting was held outside the Sunshine and without proper notice to the public. It is unclear if the problem with the erroneous time was ever discussed at the meeting. To avoid this issue occurring in the future, we recommend that at the beginning of all public meetings, the advertised notice be clearly reviewed on the record to determine that the meeting has been properly advertised. “It is also apparent that the members of the Citizens Advisory Task Force were not sufficiently educated as to their responsibilities under the Florida Government in the Sunshine Law. We recommend that the Town of Century immediately establish training programs for all individuals serving on Sunshine boards or committees. We recommend that an outside agency such as the First Amendment Foundation be used for the training. “Finally, concerns have been raised that the Town of Century has not adequately advertised the  dates and times of public meetings. We recommend that the Town follow the suggestions of the Attorney General’s Office regarding public notices. These recommendations indicated that all meetings, with the exception of emergency or special meetings, should be advertised at least seven days prior to the meeting. Special meetings should be given notice of no less than 24 hours but preferably at least 72 hours notice should be given to the public. Emergency meetings  should be afforded the most appropriate and effective notice under the circumstances. This notice should contain the date, time, and place of the meeting, as well as a copy of the agenda or statement of the general subject matter to be considered.” Pictured top: CATF members Helen Mincy, Robert Mitchell and Sylvia Godwin during a CATF meeting on Thursday, July 28. Alfonzie Cottrell was not present at the July 28 meeting. Pictured inset and below: The Century Town Hall was locked and the parking lot empty just 4 p.m. Tuesday, July 26, the time of a publicly noticed town task force meeting. NorthEscambia.com photos, click to enlarge.  Read More →

September 22, 2016 | Read the story »

Cantonment Man Charged With Tom Thumb Robbery

A Cantonment man has been arrested for the September 10 armed robbery of a local convenience store. Jonathan Mark Vito, 44, was charged with robbery with a firearm, a first degree felony. He was booked into the Escambia County Jail with bond set at $50,000. Vito allegedly entered the Tom Thumb on Highway 29 and Woodbury Court  about 12:20 a.m. on September 10 and brought a pack of beer to the counter, where he told the clerk that he forgot his wallet and that he would be back. Vito returned to the store about 12:40 a.m. and asked for a pack of cigarettes in addition to the beer. Vito then allegedly demanded the clerk open the register, showing a gun in his waistband. He then grabbed the cigarettes and beer and fled the store in an unknown direction. Vito was later identified from surveillance images and by his clothing, according to an arrest report. The report states he lives with a his mother a short distance from the store, and she told deputies that he was not at a home at the time of the robbery. In early August,  Sheriff’s investigators said they believe two previous robberies at the store were committed by the same suspect. The store was robbed on July 4 and again on July 29. In both robberies, the suspect walked behind the counter and took cash from the register without producing a weapon. Vito has not been named a suspect in the July robberies. Pictured above and below: The Tom Thumb at Highway 29 and Woodbury Circle was robbed during the early morning hours on September 10. NorthEscambia.com photo by Kristi Barbour, click to enlarge.  Read More →

September 22, 2016 | Read the story »

Tate Cheerleaders To Hold Lil’ Aggies Fall Cheer Clinic

The Tate High School cheerleaders will be holding a Cheer Clinic for kids age 5-2. The clinic on October 1 will be held in the new gym from 9:30 until 11:30 a.m.  Participants will be taught proper stretch techniques, sideline cheers and chants, dances and more. Each athlete will receive a t-shirt and take part in a pre-game cheer and the run-through for the game on October 7. For more information see a Tate Cheerleader, email jking5@escambia.k12.fl.us, or see the Tate Cheerleaders Facebook page. The deadline to register is September 23. Registration forms can be dropped off at Tate High School (given to Jessica King), Ransom Middle School (given to Karen Potter), or given to a Tate Varsity Cheerleader. Click here to print a registration form.  Read More →

September 22, 2016 | Read the story »