Local News

Florida panther released back into the wild at Big Cypress National Preserve

Florida panther released back into the wild at Big Cypress National Preserve

A 2-year-old Florida panther is now back in the wild at its new home in Big Cypress National Preserve. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), and National Park Service staff successfully released the panther Wednesday afternoon near Gum Slough in the southwest corner of the Preserve.

The panther was originally captured by the FWC and USFWS on April 12 at the Farm Worker Village neighborhood, near Immokalee in Collier County. Based on observations of the panther’s behavior, including evidence that pets and feral domestic cats in the neighborhood had frequently been preyed upon by the panther, as well as the specific layout of thick vegetation in and around Farm Worker Village, a decision was made to remove and relocate the panther as a safety precaution and as a form of aversive conditioning intended to change the panther’s behavior.

Once captured, FWC staff transported the panther to Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo where it received multiple health assessments, primarily to ensure that it did not test positive for feline leukemia. Zoo veterinary professionals gave the panther a clean bill of health and determined it was ready to be returned to the wild in a more remote area.

Biologists believe the panther was dispersing from its mother, attempting to find a suitable home range. With the release of the male into the Preserve the main threats it continues to face are being killed by another territorial male in the vicinity or being killed by vehicle collision as it continues to roam to find a suitable home range.

The FWC and USFWS staff are working with residents of the Farm Worker Village to prevent future conflicts with Florida panthers. Biologists have made numerous site visits and have held multiple meetings at the Village to provide information about steps residents can take to reduce risk and to deter panthers and bears from lingering in the area. The FWC and USFWS are also working with the property manager to address overgrown vegetation in and around the neighborhood.

For more information about coexisting with panthers, visit FloridaPanthernet.org and click on “Living in Panther Country” in the top left corner

Charles Murphy News 5/27

News Cast for May 27th:

Guy Harvey Outpost changed the basis of their proposal to the county commission in the plans to redevelop Okee Tantie yesterday. The company now wants to purchase a portion of the park instead of a long term lease. The offer would be 1.2 million within the next five years should the project get off the ground. They also offered to operate and make improvements to the Scott Driver boat ramp and also an airboat park at nearby hog island that would remain in county ownership.

Christian Bockoras

Christian Bockoras

Commissioners for the most part were willing to listen to the proposal and didn’t dismiss it outright. The company would call the facility the Lake Okeechobee club.  They would plan to sell 4 hundred and 50 lots for 1 hundred thousand dollars apiece and give a small percentage of the sales to the county. They could invest up to 42 million in the project.

Another first step would be to lease for three years the current Lightsey’s restaurant as an office as the project gets underway. Airboaters expressed some concerns about their rights and having a launch site on Lake Okeechobee. The county would also see the benefits of job creation, sales taxes, and ad valorem taxes from the property they sell and lease.

County commissioners Thursday also decided to demolish the former Dunklin rest home which was the counties first hospital and also the facility used for the Okeechobee Rehab Center and thrift shop.

Kristin Bockoras

Kristin Bockoras

An Okeechobee man was charged with leading Okeechobee deputies on a two mile long high speed chase through residential neighborhoods late Wednesday.  56 year old Michael Hume was charged with fleeing and eluding police and reckless driving.  He pulled over after being spotted speeding on North East 12th Street and allegedly running a couple stop signs.

Two residents allegedly addicted to drugs conspired to use credit cards taken in a car burglary to run up 9 hundred dollars in fraudulent transactions.  Charged are 26 year old Christian Bockoras and 25 year old Kristin Bockoras on charges that include fraudulent use of a credit card.  Video surveillance cameras in local stores helped catch the pair.

Kristen and Christian Arrest Report

05 26 2016 Press News Release Arrest Made in Lake Placid Shooting

05 26 2016 Press News Release Lake Placid High Teacher Arrested

Glades Co US 27 5-27-16

Sports Cast for May 27th:

Brahman spring football was complicated by bad weather in the final days and a cancelled Purple White game. Coach Chris Branham said he met some of the team’s goals this spring.

He said the team suffered too many injuries on the offensive line at the spring game with John Carroll to hold the inter squad scrimmage. He said he kept the playbook simple to give QB Bubba Fludd run and pass options.


Branham said the team continues to lack depth.  A few players left the squad after they played sparingly in the spring game.  Many of them were defensive players. On defense, he said the kids showed some effort and concentration.

Branham 2

The team has multiple camps to attend this summer starting in June.

Boatsetter promotes, practices safety during National Safe Boating Week

Boatsetter promotes, practices safety during National Safe Boating Week

**Members of the media interested in interviewing a Boatsetter Representative on this topic are encouraged
to contact Thanos Genos at 813.279.8335 or tgenos@judgepr.com

MIAMI – As National Safe Boating Week draws to a close, Boatsetter, an international peer-to-peer boat rental service, is continuing its commitment to safety by promoting safe boating practices to the public every day of the year.

The National Safe Boating Week initiative was established by the National Safe Boating Council and focuses on spreading safe boating practices through education, outreach and training.

To better ensure the safety of everyone aboard while out on the water, experts from Boatsetter and the Coast Guard recommend exercising these safe boating habits every time you set sail:

  • Boaters should always file a float plan with a friend or family member before heading out on the water. A float plan should include a description of the boat being used, who is on board, destinations, and the expected time of return.
  • Boat operators should ensure passengers have access to properly sized life jackets and are wearing them properly while underway.
  • Make sure to have proper and required safety equipment onboard like a fire extinguisher, life jackets, throwable floatation device, whistle or noise producing device.
  • Boatsetter recommends for boaters to have a VHF marine radio, and an emergency position indicating radio beacon. In the event of an emergency, an EPIRB can transmit your location to first responders via satellite.
  • Always check the weather before getting underway, and remain diligent of changing weather conditions while out on the water.
  • Never operate a boat or personal watercraft while under the influence of alcohol or other substances. According to the Coast Guard, alcohol is the leading cause of boating related deaths, and the impaired operation of a boat is punishable by law.

Additionally, Boatsetter recommends for boaters to download the Coast Guard’s free mobile application, which allows boaters to maintain a float plan, check extended weather forecasts, and ensure their vessel is up to the proper safety codes and regulations through a comprehensive checklist.

“We work hard at Boatsetter to ensure that when we connect boats, captains and renters, they have a safe and unforgettable experience on the water,” said Pablo Vidal, chief marketing officer of Boatsetter.com. “National Safe Boating week is a time to highlight the best practices we and other boaters follow and to encourage all boaters getting underway to ensure they are operating legally and following all proper safety protocols.”

Currently, Boatsetter is the only peer-to-peer boat-sharing company that complies with all local, state and federal laws. This includes covering taxes and most importantly, ensuring a Coast Guard licensed captain is, in fact, the person chartering the boat, which is required by federal law.

Other companies may allow for boat owners without a license, to take people out on their boats, which places not only the passengers at risk, but also leaves the owners liable for the violation of 46 U.S.C. 2101 (42)(B). According to the Coast Guard’s prevention department, in accordance with 46 U.S.C. 4106, if an uninspected passenger vessel is operated in violation of the applicable laws or regulations, the owner, charterer, managing operator, agent, master and individual in charge are each liable to the United States Government for civil penalties. The vessel is also subject to civil forfeiture.

Now you can rent your boat in a safe and legal manner, thanks to Boatsetter. They also provide the industry’s leading insurance to its users, which covers all parties involved in the rental process. In addition, Boatsetter customers have access to 24/7 on the water, emergency assistance.

For more information about Boatsetter, visit www.boatsetter.com.

Governor Rick Scott Appoints Susan H. Rothstein-Youakim to the Second District Court of Appeal

Governor Rick Scott Appoints Susan H. Rothstein-Youakim to the Second District Court of Appeal

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today, Governor Rick Scott announced the appointment of Susan H. Rothstein-Youakim to the Second District Court of Appeal.

Rothstein-Youakim, 46, of Tampa, has been an Assistant United States Attorney for the United States Attorney’s Office in the Middle District of Florida since 1995. Rothstein-Youakim received her bachelor’s degree from Duke University and her law degree from the University of Florida College of Law. She fills a vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Chris W. Altenbernd.

Commissioner Adam H. Putnam Tours Department’s Zika Testing Laboratory

Commissioner Adam H. Putnam Tours Department’s Zika Testing Laboratory

KISSIMMEE, Fla.–Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam today toured the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Bronson Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, which has recently been equipped to test mosquitoes for the Zika virus. The laboratory, located in Kissimmee, Fla., can now test for the virus in the vector mosquito species, Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, and it has tested samples from four counties to date. All results were negative.

The laboratory routinely tests for diseases that affect both animals and humans, such as Avian Influenza, Tuberculosis and West Nile Virus. In response to the Zika public health crisis in Florida, Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam had the laboratory updated to be able to test mosquito samples.

“With the height of mosquito season fast approaching, and the number of travel-related cases of Zika in Florida leading the nation, it is paramount that we use every tool available to protect Floridians and visitors,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam. “We will continue to support the Florida Department of Health and local mosquito control programs in this collaborative effort.”

While the Florida Department of Health is the lead agency in this public health crisis, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has continued to support efforts by:

  • Regularly communicating with local mosquito control districts to discuss mosquito surveillance and mosquito control efforts;
  • Co-hosting with the University of Florida seven workshops for mosquito control programs throughout the state;
  • Educating private pest control operators on Zika-specific responses should they need to augment existing response efforts;
  • Providing technical assistance to mosquito control districts and the Department of Health regarding the CDC’s arbovirus guidelines; and
  • Obtaining and disseminating traps specifically for the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus

For more information regarding Zika, visit the Florida Department of Health’s website here.

Start of Hurricane Season

Start of Hurricane Season

June 1st starts the beginning on hurricane season. Colorado State Universities’ Department of Atmospheric Science has predicted that we will have an average season this year; with a total of 12 named storms, with two of them being major hurricanes. Even though the season is predicted to be average this does not mean that we should be complacent in our preparedness efforts. It is important to have a pre-packed “go kit” that includes 72 hours’ worth of supplies for each member of your family. This includes medication, canned food, cash, flashlights, batteries and anything else that is you believe is necessary. Don’t forgot your family pets. They will also need their own “go kit” with 72 hours’ worth of supplies.

Now is also the time to go over any insurance policies, family safety plans and evacuation plans your family may have. If you live in a flood zone, you could be asked to evacuate. Now is the time to decide where your family would go, how to get there, and how you plan to get back once the danger has passed. If you have any questions, contact Glades County Emergency Management at 863-946-6020. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook (Glades County Emergency Management) and Twitter (@GladesCountyEM).

Critical Funding Bill for Everglades Restoration Fails House

Critical Funding Bill for Everglades Restoration Fails House

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Tom Rooney (FL-17), a member of the House Appropriations Committee, released the following statement after H.R. 5055, the FY 2017 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill, failed to pass the House of Representatives.

“As a member of the Appropriations Committee, it is really disappointing to see all the hard work we put into this bill go to waste because of unwarranted political posturing. To vote against this bill was to vote against funding for urgently needed Everglades Restoration, Kissimmee River Restoration and Herbert Hoover Dike construction projects. Importantly, I would not be able to go home and face my constituents in Florida had I voted against this critical funding and I’m disappointed that my Florida colleagues on both sides of the aisle couldn’t get behind this bill.”

The Energy and Water Appropriations bill provides necessary funding for Everglades restoration and Army Corps of Engineers water quality and infrastructure, flood control and beach renourishment projects in Florida. Notably, the bill includes a total of $106 million in funding that Rooney requested for Everglades Restoration projects. Since joining the Appropriations Committee in 2013, Rooney has secured a total of $225 million for the Herbert Hoover Dike and $299 million for everglades restoration programs north and south of Lake Okeechobee.

Charles Murphy News 5/26

News Cast for May 26th:

Missing Juvenile

Hunter Ellsworth

Hunter Ellsworth

Rewards for information in the Zombicon killing of Okeechobee’s Tyrell Taylor have now reached 36 thousand dollars.  South West Florida crime stoppers and Fort Myers police this week appealed to the public for a tipster who phoned their hotline on November 11th and 12th.  Police said the witness had credible information and likely knew who the killer was.   4 others were injured in the shower of gunfire.

Previous tipster could help propel ZombiCon investigation

Okeechobee city police say a 36 year old Orlando man sent a naked photo of an adult female to a nine year old child.  Jose Ramos was allegedly getting back at a woman he had been in a relationship with.   He’s been charged with extortion and transmission of materials harmful to minors.

Jacob Hicks said the Recreational Outreach Center at the First Baptist Church has had a tremendous impact on the church and this community. Hicks said it they host senior fitness classes and many other programs in recreation.

Hicks 1

Hicks 2

Among arrests, 53 yea rold Michael Brooks of Lakeport was charged with burglary with an assault, criminal mischief and battery after a domestic quarrel last week. Glades deputies said he forced his way into a home and tried to prevent the female from calling for her damaging a door and four window screens.

21 year old Dennis Cardona Vasquez was charged with child abuse for allegedly slapping the face of a two year old child.

05 25 2015 Press News Release Additional Charges on Hicks

Sports Cast for May 26th:

Ryan Daniel won the Brahman Award for the boy’s baseball team. The senior hurler said he really enjoyed his senior year.

Daniel said he tries to be the best he can at all his activities. He said he appreciated the Brahman Award.

Daniel 1

He said he pitched well toward the end of the season and plans to keep working on his skills.

Daniel 2

He intends to attend the University of Florida and study bio medical engineering and hopes to the medical field.

Justice Department Sues Palm Beach, Florida, County School Board For Discriminating Against Pregnant Employee

Justice Department Sues Palm Beach, Florida, County School Board For Discriminating Against Pregnant Employee

The Department of Justice filed a lawsuit today alleging that the Palm Beach, Florida, County School Board discriminated against a female employee on the basis of her sex and retaliated against her when she complained about discrimination.

Anne Williams Dorsey was an Assistant Principal at Turning Points Academy, a public school in the Palm Beach County School District.  According to the complaint, she was subjected to unlawful changes to her work hours and pay after she began a period of maternity leave, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Title VII is a federal statute that prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

The department’s complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for Southern District of Florida, further alleges that the principal at Turning Points Academy subjected Dorsey to discrimination and retaliation by reducing her responsibilities as an Assistant Principal after she announced her intention to become a mother.  Specifically, when Dorsey went on maternity leave, the principal reassigned her to a position with a lower salary and fewer assigned days, and then replaced her with a male employee whom she had previously trained.  The complaint also alleges that the principal retaliated against Dorsey because she reported another female employee’s sexual harassment allegations against the male employee who eventually replaced her.

The complaint seeks a court order requiring the board to develop and implement policies that would prevent its employees from being subjected to discrimination and retaliation.  The United States also seeks monetary relief for Dorsey to compensate her for the damages she sustained as a result of the alleged discrimination and retaliation.

“All employers must respect the civil rights of all of their employees, and sex-based discrimination of any kind has no place in the work environment,” said U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of New York.  “As this lawsuit shows, the Department of Justice will work vigorously to make sure that our community’s workplaces are free from such discrimination.”

“Federal law requires employers to maintain a workplace free of sex-based discrimination of any kind,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.  “No employee should be punished at work for the decision to start a family.”

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received a charge of sex discrimination filed by Dorsey.  The EEOC’s Miami Field Office investigated the matter and found reasonable cause to believe the board discriminated against her.  After unsuccessful conciliation efforts, the EEOC referred the matter to the Justice Department.

The continued enforcement of Title VII is a priority of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.  Additional information about Title VII and other federal employment laws is available on the Civil Rights Division’s website at www.justice.gov/crt.

A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov

Audubon and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission…

Audubon and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission ask boaters and beach goers statewide to help coastal birds this Memorial Day Weekend

This Memorial Day Weekend, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and Audubon are reminding Floridians to share our beaches and islands with rare and declining species of waterbirds that are currently nesting statewide.

“Memorial Day is always a fun time to be around or on the water, but we’re not the only ones who think so,” said Julie Wraithmell, Audubon Florida’s Deputy Executive Director. “The end of May is a critical time for some of Florida’s most iconic coastal birds and their fluffy chicks. Roseate spoonbills, black skimmers, snowy plovers, American oystercatchers, least terns and more are using Florida’s beaches and islands right now to raise their young.”

Unfortunately, when boaters or beachgoers approach nesting birds too closely, parents are flushed from their nests, leaving chicks and eggs vulnerable to predators, overheating in the summer sun, crushing under foot (in the case of beach nesters), or falling and drowning in water beneath the nest (in the case of tree nesters). A single, ill-timed disturbance can destroy an entire colony.

“While the disturbance is seldom intentional, the result for the birds can be deadly,” said Brian Yablonski, Chairman of the FWC.  “Together we can ensure this holiday weekend is safe and enjoyable for people and birds alike.”

Each year along Florida’s coast, the FWC and local officials, along with Audubon volunteers, staff and partners, post many of the state’s beach and island nesting sites to make sure people know where the birds are nesting and to help prevent disturbance. Additionally, volunteer “bird stewards” from local Audubon chapters and other partners will help chaperone nesting bird colonies on many Florida beaches this weekend. These stewards help educate beachgoers about the breathtaking spectacle of these colonies while reminding pedestrians not to enter protected areas. Volunteers also help monitor colonies to collect important citizen science data about the birds’ nesting efforts through the Florida Shorebird Alliance (www.flshorebirdalliance.org).

In 1980, Florida had 10 million residents. Today, we have 20 million, with another 100 million tourists visiting annually. At the same time, populations of many coastal birds have plummeted.

The birds need your help: to learn about volunteer bird stewarding opportunities, email flconservation@audubon.org for more information.

Memorial Day Beach Tips:

  • Respect posted areas, even if you don’t see birds inside them. Birds, eggs and nests are well-camouflaged with the beach environment, and disturbance by people can cause the abandonment of an entire colony.
  • Give colony islands a wide berth, and when fishing, be sure not to leave any equipment behind. Always dispose of fishing line and tackle appropriately.
  • Avoid disturbing groups of birds. If birds take flight or appear agitated, you are too close.
  • Refrain from walking dogs or allowing cats to roam freely on beaches during the nesting season. Even on a leash, dogs are perceived as predators by nesting birds, sometimes causing adults to flush at even greater distances than pedestrians alone.
  • Don’t let pets off boats onto posted islands or beaches.
  • If you must walk your dog on beaches, always keep it on a leash and away from the birds.
  • Please do not feed gulls or herons at the beach, or bury or leave trash, picnic leftovers, charcoal or fish scraps on the beach. These scraps attract predators of chicks and eggs, such as fish crows, raccoons, foxes, coyotes and laughing gulls.
  • Leave the fireworks at home and attend an official display instead. Impromptu fireworks on Florida’s beaches and waterways have catastrophic effects for vulnerable chicks and eggs.
  • Beach-nesting birds sometimes nest outside of posted areas.  If you notice birds circling noisily over your head, you may be near a nesting colony.  Leave quietly, and enjoy the colony from a distance.
  • Most people would never want to hurt baby birds. If you see people disturbing nesting birds, let them know how their actions may hurt the birds’ survival. If they continue to disturb nesting shorebirds or if you see people entering closed Critical Wildlife Areas, report it to the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline: 888-404-FWCC (3922), #FWC or *FWC on a cell phone, or by texting Tip@MyFWC.com.

Photos and videos are available for use in your publication. Please credit the videos to Audubon Florida and the photos to the individual photographer listed in the file name.

Photos for Use: http://bit.ly/FLBeachBirdphotos

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