The reward is not worth the risk; Just Say No to new driling in the Gulf of Mexico.


The chant of, “Drill baby Drill”  and hungry looks towards the Gulf of Mexico happens a lot more often that what I would like.

In fact, I wish we would not allow any additional drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and would prefer that our current oil producing rigs were up to code in safety regulations and passed the audits of a 3rd party independent agency (something that President Obama should have pushed for  while he held our oil fields on a moratorium; but refused to acknowledge.)

Why, such a strong (and controversial; given my political leanings) statement?

First hand damage assessment of 2 oil spills that affected Florida within a 14 year period

Back during the  Maconda/BP oil spill in 2010 where 4.9 million barrels (read: 260 Olympic swimming pool worth) of oil polluted the Gulf of Mexico, I drew on my journalism strength and became an investigative reporter for my self produced investigative channel,  ClearWater Perspective, and participated in backstage teleconferences with BP, TransOcean, EPA, NOAA, MMS and the Coast Guard.

Additionally, I had close friends fly over and report on the oil spill and encounter harmed, innocent, wildlife who either swam into the oil and toxic dispersant or who ate off the oiled covered shores or were residing in a nearby tree branch when BP engaged their aerial dispersing.  The results were horrifying and something that I truly will never forget.

If you have a moment, please click into this video. A friend of mine made it with pictures of the real damage of the BP oil spill.  Warning: this is not suitable for children.

The reality of the oil spill became very real to me and contrasting and comparing my first hand experience with living near Tampa Bay  back in during the oil spill in 1996 (where 300,000 gallons of heavy oil and another 33,000 gallons of jet fuel spilled after a collision in West Central Florida) convinced me that it is only a matter of time until Florida suffers a backlash comparable to Louisiana.

Seeing the not so lucky wildlife and economic damage and how it negatively impacted the  fishermen, shrimpers, tourism industry, realtors, wedding planners, coastal businesses and coastal communities and wrecked havoc on our innocent wildlife made me vow to not allow a 3rd mistake of reckless and greedy drilling happen in our beautiful Gulf of Mexico.

Its’s like the saying– “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. ” — Fool me thrice and I should have known better than to expect that  big oil’s operations were ‘under control” and being properly scrutinized for safety precautions.

Florida is the most at-risk state in the event of another oil spill. (Economic and residential)

People of NW Florida have seen first hand, how public perception can hamper our local economy.

Florida’s main draw is tourism. When people think that Florida has oil-laden beaches; they will be less likely to come down for vacation or buy Gulf seafood; if they feel that it was tainted with oil and toxic dispersant. This change of perception, as has been proven with the 2010 oil spill, can cause a detrimental effects to the very way of life as Floridians have known to grow and love.

As stated above, many community factors suffer and have the potential to increase unemployment, causing people to vacate their home in search for income; whether it be by selling their home the conventional way or short selling their home; resulting in the housing industry value to decrease directly related to the increase in the unemployment rate.

But the possible oil spill damage doesn’t end there… (Military impact)

As many know, there is a huge military mission off of Tyndall AFB, Eglin AFB, Duke AFB and Hurlburt AFB and Pensacola NAS that run alongside the Gulf of Mexico.

The influx of news reporters and clean up crew would be too invasive for our military zone.

At this point in the game; the US cannot afford to take too many chances with nationals security.

But wait there’s more… (Loop Current, possible oil seepage to South Florida, East Florida and the Eastern Seaboard)

If there was an oil spill off the West Coast of Florida, the oil (and toxic dispersant that big oil will use to sink the oil into the water column so nobody can see it) has a chance of getting swept into the Loop Current which is a current (diagramed left) that transports warm Caribbean water through the Yucatan Channel between Cuba and Mexico.

The current flows northward into the Gulf of Mexico, then loops southeastward just south of the Florida Keys (where it is called the Florida Current), and then just west of the westernmost Bahamas.

Here, the waters of the Loop Current flow northward along the U.S. coast and become the Gulf Stream and run northward, up the East Coast of Florida.

The Loop Current was a big concern of many Floridians during the 2010 oil spill as a handful of times, oil/toxic dispersant became dangerously close to the loop current (some reports show that small traces of oil were pushed into the loop current but weathered before it impacted land) but were swept away by ever changing warm and cold water eddys.

However, next time- we may not be so lucky.

Turn to renewable alternative energy as a primary source for our energy needs

Instead of investing in new equipment and new deep water drilling techniques to search for a resource that will eventually extinguish- let’s put that money towards the wave of the future and a renewable resources that we can draw off of for years to come.

Projects such as  energy efficient constructionoffshore wind farms, solar landfills, geothermal and aqueduct electricity can help us curb our dependence on oil.

If the US reallocated the money they have towards new drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and put it towards alternative energy; we could pave the way for a new future where ultimately- we become dependent on ourselves and not at the hand of our Environment, the Middle East or even Brazil (where Obama promised we would be their biggest customer earlier this year).

The reward is not worth the risk

While I understand that drilling is needed and I fully support state’s sovereignty for wanting to drill (and am in support of drilling in places where the general consensus welcomes the drilling).

As a born, raised and currently residing Floridan. I say the reward is NOT worth the risk for new drilling to take place in the Gulf of Mexico. Not when our wildlife, food chain, fisheries, tourism industry, coastal communities, military intelligence and the entire coastline of Florida is at risk.

Especially when it has been proven that there is no way to adequately prepare for a hurricane and the precautions needed to be taken to avoid churning the oil sunken into the water column and spewing the oil onto coastal communities) until only days before the hurricane comes into the Gulf of Mexico (as remembered with the lack of hurricane preparation during the 2010 hurricane season).

If Mexico wants to drill; we cannot stop them but, more than likely, any spill in their area will not travel into the Gulf of Mexico because of the placement of eddys. Let them destroy their own country; if they so desire.

As for the United States,  I advise that we stay on the side of environmental conservation as well as to look to alternative energy as our sustaining life force as that can be renewed so we can pass on our energy capability to our children instead of banking on a non renewable source of energy that will leave our future generations in the dark.

Copyright (c) August 1, 2011. All rights reserved.

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Roadmap for modernizing the teaching profession


Roadmap for modernizing the teaching profession

Guest Commentary provided by: Former Governor Jeb Bush

Last week, the Florida Legislature passed landmark legislation that brings common sense reforms to the teaching profession. Because of unwavering legislative leadership and a strong, supportive governor, Florida is once again transforming the educational status quo.

And if Florida can do it, every state can — and must.

Under the new law, for the first time in Florida, teachers will be evaluated and rewarded based on how much their students learn.

Starting July 1, tenure for new teachers is effectively ended. All new teachers will receive an initial one-year probationary contract. After that, new teachers will work under annual contracts, subject to renewal every year.

The bill also ends the policy of “last in, first out” — making merit the basis of retention. Seniority will not be the only measurement for retention and no longer will new teachers be the first to receive pink slips when layoffs are necessary. All teachers — from the experienced educators to those entering the classroom for the first time — will be assessed and paid based on their effectiveness in teaching.

Currently, annual teacher evaluations are subjective and very few teachers receive negative reviews. For the first time, an objective measure of teacher effectiveness — based on standardized tests that measure student learning — will be part of annual evaluations. Fifty percent of teacher evaluations will be based on what matters most — students’ knowledge and skills. Essentially, do students know more at the end of the school year than they knew at the beginning? This common-sense evaluation system provides a healthy balance of student data and valuable peer feedback.

Teachers will be evaluated as highly effective; effective; needs improvement; and unsatisfactory. Teachers who need improvement will receive professional development. Teachers who are rated unsatisfactory for two out of three years will not have their contracts renewed.

The bill establishes a fairer salary system, improving Florida’s ability to attract and retain excellent teachers. The current salary structure is blind to effectiveness; pay increases are largely based on years of service. Teachers who are effective and highly effective will earn raises — not one-time bonuses but annual increases that build their base salaries.

Teachers who take the toughest jobs, like positions in inner-city schools, will earn a bonus. So will teachers of high-demand subjects, like math and science. Higher salaries for these positions will attract talent and energy to our greatest challenge — preparing all students for college and careers.

The law is based on a bedrock belief that all students can learn. That core principle is backed by decades of research that confirms students with great teachers learn more — up to four times as much — than students with ineffective teachers.

Florida is debunking the myth that some kids can’t learn because of life’s circumstances. The state has proven that a quality education and great teachers can overcome the obstacles of poverty, language barriers and broken homes. Florida is now forging a seismic path for modernizing the teaching profession nationwide.

Jeb Bush, chairman of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, was governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007.

Published in: on March 23, 2011 at 5:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

High-speed rail is profitable, Department of Transportation study says.


High-speed rail is profitable, study says

A study shows that high-speed rail from Tampa to Orlando — a proposal Gov. Rick Scott rejected — could be operated with a healthy profit.

BY JANET ZINK

Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau

Three weeks after Gov. Rick Scott put the brakes on high-speed rail, the Florida Department of Transportation on Wednesday released a study showing the line connecting Tampa to Orlando would have had a $10.2 million operating surplus in 2015, its first year of operation.

The study showed the line would have had a $28.6 million surplus in its 10th year.

The numbers are more optimistic than a 2009 study, which concluded the line would have not seen an operating surplus until 2021.

The $1.3 million study, conducted by the forecasting firms Wilbur Smith Associates and Steer Davies Gleave, shows the line would have had 3.3 million riders in its first year. The previous analysis predicted the line would have had 2.4 million riders in 2015.

Scott, who last month cited concerns about operating losses due to low ridership when he decided to kill construction of the project by rejecting $2.4 billion in federal money, dismissed the ridership study results.

“I had been briefed on their ridership study and I looked at other ridership studies and I’m still very comfortable with the decision I made that I don’t want the taxpayers of the state on the hook for the cost overruns of building it, the operating costs or giving the money back if it’s shut down,” he said.

He said he made the decision based on a verbal review of the ridership study, as well as documents provided by the Libertarian Reason Foundation and the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

Scott said he feared the 84-mile line would be a burden to Florida taxpayers, even though private vendors had indicated they would be willing to cover any operating losses or construction cost overruns, and federal officials said Florida would not have to repay the $2.4 billion if the project failed.

A spokeswoman for Scott said he doesn’t trust the studies.

“The governor has said all along he believes ridership projections for this and other rail projects are overestimated,” said spokeswoman Amy Graham. “Numerous studies support this conclusion.”

Wilbur Smith Associates, one of the companies that conducted the study, is a transportation and infrastructure consulting firm founded in 1952. It has 56 offices in eight countries, according to the company’s website.

Steer Davies Gleave has 16 offices worldwide, including locations in Boston and Denver according to its website.

The sunny numbers came way too late for rail proponents, who criticized Scott for turning down the money before all the information was available.

“Now we see more evidence that shows just how profitable high-speed rail would have been,” said U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa. “Private firms had been clamoring to bid on Florida’s high-speed rail initiative. Now, unfortunately, because of the governor’s rigid ideology, these private companies will look to other states. The jobs and economic benefits will follow.”

Sen. Thad Altman, R-Melbourne, who unsuccessfully fought Scott’s decision in the state Supreme Court, said he doubts an earlier release of the ridership study would have made a difference to the governor.

“His conclusion was political, not based on economics, good business or even protecting the taxpayers,” Altman said. “As time passes and more information comes out, you can see the injustice that was done to the state of Florida.”

In the wake of the study, Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is clinging to the idea that the line could be built.

“I still have a sliver of hope that common sense and the facts will prevail,” he said.

Others, though, want to just let the matter go.

“Frankly, it’s Day 2 of session,” said House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park. “That issue, unless the governor changes his mind or does something differently, is behind us. So we’ve got to move forward.”

A poll conducted by the Tampa Chamber of Commerce shows that 59 percent of Hillsborough County registered voters support a high-speed rail line connecting Tampa to Orlando. The survey questioned 400 voters likely to participate in the November 2012 election between March 2 and 6 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percent.

U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is expected to announce by the end of the week which states will receive Florida’s money. According to an attorney for the governor, the state had already spent about $110 million on the project when Scott announced that he did not want to go forward with it.

Fla Gov Rick Scott linking merit pay to teacher without establishing a balanced ground for consideration.


Florida public school teachers would lose job security but could make more money if their students do well on standardized tests under a trailblazing bill that went to Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday after a party-line vote in the Republican-controlled state House.

The legislation will establish a statewide teacher evaluation and merit pay system in 2014 and do away with tenure for new teachers hired after July 1 2011.

This legislation also chips away at teachers’ due process and collective bargaining rights.

Scott has made the bill a priority and it’s the first legislation sent to the Republican governor since he took office in January.

It’s similar, as I predicted in “Is the Fla SB376, Merit Pay for Teachers, really SB6 in disguise?”  where Former Fla Governor, Charlie Crist,  vetoed last year after statewide protests by teachers and their supporters.

The measure is the latest in a series of steps Florida has taken to instill accountability into its education system by relying heavily on student testing to measure success and failure.

“All of us know that measurement works,” Scott said at a news conference with GOP legislative leaders shortly after final passage. “We measure students. We know that works.

The bill passed the House 80-39. It cleared the Senate in a largely partisan 26-12 roll call, last week.

Democrats acknowledged the bill is less objectionable than last year’s version but said it still has problems including the lack of funding source for the merit pay.

They predicted that would lead either to tax increases or layoffs and reductions in the base pay.

Florida teachers already rank near the bottom nationally and are facing pay and benefit reductions in the next budget year as part of spending cuts designed to avoid a potential $3.6 billion shortfall.

“It’s amazing to me that the members in this chamber see no harm in paying those to whom they entrust the minds of their children a smaller wage than is paid to those to whom they entrust the plumbing care of their toilets,” said Rep. Scott Randolph, D-Orlando. “Until we pay teachers a livable wage there’s no need to talk about this bill.”

Amen, Representative Randolph.

Republicans argued that merit pay is a way to attract and retain top teachers while other provisions in the bill will make it easier to get rid of bad ones.

“This is pro-teacher,” said Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-New Port Richey. “”They want to be measured. They want to be recognized for their excellence.”

Determinations of which teachers will get merit pay and which will face termination will be made according to an evaluation system.

Half of each teacher’s evaluation will depend on how much progress their students have made on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) or other exams over a three-year period.

The other half would rely on principals’ assessments and other factors including advanced degrees — but only if they are in the teacher’s subject area.

“It is a very objective way of evaluating teachers, said Rep. Ana Logan, a Miami Republican who’s been a teacher, administrator and school board member. “There are many teachers who can put on a dog and pony show, a very good dog and pony show, but are not very good teachers.”

Andy Ford, president of the Florida Education Association, the statewide teachers union, said the legislation is fatally flawed.

“We’ve looked closely at plenty of scientifically sound, peer reviewed research out there that shows this is the wrong approach to take to implement performance pay and to revamp evaluations,” Ford said in a statement.

New teachers who cannot get tenure will face the prospect of being terminated without cause at the end of each school year even if they get top ratings.. School officials will not even be required to let them they why they are being let go.

Executive Editor of Heart of America, Denise Haywald, is concerned that this is perhaps the wrong way to evaluate the students. “While I am all for standardized testing, I do not support putting the entire burden on the teacher nor linking merit pay to teachers. Special attention needs to be placed on the child’s absences as well as homework turn in ratio in addition to standardize testing.

There are many alternatives to look into to help our students succeed without shafting the teachers- esp. since their pay is lower than average yet their responsibilities are high.  You can find other solutions by visiting my blog: http://tinyurl.com/49bymbz.

By eliminating tenure and prohibiting job security, this bill undermines our entire Floridian educational system by driving away the good teachers as mostly everyone likes stability in their life.

Copyright (c) March 18, 2011. All rights reserved.

Published in: on March 18, 2011 at 7:18 pm  Leave a Comment  

Dr. Matthew Ladner explains Florida School Choice Reform


Published in: on March 7, 2011 at 7:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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New Study Confirms Sales Tax Holidays Increases State Revenues


Florida retailers are calling on lawmakers to bring back the back-to-school sales tax holiday in 2011, and they have new data to make their case.

A new study by The Washington Economics Group (WEG) that examined the impact of the 2010 back-to-school sales tax holiday confirms that increased spending during the three-day period translated to augmented tax revenues for Florida.

According to the report, the sales tax holiday generated $115 million more in taxable sales [when compared to the same weekend from the previous year without a sales tax holiday] and gross sales projections for the month of August were surpassed by $289 million.

The bottom line:  a $7 million net increase in tax revenues to the state over and above what would have been collected without any tax break incentive.

Legislators approved the three-day weekend to give parents a much-needed break at the cash register on essentials such as paper, pencils and inexpensive clothing – but retailers know from years of experience that when shoppers open their wallets to save big during the temporary tax relief, they spend more overall.

“With results this significant over a single weekend, imagine how much of an impact could be made on the state’s retail sector – and the state’s coffers – if this sales tax holiday became an annual occurrence,” said Rick McAllister, president and chief executive officer of the Florida Retail Federation, a nonprofit trade association with more than 8,000 members.

“There is a phenomenon about a sales tax holiday that pulls people into the stores and encourages them to purchase not only tax-free items, but also other taxable items that generate revenue for the state’s economy,” said McAllister. “Shoppers tell us that buying items tax-free is like having a bonus in their wallets.”

Consumers’ additional spending on taxable items and increased shopping activity boost the state’s critical retail sector and drive higher tax revenues during the sales tax holiday.

WEG also surveyed five major Florida retailers during last year’s sales tax holiday weekend from August 13 to 15 and found that store traffic, transaction counts, and payroll hours all increased as well. 

“In a time of severe budget cuts and difficult economic times for Florida families, a sales tax holiday makes sense all around,” said Senator Ellyn Bogdanoff, a sponsor of the bill. “The WEG study proves what we already knew: not only do tax holidays save families money, they also ultimately increase revenues for the state – money that can be used to fund important projects in a tight fiscal year.”

“The increased traffic provides an additional boost to the state economy by adding retail jobs to handle the higher sales levels and higher tax revenues,” said Bogdanoff. “Everyone wins.”

To read the full report and get more information about the 2011 back-to-school sales tax holiday, visit: www.savemysalestaxholiday.com

Published in: on March 7, 2011 at 1:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Senator Kerry asked Transportation Secretary LaHood to divert funding for high speed rail.


After Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott rejected $2.4 billion in federal funds to build a high-speed rail between Tampa and Orlando, U.S., leaving the skeptics happy and the hopeful not so much.

Other Senators jump the mark in an effort to cash in on Florida’s poorly made decision to abandon the project.

Kerry and nine other senators wrote a letter to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood last Friday urging the Obama administration to divert the funding earmarked for Florida to the Northeast corridor.

“Our states are ready to put these funds to good use to improve our existing high speed rail service, reduce congestion and create jobs,” they wrote.

Kerry and the other senators noted that more than 250 million passengers ride the rails along the northeast corridor annually, a number that is expected to increase 60 percent by 2030.

Ironically, Governor Rick Scott’s “Let Get to Work” motto falls flat on its face with the rejection of the stimulus package.

Scott rejected the federal high-speed rail funding on Feb. 16, calling the proposed project a “boondoggle” that would wind up costing Florida taxpayers millions more than expected.

This highly divided issue in Florida politics tends to anger many, myself included. As many of my friends were against the rail due to the financial problem it could potentially provide for taxpayers- Heart of America’s CEO, Denise Haywald, offers a differing opinion:

“I have lived in Florida my entire life- I can easily visualize the benefits of having a high speed rail connecting Tampa, Orlando (and even Miami & Pensacola). Not only would it promote tourism and reduce car accidents but it would also reduce our carbon emissions and improve our air quality.”

“It is a shame that people  could only focus on the negative of this governmental funded money. I have learned of the decision making behind the scenes and I am appalled by the lack of planning and attention giving to a job creation program.”

“I find it especially ironic that Florida Governor Rick Scott’s election slogan was “Let’s Get to Work”- when he rejected a job creation program without even a second glance or an active standing committee to weigh the risk/benefits analysis. What a slap in the face to an unemployed Floridian who would desperately needs a job.”

“Not to mention the economic boost from increased tourism and the benefits to the environment.”

Other Senators see the possibilities; Senator Kerry hopes the Northeast can once again benefit from other states rejecting federal high-speed rail funding after the Obama administration steered $2.9 million to Massachusetts last December after governors in Ohio and Wisconsin rejected $1.2 billion in federal support.

“We believe this is an insufficient investment in the Northeast Corridor, given our region’s position as a population and economic mega-region,” the senators wrote.

Governor Scott and LaHood met last Friday and LaHood gave the Florida governor a week to reconsider his decision after Scott asked for more information about a revised plan.

Time is up. I guarantee that Governor Scott will reject it and I can guaranteed that he has hasnt put any additional thought or analysis into it.

It is apparent that Governor Scott is adamant on not creating jobs via a high speed rail.  Our loss is the NE’s gain.

Copyright (c) March 4, 2011. All rights reserved.

Supremes Court ruling- Fla Gov Scott had authority to axe hi-speed rail, train likely dead


Two senators who challenged Fla Gov. Rick Scott’s authority to kill a high speed rail project failed to make their case, the Florida  Supreme Court ruled today.

Scott reiterated his rejection of $2.4 billion in federal stimulus funds for the project this morning in a telephone call with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, likely meaning the money will go to other states.

“The Governor is gratified that the court provided a clear and unanimous decision, he is now focused on moving forward with infrastructure projects that create long-term jobs and turn Florida’s economy around. He also spoke with US DOT Secretary LaHood this morning and informed him that Florida will focus on other infrastructure projects and will not move forward with any federal high speed rail plan,” Scott’s spokesman Brian Burgess said in a statement.

Sens. Thad Altman, R-Rockledge, and Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, sued Scott for rejecting $2.4 billion in federal funds for the Tampa-to-Orlando project. They argued he violated the constitutional separation of powers by effectively overriding the legislature’s order that the the state create the high-speed rail system.

The court, which heard oral arguments on the fast-tracked case yesterday, rejected their argument in a one-paragraph unanimous ruling issued this morning.

“Based on the limited record before the Court and a review of the federal and state law relied on by the parties, the Court has determined that the petitioners have not clearly demonstrated entitlement to quo warranto, mandamus, or any other relief. Accordingly, the emergency petition is hereby denied,” the judges ordered.

Copyright (c) March 4, 2011. All rights reserved.

Florida Judge who declared Obamacare unconstitutional sends msg to White House with second ruling


Roger Vinson, the U.S. federal judge who ruled Obamacare unconstitutional in its entirety, has ruled again on the health-care law.

On Thursday, Judge Vinson issued a stay on his earlier ruling that the law could not be enforced.

In doing so, he sent a clear message to the Obama administration: Appeal my decision to a higher court or stop implementing the law.

When Judge Vinson ruled on Jan. 31 that the health-care law was unconstitutional, the administration followed up by filing a motion for clarification rather than filing an official appeal.

Vinson’s ruling criticized the administration for that action.

“During the four-plus weeks since entry of my order, the defendants have seemingly continued to move forward and implement the act,” Vinson wrote. “While I believe that my order was as clear and unambiguous as it could be, it is possible that the defendants may have perhaps been confused or misunderstood its import.”

Now, Vinson has given the Obama administration an ultimatum to either stop implementing the law, or appeal it – presumably to the Supreme Court.

Following Vinson’s initial ruling, Florida and Alaska stopped implementing the law. Several other states have lawsuits pending challenging its constitutionality.

Meanwhile, President Obama continues on-  completely disregarding the ruling of Florida’s District Court.

Copyright (c) March 3, 2011. All rights reserved.

BP claims: ‘Delay, Deny, Defend’. Tampa, FL lawyer stands up against the fraudalent activity.


A first-of-its-kind lawsuit alleging gross negligence and fraud has been filed in a Florida state court against Kenneth Feinberg, the administrator of the 20-billion-dollar compensation fund for victims of BP’s Gulf oil spill, and the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF).

Attorney Brian Donovan of the Donovan Law Group from Tampa filed the complaint against Feinberg, his firm Feinberg Rozen, LLP and the GCCF on behalf of Pinellas Marine Salvage, Inc. and John Mavrogiannis.

The complaint alleges, in part, gross negligence, fraud, fraudulent inducement and unjust enrichment on the part of the defendants.

“Feinberg and the GCCF have done more damage than the oil spill,” Donovan told IPS. “My client has relied on what Feinberg said he would do. They’ve made promises they didn’t keep. John’s company was promised money they have not received.”

Mavrogiannis told IPS, “We’re sick and tired of this runaround. I’m tired of Feinberg’s lies. He’s made promises he hasn’t kept. He’s manipulating the system and that’s not right.”

Mavrogiannis is far from alone in not having received compensation for the severe losses his business has suffered as a direct result of BP’s oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico that began last April.

It was recently revealed that more than 130,000 compensation claims will be refused by Feinberg, who claims they lack adequate documentation.

State governments of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana are accusing Feinberg of delaying claims and causing great hardship to local businesses, as well as underestimating losses to coastal businesses.

Donovan believes Feinberg is simply doing what he is being paid by BP to do.

“He’s doing his job,” Donovan told IPS, “Feinberg is a defense attorney representing BP. To think otherwise is being foolish. As a defense attorney, he’s doing a great job for BP. But they are saying ‘go with us, or sue us’.”

Feinberg’s Washington-based firm, Feinberg Rozen, was being paid 850,000 dollars a month by BP to administer the compensation fund and claims process for Gulf residents and fishermen.

A 46-page contract between BP and Feinberg detailing the arrangement was made public on Jan. 7 when it was filed in the U.S. District Court in New Orleans as part of the multi- district spill litigation against BP.

As of Jan. 15, the firm’s fee, according to the document, will be “mutually agreed to by the parties on a quarterly basis in advance of the first day of each successive calendar quarter.” This clause has led many critics to believe that Feinberg could stand to gain from dispensing less of the fund’s 20 billion dollars to claimants and tying the amount of its payments to Feinberg’s success in limiting BP’s liability.

Any funds remaining from the 20 billion would revert to BP under an agreement with the White House. Feinberg has told reporters, “My understanding is that if 20 billion dollars is sufficient and there is money left over it is retained by BP.”

In late December, Feinberg told Bloomberg Television that he anticipates about half of the fund should be enough to cover claims for economic losses.

“The only attorneys involved in the BP oil spill who I know are those trying to sign up victims for class action lawsuits,” Donovan added. “This is understandable given that Reuters recently reported that fewer than three percent of the approximately 470,000 businesses and individuals who have filed claims with GCCF have lawyers helping them negotiate.”

Mavrogiannis feels their complaint is solid, “Because Feinberg has lied to us on several occasions. Had he told me from the beginning he was working for BP, I would have filed suit against BP right when this happened. I believed he was impartial with no ties, but he has deceived me, and that’s fraud.”

“If I lose my property, business, and house because I can’t make my mortgage payments because Feinberg is late in paying me, who is going to compensate me for this?” Mavrogiannis, whose home is close to being forclosed, told IPS. “I have to take my IRA’s [individual retirement accounts] out to pay my bills. I can only hang in there for another month or two then the banks are going to want their money.”

Mavrogiannis’ lawsuit alleges, in part, “The defendants employ a ‘Delay, Deny, Defend’ strategy against claimants. This strategy, commonly used by unscrupulous insurance companies, is as follows: Delay payment, starve claimant, and then offer the economically and emotionally-stressed claimant a miniscule percent of all damages to which the claimant is entitled. If the financially ruined claimant rejects the settlement offer, he or she may sue.”

Other people amongst the Gulf States need to follow suit. Do not allow Feinberg and the GCCF to swindle you out of money in which is needed to live. Stand up against the deception.

Copyright (c) March 2, 2011. All rights reserved.