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Letters to the Editors

Parents have right to know manager's background


© St. Petersburg Times
published March 31, 2002

Editor: Re: Arrests spur Little League review by Carrie Johnson, March 17, Citrus Times:

I would like to thank your newspaper for the article about (Little League Manager) Rufus Miniard. I feel all parents have the right to know the background of anyone working with our children, whether it happened 20 years ago or yesterday. The sad fact is, it's not one incident 20 years ago, but multiple offenses over an entire adult lifetime.

The letter to the editor from Judi Browning on March 21 admonishes you for printing his past, stating it was one conviction when he was in his 20s. But the facts against Mr. Miniard are undisputable:

1980 -- convicted of sexual offenses.

1990s -- entered pretrial intervention agreement on arson charge.

1990s -- entered pretrial intervention agreement on drug charge.

1997 -- fined $150,000 for workers' compensation fraud.

2002 -- under investigation for insurance fraud.

There was only one arrest not pursued by the state; that was the 1996 sexual offense.

She also stated how this hurt his family, but in all reality it was Mr. Miniard's continual actions that have hurt his family, not your article.

Ms. Browning wrote that she has the "greatest admiration and respect" for this man. I am shocked she believes this type of behavior commands admiration and respect, but if it does, God help us all.
-- Donna Wade, Homosassa

Miniard tried to brush actions under rug and is in denial

Editor: Re: Printing past indiscretions was unfair to a fine family, March 21 letter to the editor:

Arrests spur Little League review by Carrie Johnson, March 17, Citrus Times:

In regards to the Little League investigation of Rufus Miniard, if this man thinks of his family, why is he being investigated again for insurance fraud? Yes, I agree this was in his past, if Ms. Browning read the article like I did. But he went into pretrial intervention to avoid conviction. I totally disagree with her that these are mistakes. How many will he continue to make?

If he would have told the Little League Association about his conviction, I would say he did the right thing. They clearly stated they were not aware and, if they were, he would have never been allowed to volunteer to coach. But Mr. Miniard simply tried to brush it under the rug.

As for 1996, he was arrested and taken to jail. Just because there was no conviction does not mean he wasn't doing anything. He went to jail. I'm sorry, but there seems to be a pattern.

I'm glad the story was printed. Parents needed to know who is coaching and spending time with their children. Parents knowing this can make their own decisions.

In regards to his willingness to give to Little League and other organizations, it was reported in the story that he defrauded workers' compensation for $1.5-million and settled to pay $150,000. At those profits we all could afford to give.

I don't think he was smeared. This is his record. It said the Citrus County Sheriff's Office did a background check. The truth was told. And Mr. Miniard's comment was, "You have me confused with someone else." He obviously is in denial. I can't imagine why he is reportedly under investigation for insurance fraud again.

I meet a lot of people, too, and I will tell them to read and subscribe to your paper. You are straightforward with your stories. You do a great service. Thank you.
-- Dawn Caldwell, Lecanto

Changing 5th Congressional District is a bad idea

Editor: As we know, our part of the 5th Congressional District is one of the faster-growing parts of Florida. I keep reading in our papers that cover the 5th District that our district will be changed.

I think this is a bad idea for us because someone who does not know our area won't do as good a job as our people who live in our current district.
-- Stephen Dickter, Beverly Hills

Commissioner betrayed cause by ignoring environmental facts

Editor: Perhaps Citrus County Commissioner Josh Wooten didn't quit his day job.

When our County Commission voted 3-2 to approve the Halls River condos on Feb. 12, the wonderful inner workings of county government were revealed.

Commissioner Jim Fowler's scintillating "Why America Is Great" speech betrayed to his audience, among other things, a disturbing ignorance of how and why democracy works.

Commissioner Roger Batchelor's memorable meandering ("This thing is more compatible with the area than some of the things that exist there today.") betrayed an amusing ignorance of how and why language works.

But the big revelation came from Wooten, who demonstrated how and why electing a used car salesman to the board most assuredly doesn't work. Wooten, you see, betrayed a cause, shattering his covenant with the very people who worked hardest to elect him. Selling them "down the river," as it were. It's the biggest no-no in politics.

You may recall, Wooten's environmentalist campaign spoke of protecting our waterways. "The protection of the Halls River, an Outstanding Florida Waterway, is my primary concern," he later wrote. "As commissioner, my job is to listen to the facts and make an informed decision." Bravo! Let's take a look at the facts of his "informed decision."

(1) The Citrus County Comprehensive Plan prohibits high-density development west of U.S. 19. No ifs, ands or buts. True, the property in question was somehow switched to "mixed use," but the issue is moot. The plan trumps any such rezoning. Wooten didn't care.

(2) The plan prohibits any high-density development anywhere within a thousand yards of a state conservation area (which there is). Wooten didn't care.

(3) All development must be compatible with the surrounding area. (How, by any stretch of an imagination beyond Batchelor's, are 18 four-story towers compatible with one-story dwellings across the road? And how are they compatible with the wild shoreline of a protected river?) Wooten didn't care.

There were dozens of other facts, such as demonstrable errors in measurements of site plans where wetlands are in contest, a shoreline too shallow to permit boats where a 16-slip marina is planned, and a vulnerable aquifer that (as the Home Depot fiasco proved) sits right on the surface. Wooten ignored them all.

These facts were all sufficient, each onto itself, that the Planning and Development Review Board recommended to deny application by a vote of 6-1. Commissioners Gary Bartell and Vicki Phillips subsequently agreed. But not our environmental champion, Josh Wooten, who still wound up firmly in the camp of the bulldozers.

Could it have anything to do with his good friends and major campaign contributors, Karen and Kevin Cunningham, who just happened to be agents in the sale of the site to developer Blake Longacre two brief months after Wooten was elected?

Could it have anything to do with the fact that Karen Cunningham also was granted exclusive sales agent rights for all 54 time-share units?

Could it have anything to do with the possibility that Longacre probably didn't gamble a half-million bucks on this risky property without some assurance he'd have a decisive edge in advocacy to help him push it through?

"It's not my job to be an advocate for the developer," Wooten said, perhaps protesting too much. "But developer Blake Longacre has jumped through every hoop this body has placed before him."

Wow! Farfetched as it is, Longacre keeps giving us that very same phrase. (It's okay to be on the same page, guys, but there's danger in sharing the same scriptwriter.)

One thing, however, is clear. The only person who jumped through any hoops in all this was Wooten, bending so far over backward to ignore environmental facts as to resemble a contortionist. It will be interesting to see if he ever regains his posture with the voters. I mean, not even crushing Hussein saved Bush from "Read my lips."

Political double talk can, and does, fade over time. But the double-cross can make you lame for a lifetime.
-- Jim Nicoll, Homosassa

Residents can be added to parkway mailing list

Editor: Re: Where are our parkway updates?, March 21 letter to the editor from Kay Girard:

Ms. Girard of Lecanto expressed how disappointed she was "with the way the Florida Department of Transportation is not sending the Suncoast Parkway Phase 2 updates to all of the people who own property or live in the parkway study area."

The Florida Department of Transportation Turnpike District has coordinated with the Citrus County Property Appraisers office to develop the mailing list of all property owners within our study area. These names, along with those of other individuals who have requested to be made part of our mailing list, account for the more than 75,000 people our first newsletter was distributed to last month. Subsequent newsletters are anticipated to be mailed out every two to three months.

If an individual has not received a newsletter and wishes to be placed on our mailing list, there are three ways to accomplish this:

1. E-mail the request to suncoast2@dot.state.fl.us.

2. Visit the project Web site at www.suncoastparkway2.com and click on the"Mailing list & Comments" tab.

3. Call the toll-free project hotline at (866) 541-5700.

If anyone wishes to make a comment regarding this project, they can do so by utilizing these methods, or they may write me directly. The comments should be mailed to: Carl Gibilaro, P.E., project manager, Florida's Turnpike Environmental Management Office, P.O. Box 613069, Ocoee, FL 34761.
-- Carl Gibilaro, Ocoee

DOT attitude on parkway extension is blatantly arrogant

Editor: Re: Parkway theme: Where, not if, March 21, Citrus Times by Bridget Hall Grumet:

The article went on to say that state Department of Transportation officials say the Suncoast Parkway Phase 2 Advisory Group meetings are not the forum to discuss the need for the parkway extension. The only agenda the advisory group has is where to put it. The need for the parkway will be addressed in other parts of the state's three-year study (after determining where it should go).

I do not have sufficient command of the English language to express my disgust with the illustrious DOT personnel. I guess I should expect it though, since it is indicative of their history. We know what you need and want; don't try to tell us differently. If we all took this attitude in our personal daily lives, I suspect there would be a lot more folks in the bread lines. In other words, do not determine whether you need something, just determine which one you want and go purchase it, regardless.

What a way to run the people's business. Hopefully, all bureaucrats aren't this blatantly arrogant.
-- Frank Heath, Floral City

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The Citrus Times welcomes letters from readers for publication.

Because of space limitations, letters should be of reasonable length.

Letters may be edited for clarity, taste and length.

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Send your letter to Citrus Times, 301 W Main St., Inverness, FL 33450. To fax a letter call 860-7320. Send letters by e-mail (in text-only format) to citrus@sptimes.com.

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