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9/26/2002

News > News briefs

Mickey lops heads at school district

 

The Orange County School Board needed an image boost to convince voters to back its half-cent, school-construction sales tax. Walt Disney World wanted the tax to pass since it would save $50 million in 13 years from a property-tax cut included in the measure.

The solution: Bill Kivler, Disney's technical director of global engineering.

In January Kivler became a Disney-paid consultant for the school district's Facilities department, which will oversee how construction dollars are spent [Leave it to Disney, Aug. 22] He spent the summer overhauling the department. And despite never having worked in school construction before, Kivler rearranged the school board's construction-spending priorities, putting some of the district's oldest, most decrepit schools at the bottom of the list.

He is also eliminated 17 of 51 positions within the department's design and construction division, and fired seven administrators, including Facilities executive director Terry Adsit. (Kivler says there was too much job overlap in the Facilities department.)

The sales tax passed Sept. 10. Kivler goes back to Disney in February, but his legacy at the school board will live on.

Before the sales tax passed, department heads worried that Kivler's changes would cripple the department, and more importantly, hinder their ability to finish the school board's 136 renovation projects and 25 planned new schools within the 13-year time frame. One Facilities manager told Orlando Weekly last month that because Kivler eliminated two key permitting positions, there was no way the department could start the renovations on time.

If the manager is right -- and only time will tell -- what's left of voters' trust in the school board will vanish. Kivler, meanwhile, will be back at Disney, which will be enjoying their tax savings.

Judge spanks Brevard deputies

A Cocoa adult-leisure spa won the first round of a legal battle with the Brevard County Sheriff's Office when a Brevard County judge ruled Sept. 12 that deputies illegally seized property during a raid on the club ["Cops in Cocoa stamp out sin," Aug. 1].

According to Judge Kerry I. Evander's order, the Brevard Sheriff's Office must return more than 100 items, including a microwave and washing machine, to the owner of The Boardroom by Oct. 2. Deputies claimed they had authority to seize the property as part of a search warrant obtained before the raid.

But state forfeiture procedure says police must obtain a special asset-search warrant or have language written into the search warrant specifying what items can be removed.

Brevard County had neither. Boardroom attorneys argued that the Sheriff's Office tried to unlawfully close the club by hauling away its furniture.

"I try to shy away from trying to establish what their state of mind was," says Boardroom attorney Gregory W. Eisenmenger. "But this was either a deliberate act or a sloppy, negligent act."

Eisenmenger says judges must sign off on asset forfeiture as a way to protect the public against overzealous law enforcement. "Otherwise, police could go in looking for one thing then start searching for anything," he says. "Police need to say up front what they are entitled to and why. If they don't ask permission, they've violated the Fourth Amendment."

The Boardroom's legal battles aren't over yet. Eleven employees still face charges ranging from prostitution to racketeering. Owner Marjorie Ruzzo faces nine felony counts, including aiding prostitution and illegal financial transactions. The cases probably won't be tried until next year.

The Brevard Sheriff's Office released a 206-page charging affidavit in which 19 former Boardroom employees and 62 clients testified to giving and getting sexual favors at the club. For more money, clients could allegedly pay for oral sex or intercourse.

Nonetheless, Eisenmenger predicts total vindication. "I'm confident a jury will understand and we'll prevail," he says. "It's a shame we have to go through this."

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