Tag Archives: commissioner

Florida rescue update: 9/11 fire commissioner sees 'less hope' in finding condo collapse survivors

SURFSIDE, Fla. — As time passes, a top expert in emergency response says hope for finding survivors beneath the mountain of debris from Thursday’s condo collapse in Florida is shrinking.

“There’s less and less hope as the hours go by, [rescue crews] are holding out saying that there’s no hope,” said Tom Van Essen, a former New York City Fire Department commissioner who was in charge when the World Trade Center buildings collapsed from the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks in 2001.

One hundred fifty-nine people remain unaccounted for since the wing of an oceanfront residential building near Miami collapsed in the middle of the night. At least four were killed.

SEE ALSO: What we know about those missing in the Miami-area condo collapse

On Saturday, a crane could be seen removing pieces of rubble from a more than 30-foot pile of debris at the collapse site. Scores of rescuers used big machines, small buckets, drones, microphones and their own hands to pick through the mountain of debris that had been the 12-story Champlain Towers South.

Van Essen said he imagines emergency responders were reluctant to use a crane, which would trigger vibrations and therefore make searching for people more difficult. But he believes the crane was brought on the scene because of a “very deep fire” that officials are having trouble locating.

“Everything they do to compensate for one problem is a greater problem in another area,” Van Essen said.

Smoke has been the biggest barrier in expediting rescue efforts, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said during a news conference. Van Essen added that the weight and density of debris, rain and the race against time were other factors to consider.

“You just hope that there is somebody under there and they’re hanging on, but as the hours go by, it becomes less and less possible,” he said.

MORE: 2018 report pointed out ‘major structural damage’ at Miami condo before collapse

The FDNY and other units searched for weeks amid the piles of rubble at Ground Zero, he said, but the last survivor was pulled from debris 27 hours later.

“There was no hope [in 2001], but we just didn’t want to believe that. I think there has been hope [in Florida] over the last couple of days. As time goes by, you become more skeptical that you will find someone,” he said. “But these guys are doing a great job.”

Michael J. Fagel, an emergency planner who worked assisted in rescue and recovery efforts during 9/11 and the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, told ABC News he wants people to be optimistic.

“I have hope, and I want [others] to have hope as well that, again, eight days, 12 days, it is possible,” he said.

Copyright © 2021 KTRK-TV. All Rights Reserved.

Author: KTRK

This post originally appeared on ABC13 RSS Feed

Boston Police Commissioner Is Fired After Domestic Violence Allegations Emerge

BOSTON — Kim Janey, Boston’s acting mayor, announced on Monday that she had terminated the city’s police commissioner, Dennis White, over allegations of domestic abuse that emerged in February, shortly after he was appointed to the job.

Ms. Janey has been trying to remove Mr. White since May, when an independent investigation detailed accusations by his former wife that he had hit and threatened to shoot her in 1999 when they were married. Another woman alleged that he had hit her.

Mr. White, who was placed on leave when the allegations emerged, has denied wrongdoing and vigorously fought his removal in court.

The standoff has pitted Ms. Janey, Boston’s first Black and female mayor, against its second Black police commissioner, who dismissed the allegations against him as false and tainted by racism.

On Monday, Ms. Janey said she rejected that argument.

“The disparate treatment of Black people in our country is a genuine concern, but let’s be clear: Racism is a burden carried by both men and women of color, and I will not turn a blind eye to domestic violence against Black women, or any women, for that matter,” she said.

She condemned Mr. White for failing to express remorse, and said that while he was on leave, he had tried to obstruct the investigation by lingering around Police Headquarters, which she said “fostered a climate of intimidation.”

To allow him to remain, she said, “would send a chilling message to victims of domestic violence, and reinforce a culture of fear and a blue wall of silence in our Police Department.”

Mr. White’s lawyer, Nick Carter, blasted the mayor’s decision, describing his client in a statement as “a Black man, falsely accused of crimes, not given a fair trial or hearing, and then convicted, or terminated which is the equivalent here.”

“This reflects an ugly pattern in our country,” Mr. Carter said, adding that Mr. White planned to file a civil rights claim against the city “to send a message that this kind of unlawful and harmful treatment must not be allowed to happen again to anyone.”

Friction with the city’s Police Department has dominated Ms. Janey’s first months as acting mayor, a high-profile tenure that she hopes will position her to win the office this fall. Mr. White was appointed by her predecessor, Martin J. Walsh, who left his seat to become secretary of labor.

Immediately after Mr. Walsh swore Mr. White in as police commissioner, The Boston Globe reported on a restraining order granted by a judge in 1999, after his wife at the time, also a Boston police officer, said he threatened to shoot her. The two divorced in 2001. Though the claims were the subject of an internal affairs investigation, he was neither disciplined nor charged with a crime.

Mr. Walsh abruptly placed Mr. White on leave, adding that “these disturbing issues were not known to me or my staff, but should have been at the forefront.” Mr. White has contradicted that claim, saying in a sworn affidavit that he told the former mayor about the restraining order.

The city’s investigation described widespread obstruction of the inquiry within the Police Department. Of 21 officials approached by the investigating lawyer, only seven agreed to talk. One retired officer said he got five phone calls from colleagues discouraging him from cooperating.

Ms. Janey said on Monday that she would impose new requirements on candidates for police leadership positions, requiring thorough vetting and background checks.

“The residents of Boston must have confidence the officers charged with enforcing laws are themselves people of integrity,” she said.

Policing is shaping up as a central issue in the race for mayor, in which three of the front-runners — Ms. Janey and City Councilors Michelle Wu and Andrea Campbell — have called for deeper cuts to the police budget. Another top candidate, City Councilor Annissa Essaibi George, has said she would increase police staffing and funding.

Author: Ellen Barry
This post originally appeared on NYT > U.S. News

Land Commissioner George P. Bush announces run for Texas Attorney General, challenging AG Ken Paxton

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Texas General Land Office Commissioner George P. Bush announced Wednesday evening he is officially throwing his hat into the ring for Texas Attorney General.

He said the Republican party needs new leadership in the AG’s Office, as current AG Ken Paxton continues to face several legal battles of his own.

“We need an attorney general that’s focused on the job instead of trying to stay out of jail,” Bush said in an interview ahead of his Wednesday night rally.

In 2020, Paxton’s top aides reported him for abuse of office, bribery and other criminal offenses, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation is currently investigating. Paxton has repeatedly denied doing anything wrong, most recently filing an appeal to overturn a court’s decision not to dismiss his case.

Paxton was also indicted in 2015 on felony securities fraud charges. That case is still ongoing.

“It’s time to reset this agency,” Bush said.

Aside from Paxton’s legal issues, Bush also said Paxton hasn’t delivered for Texans.

“He’s good at the headlines. But in terms of actual results, that’s where he’s been lacking,” Bush said. “It’s harder to actually win, to see a case all the way through to its final result and actually succeed.”

Bush said he’s ready to challenge the Biden administration’s policies.

“If you look at Biden’s executive orders, most of those orders deal with natural resources. So oil and gas, land management, farming and ranching issues, and who better to take on those cases than the Land Commissioner for the state?” Bush said.

Bush also added he would be focusing on human trafficking, the crisis at the border and backing the blue.

Paxton is just his primary opponent, though. Democrat Joe Jowarski has been campaigning for months.

“I’m a third-generation trial lawyer, 30 years experience working for the judges, the defense bar, the plaintiffs bar and as a full-time mediator now,” Jowarski said. “It is important that you have political acumen as well as a trial lawyer’s heart, if you want to be the Texas Attorney General. I think I checked those boxes.”

He said he agrees with Bush that Paxton needs to go but disagrees on what the focus of the state’s top lawyer should be.

“My goal in serving as Texas Attorney General would be to focus not only on consumer protection, but also restoring voting rights, protecting voting rights, and this is for all people of all political stripes,” Jaworski said Wednesday.

Bush gave Jowarski credit for the amount of money he’s already been able to raise but said he’s more concerned about the Democratic party as a whole.

“Democrats know that if Ken Paxton is the nominee, they will have their first statewide elected office in Texas and close to 30 years,” Bush said.

Nexstar did reach out to the AG’s office and Ken Paxton’s campaign for an interview or comment but did not hear back.

“I have a proven vote-getter for Republicans in a general election. In 2014, I was the highest vote-getter. 2018, I was number two behind the governor. So in ’22, with the support of so many Republicans… you won’t have to worry about us holding the seat,” Bush said.

Bush also explained the conversations he’s had with other state leadership about his run for AG, including Gov. Greg Abbott.

“I’ve talked with him several times through the session and also in response to the scandal that broke late last year — and he was positive. He said he’s going to stay out of the race. He, you know, obviously has a lot on his plate with respect to ongoing special session items that he has prioritized,” Bush said, adding he also had a conversation with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick last week.

“I think what leadership in Texas wants are just… they want to reset in this office, they want a new face. And I’m willing to offer that,” Bush said.

He said with Paxton being in office for 20 years, he’s expecting plenty of blows from the career politician.

“I’m expecting everything under the sun. But what I’m going to focus on are the issues that improve this agency, improve the condition of victim services,” Bush said, adding he’d also work to update the infrastructure of the agency like he did with the GLO.

“I hear from constituents that have reached out to the Attorney General’s Office asking for help in response to an assault, robbery or a home invasion or a felony of some sort. And they have yet to get a response from the Attorney General’s Office. Certainly technology and new leadership can help better serve the constituents of the state,” Bush said.

Author: Maggie Glynn
This post originally appeared on KXAN Austin

Texas Agriculture commissioner consultant accused of stealing $55K from people wanting hemp licenses

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A consultant for Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller is accused of stealing $ 55,000 from people who thought the consultant would help them get hemp licenses, according to an arrest affidavit.

Todd Malcom Smith, 59, faces a theft charge and bonded out of jail as of Friday. On Sunday, Austin attorneys Sam Bassett and Perry Minton released a statement on behalf of their client.

“Todd never violated any laws and did not steal anything from anyone,” said the statement in part.

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In June 2019, Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill allowing Texas farmers to grow industrial hemp under a program regulated by the Texas Department of Agriculture. The department worked to create rules for the program, had them approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and opened its online licensing and permit application in March 2020.

An affidavit said witnesses from two different businesses came forward saying they paid Smith during the time the rules were being developed, under the impression it would go toward a survey of Texans about hemp. At least one person said they were told the survey was required to get a license.

Multiple people said they never saw the survey, according to the affidavit. In both business cases, witnesses said they reached out to get their money back.

In one case, someone interested in getting involved in the hemp industry said he had been told by a man working with Smith that there would only be a limited number of licenses and that he could pay “cash, with some of the money going toward campaign contributions, in order to receive a ‘guaranteed’ hemp license.”

There is no limit to the number of licenses available, according to a FAQ on the Texas Industrial Hemp Program website.

The affidavit concluded, “Todd Smith created by words and his conduct, a false impression of fact that affected the judgment of others in the transactions to obtain a hemp license and/or conduct a survey that was never attempted.”

“Immediately after Todd was arrested this past Thursday, he sat down with law enforcement for several hours and fully cooperated by answering all of their questions,” said the statement from Smith’s attorneys. “With absolutely nothing to hide, he did so without requesting that a lawyer be present on his behalf.”

The Texas Rangers are investigating this case on behalf of the Texas Department of Public Safety, and are working with the Travis County District Attorney’s Office. In a statement, DPS said the offices will “be keeping the community updated as more information becomes available.”

Read the full statement from Smith’s attorney’s below:

“We have been hired by lobbyist and political consultant Todd Smith regarding his recent arrest. Immediately after Todd was arrested this past Thursday, he sat down with law enforcement for several hours and fully cooperated by answering all of their questions. With absolutely nothing to hide, he did so without requesting that a lawyer be present on his behalf.

Todd is presently one of the most effective and successful Capitol lobbyists working on behalf of
Texas companies and individuals. He is paid by these companies and individuals to bring their concerns and interests to elected officials in order to help shape legislation, public policy and a host of other issues. Todd was paid and performed these very duties for a number of clients interested in obtaining hemp licenses. Todd never guaranteed anyone a particular outcome of any kind.

Todd never violated any laws and did not steal anything from anyone. Todd looks forward to
continuing his cooperation with law enforcement and the district attorney to clear his name.”

Author: Kate Winkle
This post originally appeared on KXAN Austin

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller alleges aid to farmers

Author: Reese Oxner
This post originally appeared on The Texas Tribune: Main Feed

Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush “seriously considering” run for attorney general, lays out case against Ken Paxton

Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush said Thursday he is “seriously considering” running for attorney general in 2022 — and detailed how he would challenge the incumbent, embattled fellow Republican Ken Paxton[1].

“There have been some serious allegations levied against the current attorney general,” Bush said in an interview with Dallas radio host Mark Davis. “Personally I think that the top law enforcement official in Texas needs to be above reproach.”

Bush, the grandson of former President George H.W. Bush and nephew for President George W. Bush, went on to say a Paxton challenge would not be centered on “conservative credentials” but how the incumbent has run his office. “I think character matters and integrity matters,” Bush said.

The land commissioner, currently in his second term, has for months kept open the possibility of running for another statewide office in 2022 — including attorney general[2] — but his remarks Thursday offered the starkest indication yet that he is focused on Paxton. Bush did not give a timeline for a decision on the race beyond saying he is currently focused on the legislation session and will visit with voters afterward. The session ends May 31.

Bush has given other interviews in recent days in which he has also made clear his interest in challenging Paxton, telling Fox News earlier this week[3] that he is “taking a very serious look” at the contest.

Paxton has repeatedly said he plans to seek a third term next year despite a series of new and old scandals. Last year, seven of Paxton’s top aides accused him of accepting bribes and abusing his office to assist a wealthy donor. Those aides were subsequently fired or resigned, and it has since come out that the FBI was investigating the claims against him[4]. And for almost his entire time as attorney general, he has been under indictment[5] on state securities fraud charges.

Paxton has denied wrongdoing in both the FBI investigation and the securities fraud case.

“Attorney General Paxton is focused on keeping the Texas border secure, holding the Biden Administration accountable, and taking on Big Tech,” Paxton campaign spokesperson Ian Prior said in a statement responding to Bush’s interview. “It is unfortunate, but not surprising, to see a potential opponent more interested with the narrative being set by the liberal media than on the real and important issues facing Texas families and small businesses.”

Bush did not let up on Paxton in the Davis interview, saying the attorney general “has been in public service now for 20 years, and I’m not sure another four years is gonna bring Texas anything better.”

“From my perch in Austin, I’ve seen some high-quality attorneys leave that office,” Bush said. “I’ve visited with many conservative attorneys general throughout the country. They’re embarrassed by the conduct, and I think Texans deserve better.”

Bush said Texans “need a top cop that the law enforcement of our great state” can trust and added that sheriffs across the state have told him the same thing. Asked by Davis to identify sheriffs who have told him that, Bush declined to do so, saying he promised the sheriffs “confidentiality.”

Former President Donald Trump would undoubtedly be a point of discussion in any Bush-Paxton showdown. Paxton has closely aligned himself with Trump as attorney general, most notably asking the Supreme Court late last year to overturn Trump’s reelection loss in four battleground states. Paxton then spoke in January at the pro-Trump rally that preceded the deadly U.S. Capitol riot. And Paxton has stayed in touch with Trump since he left office, visiting him[6] at his Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida in late February.

Bush is the most prominent member of his famous political family to have backed Trump, getting behind him in the summer of 2016 after he officially became the GOP nominee.

Speaking with Davis, Bush argued there is “no separation” between himself and Paxton when it comes to being conservatives and supporting Trump.

“When you pick up the paper, yes, there’s good lawsuits, there’s good ideology and filings, but it’s about how you run an office, it’s about how you lead and it’s about how you’re a role model for our children and for members of the Texas bar,” Bush said.

References

  1. ^ Ken Paxton (www.texastribune.org)
  2. ^ including attorney general (www.texastribune.org)
  3. ^ telling Fox News earlier this week (www.foxnews.com)
  4. ^ investigating the claims against him (www.texastribune.org)
  5. ^ under indictment (www.texastribune.org)
  6. ^ visiting him (twitter.com)

Patrick Svitek

Biden to nominate antitrust scholar Lina Khan as FTC commissioner

President BidenJoe BidenGood luck, Dan Bongino! The Hill’s Morning Report – Biden’s next act: Massive infrastructure plan with tax hikes Conservative group says polling shows Dems’ voting rights bill ‘out of sync with American voters’ MORE[2][3][4][5][6][1] on Monday announced his intention to nominate influential antitrust scholar Lina Khan[7] to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Khan, a 32-year-old associate professor at Columbia Law School, would be the youngest FTC commissioner if confirmed by the Senate.

She is best known for a paper written while a law student at Yale titled “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox,” which laid out how the e-commerce giant could be violating antitrust law.

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More recently, Khan served as an aide to the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee during its investigation into the monopoly power of major digital platforms.

Progressive critics of big tech have been pushing for Khan’s nomination.

“A champion of small businesses, entrepreneurs, and working people, Professor Lina Khan is an extraordinary choice for the Federal Trade Commission,” said Sarah Miller, executive director of the American Economic Liberties Project.

“Professor Khan is recognized internationally for her groundbreaking legal scholarship, her ability to work across the aisle, and her extensive policy expertise. At the FTC, Professor Khan will be critical for guiding the agency out of decades of severe institutional failure.”

At the FTC, Khan would play a key role in overseeing an antitrust case against Facebook. She would also be involved in the launching of any new antitrust cases against Silicon Valley giants or companies in other industries.

“So very honored and humbled by this nomination, and excited to get to work if I’m fortunate enough to be confirmed!” Khan tweeted[8] after the official announcement.

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If Khan is confirmed by the Senate, Biden would still have one more position to fill at the five-member FTC.

Biden elevated FTC Commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter to acting chairwoman in January, and he could still choose to make that appointment permanent.

Monday’s announcement comes shortly after Biden appointed Tim Wu, another critic of tech companies, to special assistant to the president for technology and competition policy.

Updated at 5:45 p.m.

[email protected] (Chris Mills Rodrigo)