eye on Pinellas County: January 2006

eye on Pinellas County

Friday, January 13, 2006

Sembler's neighbor to handle legislation for gambling despite a gambling junket paid by the industry

reprint from 11-13-05 Florida Senate President Tom Lee said Wednesday he will let [Mel Sembler's neighbor] Sen. Dennis Jones, (R-Treasure Island), who was one of four Republican beneficiaries of a $48,000 gambling industry junket to Canada, handle legislation that will authorize slot machines in Broward County. Ultimatley the Republican Party picked up the tab for Jones, plus Rep. Frank Farkas, R-St. Petersburg (both run committees regulating Florida parimutuels), Sen. Jim King, R-Jacksonville, and Sen. Michael Bennett, R-Bradenton. Also on the junket were lobbyists Marc Dunbar of Magna and John Culbreath of Magna's Gulfstream Park. [Florida's Lt. Governor Toni Jennings, (R-Orlando) is past president of Florida's Senate and is a member of Straight's Advisory Board (under its latest name--Drug Free America Foundation. H. Lee Moffitt, past speaker of Florida's House of Representatives is another DFAF Advisory Board member.] LINK Related story: LINK

Friday, January 06, 2006

Dead: James T. Russell, former Pinellas County States Attorney

Republican James T. Russell, the former states attorney for Pinellas County Florida, died at his home in Tennessee on Jan. 2, 2006. They say when a man dies, if you can not say anything good about him, say nothing at all. So this will be awkward for us. From what we have read about the man, he had a reputation for going after local political corruption and for that we are grateful because Pinellas County Florida is one of the most corrupt political systems in the nation. In 1993 Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles and members of the state Cabinet honored Mr. Russell with a resolution praising him for never allowing "power, money or politics" to influence his decisions.

Like any good prosecutor, James T. Russell looked for solutions to juvenile delinquency on his turf. To that end he turned to two people: Art Barker, the Pied Piper from Ft. Lauderdale, and to his neighbor Shirely Colletti. Both had visions to solve addiction problems in young people. Mr. Barker formed The Seed in Ft. Lauderdale. One day Russell and Sheriff Don Genung visited The Seed. They liked what they saw and Russell invited Barker to speak at a luncheon for the Pinellas County Bar Association. This led to the founding of the St. Petersburg Seed which had Russell as a founding advisory board member. After the US Senate exposed The Seed for using Communist techniques to brainwash kids, The Seed closed and Mel and Betty Sembler opened Straight which they patterned after The Seed.

The Semblers turned their Seed implementation into the national-level program that had always eluded Art Barker. Straight did not become the powerhouse it became because it was effective--actually it was destructive. No, it grew because powerful politicians in Mel Sembler's pockets praised it. Because former NIDA director and White House Drug Czar Robert DuPont was a Straight consultant. And because James T. Russell looked the other way when Straight abused kids. Russell did not witness any abuse at The Seed. Indeed, Art Barker would not let anyone behind the curtains to observe what he was doing with his young charges. When the abuse charges came out and The Seed closed, Russell felt that the Semblers could fix The Seed's mistakes. Straight was a pyramid scam that sold its two products--a reborn kid in a reunited family--to affluent white folks. Straight was a criminal activity not just limited to criminal child abuse. Its crimes rose to the level of RICO.

But Russell refused to believe the claims of abuse at Straight. He did this because he felt responsible for bringing Straight to the county. He turned aside when six Straight board members resigned the first year--one implying that Straight was worse than the Seed. Allen Allweiss, formerly Russell's chief assistant state attorney for Pasco County, was on the Straight board of directors.

Art Barker created The Seed; Shirely Colletti created Operation PAR. PAR took the poor blacks that Straight was not interested in. Through the years Mel and Betty had Straights taken away from them for charges of criminal child abuse. Now Straight is closed. Betty Sembler and her Straight staff have virtually taken over Operation PAR.

James T. Russell is dead and so are over 40 former Straight clients--thanks, in part, to James T. Russell for not taking the threat of Straight seriously. Now he must answer to the Creator for those ruined lives. The story of James T. Russell's involvement in Straight is here.