What would the New Year be without a good ol'-fashioned cop-on-cop pissing match? Boring, that's what. Which is why we are excited to report that the battle royale between Orange County Sheriff Kevin Beary and his deputies' union is just heating up.

First, on Dec. 11, Beary sent a memo to everyone in his office essentially calling Central Florida Police Benevolent Association president John Park a liar. The union filed an unfair labor practices complaint with the Public Employer Relations Commission on Dec. 13. On Dec. 20, PERC ruled the union's allegations sufficient to proceed and asked the parties to schedule an evidentiary hearing within 30 days.

"We're through playing games," Park tells Happytown™.

Can you smell the animosity?

The union says Beary has been dragging his feet on negotiating a pay increase for street deputies, who start at about $3,000 less per year than their Orlando Police Department counterparts and top out at almost $7,000 less. Park says the sheriff's office has "lost a ton of people" due to low morale. Now, there are "less qualified candidates coming through," he adds. In other words, inferior cops. "`Beary` is stonewalling every effort to increase pay and benefits."

Meanwhile, violent crime is up. And as Park notes, Beary's office has a reputation for being a bit top-heavy.

In the Dec. 11 memo, Beary said all that stuff was nonsense. He's awaiting a so-called Matrix report, due later this month or next (depending upon who you ask), that could impact negotiations with corporals and sergeants. The union counters that the Matrix evaluation doesn't affect this fiscal year, and it wants a deal done now.

In any case, we're hoping someone Tasers Beary again.

In other cop-related news, the Florida Police Benevolent Association filed an ethics complaint against convicted felon/resident sleazeball/state Sen. Gary Siplin Dec. 18 over an incident at the Nov. 18 Florida Classic football game. According to the complaint, Siplin confronted a deputy after the deputy refused to allow him to drive through a closed intersection near the Citrus Bowl. Siplin allegedly threatened the deputy's job.

"No law enforcement officer should ever be threatened with the loss of employment for the regular performance of his or her duties, especially when the threat results from a politician seeking special treatment distinct from that provided other citizens," FPBA president John Rivera wrote in a letter to the Florida Commission of Ethics.

In any case, we're hoping someone Tasers Siplin.

Earth to Clint Curtis … Earth to Clint Curtis … come in, Clint. Can you hear us? OK, then stop. You're just embarrassing yourself.

Curtis, you'll recall, is the computer programmer and would-be congressman (D-Mars) who ran against Rep. Tom Feeney in the November elections. Despite Curtis' oft-repeated-but-totally-unproven claims that Feeney, then a state representative from Oviedo, rigged the 2000 presidential election `"Is this man crazy?" Aug. 10`, Feeney beat Curtis by 33,932 votes.

Or so we've been told. On Dec. 20, our man Clint sent a letter to the clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives demanding that Feeney's victory be nullified. According to the letter, Curtis "maintains that but for machine error, malicious programming, malfunction and/or malfeasance he should have won the seat if the will of the voters of Florida were properly reflected." He filed the complaint both with Congress and the Leon County Circuit Court.

This isn't the only contested congressional election in Florida. Over in Sarasota, Democrat Christine Jennings is challenging her razor-thin loss to Vern Buchanan. But she only lost by 369 votes, and some 18,000 votes went missing. Curtis, meanwhile, lost big with 1,000 undervotes. So on what rational basis can he claim subterfuge?

Umm, that would be none, actually. The electronic voting machines must have been rigged in Feeney's favor, Curtis suggests, because independent voters didn't vote for him, and there couldn't possibly be another explanation for that. Uh-uh, no way. And those final results didn't match pre-election polling that had Curtis within the margin of error, which also means something screwy must be afoot. (Note to Brad Friedman of www.bradblog.com: Go ahead and send us another letter accusing us of servicing Feeney, but we stand firm in our conviction that your man Curtis is batshit crazy.)

Clint, it's time for a little reality check: Yes, electronic machines need a paper trail, and yes, they're susceptible to all sorts of chicanery. But you lost by 34,000 votes. That's called a hearty, old-fashioned ASS-WHUPPIN'.

Would someone please Taser this guy?

So, there we were, spending New Year's Day drinking beer and watching football — because we love America — when we stumbled on the latest reason why the rest of the world sees Orlando as a cheesy, second-tier Touristan: the Capital One Bowl halftime show.

Bowl planners could have let the college bands perform, like every other bowl game. Or they could have done nothing at all, because silence would have been preferable to what went on. But this is Orlando, and we couldn't pass up the chance to advertise our "glories" to a national audience. Thus we got "Postcards from Orlando," seven minutes of the schlock-iest hokum this side of a Lee Greenwood concert. (A phone call to a friend at the game confirmed that every O-Town native in the stands was looking for a balcony from which to jump.)

The Capital One Bowl hired Gene Mitchell, a retired Navy man turned "tropical jazz" musician from Panama Beach — translation: He totally worships Jimmy Buffett — to exhort the wonderfulness that is Orlando in song against a backdrop of "dancers" clad in Bermuda shirts, khaki shorts and sunglasses. They did their thing alongside a midfield banner that proclaimed, "Greetings from Orlando."

Mitchell sang three of his … umm … hits, including a version of "Can't Wait to Be in Miami" that he altered to "Can't Wait to Be in Orlando."

We spent most of the performance trying to persuade our couchmates that we were tourists from Poughkeepsie, but we did manage to catch a line proclaiming that working and playing in Orlando is all the same thing, which is true for us, and that Mitchell wishes for "sunshine all the time" and the "music to play every day." And don't we all.

Excuse us while we change the batteries in our sublethal weapon; we've got a lot of Tasing to do.


This week's report by Jeffrey C. Billman.


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