Thursday, May 19, 2022

Jerich Faces Sentencing and Delray Addresses Lawsuits

The man who defaced Delray Beach’s LGBTQ Pride streetscape faces his sentencing at 1:30 p.m. Thursday and is making his case against jail time.

Alexander Jerich has pleaded guilty to a third-degree felony and first-degree misdemeanor for “burning” his truck tires across the Pineapple Grove intersection. It happened last June, just two days after the city had dedicated the streetscape. Jerich was part of a vehicle parade for Donald Trump. After another driver goaded him to “tear up that gay intersection,” Jerich made his mark.

The state attorney’s office is seeking a sentence of 30 days in jail, five years probation and 100 hours of community service. In addition, Jerich would have to write letters to apologize to the city and those who worked on the streetscape. He could not come within 500 feet of the intersection and would have to pay $2,033 in restitution. A spokesperson for the office said the money has been paid.

Prosecutors could withhold adjudication on the felony so he would not have it on his record and would not lose his civil rights. Only the misdemeanor conviction would remain on his record.

Alexander Jerich. Photo: Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office

Jerich’s attorney will ask Palm Beach County Circuit Court Judge Scott Suskauer for “restorative justice.” Robert Pasch recommends that his client get no jail time. Instead, Jerich would perform community service with LGBTQ advocacy groups and write a letter of apology.

In addition, Pasch wants Jerich’s probation to last just three years, with the chance of ending it after 18 months if Jerich shows good behavior. He also asked Suskauer to withhold adjudication on the felony.

In his filing, Pasch said Jerich – who is 20 and lives with his parents – lost his construction job because of the charges and is trying to obtain a truck driver’s license. He has met with the state attorney’s office, Pasch said, “to express his regret and to apologize for his action.”

Jerich’s parents, Pasch said, are “dismayed and shocked.” They do not recall any “homophobia” in their family. LGBTQ advocates wanted State Attorney Dave Aronberg to charge Jerich with a hate crime, which would have brought an enhanced sentence. After Aronberg declined to do so, they asked that Jerich serve at least some time behind bars, to make a statement.

Such sentiment may have risen with Florida approving the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. I’ll have more after the hearing.

George Bush Bridge to remain stuck

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George Bush Bridge

The George Bush Bridge in Delray Beach will remain stuck in the up position for at least another month.

County Commissioner Robert Weinroth, who represents the city, told me Monday that there were “tolerance” problems with a part that county engineers ordered. Since this isn’t something available at Home Depot, a new part must be made. Then county engineers must hope that the part fixes the problem. The bridge has been stuck since March 3.

The state shares ownership and operation of bridges with the county. Weinroth said the George Bush span, which crosses the Intracoastal Waterway on the road also named for the former president and opened in 1949, is the only remaining county bridge of concern in his district. In 2019, the county replaced the 80-year-old Camino Real Bridge in Boca Raton.

As with that one, the county must build a new George Bush Bridge. Weinroth said the county will spend $1 million for an updated evaluation. Early estimates are $5 million for design and $40 million for construction.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the bridge in mid-March. Weinroth said the county will seek “the lion’s share” of the cost from the 2021 infrastructure bill that Congress passed. The legislation allocated $245 million to Florida for bridges.

For now, drivers, pedestrians and cyclists must continue to use the bridges at Atlantic Avenue or Woolbright Road. Weinroth acknowledges that, for residents and business owners near the bridge, “It’s a pain.” Construction, of course, will mean further disruption.

Gretsas settlement update

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Former Delray Beach City Manager George Gretsas

On today’s Delray Beach City Commission meeting agenda is a proposed settlement with former City Manager George Gretsas.

The commission fired Gretsas in November 2020 after less than a year on the job, claiming that the commission had cause to do so. Gretsas responded that he had been targeted because of his work to reveal problems about the city’s water supply.

Therefore, Gretsas argued, he was not fired for cause and deserves 20 weeks severance and “other benefits.” Gretsas was making $265,000 annually, so 20 weeks would be about $102,000.

The agenda item contains no specifics. It refers to the “confidential memo” about the settlement.

Coleman and Stewart lawsuits to be discussed

Speaking of Delray Beach and lawsuits, the commission will hold its second executive session—public excluded—this month regarding the lawsuits by the former top two officials of the Neighborhood and Community Services Department.

Michael Coleman and Jamael Stewart claim that they were wrongly forced out in 2019 amid a controversy over grant spending. The second meeting being this soon could indicate that a settlement is near.

Delray outdoor “COVID” areas under review      

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Photo by Tim Mossholder on Pexels.

Delray Beach must decide whether to continue changes that the city approved to help businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Most notably, as the staff memo notes, restaurants could expand their outdoor dining areas “to help balance reductions in indoor capacity and to provide for healthier locations for patrons.” Stand-alone bars, which the city had not allowed to have outside areas, also got that favor.

That program is scheduled to end May 1. “Some businesses,” the memo said, “have filed applications that are in process to permanently, legally establish these outdoor areas.”

Commissioners must decide whether to end the program as scheduled, continue it or end it except for those with “active applications.”

Hotels register big gains

In his newsletter, Weinroth said the county last year received a record-high “remittance” from the tax on hotel and motel rooms. That money goes into marketing and other tourism-related projects, such as the two spring training stadiums and beach renourishment.

The number indicates that the county’s tourism industry has more than recovered from the pandemic.                                      

Correction: I wrote last week that state legislators have 12-year term limits. The term limits are eight years.

Randy Schultz
Randy Schultz, a native of Hartford, Connecticut, has been a South Florida journalist since 1974. He worked for The Miami Herald until 1976 and for The Palm Beach Post from 1976 until 2014, where he served as managing editor and editorial page editor. Since 2014, he has written a politics blog, commentaries and other articles for Boca magazine. His writing has earned first-place awards from the Florida Magazine Association and the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors. Randy has lived in Boca Raton with his wife, Shelley Huff-Schultz, since 1985. His son, daughter-in-law and their three children also live in Boca Raton.

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