Buzz: Cindy Laquidara, Riverside Condominiums, Shands Settlement and More

General Counsel Rules Her Appointment Legal

Jacksonville General Counsel Cindy Laquidara has issued an opinion that there was nothing improper about her appointment. Her Aug. 16 ruling was based on a resolution by City Councilman Matt Schellenberg questioning if her selection as the city’s top lawyer followed steps required by the city charter. Laquidara was initially appointed to a one-year term by Mayor John Peyton and reappointed in 2011 by Mayor Alvin Brown. Read Folio Weekly’s story about Laquidara at


New Riverside Condominiums Planned

Hallmark Partners has announced plans for a 16-story luxury condominium tower on the St. Johns River in Riverside. Beacon Riverside will feature 55 exclusive residences for sale from $600,000 to $2 million. The homes, ranging in size from 2,200 to 4,000 square feet, will showcase 10-foot ceilings and terraces with views of the river, Downtown skyline or historic Riverside. A 7,500-square-foot grand penthouse will occupy the top floor. Construction is scheduled to begin the first quarter of 2014, with completion in the fourth quarter of 2015. The Beacon Riverside Sales Gallery, set to open after Labor Day, is right across the street from The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens. For more information, go to


Shands Agrees to $26 Million Settlement

Shands has agreed to pay $26 million to resolve allegations made under the False Claims Act that billing processes at Shands’ networks resulted in overpayments by Medicare and Medicaid in six of its hospitals. The settlement is the result of a whistleblower lawsuit filed in April. An audit shows Shands may have billed Medicare and Medicaid for short overnight in-patient admissions rather than for less-expensive outpatient or observation services. Timothy M. Goldfarb, CEO of Shands HealthCare in Gainesville, said there was no admission of liability. Shands has made changes to its processes and procedures and has continued to maintain the highest standards of care and service, Goldfarb said in a news release. Shands has changed the name of some of its facilities to UF Health.


Attorney Doesn’t Want a Deal

Jacksonville attorney Kelly Mathis says he is innocent and has no plans to take a plea deal, like others caught up in the Allied Veterans of the World scandal. Mathis appeared on several television shows and gave several other interviews, saying, “I did nothing but provide legal representation to a client. I am confident I will be found not guilty.” When Allied’s Internet cafés were raided in March, Mathis was described as the mastermind of the gaming centers scandal.


‘Bark The Vote’ Seeks $25,000 Prize

Voting has started for an online competition in which the Jacksonville Humane Society is trying to win a $25,000 award. To vote, go to and click on the “Bark the Vote” icon. Voters, who must have a Facebook account, can cast their ballot only once a day until Aug. 31. The Community Engagement Award is part of the ASPCA Rachael Ray $100k Challenge — 49 shelters nationwide are competing. To be considered for a $25,000 Community Engagement Award, a shelter must finish in the top three.


St. Johns River Sensors

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has awarded a grant to Jacksonville Maritime Transportation Exchange for $2.79 million to install a network of sensors in the St. Johns River to improve maritime commerce and safety. The Physical Oceanographic Real-Time System (PORTS), to be finished by December, will involve 23 sensors installed at the mouth of Buffalo Bluff and provide measurements of water depth, current, salinity, visibility and air-gap readings every six minutes.


Medical Marijuana Petition Signatures Hit 100,000 Mark

Signatures on petitions to place the medical marijuana issue on a ballot for a statewide vote have hit the 100,000 mark since the drive was restarted a month ago. That figure allows it to be submitted to the Florida Supreme Court for a ballot language review. The drive will continue because organizers of United For Care still need 583,149 signatures to get it on the ballot, according to Ben Pollara, campaign manager. The petition and information about it are at