Thursday, June 5, 2008

Broward PD Candidate Alex Arreaza Asks Station to Help Him Help You

In 1998, WSVN Channel 7 began running the Help Me Howard legal primer segments featuring incumbent Broward County Public Defender Howard Finkelstein (pictured above). Finkelstein will face opposition for the first time since taking office in 2004 after an uncontested bid for the position. In the August 26th Democratic primary, Finkelstein will have to defeat Alex Arreaza, a Davie criminal defense attorney. In the November general election, Finkelstein will battle Republican candidate and local criminal defense lawyer Gary Ostrow.

Arreaza - who tossed his hat into the ring about a month ago - wasted no time stirring the hornet's nest by sending a protest letter to WSVN general manager Robert Leider requesting equal air time as Finkelstein or that the station not air the Help Me Howard segments during the election cycle. WSVN denied Arreaza's request on the grounds that equal-time provisions do not apply to news broadcasts. WSVN maintains that Finkelstein's broadcast appearances have been part of regularly-scheduled bona-fide news programming and therefore fall outside the scope of equal-time provisions.

Arreaza followed-up his letter to WSVN with a letter to the Division of Elections of the Florida Department of State formally complaining of Finkelstein's appearances on Channel 7. Arreaza argues that Finkelstein's appearances on the news broadcasts violate Sections 27.51(3) (requiring public defender to serve on a full-time basis and prohibitting public defender from engaging in the private practice of law while holding office) and 216.262(1)(d) (prohibitting individual employed by a state agency from holding more than one employment during his normal working hours with the state) of the Florida Statutes. Areeaza complemented his letter with other correspondence to various State agencies regarding other malfeasance within the Finkelstein run office, including the inappropriate unauthorized use of staff and assistant public defenders.

As television stations, candidates, and in all likelihood - courts, sort out the above issues, one thing remains certain, Finkelstein's bid for reelection may need to let out a cry for help of its own.

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