Letters for February 7, 2002

A Sally over Gary

 WorldWide response: Bob Norman's January 24 column on "Betty" the whistleblower and her accusations against WorldWide Security ignored most of my comments to your reporter and leaves a distorted picture of the situation.

Allow me to reiterate the key points that your reporter conveniently omitted. The article omits my statements that WorldWide has done nothing wrong, welcomes a review of these unfounded allegations, and is cooperating fully. No one ordered "Betty" to sign off on incomplete checks as being completed, and at the end of the investigation, the authorities will conclude that no evidence exists to bring any charges against WorldWide.

"Betty" was fired not because of the dismissed misdemeanor domestic assault mentioned in the story but because her criminal background check revealed a separate 1998 conviction for disorderly conduct. A week after she was fired, she told authorities she falsified forms and made other alarming accusations against the company.

We don't blame authorities for taking any falsification allegation seriously. Airport security is an extremely serious matter, and that is why we are pleased to cooperate and resolve this matter. Nevertheless, your reporter's conclusion that WorldWide should be "put out of the airport security business" based on the allegations of a single disgruntled ex-employee who was fired because she concealed her criminal record is totally irresponsible and contrary to every notion of fair journalism.

Martin R. Raskin
Counsel for WorldWide Security
Miami

An attorney wronged: The headline of Ashley Fantz's January 10 story, "Drug Holiday," asked whether Gary Steinsmith, hospitalized and ill for depression, might have had people taking advantage of him. The truth is that, in fact, he was on the verge of having people take extraordinary advantage of him, and as his friend and colleague, for almost 15 years, I stepped in and put an abrupt end to it.

I don't need any rewards for doing what I was paid to do as a professional or obligated to do as a friend. I don't need to be made a hero. But I have been wrongly castigated, criticized, and humiliated, when I should have been appreciated, congratulated, and thanked. Gary knows the truth. Gary has done the latter. And it was to him I owed a duty and service, not your newspaper.

First and foremost, I met or spoke with doctors at psychiatric and psychological facilities to determine if there was long or short-term care available. I talked with clinicians at CenterOne, Broward House, and numerous AIDS support facilities. I spoke with the hospital administrators at Fort Lauderdale Hospital, Drs. Beniak and Sladkin, even my brother, a psychologist for 20 years.

I also contacted private units that could cater residentially to high-end clients and spoke with representatives at Atlantic Shores Hospital, the Retreat, High Point, the Beachcomber, and other locales that might service Gary and dual-diagnostic patients. I advised County Court Judge Ginger Lerner-Wren of the paucity of service agencies treating the mentally ill as compared to those with drug-dependency problems. We also sought out-of-state long-term care for Gary upon his release.

I contacted Gary's private counselor for the past four years, who was unaware that Gary was hospitalized, and hired him to see Gary in the hospital and prepare a report for the court about his condition.

I reported all this to Judge Lerner-Wren in open court, and I sought and retrieved a court order allowing me to enter Gary's home to recover the gun he might have stored there. For a while, I was doing so much for Gary that Judge Lerner-Wren even chastised me for meddling and trying to get too many doctors and treatment professionals involved. "Let the system work," she admonished me. "We are experienced at this." Indeed, she taught me much about our community's mental health needs. For a person to be involuntarily committed, he or she has to be evaluated by three psychiatrists, and a petition has to be filed, usually by a family member. Therefore, I met with Gary's mother and had her speak to two attorneys, one of whom was particularly respected in the field of guardianship, a former judicial candidate, Alice Reiter Feld. Another was a female attorney who does probate. I did not act alone in the dark of night. I sought out counsel to resolve a crisis.

Toward ending that process, at Gary's request, I went to his home and retrieved his bills, which he had let linger, to put it mildly. There were abusive credit-card charges on a number of accounts, and Gary further advised that he had lost over $10,000 worth of jewelry and his credit cards in a Yellow Cab.

With the aid of attorney Dean Trantalis, I recovered the jewelry, which Gary never should have bought in the first place. But we never recovered the credit cards. So I methodically wrote to each of the credit-card companies and asked that all his charges following November 1, the date of his first Fort Lauderdale arrest, be reviewed, redacted, or declined. Some of those companies had even written to Gary expressing their concern over irrational billings. He had not responded to any of those letters. Someone had to.

While in the hospital, Gary agreed that it would be a wise step to have someone help him, and he authored a document naming Dean Trantalis and me as co-power of attorney for him. I thought it wise to have another attorney, one whom Gary had a previous relationship with, on board, monitoring each step I took for Gary, just to cover myself each step of the way.

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