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We are charging Publix with thievery. And we're calling for a Publix execution.

As soon as our story came out last week on the deaths of five of the company's employees at the Deerfield Beach warehouse, a current employee of Publix, apparently under orders from a store manager, stole our papers to keep the story off the streets. As if.

Witnesses tell us that a male Publix employee in uniform went into the CD Trader store in Sheridan Plaza in Hollywood last Thursday and lifted numerous copies, and he wasn't trying to inform his coworkers about hazardous working conditions. The bag man/stocker told the CD-store employees, "My manager needs these papers." The Publixer proceeded to take the papers and put them in a Publix shopping cart, according to a witness.

When customer Daniel Niblock saw this, he grabbed a copy, read the headline -- "Publix: Where working can be lethal" -- and laughed. "I would have never imagined that a company as large as Publix could be so petty."

CD Trader manager Mel Rojas agrees and adds, "I don't think it's fair, the public has the right to be informed. If he comes back for more papers, I'll tell him no way."

How, you ask, can a free paper be stolen? Simple. The first one is free and the next one costs $2. We want the story to reach all those interested in reading it and obviously prefer that there's no pilfering of mass quantities to quash an important story.

If Publix has a problem with the story, the remedy is to write a letter or simply to inform us about what was in error, not have employees steal the paper. If the Publix store manager, who didn't return phone calls, told his employee to steal the papers, he should be fired.

We think Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Tim Smith missed his calling -- as a gossip columnist in a daily newspaper. You know the type, one who goes with what is heard on the street.

And what he heard was juicy. Megabucks man Wayne Huizenga was secretly pumping millions of dollars into the Stranahan House campaign to stop a downtown high-rise because he himself had plans to put up his own high-rise nearby and didn't want the competition. Wow, all the elements are there: money, politics, sneaky underhanded dealings by a well-known person. It's enough to make that Jose guy salivate.

The fact that it wasn't factual didn't stop Smith and some other prodevelopment people downtown from spreading the rumor.

Smith says he wouldn't get the straight scoop from the Stranahan House crowd anyway, so instead of calling and asking, Smith has chosen to advance his own theory (OK, call it rumormongering) about the source of the anonymous $2 million donation that will help persuade voters on March 13 to buy the property next door for a park instead of allowing a 38-story high-rise.

Barbara Keith, Stranahan's executive director, will not say who the anonymous donor is, but she will say it's not Huizenga. Although Smith never called Keith to ask who gave the money, he and some business types on East Las Olas Boulevard are blaming Huizenga.

Nice theory but complete bunk, says an indignant Keith. Huizenga did not respond to a telephone message; he was out of the country last week.

Although she won't give up a name, she will reveal the plan for the money's use: "to win this [referendum], to get it done."

Got a tip? Call 954-233-1581, fax 954-233-1571, or e-mail [email protected].

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Tom Walsh
Contact: Tom Walsh

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