The Sheriff's Criminal Association

If Ken Jenne were like most cops, he'd be investigated for being friends with felons who give him money

At the time that Jenne was considering going into business with Bodenhamer and Gaddis, he was in business with Cypress Savings Association, a savings and loan he helped found.

That venture became part of the national savings and loan crisis -- $41 million in investors' money was lost, and two Cypress officials were federally indicted on a slew of felonies involving allegations ranging from fraud to filing false financial documents and conspiring to conceal questionable business transactions from investors, federal regulators, and the board of directors, on which Jenne served.

Loren Mintz, the company's chief executive officer, was later acquitted of his felonies. Carl Guffin, a Cypress vice president, was convicted of only one felony, for misrepresenting the facts on a loan application.

The future sheriff signed a letter of immunity to protect himself from prosecution (though he was never named as a target of the investigation) in exchange for his testimony in federal court. To avoid being named in a federal civil suit against Cypress, Jenne paid $150,000 to settle with the government, according to published reports.

Jenne has said that he didn't involve himself in Cypress's day-to-day operations. Jenne was criticized for his part in the debacle -- his political opponents harped on it in the late '80s, and the Tampa Tribune pulled its endorsement of Jenne in his failed 1988 bid to become the state's insurance commissioner, saying he was "in a position to know [about the scandal while it was occurring] and should have known."

Jenne should also have known that yet another of his old friends, and another major contributor to his campaign, spent time on the other side of the law. Ron Book, one of the most powerful lobbyists in Broward County, was convicted in 1995 of funneling $30,000 worth of campaign contributions through his secretaries to subvert campaign finance laws. Those were misdemeanors. In 1986 he was charged with insurance fraud, a felony, for inflating the price of his Mercedes-Benz by $9000 when collecting an insurance payoff. Book, who lists Huizenga's Miami Dolphins as one of his clients, avoided the stigma of a felony conviction by pleading to a lesser charge. The judge withheld adjudication and sentenced him to community service.

The sheriff accepted at least $1500 in campaign contributions from Book in his run for sheriff ($500 from Book, $500 from his wife, and $500 from his business). Like both Gaddis and Allsworth, Book is another influential insider who is embraced by many politicians -- especially when it comes time to fill the campaign coffers.

State Rep. John Rayson -- a onetime political foe of Jenne who has also accepted campaign contributions from Book and Allsworth -- says Jenne shouldn't be scrutinized for those relationships, especially since he was never a lawman until he became sheriff in January.

"I daresay he didn't know that he was going to become sheriff when he went to Allsworth's hearing or when he did legal work for Gaddis," Rayson says. "I would judge him for what he does as sheriff, not for who he knows."

But to Don Carlson, who runs a national law-enforcement organization that has trained Broward County sheriff's deputies on issues of law-enforcement ethics, the relationships Jenne has kept stink from the top down.

"I'd be uncomfortable if I were working in that agency and I had to look at the top of that agency for a role model," says Carlson, associate director of the Dallas-based Southwestern Law Enforcement Institute and a retired police officer.

"I would also wonder if the boss would be content should some of his subordinates have similar relationships that would not withstand the light of day. It seems to me that any leader has an obligation to set the tone for the agency. Clearly you can have lifelong friends -- but there are times when you need to distance yourself from people with criminal backgrounds, not only for the sake of appearances, but for the sake of propriety, because a lot of people give money to campaigns with expectations of receiving something in return."

Carlson was curious as to how Jenne explains his friends to the public and, more importantly, to his own deputies. When told that Jenne has refused to talk about it with New Times, Carlson laughed and said it reminded him of a reply that a loquacious politician once gave when asked why his opponent refused to publicly debate him. The answer, Carlson recalls, was: "Why would bologna reject a grinder?

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