Just Say, Um, OK to Drugs

A new crusade to rid Dania Beach of drugs has targeted some unlikely villains, including a local program director and a former mayor

Chunn, a 51-year-old black man with hepatitis C who bought and sold drugs in the park for years, also sees the racism charge as misdirected. "I'm black, and that's a ploy, that's bullshit. I seen the same things going on when I was 23 -- selling drugs on the corner. This is about money and drugs, it's not about black or white."

So why hasn't Grace or Kennedy tried to enlist police help or talk to parents of drug dealers who might hobble the robust drug trade, Mikes wonders. He answers his own question: money. Public records show that a Grace campaign for the city commission was financed partly by a convicted drug dealer. And public records also show that Kennedy was fired from another organization, Friends of Children, for mishandling grant money.

"Bobbie Grace sat on the commission for eight years, and her front door is right there facing the worst drug area. She'll take on almost any problem except the drug problem," Mikes says.

Commissioner Bob Mikes (left) and the Rev. Louis Sanders stand in the park managed by Arlon Kennedy (inset) before he was fired. Dania Beach commissioners said Kennedy didn't act aggressively enough to stop drug sales.
Sherri Cohen
Commissioner Bob Mikes (left) and the Rev. Louis Sanders stand in the park managed by Arlon Kennedy (inset) before he was fired. Dania Beach commissioners said Kennedy didn't act aggressively enough to stop drug sales.

Grace insists that she has tried to stop the drug problem in Modello Park by making telephone calls to the Broward Sheriff's Office, turning in the names or addresses of more than 30 drug dealers. "The reason we still have drugs there is they aren't doing their jobs," she claims of the cops.

And she wasn't aware that she was taking campaign money from a powerful drug kingpin when she got into politics, she says.

In 1988 Grace leaped into city hall on a tide of good will and support not only from members of the black community but from whites as well, many of whom voted for her. Among her biggest financial supporters was Ivory McCutcheon, a black landlord and wealthy business owner. McCutcheon inspired loyalty and admiration in the black neighborhood, where rumors that he was a drug kingpin were prevalent. McCutcheon and his businesses contributed more than $1000 to Grace's campaign.

The rumors about drug sales later proved true. McCutcheon didn't just rent housing to Section 8 welfare recipients, collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars in rent from the federal government. And he didn't just own A Touch of Class, the bar near Modello Park. McCutcheon bought and sold drugs in huge quantities, running one of the largest family-owned drug businesses in the area, investigators later proved. Sometimes he did it out of A Touch of Class, which became Bobbie Grace's campaign headquarters and the site of her victory party, according to campaign records.

When Ivory McCutcheon tried to buy 218 pounds of cocaine himself, federal investigators arrested him, winning his conviction in 1992. Now McCutcheon is serving a 25-year sentence in a federal prison in Georgia.

Kennedy never took money from drug dealers, but in 1999 he was forced to resign a $34,000-per-year job at Friends of Children amid allegations that he lied about his fundraising. He asked for $8500 from the Hollywood police department to support Friends and MAD-DADS without telling his boss, a violation of rules, according to a letter by Friends president Willie Myles. When confronted Kennedy admitted he had sought the money, but denied ever laying eyes on it. He told his boss that a check for the amount was in the mail to the Sunrise headquarters of Friends of Children.

"He denied personally receiving the funds," wrote Myles, but "[Hollywood Police] Chief Lamberti verified that he actually placed the $8500 check in Mr. Kennedy's hand 10 to 15 days prior." In the end Friends of Children never received the money, and Kennedy returned the check to the Hollywood police department himself, Myles says.

Meanwhile drug sales continue on the southeast corner of the park, in plain sight of those who have witnessed similar commerce there for 30 years. Boys and young men afoot or mounted on bicycles or motor scooters move slowly along the street, waiting for patrons.

"There's about 30 of them out there selling at any one time," says Guilda Fuller, a 40-year-old mother of four whose life has evolved solely within the ten square blocks surrounding the park.

"Everybody knows the kids who is selling," Fuller says. But people don't try to stop them. Her explanation describes the economic roots of the drug problem in neighborhood families. "When your son is bringing in $600 or $700 every two or three nights, you [ignore the problem]."

Fuller's sister was one of those hurt by what happens in Modello Park. Now 47 years old and in jail, the girl at age 15 had begun to indulge, moving "from reefer to cocaine, from snorting to shooting and then to crack," Fuller recalls. Her sister's first child, a girl, died of AIDS eight years ago at the age of 23. Another child, an addict baby who required drugs for the first six years of his life, is now 26. He sold drugs in the park and spends his time in and out of jail, she says. Another of her sister's children, a nine-year-old girl, has been raised almost from birth by Fuller.

Fuller's oldest son, the first ever in the family to go to college, used to see his father buying crack in Modello Park, Fuller admits. The family connections have made her reluctant in the past to come forward.

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