Letters for January 30, 2003

A prosecution complex

 Bob can't see the forest for the sleaze: Reading Bob Norman's pop psychology about the Broward State Attorney's Office ("Corruption and Nothingness," January 27) was both amusing and frustrating. Somehow he chose to leave out the following facts that didn't support his hypothesis:

From 1977 through 2001, this office presented the grand jury or direct-filed cases against at least 21 elected officials and secured three convictions, including that of Broward County Commissioner Scott Cowan.

During this same period, this office also brought serious charges against more than 21 top administrative government officials from throughout Broward exactly like the Fort Lauderdale official he mentions. Those officials included a port director, chief building inspectors, top fire officials, utilities department administrators, head of the Criminal Justice Institute, and environmental regulators. We secured at least 11 convictions in those cases.

In addition, we brought charges against at least 94 other rank-and-file governmental employees charged with everything from stealing taxpayers' money and goods to dealing cocaine on the job. The vast majority of those charged (at least 72) were convicted and punished.

And those statistics do not include the charges that unit prosecutors brought against at least 77 attorneys and other professionals for professional crimes or the cases of 180 law enforcement officers taken to the grand jury or filed against them directly.

Also, the Broward State Attorney's Office initiated grand jury investigations into allegations of corruption and malfeasance in a number of major public institutions. Those probes helped clean up South Florida State Hospital and the Broward Criminal Justice Institute. They changed the way fairs handle amusement-ride safety. And they detailed serious deficiencies in the Broward schools construction program and the child welfare system.

Instead of including those important facts, Mr. Norman chose to try to wow us with his college-freshman interpretation of existentialism. That's frustrating for us, lousy journalism for your newspaper.

Being a crusading journalist trying to dig out society's evils is a noble pursuit. But you can get a little heady if you think something you wrote may right some wrong and those visions of Pulitzer Prizes start dancing in your head. It is far more serious for a prosecutor to take the circumstances of a case and convince six jurors beyond a reasonable doubt.

In the Pompano Beach case Mr. Norman cited, not only could our prosecutor not find any evidence to convince a jury of any criminal wrongdoing but the state Ethics Commission, with a considerably lesser burden of proof, couldn't find even an ethics violation. This caused Mr. Norman, who initially dug up the allegations of impropriety, great personal frustration, he conceded. Sorry, our job was to follow the law, not win him a Pulitzer.

Mr. Norman's column suggests that he probably shouldn't seek work as a clinical psychoanalyst any time soon. The reality Mr. Norman missed is this: The Broward State Attorney's Office aggressively pursues every kind of public corruption it encounters.

Every case is unique, except for one important factor: Each and every public-corruption case involves the same hard work and the same commitment and dedication that all of our prosecutors and staff put into every one of the 14,000 felony and 36,000 misdemeanor cases they file each year.

That is not opinion; that is fact. It's a shame Bob Norman just didn't get it.

Ron Ishoy, Communications Manager

Broward State Attorney's Office

Fort Lauderdale

Bob Norman responds: Damn you, Ishoy! I was counting on that Pulitzer. What am I going to do with my beautifully crafted and oh-so-humble acceptance speech? Read it to my dog? Well, thanks all the same, but that doesn't help, since I don't have a dog. But don't count me out yet, Ron. The "Pompano Beach case" you mention wasn't the one I cited, nor can I take credit for digging up the information. You're referring to an old Mayor Bill Griffin scandal, which involved construction contracts at John Knox Village. The scandal on which I'm resting my future hasn't gone before the Ethics Commission and concerns Griffin's new job at Turner Construction. I'm sure Assistant State Attorney John Hanlon will be relieved to know you've already closed that new investigation for him. And judging from your boss' record, do you really think I expect Griffin will be punished? No, he'll skate, and I'll be deprived of many much-deserved accolades. Damn you, Ishoy!

And tell of your oppression: As a white male, I disagreed with Rebekah Gleaves' opinions in the January 16 story "The Whitest Greens."

In looking through the Yellow Pages, I see "Palm Beach Lady" fitness club, for WOMEN only. Next to that is "Fitness for Women," also for women only. Not only are these not private clubs but they advertise "for women only."

What about all the high schools for girls only? And all the all-female colleges? Can I join the National Organization for Women? Can I join the Million Man March? Can I as a white male join the NAACP? Or if you start "Rebekah's Private Club" tomorrow, do I have the constitutional right to join your club? Not the privilege, but the right?

Karlton Dickey

Deerfield Beach

She's slapping our wrist: As principal at the Dreyfoos School of the Arts, it has been difficult to read much of what has been written about our school, our students, and our staff. While we work tirelessly to promote an unparalleled arts education, a challenging academic curriculum, and equitable opportunity for all young people with talent or potential in the arts, we must also work against media reports that do not accurately represent what goes on here.

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