Minority Report

Bush buddy and hospital district commissioner Dorsey Miller uses his minority status for cold cash

Putting aside the grand jury investigation and other dire problems, it's possible Bush didn't know about Miller's ties to AMD, since they haven't been made public until now. But the letter indicates just how determined the governor is to gloss over any violations of public trust that occur in his fiefdom.

And the recitation of the letter was certainly a high point for Miller, who stood up and posed for pictures with the award and later spoke about creating a "level playing field" before urging the district to give more business to Asian companies.

A Misleading Missive

Michael McElroy
Above, Gov. Jeb Bush and state diversity director Windell Paige hand a happy Akhil Agrawal the 2002 Minority Vendor of the Year award. At right, Akhil Agrawal and his father, Piyush, pose with President Bush during a Fort Lauderdale fundraiser at Pier 66.
Above, Gov. Jeb Bush and state diversity director Windell Paige hand a happy Akhil Agrawal the 2002 Minority Vendor of the Year award. At right, Akhil Agrawal and his father, Piyush, pose with President Bush during a Fort Lauderdale fundraiser at Pier 66.

A state investigation of Dorsey Miller's financial connection to American Medical Depot has plodded on for months, but the North Broward Hospital District commissioner has yet to speak with prosecutors. Instead, William Scherer, the district's attorney, has run interference for his Republican ally. And the lawyer's efforts might deserve a separate scrutiny from investigators.

A letter Scherer wrote to lead investigator John Hanlon is riddled with falsehoods that appear to be designed to exonerate the commissioner, who has received more than $100,000 in payment from AMD while helping it win business with the district.

Scherer -- who is widely considered to be the most powerful official at the district -- met with Hanlon last summer and, on August 21, 2003, wrote the assistant state attorney a letter claiming that he had examined all "available records" regarding Miller and AMD and found that the commissioner was in "substantial compliance with the applicable Florida ethical laws.

"Dr. Miller abstained from participation and voting when required... [and] executed appropriate conflict forms pursuant to a request by this firm," Scherer wrote.

Apparently, Scherer, who refused to comment for this article, failed to notice that Miller voted in November 2002 to approve a shift of millions in district business to AMD. Considering the general counsel's vast knowledge of district business, it's unlikely he would make such a mistake, which conveniently benefits Miller's defense. And that means Scherer may have a problem. It's a second-degree misdemeanor in Florida to "knowingly make a false statement in writing with the intent to mislead a public servant."

The general counsel was correct, however, in stating that Miller filed a form acknowledging a conflict of interest. But Scherer should have known it was far from "appropriate," as he stated in his letter. Miller didn't file the form at the time of the March 2002 meeting. Instead, he filled it out more than a year later, on June 26, 2003, after both he and Scherer learned of the criminal investigation.

This ploy is made more curious by the fact that Florida ethics laws require such forms to be filed within 15 days of the recusal. Furthermore, those conflict forms are relevant only to the state Code of Ethics, which has nothing to do with the criminal corruption laws that Hanlon is supposed to enforce.

The Scherer letter continues: "American Medical Depot maintained a long-standing business relationship with the North Broward Hospital District. The business relationship between the [district] and American Medical Depot was established before Mr. Miller was appointed to the [board]."

This statement too is blatantly false and misleading. Before Miller's appointment, AMD had no contract with the district and wasn't a prime vendor. Instead, it occasionally provided emergency backup supplies to the district that amounted to less than $2,000 a year. After AMD hired Miller, the relationship changed drastically. In late November, AMD signed a contract with NBHD worth millions of dollars and is now one of its most active minority businesses.

-- Bob Norman

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