By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Keegan Hamilton and Francisco Alvarado
By Jake Rossen
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Chris Joseph
By Michael E. Miller
Josephus Eggelletion is the politician who won't go away.
During the past five years, the Broward County commissioner has been hit with scandals involving his taxpayer-issued credit card and his unethical work for developers and trash haulers. More recently, we've learned he has an unfortunate knack for having children in adulterous affairs and then failing to tender child support.
So how does he pay for these transgressions? His colleagues on the Broward County Commission promoted him last week to be vice mayor of the county. Get it? Vice mayor. And you thought those stiffs at county hall didn't have a sense of humor.
And for all the kindness he's been shown, Eggelletion is giving back to the community. As part of his gratitude, he's pushing a controversial plan to build a multimillion-dollar government complex on land owned by a couple of high-powered developers.
Naturally, I wondered, "What in the name of Art Teele does that have to do with sex and cash?"
I haven't seen any evidence of the former involved in this thing, but there's plenty of the latter. And that should come as no surprise if you've read my last two offerings about the way the developers in question George Rahael and Charles Ladd wooed new Broward Mayor Ben Graber and Property Appraiser Lori Parrish on the plan to build county digs at the Riverbend Corporate Park on Broward Boulevard.
But Eggelletion's ties to Riverbend owners Rahael and Ladd go well beyond campaign contributions and lobbyists. Turns out that the vice mayor's golfing partner, Jim Cole, is a partner in the deal. And Cole, a lawyer with the powerhouse law firm Ruden McClosky, is more than just a buddy. He was also involved in a secret lobbying deal with Eggelletion last year that paid the commissioner a cool ten grand.
Cole's role in Riverbend helps to explain why Eggelletion has been shamelessly shilling for Rahael and Ladd. It was Eggelletion, for instance, who first suggested during a committee meeting in June that the county build specifically on the Riverbend property. The commissioner also had meetings with the developers during which he gathered information that he later shared with county staff, according to county records.
"It was somewhat unusual," county Public Works Director Dick Brossard says of Eggelletion's behind-the-scenes involvement with Rahael and Ladd.
Eggelletion didn't return repeated phone calls and e-mails asking for an explanation for why he's cuckoo for Riverbend. But during the October 18 commission meeting, he told the public that he was "prejudiced" for the site because he believed it would help spur development in his predominantly black district.
We'd all love to believe that the commissioner has his constituents in mind, but that's simply not in his character. Eggelletion loves only one man: Eggelletion. And Rahael and Ladd took care of that man, contributing at least $3,500 to his 2004 campaign. They also hired his campaign consultant, Judith Stern, as a lobbyist for the deal. But Eggelletion was doing some serious back flips for Riverbend. I figured there had to be more and that's where Cole enters the picture.
In records submitted to the county, Rahael and Ladd mentioned that they are partnering with a company called Northwest Development Group LLC. I looked up the company on the state's corporate database and found that it is packed with black power brokers. Listed as registered agent is Frank Hall Jr., a former county contractor who now serves as financial adviser to the City of Miramar.
The other partners were listed as now-defunct companies, but it was easy enough to find out who was behind them. One is Sidney Calloway, who works at the law firm of Shutts and Bowen, which is run by big-time county lobbyist George Platt. Another is developer Pamela Adams, a former campaign consultant and close personal friend of Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Carlton Moore.
All of these people are Eggelletion's friends, but none of those names rang the bell like that of a fourth company listed as a partner, Cole Diversified. Owner: James O. Cole and his wife, Ada.
To understand the relationship between Jim Cole and Eggelletion, you must know that both men worked last year for developer United Homes when it was vying to build a $100 million downtown center for the City of Lauderdale Lakes. Cole served as a legal adviser to the firm, while Eggelletion took on the role of secret lobbyist. He had to keep his job hidden from the public since Lauderdale Lakes had banned lobbyists from participating in the project. When I broke the story about his covert work for United Homes (which is co-owned by a man who was convicted of bribing a public official in Miami-Dade), Eggelletion wouldn't talk.
This year, however, he had to admit in his financial disclosure to the state that he'd been paid $10,000 by United Homes.
So Cole is Eggelletion's friend, political supporter, and an associate in a shady government deal. And now he's involved in Eggelletion's pet project, Riverbend.
I called Cole at his Ruden McClosky office in downtown Fort Lauderdale and asked him about his partnership with Rahael and Ladd.