2005's Egregious Eleven

The scam artists/malfeasants come at you in waves in South Florida

Lois Frankel

Hurricane Lois, the mayor of West Palm Beach calls herself. And her city, where streets are seemingly in permanent disarray because of long-term construction projects, continues to bear the brunt of Frankel's ham-handedness. Sometimes it seems as if the whole town's against her. The www.flushfrankel.com site continues to push for her recall (if not public execution) using tasteless but funny cartoons to needle the mayor mercilessly. And who could forget the traffic sign that some jokester had manipulated to flash a not-so-nice epithet about Frankel, entertaining the lines of cars stuck in downtown's endless construction nightmares? There's still no escape in sight from the barricades, torn-up streets, or rush-hour logjams. Nor is there hope left for the beleaguered club owners of Clematis Street, watching as code enforcers and cop-driven crackdowns strangle the life out of the nightlife. Frankel delights in making enemies, and when it comes time to elect her replacement, they'll have to sell tickets for those itching to take her on.

Ben Graber

The Broward County mayor used to be cool. Or so we thought. He was a low-key commissioner who wasn't afraid to call out his shameless colleagues on their unethical acts. But he changed. Graber, a gynecologist by trade, has become a grotesque molecule in the corrupt organism that is Broward County politics. The change seems to date back to his becoming vice mayor last year, when other commissioners, the prickly yet oh-so-slimy Ilene Lieberman chief among them, made threats to exclude him from all the reindeer games if he didn't become a "team player." Graber proved that he'd earned his devil's horns when he backed a wasteful plan to put government buildings on land owned by his top campaign contributor, George Rahael. When confronted by New Timesabout it, he backtracked and made lame excuses.

Andrew Scott

Cronyism, mutiny, and sexual harassment. What a year for the former Boca Raton police chief. After wealthy developer and Boca police benefactor Gregory Talbott got busted for his role in a drunken row, during which he allegedly assaulted his wife and then struck a restaurant manager and a police officer who tried to intervene, Scott came to the rescue. Not for the alleged victims but for his buddy Talbott. Scott himself went to the jail at 2 a.m. to make sure Talbott was released post haste. Now that's due process! The police union was disgusted, giving their chief a 125-3 no-confidence vote. The good news kept coming for Scott. A group of female officers wrote letters to Deputy City Manager George Brown saying that Scott created a hostile work environment by calling them "Sweetie" and "Good-lookin'." An investigation failed to produce charges. But it was too little to late for the beleaguered chief. Under heavy public pressure, he stepped down in November. Poor Andy. His only crime was helping too much.

Mary McCarty

The Palm Beach County commissioner has shown boundless enthusiasm for building the Scripps Research Center at the so-called Mecca Farms site, way out in the county's largely undeveloped west, butting up against the increasingly threatened Everglades. Litigation? Bring it on, she barked. After all, her minder and patron, Gov. Jeb Bush, had virtually guaranteed the success of the Scripps deal, giving hungry developers an opening to the west. Megahome builders had long salivated over the chance to trample county environmental restrictions there. Heeding her master's voice, McCarty sold out the county's long-term growth plan. Can we say we weren't surprised? McCarty was recently fined by a state ethics commission for taking illegal contributions from developers. Even with lawsuits pending, McCarty pushed her fellow commissioners in May to move forward with construction at Mecca and spend $20 million on developing the site. But then a federal judge virtually killed the deal in September. When last we heard from her, she was sitting in commission chambers chanting, "Mecca Mecca Mecca..."

Barry Krischer

Palm Beach County's top prosecutor won't be winning any civil rights awards for 2005. Last February, Delray Beach police officer Darren Cogoni shot and killed Jerrod Miller, a black teenager, after the 16-year-old sped away in his car from the cop on school grounds. Residents of the city were outraged at the seemingly harsh treatment of a beloved teenager and demanded justice. But Krischer, a former defense attorney who has represented officers accused of shooting suspects, has a long history of declining to prosecute reckless cops. Even after a state judge found sufficient evidence to charge Cogoni with manslaughter, Krischer wouldn't act, electing instead to send the case to a grand jury, which (with a Krischer staffer presenting the case) declined to indict. Delray blacks still feel the hurt. Krischer has shown no such delicacy about prosecuting Palm Beach County school kids who, under a policy of "zero tolerance," are often charged with misdemeanors or felonies for minor school infractions. Most of those offenders — 70 percent — are black.

CORRECTION

In a previous version of this article, New Times erroneously reported that American Media Inc. (AMI) CEO David Pecker accepted a $40,000 grant from Palm Beach County to entice his company to stay in South Florida but then subsequently moved his National Enquirer to New York. In fact, Palm Beach County had offered AMI $390,000, which Pecker declined to accept in December 2001. New Times regrets the error.

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