A Politician Weeps

Confronted with evidence of influence peddling, a school board member tearfully claims she'll quit her job.

The procurement of the job and the subsequent votes, I offered, seemed ample evidence of that. That's when she began to sob.

"I will quit my job and get another job then," she said through her tears. "But how am I going to pay my mortgage this month? How am I going to put my kids through college? And how will I get another job? If I ask my other friends, like George Platt... I can't do that either?"

Platt is another major lobbyist at the school board. I told her that wasn't a good idea.

"Then, Bob, I ask you, where can I find a job?" she asked through tears. "When people try to find a job, they network to find a job and they talk to people they know. That's the only way I know to get jobs."

I felt both great astonishment at what I was hearing and, call me a softie, some sadness for Gallagher. She was a parent activist and substitute school teacher before she ran for the board. Then the lobbyists and contractors wined and dined her and gave her a job so that she would cast a friendly eye — and a friendly vote — their way when the chips were down.

She became swept up in that swirling social scene, and now she was left with a bunch of "friends" like Sterling, Miller, and Platt — high-rolling users who only want a piece of the school board's whopping $2.1 billion construction budget.

And there's no reason to doubt that Gallagher really does need outside income. Her husband, a lawyer, left her shortly after she was elected in 2000 and, she says, doesn't pay alimony or help with the college bills for the children.

To help calm her down, I told her it would be all right. I told her that Broward State Attorney Michael Satz doesn't prosecute corruption cases, that the worst that would happen was that his office would start an investigation and sit on it for two years before quietly deciding not to file any charges.

This is all true, and I've reported on this pattern numerous times. Satz is sitting on several such cases right now. In fact, his office famously investigated the construction department at the Broward County School Board during the mid-1990s. The grand jury probe cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and came up with reams of evidence of corruption — but Satz failed to prosecute any elected officials or high-ranking school board staffers.

Gallagher only stepped into a culture of corruption and, unfortunately, she was all too susceptible to it. Neil Sterling, Pirtle Construction, Zyscovich, Ira Cor, and Gallagher have profited from it.

Only the taxpayers have been stiffed.

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