By Francisco Alvarado
By Trevor Bach
By Chris Joseph
By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Keegan Hamilton and Francisco Alvarado
By Jake Rossen
By Allie Conti
On a hot night in July, Angie Sanders watched Broward County Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion walk up to a table outside Starbucks. He looked breezy in the heat, wearing loose yellow slacks and a green Tommy Bahama shirt. An unlit cigar stub jutted from his mouth.
As Eggelletion took a seat across from Sanders outside the Plantation store, Sanders felt something strange in the air. It didn't seem quite real to her. HE didn't seem quite real to her. Never did, really, dating all the way back to their first kiss, 29 years before, when she was a 17-year-old senior in high school and Eggelletion was her 30-year-old teacher at Dillard High School.
At the time, Eggelletion, who recently finished a stint as Broward County mayor and is up for reelection to the County Commission in the August 26 primary, was ten years away from politics. He was busy, though. In 1979, he not only taught economics and government but also owned a barbershop and ran a janitorial service that specialized in cleaning banks. It was in one of those banks, after hours, that Sanders met him after school. The teacher and the student, who was a cheerleader, sat down on a couch in the dimly lit bank lobby.
"He just grabbed me, and we kissed," she says. "I was thinking, 'Is this real? He's a teacher.' It felt almost like a movie, like it wasn't happening."
In addition to the fact that he was a teacher and she was underaged, Eggelletion was married with children. Sanders says they tried to keep the ensuing affair as secretive as possible, but Eggelletion's wife found out and told her parents. It almost tore her family apart, but the relationship endured on and off until she was 25, when Sanders became pregnant with Eggelletion's son.
Their romance ended with the baby's birth. Eggelletion, still married, didn't offer any help to raise the child, who was named Omar, and she didn't ask him for any.
(Eggelletion has steadfastly refused to discuss the situation with New Times and didn't respond to messages for comment. When reached on his cell phone, he asked that a reporter not call him anymore and hung up.)
It wasn't until 2005 that Sanders filed a paternity suit against Eggelletion. Though DNA tests proved him the father, he won the case on a legal technicality. The case made the newspapers, though the scandalous nature of the relationship received scant attention in the mainstream press.
Eggelletion, victory in hand, has basically ignored his son ever since, say both Sanders and Omar. Until a couple of months ago, anyway. That's when he began reaching out to Sanders.
But the overtures weren't really about Omar; they were all about preserving Eggelletion's political career.
He's in a heated battle for his County Commission seat with opponents church pastor Allen Jackson, Lauderdale Lakes Commissioner John Billingsley, and Lauderhill Commissioner Dale Holness. And that's why he met with Sanders at Starbucks on July 19, six weeks before the upcoming August 26 primary.
With his cigar still unlit, Eggelletion told her he believed that Jackson was going to use "the Omar thing" against him in the campaign, Sanders says. He said that if she would help stop Jackson from bringing his son into the race, there would be money in it for her and Omar. All she had to do, Sanders says, was deny that they'd had sex when she was a minor and write a letter threatening to sue Jackson if he used her name or Omar's name in any campaign literature.
He couldn't pay her now, she says he told her, but once the election was over, he'd be able to throw her $500 here and there. At one point, a figure of $7,000 was tossed out, she says.
"The public can't know about this," she says he told her.
Sanders says she responded that she didn't feel comfortable with the idea because Jackson had done nothing to her and she didn't want to lie. She told him she would sleep on it.
But even as she was leaving the parking lot, she was filled with a powerful mix of anger and sadness. She had already figured out that Eggelletion cared nothing for her or Omar. This was about his political career. And she couldn't believe his arrogance and gall. The proposition was not only wrong but in her opinion bordered on bribery.
At the same time, Omar needed help from his absentee father not only financially but also emotionally. Going along with Eggelletion's scheme might help on both counts. She says she called her brother in tears that night.
"What should I do?" she asked him.
The more she thought about it, the more she realized the commissioner was just using her and Omar as pawns in his political game. She decided not to do it.
She decided to expose him instead.
Sanders, who was born Angelita Rice, remembers the time she poked a girl in the face with a sharpened pencil.
It was during the 45-minute bus ride from the black neighborhoods of northeast Fort Lauderdale to Nova High School, where it was western and white. Neighborhood kids would pick on Sanders for her looks and her background.