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When you Google Gallagher, the first thing that pops up is a 2-year-old report of mine titled "A Politician Weeps." It's about how she landed a $50,000-a-year job at the Community Blood Centers (CBC), which happens to have a contract with the School Board.
Gallagher should never have taken such a job in the first place, of course. Worse still is the fact that lobbyist Neil Sterling, who represents school builder James Pirtle, used his influence to get her hired. Sterling has also raised tens of thousands of dollars for Gallagher's campaigns.
What makes it particularly suspicious is the fact that Gallagher has touted Sterling's clients at nearly every turn and steered hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of school projects to Pirtle.
The arrangement plays very close to the legal line and could easily be interpreted by a serious prosecutor as unlawful compensation, which is a third-degree felony in Florida.
When I interviewed her about it in 2006, she started crying and said she was going to quit her job. A couple of days after that story was published, the Miami Herald followed the article and quoted Gallagher saying (falsely) that she was misrepresented in my article.
Today, Gallagher is still picking up a $50,000-plus salary at CBC, which subsists on contributions of both blood and money from concerned citizens.
Now she's running a hard-fought campaign, with Henry Rose a serious challenger to her seat. I wondered how in the world she could have time to do her School Board duties, work a full-time job at CBC, and mount the campaign. So I tried to call her at the CBC office in Lauderhill this past Tuesday morning to ask her about it.
The receptionist put me on hold after I asked for her and then transferred me to the voice mail of another staffer.
I called back and told the receptionist about the mistake. She said it was no mistake at all. Gallagher wasn't in the office, and another staffer was doing her job. I asked her if I could drop in during the afternoon to see Gallagher.
"No, she's not here often, so you would definitely have to make an appointment," she told me.
She then asked me if it was about a scholarship (Gallagher's official position is "executive director" of the CBC scholarship fund). She suggested I talk to somebody else if that was my aim, since Gallagher was no longer overseeing scholarships.
I asked her what Gallagher was doing.
"They're still trying to find a new job for her," the receptionist told me.
Outrageous. This politician, doing the bidding of a lobbyist who helped get her the job, is obviously barely working for her grand-a-week paycheck (she made $53,000 last year). What makes it even more galling is that people who do actually work for a living are getting laid off en masse during this economic downturn.
Gallagher didn't return a detailed phone message for comment. I'm really starting to think voters should not return her to office come Election Day.