By Terrence McCoy
By Scott Fishman
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Allie Conti
By New Times Staff
By Ryan Pfeffer
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Kyle Swenson
Dirt Meter: 6 (That he ever was a serious contender in the first place is a sad commentary on the modern political system.)
Before voters threw him out of office in November, it seemed like Ken Keechl, the recently ousted mayor of Broward County, had every political advantage possible. He had the power of incumbency and more than half a million dollars in campaign funds. He was a Democrat and the first openly gay county commissioner in a heavily Democratic district that includes the entire city of Wilton Manors. But his spending was extravagant, he used campaign money for a number of questionable expenditures, and he ran one of the dirtiest races local politics has seen in some time.
Keechl championed ethics reforms and transparency for commissioners' dealings with lobbyists. But during his year with the ceremonial "mayor" title (a different commissioner serves as "mayor" each year), he hosted a gala attended by dozens of lobbyists and people with business before the commission. He asked fellow commissioners to declare it an official Broward County event so the new transparency law did not apply. He let members of the media attend the fundraiser, but only if they agreed not to photograph or interview anyone inside.
He also regularly spent campaign funds on things like wine, food, and travel and to pay the mortgage on a building he and his domestic partner own. He also paid for a deluge of ads and mailers, labeling his opponent, Chris LaMarca, a "convicted criminal" for a college-age DUI charge. Keechl outspent his opponent by $440,000, but LaMarca won the election, and Keechl's time on the commission screeched to a halt after just one term.
Dirt Meter: 5 (In the end, voters just couldn't trust Mayor Ken.)
There was a time when the Mango Festival was one of the biggest events of the year in Deerfield Beach. At its pinnacle in 2005, performers like R&B legend Keith Sweat graced the stage and a whopping 60,000 attendees strolled through the gates. This year, though — the 25th-anniversary edition — the event was a total disaster. And the brunt of the responsibility probably belongs to Deerfield Beach Commissioner Sylvia Poitier.
Poitier championed the festival, assuming an informal position as a leader of its nonprofit committee and encouraging the City Commission to put up $25,000 of taxpayer money. There were early warning signs. Organizers told food vendors there would be 40,000 people but told security to expect about 3,500.
In the end, only a few dozen people showed up to the first day of the event. Checks from the organizers bounced, the sound system failed, the few people who did buy tickets felt incredibly ripped off, and vendors who paid hundreds of dollars for booths ended up throwing away most of their food and threatening a class-action lawsuit.
Poitier blamed the festival's failure on poor planning by the city's parks department and the city manager. She asked that the commission atone for the city's failures by granting the festival a second chance this summer. When another commissioner dared to point out that anyone who thought it'd be a good idea to try that whole thing again is either completely clueless or utterly corrupt, Poitier called her detractors racist.
Dirt Meter: 6 (Where did all that money go, Sylvia?)
Donald Bradford is president of Primate Products, a South Florida-based research facility that imports monkeys from around the world and sells them to animal research labs. Some of the monkeys end up in controversial "vivisection" experiments. Bradford's clandestine, warehouse-esque facility has long been a target of animal-rights activists.
A series of photos leaked from inside the facility earlier this year warns of a disturbing reality inside the industrial walls. The photos show several monkeys with severe — possibly fatal — head injuries, deep gashes into their skulls and faces. In the pictures, the animals are still and lifeless on tables next to numbered cards.
The company confirmed that the photos are real and were taken inside the facility earlier this year. Several institutions — including Nova Southeastern University — immediately announced they would stop doing business with Primate Products. The USDA opened an investigation.
But when reporters asked about the monkeys, Bradford, who, with his receding hairline, pastel polo shirts, and big cigars, bears a resemblance to Rush Limbaugh, eschewed any concern for the animals that have helped him afford the massive mansion he owns in Pembroke Pines. In a statement, he dismissed activist accusations of animal cruelty, saying, "They are completely healthy, healed, beautiful animals."
Dirt Meter: 6 (If more people saw these pictures, there would be a louder outcry against animal experimentation.)
If you aren't a rich, white, heterosexual CEO with excellent health care, you probably won't like certain aspects of living in Rick Scott's Florida. That's because the governor-elect is against most gay-rights issues; his policies favor funneling money to the richest tax bracket; he's opposed to health-care reform; and he's said that he'd favor Arizona-style immigration laws, which call for police to stop anyone they suspect may be in this country illegally (especially if they speak Spanish).
In many ways, Scott epitomizes the filthy corporate executives responsible for so many of the problems in our country — the businessmen who've amassed such wealth that they can virtually purchase public office. Before he went into politics, Scott was chairman and CEO of Columbia/HCA, the nation's largest for-profit health-care corporation, during the time the company was responsible for the largest Medicare fraud case of all time. The corporation admitted to 14 felonies and agreed to pay more than $2 billion in settlements. Scott had to resign, but he didn't leave empty-handed: No, for leading the company during a time of such profitable fraud, he was rewarded with a parting gift of $300 million.