By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Keegan Hamilton and Francisco Alvarado
By Jake Rossen
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Chris Joseph
By Michael E. Miller
Finkelstein — whose office is often tasked with defending the suspects whom Penoyer and her coworkers arrest — argues that the lady cops have financial incentive to make frivolous arrests because they look exciting on TV. Demanding to know how much the deputies were getting paid, Finkelstein went to court to force the contracts to be revealed. After more than a year of legal resistance, the production company finally released the documents this fall. Penoyer's first contract promised her $7,500 for the season, with the option of a 10 percent raise for subsequent seasons. An addendum allowed her to seek endorsement opportunities, as long as they didn't conflict with the show's sponsors.
"Law enforcement, consumed with new-found celebrity, has relegated [its] objectives to the whims of tabloid TV, whose coffers are filled through public titillation," wrote Weekes, alleging that "the Sheriff, who is up for reelection, has actively benefited from the celebrity associated with the show."
Citizens need a sheriff to carry out the duties of the law, not to entertain them. Lamberti should have thrown out this TV deal the moment it hit his desk.
10. Thompson Academy
No matter how many scandals flare up over the years, Florida officials keep trusting private companies to care for the state's most troubled kids. Recently, a U.S. Department of Justice report found that Florida has a "failed system of oversight and accountability" for its juvenile lockups. But that hasn't helped the kids at Thompson Academy.
Last year, five former residents filed a class-action lawsuit alleging that they were sexually assaulted, beaten, and generally mistreated by employees at the privately run lockup in Pembroke Pines. One 14-year-old boy said he was twice forced to perform oral sex on a counselor; a 16-year-old alleged that a guard choked him and slammed him into a wall. Other kids claimed to have been undernourished and denied necessary medical treatment. But as juvenile delinquents, they had a hard time winning sympathy for their cause.
Pembroke Pines police officers investigated the sexual-assault allegations and declared them "unfounded." Attorneys for Thompson Academy argued that the encounters between the 14-year-old boy and the 23-year-old male counselor, if they occurred, were consensual — even though 14-year-olds cannot legally consent to sex in Florida. In May, before the case went to trial, both sides agreed to an undisclosed settlement. Thompson remains open, funded by millions of taxpayer dollars.
11. Rothstein’s Computer Nerds
Plenty of people helped Fort Lauderdale attorney Scott Rothstein orchestrate his massive Ponzi scheme, but we can't list them all here. Computer geeks Curtis Renie and William Corte made the cut because they taught us how astonishingly easy it is to buy a man's soul.
All it took was $5,000 each to convince the two 38-year-old information technology specialists to participate in the scam. In early 2009, they copied the website of TD Bank onto computers at the Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler firm, where they worked. Then they altered account statements to make it seem as if the firm had $300 million to $1 billion in deposits at the bank. Rothstein showed the fake data to potential investors, convincing at least three of them to invest more than $35 million in his scheme, according to federal prosecutors.
In fall 2009, when the Ponzi scam hit the news, Renie deleted the fake bank site and all the emails he could find referring to it. He and Corte pleaded guilty this fall to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. They were sentenced to 37 months behind bars. One can only pray these men have trouble getting a Wi-Fi signal in prison.
12. Langerado Festival Organizers
What do you need for a successful music festival? Sunshine, open spaces, lots of people. Unfortunately for us, you also need good management. This year, the Langerado festival failed for what's probably the last time.
The festival, which started with a few shaggy jam bands plucking it out in Fort Lauderdale in 2003, grew into a weekend-long shindig that took over Markham Park near the Everglades and then, in 2008, shifted to the Big Cypress Indian Reservation. Fans could camp outside all weekend, commingling a blissed-out mood with South Florida's natural sublime jankiness. But over the years, the festival confused its core audience by drifting from its jam-band roots. In 2008, for example, it booked Vampire Weekend, an indie band with a world-music sound — which canceled at the last minute to appear on Saturday Night Live.
In 2009, organizers announced that the festival would be held in Miami's Bicentennial Park. Though the Miami mayor's office heralded this as a "more accessible community-oriented event," attendees were pissed. Downtown Miami? No camping? The idea bombed, and the event was canceled. It didn't return in 2010 either.
So when organizers announced a return to Markham Park for 2011, they were met with caution and criticism. Some fans wanted the venue changed back to Big Cypress. Some were alienated by a bizarre presale deal in which people were invited to buy tickets for a lower rate but couldn't see the lineup until long after they paid.
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