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Best Of 2002

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Best Of :: People & Places

Best Local Boy Gone Bad

Less than eight months ago, Thomas Abrams was the toast of the town, raking in millions as a big, swinging financier and earning respect and admiration for his foundation, which he claimed provided millions for impoverished children. Then in October, the day before he was to host a $25,000-a-plate fundraiser at the Breakers, organizers had to tell the likes of Dan Marino, Eunice Shriver, and Buzz Aldrin that the gala was off. Instead of spending the weekend at the five-star resort regaling celebrities with unsubstantiated claims that he created the X-Men comic book hero Wolverine and played fullback for the Miami Hurricanes, the man who managed 260 accounts worth $6 million from his lavish Fort Lauderdale office was busy. Seems the FBI wanted to talk to him about evidence that showed he had bilked elderly investors out of more than $20 million. Six weeks later, Abrams was arrested and charged with six counts of wire fraud, six counts of mail fraud, and three counts of money laundering. Unable to get his hands on bank accounts the feds froze, the 39-year-old was forced to cry poverty; taxpayers are now picking up the tab for his defense. But whether he's convicted or not, his life will never be the same. In March, the feds auctioned off $700,000 worth of his beloved toys and sports and historical memorabilia. Gone are dozens of autographed bats, balls, jerseys, helmets, and gloves. Gone is a signed copy of Richard Nixon's August 9, 1974, resignation and Gerald Ford's September 8, 1974, pardon. The Harley and Jag? Gone. In retrospect, his fall from grace might have been expected. After all, here's a guy who made millions yet couldn't afford a dictionary so he could correctly spell the name of his company, Pheonix Investment Management, and his charity, Pheonix Foundation for Children. But spelled correctly or not, this is one bird that will only explode in fire, never to fly high again.

Best Political Battle

In Broward County, at least, all politicians lie about annexation. They say they want to grow their city. They say they want to be inclusive. But the fact of the matter is that none of 'em want to touch the county's poorest unincorporated areas, which include less than 6 percent of the 1.7 million population. The so-called "Area A" west of Fort Lauderdale is particularly unwanted. This year, State Rep. Stacy Ritter, a Coral Springs Democrat, tried to change the way things are done. She wanted to transfer power to approve annexations from the state legislature to the counties. But heck, commissioners -- including new chairwoman Lori Parrish -- as well as Swap Shop owner and political heavyweight Preston Henn didn't want that hot potato. So Democratic Sen. Mandy Dawson of Fort Lauderdale killed the plan. And though a self-imposed deadline of 2005 is fast approaching, no one's in a hurry to take on any of these areas. Meanwhile, area residents' taxes are going through the roof. So if you like wonk politics -- or if you just enjoy seeing politicians walk all over one another -- ask about this and watch 'em squirm.

Best Political Battle

In Broward County, at least, all politicians lie about annexation. They say they want to grow their city. They say they want to be inclusive. But the fact of the matter is that none of 'em want to touch the county's poorest unincorporated areas, which include less than 6 percent of the 1.7 million population. The so-called "Area A" west of Fort Lauderdale is particularly unwanted. This year, State Rep. Stacy Ritter, a Coral Springs Democrat, tried to change the way things are done. She wanted to transfer power to approve annexations from the state legislature to the counties. But heck, commissioners -- including new chairwoman Lori Parrish -- as well as Swap Shop owner and political heavyweight Preston Henn didn't want that hot potato. So Democratic Sen. Mandy Dawson of Fort Lauderdale killed the plan. And though a self-imposed deadline of 2005 is fast approaching, no one's in a hurry to take on any of these areas. Meanwhile, area residents' taxes are going through the roof. So if you like wonk politics -- or if you just enjoy seeing politicians walk all over one another -- ask about this and watch 'em squirm.

Best Scandal

Back in 1999, this newspaper discovered a startling fact about Josephus Eggelletion, who was then a state representative. Eggelletion had a cushy little job at the Broward County School Board, which paid him nearly $48,000 a year. The problem: He worked only 18 weeks but still collected his full paycheck. For the remaining 21 weeks of the school year, he was paid by both the school board, where he wasn't, and by the state in Tallahassee, where he presumably was. When we interviewed him, he was busy on a weekday afternoon -- lounging at the Inverrary Golf Club. So it didn't surprise us when it broke that he'd been caught flaunting his credit card at his new job on the Broward County Commission. On our credit, Eggelletion charged lavish meals, drinks, a $659 leather briefcase, hundreds in dry-cleaning bills, and, of course, golf games. Then it was discovered that while he was in Brazil on county business (where he spent plenty of our money in a putative attempt to lure the Black Film Festival to Broward), he was listed as "sick" at his old job at the school board, which now pays him $58,000 (in addition to the commission salary of $80,000). It may be time to send him to the links full-time, where his heart is. It obviously isn't with the public.

Best Scandal

Back in 1999, this newspaper discovered a startling fact about Josephus Eggelletion, who was then a state representative. Eggelletion had a cushy little job at the Broward County School Board, which paid him nearly $48,000 a year. The problem: He worked only 18 weeks but still collected his full paycheck. For the remaining 21 weeks of the school year, he was paid by both the school board, where he wasn't, and by the state in Tallahassee, where he presumably was. When we interviewed him, he was busy on a weekday afternoon -- lounging at the Inverrary Golf Club. So it didn't surprise us when it broke that he'd been caught flaunting his credit card at his new job on the Broward County Commission. On our credit, Eggelletion charged lavish meals, drinks, a $659 leather briefcase, hundreds in dry-cleaning bills, and, of course, golf games. Then it was discovered that while he was in Brazil on county business (where he spent plenty of our money in a putative attempt to lure the Black Film Festival to Broward), he was listed as "sick" at his old job at the school board, which now pays him $58,000 (in addition to the commission salary of $80,000). It may be time to send him to the links full-time, where his heart is. It obviously isn't with the public.

Best Intentions

Lois Frankel is a Democrat, pro-choice, a feminist, and Jewish; she supports gay rights and affirmative action, questions the efficiency of the FCAT, has tenaciously fought the tobacco industry, speaks her mind, and frequently criticizes Gov. Jeb Bush -- the man she called a "thief" repeatedly on national television during the 2000 presidential election. It only makes sense (ideologically if not practically) that Frankel, the Minority leader of the Florida House of Representatives, would file as a candidate for the highest public seat in the state. So what if Janet Reno crushes her in notoriety and fundraising potential? So what if attorney Bill McBride is regarded as the moderate-to-conservative "safe" vote? So what if the current governor's brother is George W., an American president with higher approval ratings than anyone in history? Lois Frankel believes that she's the capable one. Well, as they say, more power to her. She's gonna need it.

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Best Local Boy Gone Bad: Thomas Abrams

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