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Best Of 2007

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Best Of :: People & Places

Best Palm Beach Post Writer

Here's the problem with a lot of big daily newspapers: Their top executives are part of the same Chamber of Commerce clique they should be ripping apart in their pages. The Sun-Sentinel is a shining example of this, with V.P. and General Manager Howard Greenberg chumming it up with the political leaders and the Broward Alliance at every turn. All that access leads to a soft editorial product that often acts as a booster for special interests. Not so the Palm Beach Post. This is a newspaper that hasn't lost its cojones, and if there's one reporter who needs a wheelbarrow to carry his own around, it's Dubocq. He's been busting big investigative pieces about local politicians, knocking over the apple carts, and being a general pain in the ass to the powers that be. In other words, he's doing good. His biggest story has involved lifting the veil on then-Palm Beach County Chairman Tony Masillotti's connection to dirty land deals, leading to federal charges and the politician's exit from public office. More recently, he's made similar findings about PBC Commissioner Warren Newell, whose projected political lifespan has been dramatically reduced as a result. When he's not nailing corrupt officials to the wall, colleagues like Thomas R. Collins, Tony Doris, and Hector Florin are. (Hear the ones about West Palm Beach commissioners Jim Exline and Ray Liberti?) Together, they all show what a good newspaper can do when it's not schmoozing with the same people it should be investigating.

Personal Best

Fane Lozman is walking proof that the Little Guy can beat City Hall. While Lozman is not especially small – he's 6-foot-5 – he was, in political terms, a kind of 95-pound weakling. We're talking about his lack of clout in his adopted home of Riviera Beach, where last year he quixotically took on a questionable redevelopment program that was being ramrodded through by powerful city officials. Lots of harassment at Lozman's city marina slip. An arrest. An eminent domain plan to turn the marina over to Fat Cats.

Long story short: Lozman sued to stop it. The development-mad officials were booted out by voters. And Lozman, a former floor trader at the Chicago commodities exchange, got some vindication in court: Representing himself, he beat back the city's pathetic retaliatory attempt to have him evicted from the marina.

New Times: What does it take to be an activist?

Lozman: You have to be prepared never to give up. They're going to try to intimidate you, to arrest you, to physically push you around. You have to be firm in your conviction that what they're doing is wrong and that they have to abide by the Sunshine Law and the Constitution.

You've been in other countries where people were being intimidated.

I was in Kosovo in 1999. A friend asked me to try to get her sister and niece out of a refugee camp on the border of Macedonia. I saw three F-16s fly over and blow the top off a hill nearby. Loudest noise I ever heard. In December, 2001, I went to Afghanistan to see firsthand how international charities were working. It was bullshit. There were people over there soliciting money for schools and pocketing the money themselves.

What's your favorite James Bond locale?

Well, Costa Rica is a beautiful country, with the rainforest, the beaches on the Pacific side. It's got some of the best surfing beaches around. I'm not sure about the Bond angle, though. Costa Rica's a good place to go to de-stress, whether you've been doing financial trading or fighting scum in Riviera Beach.

Best Lawyer

Spunky and sincere, defense attorney Bill Gelin is something of an oddity in the legal profession. He cares more about you than about being paid — he even gave back his law school-issued stopwatch and refuses to live his life in the standard six-minute billing cycles. Although lawyering is his living and he does charge for his services, this 40ish UC-Berkeley alum (Stanford Law) hasn't let years of practicing criminal law in South Florida totally jade him. Instead of throwing up his hands, Gelin got a bunch of other lawyers together and formed the Justice Advocacy Association of Broward County. He blogs almost every day about judges who aren't acting judgely and about the defendants, witnesses, and regular folk who may not be getting a fair shake over at the waterfront jail and nearby courthouse:

Best Private Investigator

Rory J. McMahon is so good that he could've written the book on how to be a private investigator. Oh, wait, he did. It's titled the Practical Handbook for Private Investigators. Undoubtedly, this tropical paradise and the shysters the beachside landscape attracts is what provided both the inspiration and the knowledge base for McMahon's follow-up in 2004, Fraud Investigation, a textbook on how to conduct investigations into white-collar crime. He's a former federal probation officer in New York and Florida, and he's been private-eyeing since 1991. His client list is private, and his firm will conduct surveillance, background checks, and even fire investigations.

Best Flack

The best flacks know the best way to manage their message is simply to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but. Det. Kathy Collins of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department is as straight a shooter as they come in a job that requires an ability to control information. She's even-headed and always returns calls and e-mails, and she doesn't stop until she finds the answer — sometimes it's past deadline, but shit happens. Collins treats everybody the same — polite, professional, and as forthcoming with information as police-work permits.

Best Local Boy Gone Bad

The young Companion was a pure Hollywood boy, the half-Irish son of a cop. And, bless him, he stayed Hollywood right up until the moment the feds slapped the cold cuffs on his wrists. Hollywood has a long history of organized crime, dating back to Meyer Lansky and a who's who of other Mafia figures who liked to chow down at Joe Sonken's Gold Coast restaurant. And the other half of Companion's heritage, Italian, was the one he favored. He had an Italian flag in his car, idolized Frank Sinatra, and was fond of quoting comic Andrew Dice Clay. In short, he was a goombah — and when he met a mobster named "Big Jack," he damned near fell in love. Soon, he was running a protection racket for Jack and his Mafia buddies and recruiting friends in the force to do the same. It wasn't until after he was hit with bribery, extortion, and drug-trafficking charges that he learned Big Jack was really Joaquin "Jack" Garcia, an undercover FBI agent playing the role of his life. Hey, he might have fallen hard, but he did it his way, baby.

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Best Palm Beach Post Writer: Tom Dubocq

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