2005's Egregious Eleven
If there's one thing that South Florida has in bountiful profusion, it's egregious behavior. New Times staffers are connoisseurs of the scandals, scams, malfeasances, and outrages that blossom in the Broward-Palm Beach sunshine. Every year, they like to reflect on the worst of the worst. Here are their favorites for 2005:
He didn't just rip out the Marlins' guts; he jettisoned the legs (Juan Pierre), the shoulders (Carlos Delgado), the back (Josh Beckett), the heart (Mike Lowell), the soul (Jeff Conine), and the pierced nipples (A.J. Burnett), even though the team was a decent middle reliever shy of contending again in the National League East. "You're giving us a minor league team at major league prices," one Marlins fan fumed during a party this month for season-ticket holders. (There will be no refunds, the team announced. Now, step away from the box-office window.) Loria will sink even further into South Florida infamy when he follows through on his threatened move to another city. Of course, it'll be easier to move the team without all those bloated salaries. By then, though, fans will be so tired of seeing the Marlins lose that they'll cheer the moving vans.
David H. Brooks
Who could ever forget Brooks? The chief executive of DHB Industries, parent company of Point Blank Body Armor in Pompano Beach has made millions as one of the nation's premier war profiteers. Point Blank has raked in $700 million, largely from no-bid government contracts, despite sending defective body armor to the troops overseas. According to recent lawsuits, Brooks cashed in about $185 million worth of shares just before news broke that the military would recall thousands of defective vests. But war profiteers are a dime a dozen. We'll always remember Brooks as the impresario of a $10 million bat mitzvah party for his daughter in November at New York's Rainbow Room, complete with performances by 50 Cent and members of Aerosmith. According to reports, Brooks donned a hot-pink jumpsuit with chains and diamonds for the occasion
The mayor of Hollywood has this vision for her city, see. Skyscraping condominium towers, a police department that will kick your ass if you ask questions, and, well, a boooring nightlife. Of course, she doesn't talk to us any more, but we get the picture from recent actions. Mayor Mara has been issuing incentive checks to condo developers as if they were supermarket discount coupons. Among the most egregious is a proposed $8 million incentive for two political insiders former city employee Cynthia Miller and former City Commissioner and state Rep. Ken Gottlieb to build yet more condos on city-owned land. While disregarding serious problems in the city's Police Department, she has gone after the city's lively (gasp!) nightclubs. In July, she led a victorious effort to put tighter restrictions on alcohol licenses, while DJs were prohibited from spinning records past midnight in establishments that serve alcohol. The reason: DJs were promoting "anti-establishment feelings." Now, just who represents the establishment around here?
The mayor of Riviera Beach is doing his best to turn over a large tract of his city to developers, while homeowners are taking pure, unmitigated selfishness to unforeseen heights. These sociopaths want to keep their houses. In what may be the biggest eminent-domain case in the U.S. since the 1960s, Brown is pushing for residents who live on the waterfront to git out and make way for a jet-set playland, including yacht basin, aquarium, and condominiums. As for the homeowners, they should make an all-American "sacrifice." If they'll just get over themselves. "For their own selfish reasons, some people want to live near the water and pay little or no taxes," he says. "Who wouldn't? But city government has to look out for all residents." Those holdouts are "cheating the poorest members of our community," Brown adds. In fact, most of the residents who would have to relocate are black and working class. Meanwhile, Brown has some 'splainin' to do on other fronts. Like, why did he rack up thousands on city credit cards to pay for dinners at Carmine's, plane tickets for his girlfriend, Dolphins tickets, and clothes from Chico's?
The Broward County Circuit judge sentenced a 19-year-old "near-illiterate" prospective juror to four months in the clink (he ended up serving 30 days) after he misrepresented himself on a questionnaire. The man, who had been twice arrested for minor offenses but not convicted, asserted that he didn't have an arrest record. Couldn't she just have chopped off one of his hands? Then the Miami Herald reported that O'Connor herself failed to disclose on her 2003 judicial application complaints alleging racial and religious discrimination that a black prosecutor and a Jewish prosecutor filed against her when she headed the Fort Lauderdale U.S. Attorney's Office. The jailed juror said he didn't understand the questions asked of him in the selection process, but what was O'Connor's excuse? The state board that reviews justices declined to file formal charges, but it could ask another question: Are you a vindictive hypocrite or just dim?
Even for residents of Boca Raton, the home of rich reprobates, this former Tyco CEO stands out. Last June, Kozlowski was convicted, along with his former finance chief, Mark Swartz, of looting Tyco of more than $600 million. The lavish spending on the company dime has become legend. Before he was caught, Kozlowski, 58, the son of a Newark, New Jersey, police detective, acquired an $18 million apartment on Fifth Avenue, a Nantucket beach house, and an eye-opening waterfront mansion in Boca. He tooled around on a Harley, plied the waves on his own yacht, partied with A-list celebrities, and made generous donations of Tyco money to charities, who thought their benefactor was the ever-charming Kozlowski. But he became famous for hosting a $2 million toga party in Sardinia for his wife's birthday, complete with an ice sculpture of Michelangelo's David that served as a vodka dispenser. Kozlowski is now serving a 25-year sentence on grand larceny and other charges.
Hurricane Lois, the mayor of West Palm Beach calls herself. And her city, where streets are seemingly in permanent disarray because of long-term construction projects, continues to bear the brunt of Frankel's ham-handedness. Sometimes it seems as if the whole town's against her. The www.flushfrankel.com site continues to push for her recall (if not public execution) using tasteless but funny cartoons to needle the mayor mercilessly. And who could forget the traffic sign that some jokester had manipulated to flash a not-so-nice epithet about Frankel, entertaining the lines of cars stuck in downtown's endless construction nightmares? There's still no escape in sight from the barricades, torn-up streets, or rush-hour logjams. Nor is there hope left for the beleaguered club owners of Clematis Street, watching as code enforcers and cop-driven crackdowns strangle the life out of the nightlife. Frankel delights in making enemies, and when it comes time to elect her replacement, they'll have to sell tickets for those itching to take her on.
The Broward County mayor used to be cool. Or so we thought. He was a low-key commissioner who wasn't afraid to call out his shameless colleagues on their unethical acts. But he changed. Graber, a gynecologist by trade, has become a grotesque molecule in the corrupt organism that is Broward County politics. The change seems to date back to his becoming vice mayor last year, when other commissioners, the prickly yet oh-so-slimy Ilene Lieberman chief among them, made threats to exclude him from all the reindeer games if he didn't become a "team player." Graber proved that he'd earned his devil's horns when he backed a wasteful plan to put government buildings on land owned by his top campaign contributor, George Rahael. When confronted by New Times about it, he backtracked and made lame excuses.
Cronyism, mutiny, and sexual harassment. What a year for the former Boca Raton police chief. After wealthy developer and Boca police benefactor Gregory Talbott got busted for his role in a drunken row, during which he allegedly assaulted his wife and then struck a restaurant manager and a police officer who tried to intervene, Scott came to the rescue. Not for the alleged victims but for his buddy Talbott. Scott himself went to the jail at 2 a.m. to make sure Talbott was released post haste. Now that's due process! The police union was disgusted, giving their chief a 125-3 no-confidence vote. The good news kept coming for Scott. A group of female officers wrote letters to Deputy City Manager George Brown saying that Scott created a hostile work environment by calling them "Sweetie" and "Good-lookin'." An investigation failed to produce charges. But it was too little to late for the beleaguered chief. Under heavy public pressure, he stepped down in November. Poor Andy. His only crime was helping too much.
The Palm Beach County commissioner has shown boundless enthusiasm for building the Scripps Research Center at the so-called Mecca Farms site, way out in the county's largely undeveloped west, butting up against the increasingly threatened Everglades. Litigation? Bring it on, she barked. After all, her minder and patron, Gov. Jeb Bush, had virtually guaranteed the success of the Scripps deal, giving hungry developers an opening to the west. Megahome builders had long salivated over the chance to trample county environmental restrictions there. Heeding her master's voice, McCarty sold out the county's long-term growth plan. Can we say we weren't surprised? McCarty was recently fined by a state ethics commission for taking illegal contributions from developers. Even with lawsuits pending, McCarty pushed her fellow commissioners in May to move forward with construction at Mecca and spend $20 million on developing the site. But then a federal judge virtually killed the deal in September. When last we heard from her, she was sitting in commission chambers chanting, "Mecca Mecca Mecca..."
Palm Beach County's top prosecutor won't be winning any civil rights awards for 2005. Last February, Delray Beach police officer Darren Cogoni shot and killed Jerrod Miller, a black teenager, after the 16-year-old sped away in his car from the cop on school grounds. Residents of the city were outraged at the seemingly harsh treatment of a beloved teenager and demanded justice. But Krischer, a former defense attorney who has represented officers accused of shooting suspects, has a long history of declining to prosecute reckless cops. Even after a state judge found sufficient evidence to charge Cogoni with manslaughter, Krischer wouldn't act, electing instead to send the case to a grand jury, which (with a Krischer staffer presenting the case) declined to indict. Delray blacks still feel the hurt. Krischer has shown no such delicacy about prosecuting Palm Beach County school kids who, under a policy of "zero tolerance," are often charged with misdemeanors or felonies for minor school infractions. Most of those offenders 70 percent are black.
In a previous version of this article, New Times erroneously reported that American Media Inc. (AMI) CEO David Pecker accepted a $40,000 grant from Palm Beach County to entice his company to stay in South Florida but then subsequently moved his National Enquirer to New York. In fact, Palm Beach County had offered AMI $390,000, which Pecker declined to accept in December 2001. New Times regrets the error.
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