After Jenne: What Needs To Be Done

Ken Jenne's old pal John DeGroot gives a heads-up on what he believes needs to be done in the wake of our own Napoleon's fall. Included are his thoughts on interim Sheriff Al Lamberti, the idea of appointing the sheriff position, and a proposed $70 million jail.

Interesting stuff.

Big Woo!

In the wake of former Broward Sheriff Ken Jenne’s fall from grace and power, Broward’s County Commissioners have announced they will slash his agency’s $700 million a year budget by some $32 million – this according to the Miami Herald.

Which equals a 4.4% cut in the law enforcement agency’s annual budget for the coming fiscal year.

Or loosing a fingernail as opposed to a hand.

Again, according to the Herald, Broward’s Commissioners have managed to cut the Sheriff’s budget by:

-- Eliminating the young offender Boot Camp operated by BSO. -- Postponing the construction of another new jail.

Trouble is, the commissioners are saving money by delaying the construction of new $70 million, 1,000 bed jail that ain’t needed at all.

This is because, after studying the need for a new jail in Broward, a team of experts from the National Corrections Institute (NCI) last spring concluded the project was both a boondoggle and a shameless waste of tax dollars. (Broward Mayor Josephus Eggelletion has a copy of this report, which I’m sure he’s passed on to his fellow commissioners -- NOT.)

Even more grotesque, the savings in delaying the construction of an unnecessary jail represent roughly a third of the total General Fund cuts the Commissioners are passing off as an alleged savings to local taxpayers.

Which is sheer bullshit!

However…

Disingenuous as the Commissioner’s “fuzzy math” cuts to BSO’s budget are, there’s no way Broward’s new Sheriff Al Lamberti is responsible for

the Commissioner’s budgetary con job – especially after less than two weeks as CEO of the giant agency.

Fact is, BSO’s FY 2008 budget – now sham-favored by commissioners -- is the behind-closed-doors handiwork of a man soon to be jailed.

What’s more, Broward’s Commissioners have rubber-stamped the Sheriff’s skyrocketing annual budget ever since Ken Jenne’s first year as Sheriff.

(Like under the Commissioner’s less-than-watchful eye, BSO budget has damn near quadrupled since Ken Jenne took office in 1998.)

So now, in a stretch of hernia-making hypocrisy, some Commissioners want to do away with the Sheriff as an elected official and assume control of one of the nation’s largest public safety agencies.

All this is the name of accountability.

Which calls for a Double Big Woo.

Because, if you follow this grotesque scenario, Broward’s Commissioners are offering the same dismal management skills and accountability to BSO (and the public) that they’ve brought to the Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport.

More to the point, if you think BSO was driven by politics under Jenne, just wait until Broward’s Commissioners get their grubby, lobbyist-driven hands on the agency -- when the bureaucratic feces will really hit the fan.

Bottom line?

Gov. Charlie Crist should let “acting” Sheriff Al Lamberti remain on the job, rather than replace him with a “permanent” Sheriff chosen from the current list of political hacks, lightweights and strangers to the agency.

This is because Lamberti has a solid track record as a good cop, steady hand and a highly competent law enforcement administrator.

What’s more, he KNOWS the agency – and has the respect of most of BSO’s 6,000-plus employees.

Finally, given a free hand and adequate time, Lamberti COULD do what needs to be done by restoring a degree of integrity to a badly tarnished and tawdry mega-agency.

True.

Restoring integrity to BSO is a Herculean task similar to cleaning the mountains of horseshit from the fabled Aegean stables where the Greek Gods housed their mythic steeds.

But if Lamberti is willing to try….then Governor Charlie should let him do what he can and should.

Now, having spent some four years as a high level policy wonk at BSO, I have a fair sense of what needs to be done when it comes to airing out Ken Jenne’s self-serving stink.

One – Lamberti needs to review the mini-legion of Jenne’s high salaried “personal hires” (see NOTE #1 at end) to gauge their dubious worth to the agency and local taxpayers.

TWO – He should determine once and for all if Broward needs yet another $70 million-plus jail, which the team of NCI experts says ain’t all that needed (along with the untold and unending future millions in tax dollars it will cost to operate the White Elephant). Trouble is, jails are like Kevin Coster’s baseball field in The Field of Dreams: If you build them the inmates will come via high bond judges and prosecutors. Doubters need only compare the number of new jails built in the past decade to house prisoners awaiting trial in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach – NONE – compared to Broward’s TWO new ones, both built by well-lobbied local contractors with strong political connections, but no previous jail construction experience.

THREE – Lamberti should review every major BSO contract with a private, outside vendor, starting with the agency’s real estate and vehicle leases, and then, moving on to BSO’s current multi-million dollar contract for jail inmate health care, which Jenne “awarded” via rigged bids to a well-lobbied company that, at the time existed largely on paper and had no previous experience in providing institutional health care of any kind.

FOUR - He should re-evaluate every BSO contract to provide law enforcement services for 14 Broward cities. Period. This is because, while few folk know it, BSO probably operates the nation’s largest tax-funded rent-a-cop program (See NOTE #2 at the end). Even worse, the prices BSO charges for its rent-a-cop services today reflect those of rug sellers in a Persian market:

1. Lauderdale-by-The-Sea Cost per resident - $450 Cost of BSO FTE* - $86,845

2. Pompano Beach Cost per resident - $330 Cost of BSO FTE* - $102,525

3. Dania Beach Cost per resident -$300 Cost of BSO FTE* - $107,570

4. Oakland Park Cost per resident - $250 Cost of BSO FTE* - $111,615

5. Cooper City Cost per resident - $275 Cost of BSO FTE* - $109,810

6. Pembroke Park Cost per resident - $265 Cost of BSO FTE* - $108,510

7. Lauderdale Lakes Cost per resident - $220 Cost of BSO FTE* - $103,550

8. Deerfield Beach Cost per resident - $220 Cost of BSO FTE* - $105,580

9. Westpark Cost per resident - $205 Cost of BSO FTE* - $76,655

10. North Lauderdale Cost per resident - $195 Cost of BSO FTE* - $113,660

11. Southwest Ranches Cost per resident - $185 Cost of BSO FTE* - $113,805

12. Parkland Cost per resident - $175 Cost of BSO FTE* - $116,650

13. Tamarac Cost per resident - $160 Cost of BSO FTE* - $105,000

14 . Weston Cost per resident - $145 Cost of BSO FTE* - $89,760

*Cost of BSO FTE = Cost of a Full Time Equivalent BSO Employee, including vehicle, equipment, overhead and “support.” SOURCE: BSO Budget for FY 2006-07

NOTE #1: Yeh. I was clearly a “personal” hire when I left the Sun-Sentinel to work directly for the newly appointed Sheriff Ken Jenne back in 1998. However, all I can offer in my defense is that I insisted my BSO salary mirror the same money I was getting as an impotent writing coach with the Sentinel at the time. What’s more, I’m not sure I was ever able to do the job I could and should have done under Jenne. But then, it’s was the same for me during my years with the Sun-Sentinel under Earl Maucker. So mea culpa – and a worthy target for any number of well deserved shots as a former journalist and policy wonk.

NOTE #2: Governor Charlie’s policy wonks and Florida’s legislators should check out the empire Jenne built with his mushrooming rent-a-cop program under contracts with 14 local cities. How so? Basically, in shifting law enforcement services from municipal to county jurisdiction, Jenne also shifted the cost of the police pensions to the state – which is how and why BSO’s rent-a-cop program represents mucho millions in savings for city taxpayer at an increased cost to taxpayers throughout the state. (Under Jenne’s administration, the number of BSO “contract” rent-a-cops went from some 300 employees to today’s 1,200 – all of whom will retire with a state-funded pension.)


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