Elizabeth Fago and Her Baggage Nominated to FAU Board of Trustees
Like something out of a Jacqueline Susann novel, Fago's life is a deranged soap opera of money, power and self-adoration, the anti-heroine a bizarre melding of Zsa Zsa Gabor and Cruella deVille. She's kept a relatively low profile in recent years (except for the society pages) which may have additionally emboldened Gov. Scott to put her name forward.
Uh-uh. Lowjinks like Fago's are catnip to journalists, with a stink that lingers. One browses the clips and doesn't know whether to laugh or cry:
A Catholic schoolgirl from Buffalo, NY, the granddaughter of immigrants, Fago made a fortune in the nursing home industry. Her company Home Quality Management grew to include 79 properties in seven states, with annual revenues in the hundreds of millions. She became a major GOP player, organizing a $1.5 million fundraiser for George W. Bush in 2004.
With fame came scrutiny, however, especially after her appointment to leadership positions at the Scripps Research Institute. In 2004 Palm Beach Post reporter Jose Lambiet turned his lens on her here and here. Post editors chimed in too:
[Fago] has left a trail of federal and state tax liens, contested debts and litigation in her rise from real estate agent to self-proclaimed nursing-home mogul...
Ms. Fago borrowed heavily to take over nursing homes in remote communities. She drives $100,000 cars, spirits political friends in a private jet and has contributed at least $400,000 to Republican candidates and to the party since 2001....
Beneath the public persona, however, is a woman who: refused for 13 years to pay a $200 florist bill; went to court at least 35 times, often over petty financial disputes such as her refusal to pay an employee a $5,000 commission; built up $110,000 in federal tax liens, including a 1986 debt of $75,000 that remained until 2000; and, during an interview with a Post reporter, conveniently forgot about her 1985 marriage to a drug dealer.
Ms. Fago remains oblivious. "Why," she asked, "should this stuff exclude me from serving (on the Scripps board)?"
Fago eventually resigned her Scripps position under fire. But there were other misadventures and headlines, including bitter public feuds with former friend and fellow socialite Linda Cooney, former Palm Beach County Commissioner Mary McCarty, and former University of Florida President Marshall Criser Jr.
Fire Ant -- an invasive species, tinged bright red, with an annoying, sometimes-fatal sting -- covers Palm Beach County. Got feedback or a tip? Contact Fire.Ant@BrowardPalmBeach.com.
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