Hospital District Heist

I've seen some pretty audacious things come out of the North Broward Hospital District, but this one beats them all.  

On Friday, in a rushed meeting, the district board -- which was appointed by Gov. Charlie Crist and gets $175 million in our property-tax dollars -- decided to privatize its clinics and four hospitals, including flagship Broward General. The deal, apparently pushed by CEO Frank Nask, would put the taxing district under the control of a private, nonprofit organization. 

That way, the board could "invest" in just about whatever it wanted to and conduct all its business -- which has a long history of abject corruption -- outside the public eye. No more public meetings, and no more public records.

Yet Nask and the delinquent board members (minus Clarence McKee, the lone vote against the outrageous plan) intend to keep collecting $175 million on hundreds of thousands of property tax bills, according to the Sun-Sentinel.  

It's a scoundrel's dream: Collect public money and secretly do with it whatever you wish.

The irony is that if it weren't a public entity, it would have done this behind our backs. Instead, they were forced to announce their illicit plans in public. It's a planned rip-off of every property owner in Broward north of Griffin Road. The district was created to be a safety net for indigent folks, not a piggy bank or Monopoly board for well-heeled power brokers, special interests, and political appointees. 

Make no mistake: This is an attempted heist. Make sure they don't pull it off.   

-- The Juice blog has busted a couple of seamy stories in Fort Lauderdale. Tom Francis reports that Fort Lauderdale police detective and former "Raider" Jason Maldonado is about to get the heave-ho for being dishonest about an improper relationship with a female informant. The guy's got a whole lot of history, but the funnest fact is that he was the highest paid cop in Fort Lauderdale -- making $193,000 in 2008, including overtime pension and benefits. And an anonymous letter indicates there are some serious problems in the Fort Lauderdale building department involving extramarital affairs and death threats. You know, the usual.

Inside after the jump, read the latest on the Chait investigation, including news about two recent sitdowns between prosecutors and political players.

I've learned from sources that lobbyist and political consultant Judy Stern met with State Attorney's Office prosecutors in its ongoing corruption investigation. What isn't clear are the circumstances, though it was likely under subpoena with immunity. There is no indication that Stern is a target of the investigation; the state is talking to a whole lot of people, and few people in Broward County have more knowledge of behind-the-scenes politics on the county level than Stern.

And reliable sources have also informed me that Democratic operative Barry Harris was called in for yet another sworn statement. Harris, you'll recall, was the guy who helped set up the political slush fund financed by dirty developers Bruce and Shawn Chait to attack Tamarac Mayor Beth Talabisco's political opponents. Looks like the prosecutors have a few things to iron out.

-- The Sun-Sentinel article on School Board construction had an interesting fact in it: James Pirtle Construction, which was given hundreds of millions in school contracts, hired landowner and developer Austin Forman and his lobbyist-henchman Jim Kane to represent the company before the School Board. Since when does Forman lobby?

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