Jenne Can Blame Bag Man Bill
After all the sturm and drang, it comes down to nickels and dimes.
That's what brought down Sheriff Ken Jenne, a pathetic attempt to obtain and hide twenty or thirty stinking thousand dollars and keep secret other cash and assets from the IRS. His moonlighting, which prompted the feds to investigate after it was reported in the Daily Business Review and Miami Herald, wasn't illegal, but it fit the pattern:
Jenne needed cash.
He had made a high life for himself as a lawyer and a well-connected, always conniving politician. Oh, don't believe the garbage you read that he was honorable. Maybe during his very early days as a prosecutor with Bob Butterworth (Batman to Jenne's Robin), he was something other than a profiteer. But ever since he's been on the make, using his office to make high-level connections and do the bidding for the powerful. Jenne was an illusion, a mirage, a man who pretended to be sheriff but was really nothing but greed and power-mongering personified.
But don't necessarily blame him. He was nothing if not a product of his environment. Broward County politics have always been dirty and he was steeped in it from the beginning, beholden to a armed-robbing kidnapper and a drug money launderer. That would be taxi king Jesse
Gaddis and lobbyist extraordinaire Emerson Allsworth, both of whom enjoy exalted post-conviction status today in this reformed swamp. If you click above, you can also read about his involvement in a criminal savings and loan operation. In face, we might have all been spared this latest federal investigation if Jenne hadn't been allowed to sign a letter of immunity in the probe into Cypress Savings Association dating back to the mid-1980s.
But Jenne's mother lode came after another political ally, Lawton Chiles, was elected governor. Chiles, a Democrat, was expected to replace Republican Bill Scherer from his post as general counsel for the North Broward Hospital District. Scherer, of course, is another political animal-lawyer who has long wallowed and plotted in the Broward muck, gaining his clout from playing chief crony to land baron Hamilton Forman, the aging patriarch who himself is a study in greed and Machiavellian politics.
The NBHD post was worth a couple million dollars a year to the lawyer who held it. To keep his hand in the till, Scherer reached out to his brother in greed, Jenne, who joined Scherer's law firm and took over as the hospital district's general counsel. It made Ken Jenne rich, with a salary of more than $900,000 a year.
Then came the death of Broward Sheriff Ron Cochran, opening up a key political slot. Jenne loved money, but he loved power even more, so he accepted his buddy Chiles' appointment as top cop. Here's where it gets interesting: Jenne knew he was taking, oh, about an $800,000-a-year pay cut. And he knew that his work for Scherer was worth way more even than he was paid.
According to Broward lore (and several excellent sources), Jenne went to Scherer and told him that he deserved a very large severance package. He wanted a cool million dollars on his way out the door. Scherer, who loves money a bit more than he does power, gave Jenne this answer:
If Scherer would have acceded to the request, Jenne would have had the cushion to live his high life (I still don't know what the hell Jenne spent all that cash on) while sheriff. Instead, Scherer apparently gave him use of a Mercedes, which Jenne failed to report and which led to a charge in the recent federal filings.
Without the mountain of money he wanted, Jenne had to resort to chicanery involving his poor secretaries to funnel cash from other political friends who did business with BSO.
Scherer, for his part, kept making millions from the NBHD post. His corruption there, which was exposed by your Pulp host, makes Jenne's transgressions look like jaywalking. But Scherer, or "Bag Man Bill" as I like to call him, got off easy. After the bad publicity, Jeb Bush canned Scherer's ass (along with overturning the bulk of the NBHD board) and Bill walked away scot-free. Now, as a member of the Judicial Qualifications Committee, he's masterminding the building of a new courthouse.
That's the nature of politics in Broward County. Most get away with it. Jenne didn't. And after a life mixing with the rich and powerful, a few nickels and dimes shattered the illusion he built and sent him crashing back to a reality that must seem very, very cruel to him today.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss New Times Broward-Palm Beach's biggest stories.