The apparently illegal leak of classified FBI information regarding Broward County School Board member Phyllis Hope isn't the first time the school district has been caught in a political mess involving confidential information.
The last time it happened, it cost taxpayers a protracted legal battle and an $850,000 verdict in court.
That's how much a jury awarded Andrew Scott Greene, a teacher who ran against Miriam Oliphant for her School Board seat in 1992. Before the vote, the School Board released private psychiatric records on Greene that showed he had sought psychiatric care while employed by the School Board after having an urge to kill his aunt.
From the September 22, 1992, Herald:
In a statement he gave school district investigators last year, Greene confirmed he told a colleague in 1985 or 1986 about an idea to kill an aunt out of concern he would be excluded from his uncle's will. But he said he wasn't serious about it.
"I had been thinking about that, that is correct," Greene told investigator David Steele. "I want, the record should state also, that just because somebody thinks about doing something like that doesn't
mean they do it."
Nancy Adams, an adult education program counselor, told school investigators Greene visited her in 1985 and said he planned to call his uncle from a lobby phone of his high-rise condominium.
"He was going to have a stocking cap over his face and he was going to ring the bell, and when his aunt came to the door he would have a baseball bat and he was going to kill her," Adams said in her Dec. 13, 1989, statement to Steele. "He did tell me that he went through one trial run, and that he lost his nerve."
After Greene left, Adams told investigators, she immediately notified Robert Crawford, a supervisor who enrolled Greene in the school system's Employee Assistance Program. After seven weeks of counseling, Greene went back to teaching.
Greene blamed his ensuing loss of the election on the leak and sued the School Board. He won in court five years later, garnering the $850,000 -- $600,000 for invasion of privacy and the other quarter million for negligence.
The case involving Hope is very different, however, For one, Marty Rubinstein, the political operative and former School Board member who posted Hope's confidential security clearance report on the internet last Wednesday, still hasn't explained how he obtained it. Rubinstein supports Hope's opponent, Laurie Rich Levinson, in the upcoming election and posted the document in an attempt to smear Hope for a nearly 30-year-old minor arrest for Hope when she was a college student.
Note to the School Board: You better investigate this now and investigate it well. You wouldn't want to look negligent.
Note to the statewide grand jury on corruption: You're here, you're investigating the School Board, get to the bottom of it. The first witness you need to interview, other than Rubinstein, is former Special Investigative Unit director Joe Melita. I understand he's retired in Michigan.
This is a Sunshine Law violation. Whoever leaked the document is guilty not only of a crime but also of playing a role in a Nixonian dirty trick. While the grand jury is at it, please investigate Floridians for Quality Education, a group started by board member Maureen Dinnen with lobbyist Neil Sterling pulling the strings. It appears to be an example of politicians and district officials working with special interests to try to make sure the taxpayer money kept rolling in to fund the construction boom that so greatly benefited Sterling's clients.
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-- Congratulations to DF3 for being the first to identify crime writer Aphrodite Jones in the photo shot at the courthouse in yesterday's post. DF3 wins a copy of Florida Pulp Nonfiction should he wish to collect. (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org -- it will of course be confidential.) Jones, by the way, is host of True Crime With Aphrodite Jones on the Investigation Discovery channel.
-- And here's an interesting photograph that appeared on the JAABlog site: