Maurie, We Hardly Know Ye
Walking into Maurice Connell's office at Hollywood's Oakwood Plaza is like flipping through a book entitled Who's Who of Local, State, and National Politics and looking at the photos. Every inch of the walls is covered with framed pictures of Connell with political heavyweights.
Look, there are Jack and Bobby Kennedy. Over there is former U.S. representative Larry Smith. And there are Broward County sheriff Ken Jenne and Broward County commissioner Sue Gunzburger. Wow, invitations for Ronald Reagan's and Kennedy's inaugurations. And one can see awards such as Citizen of the Year, presented by former Hollywood mayor David Keating in 1975.
"Without your unrelenting efforts and loyalty, victory would not have been possible last Nov. 8," is handwritten by President John F. Kennedy on one photo.
Frank Sacco, chief executive of Memorial Healthcare System, signed his photo to Connell: "To a great guy and a great friend, it's been my privilege to know you and work with you over the years."
Obviously designed to impress, the walls of fame are Connell's lifeblood, representing his weighty connections in the political arena. Maurie Connell has made a career of having friends in high places -- and he's raised money to keep them there. The City of Hollywood's contract grant-writer for nearly three decades, Connell says he has traded on those friendships to secure millions of dollars in grants for the city.
But some city commissioners, legislators, and civic activists are questioning whether Connell, now 84 years old and so infirm he is virtually unable to leave his house these days, should be receiving $94,000 a year from the City of Hollywood. In addition, another $41,000 of taxpayer money goes for a full-time assistant, as well as $14,000 for office expenses. The critics wonder whether the deal -- dubbed a "contract for life" -- should be put out for bid or his job turned into an internal city position. They also question whether the city could be getting even more grants with another, more capable administrator.
Connell broadcasts to nearly everyone he talks with that he has obtained more than $40 million in grants for the city since 1992 and nearly $160 million since 1979. But a closer look at the grants Connell says he has obtained shows that many were written by city department heads or were automatic "pass-through" grants from the state and federal government for entitlement cities.
A host of politicos say they feel that it's time Connell considered retirement.
Yet just one month ago, the elected officials who run the city voted 4-1 to renew his contract for two more years, with a 4 percent raise. Why was the contract renewed, with barely any discussion by commissioners? In a word, fear.
"He can hurt you politically," says a Hollywood elected official who, like many interviewed for this article, was afraid to be identified. "He is an unbelievable political figure in the community. And he is very vindictive. It's known all over town, but it's kept hush-hush -- that he's getting paid for a job he's not really performing."
Says another city hall insider: "He's being greedy. It's time for him to take a graceful bow and step down. He's done a lot for the city, but he's resting on his laurels."
On a recent Saturday afternoon, Hollywood city commissioner John Coleman decided it was time to deal with a political issue that couldn't be ignored. He picked up the phone and called Connell at home.
"Can I come by for five minutes?" Coleman asked. He had heard that Connell was miffed because the commissioner was going to discuss putting Connell's contract out for bid, so he figured it would be best to tell Connell about it "face to face."
"I thought that was the professional way of doing things," he said. "I didn't want to do it behind his back."
Coleman arrived at Connell's peach-color home in the exclusive Lakes section of Hollywood at about 1 p.m. and parked in the circular drive overlooking North Lake. Connell's wife, Carmen, let Coleman in. He found Connell watching a football game while sitting in an easy chair, his legs propped up and encased in white stockings. According to Coleman, Connell simply said, "I'd like you to support me."
Coleman says he told Connell it was nothing personal, he just feels all city contracts should be put out for bid. If Connell was the best choice, he would be chosen. He explained that Mayor Mara Giulianti challenged him to do this. When he pulled lobbyist Bernie Friedman's contract for discussion, she asked if he were going to pull Maurie's contract too. Coleman replied that Connell's contract hadn't been put before him. When it is, Coleman said, he would pull that one too.
Walking out of Connell's house, Coleman knew the effort he'd made to raise the issue hardly mattered. He knew Connell's contract would be renewed at that Wednesday's commission meeting, probably by a 4-1 vote. Was Coleman, who is running for mayor in February, worried that Connell could hurt his political chances?
"Most of my political advisers said don't do it, it will snap back on you," says Coleman. "But if you do the right thing, it will work itself out."
For years cities have relied on grants to fund such projects as new parks, utility plants, police radar detectors, affordable housing programs, and road landscaping. Cities search far and wide for grants, scouring the Internet and networking with county-, state-, and federal-government agencies as well as private nonprofits. Their bounty can be considerable: the City of Miami netted $57 million in grants last year, not even counting housing programs, which represent the biggest chunk of a city's grants.
Some cities employ grant-writers whose sole job it is to find and obtain grants -- Miami has two. Others expect their employees and department heads to do this function. Occasionally cities hire lobbyists to push a sizable grant through the legislature, as the City of Miramar did last year with two large projects. Usually that is not necessary, according to Miramar city manager Bill Estabrook. "We only do that with big-ticket items," he says. "If we're applying for radar guns for the police department, that's a technical grant and there's no need for lobbying. We feel we can better put those dollars to use on programs rather than on lobbyists." Miramar's lobbyist, Ron Book, did assist the city in obtaining the grants, but they were later vetoed by the governor anyway, says Estabrook.
Hollywood is unusual because it has a "grants coordinator." Since Connell's job is not an internal city position, there is no job description. However, one of Connell's original contracts in 1973 states that Connell's duties would include "obtaining and processing certain grants for the Federal and State government" and aiding in "the preparation, [the] securing and the work necessary to the completion of grants and associated benefits contained in the Domestic Catalogue, Federal Aid to Cities."
According to numerous friends and colleagues, Connell has been ill for years with several afflictions. Connell himself will not disclose the nature of the problems, except to say, "I have some bad legs." He now rarely -- if ever -- leaves his house. Nor will those close to him reveal the nature of his illnesses, except to say he has a "circulation problem." He also reportedly had open-heart surgery several years ago.
Civic activist Pete Brewer says he hasn't seen Connell -- who used to show up at commission meetings to "wave a red flag" whenever he got a grant -- at city hall in two years. "The last time I saw him, he looked a bit peaked," says Brewer.
On a recent Monday, his assistant, Bonnie Temchuk, was observed arriving at the office of Maurice J. Connell Enterprises at about 8 a.m. The office is inside a modern, one-story, rambling office building across from the Oakwood Plaza movie theater. Connell has a small office with one chair and desk situated inside the offices of Calvin Giordano & Assoc., an engineering firm that gets millions of dollars in contracts from the city. Connell has a long history with one of the owners, John Calvin, and the two flew to Tallahassee together a decade ago to work on obtaining a grant for a massive water-and-sewer project.
Alone in the office, Temchuk was observed opening mail, making phone calls, and shuffling papers. At about 9 a.m. she left, zooming out of Oakwood Plaza in her white economy car. About ten minutes later, she arrived at Connell's home. At about 3 p.m., Connell's physical therapist showed up, staying about half an hour. Temchuk left at 4 p.m., dashing back to the Oakwood Plaza office. Bringing in a large file, she stayed about an hour, again making phone calls and filing papers. At 5 p.m. she went home. (At press time both Connell's and Giordano's Oakwood offices had been vacated.)
Temchuk, an attractive, slim woman with a cap of shiny blond hair, has been working with Connell since 1989, starting out as his part-time assistant before getting the full-time job of grants assistant in 1994. Unlike Connell she is a city employee. In recent months, she, not Connell, has been the one who attends city meetings, talks to residents, and answers phone calls.
According to her 1994 application to the city, Temchuk has a high-school diploma but no college education. Before hooking up with Connell, she worked as a pastor's secretary at the Pembroke Road Baptist Church in Miramar. In her application with the city, she listed former state representative Fred Lippman, Hollywood city commissioner Cathy Anderson, and then-Hollywood police chief Richard Witt as references.
Connell acknowledges he hasn't traveled to Tallahassee for six or eight months but says, "I don't have to go there. I have the telephone. Every legislator is my friend."
Beryl Glansberg laughs at that notion. A prominent grant-writer for United Way, the Sun-Sentinel Children's Fund, and Planned Parenthood of South Palm Beach and Broward Counties, Glansberg says a grant-writer/lobbyist has to "network and pound the pavement."
"That's ridiculous," she says of the idea of a grants lobbyist working solely out of his or her home. "There are those of us who work our brains out, working 60 to 70 hours a week. I write 30 to 40 grants a year, and my salary is half [Connell's]."
Glansberg applied for Temchuk's job when it became open in 1994 and was passed over, although she has two master's degrees; got a recommendation from the city's lobbyist, who is a friend of hers, and letters of support from U.S. Rep. E. Clay Shaw and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham; and had significant experience in grant writing. In addition she is well-connected in city circles -- her husband works in the city's planning department, she lives on the same block as Mayor Giulianti, and her brother is head of the Hollywood Philharmonic.
"Maurice Connell might have been connected at one time, but I'm connected now," she says.
Others question whether Connell's connections are still, well, alive. One minute into a phone conversation, Connell throws out his association to the Kennedys. "I was with both Bobby and Jack the day before they died," he says.
One source responds: "His connections are mostly dead."
Connell has not attended a monthly meeting of the South Broward Hospital District in person for several months. He maintains his position on the board by calling in his votes by phone.
At a recent meeting of the district at which the board was taking an important final vote on the annual tax rate, the Perry Auditorium at Hollywood's Memorial Hospital was filled with men and women in dark suits. A public relations representative cheerily handed out press packets for the momentous occasion. On the dais sat six of the commissioners. Only one chair was empty -- Maurice Connell's. In front of the high-backed chair, on the dais, sat a speakerphone. When the vote was taken, Connell voted last, his deep, disembodied "aye" bellowing out of the speaker.
Connell cut his political teeth helping his sister campaign for circuit judge in Toledo in the '50s. He told The Herald his experience selling cars and insurance helped him garner support and needed votes during campaigns. "A woman could come in wanting to buy a green car, and I'd convince her to buy a blue one," he said. "You've got to be a great salesman in this business."
He also learned the value of befriending the right people, staying in touch with one of his high-school teachers, Michael DiSalle, who later became mayor of Toledo and then, in 1958, governor of Ohio.
As DiSalle's top aide, Connell met John F. Kennedy during his presidential campaign. JFK tapped him to oversee the country's $9 billion stockpile of raw minerals and metals. His official title was commissioner for defense materials service. A lifelong Democrat, Connell says he ran the Kennedy campaign in six states.
"They were my friends," he says again of the Kennedys.
A researcher for the Kennedy Administration Library in Boston says Connell's position in the government was "pretty way down on the list." He is not named in Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.'s definitive, 1000-page-plus book about Bobby Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and His Times.
Connell came to Florida in 1968 with $500 in his pocket. He is vague about why he came to Florida, saying only, "My sister said go to Florida." But Commissioner Anderson -- whose husband was a city commissioner at the time -- says he arrived after being hired by Hollywood as "federal-aid coordinator." Connell beat out numerous applicants for the job. The City of Hollywood does not have Connell's original contract -- the first one the city has is a 1973 extension. Connell's annual compensation at the time was $21,890 with an expense allowance of $7985 for travel, hotels, et cetera. The job was made contractual rather than in-house to give Connell the ability to work for other clients, says Anderson.
According to several sources, Connell's contract was written by Broward sheriff Ken Jenne, then a lawyer, as a "contract for life," though it requires annual renewal by the city commission. Jenne did not return calls from New Times.
Connell wasted no time putting his lofty Washington connections to use and cozying up to the Broward power elite. He became involved in community events -- lending his name to a Hollywood Chamber of Commerce golf tournament -- and soon began making friends with the upper echelon of Broward politics, both Democrat and Republican.
"That's how I met him -- through community functions," says former state legislator Fred Lippman.
Connell also secured a job as a lobbyist for the former South Broward Park District. When the district was folded into county government in the '80s, Connell went with it. He received $30,164 a year to obtain grants for Broward parks.
For years county commissioners wanted to pull the plug on Connell and put the parks job out for bid, according to a county commissioner who did not want to be identified. But every time they tried, the commissioners got calls from Jenne and Lippman, both political powerhouses.
"We would always hear from Ken or Fred," says the county commissioner. "They would always protect him. We couldn't understand it. This guy never even went to Tallahassee."
Finally, in 1995 Connell promised he would not seek a renewal of his county parks contract, saying he feared his salary, along with his Hollywood contract, would put him over the new cap Congress was talking about for Medicare.
Connell's power had grown with his 1985 appointment to the board of the powerful South Broward Hospital District. The district operates Memorial Hospital and Memorial Hospital West, oversees a $466 million-a-year budget, and awards lucrative construction, engineering, and legal contracts. Some of the recipients have included Jenne, whose law firm dispensed legal advice to the board, and Connell's former office mates, Calvin and Giordano.
Others clamored for the political plum, but governors continued to reappoint Connell to the hospital district seat he holds to this day. Even Republican governor Bob Martinez reappointed Connell in 1989, bypassing a well-connected Republican who had applied. Connell was a member of the Broward finance committee for Martinez's reelection, which listed a per-person goal of $30,000 for one fundraiser. Connell told the news media he did not commit to being on the committee but did attend a Martinez campaign barbecue in Tallahassee.
Lippman and Jenne weren't Connell's only powerful pals. E. Clay Shaw told a reporter he went to Connell when he first ran for Congress, to "open doors and introduce me to people." And Connell helped throw a party for former U.S. Rep. Larry Smith upon Smith's release from jail after serving time for income tax evasion and misuse of campaign contributions.
Why did so many Broward politicos embrace Connell? For one thing, he played the Kennedy card, using the allure he held as a former Kennedy friend and member of the administration. "The man came from the Camelot era," says Lippman, when asked what he respected about Connell. "He was an inside person in the Kennedy mafia. Friends of his from Washington would come and visit in South Florida, friends of his sister, who was a judge in Ohio."
But Connell could do more than drop names. More important, he could raise funds for political candidates.
"If you are running for office and you need any money, all you have to do is call him up and he'll have five or six checks in your hand," says a former Hollywood city commission candidate.
Connell does not advertise his political ties at city hall. In fact, he told New Times he has not given money to any candidate for Hollywood City Commission. "That would not be ethical," he says. However, he gave $250 to Mayor Mara Giulianti's reelection campaign in 1997, according to campaign contribution records.
The true extent of his connections could easily be seen on Valentine's Day 1997 during a ceremony at Hollywood's Church of the Little Flower. Seated in pews were the full Broward Legislative Delegation, Broward sheriff Ken Jenne, an aide for U.S. Rep. E. Clay Shaw, lobbyist Bernie Friedman, the entire Hollywood City Commission, the city manager and assistant city manager, former police chief Witt, and Temchuk.
All were gathered for the wedding of Maurice Connell to his long-time companion, Carmen Rosa Broo, a slight, dark-haired woman.
Jenne was the emcee and Lippman the best man. Broo strode down the aisle in a '20s-style, street-length ivory dress with matching veil. Too weak to stand for long periods of time, Connell sat in a chair at the altar to wait for his bride.
Later the entourage headed to the Hollywood Beach Golf & Country Club for a champagne buffet featuring crab canapés and an open bar. All were holding glasses as Lippman raised his to toast the man he called "my mentor, my rabbi."
"I wish you good luck, good life, and good health," he said.
Sources say Connell could be paranoid about losing his lucrative grant-writing contracts and vindictive when crossed. When Hollywood attorney Joe Schneider, newly appointed to the city's budget advisory board in the early '90s, happened upon a line item in the budget for a federal-grants coordinator -- and heard from city department heads that the city had not gotten a federal grant in ten years -- he started innocently questioning the expense. He had never heard the name Maurice Connell and had no idea the firestorm he would be touching off. Scores of people -- including then-police chief Richard Witt -- warned Schneider to "watch whose ox you're goring." Ultimately Connell's job title was changed to grants coordinator and the budget-advisory board dropped the hot potato.
But Connell defended himself during a brief telephone conversation with New Times. Connell began by volunteering information about his all-too-familiar background with the Kennedy administration and the number of grants he has written for Hollywood.
"I have gotten $157 million for the City of Hollywood since 1979 and $41 million since 1992," he says. "Ask 100,000 people for the truth, and they will tell you I've done a good job."
He was alert and conversational, sparring with a reporter.
When asked when he plans to retire, he quipped, "in 400 years." Then he said, "Maybe in two years. I don't know. When are you going to retire?"
Connell reluctantly agreed to an in-person interview for the next day but later canceled it, accusing New Times of "digging up dirt" on his assistant, Bonnie Temchuk, and himself.
"She's the salt of the earth," he said. "She has children. I'm not a crook, and you're not going to make me out to be one. I think you're going down the wrong path."
While no one has accused Connell of breaking the law, Hollywood activists and politicos have questioned whether Connell has been an effective grants administrator for the City of Hollywood in recent years. Since there is no performance measure written into his contract, it's hard to tell. City Manager Sam Finz declines to answer questions about Connell and his contract.
However, an examination of the grants Connell is taking credit for securing shows that he had very little or nothing to do with many of them.
For example, in a list of grants he gave to Finz last month while seeking the pay raise and extension of his contract, Connell lists $20,722 for recycling grants and $113,678 for "Waste Tire" grants. Yet these grants were written -- and signed by -- various city officials, including Lorie Mertens, education coordinator for the City of Hollywood; Greg Turek, public works director; Carlos Garcia, city finance director; and Finz. Connell's signature does not appear on any of the grants, and Mertens says she didn't receive any help from Connell on the grants she prepared. In fact she says she has never worked with Connell on a grant. She learns about grants by attending committee meetings, getting applications in the mail, and surfing the Internet.
Turek says he rarely interacts with Connell, other than to send over all his grant applications "as a courtesy."
Connell also takes credit for the city's biggest grant of 1998, $1.6 million of community development block grants (CDBGs), as well as $761,487 for the State Housing Initiatives Partnership program (SHIP) and $549,000 for the HOME program. Yet all these programs, designed to provide affordable housing to the needy, are automatic federal pass-through programs, in which "entitlement cities" with more than 50,000 residents automatically receive the funds -- not competitive grants.
When questioned about the CDBG funds, Connell says, "Did I put those down? If I did it was a mistake."
Connell also claims responsibility for a handful of police grants: $311,814 in Local Law Enforcement Block Grants, $7580 for Florida Motor Vehicle Theft Prevention grants, $31,471 for Victims of Crime Act Grant, $105,750 for South Broward Education and Prevention Partnership grants, $124,638 for a Stop Violence Against Women grant, and $148,115 for a Marine Patrol grant.
But copies of these grant applications show all were written by members of the police department. And Lt. Chad Wagner, spokesperson for the Hollywood Police Department, says officers in various departments are the ones who learn about, and then apply for, grants. "The division commanders give them to the police chief, and he approves them, then they go to the city attorney's office, and the city manager has to approve them," Wagner says. "They are really just applications that you fill out."
Wagner says police have not worked with Connell -- in fact, he did not know who Connell is.
Connell also takes credit for two Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) grants totaling $182,332. But Jim Wolfe, director of operations for FDOT, says city staffers and occasionally state representatives are the ones who usually lobby for grants, and the decision on whether or not to award a grant to a city hinges on whether that city is willing to provide matching dollars and do landscaping maintenance. "Lobbyists do not play a big part in these decisions," he says, adding that he has not heard of Maurice Connell. "That name doesn't ring a bell."
Jed Baumwell, Hollywood's community development manager during the '80s and '90s, says rumors would periodically surface at city hall that Connell "wasn't doing anything." Then Connell would make the rounds, informing department heads of all the grants he had obtained. When he came to Baumwell in the early '90s, taking credit for CDBG and other affordable-housing programs with which Baumwell says Connell had nothing to do, Baumwell set him straight. "It did bother my staff and I that he would take credit for things we did," he says. "I had very limited contact with him."
Connell has apparently had success obtaining parks-and-recreation grants in past years. Lippman says he worked with Connell to obtain grants to preserve a park at North Beach and to build a beachfront community center. And Christine Thrower, Hollywood's director of parks and recreation, says Connell helped her get a $100,000 grant for Poinciana Park last year. "If it has Maurie Connell's name on it, the grant is assured funding," she says. "It carries a lot of weight."
He was also instrumental in getting grants for the city to acquire land near the beach for a parking garage. The city honored Connell by naming the garage after him.
Connell was contracted jointly by the cities of Davie and Cooper City to obtain a multimillion dollar water-and-sewer grant a decade or more ago. "He did a good job," says Davie finance director Chris Wallace. "Would we have gotten it on our own? Truthfully, I don't think so."
Still, some political insiders wonder if, in 1999, Connell's name carries as much weight as it used to and whether his services are superfluous. After all, they say, with three state representatives, two state senators, three U.S. representatives, one county commissioner, one school board member, and a $50,000-a-year Tallahassee lobbyist watching out for Hollywood's interests, doesn't the city have enough firepower?
"They all bring home millions and millions of dollars for Hollywood," says Coleman. "I know that 'cause they call and tell me they do. And they cost the taxpayers a pretty penny."
Connell, State Rep. Eleanor Sobel, State Rep. Ken Gottlieb, and lobbyist Bernie Friedman often claim credit when a juicy grant is awarded, says a city staffer who does not want to be identified.
Brewer, the civic activist, thinks the city could save the taxpayers a considerable sum by putting the contract out for bid. "I think after 20 years we could probably get better," he says. "We could save (Temchuk's) $40,000 and cut (Connell's) salary in half. And I don't know why he can't work at city hall. That would save money, too."
In Fort Lauderdale all grants are written in-house with two exceptions. Dan Hobby, executive director of the Fort Lauderdale Historical Society, receives $52,000 from the city to administer all the city's historic-preservation programs and write grants. And after a parks bond was issued in 1997, the city brought in Stan Hemphill, an independent grants-writer. Hemphill has obtained for the city $785,000 in parks grants since 1997 and received $56,004 in compensation so far.
Coleman wants the Hollywood grants job turned into a city position so city officials can monitor the individual's performance. "There should be more accountability," says Coleman. "I don't have any idea what Connell does."
And Linda Wilson, who serves on the city's budget-advisory board, feels the job should pay on a percentage basis, like Fort Lauderdale's. "That gives that person some incentive," she says.
Two groups in Hollywood aren't concerned about whether Connell is doing the job but whether he is allowing politics to enter into the process. Steve Welsch, president of the North Beach Defense Fund, says he called Connell in 1994 to talk to him about his group's obtaining a grant to acquire some beachfront land for preservation. The city wanted a high-rise on the site. Connell agreed to a meeting, says Welsch, but Welsch got a call from George Keller, who was then director of development administration for the city, canceling the appointment. High-rise twin towers are currently being built on the site.
Brently O'Hare has similar concerns. She is heading up a committee exploring the possibility of the city acquiring a historic home once owned by Joseph Young, the founder of Hollywood. O'Hare says Temchuk -- who sat in on the committee meetings -- was very discouraging about the group's chances of getting money to buy the mansion. "She said they are not giving away money for acquisition," says O'Hare. "We were talked out of applying for an acquisition grant." Because Coleman hatched the idea to buy the house -- and Giulianti and Coleman are arch rivals and both running for mayor -- O'Hare feels Connell may have been trying to kill the project. Connell is a supporter of Giulianti's.
O'Hare says she also had trouble getting in touch with Temchuk. "I would call to the office all the time, and she was never there," she says. "I thought, 'Wow, what a great job she has.'"
One day O'Hare was sitting at a city commission meeting next to a man named Tony Campos. Campos is the former security director for George Bush and a Bush family friend who had just gotten a grant to establish a railroad museum at the Hollywood Tri-Rail station. Campos offered to assist O'Hare and the Young committee in getting a grant. Campos was enthusiastic about the group's chance of getting a grant and helped them write the application. Still, as is customary, the application wound up on Temchuk's desk for a final review.
"Supposedly she made changes," says O'Hare, adding that her group changed the application back to the way it was. "That was the big secret: Don't tell her we're changing it back." Campos says the changes to the application centered around whether the house should be a museum -- Temchuk was against it.
After New Times began asking questions about the Young house grant, O'Hare says she received a call from Connell, whom she has never met or heard from before then.
"He said, 'I'm pulling Bonnie off the project,'" she says. "That's all he said."
Connell would not say why he removed Temchuk from the committee.
Connell's contract came up for renewal at the September 8 commission meeting. It was on the consent agenda -- a laundry list of housekeeping issues that are voted on in one fell swoop, with little discussion. That is, unless commissioners pull an item for discussion or questions.
As promised Coleman pulled Connell's contract for discussion -- almost apologetically.
"It might be the chances of Maurie Connell winning this contract are excellent," he said. "I have a standard policy -- I try to get as many contracts put out for bid as possible. If a contract has gone on for a period of time -- and this one has gone on for 18 years -- it might be healthy and good government to put it out for bid."
Commissioner Cathy Anderson was quick to come to Connell's defense, as were two members of the audience. One of them was Henry Harbison, who is also running for mayor of Hollywood.
"I've been a resident of this city for 32 years, and if there's any man in this city I have the highest respect for, it's Connell," he said. "Maurie Connell is beyond reproach. I proudly endorse Maurie Connell and what he has done for the city."
When later questioned about why he stood up for Connell, Harbison said he had dealings with Connell when he was a Broward school board member in the '70s.
"He's a forthright gentleman," he said.
But has he gotten grants lately?
"That I really don't know," he said. "But I think so."
Contact Julie Kay at her e-mail address:
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