Dennis Beach, city manager of Pompano Beach, wants to put prospective volunteers through a more rigorous training course before allowing them to volunteer on city committees. He hopes that it will help to prevent arrests like the one that occurred Monday, when a member of a city development committee, Vicente Thrower, was arrested on charges of accepting some $50,000 in
bribes consulting fees from businesses seeking his support of their building plans.
Of course, it seems that there should have already been a system in place for making sure city volunteers were well-versed on ethics statutes. "What was being done was that they were simply giving [volunteers] this information," Beach said in an interview this afternoon. "But just because you give it to them doesn't mean that they are going to read it, absorb it, and gain a clear understanding of what's expected."
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The call for training is a rite of passage for every public body that discovers corruption in its midst.
Just in the past year, training has been advertised as a cure for the corruption-addled North Broward Hospital District, Broward County Commission, and the Broward County School District, just as it was for the South Florida Water Management District, the Palm Beach County Commission... we could go on. Around this time next month, you can bet Deerfield Beach will be talking about how training could have saved it the embarrassment that's coming next week when the forensic auditor releases his analysis on the city's handling of state and federal housing funds.
I asked Beach whether he had reason to believe that the Broward State Attorney's case against Thrower was part of a larger case that will engulf other city officials. "I'm not aware of anything beyond what's been reported in the papers," Beach said, adding that the FBI has not communicated with his office since Thrower's arrest Monday. "I would be surprised if what you're describing [a culture of corruption] is the case."
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article said that Thrower was accused of accepting $50,000 in bribes. That was incorrect. The $50,000 were consulting fees. We regret the error. Thrower has been charged with one count of soliciting a bribe based on allegations that he sought a $2,000 monthly payment from a consulting firm that wanted a municipal contract renewed.