The Sheriff's Criminal Association
Ken Jenne, the recently elected sheriff of Broward County, has never been a lawman. He's never gone through a law-enforcement academy, never arrested anyone, never so much as issued a traffic citation. Instead, during his quarter century in public life, he's been a lawyer, a dubious businessman, and a prodigious politician.
Fresh out of law school in 1972, Jenne did become a Broward County assistant state attorney. During his two years in that job, he formed something of a partnership with another youthful prosecutor, Bob Butterworth, who is now Florida's Attorney General. The two prosecutors pursued some public corruption cases that led to then Sun-Sentinel reporter John DeGroot (who now works for Jenne at the sheriff's office) to nickname them Batman and Robin. Jenne -- a diminutive, reddish, and balding man -- was Robin.
Being Butterworth's sidekick was as close as Jenne ever got to being a cop, and he didn't stick around the justice system for long. At the age of 28, he became a Broward County commissioner, and, a few years later, the still-boyish Jenne was elected to the Florida senate. At various times he chaired each major committee and served as Senate president. His legal career soared when Fort Lauderdale power-attorney William Scherer hired him as a partner in his firm and when Jenne assumed a powerful post at the North Broward Hospital District, where he controlled millions of dollars' worth of legal accounts. His political ties got him the sheriff's job in January, when Gov. Lawton Chiles appointed him to finish the term won by Ron Cochran, who died last year.
Amid the chorus of approval for Chiles' appointee, some dissenters argued that without any law-enforcement experience, Jenne wasn't qualified to be sheriff. He's won most of them over; Robin has become Napoleon -- an outwardly capable administrator and aspiring empire-builder who has energized the Broward Sheriff's Office (BSO) troops. He won the September primary by a landslide, trouncing little-known opponent George Albo, an unemployed former jail guard. The 51-year-old Jenne, relying on the electorate machine he'd built over the past 25 years, raised $274,000 and spent all but $23,000 of it, with big checks coming from leading lawyers, lobbyists, doctors, and businessmen (like Wayne Huizenga, who contributed at least $10,500 to Jenne's campaign, more than the hapless Albo raised altogether).
Jenne's wide array of high-caliber friends and his control of the sheriff's office -- which has a $250 million budget and some 3500 employees -- make him likely the most powerful political force in Broward County. But his political rise hasn't come without its dark side. A few of those friends have been convicted of crimes and provide a window into the very element Jenne has sworn to fight, the underworld of mobsters and drug-smuggling rings, savings and loan frauds, and corrupters of the political process.
One such friend is transportation mogul Jesse P. Gaddis, who gave at least $4000 to Jenne's recent run for sheriff. Another is Emerson Scott Allsworth, a lobbyist, lawyer, and former state representative, whose law firm contributed to Jenne's campaign.
Gaddis and Allsworth are also both convicted felons who between them have had ties to mobsters and major drug-smugglers. Jenne knew this when he accepted the contributions. Both Gaddis and Allsworth continue calling Sheriff Jenne a friend.
Gaddis was convicted of armed robbery at the age of 20, was charged with kidnapping and robbery at the age of 28 (the charges were later dropped), has been investigated for his association with high-ranking mobsters in South Florida, and was also investigated -- but never charged -- in connection with a drug-smuggling operation in which his brother and business partner, Donald Gaddis, was killed.
Despite the felony conviction and the many investigations, Jenne, who once served on former Gov. Bob Graham's Task Force on Organized Crime, has counted Jesse Gaddis as a friend and political ally during his entire political career, doing legal work for him and flirting with the idea of going into business with him. If the $4000 in campaign contributions says anything, the sheriff's relationship with Gaddis hasn't changed since January.
Allsworth, a former state legislator and prominent lawyer and lobbyist, was federally indicted in 1985 on charges of extortion in a case involving another felon named John Lomelo, who was then the mayor of Sunrise. The charges against Allsworth were later dropped on a legal technicality. In 1992 Allsworth was in trouble again, this time pleading guilty to federal charges of laundering money for a drug-smuggling ring. When Allsworth was sentenced, Jenne stood up in court as a character witness and helped convince the judge to go light on Allsworth.
Another friend of Jenne's is Ron Book, who is perhaps the most important lobbyist in South Florida. Book has also been convicted of crimes -- though his one felony charge was later reduced. Jenne's past also links him to a savings and loan business that lost millions and led to indictments against two of his business associates.
New Times has made repeated requests of Jenne to answer questions about his associations. The sheriff has refused to talk about it.
While senators might be able to get away with associating with felons, the sheriff, the chief law-enforcement officer of the county, falls under a more stringent set of ethics. Jenne has done some things in the past that would likely get the average cop investigated, if not fired. Most law-enforcement agencies have strict rules against officers associating with convicted felons. The Fort Lauderdale Police Department, for instance, forbids such relationships in any form. Some Florida sheriffs' offices forbid not only associations between deputies and felons, but also between deputies and anyone who has been suspected of felony crimes.
The Broward Sheriff's Office used to have a similar rule, says Sgt. Chuck Tate, but it was changed a few years ago to read that a deputy couldn't have a business association with a convicted felon without permission from his or her supervisor.
Had Jenne gone through the academy, he would likely have been taught never to associate with felons on a social level, says Glen Bunting, executive director of the American Society of Law Enforcement Trainers, which is affiliated with BSO. And that goes double for receiving campaign contributions, Bunting says.
"Those kinds of relationships are always dangerous," Bunting says, "with the temptations, the money, the power. It's easy to receive money and look the other way."
Jenne's dubious associations are as much a reflection of the South Florida culture -- which has long been rife with drug-smuggling, the Mob, and corrupt officials -- as it is of the sheriff himself. And, despite their crimes and questionable associations, both Gaddis and Allsworth are certainly interesting characters who possess qualities that have made them extraordinarily successful. Simply put, they make for good friends, especially to an ambitious politician.
Upon examination, however, it becomes clear that Jenne, when faced with crimes his friends have committed, has shown a definite capacity to look the other way. And, in a way much more like a lawyer than a lawman, he's demonstrated that he's not averse to vouching for them -- even while trained law-enforcement officers are investigating them or prosecutors are doing their best to put them behind bars.
Five years before he became Broward County's sheriff, Ken Jenne stood before federal judge Federico Moreno's bench and talked about his old friend, Emerson Allsworth.
"Your honor, I have had the pleasure of knowing Mr. Allsworth for nearly 20 years, since I have been practicing law," Jenne began. "When I came into Fort Lauderdale from West Palm Beach, I knew this legendary figure that was known for his honesty and his integrity throughout the community."
Jenne, however, hadn't made the trip to U.S. District Court in Miami on that September day in 1992 for a man who was being honored by his country for integrity. Far from it. The government had convicted Allsworth on charges of helping to launder roughly $12 million in illicit drug money. And Allsworth did it for one of the most storied and notorious criminals in recent South Florida history, Ben Kramer, a convicted drug smuggler and murderer who doubled as a championship powerboat racer.
Now in federal prison, Kramer has three claims to fame: The tremendous amount of Colombian marijuana he smuggled into South Florida; his ordering of the murder of Don Aronow, who invented the Cigarette boat and sold powerboats to Presidents and celebrities; and his daring prison-break attempt that ended in a helicopter crash at the Federal Detention Center in southwest Miami-Dade County.
Kramer and his father, Jack Kramer, relied on astute lawyers and accountants to launder millions in drug money. That's where Allsworth came in, and, like the Kramers, he got caught. Jenne told Judge Moreno at the sentencing that he found Allsworth to be "nothing but honorable," apparently forgetting that, in addition to the crimes connected to Kramer, Allsworth also had been indicted for his role in the 1985 extortion plot. Allsworth, according to prosecutors, served as the middleman in an attempt by Mayor Lomelo and others to extort money from Manor Health Care, Inc., a nursing home company Allsworth was representing.
Allsworth was accused of conspiring with Lomelo and lobbyist Spike Leibowitz to extort money from Manor Health, according to press accounts. He allegedly told company officials that if they hired Leibowitz for $30,000, the City of Sunrise would approve a Manor Health nursing home project. Allsworth became a government witness and testified against Lomelo and Leibowitz, who were both convicted of mail fraud and extortion. Prosecutors also indicted Allsworth on charges of extortion, but a federal judge dismissed the case because Allsworth had apparently been promised immunity in exchange for his testimony. Appeals by the U.S. Attorney's Office to overturn the judge's ruling failed.
The future sheriff had his reasons to defend Allsworth, who was no small fry in South Florida power circles. In addition to spending a decade as a state representative, Allsworth was a member of the 1967 Florida Constitution Revision Commission. After he was voted out of office in 1968, Allsworth went into private practice, where he represented Port Everglades; Waste Management, Inc. (where he worked for Huizenga); and prominent home-builder Gulfstream Land and Development Corp. Allsworth was the insider's insider, and Jenne counted him as an important friend -- no matter what crimes he had committed.
"I recognize what has gone on in this courtroom," Jenne told Moreno, apparently referring to Allsworth's crimes. "I am not aware of the details."
In the Allsworth money-laundering case, federal court documents provide reams of details, some of which Jenne might have found important had he decided to become aware of them.
Though Allsworth would later paint himself as something of an unwitting innocent in the smuggling scheme, he admitted during court proceedings that he helped devise an elaborate, international scheme to hide what he knew at the time was drug money from federal officials.
Allsworth's friendship with the Kramer family dates back 30 years. According to court documents, Allsworth, who is now 72 years old, represented Ben Kramer in a federal drug-smuggling case in the mid-'70s. Kramer was sentenced to prison, but Allsworth remained close to the drug smuggler's father, Jack Kramer. By the fall of 1983, Ben Kramer was out of prison and back to smuggling marijuana in bulk, often aboard barges. At the same time, Allsworth began scheming with Jack Kramer, who was also convicted, on ways to hide the illegal profits. Allsworth provided a caveat to his criminal premeditation: He said in court that he thought the money came from Ben Kramer's drug-smuggling ventures back in the '70s, not from fresh drug deals. In effect he told Judge Moreno that he thought it was old drug money rather than new.
The money-laundering scheme was grand and complicated, involving a myriad of companies, banks, and overseas transactions. Allsworth and the Kramers worked in conjunction with a major businessman from Los Angeles -- the late Sam Gilbert, a high-profile developer. Through companies controlled by Gilbert and other California investors -- including politicians and bankers -- drug money was funneled from South Florida to California. One of the main California companies used in the conspiracy was a legal gambling house called the Bicycle Club. The Bicycle Club became famous in California for its success, as investors became millionaires almost literally overnight. What was hidden from public view was the fact that it was financed with an estimated $15 million of Kramer's drug money. Allsworth and other attorneys drew up and exchanged false financial documents to make various "loans" and other transactions appear legal, but it was all a sham meant to deceive the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Internal Revenue Service, Allsworth admitted in federal court.
The money was also filtered through various banks in Lichtenstein and the Netherlands and through South Florida companies for which Allsworth served as the registered agent. Allsworth, a partner in the Fort Lauderdale law firm of Doumar, Curtis, Cross, Laystrom & Perloff, went so far as to funnel $1.1 million in drug money directly through his own attorney trust account, money which was later used to finance Fort Apache Marina, which Jack Kramer owned at the time. The marina, in Aventura, was at the heart of the dispute between Kramer and Aronow that led Kramer to have Aronow gunned down in 1987. He was sentenced for the murder two years ago.
Allsworth helped the Kramers launder drug money for about four years, until the operation was finally dismantled by federal agents with a stream of indictments and convictions. Ben Kramer was convicted of drug-smuggling in 1988. By December 1990 Allsworth was told by prosecutors that he was a potential target in the money-laundering investigation. In March 1991 Allsworth pleaded guilty to two felonies that could have sent him to prison for ten years. Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert J. Bondi recommended Allsworth be given five years in prison and a $250,000 fine in exchange for his cooperation and guilty plea. Bondi also claimed that Allsworth agreed to resign from the practice of law for the rest of his life. Allsworth denies ever agreeing to that.
Jenne wasn't the only potentate to show up and ask the judge to show leniency. Huizenga, who had employed Allsworth at Waste Management for many years, stopped by and called Allsworth a "pillar of the community." Several bigwigs in the legal world also showed up to give their support, including the highly esteemed Chesterfield Smith (who founded Florida's biggest law firm, Holland & Knight, and was the outspoken president of the American Bar Association during Watergate). Four judges either showed up or wrote letters on Allsworth's behalf, as well. All four were later reprimanded for violating the integrity of their offices. Despite the fact that he was a state senator, Jenne escaped public scrutiny. He was glowing in his praise, highlighting his dealings with Allsworth in the senate and Allsworth's charity work with the Association of Retarded Citizens.
"Emerson [Allsworth] came to me and came to other legislators almost on bended knees," Jenne said. The Association of Retarded Citizens "needed a facility... and the State of Florida had certain monies that were made available if the legislature chose to do so. Emerson spent hours upon hours with the Broward delegation and within the legislature to assure that those funds went there. He was also a strong supporter of the University of Miami."
During his brief statement, Jenne used these words in describing Allsworth: honesty, integrity, diligent (twice), honorable (three times), and professional.
"I just hope the court would recognize his contribution to our community," Jenne said, adding that he didn't "support" Allsworth's crimes or consider them "proper."
Jenne may have given himself something of an out when he said he didn't know the details. But when Allsworth spoke on his own behalf, the convicted man apparently contradicted that assertion. Referring to his many character witnesses, Allsworth told Moreno:
"Many of them did know [the facts of the case] because when you ask somebody to come to court, especially attorneys as many of them were, to testify as a character witness, I think you owe them an explanation. Certainly you wouldn't want them to be surprised in court by something that came out that they thought that you didn't tell them. So, in the majority of cases, I had given a sort of debriefing to those people. And they have always continued to associate with me."
In addition to the presence of Jenne and other powerful friends, Allsworth also included his own allegedly failing health in his defense, complaining that he had prostate cancer. His wife couldn't be there, he explained, because she had suffered what was described as a massive heart attack. They would be destined -- prison or no -- to live out their lives in disgrace and ill health. As for his wrongdoing, Allsworth intimated that it wasn't really a crime -- just bad thinking.
"What I did was more out of stupidity than malice," he said. "I will tell the court that it was stupidity. It was not greed."
Moreno seemed to buy it. The judge sentenced Allsworth to a paltry six months in jail -- a fraction of the five years prosecutor Bondi recommended or the ten-year maximum the judge could have handed down. Moreno also sentenced Allsworth to 1000 hours of community service, five years' probation, and a $250,000 fine, which was estimated to have been the amount of money he had made working for the Kramer ring. This past June, against Bondi's stringent objection, Allsworth was reinstated by the Florida Bar.
Bondi claimed in a detailed report to the bar that Allsworth lied and misrepresented his crimes in his bid for reinstatement. Allsworth was accepted by the bar anyway, after a glowing report by Larry Seidlin, a Broward County judge and the bar's referee in the case.
"The court firmly believes the petitioner will never stray from the law, quite oppositely; he will live as a child of God helping those people less fortunate than himself," Seidlin wrote.
Allsworth now consults various municipalities on land-use issues and is busy practicing law. He was able to retain a sizable nest egg that annually produces roughly $100,000 in interest and dividends, and he doesn't have cancer any more -- in fact, he reported that, despite their dire health outlooks on the day of sentencing, both he and his wife are now in wonderful health.
Allsworth surely wouldn't have been able to pull off the magic trick in federal court without his friends in high places, like Jenne.
"I've known Ken for many years," Allsworth said in a telephone interview in his law office before complaining that he's a busy attorney and has more important things to do than discuss what he calls "ancient history."
"I asked him and many others to give me a recommendation, and they did," he concluded.
Allsworth hasn't forgotten the favor -- he personally contributed $125 to Jenne's successful 1995 run for the senate and his law firm contributed $150 in October to Jenne's campaign for sheriff.
William Sorrells was having a rough time of it. The year was 1981, and the Broward transit official was then the county's taxi examiner in charge of enforcing the transportation ordinances. There was only "one dance in town" when it came to taxis at the time, Sorrells recalls, and the dancer's name was Jesse P. Gaddis.
Sorrells says that he and Gaddis battled over county ordinances all the time and that he got used to being cursed and yelled at by the taxi baron. During one of their extended disputes, Sorrells says he looked up from his desk one day to see a surprise visitor.
It was state senator Ken Jenne. Sorrells knew Jenne from Jenne's days as a county commissioner. Jenne was there on a mission, Sorrells remembers, a mission for Jesse P. Gaddis.
"He told me to leave Mr. Gaddis alone," Sorrells says. "He wanted me to cooperate with Mr. Gaddis, and I explained to him why I wasn't able to do more than what I had done. And then he went to see my boss. The senator was not happy with me."
After Sorrells rebuffed him, Jenne met with the executive director of the transportation department at the time, Don Monroe. Sorrells says Monroe called him in after the unhappy senator left, and they decided they were right in denying Gaddis any special favors.
It was just one aspect of a frustrating and tragic year for Gaddis. It was in March 1981 that the decomposed body of his brother -- who was also his business partner -- was found in a shallow grave in the Everglades. Donald Gaddis, who founded the taxi business, seemingly vanished in Fort Myers in April 1978. It was later learned that Donald Gaddis was an aspiring drug smuggler who had, along with two other associates, been tortured and executed with a shotgun by drug runners who suspected Gaddis and his partners had stolen a boatload of marijuana.
"It turns out that they may have thought that my brother was involved in [the theft]. Turns out [he was] not," explains Jesse Gaddis, who says he learned of the details from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) as the years went by.
Jesse Gaddis came under investigation not only because his brother/partner was involved but also because it was determined that the boat Donald Gaddis had bought for his part in the smuggling operation was paid for with a $75,000 check from Jesse Gaddis. Gaddis says the money was simply a debt he owed his brother from past business dealings.
"They investigated the hell out of it," Jesse Gaddis says in his typical blunt and often colorful fashion. "I've been investigated almost as much as Clinton. I have no secrets. They've done everything but look up my rear end."
Indeed, Jesse Gaddis has been investigated by the FDLE, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Customs Service, and the U.S. Treasury Department. In addition to the drug-smuggling investigation, he has been investigated for his ties to the Mafia and his own alleged organized-crime activities dating back to the late '70s.
Despite his checkered past, Gaddis is highly respected in elite circles in Broward County -- in part because of the hundreds of thousands of dollars he's lavished on politicians. He's also earned himself the reputation of being one of the best, and most ruthless, businessmen in South Florida.
Jenne and Gaddis are in many ways similar. Both are short and both are tough. Both are respected even by their enemies. Both are sharp and persuasive. Both have been remarkably successful.
Gaddis, age 66, grew up poor in Indiana and learned to play craps and poker when he was still in grade school. By the time he was 13 years old, he was a regular in the town pool hall. At age 16 he left home and hitched up with a family known as the Terrible Williamsons. They picked up the "Terrible" moniker from the fact that they were shameless rip-off artists who went door-to-door conducting home improvement scams and other shams. Gaddis, the young hustler, spent a year working with the clan of Irish travelers.
"They were con artists, borderline crooks," he says. "But they had some good points. They were good family people."
After leaving the Williamsons, Gaddis joined the merchant marine for the sole purpose of gambling on the ships, which he found a lucrative occupation. Between voyages he lived in Virginia, where he began raising a family. In 1952, when he was 20 years old, he and a friend decided to rob a man who carried money from a local store to a bank. They used a gun owned by his friend's father, he says.
"We intercepted him and took his money, and that was about it," he says.
His friend admitted the robbery to police and Gaddis was charged with the felony. Gaddis says it was the only time he ever robbed anyone -- but it wouldn't be the last time he was charged with it. In 1960 he was arrested for robbery and the kidnapping of a man who owed him gambling debts. The charges were eventually dropped, and soon he was in Fort Lauderdale, about to build his transportation empire, which began with a service station and 13 cabs owned by Donald Gaddis and a third brother.
Jesse and Donald Gaddis -- who was also a professional gambler -- proved to be a formidable duo. They soon expanded the business to the Bahamas and began operating gambling concessions on cruise ships. In 1963 the county hit Jesse Gaddis hard; it took his taxi permits. Jesse Gaddis hadn't reported his felony in his application. He got a lawyer and had his civil rights restored. He got the permits back and was allowed to go back to buying up struggling taxi businesses.
Gaddis says he and Jenne became friends in the early '70s, when Jenne was a twentysomething assistant state attorney in Broward County. He doesn't remember exactly where he met Jenne but supposes it was at some kind of political function.
"I've known Ken Jenne since he was almost a kid," Gaddis says. "He is one of the most dedicated, hard-working civil servants I have ever met. Ken Jenne is a tough politician. He doesn't take any prisoners when it comes to politics."
In 1975, the year Jenne became a Broward County commissioner, the commission voted to give Gaddis exclusive rights to ground transportation at the Fort Lauderdale airport, a move that secured Gaddis' control over the taxicab industry, which lasts to this day. Gaddis had already begun giving politicians like Jenne big contributions to help pave the way for Gaddis' continued rise in business. Today he has a net worth, he conceded after some cajoling, of something in the ballpark of $50 million.
A look at state campaign records shows he's still giving plenty to candidates. In the past three years, he's handed nearly $100,000 to political parties and candidates running for state office alone. He's given tens of thousands more to candidates for local offices.
His extensive bankrolling of campaigns led to allegations that he bought his way to his monopoly through the purchase of politicians. Today he owns roughly half of the 697 taxi permits in Broward County, and his company controls 180,000 dispatches a month, or about 75 percent of the market.
"Everybody is a special interest," Gaddis explains of his political charity. "For us in the business community, to have any influence over the decisions that are made, we have to help get politicians elected."
While Gaddis was cultivating his political friends, he was also making friends with Mafiosi. Gaddis says he met Anthony "Tumac" Accetturo, a Mob captain from New Jersey who lived in Broward County, and Louis Rosanova, a Chicago Mob boss with ties to the Teamsters, through his brother, who golfed with them.
Gaddis leased Accetturo a couple of Cadillacs and hired another convicted felon named Michael Spinelli to work at his cab company. Spinelli said he was Accetturo's cousin, but Gaddis says he doesn't believe Spinelli was really related to the mobster.
"I think he just did that as a kid, you know how kids like to make themselves look big," Gaddis says of Spinelli's boasts.
Spinelli, who is now an Orlando-based businessman and lobbyist, didn't return calls from New Times.
In 1976 the Gaddis brothers made a move to take over a taxi business in Philadelphia. A former Gaddis partner named David Bishop, who was once a Fort Lauderdale police lieutenant, told the Miami Herald in 1987 that it was Accetturo who cleared the deal through Angelo Bruno, the Mob boss of Philadelphia. "There's no question, no doubt whatsoever, that the Yellow Cab operation was a Mob operation," Bishop said of Gaddis' company.
Gaddis gives only a bitter laugh when Bishop's assertions are brought up. They aren't true, he says. He says the only Mob influence in his company in Philadelphia was that Bruno controlled the vending concessions in the Yellow Cab building.
"I think the Mafia runs a lot of vending business all over the place," Gaddis says. "That wasn't our doing."
In 1977 the FDLE investigated Gaddis' Mafia connections. According to FDLE reports obtained by New Times, Gaddis was investigated for "organized criminal activities (loansharking, extortion, etc.)." What exactly was investigated has never been disclosed, and the FDLE refused to release the file because, according to FDLE assistant general counsel Fern Rosenwasser, it was based primarily on information supplied by the FBI and therefore doesn't come under Florida's public-information laws.
Shortly after that mysterious investigation ended -- with no charge filed against Jesse Gaddis -- Donald Gaddis disappeared during the drug-smuggling venture, and another probe began.
In early 1982 Jack Pace and Albert Ponke, partners in a cab company, complained to the FDLE that Gaddis had, through a series of bogus lawsuits and coercive tactics, forced them out of business. "Mr. Pace, who is facing jail on civil contempt charges, has called me on two occasions to express fear for his life, as he is convinced that, if he goes to jail, Mr. Gaddis will make sure something happens to him," then-FDLE supervisor James Nursey wrote in an internal report.
Pace was never hurt, but the complaint illustrates the way some people within the taxicab industry viewed Gaddis: as a merciless businessman with unsavory connections to violent criminals.
Though Gaddis admits he associated with some reputed mobsters, he also says he wasn't in business with them. He says that he doubts that Anthony Accetturo was truly in the Mob.
"I think that was mainly a creation of the media," he says.
Accetturo was convicted in 1993 of extortion and murder. He flipped to the federal side and admitted that he was the New Jersey boss for the Lucchese crime family. Accetturo is currently out of prison, listing an address in North Carolina. He didn't returned phone messages left by New Times.
For the past decade, Gaddis has apparently managed to stay out of investigation's way. But headlines about his armed-robbery conviction, Mafia ties, alleged influence-peddling, and brother's dark murder were splashed across the Rocky Mountain News just five years ago, during his failed bid to buy a major taxi company in Denver.
"I've been controversial," Gaddis says. "But I don't have anything to be ashamed of, except that I made a mistake as a young man, and I don't know what I can do to change that."
Gaddis has steadily strengthened his ties to Jenne with numerous contributions to his campaigns. When Jenne was running for insurance commissioner ten years ago, a company in Tampa controlled by Gaddis gave Jenne campaign contributions in the form of advertising space on taxi signs. Jenne was criticized for it by the St. Petersburg Times -- he'd promised not to take contributions from the insurance industry, and Gaddis was the chief insurer of taxis in the nation.
At about the same time, Jenne and then-Gaddis partner Bill Bodenhamer -- who now owns USA Parking, a burgeoning parking lot company -- tried to purchase a taxi company which they planned to run with Gaddis. The deal fell through, but Bodenhamer and Jenne have remained very close friends. Bodenhamer threw a fundraiser this year for Jenne's campaign and contributed thousands of dollars himself.
"I would have liked to have gone into business with Ken Jenne," Gaddis says.
When it comes to his relationship with Jenne, Gaddis sees nothing peculiar about it and certainly nothing wrong with it.
"I couldn't do what [Jenne] does. At least I make money. I get a lot of abuse. He gets a lot of abuse, and he doesn't make a lot of money," says Gaddis. (Jenne actually made half a million dollars a year when he worked with Scherer.)
"Ken Jenne has never abused his power," Gaddis continues. "I'm a good citizen. I have met a lot of high public officials, and I don't consider them to be associating with a bad element, if you will. If people took the position that everyone who had done something wrong should be blacklisted, then we'd have a real problem."
At the time that Jenne was considering going into business with Bodenhamer and Gaddis, he was in business with Cypress Savings Association, a savings and loan he helped found.
That venture became part of the national savings and loan crisis -- $41 million in investors' money was lost, and two Cypress officials were federally indicted on a slew of felonies involving allegations ranging from fraud to filing false financial documents and conspiring to conceal questionable business transactions from investors, federal regulators, and the board of directors, on which Jenne served.
Loren Mintz, the company's chief executive officer, was later acquitted of his felonies. Carl Guffin, a Cypress vice president, was convicted of only one felony, for misrepresenting the facts on a loan application.
The future sheriff signed a letter of immunity to protect himself from prosecution (though he was never named as a target of the investigation) in exchange for his testimony in federal court. To avoid being named in a federal civil suit against Cypress, Jenne paid $150,000 to settle with the government, according to published reports.
Jenne has said that he didn't involve himself in Cypress's day-to-day operations. Jenne was criticized for his part in the debacle -- his political opponents harped on it in the late '80s, and the Tampa Tribune pulled its endorsement of Jenne in his failed 1988 bid to become the state's insurance commissioner, saying he was "in a position to know [about the scandal while it was occurring] and should have known."
Jenne should also have known that yet another of his old friends, and another major contributor to his campaign, spent time on the other side of the law. Ron Book, one of the most powerful lobbyists in Broward County, was convicted in 1995 of funneling $30,000 worth of campaign contributions through his secretaries to subvert campaign finance laws. Those were misdemeanors. In 1986 he was charged with insurance fraud, a felony, for inflating the price of his Mercedes-Benz by $9000 when collecting an insurance payoff. Book, who lists Huizenga's Miami Dolphins as one of his clients, avoided the stigma of a felony conviction by pleading to a lesser charge. The judge withheld adjudication and sentenced him to community service.
The sheriff accepted at least $1500 in campaign contributions from Book in his run for sheriff ($500 from Book, $500 from his wife, and $500 from his business). Like both Gaddis and Allsworth, Book is another influential insider who is embraced by many politicians -- especially when it comes time to fill the campaign coffers.
State Rep. John Rayson -- a onetime political foe of Jenne who has also accepted campaign contributions from Book and Allsworth -- says Jenne shouldn't be scrutinized for those relationships, especially since he was never a lawman until he became sheriff in January.
"I daresay he didn't know that he was going to become sheriff when he went to Allsworth's hearing or when he did legal work for Gaddis," Rayson says. "I would judge him for what he does as sheriff, not for who he knows."
But to Don Carlson, who runs a national law-enforcement organization that has trained Broward County sheriff's deputies on issues of law-enforcement ethics, the relationships Jenne has kept stink from the top down.
"I'd be uncomfortable if I were working in that agency and I had to look at the top of that agency for a role model," says Carlson, associate director of the Dallas-based Southwestern Law Enforcement Institute and a retired police officer.
"I would also wonder if the boss would be content should some of his subordinates have similar relationships that would not withstand the light of day. It seems to me that any leader has an obligation to set the tone for the agency. Clearly you can have lifelong friends -- but there are times when you need to distance yourself from people with criminal backgrounds, not only for the sake of appearances, but for the sake of propriety, because a lot of people give money to campaigns with expectations of receiving something in return."
Carlson was curious as to how Jenne explains his friends to the public and, more importantly, to his own deputies. When told that Jenne has refused to talk about it with New Times, Carlson laughed and said it reminded him of a reply that a loquacious politician once gave when asked why his opponent refused to publicly debate him. The answer, Carlson recalls, was: "Why would bologna reject a grinder?
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
- More Floridians Made Sick by Toxins Found in Tropical Fish Than Before, New Study Finds
- AAA Offering Free Towing Through Fourth of July Weekend
- After Jane Hart's Ouster, Two Curators Shun Art and Culture Center of Hollywood