Who doesn't love Slammin' Sammy Sosa, the $72 million slugger with a heart of gold? He knocks baseballs out of the park to the delight of otherwise hapless Cubs fans, he vaccinates kids and fixes their teeth in his native Dominican Republic, and he taps his heart and blows kisses at fans. Undercurrents weeps salty tears of joy just thinking about Mr. Magnanimous.
Arthur P. Sandoval ain't crying, though. Sandoval is a Miami consultant who is also a former charter director of the Sammy Sosa Charitable Foundation, and as of last week, the plaintiff in a lawsuit filed in Broward County circuit civil court against Sosa and his foundation, which is located in Coral Springs. Sandoval claims he was unjustly fired when he blew the whistle on shady business practices. He also contends Sosa and the foundation owe him $156,000 -- $48,000 in back pay and $108,000 as a cut of the more than $1 million in taxes Sosa saved by following Sandoval's advice and establishing the foundation.
To hear Sandoval tell it, Sosa isn't quite as beneficent as he seems. "Sammy got a lot of credit for [the foundation], but he never put a dime into it out of his own pocket," he says. Reports bear that out. A year ago Fortune magazine wrote there was no evidence Sosa had ever contributed to his own charity (even though rival Mark McGwire gave $100,000). Subsequent stories -- prompted by Sandoval's allegations -- noted Sosa bought his brother a $30,000 car with foundation money and let his family run businesses rent-free out of a foundation-owned building in San Pedro de Macoris.
Sandoval calls Sosa "a very bad boy."
His allegations triggered an investigation by the Florida Attorney General's Office last summer. That probe was recently closed, but Sandoval has funneled information to the IRS and U.S. Treasury about his old boss' handling of money.
The foundation closed its offices in Pembroke Pines last year and moved north to the Coral Springs home of its president and director, Bill Chase. It's business as usual at the foundation, says Chase, adding that foundation money now comes from Sosa's deep pockets. "We're taking in $10,000 a month, and it all goes to clinics and dental centers," he says. (According to the foundation's 1999 IRS 990 forms, the latest available, "numerous contributors" gave $5.8 million in cash and noncash donations in 1998. That year the foundation's largest accomplishment was giving away one million Beanie Babies, valued at about $5 million, to kids in the United States and the D.R.) Chase calls Sandoval's lawsuit "frivolous," adding, "I think this is a personal context, and it has nothing to do with the foundation."
Sosa's business manager, Domingo Dauhajre, says Sandoval has made slamming Sammy a cottage industry. "He will die with Sammy in his mouth," says Dauhajre, speaking from his home in the D.R. "He is the one creating problems. He's sick."
After an independent auditor deemed some of the insurance overrides given to top Hollywood officials legal but questionable, Undercurrents wondered if said officials would do the right thing and pay the money back. Not that the city is asking for a refund -- it isn't. "No, we're not looking to recover it," says assistant city manager Ken Fields. "We wanted to find out if there was any systematic improper approval of claims, and we are satisfied there wasn't." Nonetheless we'll go out on a limb and say that those who receive money improperly should probably pay it back.
Hollywood, which funds its own insurance pool, permits risk managers to override limits in certain cases. Who is allowed to exceed the caps and under what circumstances used to be up to one man, risk manager Gary Hakanson. But Hakanson was fired in March 2000. He contends city officials were upset when he blew the whistle on them for mismanaging the insurance pool. He's suing, and his case is pending. City officials argue they fired Hakanson for incompetence.
The report by Evaluations Plus of Pembroke Pines found payments to three officials problematic: $71,783 for Hakanson's ex-wife's psychiatric care, $33,843 for Mayor Mara Giulianti's husband Don's dental implants, and $5791 for an unnamed claimant's hospice care.
Hakanson says he has no intention of reimbursing the city: "Pay it back? No. It's all proper." Don't look for a check from Giulianti either. She left Undercurrents a voice mail explaining her husband needed implants after his teeth were pulled because of jaw cancer. Beyond that she didn't have much to say. "I really don't want to get into it, because I find your paper doesn't care a lot about an actual response."
This just in: Broward County libraries are a haven for the hairy-palmed! According to State Rep. Allen Trovillion (R-Winter Park), area onanists are using the county's free Internet access in ways of which your elementary school librarian would not approve. Call it what you will -- tickling Elmo, freeing Willy, dating Miss Michigan -- it's going on right under our noses. Or so says Trovillion.
"I could tell you stories about people masturbating in libraries in Broward County," he told a Sun-Sentinel reporter last week, adding that one youth was even running an Internet sex business on the public machines.
Undercurrents loves those kinds of stories. So we called Trovillion's Tallahassee office to hear a few salacious tidbits. But he wasn't in -- at the capitol library, perhaps. His secretary faxed us some backup information on this odious new trend, including a Web link to a lengthy screed published by the conservative group Family Research Council, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, called Dangerous Access, 2000 Edition: Uncovering Internet Pornography in America's Libraries. Broward County libraries are mentioned three times in the report, including this repugnant anecdote, quoted here to illustrate the severity of the situation. (Readers with weak stomachs are advised to skip to the next paragraph.)
"[A] young man probably 13 or 14 years old had accessed something having to do with sex with animals. He acted strangely, perhaps also masturbating. I asked him questions about what he was doing and after a while he left."
What further evidence do we need of the Internet's deleterious effect on our youth?
Sam Morrison, Broward County's library director, claims no knowledge of whacking in the stacks. "I certainly would have heard about it," he says. We beg to differ. Masturbators are as slippery as they are deviant.
Get the Weekly Newsletter
Our weekly feature stories, movie reviews, calendar picks and more - minus the newsprint and sent directly to your inbox.