Longform

A Dream Deferred

Page 4 of 6

Economic failure and ethical questions were not the only problems to afflict Moore's Blockbuster venture. In 1995, after the video store had begun to flounder, George Myles, Moore's business partner and a popular Lauderhill city commissioner, got into legal trouble. He was accused of writing bad checks and defaulting on a mass of debts, including $8000 still owed to a Miami law firm by the company he co-owned with Moore and another $15,000 also still owed to the Broward Sheriff's Office for an educational video the company had been contracted to produce but never did. For his part Moore, who has not been named in the lawsuits, denies any connection to his former partner's legal entanglements.

He does admit, however, to using the clout afforded by his position to secure business opportunities beyond the Blockbuster deal, actions that, while they may be legal, are ethically questionable. "Political people have to eat too," Moore says in his own defense. "We are volunteering our time as elected officials, and we have a right to an income. There are not many elected posts in our form of government that allow you to have a decent lifestyle by being a public servant alone, and I don't think our society or our community expects their officials to be impoverished because they wish to serve."

State ethics regulations prohibit elected officials from going into business with companies they are charged with regulating. But because, as Moore points out, part-time commissioners need an alternative source of income, many, like his colleagues -- lawyers and businessman -- enter elected office with well-established professional careers they are not expected to abandon. Moore's case was different, however. He was a part-time insurance salesman with a string of failed businesses under his belt, and, less than a year after he was elected, he landed himself a government-related job. In 1989 Broward County's elected public defender, Alan Schreiber, hired Moore as an investigator, a job that requires tracking down witnesses for the county's publicly appointed lawyers. Although he had none of the usual qualifications for the position -- a four-year college degree in criminal justice or equivalent law-enforcement experience -- Moore was hired because of his specific expertise. "We needed a black investigator who was knowledgeable in the black community," explains Schreiber. "Carlton was a good match."

Judging from almost a decade's worth of poor job evaluations, the match wasn't so good. The evaluations paint a picture of an unenthusiastic employee with a truancy problem. Last May, for instance, Moore traveled to Alaska for a meeting of the National League of Cities, an organization with which he is active. Phoning from the Arctic Circle, he explained that he wouldn't be able to make it to work until the end of the following week. Moore's supervisor, Phil Charlesworth, was not pleased. "I have never given him permission to go on vacation without prior approval," he wrote in a letter to Schreiber. "However, it has happened many times. I was assured the last time it happened that it would never happen again.... I am recommending that we consider cutting his part-time employment by half." Schreiber didn't have to. Last month, after nine lackluster years as an investigator, Moore resigned.

Instead of digging up witnesses, Moore is now devoting his time to another position, a more flexible part-time gig as a vice president at McKinley Financial Services of Pompano Beach, a company that, with Moore's help, recently secured a multimillion-dollar deal to provide property and casualty insurance to Broward County. Moore was hired just a few months before the deal with the county was set up. He claims, however, that the timing was simply coincidental.

Despite questions about his business dealings and his effectiveness as a politician, Moore remains a political force with which to be reckoned. In 1997 he was elected to a third three-year term with more than 80 percent of the vote (though only 12 percent of his more than 10,000 constituents voted). In the last ten years, only two candidates have stuck their necks out to challenge him, and both were easily quashed. Leola McCoy and Mickey Hinton, former classmates at Dillard High School, lifetime residents of the northwest section of Fort Lauderdale, and community activists popular in their neighborhoods, mounted campaigns to unseat Moore in 1994 with little success. (Hinton made a second unsuccessful bid in '97.)

McCoy, a firebrand who has spent more than 30 years vying for the political spotlight, set her sights on Moore shortly after he took office. "My dog has more integrity than he does," she says. "I thought I could honestly represent people. Folks said, 'Why [are you] running against the man?' He ain't no man, he's a damn crook." Increasingly the two have clashed over what has become McCoy's pet project, the cleanup of the toxic chemicals at the defunct Wingate Road Municipal Incinerator and Landfill, a site she blames for the chronic illnesses afflicting many in her neighborhood (the same neighborhood where Moore grew up). Moore recently cast a vote to cap the site rather than remove its toxic contents, defending the cap as the quickest and least-expensive way to deal with the problem. Although he acknowledges that his stance on Wingate was unpopular among his former neighbors, he says he doesn't expect it to impact his chance of easily securing a fourth term if he runs again in 2000.

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Jay Cheshes