Broward News

Broward Still Putting the "Ick!" in "Ethics" Reform

We're supposed to be happy that public officials in Broward are getting a primer on ethics. U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta will pay a visit to the Broward County Commission to stage an ethics tutorial (You had better be taking actual notes, Ritter, not doodles or love letters to a certain lobbyist). The historically conflicted Deerfield Beach Commission got a lesson in ethics from an FAU professor, according to this new web newspaper. And the similarly scandal-plagued commissioners of the North Broward Hospital District may go back to Ethics 101 on the advice of Martin Goldberg, a former federal prosecutor they retained for an internal inquiry.

But no one really believes that our crooked elected officials are simply naive. At best, they're uninterested in ethics. At worst, they know the laws just well enough to cheat them, or they cheat them with impunity, betting that the overextended feds won't have time to investigate and that public corruption simply isn't a priority for the State Attorney.

So it's through that jaundiced eye that I read Anthony Man's excellent coverage of a blooming scandal at the North Broward Hospital District. Commissioner Joseph Cobo is defending himself against allegations in a memo by the board's former acting general counsel, Troy Kishbaugh.

The allegations are troubling. You've got a guy in a powerful position with the region's most important health care institution and he's allegedly using that position to help the clients in his consulting practice at the expense of the hospital district. The article contains Cobo's blanket denial of wrongdoing, but he only specifically addresses a few of the allegations.

Still, it's way too early to make guesses on this one. Kishbaugh's not exactly an ideal whistleblower (if such a thing exists). He was vying for the permanent job of general counsel and only wrote this memo after he was passed over. Then he nuked it from his computer reportedly out of fear he'd be caught in the fallout, only to rewrite it at Goldberg's request.

The one thing that is clear: the hospital district deserves a closer look by active prosecutors -- not just former prosecutors. If Goldberg, who was hired by the district but who did not have a prosecutor's ability to subpoena documents and take sworn depositions of witnesses still found evidence to give the board such a stern warning about illegal conduct...well... that's enough smoke to warrant a search for fire.

KEEP NEW TIMES BROWARD-PALM BEACH FREE... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Thomas Francis