Fane Lozman has seen plenty of rampant corruption in Riviera Beach. He's also convinced there's more, so he's putting his money where his mouth is.
Lozman, along with the Palm Beach Sun newspaper (to which Lozman contributes occasional columns), is offering a $50,000 reward for information about city councilmen Cedrick Thomas and Bruce Guyton "involving any alleged political corruption, for example -- illegal payoffs and bid rigging."
Awards will be paid if Lozman and the Sun "choose to use your material and publish your verified story."
See also: Best Gadfly - Fane Lozman
Lozman, a former Marine pilot turned millionaire, has waged a years-long battle against the city. It started when Lozman fought a city plan to lease the public marina to rich developers and ended with Lozman winning a U.S. Supreme Court case after the city retaliated by having his houseboat towed away and destroyed.
Lozman says his tactic is unusual, but paying for tips has been effective in law enforcement (see Bin Laden, Whitey Bulger). He was inspired by notorious Penthouse publisher Larry Flynt, who has fought the government on various occasions and who put up reward money -- $1 million -- seeking dirt on the Rev. Jerry Falwell and Mitt Romney. (Lozman says Thomas and Guyton are not worth $1 million. "You give away a million for president -- you don't for a scumbag city official.") Lozman says he met Flynt at a book signing and they talked about Riviera Beach.
Lozman says Thomas and Guyton "are corrupt; they just haven't been prosecuted for it... The damned state attorney and U.S. attorney have been jerking around here for years." He says he's met with officials to give them information about alleged corruption in the city, but they never prosecute because the evidence is not strong enough or the statute of limitations ran out.
He says he is unafraid of blowback from the councilmen. "What are they going to do? Sue me for defamation?"
Lozman says the councilmen's offenses include: voting to spend $25 million in public money for the Riviera Beach Marina and appointing Viking to be master developer on a contract that never went out for bid. "Felony bid tampering," he calls it. Thomas, he says, provides busing services to Viking's maritime academy.
The city also lets the tiki bar at the marina be leased for $6,500 bucks a month -- underpriced, according to an inspector general's report that shows the city losing $600,000 to $800,000 in revenue because of a sweetheart deal. (A New Times story from 2008 explained the busing contract and related an eye-opening story -- Thomas allegedly asked a bidder on the tiki bar to get naked and prove he wasn't wearing a wire, implying that Thomas was looking for kickbacks. To be fair, Thomas at the time denied it all and said, "I'm very tired of this. Can you, one time, just one time, give the elected official the benefit of the doubt?.... I'm trying to be fair, and all it does is get my name run through the mud.")
"That story is as fresh now as it was five years ago," Lozman says.
Lozman points out that the city also got $54 million from the county to preserve access to the waterfront, but it turned 56 recreational boat slips into two megayacht slips, taking away public access.
Lozman says info should be sent to tipline@PalmBeachSun.net and the price for any tip would be "based on the significance of the political corruption involved."
Here is the link to Lozman's full-page ad in the Sun.
Calls and emails to Guyton and Thomas were not immediately returned.