Conflict of Interest? Scandal-Plagued Goren Sees No Evil in Pembroke Pines

This summer, the Juice raised ethical questions about the City of Pembroke Pines' decision to outsource its building department to a private, Fort Lauderdale-based company, Calvin, Giordano & Associates. Because the firm also handles multimillion-dollar engineering projects for the city, it could face serious conflicts of interest when reviewing building plans by competitors or approving projects that could pad its own bottom line.

But Pines Mayor Frank Ortis recently shed some light on the conundrum. He says he doesn't worry about ethical conflicts, because "we got that all cleared by the city attorney. The city attorney sees no conflict of interest."

Wonderful. And who might that city attorney be? Sam Goren, the same lawyer who's embroiled in his own conflict-of-interest scandal at the North Broward Hospital District.

Ah yes. It's a seriously tangled web of intrigue, which Thomas Francis has chronicled expertly on this blog. The short version: Goren took a job as interim general counsel at the hospital district, just as the district's commissioners were deciding how to handle reports of ethical violations by Commissioner Joseph Cobo. (Anyone else notice an ethically challenged theme here?)

However, Goren admitted that he had a conflict of interest at the district, because he's also the legal counsel for the Broward County Housing Authority, where Cobo is a board member. In other words, the good lawyer might feel pressured to treat Cobo with kid gloves at the hospital district in order to keep his gig at the housing authority. Indeed, there's now some question about why Goren recommended sending the ethics report on Cobo to Gov. Charlie Crist's office -- which appointed Cobo -- instead of the Florida Commission on Ethics.

Meanwhile, back in Pembroke Pines, the commissioners still consider Goren's word to be golden. He said Calvin, Giordano's new building inspection gig is kosher, so it must be, right?

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