The so-called "Public Ethics Academy" at Florida Atlantic University is supposed to serve as something of a lifeboat of good government in Broward County's sea of wrongdoing public officials.
Instead the academy is nothing more than a symbol of the county's ethically bankrupt nature, and it should be disbanded immediately.
I say that not just because its director, Norman Ostrau, is a lobbyist and developer's attorney with longstanding ties to some of Broward's shadiest operators, though that's bad enough. Only in South Florida would they try to pass off a lobbyist as an ethics czar.
It goes deeper, though. One of the boosters for the creation of the Public Ethics Academy was Nancy Blosser, the chairwoman of FAU's Board of Trustees. It was Blosser who led a panel discussion at the kickoff event for the academy last February.
Nancy Blosser is the wife of well-heeled lobbyist Jim Blosser. Now guess who employs Ostrau as a lobbyist?
Why, Jim Blosser, of course.
Nice connection, huh? So the FAU's ethics academy is directed by a lobbyist who is employed by the husband of the university's board chairwoman. Feel like you need a hot shower yet?
Nancy Blosser's own appointment to the board was the result of what any self-respecting ethics academy would abhor: blatant political patronage. You see, Jim Blosser was one of the top fundraisers for Jeb Bush during his governor days (the Blossers were also both huge Bush/Cheney people). Jim Blosser even served as Jeb's campaign finance director in 1998. Guess who appointed Blosser to the FAU board? Why, Jeb Bush, of course.
College board appointments are great ways to reward well-heeled political contributors. Jeb Bush had a great habit of appointing lobbyists and developers to those boards, including his old partner Armando Codina at Florida International University.
When he appointed Nancy Blosser, a registered nurse who previously worked as "recruitment director" at another tax-subsidized patronage bastion called the North Broward Hospital District*, to the FAU board in 2001, it set off some alarms. From the St. Petersburg Times:
Bush's selections for the board at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton illustrate the role money and connections can play in appointments. Nancy Blosser, one of the new FAU trustees, is the wife of Jim Blosser, a lawyer and lobbyist with long-standing ties to the Bush family. He was one of the state's leading fundraisers for George W. Bush in 2000, for Jeb Bush in 1998, and for their father, former President George Bush.
You see? The whole thing is rotten to the core. Appallingly, the Blosser/Ostrau "ethics academy" is getting funding from -- where else? -- the public dime. It is actively trying to get contracts with local governments for ethics training and already inked a $21,000 deal with the City of Hollywood.
* The Blosser involvement at NBHD was a family affair as well. Jim Blosser was a lobbyist at the North Broward Hospital District and was involved in a scandal while there.