Broward News

Florida Ethics Czar Asks for Leniency for Corrupt School Board Member

 penned a letter asking a federal judge to show leniency for former Broward County Board Member Beverly Gallagher, who has pleaded guilty to bribery and other federal charges that stemmed from an undercover FBI corruption investigation.

​Florida Commission Ethics Chairman Roy Rogers wrote the letter for Gallagher on May 23, and it was filed in court by her defense attorney yesterday along with several other such letters.

"I am requesting leniency in consideration of her overall character," Rogers wrote U.S. District Judge James Cohn in a handwritten letter dated May 23. "I have known Beverly for over 25 years. During that time she consistently and passionately advocated for students. Her communication with decision makers locally and in Tallahassee enured to the benefit of the Broward School District."

Considering Rogers is the state's top ethics official, it's good to know he's so forgiving of a public official who offered to sell out her office -- and try to fix school construction contracts -- in exchange for cash (some of which she famously stuffed in a doggy bag) and promise of a job from agents who pretended to be "quasilobbyists."

Rogers, a Charlie Crist appointee, is also chairman of the Broward Fair Campaign Practices Committee. He was also an executive with Arvida when it built Weston on the Everglades. I have a call into Rogers and am waiting for comment to my question: "What were you thinking?" 

Another boneheaded letter came from "Mothers Against Predators" President Jaemi Levine -- who is actually running for the seat being vacated by Board Member Stephanie Kraft. "I know she must pay for her mistakes but I would ask for leniency in her sentencing," Levine wrote.

No, Jaemi, not "mistakes." Mistakes are things you don't mean to do. They are accidents. What Gallagher did is called a "crime." The fact that you don't know the difference doesn't bode well for your political career (or perhaps it will bring you great success). 

There is one letter, though, that is even more interesting than those two. It is from prolific Broward County lobbyist George Platt. If anybody knows about the corroding effect lobbyists have on whatever integrity public officials might possess, it's Platt. He's hired relatives of politicians (in-trouble Diana Wasserman-Rubin's husband Richard Rubin comes immediately to mind) and done his share of wining and dining (Kristin Jacobs has visited his vacation home in North Carolina).

He writes the obligatory "she was a great official and please be lenient" kind of stuff but then writes something that seems heartfelt and thoughtful, maybe even a bit confessional. Read Platt's thoughts after the jump.

From Platt's letter:

"It is painful to see a public official step over the line. My lengthy involvement in the political process has convinced me that some public officials simply lose sight of the line between right and wrong. Some of it may have to do with peculiar weaknesses such as a corrupt streak, but sometimes it is has to do with self-importance that public officials assume when lobbyists, the public, favor seekers, unions and others puff up the egos of elected officials. We have seen sad examples of this over the years and it may tend to blur the vision of some. Somewhere along the way, Beverly lost sight of the line."

You know, I have to hat-tip Platt for his honesty there.

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Journalist Bob Norman has been raking the muck of South Florida for the past 25 years. His work has led to criminal cases against corrupt politicians, the ouster of bad judges from the bench, and has garnered dozens of state, regional, and national awards.
Contact: Bob Norman