When the executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Broward County announced he was leaving the nonprofit last month, it ought to have been nothing but sad news. In his nine years in the post, Jason S. Crush has overseen the completion of more than 200 homes for the needy. And this year, the organization has begun work on its most ambitious project yet -- a group of 30 homes near Oakland Park Boulevard.
But then there's this: Two of Habitat's paid consultants have been arrested in the past year on corruption-related charges. One of them, Vicente Thrower, was supposedly
offered a bribe on behalf of Habitat. And New Times has learned that Habitat also employed former Fort Lauderdale Mayor Cindi Hutchinson, who now stands accused of selling her office for repair work on her home.
In April 2010, Thrower turned himself in on three felony counts of unlawful compensation and one count of bribery. Thrower served on the Pompano Beach Northwest CRA advisory committee, and this affidavit claims Thrower solicited and received a $25,000 bribe from Habitat so that he would vote in favor of a project by the charity.
Things got worse for Thrower earlier this month when he was caught up in a prostitution sting recorded as part of the TLC show Police Women of Broward County. Thrower allegedly offered to pay undercover deputies for an oral sex "competition" at the Relax Inn.
After Thrower was taken into custody, he tried to bribe a sergeant into letting him go, according to this Broward Sheriff's Office incident report. "One of those days when you're a major and you need your budget approved, you'll have to come to me," he told the sergeant, according to the report. Instead of letting him go, the sergeant charged him with soliciting another for lewdness.
Hutchinson stands accused of trading votes for developer Glenn Wright and former exotic car dealer Steven Goldstrom. In exchange, Hutchinson allegedly received $14,000 in free work on her home. The charges have no relation to her work at Habitat, but having two consultants on staff who are now facing corruption charges might not sit well with some charitable donors.
Crush says Habitat would never solicit bribes. He says his two consultants were doing only aboveboard work for Habitat and got caught up in things unrelated to the charity. "I don't have a lot of luck with consultants and indictments," he joked.
He says both Hutchinson and Thrower were on retainer as consultants and represented Habitat interests among local government. Hutchinson was brought on, Crush says, because of her connection with the Broward League of Cities, and Thrower was beneficial because of his reputation as a Pompano Beach activist.
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Crush says his resignation has "absolutely nothing to do" with the recent arrests. Crush, who's a lawyer, will work full time for a law firm with his wife. "It's time for a change in my life," he said.
Meanwhile, the Habitat board met last night to pick a new director. Crush said the new director's name hasn't been announced, but he's confident the next person can continue the charity's good deeds. "We do good work," Crush said.
Robert Leider, chairman of the Habitat board and executive vice president at Channel 7, did not return a phone call from New Times.
The next director will also have to deal with continued news of the Thrower case and the question of whether Crush is right and Habitat had nothing to do with the bribe or whether nine years of work building homes could be overshadowed by paying consultants now accused of corruption.