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Mayoral Candidate Wasn't Subject of Criminal Investigation, as Newspaper Claimed

Joe Angelo lost his race for the mayorship of Wilton Manors on Tuesday against incumbent Gary Reznick. His loss was due, at least in part, to a series of editorials in the Island City News by publisher Steve Kelley. The articles claimed Angelo was able to "elude prosecution" after a "criminal investigation" conducted by Broward County prosecutors.

Though it can't matter now, some things are better said late than never: Joe Angelo wasn't under criminal investigation.

The Juice has obtained a document from the State Attorney's Office that shows there was never talk of criminal charges. Prosecutors conducted only a "preliminary inquiry" after a complaint against Angelo and then dismissed the claims against him.

Specifically, the complaint came from former

Lauderdale Lakes city commissioner John Billingsley Jr. Billingsley wanted financial documents from Broward Black Elected Officials Inc. Angelo was treasurer at Broward Black Elected Officials Inc., a Fort Lauderdale-based charity, and declined to give the documents to Billingsley. Under law, charities are required to turn over financial documents when asked.

Billingsley lodged a complaint in 2007 with the State Attorney's Office, and Broward Black Elected Officials Inc.'s books were opened to state forensics accountants.

A year later, the State Attorney's Office determined nothing criminal had happened. Prosecutors filed a "closeout memo" August 20, 2008, declaring the case closed. "After examining the records," the memo reads, "there was no indication of unlawful activity."

That's not how things sounded in the Island City News. Last month, Kelly, who didn't return a phone call, wrote:

"The State Attorney's fraud and public corruption unit was conducting a criminal investigation into the organization's financial management and Angel was the treasurer and responsible for the organization's finances. Once, when asked about the group's expenditures and funds collected, he replied, 'I have no clue.' Then, suddenly, [Angelo] quit his job at FPL, quit the City commission and departed the state. Ultimately, Angelo was able to elude prosecution when State Attorney Mike Satz simply dropped the matter."

The word "elude" is a powerful one. In this context, it conjures an image of a shifty pol slinking off into the lawless night. Actually, Angelo left town because he had been accepted at Harvard's JFK School of Government. 

There you have it. Joe Angelo isn't the mayor. But he's definitely not a criminal either.

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Brandon K. Thorp

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