The State Attorney's Office has confirmed that it has an open investigation into Broward County Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion's membership at the Parkland Golf & Country Club.
More than a year ago, a source told me that a development company called Prestige Homes paid for Eggelletion's membership at the country club, an amount that came to more than $10,000. It was an explosive allegation, because the commissioner had strongly supported and voted for Prestige Homes' controversial plan to build a housing development on the Monterey and Sabal Palm golf courses in Tamarac. Such a deal would violate a slew of state and federal corruption laws.
At that time, I called the company's owner, Bruce Chait, and he told me there was no truth in it. But the State Attorney's Office confirmed that it is investigating Eggelletion's relationship with the developer. Sources say that a representative of the company paid the country club in cash for Eggelletion's membership and that an employee at the course thought it was so unusual that he or she made photocopies of the cash.
I hear the general explanation offered to state investigators is that the developer -- either Chait or his son -- delivered the cash to the country club for Eggelletion because the commissioner didn't have enough time to fulfill the simple task himself. When I called Chait two weeks ago about this, he told me he wasn't sure what I was talking about before abruptly hanging up the phone. Eggelletion didn't return a detailed message on his cell phone for comment.
I can understand why they don't want to talk about it. If that's the explanation, it's almost impossible to buy. In fact, the whole thing is far-fetched from beginning to end. First you have to accept that Eggelletion, who is not a rich man, was willing to spend a lot of money to join a golf course that's an hour roundtrip from his home.
Next you need to believe he would pay the membership in cash. Who has $10,000 or more lying around?
And if you can somehow rationalize all that as credible, you now need to accept that the only person he could find to deliver the cash was a developer with a controversial project that he was publicly supporting.
While the exact date of the country club transaction isn't known, it occurred in the general time frame that Eggelletion was supporting Chait's controversial development in Tamarac. Prestige's plan to build 728 housing units on the Monterey and Sabal Palm golf courses outraged residents who lived in the Mainlands, a huge condo development for seniors that surrounds the courses.
Before his vote, Eggelletion spoke fervently in favor of the project, repeating that Chait had "stepped up to the plate" to build a barrier wall and affordable housing as part of the deal (Chait is now reneging on building affordable housing, saying it's no longer economically feasible and that the county "extorted" him to agree to it).
"I believe that what is being offered here today in the long run is going to be in the best interest of the residents of Tamarac," Eggelletion said before he cast the vote.
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Despite pressure from angry residents, the commission voted 5-2 to support the project. Among the yea votes was Eggelletion, who was then mayor and whose district includes the Monterey golf course.
Add Eggelletion's support on the dais and his vote to the golf club membership and you have what appears to be the all-important quid pro quo. But Joe Eggelletion, if anything, has been a survivor, getting past numerous ethical problems in the past. When he used his county-issued credit card to buy thousands of dollars worth of personal items, he simply apologized and paid the money back. He's also survived investigations involving his extracurricular lobbying work for a trash company and a developer.
When it was learned that he fathered a child during an extramarital affair, the mother, Angelita Sanders, alleged that Eggelletion first seduced her when she was a teenaged student of his at Dillard High School. Again, he managed to survive the scandal.
You just have to wonder when Eggelletion will run out of second chances.