When a corruption case strikes in North Broward, Woody Poitier has a peculiar way of being near the scene of the crime. He's the Pompano Beach commissioner who appointed activist Vicente Thrower to an advisory committee of the city's development agency. On Monday, Thrower was arrested on charges of unlawful compensation and
taking soliciting a bribe in exchange for his support of development projects.
"I was as surprised as anyone when I read about it," Poitier told me today, speaking of Thrower's arrest.
He's had surprises like this before. Poitier was chairman of the city's public housing agency when, in 2004, it was busted by the FBI and Broward Sheriff's Office for stealing roughly $1 million from the federal government that was supposed to go to low-income housing programs. A number of Housing Authority staffers went to jail, but its chairman stayed above the fray.
A mortician who runs the L.C. Poitier Funeral Home, Poitier won a special election to replace deceased Vice Mayor Pat Larkins, then easily won reelection in March 2009.
It happens that Poitier is the name of two political figures in neighboring Deerfield Beach who are embroiled in a public housing scandal of their own. That would be Commissioner Sylvia Poitier and Dan Poitier, executive director of the Westside Deerfield Businessmen Association, a nonprofit organization being investigated by a forensic auditor for possible mishandling of state and federal housing dollars.
"I did not know that," said Woody Poitier, when I mentioned the Deerfield audit to him this afternoon. Dan Poitier is his cousin, while Sylvia Poitier is the former spouse of another cousin, Prince Poitier, who is deceased. Woody Poitier is on good terms with his cousins but says, "I don't know anything about their business."
Still, it's remarkable -- and a little unsettling -- that one political figure could be associated with three separate and seemingly unrelated corruption cases.
"It's more coincidence than anything else," he said. And that's all it appears to be. At the very least, though, the coincidences suggest that Poitier isn't a very good judge of character.
Correction: A previous version of this post said that Thrower had been charged with taking bribes. That was incorrect. He was charged with soliciting a bribe. We regret the error.