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Read It And Weep


So I talked to Broward County School Board member Bev Gallagher about her relationship with mega-lobbyist Neil Sterling. Specifically about her job at a blood bank that does business with the school district. Sterling reps the blood bank. Sources told me she'd gotten the job through Sterling. And on top of that, Gallagher had helped steer about $120 million worth of school construction contracts to Sterling's biggest client, James B. Pirtle Construction.

So Gallagher admits that Sterling told her about the job (and helped procure it for her) -- which has paid her more than $100,000 for part-time work. Then I tell her that looks bad, like unlawful compensation (note to reporters: focus on felony unlawful compensation statute, not toothless ethics code). She starts crying

on the phone and says she's going to quit her job.

Read the column, A Politicians Weeps, right here. It's a goodie.

Today, the Miami Herald's Nirvi Shah and Amy Sherman did a solid job of following the story and advancing it a step. Gallagher is now saying that Sterling was basically just a reference and that she ran the job by Ed Marko, the school board's general counsel. Marko says he doesn't remember it and doesn't have a record of it. Florida Ethics Board chairman Norm Ostrau has a ridiculous quote in which he says, ''She can't have corrupt intent if she got advice saying it's OK.''

What a dunderheaded -- and flat-out wrong -- quote. For one, Gallagher never said she went to Marko about the conflict with Sterling; she claimed to have gone because of the conflict with the blood bank, Community Blood Centers, which receives school board blood. She told me so and I didn't even repeat it because it had nothing to do with the heart of the allegation: That she and Sterling have a corrupt relationship. Gallagher is also trying to distinguish non-profit cash from for-profit cash.

Look, Bev, it's all green, baby.

And you simply must reading Gallagher's response to my column, which is linked at the Herald. First sentence: "Everyone has moments in their lives that they would like to take back or pretend never happened. The surprise interview with Bob Norman is a case in point in my life."

Gallagher is really missing the point. It's taking the job fr0m lobbyist Sterling -- and then voting to enrich him over and over again at the school board -- that she should wish never happened.

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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

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