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Sun-Sentinel Is The Big Man Now

Thought He Couldn't Go Lower?

The Sun-Sentinel, as it so often does, is taking a dirty local public official to task, investigating the once-popular public servant with a clear-eyed efficiency that can only be described as masterful.

Oh wait, the Sentinel never does that. So what gives?

John Holland and Scott Wyman have found that suspended Hollywood Commissioner Keith Wasserstrom took money from developer Triad Housing Partners at a time when he was trying to get Triad a deal in his own city. The Sentinel has been giving the story big play on the front page, showing the world how it is, after all, a real newspaper.

But here's the problem: Wasserstrom has already been kicked down. He's facing corruption charges and been knocked out of the job. It's so funny, because the Sentinel usually shows great deference to the ethically challenged public officials it covers. So much so that it has failed to break one great corruption story after another. But now, since Wasserstrom has already been knocked down, it's suddenly a big man, strutting around and kicking him into the ground.

Don't take that as a criticism of Holland and Wyman. Their work on Wasserstrom has been exceptional and absolutely warranted. If that newspaper got its head out of the ass of the Broward Alliance and started taking its Fourth Estate duties more seriously, there are a lot of reporters at 200 East Las Olas Boulevard (and the bureaus, can't forget the bureaus) that might be doing the same kind of work.

After the jump: Arza Calls Out His Bitch, Masilotti Exits Stage Left, and DBR Explores The Subpoena Problem

-- I'm not sure why it took so long for me to pick up the Ralph Arza story yet, but I'm pretty sure it was because I was waiting for a day like today, when it all comes together in a multi-media extravaganza. Click here to read the story by Carol Marbin Miller and Marc Caputo about the state rep's phone call(s) to Gus Barreiro and listen to the audio. The first is rather quaint: ''Hey, bitch,'' said Arza, who Barreiro had just accused of using racial slurs in a formal complaint. ''You're nothing but a bitch. You're a bitch. You're nothing but a bitch. God bless you, bitch ... Hey, bitch. You ain't nothing but a bitch. You ain't nothing but a bitch, brother, my nigger.''

That's what I call staying on point. Then there are some threatening calls left by an unidentified man who makes some not-so-veiled threats. People are getting down on Arza, saying he should leave office, but those same people should remember that without people like Arza my job -- and the jobs of a lot of other South Florida journalists -- would be a lot duller.

-- Ditto for Palm Beach County Commission Chairman Tony Masilotti who, sadly, resigned yesterday from office. Congratulations to the Palm Beach Post -- especially lead reporter Tom Dubocq -- for breaking the stories about crooked land deals that led to a federal case and Masilotti's resignation. They got the meat of the story from his divorce file, incidentally. And pay special attention to this part of today's story:

The "honest services" law is a 28-word federal statute that allows prosecutors to charge public officials with corruption even if there was no direct bribe to secure an official act. In general, it makes it a federal crime for officials to deprive their constituents of their honest efforts to represent them.

Used wisely and judiciously, this statute could be the greatest boon to clean government in the history of mankind.

-- Forrest Norman tells us about Broward State Attorney Michael Satz's recent habit of issuing subpoenas to reporters like they were thank-you cards. It's an interesting and comprehensive ditty, especially for those of you in the trade. I'm quoted in it, since I've been subpoenaed, and it's true, I really don't think Satz is trying to hassle me. Considering the fact that the prosecutor is trying to make me a witness in a Mafia case, it's obvious he's actually trying to have me whacked. Hey, don't worry Tommy, my lips are sealed. I won't say nothing.

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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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