The Book on the Proposed New "Ethics Czar"; Bova Gone Bankrupt

Busy with a million things but wanted to share this photo of Broward's proposed new "ethics czar," Norman Ostrau.

It's Ostrau arm in arm with megalobbyist Ron Book. An ethics czar to be photographed glad-handing Book is sort of like a federal organized crime prosecutor being photographed giving a smooch to Sammy the Bull. It just doesn't compute.  

I know what you're thinking: But Bob, they're just posing at an event for a homeless charity. It doesn't mean they're friends or anything.

Yes, but they are friends. Very good, longtime friends. I can't get too deep into it at the moment, but Ostrau and Book have been close buddies for years. In fact, Ostrau was a county attorney who lobbied on behalf of Broward when his good chum Book his deal from taxpayers to rep county officials in Tallahassee.

An article from the Miami Herald in 2000, in fact, described a "close circle of friends" that included Ostrau, Book, government contract-seeking engineer Tom McDonald, and -- wait for it -- Scott Cowan.

You remember Cowan, right? He was convicted of campaign violations and thrown off the County Commission. Our future would-be ethics czar, Ostrau, was a county attorney at the time and backed him throughout the scandal, even suggesting publicly that he shouldn't have been tossed out of office after he diverted campaign money for personal use, including to his daughters. In fact, Cowan turned to his friend for legal advice -- and Ostrau narrowly avoided having to testify about their conversations when a judge ruled that it fell under attorney-client privilege (even though both of them were public officials at the time). Part of Ostrau's advice to Cowan that we know about was to hire David Bogenschutz. Cowan, who today is lobbying somewhere around that dark burg of Davie, did just that.

This is only the tip of the iceberg. Another longtime friend is Broward Democratic Chairman Mitch Ceasar -- and anyone who knows about Ceasar, another lobbyist, would balk at that connection. Fun fact: Ceasar and Ostrau once formed a

cookie company together that ended up being a big loser. In one article, they said they'd lost about $15,000 apiece on the venture. 

Again, this goes deep and long. There's so much to say about Ostrau, not withstanding the fact that he is a lobbyist himself, currently working at Blosser & Sayfie. Before getting into politics, he was involved in a controversial development with former Plantation Commissioner Neil La Hurd, who graduated from politics to become a developer and lobbyist. At one point, Ostrau, La Hurd, soon-to-be convicted felon Emerson Allsworth, and Ceasar were all lobbying for a Macy's store in Plantation (it would morph eventually into what is the Fashion Mall -- a disaster of a project if ever there was one). One commissioner at the time, Larry Freilich, had the good sense to dub that motley crew "the four horsemen of the apocalypse."

So of course Broward's power elite -- including State Attorney Michael Satz -- are supporting Ostrau for the position. He's one of them, after all.

But what really gets my goat in all this is that the Sun-Sentinel constantly quotes the guy as a paragon of ethics. It's true that he was the chairman of the Florida Ethics Commission, but he did nothing to bring any respectability to that joke of a body. And although he served in the state House -- which to politicians is sort of the equivalent to a street thug going to state prison to really learn the ropes -- he promoted ethics reforms. Lot of good it did.

Ostrau has been quoted in one story after another about how we need "transparency" and what a shame these politicians don't adhere to higher standards. This week, Michael Mayo, a columnist I respect, quoted him as saying, "The culture still needs to change."

Well, Ostrau, having been a part of it for so many years, certainly knows the culture. Just don't count on him to change it.

-- Also the Sentinel is reporting that Scott Rothstein business partner and restaurateur Tony Bova has filed for personal bankruptcy. He's losing his home and his restaurants in Boca, but he's got a dream to keep Bova Prime alive. From the article:

Rothstein was a 50 percent owner of the Boca Raton restaurants and a 100 percent owner of the Bova Prime location on Las Olas Boulevard, in the same downtown Fort Lauderdale building as Rothstein's now-bankrupt law firm, Furr said.

Rothstein's financial collapse and arrest deprived Bova not only of his partner but of his largest source of business capital -- Rothstein poured at least $2 million into Bova operations since late 2008, according to records in his law firm's bankruptcy case.

The Las Olas location was not included in the bankruptcy filings and remained open Friday for business, although its future is uncertain -- it is losing money and is now subject to either forfeiture proceedings by federal prosecutors or creditors of Rothstein's law firm, Furr said.

"Mr. Bova is still operating Bova Prime, and we are hoping to keep it open to keep the value in it," Furr said. "If he can get funding, he would like to keep that business open."

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Bob Norman
Contact: Bob Norman