The Bottom Four in the Federal Case

We're into the second week of the post-arrest (or post-public) phase of the federal investigation in Broward County, so I think it's a good time to take stock. I'm going to do a post on the heroes of this thing at some point, but first I'm going to shoot fish in a barrel and give you a list of four folks who so far have come across the worst (other than the actual defendants of course).

4. Steve Rossi. You know this attorney from the bus benches, which is probably where he should have stayed. Everything about Beverly Gallagher's hire of Rossi has been wrong. For one, he's the Broward Teacher's Union lawyer, which creates a conflict of interest. How can he represent the interests of a corrupt School Board member at the same time he's representing rank-and-file employees who might be whistleblowers against her or elected other members? It stinks from the get-go and, on top of that, every step of the way has been a mini-disaster for his client. Not that it should be a surprise. This is the same guy who, while making a ludicrous run for the Fort Lauderdale Commission, made a running campaign joke that more people have sat on his face (because of the bus bench ads) than any other candidate. In Gallagher's case, the first big move was for her to basically lie to the public. A week before the arrests came down, Gallagher announced to the media that she was taking a medical leave of absence. Now it may be true that she's getting a hysterectomy, but the announcement was clearly about giving her an excuse to lay low before the arrest (which she obviously knew full well was coming) and possibly setting up a ploy to

delay matters and/or get some sympathy from the court. But what it really did was show once more that she's a calculating and dishonest politician. Then came the Gallagher courthouse media scrum (also known as the pilot episode of the new reality show The Beverly Gallagher Hillbillies). Leaving the federal courthouse in Fort Lauderdale after her initial appearance, Gallagher, her daughters Meghan and Annie, and Meghan's boyfriend, Phil "Jethro" Kaufold, wound up in a near-melee. Most of it was brought on by Kaufold, a hot-headed School Board construction project manager. I've seen the scrum several times now, and Kaufold is lucky he didn't injure one cameraman whom he literally pushed down the concrete steps of the courthouse parking garage. Meghan Gallagher, another School Board project manager, ended the disaster by shooting the bird to the camera (this was caught by NBC-6). Obviously a good and seasoned attorney never would have let this happen to his client. A good and seasoned lawyer would have accompanied Gallagher and saw to it that she didn't make a spectacle of herself. A good and seasoned lawyer would have had a car ready to pick her up so she didn't have to make the long walk in the first place. (By the way, Josephus Eggelletion had not one but two cars ready. And I hear one of the getaway drivers was none other than lobbyist Judy Stern). And these are just Rossi's obvious mistakes. You have to wonder what's happening behind the scenes. 

3. Broward State Attorney Michael Satz. Once again, our top prosecutor has proven to be a flub when it comes to fighting corruption. Judging from recent headlines, it appears his office has been too busy convicting innocent people of murders and locking up poor people on stupid drug crimes to bother with public officials. Seriously, this guy is a disaster, and he's been in office for 33 years. The joke is on the taxpayers. Satz had a chance to nail Gallagher three years ago when it was reported here that she had obtained a job at the Community Blood Center with the help of lobbyist Neil Sterling and then steered tens of millions of dollars worth of contracts to Sterling's other clients. That was an open-and-shut unlawful compensation case, but Satz, of course, blew it, just as he has time and time again. And it's clearly by design. Satz isn't just close to the corrupt machine that runs Broward County; he's part of it. Consider that Sterling's partner is lobbyist and political consultant Barbara Miller. Guess who has run Satz's own political campaigns? Yes, Barbara Miller. In that regard, I actually cut Satz some slack. Because he's elected, he must play the political game on the same field as those people he is supposed to investigate and prosecute. That doesn't excuse his shameful legacy at all, but it at least helps explain it. I just don't know what the solution is, since political appointments don't seem to be any better. Suggestions, anyone?

2. The City of Miramar. It's a wonder joker Fitzroy Salesman was ever elected in the first place. He'd proven himself an unstable man prior to winning office in 2001. In 1998, he was arrested for creating havoc outside a restaurant and ordered to anger management classes. After his election, he couldn't even hold onto his job as a Miami-Dade substitute school teacher, fired in 2003 for lax supervision of his classrooms. Dude couldn't handle a class, but he could oversee a city? Who cares; he was overwhelmingly reelected in 2005. You have to wonder if he'd have been reelected earlier this year if the hadn't been convicted of a gun misdemeanor for pulling a gun on a fellow customer in a supermarket. Beyond that, the federal complaint against him indicates a city rife with mismanagement at best and horrible corruption at worst. There seemed to be little professional supervision of major construction projects, and contracts were handed out willy-nilly. One codefendant, the at-large Skip Aniekwu, took $50,000 allegedly for bribes for three different city officials. Maybe Aniekwu was lying and pocketed the money; maybe not. Either way, the leaders of that city have a lot of explaining to do to the FBI.

1. James Notter. In light of Gallagher's arrest, which touches on several School Board officials and the entire process by which the district has handed out construction projects, Notter has proven once again to be on the side of wrong. He's not urging School Board personnel to come clean; he's telling them to shut up and get an attorney (paid for by taxpayers' money). In light of the fact that Notter ignored state laws and kept building unnecessary schools and classrooms and wasted hundreds of millions of public dollars, this guy should be on his knees begging our forgiveness. Instead he's acting like a crime boss, plugging up leaks and trying to keep the School Board racket going. But hey, speaking of School Board officials, where's Stephanie Kraft? Are she and hubbie Mitch going to finally tell the truth?

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Bob Norman
Contact: Bob Norman