The Dirty Dozen of 2007

You might lose a bet if you claimed there were more liars, cheats, hypocrites, and mackerel-reekin' wrongdoers in Broward and Palm Beach counties than in any other metropolitan area in the country — but not by much. We've got 'em big-time, and New Times lives to expose 'em. Part of the fun is that even run-of-the-mill scoundrels stand out around here, thanks to their always-fascinating sense of entitlement. It's the attitude that says "I can do no wrong, because — well, because it's me." It's so SoFla!

To make New Times' Annual Dirty Dozen, then, you have to be pretty special: real swell villains. This year's standouts include a national talk-show host, two well-known sports figures, a college president, a mayor, a couple of commissioners, a fallen sheriff, a city official, and our own three-judge kangaroo court. For your pleasure, we've also rated them on our special Dirt Meter from one to ten, from mere malefactor to monster.

Nick Saban — We can't lay all the blame on him for the Miami Dolphins' season, but Saban certainly gets a big share. He blew into town two and a half years ago as an anointed savior, then abruptly departed, leaving the once-hallowed football franchise in shambles. Saban repeatedly promised at the end of 2006 that he would return as head coach — presumably to right the ship he pushed off course — while denying claims that he'd leave to coach Alabama. Then, under the cover of night, he left to coach Alabama. Of course, if all Saban had done was wreck one of the winningest teams in history, maybe he wouldn't make this hall of shame. But in November, he added veterans and widows to the list of those he's insulted. After a loss to an unranked college, the first-year Crimson coach — who pulls in a cool $4 million a year — called the game a catastrophe. Then he reached for some comparisons. "Changes in history usually occur after some kind of catastrophic event," he told reporters. "It may be 9/11, which sort of changed the spirit of America... Pearl Harbor got us ready for World War II or whatever, and that was a catastrophic event." DM reading: 6 (A mealy-mouthed coach reaching for excuses.)

Ray Ferrero Jr. — We send our young ones off to university in the hope that those institutions will help them build character by teaching them important life lessons. Maybe they'll come out with a sense of fairness and justice. But at Nova Southeastern University, the young'uns are learning about the bottom line and how to trample the weak on their way to the top. Apparently, saying union in Nova president Ferrero's presence is like shouting fire in a crowded theater. When janitorial workers at Nova embarked on a union drive, he coldly switched janitorial contractors. All right, so Nova don't like no unions. That's understood. But Ferrero could have saved the jobs of more than 100 low-wage workers who were pushed out during the switch, and he didn't. These were the people who emptied his garbage pails, swept his floors, even cleaned his toilets. To Ferrero, they were sort of like crumbs that fall on the floor, to be swept up and dropped in a trash bin somewhere. DM reading: 8 (Classic corporate suit.)

Jeffrey Loria — By the end of 2006, Loria had a team that a lot of franchise owners could only dream of. He had the National League manager of the year, Joe Girardi. He had a fiery, young left-hander, one of the most charismatic and feared pitchers in baseball, Dontrelle Willis. And he had Miguel Cabrera, possibly the best third baseman in the majors. The team, with All Star- and World Series-winning experience, was supposed to make another run at the championship. Best of all, they had all this potential combined with the lowest salary nut in the game: $15 million (which is about what A-Rod makes every six months). But since then, Loria and his minions sold off just about every valuable asset the Marlins had, casting championship pieces to the wind. Days before Girardi was announced as manager of the year, Loria fired him (apparently because Girardi asked his boss to stop screaming at umpires). Then the Marlins sent Willis and Cabrera to Detroit for prospects. The total salary for the team now is just $10 million. And once again Loria — who has now made this list three years in a row — has proved that the Marlins are just a farm system for the big boys. DM reading: 6 (Hey, he owns those guys.)

Ken Jenne — Tragic demise? Maybe. But former Broward County Sheriff Jenne should have known better. Jenne was recently sentenced to a year and a day in federal prison for tax evasion and conspiring to commit mail fraud. Before that, by most accounts, he was the most powerful politician in Broward, and the details of his case show a familiar pattern of heedlessness at the top. As sheriff, Jenne accepted financial favors, covered up shady business dealings by using his secretary to front for him, and used his office to dig up business opportunities. He also raked in money that he never declared as income in tax filings. Maybe this is just business as usual, capitalism in action, and no big deal — but shouldn't the county's top law enforcement officer be held to a higher-than-usual ethical standard? "In a way, Jenne's long tenure as a public official and the familiarity that tenure gave him with the laws governing such officials makes his transgressions worse," said the prosecutor in his case. "As a longtime public official, Jenne of all people should know the importance of being above reproach.'' DM reading: 8 (Give him points for contrition.)

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