It sure sounds like a troubling bit of news: Former Broward Sheriff candidate Wiley Thompson has landed a sweet job with victorious Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti -- the same candidate Thompson had crossed party lines to endorse after he lost in the August primary. And the Miami Herald notes that Thompson, as the only African-American candidate, likely delivered some of the votes from that community to Lamberti in what was a very close contest. Also, Thompson's getting hired at a time when Lamberti's proposing massive layoffs for BSO.
But there's no quid pro quo here.
Rewind one year to the sheriff's campaign, which was crowded and ferocious on the Democrats' side. You may remember that both Thompson and Fort Lauderdale attorney Bruce Udolf were targets of hit mailers. Udolf portrayed in a cartoon as a country bumpkin based on his Southwest Ranches residence, apparently. And Thompson's cartoon likeness dressed in a suit and bow tie, suggesting to black voters that he was an "Uncle Tom." Or perhaps to white voters that he was Malcolm X? Whatever the case, Thompson was furious. And though he refused to confirm it during my interview with him, it was clear he suspected that supporters of Democrat rival Scott Israel circulated the literature. (Israel denied it.) What's more, during the roughly two-dozen candidates forums, Thompson and Israel had become increasingly hostile -- with Thompson attacking Israel's history for Internal Affairs complaints and Israel trying to link Thompson with the corrupt culture of the man who hired him at BSO, ex-Sheriff Ken Jenne.
There was no doubt that if Thompson lost in the primary (which he did, to Israel), he'd give an endorsement to Lamberti, if only to derail the Israel campaign. And though it's a partisan contest, there's long been talk of removing the party factor, if only because a sheriff's candidate's performance isn't really supposed to be guided by political principles. So a Democrat endorsing a Republican sheriff hardly warrants suspicion.
I've left a message with Thompson and hope to hear back from him today. It's good to keep a close eye on Broward's largest public agency, especially one with such a checkered recent legal history. But if there's scandal in Lamberti's department, this ain't it.