Time to Unmask the Political Operative Behind Online Extortion Attempt

For those pining for arrests coming from the statewide grand jury investigation, all hope isn't lost.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which served as the investigative arm of the grand jury, has compiled all kinds of intelligence during the investigation and could produce charges in the case yet.

The investigation is continuing, but I'm not real optimistic that there will be widespread retribution for the hundreds of millions of pilfered taxpayers' dollars the School Board redistributed to lobbyists, contractors, and other district vendors. It's going to depend on the cooperating witnesses.

I remember another much ballyhooed grand jury that supposedly investigated the hell out of the School Board. It was put together by State Attorney Michael Satz and run by former prosecutor John Countryman. It too ended with a report full of righteous indignation -- and it too let the perps walk.

It's becoming a pattern. The School Board gets gamed out of millions by well-connected campaign contributors, the public gets outraged, the authorities investigate with a grand jury, the grand jury bloviates like mad about the evils of the board, and... nothing changes.

What's maddening here is that the grand jury not only failed to take action but it left out all the names in its report, like blind items in gossip newspapers. Why? 

In many cases, it's apparent who the jurors are talking about. We all know Jennifer Gottlieb was behind the Beachside Boondoggle and that Bob Parks loved to put his name on public buildings. But some are left to the imagination.

For instance, which political operative was responsible for the "extortionate" attempt to silence Broward Cleansweep, the School Board critic? Inside, we look at that mysterious case.  

Once again, the Broward Cleansweep story was covered here and ignored by the mainstream media. Apparently a political operative who has worked on several School Board campaigns and has been appointed to more than one district advisory council believed that Cleansweep was School Board employee Michael Marchetti, who has blown the whistle on all manner of board corruption. His wife, Valarie, also works at the School Board.

The operative demanded that Cleansweep terminate its Facebook page. When Cleansweep refused, the operative wrote:

"Sorry Mr. Marchetti. I would use my computer to update yours and Valerie's resumes. Then do a search on bondsmen. I have a feeling you are both going to need them."

I wrote this blog post at the time, the grand jury picked it up, and here's what it wrote about the controversy in the final report:

c. Silencing Critics by Threats
Around the same time we became aware of another published report concerning an attack on a person using the Facebook identity of Broward Cleansweep. This person has been highly critical of the Board andits operations and has called for the ouster of virtually all incumbent Board members. An anonymous poster, believing Broward Cleansweep to be a District employee (and married to another District employee) threatened to use his connections at the District or Board to have both of them fired and or prosecuted if he did not immediately take down the Facebook page and stop his attacks on the Board. Ultimately the poster concluded Broward Cleansweep was not who he believed and abandoned his attacks.

This extortionate attempt to silence political criticism is poison in any democratic society. The attack would be reprehensible coming from any quarter. For it to come from a Broward political consultant who has worked for numerous local political candidates, including school board members, is even more disturbing. Worst of all, the poster who attempted to silence Broward Cleansweep has previously served, and presently does serve on District advisory council(s). Based on the testimony we heard, at least one Board member is aware of what took place, yet so far as we know, no action has been taken to ask this person to voluntarily resign, disclose his actions to the rest ofthe Board, or otherwise disassociate from him. So far as we know, no one at the Board has even asked a single question about this incident, nor expressed any desire to determine who might be attacking a District employee for exercising his political rights.

OK, so the School Board uses dirty tactics to silence critics and the board members themselves are moral cowards with no sense of decency. We knew that a long time ago. What we need to know is who that political operative is. I have my ideas, but I'm not going to venture a guess, because at this point, that would be all it is. The grand jury could have easily provided the name but chose not to.

Bad call.   

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