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What About Bob?

The Sun-Sentinel actually broke a story about the Broward County School Board today. I feel so proud of them, I can barely contain myself.

The story concerned Bob Parks. You know, that guy who has been sitting on the School Board for 23 years representing the corrupt machine of lobbyists and contractors like a real trooper for the entire duration. He's always stood side by side with special interests and for that, he gets returned to office like clockwork. Get this: He's still tight with (blast-from-the-past alert) former School Board construction chief Ray De La Feuilliez. (Ray was run off from the School Board for engaging in all manner of corruption but quickly found his feet with a job with school builder Jim Cummings). When it comes to aligning with the forces of darkness, Parks is more dependable than Big Ben.

The story today is about how he tried to help an old friend who owns a company called Biltmore Construction obtain a

school-related contract, which wasn't qualified to do business at the board. Once again, it was the School Board auditors -- Pat Reilly and Dave Rhodes -- who stepped up to block this thing back in 2006. I had heard about Parks' Biltmore connection, but the sad fact is that unless he was getting some scratch on the back end, his favor probably wasn't illegal. And ironically, the fact that Parks was so blatant and up-front about helping his buddy actually helps his case. The feds love secrecy -- it's essential in honest services fraud cases (which is another reason I think Stephanie Kraft is toast). Parks was an honest double-dealer with Biltmore.

But Parks definitely deserves full attention from the feds on this matter and others. Just about everything this guy does smells funny.

Just last Tuesday during a School Board workshop, he was browbeating the auditors about their audacity to go to the State Attorney's Office with evidence of potentially fraudulent dealings at the district. He's also one of the greatest defenders of AshBritt, which was found by auditors to have ripped off taxpayers of at least $765,000. None of your elected board members are willing to step up and ask for that money back. All of them are standing with the firm, represented by big campaign contributor and lobbyist Ron Book, against the auditors.

At the workshop, Parks got real mad at Chief Auditor Pat Reilly.

"The red went up on the back Parks' neck that Reilly had the nerve to go to the State Attorney's Office," said one district veteran present at the meeting. "Reilly told him, 'I'm a CPA. I'm obligated to take it to authorities in the case of suspected fraud.'" But Parks didn't care about that."

What do you know? I guess that makes Parks a redneck too. He was also angry about citizen advisory committees -- like the one that oversees audits -- that was allowing allegations about corruption to make it all the way to his vaunted spot on the board. The advisory board on the facilities department also had the nerve to tell the board that the QSEC process was broken.

So Parks huffed and puffed about putting requirements on volunteer citizen advisory board members and installing term limits for them.

That's right, this walking poster boy for term limits, this ancient relic of the machine, was calling for term limits. Just not on himself.

-- In the laugher story of the day, the Sentinel reported that Stephanie Kraft is facing a complaint from the toothless and laughable State Ethics Commission.

Ooh, I bet she's quaking in her boots now. Before, all she had to worry about was the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office.

My favorite part of the story was that it mentioned that the School Board was facing "scrutiny from a blue-ribbon ethics panel named this week to review the district's practices."

Just goes to show the Sentinel never fails to play lap dog, even when it comes to the Puppy Dog Commission. Please, editors, scrub your arbitrary and absurd use of the term "blue-ribbon ethics panel" from your lexicon. It makes you look truly stupid.

Here's another great line: "The complaint was filed by Philip Sweeting, former deputy police chief of Boca Raton, after reading a Sun-Sentinel article that detailed Kraft's role in pushing for a $500,000 break in school fees for Prestige Homes, which was building houses in Tamarac."

That line should have been followed with: "The Sun-Sentinel detailed Kraft's role in the Prestige Homes matter after reading about it on another blog affiliated with New Times that has the initials D.P." 

But the Sentinel is shameless, and if it wants to feel relevant, let it. But the sad fact is that the Sentinel still hasn't really detailed Kraft's actions. And it's still getting key points of the story wrong.

For instance, the article repeated the Sentinel falsehood that Prestige hired Mitch Kraft to do "legal work." I guess the reporters there know something that Prestige owner Bruce Chait doesn't. Because "internal school board documents," as the Sentinel calls them, show that Chait hired Mitch for one reason: Board Facilities Management Director Thomas Coates wrote in an October 1 memo that Chait told him during a conference call that "he retained two lawyers, Mitch Kraft and Chuck Fink, to specifically handle the revised mitigation through the School District's process."

So what "legal work" are you talking about, Sentinel? That's another change to your template on this story. The newspaper also went a circuitous route to tell of Stephanie Kraft's influence in the process. The paper has yet to report on Kraft's email to Deputy Superintendent Garretson regarding the Prestige Homes matter. (Andrew Feirstein at the School Board has the email, Sentinelites; just ask for it. I had to pay $50 for the damned thing, but you can probably get it free.)

As an endnote, let me just say this: Please, citizens, don't bother sending complaints to the toothless ethics commission about matters already under federal investigation. (Though complainant Philip Sweeting should be commended for taking some action anyway.) Just like State Attorney Michael Satz, all the commission can really do right now is get in the way of the feds. When they are done with the job, there will be plenty of scraps to throw to the do-nothings in place who allowed us to get in this predicament in the first place.

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Journalist Bob Norman has been raking the muck of South Florida for the past 25 years. His work has led to criminal cases against corrupt politicians, the ouster of bad judges from the bench, and has garnered dozens of state, regional, and national awards.
Contact: Bob Norman

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