Since Fort Lauderdale Mayor John "Jack" Seiler has been crowned as a prince of integrity and ethics by the Broward County School Board, I decided to see who has filled up his campaign coffers with cash.
And what I found should, put simply, disqualify him from the commission. Apparently, Superintendent James Notter didn't conduct any due diligence when he chose the trio for his Puppy Dog Commission (otherwise known as "The Commission on Education Excellence Through Integrity, Public Ethics, and Transparency").
I found a veritable who's who of Seiler backers with interests not only in School Board business but with direct ties to the problems and/or the defense of School Board officials involved in the federal corruption investigation.
So let's take a look at who stands behind Seiler as he supposedly stands for us.
-- When Seiler ran for Fort Lauderdale Commission in 2008, Scott Rothstein and his law firm, Rothstein Rosenfeldt and Adler, bundled numerous contributions -- all of them at the Fort Lauderdale limit of $250 -- to his campaign. To see the list, look at the March 4 contributions on this form). As it happens, one of Rothstein's partners, Ken Padowitz, is representing Broward School Board Member Stephanie Kraft as she faces a federal investigation into conflicts of interests involving her husband, Mitch Kraft. I have also been told by a source that School Board Construction Chief Michael Garretson has gone to Rothstein's firm for
-- Lobbyist Ron Book has been a strong supporter of Seiler through the years, handing Seiler some $5,000 total during Seiler's reign in the state Legislature and contributing another $1,000 during his commission run last year ($500 of that was illegal and had to be returned by Seiler). Book, of course, is the lobbyist who introduced Garretson to C&B Services after Hurricane Wilma and helped secure that company, which was unlicensed in Florida, a work order for a cool million dollars. Book also represents AshBritt, which took over C&B's invoices and now stands accused by School Board auditors of ripping off taxpayers to the tune of $765,000.
-- Prestige Homes ponied up $250 to Seiler in 2005. That's the same company that hired Stephanie Kraft's husband, Mitch, to help get it a half-million-dollar break on fees from the school district.
-- Vista Health gave Seiler some $1,300 during his time in the Legislature. Vista, in a controversial decision, was made the School Board's sole health insurance provider last year. Stephanie Kraft played a key role in getting Vista the $1.7 billion contract, voting the company overwhelmingly No. 1 while she sat on the insurance committee that chose Vista. The lobbyist at the School Board for Vista was Neil Sterling, who also had Kraft's husband, Mitch, on the payroll.
-- Lobbyist Bill Rubin is a longtime friend and financial contributor. He too lobbied for Vista at the School Board.
-- Defense attorney David Bogenschutz is another maximum contributor to Seiler's city campaign. Bogenschutz is now representing former School Board Member Beverly Gallagher, who is facing federal bribery charges, and the owner of Prestige Homes, Bruce Chait, along with Chait's son, Shawn.
-- Downtown lawyer and powerbroker Bill Scherer bundled contributions to Seiler last year as well. Scherer doesn't have much to do with the School Board, but his son's company, Gulf Building Corp., in which he is heavily involved, is embroiled in the federal corruption investigation. A former official with the company, Skip Aniekwu, has been charged by the feds in a bribery scheme involving Miramar city officials. Aniekwu is currently at large and believed to have fled the country. Scherer also had a history of corruption at the North Broward Hospital District that ultimately led to his ouster by then-Gov. Jeb Bush. Incredibly, he now serves on the county ethics commission as an appointee of longtime friend John Rodstrom.
-- School Board lobbyist Judy Stern.
-- School Board construction contractor Terry Stiles.
-- The legal and lobbyist firm Ruden & McCloskey has been a regular contributor. Ruden lawyer Dennis Mele represents three clients at the School Board.