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Why State Attorney Satz Should Stay Off Corruption Beat

You haven't heard the last from Joe Eggelletion.

The former Broward County County Commissioner has already been removed from office after he fell for an FBI sting and was hit with money-laundering charges. His federal case surprisingly has nothing to do with his elected office; the feds allege he tried to launder what he believed was dirty money through contacts in the Bahamas.

But there's more looming for Eggelletion. The investigation continues regarding his charity, G.O.L.F., which appears to have been little but a sludge fund for parties and other personal matters. But the more significant case concerns his membership at Parkland Golf & Country Club. Eggelletion's membership was allegedly paid in cash by Shawn Chait, son of the owner of Prestige Homes, Bruce Chait. Eggelletion had strongly backed Prestige Homes' controversial golf course developments in Tamarac, and it is suspected that support came in exchange for the $10,000-plus the then-commissioner received for the Parkland membership.

The golf case is tangled up right now in two separate investigations, one by the State Attorney's Office, the other by the FBI. 

People often ask, "So is Michael Satz going to finally start really investigating corruption in Broward County?"

My response: "Let him stay as far away from it as possible. All he could do now is screw it up."

Think about it. While Satz has allowed corruption to fester in Broward County for decades, the feds are investigating public officials the same way they investigate the Mafia. They get the goods, get leverage on corrupt politicians (usually with airtight cases), and break them down for

information on their corrupt friends. Sometimes, as was the case with former School Board Member Beverly Gallagher, they turn them out to record conversations to build other cases (though Gallagher was apparently inept at that little game).

The feds right now have a stranglehold on some key politicians that could lead to a chain reaction that could clean up this town in historic fashion. I repeat: This could wind up being one of the largest and greatest corruption probes ever completed in the United States of America. And the feds, if they get the glory, can thank 33 years of Michael Satz for the opportunity.

In the end, I predict every one of them will cooperate fully, including Eggelletion and the Chaits. If that happens it should all lead back to School Board member Stephanie Kraft, who helped Prestige Homes get a $500,000 fee reduction from the School Board while her husband, Mitch Kraft, was on the Prestige payroll.

It's a neat little circle there. One thing is clear: Stephanie Kraft picked a very bad time to become chronically corrupt. As far as I can see, she's walked right into a bear trap. Frankly, though, I believe she's dead to rights with or without the Chaits' cooperation. Woman went too far.

(Another thing I hear: "Why don't you get off the School Board and go after the big boys." The reason I've been focused on the School Board is the same reason Willie Sutton robbed banks: Because that's where the money is. We're talking about billions in taxpayers' dollars.)

Now I hear from courthouse sources that Michael Satz wants his piece of this thing. Once again, the feds are getting all the glory while he looks like a schmuck sitting in the corner (remember the Ken Jenne case?). And Satz has got a foothold in the Eggelletion/Chait investigation dating back months.

But how does Satz investigate corruption? Well, historically speaking, barely at all. You see, he's been in that elected office since 1976. He's the longest-serving politician in Broward County and he has relied on the same political machine to keep him in office as some of those officials who are under the federal microscope.

And when he does investigate a case, it's done with kid gloves. His public corruption investigators treat politicians with deference and respect even if they are as dirty as an old penny. The last thing Satz ever wanted to do was to unlock the power of the atom in a corruption probe. These people are his old friends, after all. In fact, the State Attorney's Office often has seemed to act almost as a defense attorney for some of these folk, finding excuses for their corruption. 

So we've had a history of lame and negligent work by the SAO. Remember John "No Proof of Quid Pro Quo" Countryman? John "I Just Work Here" Hanlon? Now Tim Donnelly and David Schulson? These guys literally seem to have been paid in taxpayer dollars to, by and large, not do their job.

Now they are supposed to suddenly become real corruption fighters? Not gonna happen.

It's not so much that you fear they will continue to be ineffective but that Satz and his prosecutors will actually muck things up. A key to any investigation is control, and once you get too many cooks in this kitchen, things could go south quickly.

That's not to say that Satz can't play a role in the cleaning up of Broward County -- just a supporting one. He should be assisting in any way he can. He should play team ball and come off the bench only when called. Because this isn't his thing. Never has been. So let's all try not to pretend otherwise.

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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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