FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Last year, when an ambitious Fort Lauderdale lawyer named Scott Rothstein decided to hire someone to develop political strategies for businesses seeking government contracts, he turned to none other than Ken Jenne, a disgraced former sheriff who'd just been released from jail.
That kind of coziness among lobbyists, politicians and businesses seeking big-dollar deals while working at the edge of the law and beyond is at the core of the wave of scandals that have beset Broward County.
In the past two years, five elected officials have been indicted, six cops have gone to prison and a town manager has been convicted of stealing $500,000-plus the once-mighty Rothstein facing charges that he engineered a $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme, the largest fraud in South Florida history.
What's going on in Broward? Interviews with activists, politicians and academic observers offer several explanations: An uncommonly intense relationship between lobbyists and public officials, voter apathy, possible prosecutorial indifference, and a diminishing number of trained eyes watching what's happening.
Not all of the experts agree on all of the points — particularly the role of prosecutors. Put it all together, however, and the scandals are huge. FBI statistics show that for 2009, the Miami region — which also includes Broward and Palm Beach counties — is No. 2 in the nation for public-corruption arrests, trailing only Washington, D.C.
Read the complete story at miamiherald.com