Thursday, October 21, 2010

More on Lying Florida Politicians

Remember the Miami Herald columnist Fred Grimm, the journalist who told us the incredible story, re-posted on Bad Lawyer, of the North Miami, Florida mayor who can't remember who gave him the new Porshe?  Grimm has further tales of lying Florida politicians, all characters right out of the novels of Grimm's Miami Herald colleague, Carl Hiaasen:

"Four years ago, a Hillsborough County commissioner's wife bought a house on a lake in the Ozark Mountains with someone else's money.  Her hinky real estate deal in Arkansas now threatens to take all the fun out of political mendacity back in Florida.

Used to be that lying-by-omission on a candidate's financial disclosure form was a low-risk way to avoid embarrassing revelations. Like Bal Harbour City Councilman Joel Jacobi who failed to disclose that he was collecting rent on his condo. Which might have caused voters to wonder whether he actually lived in Bal Harbour.
Last year, the Florida Ethics Commission's advocate characterized Jacobi's credibility as `zero. If there is a number lower than zero, than it's that.'  Yet he was fined only $3,500. Chump change.

Among the sins of ousted Miami Commissioner Angel Gonzalez was a failure to disclose $135,000 in rental income. Other crimes led to his removal from office last year. The disclosure problem cost him a piddling $2,400 fine.  Another Miami commissioner in legal trouble, Michelle Spence-Jones, failed to disclose $46,000 legal liability. But that was considered the least of her alleged transgressions. Rung up a $500 fine.

U.S. Senatorial candidate Kendrick Meek's failure to disclose a relationship with a now-bankrupt medical waste firm amounted to a shrug.

And congressional candidate David Rivera still can't seem to remember his employers over these last few years. But Rivera's onetime claim to have worked for USAID magically disappeared from his amended disclosure form this week after the Miami Herald reported that the agency had no records of a relationship with Rivera.

Good timing, David. Suddenly, dodgy disclosures might mean something.

[But, Change is in the Air, at Least Temporarily]
Mearline Norman's Arkansas vacation house changed the calculation. The wife of Hillsborough Commissioner Jim Norman paid $527,717.34 for their resort home. Turns out that $500,000 of the cost was covered by Ralph Hughes, a Tampa concrete magnate who did lots of business with the Hillsborough County Commission.  Norman, who won this year's Republican nomination for state senate in a district with no Democratic opponent, failed to disclose the Arkansas house. The fellow who Norman defeated in the Republican primary filed suit.

The trial featured Big Jim claiming he never asked his wife, who hasn't worked since 1993, how she came up with the money. He explained the vacation home as the product of a `business partnership'  between Mearline and Ralph.  `The court finds this testimony patently absurd,' said Leon County Circuit Judge Jackie Fulford.

Then she utterly changed the game in Florida. On Friday, Judge Fulford tossed Norman off the ballot. A six-man committee from the Hillsborough and Pasco Republican Parties will choose a replacement candidate.

[But Has Anything Changed?]
Lying on disclosure forms finally meant more than a piddling fine. You could feel the tremors running through the political establishment.  Except the political establishment has never been much bothered by candidates who fudge disclosure forms. Not even a $500,000 omission.

The St. Petersburg Times reported this week that the nominating committee would likely replace the lying Jim Norman with -- you've guessed it -- the lying Jim Norman. So much for consequences."
Locally, we have a suburban mayor, who was a high school drop-out.  He was the son of a man who owned and operated a gas station.  Over his many decades in public office, the Mayor became a millionaire.  How?  I'm not sure I have a precise answer. It had something to do with getting a "taste" of every development that happened in his affluent 'burb.

When one of his daughters accused him in a lawsuit of sexaully abusing her, the mayor dealt with the charges that he learned were about to surface in the media by preemptively calling his own press conference at the local firehouse--denouncing his daughter as "brain washed" by a hypnotist.  Hizzoner did not reveal what I knew, his other daughter corroborated the abuse, in depositions conducted by his attorneys. 

Later, Mayor Molester's constituents re-elected him.  Subsequently, he single-handedly undermined the expansion of the statute of limitations for victims of child sex abuse.  He testified at the OurState General Assembly through his testimony about the consequences of "false accusations" that "ruined [his] family" and caused him to have a heart attack.  The chain-smoking mayor omitted to mention that his marriage fell apart when he began screwing his City Hall secretary who was young enough to be his daughter. 

Mayor Molester sued me too, after  I appeared on the OurTown version of Good Morning America with his daughter.  In response to a question about the status of his daughter's lawsuit I accurately summarized the claim which had settled in his daughter's favor.   In the  "defamation" lawsuit he claimed I "smirked" when I provided the journalists with digest of his daughter's case against him. The case Mayor Molester filed against me was dismissed as frivolous. Unfortunately, it triggered a very poor decision on the part to shelter my finances from that time forward thinking I would protect my then newlywed wife.  I now recognize that these early practical decisions were the seeds of my destruction as a businessman; whihc I then compounded by many more unethical decisions on money management, as a practicing lawyer. 

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