Thursday, October 15, 2009

Another distinction for Florida

A recent string of arrests of public officials in Florida has led Gov. Charlie Crist to ask for a special grand jury. It will examine whether Florida has, as the governor suggests, a "culture of corruption." Link.

"It's obvious to me that something's wrong," said Crist, who noted he has removed 30 officials from their jobs since becoming governor in January 2007. "Fundamental problems within the system ... may be in fact cultivating a culture of corruption."

A similar effort a decade ago by former Gov. Jeb Bush to toughen laws that would make it easier to ferret out public corruption was largely rejected by Florida's Republican-dominated Legislature.

Crist's decision to have the high court impanel a statewide grand jury comes just two weeks after one of his top campaign contributors, Dr. Alan Mendelsohn of Hollywood, surrendered to the FBI on charges he ran a multimillion-dollar fraudulent fund raising and lobbying operation.

Three prominent politicians in Florida's second-most populous county, Democrat-controlled Broward County, were arrested last month on federal corruption charges, accused of accepting thousands of dollars in cash from undercover FBI agents posing as businessmen seeking illegal favors.

Crist issued executive orders suspending Broward County Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion - who just hours before his arrest voted on the county's annual budget in a late-night meeting - and county school board member Beverly Gallagher from office pending the outcome of the case.

The third person arrested, former Miramar city commissioner Fitzroy Salesman had lost his bid for re-election earlier this year. More...

A case that gathered far more publicity statewide involved former House Speaker Ray Sansom, a Destin Republican who was forced from his post in February after a state grand jury indicted him for perjury and official misconduct. The latter charge was recently dismissed.

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