Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Mike Satz: Ethics Commission or Judge and Jury...hmmmmm???

Have you heard of Scott Brook??

Well, neither had I until a friend pointed me to a blog post by Buddy Nevins entitled:

“Corruption Case Snares Former Coral Springs Mayor”

Which can be read here.

Scott Brook is the former Mayor of Coral Springs, who up until September 2011 was running as a Democratic Candidate for Florida House of Representatives District 96 for Northwest Broward County open seat in the 2012 election.
Brook’s was a Coral Springs Commissioner from 2002-2006 and then was elected Mayor there in 2006 where he served until 2010.

Brook voluntarily ended his candidacy for the House seat in September, citing “family reasons”, but in the above,, post from November 17, 2011, Buddy Nevins indicates that Brook may have had other reasons to resign.

Those other reasons being a possible public corruption case being brought against him by Florida’s Ethics Commission for “gifts” he solicited in 2006 from the “dirty developers” Shawn and Bruce Chait, who have become infamous in Broward County for bribing political officials involved with their land development deals.  In essence, they were buying votes from local and other politicians and political players to ensure that their deals passed committee and commission votes.

Brooks is not the first and I am sure will not be the last to be named in the Chait Circle of Corruption, but what makes Brook’s interesting here for this post is the fact that Assistant State Attorney, Tim Donnelly, filed this complaint with the ethics commission, instead of prosecuting this political corruption criminally, after receiving information that in 2006 Brooks called the Chaits to borrow their 74-foot Viking Yacht for himself, family, and friends to view the Ft. Lauderdale Air Show and actually received from the Chaits their 27-foot boat instead At the time of Brook’s request to the Chaits, he was part of the Broward County Planning Council that was deciding upon one of the Chait’s land deals to build 931 homes on a 161-acre development.  Three weeks after asking and receiving the Chait’s boat he voted to approve that deal, effectively breaking Florida Ethics laws forbidding public officials from soliciting and accepting unauthorized compensation, as concluded by staffers who submitted their recommendation to the Florida Ethics Commission who will be considering the recommendation next month.

This is what we laymen call, asking for and accepting a bribe or in other words, he sold his vote on that land deal project for a boat ride, receiving unlawful compensation (which staffers valued at $750) for his official performance (the vote) with the land deal.

Unlawful compensation or reward for official behavior under F.S. 838.016 states:

(1)  It is unlawful for any person corruptly to give, offer, or promise to any public servant, or, if a public servant,  corruptly to request, solicit, accept, or agree to accept, any pecuniary or other benefit not authorized by law, for the past, present, or future performance, non-performance, or violation of any act or omission which the person believes to have been, or the public servant represents as having been, either within the official discretion of the public servant, in violation of a public duty, or in performance of a public duty. Nothing herein shall be construed to preclude a public servant from accepting rewards for services performed in apprehending any criminal.

For which in 2010 the Nineteenth Statewide Grand Jury of the State of Florida in their first interim report recommended that any public official who is guilty of the above should be prosecuted both civilly and criminally, if intent can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. This Grand Jury was commissioned to perform a study of public corruption in Florida and provide recommendations. 

The report can be read here.

Sylvia Poitier, Convicted Criminal
Scott Brook, Ethics Violator
Now, the rub here for many people of District 2 in Deerfield Beach including myself, is that State Attorney Mike Satz and Tim Donnelly choose to file this complaint of an obvious corrupt politician (Scott Brook) who is, more likely than not, guilty of selling his votes for personal gain, resulting in unlawful compensation, to the ethics commission where he will face a fine and no jail time. 

Unlike, the case and charges they filed against Deerfield Beach City Commissioner, Sylvia Poitier, who was recently found guilty of falsifying public records under Florida Statute 112.312, by not disclosing that her brother paid off the tax deed for a low and extremely low income housing complex that requested funding from the City of Deerfield Beach to pay water bills and a mortgage on that property. 

Now, many including the individual, Chaz Stevens, who bought the situation to light, have indicated that Poitier’s was a victimless crime and I believe the term he used was “soft-corruption” because no one gained or lost from this supposed “moral” crime.  However, in the case of Brook, it was not a victimless crime.  (I’ll let you do the mental gymnastics to determine the difference.)

So I, like many others in my community are asking ourselves why would Mike Satz and Tim Donnelly prosecute Poitier and not Brook.

Some say it was because the statute of limitation had run out and they could not prosecute criminally.  The statute of limitation runs out 2 years after the individual leaves office.  Brook made the votes while acting in dual capacity as Mayor of Coral Springs (2006-2010) and as a member of the Broward Planning Council (2002-2007), so I am not sure which term date would apply. 
Some say that, Mike Satz and his staff are just soft on political corruption and that they pick and choose which politicians they go after depending on political pressure and career benefits.

Mike Satz, SAO 
I don’t know which camp is right, but I do think that the States Attorney’s Office of Broward County of the 17th District, Mike Satz, owes the Broward public an explanation as to why Brook and others get off with an ethics violation and paying a fine or are offered deals, especially given the circumstances of the Chaits and their political benevolence…whilst others are prosecuted.  

What is the test?  What is the criteria his office uses to determine which public corruption cases face the Florida Ethics Commission and which face a judge and jury?

But something ain't right!!!

Ironically, Sylvia Poitier and Scott Brook will both be in Tallahassee facing the Ethics Commission on December 2, 2011, my birthday.

Please note the Sun-Sentinel has an article on the Scott Brook case, which can be read here.

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