Crist calls for statewide grand jury investgation of South Florida corruptionby Dara Kam | October 14th, 2009
Gov. Charlie Crist called for a statewide grand jury to investigate political corruption in South Florida and around the state. Crist said he has removed 30 public officials from office around the state since he’s been governor.
“A recent rash of crimes committed by public officials in South Florida has led to a crisis of confidence among those who have elected them to office,” Crist said. “Today, I have petitioned the Florida Supreme Court to impanel a Grand Jury to investigate these crimes, bring indictments and provide specific recommendations to address fundamental problems within the system that may be cultivating a culture of corruption.”
Crist’s request for a grand jury comes after in the wake of the indictments of several Broward County elected officials on federal charges including bribery, money laundering and wire fraud. And prominent GOP fundraiser Alan Mendelsohn, a lobbyist who served on Crist’s transition team, was indicted last week on charges that he diverted at least $350,000 from campaign contribution and clients’ fees to pay for his mistress’ love nest, a luxury car and his kids’ private school tuition.
Palm Beach County led the public corruption scandal sheet in 2006 that resulted in three county commissioners and two West Palm Beach officials going to prison.
The corruption isn’t limited to South Florida, Crist said. He’s asked the grand jury to begin work by focusing on Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Palm Beach, Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Lee and Hendry counties.
Crist, who is running for U.S. Senate, said he has removed 30 officials from their elected positions since he took over as governor 34 months ago.
Former House Speaker Ray Sansom is also currently being tried on charges of corruption charges after he steered money for an airport hangar to a Panhandle college that later hired him.
Statewide Prosecutor Bill Shepherd will head up the investigation jury if the Supreme Court signs off on Crist’s request.
Shepherd said it will likely take at least a year before the grand jury completes its work, which would coincide with next year’s general election.
Gov. Jeb Bush tapped an anti-corruption task force a decade that made recommendations to public corruption laws that legislators largely ignored.
“This is a new day and this is a different legislature,” Crist said.
Here’s a list of public officials suspended by Crist since he took office<.