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Florida tops in public corruption, changes needed, watchdog says

by John Kennedy | June 6th, 2012

With Florida leading the nation in federal public corruption convictions over the past decade, a watchdog group Wednesday urged the state Legislature to give more investigative power to the state’s Commission on Ethics.

Palm Beach County has contributed its share to the statistics, with four county commissioners convicted of corruption charges over a four year period ending in 2010. Integrity Florida, a research organization, said the first step should be for lawmakers to pay attention to the wish list of proposals the ethics panel is expected to approve June 15.

Among the recommendations — some a repeat from earlier years — is that the panel be authorized to begin its own investigations of possible wrongdoing, without waiting for a citizen complaint. Similar calls have been ignored in the past by lawmakers, but Integrity Florida leaders said next year could prove different.

“2013 will be the year we see ethics reforms finally happen in Florida,” said Dan Krassner, executive director of Integrity Florida, who co-authored the report on Florida with research director Ben Wilcox.

The report concluded that Florida had 781 public corruption convictions between 2000 and 2010, tops in the nation. California and Texas were close behind, with New York fourth. But Florida’s corruptions history also contributed to it having three cities listed this year among Forbes’ magazine’s ‘most miserable,’ with Miami #1, West Palm Beach #4 and Fort Lauderale #7.

Krassner said he has had three meetings with leading officials in Gov. Rick Scott’s administration on the issue. Tea party organizations and the Florida League of Women Voters also have joined the call for tougher ethics standards, he said.

Other proposals Integrity Florida is backing include creating a corruption hotline,  requiring more financial disclosure for public officials, and making it easiner to obtain ethics convictions in cases that go to court. Some of the provisions are included in what the Ethics Commission is expected to recommend to the Legislature later this month.

But the commission that day also is scheduled to consider again writing-off thousands of dollars in penalties imposed against public officials who failed to file state-required financial disclosure forms. The commission prides itself on having a compliance rate of 99 percent for officials submitting their forms, but state law currently gives scofflaws an incentive for waiting out the commission.

A four-year time limit on the commission’s ability to collect led last summer to about $1 million in fines against 800 public officials being written off.

Most of the accused had served on professional boards, pension committees and other panels that generally make up the low minor leagues of state politics. But at least one served as a mayor and ran in 2010 for the state Senate: former North Miami Beach Mayor Joe Celestin. He owed $3,000 in fines accumulated in 2003 and 2005.

Also on the agenda June 14 is Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, who owes $1,500 dating to when he served as a legislative aide in the early 2000s and apparently failed to file disclosures. Fresen didn’t return calls from the Post seeking comment.

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8 Responses to “Florida tops in public corruption, changes needed, watchdog says”

  1. Go Dems Says:

    THANKS RPOF (pronounced Rip-Off)

    HECKUVA JOB, corrupt scumbags.

    In my estimation, the state is running at about 15-20% capacity of what it could be if the state wasn’t led by the corrupt and disinterested Republican Party.

  2. Suite 1220 Says:

    Let us not forget about court corruption at the 15th Circuit. Just ask Judge Edward Garrison of the deals that he made with ARC Mediation co-founder.

    Garrison is an employer with ARC, which is co-founded by Michael Gelfand of Gelfand & Arpe. Garrison favors Gelfad in his court room and gives him tens of thousands of dollars in cases heard by Garrison. Gelfand & Garrison put on a dog & pony show, which at the end is their own private joke.

    Garrison is married to Kristina, who is the Planner for the School District. Who do you think reviews Kristina on her job performance? It is Michael Gelfand, as a committee member.

    Gelfand bought Garrison for his verdicts that favor Gelfand & Arpe, and gave him a job at ARC.

    Some say that Gelfand “lost a step” in the business lately. Word going around how business is being done with Gelfand and the judges he buys out.

    Gelfand & Garrison like to steal from others. At the end, I hope it is worth it of what they did to people. I bet what Gelfand & Garrison did stole from people, they hide it in that “Working All Day LLC”.

  3. Justice Steam Roller Says:

    Be aware that our court system in Florida sadly has NOTHING to do with justice. It has everything to do with corrupting the intent of civil laws and judges ( Lawyers in a black outfit ) enriching and protecting the Blatant Corruption of other lawyers.

    Lawyering is no longer respected even a little bit. Its the most cynical of all ways to make money where the BILLABLE HOUR is used to delay and hose their own clients leading them endlessly into a hopless maze of litigation where the lawyers really only work to enrich each other , and forget about the client.

    65,ooo lawyers in palm beach county alone. That’s insanity. No wonder real business cannot get traction in PBC, too many lawyers sue, sue suing everything they can, especailly a successful business….real businesses go elsewhere to do business. Lawyers are destroyers of productivity, mostly.

  4. Brian O'Donaghey Says:

    If we had a few court convictions followed by public hangings for these corrupt politicians and public officials, perhaps the rest of them will start to understand that we the people are fed up with them……but something tells me they still won’t get it.
    Their insatiable, bottomless greed for total power, control, money and inside info is incurable.

  5. Boondock Saint Says:

    Definition of an Honest Politician:
    One who, when bought, stays bought.

  6. SB Says:

    In a state where government officials have intentionally and wrongfully entangled proven criminally-corrupt Judge David P. Kreider in the nation’s 2012 election process sadly these findings should come as no surprise. Countless heads need to roll and, to many, a lot of years in prison need to be doled out. It’s a shame that things in Florida have gotten to the current stage. Everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) should take a moment to read the information at the following url (updated information originally circulated on 06/04/2012):

    floridavoices -dot- com/inbox/sunshine-state-should-work-rebuild-trust-openness

    *Be sure to replace the “-dot-” when you cut & paste the url.

    The information is 100% true and that is easily recognized…especially when one considers all the information that has been circulated thus far, all the deceptive tactics employed by the co-conspirators thus far, and the noticeable absence of public rebuttals to our highly public claims regarding proven crimes by public officials and others. That being the case, and assuming “Florida Voices” is a company with integrity, the information should remain displayed. However, I’m not familiar with the history of the company/website so I can’t swear that they won’t pull the information down. THIS IS SERIOUS and although many won’t be surprised…many will rightfully be p’d-off with the wanton lawlessness displayed by our supposed societal leaders. It truly is sickening. The public, legal professionals, and law-abiding public servants should be aware.

    Also refer to the following urls when reviewing the information at the above url :

    complaints -dot- com/2012/march/14/Corrupt_Judge_David_P._Kreider_now_taints_the_ele_264712 -dot- htm

    and

    complaints -dot- com/2012/may/21/Corrupt_Judge_David_P._Kreider_now_taints_the_ele_266368 -dot- htm

    *Once again, be sure to replace each “-dot-” when you cut & paste the url.

    The troubling reason for the existence of multiple urls is explained near the bottom of the webpages corresponding to the first two urls listed.

    The issues addressed at these urls go high…that’s an undeniable fact. They probably reach higher than you think. There needs to be a serious “cleaning of the slate” in parts of the state’s government.

    Everything stated here is substantiated by two irrefutable reports and extensive corroborating evidence that is in the possession of agencies, including those within Florida’s 8th Judicial Circuit (and the Chief Judge’s office and SAO Chief Investigator Spencer Mann). The comprehensive reports and evidence span a total of more than 100 pages and in-depthly detail criminal activities carried out under the color of law by criminal/judge David P. Kreider and various other co-conspirators.

  7. {http://www.criminaldefenselawyerny.com/|criminal defense lawyer ny|criminal defense lawyer ny|criminaldefenselawyerny|new york criminal defense lawyer|new york criminal lawyers|new york dui lawyer|new york dui lawyers Says:

    The weehoo is great, you have to see it for on your own to surely realize

  8. City of North Miami Beach Says:

    Please update your article asap to correct the comment which states that Joe Celestin was the former Mayor of the City of North Miami Beach. He was not the Mayor of the City of North Miami Beach. He was the Mayor of the City of North Miami. Thank you.

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