Prosecutors: Give Us Weapons to Fight Corruption

Feb 5, 2010


NBC-6 News


You know it's a big deal if notoriously camera-shy Broward State Attorney Mike Satz is having a news conference. But there was Satz today at the courthouse, flanked by the state attorneys from Palm Beach and Monroe counties (Kathy Rundle from Miami-Dade was unable to attend), and two state legislators, pushing a bill that would make it a crime for politicians to support a project without first letting everyone know if they're going to cash in on the deal.

"We've had citizens and people complain, there's something wrong here, how come you can't address it? This is going to criminalize a failure to disclose by a public official," Satz said at the news conference.

The FBI says Florida leads the nation in corrupt public officials.
As the state law stands now, state prosecutors basically have to prove a show an obvious bribe to nail a politician for official misconduct. It's hard to do.

That's why most corruption cases, like those against former school board member Beverly Gallagher and former county commissioner Joe Eggelletion, are handled by the feds. They've got more legal arrows in their quiver and they can use the FBI to set up stings.

If the "Restoring Faith in Public Office Act" becomes law, it will close a gap that its sponsors say needs to be slammed shut.

"The public is disgusted, and rightly so," said state Rep. Ari Porth. His co-sponsor, Sen. Dan Gelber of Miami Beach agrees.

"It really is time in the state of Florida to get serious about public corruption," he said. Gelber knows how hard the job can be. He is a former federal prosecutor. He says the bill has been carefully written to define public misconduct in a surgical, precise way.

"It takes all that misbehavior, where a public official has to decide between his own personal interest and the interest of the citizens who elected him, and it says if you make the wrong choice, you will go to jail, that's what this does," Gelber told the gathering.

Every elected official in the room was a Democrat. But with the explosion of corruption cases making news all over the state, Gelber says the bill will draw strong Republican support, saying Senate President Jeff Atwater is already on board.

"Corruption," Gelber said, "is not a partisan issue."




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