BY BUDDY NEVINS
Broward Inspector General John Scott, who enforces the county’s ethics law, is accused of violating the same law.
Scott is alleged to have attempted to sway the selection of a firm to clean Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport by writing the county’s purchasing director he had “evidence” that Sunrise Cleaning Systems has violated its 27-year-old contract.
Scott’s Office has a different take: They say the law specifically gives them the power to take an active role in purchasing.
The accuser is Bill Scherer, a downtown Fort Lauderdale lawyer who represents Sunshine and is a long-time political powerbroker.
In a letter to Scott distributed to county commissioners this week and to county Purchasing Director Brenda Billingsley, Scherer says:
“Mr. Scott, you are in direct violation of County Ordinance 12-01. This ordinance, which establishes the Office of Inspector General for Broward County, does not provide you with any authority to provide written opinions prior to the conclusion of your investigation. Instead, the ordinance requires you to complete your investigation, keep it confidential, and then prepare a preliminary report, including making a finding of probable cause, something you have yet to do…”
“Your actions appear to be malicious. Why you have elected to unfairly disparage Sunshine Cleaning with an obvious motive to adversely affect Sunshine’s current participation in the RFP ongoing at the Ft. Lauderdale Airport is a mystery. We believe that your deliberate failure to timely provide Sunshine with a copy of your letter to (Purchasing Director) Ms. Billingsley is further indicia of malice on your part.”
In a second letter to Billingsley sent this week, Scherer asks that the selection process be restarted because of the “taint” caused by Scott’s “illegal acts.”
However, Scherer fails in his letter to cite this section of the Broward ethics law:
“As part of an investigation, the Inspector General (or his or her designee) may attend all duly-noticed local government meetings relating to the procurement of goods or services, and may pose questions and raise concerns consistent with the functions, authority, and powers of the Inspector General.”
Is this section in conflict with the section that states investigations should be confidential? That’s for lawyers and maybe eventually a judge to determine.
But Scott’s Office cites the same section in their answer to Scherer, which is below.
Scott, a 1985 graduate of Georgetown University Law in Washington, was a senior trial attorney in the Justice Department from 1990-2008. The last 13 years he was in the public integrity unit, responsible for numerous corruption prosecutions around the country.
Sunshine Cleaning has been under investigation by Scott’s office since last year for alleged irregularities regarding minority contracts, a charge the company denies.
Scott’s answer, penned by another lawyer in his office, to Scherer. Inspector General Offfice’s General Counsel Jennifer Merino cites the same section of the ethics law as I did (click to enlarge):