BY BUDDY NEVINS
Browardbeat.Com Exclusive. Read It Here First
Plantation City Commissioner Rico Petrocelli told a state investigator last year that he had businesses donate money to the city athletics program and then took the money for his own use.
Petrocelli’s admission, recorded by the investigator, is at the heart of a state ethics complaint against him.
Browardbeat.com obtained a copy of the recording.
Petrocelli who is running for re-election told the investigator that he had firms donate money to the Plantation Athletic League.
PAL then cut a check to Petrocelli for the money.
The money was used for Petrocelli parties, which promoted his political career.
“Its not a PAL event, Petrocelli told the agent from the state Office of Inspector General in the recording.
PAL is the non-profit, city-sponsored organization that operates youth athletics on Plantation-owned fields.
He explained to the agent how the pass through scheme worked:
“The checks were made out to PALI get a check. I turned it in to the (PAL) treasurer. The treasurer than writes a check (to me)You have to write a check to PAL. Then it goes into my account, Petrocelli said.
The ethics complaint alleges Petrocelli did not report the pass-through money as required by the state gift disclosure law.
Attached to the complaint are copies of checks for the Petrocelli holiday party. There are four checks made out to Petrocelli from PAL for $1,408.37 another $1,395 to the party’s DJ and a food vendor.
But perhaps the most damaging evidence is Petrocelli’s own words. They were recorded by the state agent on August 1, 2008 at 10:23 a.m. in a Plantation motel.
Ironically, Petrocelli was talking to the agent because of a complaint he filed.
Petrocelli’s complaint was against Pat Roberts, a Division of Alcoholic Beverage & Tobacco major. He accused Roberts of misusing his state position to investigate Petrocelli’s involvement with PAL.
The complaint was handled by the Office of Inspector General.
Roberts, a PAL director, has been complaining for a year about Petrocelli’s use of the organizationÃ¢â‚¬Ëœs money. He also criticized what he called the fast-and-loose way the organization handles parents’ money.
The state found no evidence that Roberts misused his position.
But it uncovered the pass through scheme.
Petrocelli has since resigned from the PAL board.
PAL owes it to the public to clean up their act. They seem more interested in dumping Roberts from the board than taking responsibility for their casual handling of money.
Petrocelli is now running for re-election.
Petrocelli owes it to the public to come clean. Or else voters should end his political career in the March election.