Satz Steps Up Moves Against Official Wrongdoing; Two Coral Springs Commissioners Charged

 BY BUDDY NEVINS

State Attorney Mike Satz is out to prove the skeptics are wrong.

Satz has long been criticized for not vigorously prosecuting public officials who break the law.

The state attorney is finally listening.

Mike Satz

With his 2012 re-election approaching, Satz is stepping up probes into official wrongdoing.  He is taking a second look at complaints about electeds.

The proof?  

Satz on Monday filed Sunshine Law violation charges against two Coral Springs commissioners.

This comes on the heels of bribery charges against two developers and former County Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion.  And the jailing of former Hollywood Commissioner Keith Wasserstrom for lying on a conflict of interest form.

Coral Springs commissioners Vincent Boccard and Tom Powers were charged with meeting privately with Coral Springs police officers Michael Hughes and Christopher Swinson at a Coconut Creek restaurant.  They discussed the City Commission’s  police salary freeze and other city issues.

The two cops are police union officials.

 “Among other things discussed at the private meeting, which was held at Bru’s Room Sports Grill, was the renewal of City Manager Michael Levinson’s employment agreement; a change in the city charter requiring all city department directors to report directly to the city commission as opposed to reporting directly to the city manager; and the replacement of Police Chief Duncan Foster upon his retirement, states a news release from Satz’s office.

Boccard and Powers are obviously not brain surgeons.  They broke the law with cops as witnesses!

Sunshine Law cases are hard to prove, but this one sounds like a slam dunk.  Juries tend to believe cops.

The Sunshine Law forbids any private meeting of two or more members of the same board at which they discuss any matter that could come before that board in the foreseeable future.

Violation of the Sunshine Law is only a second-degree misdemeanor.  That’s punishable by up to 60 days in the Broward County Jail and/or a fine up to $500.

That’s not the point.

The Sunshine Law is almost openly violated daily by public officials in Broward.  City officials, county commissioners and School Board members flagrantly break the law.

The School Board members e-mail each other regularly to telegraph how they are going to vote a violation.  Maybe Satz should look at them.  

And maybe now that Satz is starting to pay more attention to public wrongdoing, the officials will start obeying the law.



21 Responses to “Satz Steps Up Moves Against Official Wrongdoing; Two Coral Springs Commissioners Charged”

  1. Chaz Stevens, Genius says:

    Just pay attention to Deerfield Beach over the next month….

  2. Broward Voter says:

    You also need to check out the City of West Park too!! You have city commissioners being officers of homeowners associations, making decisions and bringing ideas before the city commission. How can a person be an officer of a organization and not live within the boundaries. Ask the city attorney? Somebody clearly needs to check out the City of West Park…….Bob, there is a brewing cesspool there…….Mack, Norris-Weeks, Dorsett, Jones. CHECK IT OUT!!!!!!!

  3. Pal Joey says:

    Satz should investigate some of the comings and goings within his own office too.

  4. Interesting says:

    Interesting that Satz finally decides to go after officials on Sunshine Law violations and chooses two REPUBLICANS to go after, after ignoring similar behavior by his fellow Democrats all these years.

  5. There's more to this than meets the eye says:

    According to the Sun-Sentinel, these two were “captured on surveillance” walking into a restaurant with the two cops, and a third police official was the one who reported it to the SAO. Sure smells like a set up to me, by disgruntled police union reps who were upset over the failed negotiations, especially considering that one of the cops who met with the two commissioners is the president of the police union. Also, considering that Powers, himself a former cop, and Boccard, a former reserve officer, were both friends with the police and fire unions, is it so hard to think that maybe the union cops set them up as payback for not supporting them in the negotiations? As Buddy says, hmmmm.

  6. BornTooLate says:

    In Ohio, where I’m from, such a meeting would not be news much less a crime. Only in Florida. It is pretty weird that the officials here aren’t allowed to discuss business together. How do they work things out if they can’t talk. I don’t get it.

    FROM BUDDY: We have a law called the Sunshine Law. It requires government business to be done in public.
    Before the Sunshine Law, all the wheeling and dealing and the real debate on issues was done behind closed doors. Now that is against the law. Officials must “work things out” in public, because they are doing the public’s business.

  7. Chaz Stevens, Genius says:

    @meets the eye says:

    I see you’re a fan of moral relativism, or as my Mom used to teach me as a youngster, two wrongs don’t make a right.

    And three rights make a left.

  8. BornTooLate says:

    Buddy, this applies also to congressmen from Florida and the state legislators or just city representatives? My neighbor says no, just local officials. He can’t be right but if he is I don’t quite get all this. How can there be two different sets of rules for officials?

  9. the Truth is says:

    to Chaz Stevens:

    who cares about deerfield beach, except you?
    stay focused, man, nothing to do with this blog!

  10. Richard J. Kaplan says:

    BornTooLate,

    Your neighbor is right. The state constitution imposed a sunshine law (as voted in by the people) and the legislature was directed to write the rest of the law. It applies to all locally elected officials.

    The legislature has a type of sunshine law, but it is virtually worthless. The local law does not apply to them, so as you may imagine, there is a lot of wheeling and dealing in the legislature. The legislature has the power to create this dual system, and they did. So there are two sets of rules.

    The sunshine law does not apply to federal officials.

    Florida is the only state that imposes it on more than 1 member of a elected or appointed public board meeting, such as city, county, city appointed advisory committee, hospital district, MPO, school board, etc. All of the other states that have a sunshine law says more than 2 members.

    Some believe Florida’s stricter standard violates the First Amendment, but no one has challenged it that I know to a federal court. Other states, with its weaker provisions, have been upheld in federal court.

  11. Fix It Says says:

    It’s pretty clear based on Mayor Kaplan’s explanation that this particular part of the law makes little sense. I’ve been thinking about how to fix it.

    If you look at Florida Statutes 720.303 (2) (a), which is the meetings provision governing homeowner associations, here is what it says in relevant part “A meeting of the board of directors of an association occurs whenever a quorum of the board gathers to conduct association business.”

    Some might think the standard for an HOA is insultingly low in comparison to what should apply to a city. Think again. I pay $350 per month in HOA fees. That’s $4,200. This year, the city portion of my property taxes were $700. Add to that my fire fee, garbage fee, heck even add my monthly water bill and you don’t get to $4,200 a year.

    Now, if the standard above is good enough to apply to HOA board then it should be good enough for my city officials. But Kaplan says that other states allow 1 on 1 meetings. That’s stricter than the Sunshine standard on local officials. But it’s better than what we have.

    I manage a large division of a very big company for a living. We discuss policy and practice all day long. Every discussion affects how stockholders shares are valued in the long run. I could not do my job if the only time I could do business was in board meetings. For the most part, we would be unprepared to run the company that way.

    I am OK with prosecuting criminals but I just don’t see what those two guys from Coral Springs did that was so wrong as to accuse them of a crime. That law sounds like bullshit to me.

  12. the Truth is says:

    to Richard D. Kaplan:

    Sir, you ‘da MAN!!!

    WE NEED TO GET BEHIND RICHARD D. KAPLAN FOR STATE ATTORNEY!

    OUR CURRENT LACK OF STATE ATTORNEY CAN’T MAKE UP FOR 20 YEARS OF DOING NOTHING!

  13. the Truth is says:

    KAPLAN! KAPLAN! KAPLAN! KAPLAN!

    4 NEW YEARS! 4 NEW YEARS!

  14. Chaz Stevens, Genius says:

    the Truth is says:
    who cares about deerfield beach, except you?
    stay focused, man, nothing to do with this blog!

    Apparently you don’t read the New Times.

  15. Too Little Too Late says:

    With all of the dirty deals going on in Broward, Satz picks this chicken$hit case to go after? Is he going to personally prosecute it too?

    This case will be dropped as soon as defense attorneys get to depose the cops and find out if it was a set-up or just naive pols.

    Mikey !!! find a real case with real criminals if you want some re-election publicity.

  16. Richard J. Kaplan says:

    I have actually throught there should be a constitutional amendment requiring the legislature to apply one sunshine law to all elected and appointed boards in the state. Then there would be one standard, and one law applying to cities and the legislature.

    I don’t know what the legislature does that is so critical that it should be out of the sunshine, if they think the sunshine law is that important. I also don’t know what the result would be, but I think it would be a lot fairer and clearer. You would probably have to get rid of the leaders of the party and shopping of bills through the halls in the capital.

    The problem with the law is that it is easy to accidentally violate it (if you apply an extreme strict standard). It also subjects people to claims of violations by those that just observe two officals having a quick hello while standing in line at a restaurant (no joke, this happened).

    Reconcilling a personal freedom of speech and association with the public right to conduct business in the sunshine is difficult. But I believe that most dilgently seek to comply with the law.

    By the way, I am a estate planning/probate/real estate/business attorney. I don’t handle criminal matters. So I don’t think that it would make a lot of sense to be State Attorney. Some say judge, or county or state. I’m very happy to be a Mayor for now. Thanks anyway.

  17. The Truth is says:

    KAPLAN!!! KAPLAN!!! KAPLAN!!!

    Where is Mike Satz? oh, he is running away from his responsiblilites. Run (away), Mike, Run (away)………..

  18. To Mayor Kaplan says:

    I don’t think there needs to be a constitutional amendment, simply a change to the Sunshine Law statute with respect to how “meeting” is defined. If they define meeting the same way that the HOA statute reads, less than a quorum can meet and that’s much better than what we have now. It is a good middle of the road position.

    Good policy is not advanced by asking the Legislature to take on the same circumstance as local officials. All that does is make matters worse.

    Last, an HOA board is elected just like a government officials are, those boards manage public monies just like cities do, often much more. It’s not a stretch to suggest that they have similar meeting rules. Personal freedoms apply to all persons, not just non-governmental officials, and these should not conflict with public assess. Those duties and rights must be reconciled with public access rights. These are by no means mutually exclusive objectives.

    Nor is there anything so peculiar about local government that warrants such different treatment at the local level than state or federal government. Even the proposer of the Sunshine Law, former Senator Childers, ended up being convicted of violating his own law later in his career as a local official. The law is so stupid that not even it’s originator could follow it.

  19. Richard J. Kaplan says:

    You are correct that a constitutional amendment is not needed IF the legislature enacted the law I suggested or what you suggest. The reason for the constitutional amendment is that the legislature would never consider such laws.

    Only through a citizens petition to place it on a referendum to amend the constitution would ever get this enacted. Thereby forcing the legislature to deal with this.

    Also, I nevered said, if there was only one standard, which way they would go, more like local government or more like state government.

    By the way, if I follow you correctly, the sunshine law does not apply to homeowner association. If it did, they’d all be in jail.

  20. Charlotte Crist, Candidate says:

    RICHARD KAPLAN FOR SENATE! KAPLAN! KAPLAN! KAPLAN!

    (isn’t Marco cute when he’s crazy and nuts and right wing ideologically bent….?)

  21. Danny Pryor says:

    Mr. Satz needs to look at his own office, first.

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