Friday, January 29, 2010

Florida Times-Union: Ex-St. Johns commissioner Tom Manuel sentenced to 21 months -- He is convicted on charges of demanding bribe money

* By Steve Patterson
* Story updated at 3:17 AM on Friday, Jan. 29, 2010

Tom Manuel, former chairman of the St. Johns County Commission, will spend 21 months in federal prison for demanding bribe money from a developer.

He received $60,000 to support a deal for the county to buy land at Interstate 95 and County Road 210 owned by the Falcone Group, a real estate investment business.

At the time, Manuel boasted he had power and connections to help or hurt the company across Northeast Florida.

But Thursday in federal court in Jacksonville he described himself as being deep in debt, fearful and having manic episodes from undiagnosed bipolar disorder as he made demands that brought him to shame.

"My financial desperation led me to throw away all of the values I have believed in," he told U.S. Circuit Judge Timothy J. Corrigan.

Manuel said he rationalized that the money was payment for trying to help Falcone partner Bruce Robbins sell 200 acres near the former Imeson airport on Jacksonville's Northside.

"The biggest lie is the lie you tell yourself," he said.

Defense lawyers pleaded for leniency, saying the 64-year-old heart transplant recipient has a wife in bad health and an 11-year-old daughter who needs someone to raise her.

Putting Manuel in prison could amount to a death sentence, attorney Bill Sheppard said.

Even if that's true, "that can't be the only consideration," Corrigan answered later, saying that a bribe-taking politician "strikes at the heart of our system of representative government."

Manuel, a Republican elected to represent the Ponte Vedra Beach area in 2006, was indicted in October 2008 and suspended from the commission. Gov. Charlie Crist appointed Phil Mays to fill the seat until an election this year.

The money Manuel collected was split into two payoffs made in 2008, with discussions about making future deals. But that all turned out to be part of the investigation's setup.

Robbins and land-use attorney George McClure of St. Augustine told the FBI in 2007 that Manuel was pressuring them to donate to favored charities. St. Johns County Sheriff David Shoar said Thursday the men reported that to him first, and after four days of reflection he contacted federal agents to ask them to open an investigation.

Federal investigators had the men secretly record conversations with Manuel, collecting about 20 hours of video or audio.

When Manuel met the men at a Jacksonville Beach restaurant in June 2008 to collect a $50,000 payment, agents were waiting in the parking lot.

Manuel quickly offered to help the agents in a murky investigation of other crimes.

The commissioner wore a wire to record conversations and worked with agents for maybe a week, Assistant U.S. Attorney Julie Savell said.

"It was something that may have led to something," Savell told the judge, but said more investigation became impossible because word got out that Manuel was caught in a federal probe. People who saw the FBI approach him at the restaurant were talking, and then Shoar formally confirmed the investigation's existence, she said.

Though the sheriff has said he was authorized by the FBI to say that, Savell told the judge that wasn't the case.

Asked whether "that disclosure effectively put the kibosh on it," the prosecutor said it did.

"I'm not sure exactly why it happened," Savell said, adding Shoar "was in no way permitted to disclose that."

Though otherwise declining to talk with reporters, Manuel stressed that point Thursday, saying: "You can say the sheriff lied."

The sheriff later repeated to a reporter that he had FBI approval to acknowledge the investigation.

Sheppard argued Thursday the disclosure deprived Manuel of a chance to cut his sentence by helping authorities, and that he deserved consideration for efforts he made.

The commissioner got enough consideration, Savell said, noting she wanted a sentence on the low end of the 37 to 46 months that federal guidelines call for. In theory, Manuel could have faced up to 10 years' imprisonment, but his lack of criminal record made that unjustifiable.

Trying to balance guidelines against the commissioner's personal issues, Corrigan said Manuel would serve 16 months of home detention after the prison term and 20 more months under court supervision after that.

Before that decision, Savell played outtakes from tapes of Manuel celebrating his plans to build power and steer money to causes he supported.

This month, Savell filed a motion that quoted parts of the tapes. In explaining that he was starting a political committee, the motion said, Manuel told a Falcone representative: "It's a chance for you to give me lots of money."

"Just so I'm clear, if I don't give you the money, what happens?" the representative asked.

In that case, the politician answered, the representative "gets screwed," according to the motion.

That motion said Manuel also wanted donations to the St. Johns County Council on Aging and to former Jacksonville City Council member Elaine Brown's campaign for a seat in the Florida Legislature.

The prosecutor quoted Manuel instructing: "... Tell me how much money you have, and I will tell you how to spend it."

The aging council and Brown both denied any knowledge of Manuel's demands and said they received no Falcone Group money.,

(904) 359-4263

Ponte Vedra Recorder: Manuel sentenced to prison

Sara Kaufman | January 29, 2010
Former St. Johns County Commissioner Tom Manuel was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison and 16 months home detention on Thursday morning in US District Court, but both sides filed motions and responses up until the day before the scheduled sentencing hearing.

In response to a motion for downward departure filed by Manuel’s defense in December, the US Attorney said no way, arguing for incarceration in a federal prison.

On Jan. 20, Julie Hackenberry Savell, assistant US Attorney, filed a response to the defendant’s sentencing motion, arguing that the sentencing guideline range, which calls for a term of imprisonment of 37 to 46 months, should not be departed from based upon any of the reasons put forth by the defendant.

On Jan. 27, Gray Thomas filed a last minute reply to Savell’s response, arguing Manuel was justified in accepting money because it’s been legally done before.

Thomas argued "those in public life, including in elected positions, regularly raise funds for worthy causes" and that Manuel’s suggestion that Robbins donate to the Council on Aging is "hardly remarkable, much less criminal."

In her Jan. 20 response, Savell cited portions of recorded conversations between Bruce Robbins, a Falcone representative and Manuel. In these conversations, Manuel states that he is forming a Committee of Continued Existence, which is an opportunity for Robbins to give Manuel "lots of money." In later conversations, transcripts show Manuel asking Robbins to give money to the Council on Aging and other community organizations.

Savell argued that Manuel’s words "refute the defendant’s argument that the criminal transaction was of limited duration, was an isolated incident and represented a marked deviation in conduct."

In Thomas’ response, he states that the government presented an incorrect transcription of an April 10, 2008 recorded conversation between Manuel and Robbins. Savell’s motion states Manuel said, "Oh you could have my vote ..." while Thomas’ argued the statement was actually, "Oh you clearly have my vote ..."

"The court should be aware of the significance of this difference in transcription, as the actual statement reflects Mr. Manuel’s long support for the project even before running for a seat on the commission," Thomas wrote.

In December, Manuel’s defense cited a variety of mitigating circumstances, including his poor health, mental condition and the claim that Manuel was justified in accepting money, as reasons why the judge should depart from the sentencing guidelines and grant Manuel probation or home confinement.

Savell argued that Manuel’s medical needs could be met while he was incarcerated and that the negative impact on Manuel’s family is not a basis for departure. Thomas responded, the day before the sentencing hearing with the claim that the circumstances of Manuel’s family responsibilities and extraordinary health conditions meet the factors in family responsibilities departure guidelines.

Additionally, Thomas argued Savell’s motion diminished the impact of Manuel’s undiagnosed bipolar disorder, which directly impacted Manuel’s impaired judgement.

County commissioner sentenced on bribery charges

The Associated Press
The suspended chairman of the St. Johns County Commission has been sentenced to 21 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to taking a bribe.

Tom Manuel pleaded in July to accepting $60,000 from a developer to support a county land purchase. He told Judge Timothy Corrigan on Thursday financial desperation over heart transplant-related medical bills caused him to take the bribe and "throw away" his values.

Corrigan allowed Manuel to remain free after his sentencing on Thursday until federal officials can find a prison to accommodate his medical needs.

St. Petersburg Times: Is foreign bribery sting more than show?

By Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist

Published Wednesday, January 20, 2010


the offering, giving, receiving, or soliciting of something of value for the purpose of influencing the action of an official in the discharge of his or her public or legal duties

John Benson Wier III, 46 and president of St. Petersburg's SRT Supply, was in Las Vegas this week hawking military equipment from Booth 26506 at the 2010 Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade show.

His sales pitch was short lived. He was one of 22 arrested in a Federal Bureau of Investigation sting Monday and charged with attempting to bribe foreign officials and money laundering.

FBI agents posing as defense officials of an African country proposed a scheme in which U.S. companies would pay 20 percent "commissions" to equip a presidential guard with pistols, tear-gas launchers, bulletproof vests and other supplies.

Wier, says the U.S. Department of Justice, was supposed to provide 1,800 grip-mounted laser sites. Also arrested was Andrew Bigelow, 40, managing partner and director of government programs for a Sarasota company called Gun Search that sells machine guns, grenade launchers and other small arms.

This week, 150 FBI agents executed 14 search warrants in locations across the country, including St. Petersburg.

The 16 indictments unsealed Tuesday represent the largest single investigation and prosecution against individuals in the history of the Department of Justice's enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

That law, if you're not familiar with it, basically tells U.S. companies "thou shalt not bribe" people overseas to win business.

It does not matter if greasing palms still happens to be a common way to transact commerce in many parts of the globe.

This latest and continuing investigation has been under way for 2 1/2 years, Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer said. More than 140 open investigations into violations of bribery laws are pending. "From now on, would-be FCPA (Foreign Corrupt Practices Act) violators should stop and ponder whether the person they are trying to bribe might really be a federal agent," Breuer said.

Federal support of the foreign antibribery law has yo-yoed wildly since it hit the books in 1977. We'll have to wait and see if the Obama administration really intends a get-tougher approach to broad enforcement or plans occasional publicity events involving smaller businesses.

A few other examples of potential Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations have cropped up here in recent years with little consequence.

Tampa engineering firm PBSJ Corp. this month voluntarily disclosed to the Securities and Exchange Commission that its PBS&J International subsidiary might have violated the antibribery law. There are few details yet.

And four years ago, Outback Steakhouse executives said its South Korean subsidiary might have bribed government officials. The subsidiary executives were replaced, and no other federal action was ever taken against the company.

In the latest case, seven of the 22 people arrested are from Florida. Sounds like we have some local cleaning up of "corrupt practices" to do.

Robert Trigaux can be reached at

ABA Journal: Judge Can't Figure Out WHy Lawyers Thought DUI Scheme Was a Good Idea

By Debra Cassens Weiss

Two North Carolina lawyers are headed to prison after pleading guilty in a scheme to get drunken driving cases dismissed.

The judge overseeing the case said he was baffled by the lawyers’ conduct, the Raleigh News & Observer reports.

"I cannot understand why anyone thought this was a good idea," said Superior Court Judge Henry Hight. "Detection was almost certain given the records and the number of people involved. I don't get it."

Lawyer Chad Lee will spend at least 3½ years in prison, and his buddy, Lee Hatch, will go to prison for at least three years, the story says. Still facing charges is Cindy Jaeger, a former prosecutor for Johnston County accused of agreeing to dismiss dozens of DWI cases for the lawyers.

Two other lawyers who were accused of lesser roles in the scheme were sentenced to probation and banned from handling criminal cases, the News & Observer reports.

The newspaper says Chad and Lee barely looked at each other as they pleaded guilty.

“The scam, ill-conceived and short-lived, earned them little and cost them almost everything,” the story says. “The scheme, explained in even the simplest terms, makes little sense. No one got rich. No one got a promotion or even congratulations. Some of the clients didn't even know they were granted a favor.”

ABA Journal: EEOC Sues Kelley Drye, Says Pay Policy for Older Lawyers Discriminates & Seeks Sweeping Relief

By Martha Neil

In an action that is sure to make other well-known law firms sit up and take notice, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has sued Kelley Drye & Warren over the firm's alleged policy of de-equitizing partners at age 70 and thereafter "undercompensating" them for their work.

The age discrimination lawsuit filed today in federal court in Manhattan also contends that the firm retaliated against attorney Eugene T. D'Ablemont after he filed an age discrimination charge against Kelley Drye with the commission in 2008. D'Ablemont's annual "bonus" payment was cut from $75,000 to $25,000, the EEOC alleges, even as his collections and other criteria of productivity remained the same as in former years.

The Wall Street Journal Law Blog provides a link to the complaint (PDF), which says that such annual bonuses, awarded at the discretion of the firm's executive committee, are the only payments made by the firm to lawyers over 70.

D'Ablemont and other similarly situated lawyers at at the firm, it alleges, are required after age 70 to relinquish any equity interest they had. And, if they thereafter continued to work at Kelley Drye, they "received compensation from the defendant that is significantly less than that paid to younger attorneys in the firm with similar client connections, billings, and other measures of productivity," the suit says.

Setting the stage for a potential punitive damages award, the suit contends that these alleged unlawful employment practices "were done with malice or with reckless indifference to the federally protected rights of D'Ablemont and the class of similarly situated attorneys employed by defendant who are over 70 years of age."

The lawsuit seeks sweeping relief concerning what could apparently be a significant class of current and former Kelley Drye lawyers. It asks for an injunction both prohibiting the firm from "engaging in any employment practices which discriminate on the basis of age" and requiring the firm to take affirmative measures to "institute and carry out policies, practices and programs that provide equal employment opportunities for employees 40 years of age and older, and which eradicate the efffects of defendant's past and present unlawful employment practices."

It also seeks, in addition to punitive damages, damages to D'Ablemont "for non-pecuniary losses, including pain, suffering and humiliation resulting from defendant's retaliatory conduct."

The suit asks, generally, for an unspecified amount of back wages, liquidated damages and prejudgment interest "to individuals whose wages are being unlawfully withheld" due to the alleged age discrimination against attorneys over 70 years of age.

A message left by the ABA Journal for the law firm's managing partner did not receive an immediate response. Kelley Drye has more than 375 lawyers and "professionals," according to its website, and five U.S. offices in the New York metropolitan area, Washington, D.C., and Chicago. The firm also has an office in Brussels and an affiliated office in Mumbai.

More details about the case are provided in a EEOC press release and a New York Law Journal article.

American Bar Association Journal: Alito Mouths an Objection During Obama’s Speech


By Debra Cssens Weiss

President Obama used his State of the Union speech last night to criticize last week’s campaign finance ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, producing what appeared to be a dissent from Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.

The Washington Post's 44 blog calls the situation “a striking State of the Union moment.” Six justices sat directly in front of Obama. Five didn’t react, but Alito shook his head and appeared to mouth the words, “Not true, not true.” (44 has the video.)

Alito’s reaction is in contrast to justices’ usual demeanor, according to the New York Times Opinionator blog. “Supreme Court justices usually make for an awkward sight at the State of the Union speech, because they sit stony-faced and never clap or cheer,” the blog says.

Here is what Obama said that apparently provoked Alito: “With all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that, I believe, will open the floodgates for special interests, including foreign corporations, to spend without limit in our elections."

According to the Opinionator, Obama was imprecise when he spoke of striking down a century of law. The direct ban on direct corporate contributions to candidates, enacted early in the 20th century, was not before the court in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, although it has now been called into question. Instead the court struck down a more recent law that barred corporations and unions from spending money from their own treasuries on TV ads on behalf of candidates before elections.

PolitiFact of the St. Petersburg Times has also examined the 100-year-old talk, and determined that the statement "glosses over a lot of detail."

After Alito reacted, Obama then continued: "I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests or, worse, by foreign entities," he said. "They should be decided by the American people. And I urge Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps correct some of these problems."

The Post points out a another problem with Obama's assertion. The Supreme Court said it did not have to address spending by foreign corporations in its Citizens United opinion, since the law at issue did not differentiate between foreign and U.S. corporations. Restrictions on foreign participation in U.S. elections remain on the books

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Congress Bans Cramdown Arbitration Provisions by Defense Contractors and Certain Subcontractors (Public Law Pub. L. 111-118, Section 8116(a)

Kudos to United States Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.), for getting Congress to ban mandatory cramdown arbitration agreements in employment contracts with defense contractors and subcontractors.

In 1989, U.S. Department of Labor Associate Chief Administrative Law Judge James Guill and I published an article, "A Rush to Unfairness -- the Downside to Alternative Dispute Resolution" in the American Bar Association Judge's Journal.

We warned the Nation's judges of the ADR trend, which the current permissive Supreme Court majority has allowed to inflict cramdown arbitration agreements on employees.

Three cheers for Senator Al Franken, author of Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat idiot and Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, and other scholarly works written with the assistance of Harvard University students.

This sea change in the law has been a long time coming. I've been waiting for this day since 1988, when we published our article, which mentioned the ADR propaganda being foisted off on unsuspecting ABA members.

I was revolted when, at the 1994 ABA Annual Meeting in New Orleans, I heard a defense contractor lawyers speak about how they were going to take employees' rights away by making them sign contracts of adhesion requiring arbitration. As Justice William Rehnquist said, the right to jury trial is a bulwark against oppression.

Here's the Arnold & Porter LLP report on the implications of the new worker protection law.

Congress Proscribes the Right of
Defens e Contractors to Mandate
Arbitration of Certain Employment Matters
(Written for the March 2010 issue of Professional Services Council's Service
Contractor Magazine)
By February 17, 2010, defense contractors must assure that their employment
agreements comply with the Department of Defense Appropriations Act for
2010, Pub. L. No. 111-118. Section 8116 of the Act, a modified version of an
amendment offered by Senator Al Franken, prohibits defense contractors and
certain of their subcontractors from requiring employees and independent
contractors to arbitrate various employment claims.1 Section 8116 implements
this prohibition by creating several conditions for award of Department of Defense
(DOD) contracts in amounts greater than US$1 million.
The first condition, which, regardless of when the solicitation was issued,
applies to any covered contract award made after February 17, 2010, requires
the contractor to agree not to:
(1) enter into any agreement with any of its employees or independent
contractors that requires, as a condition of employment, that the
employee or independent contractor agree to resolve through
arbitration any claim under title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
or any tort related to or arising out of sexual assault or harassment,
including assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional
distress, false imprisonment, or negligent hiring, supervision, or
retention; or
(2) take any action to enforce any provision of an existing agreement
with an employee or independent contractor that mandates that the
employee or independent contractor resolve through arbitration any
[such claims]. . . .[2]
This condition prohibiting mandatory arbitration clauses and their enforcement
by DOD contractors is written broadly and appears to cover all employees
and independent contractors of the subject contractor rather than to be limited
expressly to those employees and independent contractors performing work
under the covered DOD contract. Contractors should take note of the specific
1 Pub. L. 111-118, Dec. 19, 2009, 123 Stat. 2409, § 8116.
2 Id. at § 8116(a) (emphasis added).

claims covered by the proscription: all Title VII claims (i.e.,
claims relating to race, sex, national origin, and religious
discrimination) and tort claims related to or arising out of
a claim of sexual harassment or assault. Section 8116
does not cover employment claims brought under any
other federal statute (e.g., the Americans with Disabilities
Act or the Age Discrimination in Employment Act) or
to unspecified employment claims brought under state
The second Section 8116 condition, which again, regardless
of when solicited, applies to any covered contract award
after June 17, 2010, requires the contractor to certify that
each covered subcontractor agrees not to enter into or take
any action to enforce agreements mandating arbitration of
the employment-related claims covered by Section 8116.3
Section 8116(b) defines a “covered subcontractor” as an
entity that has a subcontract in excess of US$1 million on
a contract covered by Section 8116.4 Unlike the seemingly
broad proscription applicable to prime contractors, the
covered subcontractor proscription expressly applies
only to employment agreements with “any employee or
independent contractor performing work related to such
Section 8116 exempts from coverage any contractor or
subcontractor employment agreements with employees
or independent contractors that may not be enforced in
a court of the United States.6 The section also permits
the Secretary of Defense to waive the conditions for a
particular contractor or subcontractor if the Secretary or
the Deputy Secretary personally determines in a writing,
which is transmitted to Congress and made public, that
“the waiver is necessary to avoid harm to national security
interests of the United States, and that the term of the
contract or subcontract is not longer than necessary to
avoid such harm.”7
It is unclear whether or when the DOD will issue
acquisition regulations to implement these statutory
3 Id. at § 8116(b).
4 Id.
5 Id.
6 Id. at § 8116(c).
7 Id. at § 8116(d).
requirements. Nevertheless, in light of Section 8116’s
rapidly approaching effective dates, DOD contractors
should promptly and carefully evaluate their employment
practices to determine whether they must revise their
employment agreements and dispute resolution programs
to comply with the Section 8116 requirements effective
after February 17, 2010. Covered prime contractors also
must implement procedures to ensure that, after February
17, 2010, they no longer enforce provisions included in
pre-February 17, 2010 employment agreements which
mandate arbitration of the claims covered by Section
8116. Further, DOD contractors should evaluate their
subcontracting processes and agreements to ensure that
their covered subcontractors understand and agree to
the specific flow-down provisions in Section 8116. Finally,
DOD contractors and subcontractors should educate their
relevant human resources and related personnel on these
Section 8116 requirements.
The enactment of this provision prohibiting mandatory
arbitration clauses in defense contractor and subcontractor
employment agreements is a marked departure from
past Congressional action. For many years, Congress
has considered, yet failed to enact, proposed legislation
targeting mandatory agreements to arbitrate employmentrelated
claims.8 It remains to be seen whether Section
8116 is a forerunner to broader Congressional action in
this arena.
We hope that you have found this advisory useful. If you have
additional questions, please contact your Arnold & Porter
attorney or:
Kara L. Daniels
+1 202.942.5768
Matthew D. Keiser
+1 202.942.6398
8 See, e.g., Fairness in Nursing Home Arbitration Act of 2008
(H.R.6126 and S.2838, 110th Cong.) and of 2009 (H.R.1237 and
S.512, 111th Cong.); Arbitration Fairness Act of 2007, (H.R.3010
and S.1782, 109th Cong), and of 2009 (H.R.1020 and S.931, 111th
Cong.); see also Civil Rights Procedures Protection Act of 1997
(H.R.983 and S.63, 105th Cong.).

MIAMI HERALD Editorial: Chasing corruption out of Broward OUR OPINION: Take a tough stance on public ethics rules

Chasing corruption out of Broward
OUR OPINION: Take a tough stance on public ethics rules

Broward ethics task force moves to tighten gift rules

Broward's ethics task force wants to tighten the screws for county commissioners: no gifts of any kind from lobbyists or contractors; no gifts over $50 from anyone else.

The task force assigned to draw up a code of conduct for commissioners approved the restrictions Wednesday. The rules would be much stronger than those in state law, which bans gifts meant to influence an official's vote but allows gifts of up to $100 from lobbyists and their employers.

Toughen Miami-Dade anti-corruption code

Why can't the Ethics Commission do something about this?

That question often comes up whenever a scandal erupts in Miami-Dade County -- and for good reason. Voters approved an independent watchdog in 1996 to rein in county shenanigans and they expect action.

Unfortunately, the sly foxes at the Miami-Dade Commission are the ones guarding the ethics hen house.

Anti-corruption forces need more independence

I n the coming months, Miami-Dade County will join the rank of communities throughout the state that are revamping their ability to fight corruption.

Broward County's Ethics Task Force is trying to tighten the rules on gifts to county commissioners. Palm Beach County recently adopted a new ethics code, created an ethics commission and established the position of inspector general. At the state level, Florida's Commission on Ethics wants more power to initiate investigations.

Where are Miami-Dade's reform efforts? On the sidelines, where they've been for months. But that may be about to change, and, when it does, there's one reform effort officials should consider: giving our corruption watchdogs more financial independence.

Enough stalling: Toughen ethics rules

A s corruption scandals mount involving city commissioners, county officials and school board members in Broward and Miami-Dade, loopholes in state and local ethics laws have finally come into focus for public officials in denial.

In some instances, the law has worked as it should.

Miami Commissioner Angel Gonzalez was caught fixing a job for his daughter with a contractor who benefits from city projects. That no-show job was discovered thanks to a tip the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust received. It handed the findings to prosecutors. Gonzalez pleaded guilty to using his office for a family member's gain.

Give ethics laws fangs to attack abuses

S limy shenanigans at the Public Service Commission have resulted in one of its lobbyists leaving under fire and three staffers either resigning or put on leave for giving private messaging codes to Florida Power & Light.

The PSC's palsy-walsy relationship with the utilities it regulates is not new. Year after year, allegations surface, investigations ensue, grand juries are empaneled.

Yet in too many cases Florida's Ethics Commission does little to nothing. The Legislature set it up that way.

Voters who approved the Broward Ethics Task Force in 2008 to develop a code of conduct for county commissioners must have been prescient.

In 2009, Broward was rocked by FBI arrests of County Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion, Broward School Board member Beverly Gallagher and former Miramar commissioner Fitzroy Salesman. Eggelletion pleaded guilty in December to federal money-laundering charges. He's also accused of accepting a $3,200 golf membership to vote in favor of a developer's project.

The task force must have had the golf gift in mind last week when it proposed tighter rules for gifts county commissioners can accept.

It's long overdue.

State law bans gifts meant to influence an official's vote but allows gifts worth up to $100 from lobbyists and their employers. That's a lot of freebies.

The task force wants to ban gifts, period, from lobbyists and contractors and limit gifts from anyone else to $50 or less.

That's a start -- although why public officials should be allowed to accept any gifts other than honorary plaques is anybody's guess. A sense of entitlement, perhaps, that comes with holding public office?

The task force must set new ethics rules to help the County Commission avoid the appearance of impropriety. Besides gifts, the panel is looking at rules that would limit commissioners' outside employment to avoid conflicts and their control over county contract awards. It also wants to create an ethics czar -- the equivalent of Miami-Dade County's Inspector General, who investigates county agencies.

Task force members are conflicted over whether the ethics czar should be able to launch investigations independently, without first receiving a complaint.

That's a no-brainer.

The state's Ethics Commission must wait for a complaint, as does the Miami-Dade Ethics Commission -- which ties their hands and protects powerful politicians feared by would-be whistle blowers. Both state and Miami-Dade ethics commissioners are seeking authority to conduct independent investigations.

Broward should get ahead of the curve and give its ethics boss independence to begin probes.

The County Commission can either approve the new ethics rules or put them to voters in November. Broward County Mayor Ken Keechl rightly wants to ask voters to expand the task force's ethics rules to other government officials -- the sheriff, property appraiser, supervisor of elections, clerk of courts and elected city officials. The School Board should be included, too.

Broward residents have seen their share of public corruption in recent years, and it's clear they've had enough abuse. The task force should develop a tough, but workable, set of ethics rules that apply to public officials countywide.

Monday, January 25, 2010


J. CLARK MICA was a Congressional Liaison with the Department of Housing and Urban Developmen, a lobbyist for GEORGE W. BUSH on housing issues.

JOHN LUIGI MICA's daughter D'ANNE is a PR meister for organizations with government contracts and grants, including Sanford Aiport and PBSJ. His brother DAN and brother DAVID are lobbyists too.

JOHN MICA's entire family is crawling with lobbyists. They remind me of the Adams Family:

They're creepy and they're kooky,
Mysterious and spooky,
They're all together ooky,
The MICA Family.

Their house is a museum
Where people come to see 'em
They really are a scream
The MICA Family.


So get a witches shawl on
A broomstick you can crawl on
We're gonna pay a call on
The MICA Family.

They're creepy and they're kooky,
Lobbyists and goofy,
They're all together ooky,
The MICA Family.

Our House is a disgra--ace
Where lobbyists embrace
They're completely ad nauseum
The MICA Family.


So get a pinstripe suit on
A broomstick you can crawl on
We're all gonna recall 'em
The MICA Family.


D'Anne Mica, daughter of Rep. John Mica, was arrested for DUI.
Congressman's daughter arrested

Rep. John Mica’s daughter, D’anne Mica, was arrested Friday and charged with DUI.

At around 3 a.m. Maitland police arrested the 34-year-old on Poinciana Lane and Via Tuscany.

According to the arrest affidavit, Mica was driving a black SUV when a Maitland officer saw it swerving across the road. The officer pulled her over and reported he could smell alcohol on her breath. When questioned, Mica told police she had come from Tom and Jerry’s bar in Winter Park where she had “a couple of cocktails.” She later told the officer she had been at a new Mexican restaurant in downtown Orlando where she had some vodka drinks.

Mica agreed to get out of the car for evaluation but refused to wear a coat and took off her high heeled boots when asked to walk a line of masking tape. She failed the field sobriety test and blood alcohol tests, blowing a .192 and .198, which are more than double the legal limit of .08.

She was booked into the Orange County Jail and released on $500 bond.

Mica is the founder and president of Mica Strategic Communications, a public relations company based in Orlando. According to her online biography, she previously worked at a local TV station in Orlando and gave tours for Sea World. She was also a fundraiser for the Republican National Committee.

Her father John Mica is a republican congressman representing several counties across Central Florida.


The highly publicized arrest last week of U.S. Rep. John Mica's daughter for driving under the influence has spurred the Florida Republican's political opponents to renew their focus on connections between the congressman's work on Capitol Hill and his daughter's connection to a powerful Florida construction company.

Congressman Mica is the ranking Republican on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. His daughter D'Anne Leigh Mica, 34, a public-relations executive, has a web site that identifies one of the largest transportation engineering and construction firms in the country, Florida-based PBS&J, as one of her clients.

How much money the company has paid the congressman's daughter is unclear. In an interview on Monday night, D'Anne Mica told ABC News that she never did any direct work for the national contractor, and the public relations job had nothing to do with her father.

"My father has no idea what I do in my business. And I have no idea what he does in his," she said.


The same is true, she said, about an Orlando area airport that hired her to promote its new commercial air service at the same time her father was helping secure federal aviation funds for the facility. The Orlando Sanford International Airport was also listed on her web site as a client.

Questions surrounding the congressman and his daughter come at a time when potential congressional conflicts are garnering close scrutiny. A Washington Post report out Monday focused on the legislative work of Rep. John D. Dingell Jr., a Michigan Democrat, and the lobbying by his wife, Debbie Dingell.

Rep. Mica's chief of staff said Monday there has never been any conflict between the congressman's Capitol Hill work and his daughter's small Florida public relations firm, Mica Strategic Communications.

The firm opened its doors in 2003, starting as a partnership between D'Anne Mica and a Jacksonville public relations consultant, Mica said. C.L. Conroy, a spokeswoman for PBS&J, said the contractor hired the Jacksonville firm three or four years ago, but not because Mica was in the Orlando office.

"We don't remember if we used her or not," Conroy said.

'She Says She Has Never Represented PBS&J'

Rusty Roberts, Rep. Mica's chief of staff, said he can't figure out why D'Anne listed PBS&J as a client. Roberts initially told ABC News that D'Anne may have helped train company executives to speak effectively on television. But after a conversation with D'Anne, he called back to say she had never done any work for the firm at all.

"She says she has never represented PBS&J," Roberts said. "Why did she put it on her website? I don't know."

Asked why, D'Anne Mica said she added it several years ago because of her involvement in the earlier partnership.

Regardless, Roberts said, none of D'Anne Mica's public relations work has had any bearing on the congressman's pursuit of transportation projects for his district.

One of the most high profile of those has been his effort to secure federal support for a high speed rail link that would connect Orlando to Lakeland and Tampa. Mica helped push legislation for the 110-mile-per hour fast train through congress in 2008. Last month, he said Florida was one of four finalists to get millions in funding for the pioneering project. (The Federal Railroad administration disputed that, saying there is no short list yet. They are currently considering requests from 24 states seeking a combined $50 billion.)

Forms submitted by PBS&J lobbyists last year indicate the company has pursued the rail project both with members of the House Transportation Committee and congressional representatives from Florida to discuss, though it does not identify which members they contacted.

A spokeswoman for PBS&J said there is no connection between the company's lobbying and whatever work it may have offered Rep. Mica's daughter. The company has had its share of tough publicity in recent months, however, related to its efforts to attract business from government officials in Washington and elsewhere.

First came a $36 million embezzlement scandal, which led to the conviction of three ex-employees. That led to the discovery of a practice within the company of reimbursing employees for campaign contributions, which is illegal. In September, FEC staff recommended a stiff fine over the alleged use of so-called "straw donors."

But Republican appointees on the FEC declined to pursue the matter, because they said the contributions took place too far in the past. Company officials expressed satisfaction with the decision, telling reporters at the time that they cooperated fully, and were pleased to have the matter formally closed.

Then, last week came reports of end-of-year filings in which PBS&J informed the Justice Department and federal securities regulators that it was investigating possible crimes involving its overseas construction projects.

Foreign Corrupt Practices Act

The company's chief financial officer wrote in an SEC filing that the company was investigating to see whether any of its employees had violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act "in connection with certain projects undertaken by PBS&J International Inc., one of the company's subsidiaries, in certain foreign countries." The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act generally prohibits U.S.-based companies from making improper payments to foreign officials, usually through bribes. PBS&J has done engineering and construction work around the world.

None of those cases involved Rep. Mica, who came to office in 1992 after founding several successful business ventures, including those in real estate, communications, international trade consulting and governmental affairs.

In 2007, Mica's name surfaced in a 151-page investigation called "A Family Affair" by the group Citzens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which found that the congressman was one of 64 house members who had made payments to family members for consulting work on their campaigns. He paid D'Anne $1,000 during his 2002 reelection bid.

PBS&J is not the only client with business before Rep. Mica's committee that D'Anne Mica had listed as a client. She was also hired to promote the Orlando Sanford International Airport.

Roberts said D'Anne's work for the airport involved promoting the airport in states outside of Florida, and had nothing to do with any congressional action taken by the congressman.

"They don't need to hire his daughter to get to know him. If the airport needs help he's going to help them," Roberts said. Rep. Mica has helped secure millions in funding for the airport.

As for whether the congressman intervened to help secure the contract for his daughter, Roberts said absolutely not. "She did everything on her own. She never asked him to help and she's never volunteered to help."

D'Anne Mica told ABC News the DUI case against her is "pending," but chose not to comment further. She was arrested in Maitland, Florida on Friday, booked and then released on $500 bail.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Arnold & Porter LLP re: Supreme Court Decision on Corporate Ca$h

Political Law Alert Series
Land mark Development: The US
Supreme Court Strikes Down
Limits on Corporate and Union
Independent Expenditures
In a far-reaching decision, on January 21, 2010, the US Supreme Court overturned
decades-old precedent in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and
ruled that the First Amendment protects corporate speech as vigorously as it
protects individual speech. The practical result is that corporations and labor
unions may now make unlimited “independent expenditures” and “electioneering
communications” regarding federal candidates. This means that corporations may
either expressly advocate an election or defeat of clearly identified candidates,
or simply mention candidates in the course of discussing political issues or
policy, even within the last days before an election. This constitutional protection
applies to both for-profit and nonprofit corporations, such as incorporated 501(c)
organizations, although tax law restrictions remain on nonprofit groups.
Some key notes on the decision include the following:
„„No Coordination: The Court extended constitutional protections to
independent expenditures, meaning that corporations may not “coordinate”
their spending with any candidates. Thus, ensuring lack of coordination (a
term that the Federal Election Commission (FEC) has defined heretofore
quite broadly) with candidates will be a critical requirement for corporations
wishing to place campaign ads.
„„Protects All Communications/Speech: This historic decision not only
protects broadcast ads by corporations, but also any type of communications,
including print ads, the Internet, On-Demand video, pamphlets and leaflets.
„„Direct Contributions and Coordinated Expenditures Still Banned: The
Court kept intact the law’s limits on direct contributions to candidates—
including in-kind ones. Therefore, corporate and labor union PACs will still
have a role in the political process.
„„Foreign Contributions Ban Intact: The Court found that there was no need
to reach the question of whether there was a compelling interest in preventing
foreign influence on the US political process, thus maintaining the ban on
state and federal contributions and expenditures by foreign nationals.
Landmark Development: The US Sup reme Court 2
Strikes Down Limits on Corporat e and Union
Independent Expenditu res
Commitment | Excellence | Innovation
„„Party Soft Money Ban Intact: Similarly, the McCain-
Feingold (or Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA))
prohibitions on political party soft money are still in
„„Hard Money Ban Not Affected: The contribution
limits that apply to hard money remain untouched by
the Supreme Court’s decision.
„„Disclosure Still Required: Disclosure, including
the names of donors, is still required for corporations
engaging in certain political speech.
„„State Laws in Peril: The decision referenced the 26
state laws that do not restrict corporate independent
expenditures, intimating that the remaining states will
be responding to this decision, thus prompting a fury of
state and local legislative activity on this issue.
„„Unknown Effect on Other Businesses Such as
Non-Corporate Federal Contractors: The Court’s
ruling was limited to corporate and labor union spending
in campaigns. It did not touch upon, for example, the
restrictions imposed on federal contractors that are
not incorporated entities, such as partnerships and
unincorporated associations, which are governed by
separate provisions of the law. Whether and how this
will be resolved is unclear. On one hand, the decision
stood for the proposition that the government cannot
restrict speech based on the speaker’s identity. And
treating federal contractors distinctly would contradict
this principle. On the other hand, there arguably is a
different compelling government interest in restricting
communications by those with federal government
contracts, as there is with foreign contributors. If
the latter rationale is employed, however, fairness
would dictate that corporate entities that are federal
contractors also be subject to these restrictions, which
the Citizens United decision would clearly not permit.
Because the Court was silent on this issue, it is possible
that Congressional action, not simply FEC regulations,
may be required to address this inconsistency.
„„Charitable Nonprofits Will Still Be Constrained
by Federal Tax Laws: While the FEC restrictions on
corporate spending will no longer apply to nonprofits,
the Internal Revenue Code provisions remain the law.
In effect, 501(c)(3) organizations and foundations will
not benefit greatly, if at all, from this ruling.
„„Other Nonprofits Will Be Freed from Campaign
Speech Restraints: While the headlines prophesize
a fury of corporate and union spending on campaign
ads, the fact remains that interest groups organized in
the form of 527, 501(c)(4) corporations, and 501(c)(6)
trade associations also will be able to spend treasury
funds now on ads that not only suggest a candidate
preference, but clearly state one.
These, and many other issues and unanswered questions,
will need to be resolved by the FEC, and perhaps the
Congress, which has already promised to step into the
debate to somehow counteract the decision. And, as
noted above, the states may be brought into the fray with
respect to their own campaign finance laws.
We therefore urge you to consult with counsel before
exercising your newly validated rights to campaign speech.

USDOJ: Louisiana Man Convicted of Civil Rights Violation in Connection with Cross-Burning

For Immediate Release
January 22, 2010 United States Attorney's Office
Western District of Louisiana
Contact: (318) 676-3641

Louisiana Man Convicted of Civil Rights Violation in Connection with Cross-Burning

WASHINGTON—Daniel Earl Danforth of Minden, La., was convicted yesterday by a jury in Shreveport, La., of a civil rights conspiracy, use of fire in the commission of a federal felony, and obstruction of justice in connection with a cross-burning near the home of an interracial couple in Athens, La., the Justice Department announced.

Sentencing has been set for April 14, 2010. At sentencing, Danforth, 31, faces a maximum penalty of 10 years for the civil rights conspiracy; 20 years for obstruction of justice; and an additional 10 years for use of fire.

At trial, evidence revealed that on Oct. 23 or 24, 2008, Danforth agreed with his two cousins to build, erect, and burn a cross near the homes of a cousin and her African-American boyfriend (now husband), and other relatives who approved of their interracial relationship. Danforth and his co-conspirators built the cross using two pine trees, wire or cable, and a large nail. One of Danforth’s cousins then went to get diesel fuel to use to burn the cross. Meanwhile, Danforth and his other cousin transported the cross to an area adjacent to the victims’ homes where, using chainsaw gas, they set the cross on fire in order to intimidate the victims. On Oct. 26, 2008, Danforth telephoned a relative who was living with the victims and directed her to the location of the burned cross.

The evidence also showed that several days later, after the defendant and his co-conspirators learned that the FBI was investigating this crime as a potential civil rights violation, Danforth, his cousin who helped transport and burn the cross, and the cousin’s girlfriend formed a plan to get rid of the burned cross to prevent the FBI from discovering it and using it as evidence. Danforth’s cousin then drove Danforth to the woods behind the victims’ homes, where Danforth removed the cross, disassembled it and hid it in the woods in an effort to thwart the FBI investigation.

“The defendant and his co-conspirators, driven by hatred, threatened a family with violence simply because they associated with persons of another race. Incidents of this kind have no place in this country, but they are regrettably all too common,” said Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

“Burning a cross near someone's home to threaten or strike fear and terror in the hearts of other human beings is a criminal act deserving vigorous investigation and punishment. This office will continue to aggressively direct federal law enforcement resources toward investigating and prosecuting those criminals who infringe and violate the civil rights of others,” said William J. Flanagan, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana.

This case was investigated by the FBI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary J. Mudrick for the Western District of Louisiana and Trial Attorney Erin Aslan from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

Oh What A Tangled Web MORRIS COMMUNICATIONS Has Weaved -- Bad Journalism and Bankruptcy for Dozens of Publications

Assigned to: John S. Dalis
Chapter 11

Show Associated Cases

Date filed:


Morris Publishing Group LLC
725 Broad Street
Augusta, GA 30901
Tax ID / EIN: 26-2569462
Albion Shopper
Allegan Flashes Shopping Guide
Ardmore Daily Ardmoreite
Arlington Sun
Arkansas City Travelers
Auburndale Shopper
Bartow Shopper
Blue Springs Examiner, LLC a Missouri LLC
Blue Springs Examiner
Bluffton Today
Boat Broker
Brainerd Dispatch
Broadcast Direct Marketing
Bryan County Now
Bulleyes Marketing
Capital City Weekly
Car Paper
Career Paper
Central Florida Manufactured Home
Cimarrone Living (Florida Times)
CJExtra (Topeka)
Clay Sun
Clay County Line
The Citizen News
Coastal Castles
Coastal Cruising
Coastal Senior
Coastal Bride
Columbus Area Choice
County Lines
Destination Media
Discover Jacksonville
Dispatch News
Dodge City Daily Globe
Echo Publishing and Printing
Echoland Metro
Echoland/Piper Shopper
Eco Latino
Effingham Now
Employment Now
Events Magazine
First Coast Home Finder
Flashes Publishers
Flashes Shopping Guide
Flashes Coronet Advertising
Flashes Quad-Cities Shopper
The Girard Press
Glenwood Post
Grand Island Independent
H Magazine: The Pulse of Today's Health
Hamilton Herald
The Hampton County Guardian
Hannibal Courier-Post
Heartland Shopper
Heartland Delivery
Hers Kansas
Her Voice (Winter Haven)
Her Voice (Grand Island)
HerVoice (Brainerd)
Hillsdale Daily News
Holland Flashes
Holland Sentinel
The Examiner of Independence LLC, a Missouri LLC
The Examiner of Independence
Inside the Gate (Florida Times)
The Jasper Shopper
JAX AirNews
Jaxpack Direct
Kalamazoo Express
Kalamazoo Flashes
La Estrella
Lake Wales Shopper
Lake Country Echo
Lakeland Homefinder
Lake Country Echo
Lake Shore Flashes
Mandarin Sun
Mayport Mirror
Mid Nebraska Connection
Midwest Postal
Missouri Valley Shopper
Morris Digital Library
Nassau Sun
Nassau Neighbor
The Newton Kansan LLC, a Kansas LLC
The Newton Kansan
Norfolk Area Shopper
North Hampton Living
Northside Sun
Northwest St. Johns
Okatie Sun
Oak Grove Shopper, LLC a Missouri LLC
Oak Grove Shopper
Off The Record
Palm Coast Neighborhood
The People-Sentinel
Piper Shopper
Pittsburg Morning Sun
Quest for the Presidency
Prairie Shopper
Prairie Shopper Plus
Redlands Marketing
Ridge Shopper
Salt River Journal
Shawnee News-Star
Senior Times
She's OK!
Skirt! Magazine
Shoppers Weekly
Shoppers Advantage
Shorelines Sun
Sourdough Sentinel
South Hampton Living
Southside Sun
Smart Target
St. Augustine Best Read Where Quick Guide
St. Johns Sun
St. Johns Connection
Stonehurst Plantation Living (Florida Times)
Summit Morning News
Sylvania Telephone
The Florida Times-Union
The Georgia Times-Union
The News and Farmer and Wadley Herald
The Jefferson Reporter
The McDuffie Mirror
The Polk Shopper
The Sunland Shopper
Tip Off Shopping Guide
Topeka Capital-Journal
Town & Country Extra
Trade and Transaction
Trade West
Visitor's Guide - St. Johns County
Waters Edge
West Michigan Senior Times
Westside Sun
Winter Haven News Chief
Winter Haven Shopper
York News-Times
Zeeland Sentinel
Zeeland Flashes
Kings Bay Periscope
Lakeland Shopper
Neighbor's Weekend (Brainerd)
Pine River Journal
The Extra
The St. Augustine Record
Visitor's Guide - St. Augustine
Visitor's Guide - City of Jacksonville

New Transit-Funding Rules Make Streetcars More Desirable

By Melanie Trottman & Josh Mitchell

The Wall Street Journal
January 15, 2010

The Obama administration said it was revamping rules on federal transit funding to funnel more of the money to streetcars, bus routes and other projects that promote "livability."

The new policy announced Wednesday, part of a broader effort by the Obama administration to use transportation and housing programs to reduce driving, contain sprawl and create transit-related jobs, could lift the fortunes of makers of light-rail and other transit equipment sold to states and cities.

Among more than 80 cities that could now qualify for funding are Seattle; Cincinnati; Boise, Idaho; and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D., Ore.), who led the push for a federal program designed to promote transit projects. Transit-industry officials said many projects had been stymied by a Bush administration policy requiring the government to evaluate projects based largely on reducing commuting times at the lowest possible expense.

HNTB Corp., an infrastructure firm that serves federal, state, and other clients, is working on a commuter-rail project in Indianapolis that could benefit from the change, said Liz Rao, the firm's national public-transit services chairwoman.

Click here to view the full article

This Progressive Blog Has Far More Visitors Than Local KKK-style Hate Websites

MICHAEL GOLD f/k/a "MICHAEL TOBIN" and SHERIFF DAVID SHOAR f/k/a "DAVID HOAR" -- Their Hate Website Has Many Fewer Viewers Than This Anti-Corruption, Anti-Pollution Blog

Local KKK-style hate website "" approvingly cites as a source of accurate Internet statistics. Ipse dixit.

According to, this blog's rank among websites is: 7,443,132
According to, Plazabum's rank among websites is 17,308,054
According to Plazabum, at least 13% of its visits are Spammers.
According to, there is no data about

Sounds like hate is going out of style, particularly at local KKK-tyle hate websites operated by no-bid Sheriff's uniform salesman, private investigator, Sheriff SHOAR's erstwhile campaign manager and bagman MICHAEL GOLD f/k/a "MICHAEL TOBIN."

There are now only 93 registered users/abusers of (mostly NICS of MICHAEL GOLD f/k/a "MICHAEL TOBIN"). Other registered users/abusers include City and County government misanthropes posting under their own names or as "Anonymice," and their shills, including wicked, evil tree-killing developers, and assorted illiterate, racist, sexist, homophobic, misogynist anti-Gay hicks who how at the moon). The "Anonymice" on local KKK-style hate websites are not necessarily to be confused with the movie Blazing Saddles' bon mot (from Harvey Korman's Wyoming State Attorney General character Hedley Lamarr): "rustlers, cutthroats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperadoes, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, half-wits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswagglers, horse thieves, bull dykes, train robbers, bank robbers, ass kickers, shit kickers and Methodists."

Wyoming Attorney General "Hedley Lamar," played by Harvey Korman in Blazing Saddles

Money contaminates politics

As the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) reports (below) demonstrate, money is contaminating American politics, even before yesterday's Supreme Court decision. Enough. Read the PBSJ report. Ask the County, School Board, St. Johns River Water Management, Florida Department of Environmental Protection and other buzzards why they're still giving contracts to PBSJ. Ask recipients of dirty PBSJ money about the quid pro quo, if any.

How many of the 100 politicians are in our 7th Congressional District?

When will President Obama take steps to reform the FEC, which deadlocked 3-3, voting not to do anything about PBSJ despite the fact that two successive CEOs pled guilty to criminal charges?

We need action, not lip service.

1st Federal Elections Commission General Counsel Report on PBSJ Corruption of our Democracy


999 E Street, N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20463


PRE-MUR: 441

DATE REFERRED: September 18, 2006

DATE ACTIVATED: September 20, 2006

Exemption 2


SOURCE: Exemption 7(D)

RESPONDENTS: William Scott DeLoach



FEDERAL AGENCIES CHECKED: U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida


Exemption 7(D) Exemption 7(D) .[1] Exemption 7(D) William Scott DeLoach, the former Chief Financial Office of PBS&J Corporation, admits that he knowingly and willfully violated 2 U.S.C. § 441f by using straw donors to disguise six contributions totaling $11,000 made to Martinez for Senate (“Martinez Committee”) in October 2004. While the factual record regarding the reimbursement scheme is limited, and we do not know the scope of the scheme or many other facts, the available information presents a sufficient basis to investigate this alleged violation. We therefore recommend the Commission find reason to believe DeLoach knowingly and willfully violated 2 U.S.C. § 441f.


The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida filed a criminal information in this case on September 15, 2006, and DeLoach agreed to plead guilty to a felony under 2 U.S.C. §§ 441f and 437g(d)(1)(D). See Information, U.S. v. DeLoach, Crim. No. 06-20583 (S.D. Fla. filed Sept. 15, 2006). According to DOJ,

[T]he trial judge in this case has an aversion to formal written plea agreements. As is the case with a few other Judges, this Judge prefers to have the prosecutor state the facts underlying a plea in open court and on the record, and then have the defendant agree on the record that (s)he agrees with the facts as stated by the prosecutor.

While we have not been informed of the date on which the plea will be heard, based on information obtained from DOJ and through press reports, it may be as soon as September 29, 2006. See Patrick Danner and Dan Christensen, Three Charged in Embezzlement Scheme, Miami Herald, Sept. 19, 2006, at A1.

The § 441f charge is one of two charges filed against DeLoach in connection with an apparent embezzlement scheme at PBS&J Corporation, a Florida-based government contractor that provides a range of services related to transportation, environmental, construction management, and civil engineering. According to the Information, DeLoach and two employees, Maria Garcia and Rosario Licata, admit that they conspired to embezzle more than $35 million by issuing company checks to themselves, diverting money from the company healthcare benefit fund into secret bank accounts, charging personal expenses on the company credit card, and concealing the theft of these funds by altering and fabricating the company’s books. In connection with this embezzlement, DeLoach, Garcia and Licata will plead guilty to a felony count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud.

The factual record regarding the § 441f charge is sparse. DeLoach admits that he knowingly and willfully made $11,000 in illegal contributions to the Martinez Committee through six straw donors on October 4 and 5, 2004, but the Information does not specify whether DeLoach used personal or corporate funds to reimburse the contributions or whether other PBS&J employees or the corporation itself were involved. In addition, it identifies the straw donors only by their initials, although, based on statements by the Assistant U.S. Attorney and a review of disclosure reports, we believe the following PBS&J employees were the conduits.




October 4, 2004

Shannan Ighodaro


October 4, 2004

Sybil Thomas


October 5, 2004

Lourdes Fernandez


October 5, 2004

Reinaldo Fernandez


October 5, 2004

Ana Quinones


October 5, 2004

Victor Quinones


Despite the limited facts included in the Information and the inability of the U.S. Attorney’s office to disclose grand jury evidence, news reports suggest that the reimbursement scheme may have been broader than these contributions. Importantly, one news article stated,

The case also carries national implications because PBS&J does business with and contributes to politicians across the country. Fort Lauderdale attorney Benson Weintraub, one of [Maria] Garcia’s lawyers, said he expects other company officials and possibly the company itself to be indicted as the investigation continues.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” Weintraub said.

Mark Schnapp, a Miami lawyer for PBS&J, acknowledged that company money apparently was used in the 1990s to make illegal reimbursements but said they “were not of any significant magnitude.”

“Charges shouldn’t be on the table, and as far as I know they aren’t,” Schnapp said.

Schnapp said DeLoach carried out the reimbursement scheme described by the government in court papers alone to put “himself into a highly visible position in the Mel Martinez campaign.” He did not elaborate.

Danner and Christensen, Sept. 19, 2006, supra. Another news article stated,

While working for PBS&J in 2003 and 2004, DeLoach, Garcia and Licata contributed more than $44,000 to federal candidates, election records show. Other PBS&J executives, board members and managers contributed another $60,000 to federal candidates and PACs during the same period.

Individual contributions like those are the focus of the grand jury’s reimbursement probe.

Recipients include President Bush, Florida senators Bill Nelson, a Democrat, and Mel Martinez, a Republican; and Broward U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

In some cases, executives’ contributions added to giving by PBS&J itself or its political action committees. For example, the biggest federal recipient since 2003 is Democracy Believers, the joint leadership PAC of brothers Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart, Republican congressmen from Miami. DeLoach, Garcia, Licata and the PBS&J’s federal PAC combined gave $20,000 in September 2004.

Patrick Danner and Dan Christensen, A Rich History of Political Giving, Miami Herald, Sept. 13, 2006, at B1. In addition, although these news reports assert that PBS&J and its employees have contributed more than $500,000 in political contributions since 2003, a search of the Commission’s disclosure database by employer name lists only $41,033 in contributions made by identified PBS&J employees during that time period, and neither DeLoach nor the likely conduits identified PBS&J as their employer in connection with contributions made to the Martinez Committee. See Martinez for Senate, 12 Day Pre-General Report at 308-310 (Oct. 22, 2004).

Given that DeLoach will plead guilty in connection with the conduit contributions, we recommend that the Commission find reason to believe that he knowingly and willfully violated 2 U.S.C. § 441f.


We anticipate that we will be able to conduct a focused investigation in this matter, Exemption 7(D)

Exemption 7(D) Exemption 7(D) [2] In particular, we will seek to discover: (1) Whether the money DeLoach used to reimburse conduits was his personal money or included corporate funds; (2) The relationship of the conduits to DeLoach and the extent to which they may be culpable; (3) Whether these six contributions are the only contributions that may have been reimbursed; (4) The role of PBS&J and/or its executives in the apparent reimbursement scheme; (5) Whether the Martinez Committee was the only recipient committee, and what it or other committees knew about these or other reimbursed contributions; (6) How the embezzlement and reimbursement schemes became known or the extent of DeLoach’s cooperativeness with DOJ; and (7) What penalty DOJ is seeking against DeLoach.[3]


1. Open a MUR.

2. Find reason to believe that William Scott DeLoach knowingly and willfully violated 2 U.S.C. § 441f.

3. Authorize compulsory process.

4. Approve the appropriate letters.


Date James A. Kahl

Deputy General Counsel

Rhonda J. Vosdingh

Associate General Counsel for Enforcement

Julie McConnell



Exemption 7(D)

[1] Section 441f prohibits any person from making a contribution in the name of another. This includes making a monetary contribution and attributing as the source of the money another person when in fact the contributor is the true source. See 11 C.F.R. § 110.4(b)(2)(ii).

[2] Exemption 5

[3] One news article reported that DeLoach has given approximately $16 million in assets, including homesteaded property and the proceeds from his 401(k) retirement account, to PBS&J. See Danner & Christensen, Sept. 19, 2006, supra. The Assistant U.S. Attorney noted that DeLoach may be unable to pay even the minimum statutory criminal penalty for the felony § 441f violation because the embezzlement charge requires him to relinquish virtually all he owns and imposes a future restitution obligation, such that DeLoach likely will be making payments long after he completes any potential prison sentence.