A Mayor Named Sue

They just voted Sue Gunzburger the new Broward mayor to replace Ken Keechl. Hey, it was her turn.

Commissioner Kristin Jacobs made a very lame motion for Gunzburger, saying that "when each jewel is allowed to shine, the whole crown shines." Yuck.

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Out with the old, in with the Sue.
Now Mayor Gunzburger is talking about a "new day," yada yada yada.

Hey, I really do have hope for Gunzburger. She was a true champion of ethics reform while all the others groused and tried to kneecap it in various ways. Hopefully, she won't let the people down as others in her position have done.

The new mayor notwithstanding, the inaugural meeting for the new county crew was a major disappointment. Let's start with Chip LaMarca.

The first thing LaMarca -- who used populist rhetoric during his campaign about "draining the swamp" of corruption in Broward County -- did when he got to the dais was tell everyone, well, no, he's just here to get along. He promised he won't be an "agitator."

When asked what advice he would give young people, Frederick Douglass said, "Agitate, agitate, agitate." This commission needs an agitator. Too bad it's not going to be LaMarca.

Another dubious move made by LaMarca was to name Gwendolyn Hudson as a staff aide. Hudson is a former trusted aide of Joe Eggelletion, a county commissioner now in prison. Listen, there's no evidence that Hudson, who was questioned in the case, did anything wrong. You just have to wonder if there was nobody available who wasn't deeply tied to an imprisoned commissioner. It sort of further wrecks that whole "new day" idea. 

None of the new dais-sitters made a more boneheaded personnel move than Barbara Sharief, who beat Angelo Castillo to take over criminally charged Diana Wasserman-Rubin's seat. Sharief named another holdover, Torey Alston, as her "chief of staff." Alston held that position with Al C. Jones, the Charlie Crist appointee who filled Eggelletion's seat when he was charged by the feds. I don't want to kick a man when he's down, but let's just say that Jones totally earned his electoral defeat with his performance in office.

Inside, read why I'm calling for Sharief to find a new aide pronto.   

Why would I come down on Torey Alston? Bluntly put, the 26-year-old Alston has the earmarks of a new generation of bad politico.

In his short time at county hall, he and his brother, Corey Alston, who is city manager of tiny South Bay, a farming community south of Lake Okeechobee, have already been accused of a conflict of interest.

It was discovered a few months ago that the Alston Group, a family business on which Torey had previously served as treasurer, was a subcontractor of an outfit that was in line for an airport contract. Worse yet, Torey's then-boss, Al C. Jones, was on the selection committee for the contract.

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Alston with his old boss.
The Alston Group dropped out as a result of that little bombshell, which came in the form of an anonymous communication to the commission. Torey Alston told me he was no longer involved with his family's company during the selection process.

Fine, but it was a big red flag. The guy had barely gotten his feet wet and he was already caught in a miniscandal. Then we find out yesterday that after Al C. Jones lost his election, he gave Alston a raise to match the highest-paid commission aide at the county. It was bad enough that Jones gave him the raise, but Alston should have known that if anyone was going to take him seriously again, he should not have accepted it. He did.

None of this is all that surprising considering Alston's friends. When Torey Alston applied to Crist's office for Eggelletion's job, he listed Dorsey Miller as one of a handful of references. 

Dirty Dorsey! 

Dorsey, like Torey, is a black Republican. That's another red flag. Look, I'm not saying that a black person can't be a legitimate Republican. There are at least eight of them in Broward County from what I hear. But Dorsey was one of those guys who got political appointments because of his race and then tried to personally capitalize on it.

Miller, for those of you who don't know the story, was a highly paid and poorly performing Broward County School Board administrator who decided to start a janitorial service while he was on the public dole. Guess who his first client was? 

Why, the Broward County School Board, of course. Then he got a ridiculous, but very lucrative, contract supplying toilet paper to the North Broward Hospital District. NBHD records show that Miller was a terrible businessman, but he was always good at politics. He became friends with Jeb Bush, who appointed him as commissioner at the district. And the fun was just starting.

As a commissioner, Miller started hollering about hiring more minority contractors. But Miller didn't really champion black-owned companies; instead, he helped steer millions in hospital district money to a company called American Medical Depot, owned by Akhil Agrawal, a wealthy businessman from India who was also a big supporter Jeb Bush.

As he was pushing AMD at the district, Miller was on the company's payroll collecting more than $100,000. He claimed his "consulting work" for Agrawal had nothing to do with drumming up NBHD contracts. 

After I broke the story on Miller's obvious conflict of interest, the State Attorney's Office conducted a lengthy investigation. Alas, that was back in the do-nothing days, and Michael Satz decided not to bring charges. In today's climate, I think Miller would have been toast.

With Miller as his mentor, I hold little hope for Torey Alston as a public servant. And I'm calling for Sharief to find a new chief of staff.*

There's another interesting story to report on the Alston brothers coming soon that will bolster the call.

 

*Actually, they need to drop the "chief of staff" moniker. It's title fraud. When there are only a couple of staffers per commish, calling someone the chief of staff is flat dishonest and misleading. And guess who you can blame for starting that one? Our lovely lady Stacy Ritter. She was the first to start the practice when she gave the title to Ken Pauli earlier this year. Al C. Jones then followed suit by naming Alston his chief of staff, and now Sharief, in another sign of lapsed judgment, has jumped into the fold. Somebody stop these people.

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