Margate political powerhouse and consummate deal maker Jack Tobin died Tuesday at age 69 and will be laid to rest Friday.
Tobin was a former mayor of Margate and a 16-year Florida House member, but foremost, he was a lobbyist.
Below are passages from stories written about Tobin through the years.
The two candidates in this race share many views -- stronger
support for education and crime prevention, handgun control, better services for
the elderly. We recommend Republican Jeanne Faiks because of her independence
and straightforward approach to the issues. Faiks, 64, favors requiring all
property owners to pay at least some tax and supports a state lottery to finance
Former City Commissioner George Liederman received a subpena
Friday to testify before a federal grand jury that is probing whether major
trash haulers band together to keep smaller companies out of South Florida
Schwartz said he believes federal prosecutors are looking for
evidence of bribery, perhaps involving Waste Management, Inc.
"I'm not thrilled about it," State Rep. and former Margate
Tobin said Saturday. Former Commissioners Rick Schwartz and George
Liederman also have been asked to testify, sources said.
A state attorney's investigator spent an hour Friday examining
records of commission meetings in 1979 at which Waste Management, Inc. was given a
contract to provide garbage and trash pickup for the Northwest Broward city of
40,000, city officials said. Investigators also are looking at a 1981 contract
the city made with Envisors Inc. for consulting work on the city's water and
Waste Management also has been part of an 18-month anti- trust
probe by a federal grand jury.
Last year, a federal grand jury quizzed Tobin, Schwartz,
Liederman and current Commissioner Ed Donohue on the commission's 1979 decision
to extend Waste Management's $3.6- million trash-hauling contract with the city
and reject a bid almost $900,000 lower.
State Rep. Jack Tobin, former Margate Mayor George
Liederman and three businessmen were indicted Thursday for paying or receiving
bribes for city garbage and utility contracts, their attorneys said.
The Broward County grand jury also indicted former City
Commissioner and Mayor Liederman; former Margate lobbyist Jack Cory;
Harold "Al" Stocket, a Waste Management executive
who now works for the company in suburban Knoxville, Tenn., and Douglas M.
Darden, president of Envisors Inc. engineering consultants, their attorneys
The names of those officials are contained in a sealed 16-count
indictment delivered after two days of testimony before a Broward grand
Darden and Liederman plan to surrender to authorities today,
their attorneys said. Tobin, Cory and Stocket plan to turn themselves in Monday,
their attorneys said.
Each count in the indictment is a felony punishable by up to five
years in prison and $5,000 in fines. A spokesman for Gov. Bob Graham's legal
office said it is customary for the governor to suspend any public official who
... Tobin, 42, was first elected to the Margate City Commission in
1979. After serving two years as Margate mayor and vice mayor, he won a seat in the
state House of Representatives in 1982.
State Rep. Jack Tobin, charged with trading votes for cash as
a Margate city commissioner, surrendered to Broward
sheriff's deputies Monday and vowed to run for re-election this fall.
Wearing a blue Florida necktie, the 42-year-old Democratic
lawmaker said he received hundreds of phone calls over the weekend supporting
his campaign for a second term.
"I'm not boasting, but my phone hasn't stopped ringing off the
hook with praise," said Tobin, charged with accepting six bribes from 1979 to
1981. "I'm getting calls from constituents, legislators and people who I haven't
heard from in years.
"There will be no more crying. That's it, it's all over," he said while grasping his wife and two teen-age children in an emotional bear hug. "The tears are over. Let's move ahead."
Before television camera lights and a cheering crowd of family and friends, many of them sobbing, Tobin said: "I felt all along that the charges were false.
"And I'm flabbergasted that the U.S. Justice Department and the state attorney's office would try to convict an honest politician while there is rape and drugs to clean up on the streets."
Tobin was charged with taking cash for his votes on six city projects and ordinances while a Margate commissioner between 1979 and 1981.
Indicted with him on June 14 were former Margate commissioner George Liederman, Waste Management Inc. official Harold Stockett, lobbyist Jack Cory and Envisors Inc. president Douglas Darden.
|October 24, 1984, Miami Herald |
Moments after a jury judged him not guilty of bribery charges last Friday, state Rep. Jack Tobin was steering the family car toward Margate's Temple Beth Am.
He knew friends from all the old neighborhoods would be gathering at his house, but they would have to wait.
First, Jack Tobin wanted to pray.
Rabbi Paul Plotkin recalls what happened when Tobin, his wife, Leslie, and children David and Lauren slipped in the back door halfway through sabbath services:
"There was a commotion by the door. A couple of people just stood up and embraced somebody. Then I saw Jack breaking away and walking down the side aisle. You know what a huggly, teddy- bear kind of person he is. He had a big smile on his face. He just raised his hand with his thumb up and I knew.
"I said, 'Ladies and gentlemen, we have something more to rejoice today. One of our own who we knew to be innocent has been absolved.'
"Then everyone started cheering, which is very unusual in the middle of a service. It was very emotional. Personally, I was holding back the tears."
The rejoicing continued this week for Tobin as the 42-year- old Margate Democrat regained his job and renewed his campaign for re-election to his District 88 House seat. He faces a challenge Nov. 6 from Republican Jeanne Faiks.
Since Friday night, Tobin has been in a whirl of parties and congratulatory celebrations: a spontaneous bash at his house that lasted until 3 a.m. Saturday; standing-ovation appearances at the Century Village Democratic Club in Deerfield, the Margate Kiwanis Club, and the Palm Springs II Men's Club; a triumphant return to his old office at Commonwealth Savings and Loan Association in Fort Lauderdale, and a surprise cake from the Margate Democratic Club, bearing the sugary inscription, "Good Luck Jack."
|Tobin on the job with Lippman, far left|
May 29, 1989, Miami Herald
He's no Wall Street wizard, but state Rep. Jack Tobin knows why an investment banking firm hired him:
He's a legislator. He knows influential people, including city and county commissioners who decide which companies receive bond business.
That's business as usual in Florida's part-time Legislature, where public office provides a perfectly legal calling card to private employment. It raises an old question, too: whether legislators should be allowed to use their elected positions to enrich themselves.
"Are they going to hire an unknown? Are they going to hire Joe Blow? No," said Tobin, 47, a Margate Democrat. "They're going to hire somebody that's well-known. People like to do business with who they know."
Tobin, who lost his job with a troubled savings and loan company early this year, formed his own lobbying and public relations firm in March. Soon, he had his first client: Southeastern Municipal Bonds, a regional investment banking firm with offices in Orlando and Fort Lauderdale.
Southeastern was subsequently chosen by the Broward County Commission and School Board to manage bond issues. Both county boards had begun reviewing bond firms' applications by the time Tobin was hired.
Tobin contacted one county commissioner, Scott Cowan, and several school board members on Southeastern's behalf. But the board members said Tobin's connection and contacts did not influence their decision. What matters, they said, is a company's track record and its presentation.
Southeastern pays Tobin $4,000 a month plus commissions to represent them.
... "There's no question Southeastern
hired me because I'm Jack Tobin, state representative. They didn't hire
me because I'm an expert in bonds. It's very hard to separate the two."
... To date, Southeastern is his only client, Tobin said. But after
he formed his company, he said he asked a number of Broward interests about
becoming clients. They included Alamo Rent A Car and Nova University -- both of
which had bills pending this session -- a new Margate car dealership, and
None hired him, but Tobin predicted that when the session ends, he will get more clients. He plans to talk to Alamo and Nova after the session but has not done so during session, he said.
This session, Tobin aggressively worked to defeat a bill Alamo opposed that would have restricted sale of expensive collision-damage waivers, but he said he did so because Alamo is a major local employer -- not because it is a potential client.
... The law requires annual reporting of sources of income, and Tobin is paid by his firm, Jack Tobin & Associates.
The company consists of Tobin as president and his wife Lesley as secretary-treasurer and is run from their Margate home, using a separate telephone line connected to a 24-hour answering service.
On his 1988 financial disclosure form, Tobin listed a net worth of $132,000, including homes in Margate and Tallahassee.
After eight years at Commonwealth Savings & Loan, Tobin lost his $55,000-a-year job as vice president for community relations in January when the financially troubled S&L drastically reduced overhead. He had built a reputation for effectively organizing breakfasts for retirees so they would open accounts and obtain mortgages at Commonwealth. Citizens' legislature
The Florida Constitution prohibits legislators from lobbying the Legislature and state agencies because they have direct power over state spending and policy. But they can lobby local governments and many do.
"The world perception is that a strong political name can help open doors that would otherwise not be open," said County Commissioner Nicki Grossman.
February 20, 1993, Miami Herald
When Rep. Mike Abrams of North Miami Beach went looking for bond
business in Margate, he hired a colleague -- Broward Rep. Jack
Tobin, a former Margate mayor -- to help persuade city
Tobin the legislator became Tobin the lobbyist. And he collected
his share of the deal last month -- $15,000 -- after commissioners hired Abrams'
company to handle a bond refinancing.
"It's what I do for a living," said Tobin, a Democrat whose
husband-wife public relations firm represents developers, a car dealer and
"When I represent any client before any municipality, I make it
very clear: I want them to judge who gets the business based on the best deal,
not because I'm representing them."
... The refinancing of $19 million worth of 1985 Margate water and
sewer bonds could save the city about $800,000 through lower interest rates.
Commissioners approved the refinancing in December, awarding the work jointly to
underwriters Clayton Brown and Guzman & Co. of Miami. Abrams said he could
not recall what his firm's fees were.
Tobin now is lobbying the city on behalf of Minto Builders for
a rezoning to allow a miniature golf course, driving range and arcade. His dual
roles are troubling to Pamela Donovan, a Margate commissioner who publishes a
"I feel it's unethical, in his position, that he lobbies for
everything," Donovan said. "If he were no longer a state representative, he
would no longer be of use to a lot of people."
|Tobin with Bob Butterworth|
March 21, 1993
State Rep. Jack Tobin, speaking for the first time about an ethics complaint against him, charged on Friday that he was being set up by a political enemy out to smear him.
Tobin, D-Margate, is the target of a two-week-old investigation by the state Commission on Ethics on whether he used his legislative office for his lobbying business.
State law required Tobin to formally waive the confidentiality of the investigation before commenting.'I was set up for political reasons. I never did it,'' Tobin said.
Tobin was accused by Bob Franklin, a Margate Planning and Zoning Board member, of using his legislative office in Coconut Creek to lobby for Minto Builders.
Franklin said he went to the legislative office last month, where Tobin spent an hour trying to persuade him to support a 14.5-acre video arcade and entertainment center project.
The project passed the zoning board 4 to 2, with Franklin voting against it. It was later rejected by the Margate City Commission, which feared it would draw teen-age gangs.
Both men agreed that the Minto project was discussed at the legislative office. Tobin contended that Franklin set him up.
''He called my office and said he wanted to see me,'' Tobin said. ''He has seen me on many issues before and my secretary didn't ask why he was coming in.
''He came in the office and immediately began talking about the project. He talked about it for an hour. He set me up.''
Franklin was a political opponent, Tobin said.
''I hate to say what Mr. Tobin is full of,'' Franklin said on Saturday. ''If he didn't want to talk about Minto in a state office, why didn't he take the discussion outside. He violated the law.''
If found guilty of a violation, Tobin could be removed from office, suspended or fined up to $ 5,000. The legislator vowed he will be cleared of any charges.
[Tobin was acquitted of all charges.]
September 3, 1993
Two prominent Broward County legislators were fined Friday after
pleading no contest to misdemeanor charges of accepting gifts from lobbyists and
not disclosing them.
Reps. Fred Lippman, D-Hollywood, and Jack Tobin, D-Margate, were
fined $250 each in addition to $75 in court costs.
As part of the agreement with prosecutors in Tallahassee, neither
politician will have a permanent record.
"It's a rehash of old stuff," Lippman said. "It's highly
technical and highly administrative. The thing to do is just put it behind
Tobin was traveling and could not be reached for comment.
The plea agreement, filed Friday in Leon County Circuit Court,
ends a four-year investigation of illegal gifts and trips by lawmakers that
tarnished the Legislature's image and prompted changes in the gift-disclosure
In all, 26 current or former lawmakers admitted taking hunting
vacations, Paris excursions, shopping sprees and jaunts to football and
basketball games from lobbyists for major utilities, insurance companies and
other powerful interests.
The gifts and trips themselves were legal at the time, as long as
the politicians reported them on a disclosure form. They didn't.
According to prosecutors, Lippman, traveling at his own expense
in San Francisco and New York in 1988, accepted two days of unreported hotel
accommodations and other expenses from lobbyists Henry Vinson and Jim Woodruff
of Tampa Electric Co.
On the same San Francisco trip, Tobin also accepted a $198
airline trip to a legislative conference in Reno.
The state said Tobin also accepted free air fare, hotel rooms and
other expenses from Vinson and Woodruff that he never disclosed.
July 6, 1995, Miami Herald
State Rep. Jack Tobin pocketed $20,572 for a half-hour of work -- but then forgot to tell the IRS about it and denied getting the money when first questioned about it under oath.
Tobin, now a witness in a pending civil case, said he recently filed an amended 1994 federal income tax return and state financial disclosure forms, as required by Florida law, to list the payment.
But the easy money Tobin made from a friend's pay-phone company raises new questions about his dual role as a lawmaker-lobbyist and might never have surfaced if not for a lawsuit between two rival cellular phone companies set for trial this month in Miami.
Tobin, 56, is in the final months of a 16-year political career that has taken him from the depths of a 1984 bribery indictment to the pinnacle of influence as a chairman of a House telecommunications committee....
"That's what I do for a living. I'm a rainmaker," Tobin, D-Margate, said in an interview. "I put people together."
... According to Tobin's deposition in the civil suit, a friend called seven years ago and asked for Tobin's help in arranging an appointment. The friend was Jeffrey Hanft, chief executive of Peoples Telephone of Miami, which was seeking a contract with Alamo Rent a Car of Fort Lauderdale to put cellular phones in Alamo's cars.
As Hanft knew, Alamo employed Tobin at that time in a part-time marketing job. But because Tobin had never met the Alamo executive Hanft wanted to meet with, he had to call another Alamo official to arrange the meeting.
Tobin attended a half-hour meeting in Alamo's offices in the 110 Tower in Fort Lauderdale in November 1991 and said he never again heard a word about the rental-car cell-phone deal until the check arrived in the mail in 1994. The check put Tobin on both sides of the same transaction.
The meeting led to a three-year exclusive contract between Peoples' cellular unit, Carifone Cellular Phone Rental, and Alamo. Peoples said the deal was worth $15 million.
A Peoples competitor, Cellular World, says in the civil lawsuit that it was already negotiating with Alamo, and that as a result of Tobin's efforts, Peoples "usurped" Cellular World's "advantageous business relationship with Alamo Rent a Car." ...
Tobin says that because he was not retained by Peoples, he was never under any legal obligation to disclose a potential conflict of interest.
But Tobin's son, David, was employed as assistant general counsel for the firm in 1993, a time when Peoples was lobbying Tobin and other lawmakers on telecommunications issues.
Because of that, Tobin did file a conflict of interest form with the House clerk, disclosing his son's employment at Peoples Telephone.
Tobin's role as a "rainmaker" has been scrutinized repeatedly over the years, and most politicians across Florida are keenly aware of the risks involved in failing to report outside income. ...
Tobin said he recently instructed his accountants to file an amended 1040 federal income tax form for 1994 to account for the Peoples fee. His attorney, Edward McGee of Fort Lauderdale, said Tobin was assessed about $11,000 in IRS penalties....
In his second deposition, on May 4 of this year, Tobin said: "I didn't have any recollection of being paid whatsoever. When I originally set up the meeting, it was a courtesy to Jeff, who was a friend of mine. . . . There was never a discussion of any payment, any fee for setting up the meeting."
Later, Tobin was asked: "And you simply forgot it?"
"Yes," Tobin said.
"And you forgot to declare it on your personal income tax?"
"Only because I did not receive a 1099 [tax form]," Tobin said.
In the first deposition, Tobin testified that he never expected any money from Peoples because setting up the meeting was "a friendship, courtesy thing."
Tobin's memory improved dramatically by his second deposition, when he testified that Hanft had told him: "If this thing works out, you will be paid for it or I will be able to compensate you."
In Tobin's case, a nagging question is how somebody could "forget" a check for $20,572.
"I can't tell you why I forgot it," Tobin said. "I just completely forgot about it, but I made all the corrections." ...
Asked to produce records of bills to clients, Tobin said he didn't have any records: "I automatically get paid every month without having to send any bills."
He said he did not withhold testimony in his first deposition, but simply did not remember getting the money.
"I absolutely did not maliciously, willfully or intentionally withhold any information," Tobin said in an interview. "I'll swear on a stack of Bibles. That's why I corrected my deposition. . . . If I was trying to hide $20,000, why would I go and deposit it in my account?"
Attorneys for Cellular World aren't so sure.
In a motion filed with Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Robert Kaye, Cellular World attorney Ronald Weil cited Tobin's "false testimony" as grounds for a finding in the company's favor without a trial.
Kaye has not ruled on the motion.
"Tobin's testimony is a litany of implausible fabrications and excuses for his prior false testimony," Weil argued. ...
In the second deposition, Weil asked Tobin: "How did you get to be so lucky where you just get a check out of the blue in the mail for $20,500?"
"Live a good clean life," Tobin said.
|Tobin with Anne MacKenzie and Debbie Sanderson|
July 20, 1995, Miami Herald
As a state legislator, Rep. Jack Tobin co-sponsored a controversial bill this
spring that rewrote the state's telephone and cable television laws.
As a private lobbyist, Tobin is now using his political
connections and knowledge of the telecommunications industry to help TCI of
South Florida negotiate a cable television franchise agreement with the city of
Tobin, a Margate Democrat, has met privately with Hollywood city
commissioners and the city manager on behalf of TCI.
His work might not be a violation of the state conflict-of-
interest laws, but the appearance of conflict has raised concerns among some
city officials and consumer advocates.
"I find it
very uncomfortable," Mayor Mara Giulianti said. "Unless they change the system,
the legislators get away with a lot of things that we can't."
Tobin doesn't see a problem. Lobbying local governments on
behalf of private clients is how he supplements the $23,000 a year he is paid as
a part-time legislator, he said.
"I open doors for people and I help them," said Tobin, who chairs
the House Business and Professional Regulation Committee. "They're not going to
hire someone who doesn't know the industry."
July 23, 1995, Sun-Sentinel
A handful of Florida part-time legislators are cashing in full-time on the
That's the picture of Broward County politics made clear by 1994
financial disclosure documents of income and net worth. The forms, filed by
elected officials, were released last week in Tallahassee.
For instance, state Sen. Howard Forman and state Reps. Jack
and Steven Geller are lobbyists whose state positions help
ease their way into the offices of other officials.
''We only get $ 22,000 a year as a legislator. So we all have to make a
living,'' said Tobin, D-Margate. ''Unless we are retired, housewives or
personally wealthy, we all have to do something.''
Likewise, County Commissioner John Rodstrom helps sell bonds to
local governments throughout Florida. County Commissioner Scott Cowan combs
South Florida government buildings for clients for his employer, a big Fort
Lauderdale law firm.
Tobin is mentioned as one who lives off the political system,
something he readily admits.
He has the most lucrative lobbying
Broward politicians. His Jack Tobin
& Associates had an income of $
118,400 last year from clients ranging from Nova Southeastern University to Mid
City Corp., a Margate developer.
''Is it an advantage I am Jack Tobin,
I am looking for work? Absolutely,'' Tobin said. ''Do I get access that others
can't get? Absolutely.''
And Tobin's lobbying
- getting paid to influence legislation
and government decisions - is a job some people call a conflict of interest for
an office holder.
''What Tobin does smells. It appears to be a conflict,'' said
Walter Browne, the Federation of Public Employees union president who has been
lobbied by Tobin in the past as a member of school board committees and the
now-defunct Port Everglades Commission.
July 31, 1995, Sun-Sentinel
Florida law generally erects a high wall against conflicts of interest involving public officials. But not always.
Unfortunately, there is a gaping loophole in the law. It lets elected officials also work as paid lobbyists, if they don't lobby their own agency.
That's too lax, legalizing behavior that ideally ought to be banned as a blatant ethical, professional and financial conflict.
State Sen. Howard Forman, D-Pembroke Pines, and state Reps. Steve Geller, D-Hallandale, and Jack Tobin, D-Margate, are all lobbyists whose elected positions help them make money by influencing other government agencies in Florida.
These dual roles emit a foul stench of impropriety, however officials try to mask it with a flowery spray of legality. In theory, aren't lobbyists supposed to be outsiders paid to influence decision-making by insiders? Doesn't blurring those lines invite abuse? Isn't "legislator-lobbyist" a contradictory and incongruous term? Yes, yes and yes.
You don't have to be a political scientist or have a doctorate in ethics to feel squeamish about such divided loyalties and the related potential for corruption, loss of integrity and harm to public confidence in government.
Tobin is lobbying the School Board to shift an eye care insurance contract to Optiplan. He sees nothing wrong with his double role, which brought his lobbying company $ 118,400 last year.
July 28, 1997, Miami Herald
-- the state senator who's
also a marketing consultant -- enjoyed the best financial year of his life in
After a string of lean years in which he barely kept afloat, the
Pembroke Pines Democrat earned $304,000, mostly in fees for his role in securing
two billboards facing Interstate 95 in Hallandale. Forman said he and business
associate Jim Tate sold both billboards to H. Wayne Huizenga's Republic
"I had a couple of big deals that bore fruit in 1996, so my
income was higher," Forman said. "But I certainly don't consider myself a
... The net worth of Broward elected officials ranges from state Sen.
Walter "Skip" Campbell, D-Coral Springs, a trial lawyer who's worth $8.8 million
and has an extensive stock and mutual fund portfolio, to state Rep. Debbie
Wasserman Schultz, D-Davie, a graduate studies adviser at Nova Southeastern
University, whose net worth is $76,400. The figure may be less than many of her
constituents in Southwest Broward.
"I'm still the pauper of the legislative delegation," the
30-year-old Wasserman Schultz joked. "I'm a woman of the people."
Wasserman Schultz is one of seven Broward politicians with
financial ties to Nova, the only four-year university based in Broward.
Nova also employs two School Board members, Bob Parks and Don
Samuels, as faculty members, and a third, Chairman Abe Fischler, who is the
university's president emeritus. State Rep. Fred Lippman, D-Hollywood, a
pharmacist, earns a $118,000 salary as a university chancellor, and Rep. Jack
Tobin, D-Margate, does marketing and public relations work for the
Two state legislators, Sen. Matthew Meadows and Rep. Josephus
Eggelletion Jr., work for the Broward County School District when they're not in
... County Commissioner Scott Cowan earned nearly $80,000 last year,
in addition to his $60,669 County Commission salary, to help attract clients to
a Fort Lauderdale law firm, Atlas, Pearlman, Trop & Borkson. Cowan also
received $10,000 to help a ministorage firm, BMS of Broward, win zoning
approvals in Tamarac. ...
Tobin, the Margate Democrat who years ago saw the
income-generating potential in his political skills, earned $125,000 as a
marketing consultant for a string of clients, including Nova Southeastern, the
Florida Pay Telephone Association and Cambridge Medical Center.
Tobin and his wife, Lesley, oversaw construction of a Cambridge
walk-in health clinic on the grounds of the Century Village retirement complex
in Deerfield Beach.
April 10, 2001, Miami Herald
Sometimes ... state legislators show up at city
commissions to lobby on behalf of commercial interests. In 1999, for example,
then-state Sen. Howard Forman (since elected Broward Clerk of
Courts), showed up at a Pembroke Pines City Commission meeting to lobby for a
land-use change for his client, Carl's Furniture. And what sane city commission
would say no to Howard?
A famous conglomeration of lobbying legislators clamored before
the Broward School Board in 1995. Companies bidding for fat school health
insurance contracts hired, among other lobbyists, Forman's wife and state Reps.
Steve Geller and Jack Tobin (who was partnering with state Rep.
Yet, up in Tallahassee, South Florida towns need $1.62 million
worth of different lobbyists to see about local interests. (Not counting
whatever the Broward and Miami-Dade school boards and county commissions are
paying for their particular army of lobbyists.) Juxtapose that $1.62 million
against the $1.2 million a year in pay collected by the 42 representatives and
senators from the two counties.
We're paying two different gangs well over a million bucks a year
each for the same service. If the legislators can't see about our interests by
themselves, then maybe we can get by sending just the fellows in expensive
suits.April 28, 1998, Miami Herald
State Rep. Jack Tobin, whose appetite for political clout was matched only by his zest for good food, Monday became the second senior Broward legislator to retire in less than a week.
Tobin, 56, a Margate Democrat, choked back tears as he announced from the House floor that he would not run when his current term expires. He will join a close friend, 20-year House veteran Fred Lippman of Hollywood, in leaving two years before the reality of term limits would have forced their exits.
Like Lippman, Tobin was a colorful, sometimes controversial lawmaker who brought a taste of the Borscht Belt to the good-ol'-boy Capitol -- as he did Monday when he talked about a retirement spent fishing in the Keys.
"This little Jewish kid from the Bronx tries to fish, but I only catch minnows," Tobin said.
A liberal Democrat with a loyal political base, Tobin made the leap from Margate city politics to Tallahassee in 1982 when legislative districts were radically redrawn to reflect West Broward's condo boom. He was a consistent champion of issues affecting his elderly constituents, such as Alzheimer's patient care and Medicare protection, and he played mediator in the many disputes involving state-regulated professionals, from harbor pilots to interior designers.
An experienced voice on such thorny issues as annexation, Tobin was a steadying force on the Broward legislative delegation, which is slowly but surely losing its seniority as term limits draw near.
With his wisecracking style and cozy connections to lobbyists, Tobin personified the so-called "Broward Mafia" that unabashedly exercised power to bring home pork-barrel projects and reward lobbyist friends in the late 1980s and early '90s.
An open-bar 1995 feast at The Wharf seafood restaurant, with telecommunication lobbyists picking up the tab for Tobin's committee the night before a key vote on a bill deregulating phone services, has become a part of Tallahassee's political lore.
Lippman started a speech about Tobin by calling him "someone who has grabbed headlines because of his voracious appetite."
But Tobin, who also would later help line up the votes to block a House speaker from imposing a ban on lobbyist-paid meals, said critics of wining and dining had it all wrong.
"There's an old saying," Tobin said then. "If you can't eat their food and drink their liquor and vote against their stuff, you don't belong here."
Tobin, and lobbying, go hand in hand. While in the House, Tobin himself became a lobbyist, opening doors of city and county halls for private clients for a fee. Jack Tobin & Associates grossed $125,000 last year. He said he planned to work full time at lobbying when he leaves the House, but under the Florida Constitution he must now wait two years before lobbying the Legislature.
By retiring now, Tobin gains a head start on other veteran lawmakers who may also plan to begin a second career as lobbyists.
"I will not be gone long, because I hope to be out in the halls by the year 2000," he said.
October 9, 2009, Margate News
Known for being too cozy with lobbyists, Tobin resigned from his state seat in 1998, surfacing two years later as a lobbyist himself and eventually jockeying the City of Margate as a client.
Since, Tobin has provided campaign backing for many a Margate City Commissioner - commissioners who Tobin parades private clients before in search of incentives which, if granted, become profitable ventures for Tobin and his company, Jack Tobin and Associates.
Margate City Attorney, Eugene Steinfeld, recently stated that Tobin's contract was amended in 2005 to provide for such conflict of interest. Conflict of interest in that Tobin is paid by Margate taxpayers to lobby for the well-being of the City before state lawmakers in Tallahassee, while at the same time profiting from Margate taxpayers through persuading City Commissioners (both directly and indirectly ) to favor his client's private interests.
Case in point - Tobin recently got city officials to completely rezone the old Aztec mobile home park on State Road 7 to accommodate his client, Aztec RV Resort Inc., a group of Canadian investors with plans to construct over 600 Class A luxury RV sites on the 102-acre parcel.
Tobin, a Class A luxury RV owner himself, must have been paid handsomely by Aztec RV Resort Inc. to close the $40 million deal. Maybe a luxury RV lot soon to be valued at $100,000 or more. Then of course there are the four of five city commissioners who hastily approved the project on behalf of Margate taxpayers with no financial guarantee that the Canadian investors actually had the capital to move the project forward or properly market the project to ensure viability.
Keep in mind Tobin is the same lobbyist who facilitated the displacement of hundreds of Margate residents from their homes two years ago when he came before Margate Commissioners on behalf of UniProp Manufactured Homes, owners of the Aztec Mobile Home Park and a company with profitable plans for a 700-plus unit townhome project which Margate commissioners approved. The project fell through and hundreds of Margate residents were carelessly evicted from their homes - residents who counted on elected officials to support them, not expedite their eviction.
To this day, Tobin threatens would-be candidates for Margate City Commission with 'black-balling' and name calling. He's just short of being disrespectful to commissioners in chambers and is most certainly disrespectful to residents who disagree with his point of view. Behavior unfitting of a lobbyist paid by taxpayers to represent their best interest.
One Margate City Commissioner said that the reason Tobin's contact was amended and renewed in 2005 was because Jack needed clients, not because he was doing the city any good. Might I add that the 40K a year Tobin is paid by taxpayers might better serve Parks & Rec initiatives in the City.
Lobbyists like Tobin are bad news for Margatonians -- and we have only ourselves to blame.
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