Bob Norman's Greatest Hits
It is with mixed emotions that we announce Bob is leaving New Times to become a television news reporter at Channel 10 (WPLG-TV). There, we're sure he will continue to hound politicians, catch con men, and keep a close eye on how your tax dollars are spent. Except he'll be doing it in some sort of Anchorman getup instead of jeans and a tropical shirt.
In the great journalistic tradition of afflicting the comfortable, Bob's reporting has sent many a greedy politician to jail and annoyed a fair share of others. He has scooped up more fancy awards than we have time to count and has even written a book, Florida Pulp Nonfiction. (You should buy it.)
Thanks, Bob, for all your years of muckraking. What can we say besides we're looking forward to catching your (passably) handsome mug on the tube, and you'll always have an honorary seat at the bar.
Readers, we hope you'll continue following us as Norman's departure leaves a (giant) space for our other reporters to shine. Keep your eyes right here.
Without further ado, here are a few of Bob's most notable story lines. We swear, you couldn't make this stuff up.
In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, Norman reported on chronic failures of the federal Immigration and Naturalization Services department. Mistakes made here in South Florida led to Mohamed Atta's being allowed into the U.S. -- to subsequently live in Broward County and train at Florida flight schools -- when he should have been deported. For that reporting, Tom Brokaw presented Norman with a prestigious Livingston Award for Young Journalists in 2002.
Norman's reporting revealed how city officials involved with a $25 million water treatment plant endangered the populace by ignoring problems with the city water supply, then tried to cover up their wrongdoings. By the time it was over, the city's director of public works and chief scientist were fired.
After Hollywood commissioner Keith Wasserstrom eagerly touted the Schwing Bioset wastewater treatment company on the dais, Norman interviewed and asked him some very direct questions, including, "Are you going to personally profit in this deal?" Wasserstrom answered them truthfully, basically supplying Norman a convoluted "yes," admitting that he was going to lobby for the company in other municipalities. That column led to a state investigation, felony charges, and a jury conviction for Wasserstrom. It was the first time a jury had convicted a politician in Broward County in more than three decades.
Southwest Ranches and Diana Wasserman-Rubin
Of all the rocks Norman has turned over in Broward County, one of the worst nests of corruption he found was in an unlikely place: little Southwest Ranches. It was there that an entire cast of profiteers were gaming the town for millions, including then Broward County Mayor Diana Wasserman-Rubin's husband, Richard Rubin. During the course of his investigation, Norman discovered that Wasserman-Rubin had voted on grants written by her husband that led to tens of thousands of dollars in bonuses paid to him by the tiny town. That conflict of interest led to a state ethics conviction and, just last year, to criminal charges filed against Wasserman-Rubin. She awaits trial, while her husband recently pleaded guilty to a federal tax evasion charge -- another offshoot of the New Times investigation.
When Norman began investigating Deerfield Beach Mayor Al Cappellini's curious habit of going to men's room whenever certain legislation came up for a vote, he uncovered a whole lot more -- namely, that Capellini had conflicts of interest galore. Following up on one of Norman's reports, the State Attorney's Office charged Cappellini with felony corruption counts. Capellini, who was suspended by the governor and awaits trial, still maintains it was only "nature calling."
Ana Gardiner was Broward County's chief criminal judge presiding over a gruesome murder trial. Howard Scheinberg was the prosecutor trying to put the accused man in jail. Despite the fact that the defendant's future hung in the balance, Gardiner and Scheinberg were carrying on what investigators would later call a "close personal relationship," exchanging 471 texts and 949 phone calls in 155 days. The investigaton was prompted only after Bob Norman broke the story wide open. Eventually, the defendant got a new trial, Scheinberg resigned from the State Attorney's office, and Gardiner resigned from the bench to escape getting slapped with official charges.
Judge Larry Seidlin
Judge Larry became a nationally known personality (and laughingstock) when he started shedding tears while presiding over a case relating to bombshell Anna Nicole Smith after she died at the Hard Rock Hotel. Shortly afterward, Norman broke the news that, at home, Seidlin was soaking a wealthy elderly neighbor for tens of thousands of dollars, signing over land to him and even funding his daughter's private school tuition. Eventually, the woman's family filed a lawsuit against Seidlin. Seidlin hasn't gotten the Judge Judy-style TV show he'd been angling for, though he's promoting a show called Psychic Court right now.
Before flashy attorney Scott Rothstein was unveiled as orchestrator of a $1.4 billion Ponzi sceme, he had built a huge law firm and thrown millions of dollars around like nickels. But a full year before his scam was exposed, Norman sensed that the emperor might not be wearing any clothes and wrote his prescient "House of Cards" column that all but predicted the coming calamity. After that, Norman remained a thorn in Rothstein's side, prompting the attorney to threaten to destroy Norman and his family. When the moment of reckoning arrived and Rothstein sensed that his phony life was about to crumble, he fled to Morocco in a spectacular meltdown. Bob broke the news in a midnight posting. He owned the story -- one of the most captivating sagas in Broward history that tainted a wide range of law enforcement officers and power players -- posting daily revelations as details unfolded in soap-opera fashion over nearly a year. Rothstein ended up with a 50-year sentence, and his investors are still trying to claw back their money.
Broward County School Board
For years, Norman was a virtual one-man band when it came to uncovering political wrongdoing in Broward. Then the feds stepped in and began a sting operation that would bring down two of Norman's regular targets -- County Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion and School Board member Beverly Gallagher. Norman, with the help of excellent sources, then set his sights on the Broward County School Board, exposing the fact that hundreds of millions of dollars were wasted by the board as it rushed to give unnecessary contracts to the school builders and lobbyists who financed and ran their campaigns. Much of his work was basically reprinted recently in the scathing grand jury report on Broward County schools that led to the resignation of Supt. Jim Notter. Before that, Norman broke the story that School Board member Stephanie Kraft's husband, Mitch, was secretly on the payroll of lobbyist Neil Sterling at the same time Kraft was steering a $1.7 health insurance contract to Vista Health, one of Sterling's clients. He also learned that Mitch Kraft was on the payroll of Tamarac developers Bruce and Shawn Chait at the time she was pushing the board to reduce a mitigation fee for the Chaits by $500,000. Kraft currently awaits criminal charges on the latter case.