A city commissioner with a long history of criminal behavior is the latest of several public officials to get convicted in a notorious south Florida hotbed of political corruption that’s even seen its county sheriff go to jail.
The latest elected official to go down in Broward County is Miramar City Commissioner Fitzroy Salesman who this week was found guilty of extortion and bribery for his role in a play-to-play scheme. The scandal-plagued politician took thousands of dollars from federal agents posing as contractors in exchange for steering city business their way.
Salesman had previously been suspended twice after being charged with unrelated federal crimes and was separately charged with drunken driving and speeding. Last spring Salesman, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Jamaica, was convicted of a firearms charge for waving his gun in a grocery store during a disagreement with a customer.
He was one of three elected officials busted in this latest corruption scheme. The other two—a county commissioner and a school board member—reached plea agreements with federal prosecutors to avoid lengthy jail sentences but Salesman gambled with a jury and faces six decades in jail. The other two got sentences of 2 ½ to 3 years.
Their scheme is simply the latest of many public corruption scandals in a fraud-infested county run by crooked officials. Among the recent cases are a county commissioner who pleaded guilty to bribery and money laundering, a four-term mayor awaiting trial for bribery and a city commissioner charged with grand theft, and falsifying public records.
A few years ago Broward’s elected sheriff, a one-time Democratic state senator, went to jail for tax evasion and mail fraud conspiracy involving money and other favors that he illegally took from vendors who did business with his county office, which has 6,300 employees and an annual budget of $700 million.
Broward County is hardly the only problem area in the Sunshine State. Public corruption is so widespread throughout Florida that last fall the governor petitioned the state’s Supreme Court to impanel a special grand jury to investigate the crisis. Since taking office in 2007 the governor has removed dozens of public officials from office for crimes including bribery, extortion, murder, prostitution, burglary, racketeering and drug offenses.