Florida has become the corruption capital of America

Arrests of 3 Mayors Reinforce Florida’s Notoriety as a Hothouse for Corruption
By NICK MADIGAN
Published: September 1, 2013
handcuffs2HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Even by Florida standards, the arrests of three suburban Miami mayors on corruption charges within a month were a source of dismay, if not exactly a surprise.
State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle displayed evidence last week after the arrest of Mayor Steven C. Bateman of Homestead, Fla.
The mayors of Sweetwater and Miami Lakes were also charged with corruption in August.
On Wednesday, Steven C. Bateman, 58, the mayor of Homestead, was arrested. He is accused of accepting under-the-table payments from a health care company that sought to build a clinic in town, the state attorney’s office for Miami-Dade County said. Mr. Bateman was turned in by City Council members and staff, said employees interviewed Friday at City Hall.
On Aug. 6, Manuel L. Maroño, 41, the mayor of Sweetwater and president of the Florida League of Cities, and Michael A. Pizzi, 51, the Miami Lakes mayor, were picked up along with two lobbyists. The United States attorney’s office has accused them of involvement in kickback and bribery schemes concerning federal grants.
Prosecutors said Mr. Maroño had received more than $40,000 in bribes and Mr. Pizzi $6,750. The defendants, who were targets of an F.B.I. sting operation, are charged with “conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right” and could face 20 years in prison if convicted.
Gov. Rick Scott suspended all three mayors while the criminal cases proceed.
“We bought the trifecta,” said Carla Miller, the ethics officer for Jacksonville and a former federal prosecutor. “It’s bad when three mayors get led out in handcuffs. What’s left of the public trust gets ground into little pieces.”
Not that such situations are unusual in Florida, which led the country in convictions of public officials — 781 — between 2000 and 2010, according to Department of Justice figures.
Florida has become the corruption capital of America,” said Dan Krassner, the executive director of a watchdog group, Integrity Florida, citing statistics going back to 1976 and the “significant number of public officials arrested this year and last.”
read more via:   Arrests of 3 Mayors Reinforce Florida’s Notoriety as a Hothouse for Corruption – NYTimes.com.

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