FORT LAUDERDALE — Samuel Denoms, the former director of a federally funded city crime prevention program, was fired from his parks and recreation department job this week after his violent criminal past surfaced.
Denoms did not reveal to the city upon his hiring that he was convicted, among other things, of voluntary manslaughter in Chicago for strangling a prostitute in the mid-1960s.
“This is to notify you that your full-time temporary employment as an Administrative Assistant I in the Parks and Recreation Department with the City of Fort Lauderdale is terminated, effective immediately,” states a certified letter from city Parks and Recreation Director Phil Thornburg, dated Tuesday, March 9.
Denoms did not respond to messages from the South Florida Times on his cell phone, and there was no answer to repeated calls to his home.
The letter the city sent to Denoms does not reveal the reasons for his termination, but city hall sources close to the matter who requested anonymity say Denoms was fired because he allegedly falsified his job application, which asked if he had ever been arrested or convicted of a crime. Denoms answered that he had not been arrested or convicted of a crime.
“[Sam] Denoms was admitted to the IL DOC [Illinois Department of Corrections] on 8/13/65 for voluntary manslaughter-he was paroled on 5/15/69,” confirmed Januari Smith, communication manager for the Illinois Department of Corrections, in a March 11 email sent to the newspaper.
“He was again admitted on 7/2/71 for armed robbery and paroled on 1/21/73,” the email stated.
Denoms was charged with murder in the strangling of a prostitute in a Chicago motel in 1964, but he plea bargained to a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter.
In addition to his duties overseeing some facilities in the Parks & Recreation Department, Denoms, 67, is also the former director of the city of Fort Lauderdale’s federally funded Weed & Seed rehabilitation programs.
When asked for the length of time Denoms served as the city’s Weed and Seed program director, Acting City Communications Director Chaz Adams said in an email, “Sam worked as an Administrative Assistant II for what was then the Planning and Economic Development Department from 1997 – 2002.”
But city records and countless media reports about the program Denoms managed confirm that he was in fact the high-profile director of the program, earning $67,412.80 annually.
The Weed and Seed program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), with a focus on crime prevention and community revitalization. It is intended to prevent, control, and reduce violent crime, drug abuse and gang activity in designated high-crime neighborhoods across the country, according to its website.
Officials with the U.S. Attorney’s Office did not immediately respond to questions about the Denoms revelation.
Adams would not explain how Denoms’ past crimes went undetected when he was hired over 13 years ago, or during the course of his employment.
But sources say that background checks on him were waived.
Denoms is also a part-time lounge singer who for years proudly told friends and co-workers that he was a retired Chicago police officer and retired U.S. Navy seaman.
His past was discovered after Fort Lauderdale police arrested him on Monday, March 1 over a traffic incident. He was charged with filing a false police report, improper backing, and leaving the scene of an accident.
Police allege in the latest incident that Denoms backed into another vehicle at a shopping center on Feb. 8 while driving his personal car, and then fled the scene. He later called police from his job at Holiday Park, and reported his vehicle stolen, which an investigation determined was not true.
He was initially placed on suspension after being booked into the Broward County jail on March 1. But after a routine background check determined that Denoms actually had a serious criminal history with several convictions, he was fired.
File Photo. Samuel Denoms