FORT LAUDERDALE — A growing number of law enforcement agencies are disputing a claim by Broward County Sheriff Al Lamberti that they were aware that his teenage son got into last year’s Super Bowl with credentials intended for law enforcement officers.
The Miami-Dade Police Department, which handled such applications, denied that the department or its director James Loftus had any communications with Lamberti or the Broward Sheriff’s Office on the matter.
“Those conversations never happened,” said Commander Nancy A. Perez, director of the MDPD Media Relations Bureau.
Through BSO’s Media Relations Office, Lamberti has requested a private meeting with South Florida Times but has not responded to interview requests or repeated questions from the newspaper.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement also denied any knowledge of the matter.
“We had no involvement or knowledge of this at all,” said FDLE spokesman Keith Kameg.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation declined comment. “Due to security reasons, the FBI cannot discuss the credentialing process of major events,” FBI spokesperson Michael Leverock said. “As a result, we have no comment on this matter.”
But a U.S. Department of Homeland Security official said several of its agencies were involved in Super Bowl security and none of them, including the U.S. Coast Guard, were aware of the arrangement Lamberti claims he had with the NFL.
NFL officials also reject Lamberti’s account. “The NFL is not part of the decision-making process with regard to accreditation issued and approved by law enforcement,” Michael Signora, the league’s vice president of Football Communications, said in an e-mail to the South Florida Times. His e-mail was copied to Milton Ahlerich, head of NFL security, and his deputy, Bob Hast.
“All Super Bowl XLIV law enforcement accreditation was coordinated through the lead law enforcement agency, the Miami-Dade Police Department. The NFL has no knowledge of improper credentials being issued,” Signora said in the e-mail.
A South Florida Times investigation found that a law enforcement credentials application was submitted to MDPD on behalf of Nick Lamberti, a minor, by which he obtained security clearance and credentials that gave him access to the stadium and game at no cost.
All credentials or “badges” for the game that were issued to state, local and federal law enforcements agencies involved in providing security for the event were coordinated through Miami-Dade police. The Super Bowl was played at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens on Feb. 7, 2010.
The United States Secret Service processed and issued the actual Super Bowl credentials based on the information forwarded to the agency by Miami-Dade police.
“We have no comment,” Max Milien, director of the Secret Service’s Office of Government and Public Affairs, said when contacted in Washington, D.C., this week.
Lamberti and some members of his senior command staff have stated in published reports that the NFL issued the credentials to his son and that all law enforcement agencies involved in the Super Bowl security effort were aware of the arrangement.
The MDPD’s Perez said Miami-Dade police director James Loftus “had no discussions or communications” with Lamberti about law enforcement credentials being issued to his son. “We processed the applications they submitted,” Perez said.
Jim Leljedal, director of BSO’s Media Relations Office, declined to comment when asked about MDPD’s denial.
The South Florida Times investigation shows the process for obtaining law enforcement credentials for the Super Bowl was different from that required for civilians.
Law enforcement officers were required to complete an application, “Super Bowl XLIV Credentials Request Form for Law Enforcement.” That form was concise and gave members of law enforcement the benefit of the doubt, not requiring any background information or past criminal history.
However, the application for civilian credentials, “Credentials Application,” required applicants to list their Social Security number, place of birth, citizenship or immigration status, home address, employer information, any past criminal convictions and other details. It also required information about the specific work the applicant would be performing, as well as its location.
A signed form consenting to a background check was also required.
The application bearing Nick Lamberti’s name lists his father as his supervisor. It also lists employee number — BSO 0000 — and shows his place of employment as the sheriff’s office. The address listed, 2601 West Broward Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale, is the location of BSO headquarters, which was listed in Nick Lamberti’s contact information, along with a phone number that goes directly to his father’s office.
Besides the issue of an allegedly false application for security credentials reserved for law enforcement personnel, the Super Bowl access provided to the sheriff’s son could be construed as a gift that should have been reported on his state required disclosure forms submitted to the Florida Commission on Ethics.
BSO officials have claimed the credentials had no dollar value and therefore the sheriff would not amend his disclosure forms. But at least one legal expert disputes that position.
“I do think the law enforcement credentials that were issued have value, in as much as they grant access that most football fans would deem priceless,” said Robert M. Jarvis, a law professor at Nova Southeastern University. “Of course, putting an exact figure on the credentials would be very difficult. I think Sheriff Lamberti has addressed the issue by saying that, in his opinion, the credentials have no value and, in any case, the proper authorities were notified and signed off on his actions. As such, I don’t think there is much to be gained by his seeking a formal ethics opinion.”
Jarvis said it was now left for the Florida Commission on Ethics, the Broward State Attorney’s Office, the Broward County Commission, the Broward County Office of Inspector General, the U.S. Department of Justice, the NFL and the media “to decide whether they think the matter is worth pursuing.”
Elgin Jones may be reached at EJones@SFLTimes.com