LAUDERDALE LAKES — The Broward State Attorney’s Office has re-opened an investigation that it closed three years ago into the lobbying activities of suspended Broward County Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion Jr.
The original investigation – closed on March 13, 2006 – cleared Eggelletion of any wrongdoing after he allegedly received money from developers that had projects pending before government officials in Lauderdale Lakes and St. Lucie County.
The State Attorney’s Office close-out memo states that Eggelletion received $10,000 for lobbying on behalf of United Homes in St. Lucie County. The developer also had another project pending before the Lauderdale Lakes City Commission, and needed some approvals from the Broward County Commission to complete the project.
Federal agents arrested Eggelletion on Sept. 23 in connection with an unrelated money-laundering scheme that also netted Broward School Board Member Beverly Gallagher and former Miramar City Commissioner Fitzroy Salesman.
Broward State Attorney’s Office investigators have contacted Lauderdale Lakes officials about the reopened investigation.
Officials with the Broward State Attorney’s Office declined comment, but prosecutors served subpoenas on Lauderdale Lakes officials on Thursday, Sept 24, a day after Eggelletion was taken into custody by federal agents.
“In speaking with our city manager, she [City Manager Anita Fain-Taylor] informed us that staff has been subpoenaed and they are cooperating,” Lauderdale Lakes Deputy Vice Mayor David Shomers told the South Florida Times on Thursday, Oct. 1.
The reopening of the state case is not a reaction to the federal charges pending against Eggelletion, sources said, but is part of an ongoing probe into Eggelletion that is nearing completion.
“What’s being looked at is the relationship with United Homes, the lobbying in St. Lucie County, and the financial disclosure forms he [Eggelletion] filed with Broward County,” said a person familiar with the investigation who requested anonymity.
Prosecutors have also obtained copies of conflict-of-interest forms that Eggelletion filed with Broward County, and are seeking to determine if Eggelletion was forthcoming about the full nature of the matter, as required by state statutes.
On Wednesday, Sept. 30, the Fourth District Court of Appeal in West Palm Beach upheld the 2007 official misconduct convictions of former Hollywood City Commissioner Keith Wasserstrom. The convictions centered on Wasserstrom’s failure to fully disclose the consulting work and financial relationship he had with a company that won a city contract there.
The South Florida Times has obtained copies of conflict-of-interest forms Eggelletion submitted to Broward County from 2001 to 2009. Few of the forms provide specifics of the nature of any relationship that Eggelletion has or had with United Homes and other development firms.
“I won’t be commenting on any of that,” said Eggelletion’s attorney, Johnny McCray Jr., when asked about the newly reopened State Attorney’s Office probe.
But sources say state prosecutors have already made contact with McCray to see if his client wants to provide any statements or speak with them.
United Homes is not the only developer that has paid Eggelletion for lobbying on its behalf before local officials.
The close-out memo also states that, in 2001, the Cornerstone Group paid Eggelletion $65,000 to lobby on behalf of the firm before Lauderdale Lakes commissioners to develop the St. Croix project.
St. Croix is a mixed-use project in the 3400 block of North State Road 7 that was completed by the Cornerstone Group, a Coral Gables-based developer, in 2003.
The Lauderdale Lakes Community Redevelopment Agency is handing over files related to that project and others.
Investigators have also obtained records related to the city’s $130 million Bella Vista town center project, in the 3600 block of Oakland Park Boulevard in Lauderdale Lakes, a lush, mixed-used development of condominiums, townhomes, retail space and offices that remains under construction.
On Aug. 10, 2004, Lauderdale Lakes city commissioners, acting as the Community Redevelopment Agency, voted to award United Homes International, a Miami Lakes developer, the contract to build that project.
Broward County approved various land-use, traffic and other considerations that allowed the project to move forward. It is unclear if Eggelletion participated in any of those votes.
During the original 2006 State Attorney’s Office probe into Eggelletion’s lobbying activities, United Homes President Anthony Mijares told prosecutors that Eggelletion never lobbied for his firm in Lauderdale Lakes, but rather on the company’s behalf in St. Lucie County.
“On January 24, 2006, we interviewed and took a sworn statement from Anthony Mijares, a principal with United Homes International. Mr. Mijares confirmed that in August 2004, his firm paid Commissioner Eggelletion $10,000 to ‘lobby’ on their behalf in St. Lucie County, Florida,” wrote John Hanlon, who was an investigator with the Broward State Attorney’s Office at the time.
“Mijares was quick to state that these funds were paid to Eggelletion due to his statewide contacts and were not paid to him to lobby on their behalf with the Broward County Commission or the Commission at the City of Lauderdale Lakes, Florida.”
Investigators also met with Lauderdale Lakes City Manager Anita Fain-Taylor and City Attorney James Brady on March 13, 2006.
“Both of them advised that Eggelletion never “lobbied” the City of Lauderdale Lakes with respect to the downtown project,” Hanlon wrote in a memo closing out the investigation, dated on March 13, 2006.
Details of the newly reopened investigation are unfolding as federal agents continue interviewing people related to the sweeping public corruption crackdown in Broward that netted Eggelletion, Gallagher and Salesman.
Acting U.S. Attorney Jeff Sloman said those efforts are continuing, and additional arrests can be expected.
Although there is no clear indication of when the newly reopened Broward State Attorney’s Office investigation will conclude, a source said, “Very soon. There is some back and forth with some people right now, but soon.”
Pictured above is Josephus Eggelletion Jr.