Broward's reputation took a hit this week with Margate Commissioner David McLean's appearance in a federal courtroom.
Counting the three-count bribery indictment of McLean, 17 elected officials, former officials and spouses have been charged with corruption since the county was rocked in September 2007 by the guilty plea and resignation of then-Sheriff Ken Jenne.
Yet it's not as bad as many people think, said Charles Caulkins, who is slated to become the next chairman of the Broward Workshop. The organization is made up of heavy hitters in the business world: 100 top executives from major Broward companies.
"I actually don't think we're any different from other locations — and maybe we're better," Caulkins said Thursday during a meeting of the Sun Sentinel Editorial Board. "I'm not sure it's any higher here in Broward County than in other places, and maybe other places have more of it than we do."
Caulkins, managing partner of the Fort Lauderdale office of the law firm Fisher & Phillips, is a native of Illinois, where, he noted, governors have gone to prison for corruption.
That's not to say Caulkins thinks government is problem-free. He and other members of the other Broward Workshop would like to see many changes. One thing that rankles: If a business wants to get the nine-member County Commission to do something, it can involve hiring five or six lobbyists.
Still, Caulkins said, there isn't a corrupt public official hiding under every rock in Broward County. "Most of them appear to be very dedicated and hard-working people."
Dr. Harry Moon, the chairman of the workshop, said there's no doubt corruption is present.
"I think it's endemic in government. And it is a recurring phenomenon. I don't know the depth of it in Broward County, but I know that we are all fallible, and things happen," he said. "What we have to focus on obviously is cleaning up the corruption."
He cited the Broward School Board, which was excoriated for widespread corruption and mismanagement in a February 2011 report from a statewide grand jury.
Moon said that helped jolt business leaders into more involvement with the schools, and he likes what he's now seeing: a new school superintendent, a more results-oriented focus, and a School Board that's more about setting policy and less about micromanaging.
Caulkins also said the new Broward County Inspector General's Office, created by voters in November 2010, needs to have a chance to do its work. "That's a new experience for Broward County. Let's see how that works out."
See changes business leaders would like to see in local government at SunSentinel.com/BrowardPolitics
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