By Dan Christensen, BrowardBulldog.org
Gov. Rick Scott’s office says it vetted Sunrise City Attorney Kimberly Kisslan before her recent appointment to the governing board of Broward Health, yet failed to uncover damaging information that led to her abrupt resignation last Friday amid an inquiry.
The governor’s office, however, has refused to explain that breakdown in the appointment process or say what steps, if any, were taken to ensure that such a lapse would not reoccur.
“In this case, either the vetting process was inadequate in design and execution or the appointee deliberately failed to disclose relevant information, or both,” said Anthony V. Alfieri, director of the University of Miami School of Law’s Center for Ethics and Public Service.
Said John Tupps, a spokesman for Gov. Scott, “Our office conducts appropriate back-grounding on all applicants.”
Kisslan was the sheriff’s legal counsel under Broward Sheriff Ken Jenne. Jenne went to prison in late 2007 after pleading guilty to federal corruption-related charges of mail fraud and filing false income tax returns.
While working for BSO, Kisslan did personal legal work for Jenne that later became a focus of the criminal investigation. On May 1, 2007, she testified under a grant of immunity before a grand jury after apparently invoking her Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.
While Kisslan’s testimony is secret, her role in Jenne’s scheme is a matter of public record in court papers that explain the factual basis for Jenne’s guilty plea.
One document signed by Jenne, his lawyers and prosecutors says Kisslan helped Jenne to coordinate with a BSO vendor to obtain the demolition of a house with code compliance issues that Jenne owned in Lake Worth. Philip Procacci, a developer who leased office space to BSO, later paid $8,130 to have the house demolished. Jenne never reported the payment on his income tax return.
Kisslan and Procacci appeared on Jenne’s behalf before the Lake Worth Code Enforcement Board on June 28, 2001. Kisslan later wrote the sheriff a memo about it, but “deliberately” didn’t use BSO letterhead because she knew it was personal work for Jenne, the document says
As Kisslan and Procacci were arranging for the demolition, Procacci and Kisslan also were negotiating an amendment to a BSO lease with Procacci for space in a Plantation building.
Sheriff Jenne signed the deal committing BSO to lease an additional 5,000 square feet of space for five years – at an added cost of $348,000 – two days after Kisslan and Procacci appeared on his behalf before the code enforcement board.
In addition to negotiating the lease deal, Kisslan witnessed Jenne’s signature, the document says.
Kisslan did not respond to requests for comment on the matter.
An important duty of the governor is to appoint leaders to an array of government jobs – from a vacant judgeship or seat on a county commission to board members who serve on housing authorities, planning and service councils and hospital and water districts.
The governor’s appointments office supports Scott in his “major obligation to appoint qualified, representative and appropriate people.”
Requests to speak with Scott and Carrie O’Rouke, who oversees appointments as the Director of External Affairs, were declined by the governor’s office.
Individuals who have applied for and obtained appointments under Scott describe a process that is not necessarily uniform.
Gov. Scott interviews some applicants personally. Others he does not. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement conducts background checks if requested.
Applicants for a gubernatorial appointment are asked to complete under oath an eight-page questionnaire. Among the 30 questions: Have you ever been “arrested, charged or indicted” or “has probable cause ever been found that you were in violation of the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees?”
No follow up questions seek to explore the subject further.
Kisslan answered “no” to both questions on her questionnaire.