Florida most corrupt? Not necessarily so, study says

David Mobley, the financier whose Maricopa Investments backed Stadium Naples and The Strand, was cheating investors of millions, pumping their money into his posh lifestyle and failed businesses and charities. Mobley was sentenced to five years in prison for his role in the Stadium Naples public corruption case.

Daily News file

David Mobley, the financier whose Maricopa Investments backed Stadium Naples and The Strand, was cheating investors of millions, pumping their money into his posh lifestyle and failed businesses and charities. Mobley was sentenced to five years in prison for his role in the Stadium Naples public corruption case.

Known more for its sunny beaches and magical theme parks, Florida is getting attention this month for a less flattering reason: corruption.

Florida leads the nation in federal corruption convictions, according to a report released in early June by the non-profit watchdog group Integrity Florida.

From 2000 to 2010, Florida had 781 such convictions, which include violations like misuse of public money, vote buying and conflict of interest crimes. But that number, which comes from Department of Justice data analyzed by Integrity Florida, doesn't tell the full story, some say.

When considering population, Florida ranked 19th in the country for corruption convictions, according to a University of Illinois in Chicago study released this year that crunched data from 1976 to 2010. And some say the high number of convictions could be the result of the state's Sunshine Law — one of the most expansive open records laws in the nation — or prosecutors who are aggressive in ethics violation cases.

The University of Illinois study found Florida had 0.94 public corruption convictions per 10,000 population between 1976 and 2010, good for 19th in the country. The District of Columbia led the nation with 16.70 convictions per 10,000 population, followed by Louisiana with 2.00 and Mississippi with 1.89.

Jim Nowlan, who co-authored the University of Illinois study, said there are limitations to any data set measuring corruption. For instance, his data accounts for factors like population and growth, but can't measure qualitative factors like the amount of resources the U.S. Attorney's Office had in pursuing the corruption cases.

"In one period of time, the U.S. Attorney for several districts in Florida might be very aggressive, or non-aggressive, for public corruption convictions," Nowlan said. "What I'm getting at is, you don't want to read too much into this or parse it too finely. ... None of it is perfect."

Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, said Florida's large population — it's the country's fourth most populous state — means it often is at the top of national statistics. And the state's open records laws could help expose corruption, thereby bumping up the ranking, he said.

"Florida's Sunshine Laws are leading the nation for transparency and public access," Richter said. "For example, I don't know of any other state that has a program like Sunburst where any citizen can read every email from their governor and his top staff."

Although public corruption cases typically are expensive and time-intensive, they remain "paramount as one of the priorities in a democratic society," said Robert O'Neill, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida.

"Prosecutors here tend to be pretty vigilant," he said. "Law enforcement tends to work these types of cases, and I think the courts are tough on them when they're brought before them."

Dan Krassner, an author of Integrity Florida's analysis, said his organization accepts those factors as possible explanations for Florida's high ranking but he remains concerned about the gross number of convictions.

Imagine if Florida led the country in murder convictions, he said. Although that could indicate good sleuthing by law enforcement, "that would still be a problem for our state's reputation, and an issue policy makers would want to address."

The Middle District of Florida, which includes Collier and Lee counties, had 248 federal corruption convictions in the 11-year period analyzed by Integrity Florida. But getting numbers specific to Southwest Florida is difficult, in part because the Middle District includes large cities like Jacksonville, Orlando and Tampa.

The most notable corruption scandal in recent Collier County history was the Stadium Naples case, in which 10 local public officials and businessmen were found guilty of swapping bribes to help get a proposed $100 million golf stadium built in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Since then, Collier amended its ethics code, which now requires officials to report all gifts, even though Florida law doesn't require disclosures for gifts less than $100. Collier County Judge Mike Carr, who helped draft the changes as a state ethics committeeman, said he believes corruption is cyclical and is far less rampant today than it has been historically.

"Ten years ago, Collier County was at the sipping cup of corruption; now, I think it's as honest as any place on earth," he said.

Around the same as the Stadium Naples scandal came to light, a two-year internal investigation by the Collier County Sheriff's Office found two deputies in the Immokalee district were abusing their badge. Jim Sanders pleaded guilty in 2001 to taking money from gambling tables at illegal Immokalee gaming houses in exchange for not making arrests or shutting the gambling businesses down.

A federal judge found his colleague, Glendell Edison, guilty of distributing $500,000 worth of cocaine and taking payouts from drug dealers in exchange for protecting them from arrest. Edison later pleaded guilty to state charges saying he once saw three children tied up behind a meat slicer at an Immokalee store, but took more than $4,000 from the boys' parents in exchange for not reporting the abuse.

The case built by internal affairs investigators helped secure the indictments against the men. Sheriff Kevin Rambosk said the role of the internal affairs bureau remains important today.

"Any complaint, no matter the level or severity, is intaken by the agency," he said. "We want people to know that we are open to both compliments and complaints, and that we'll follow it through to a resolution."

Carr, the Collier County judge, said new countywide regulations have birthed a "different climate" where officials are more aware of habits that could become corrupt.

"There's a saying that 'All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.' That saying is as true now as it was then," Carr said. "Corruption doesn't say, 'I'm corruption, and welcome me.' It sneaks up on you with good ol' boys, we're-just-trying-to-be-nice, we're friends.

"If people know that you've got someone looking over your shoulder, it makes it easier to stay honest."

© 2012 Naples Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 23

staghorn writes:

Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, said Florida's large population — it's the country's fourth most populous state — means it often is at the top of national statistics.

Tooo funny! That's as good a reason if ANY for Florida to LEAD the nation in federal corruption convictions. Leave it to a republican LEADER to spin the corruption factor.

At the same time only to see a picture of who else but good ol' David Mobley at the top of the article.

MOBLEY, DAVID M
NAPLES, FL 34119 MARICOPA INVESTMENTS $2,000 BUSH FOR PRESIDENT INC - REPUBLICAN P 03/31/1999

never trust a republican©

Beachglow writes:

Corruption? Go to Memphis, Tennessee or Atlanta, Georgia. If convicted, they'd take the number one spot for sure. Most things swept under the rug, no convictions.

Beachglow writes:

in response to staghorn:

Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, said Florida's large population — it's the country's fourth most populous state — means it often is at the top of national statistics.

Tooo funny! That's as good a reason if ANY for Florida to LEAD the nation in federal corruption convictions. Leave it to a republican LEADER to spin the corruption factor.

At the same time only to see a picture of who else but good ol' David Mobley at the top of the article.

MOBLEY, DAVID M
NAPLES, FL 34119 MARICOPA INVESTMENTS $2,000 BUSH FOR PRESIDENT INC - REPUBLICAN P 03/31/1999

never trust a republican©

I understand he donated to the Democratic party also. Any idea how much that was?

staghorn writes:

in response to Beachglow:

I understand he donated to the Democratic party also. Any idea how much that was?

Dear sir:

I found no donation to the Democratic party by convicted felon Mr. David Mobley.

http://www.campaignmoney.com/finance....

Feel free to search for yourself.

Yours in success,

mission_accomplished

staghorn writes:

in response to Beachglow:

I understand he donated to the Democratic party also. Any idea how much that was?

Dear sir:

Allow me to word my response to you "politically correct."

I was only able to find a huge donation by convicted felon Mr. David Mobley was made to the Republican party.
http://www.campaignmoney.com/finance....

Please feel free to search for yourself. URL provided.

Yours in success,

mission_accomplished

Ruger writes:

This is the same report where NDN stated Florida was the most corrupt? Its no secret that the most corrupt areas are in the east coast that have a majority democrat population.

http://www.sunshinestatenews.com/stor...

TheyPavedParadise2 writes:

Lets see, it's over and we have no corruption?

1. Jackson Labs
2. Oil Well Road
3. Impact fees
4. EDC
5. Crony capitalism
6. Unsustainable debt
7. Immokalee Master Plan
8. Taj-Ma-Toilet

"Corruption doesn't say, 'I'm corruption, and welcome me.' It sneaks up on you with good ol' boys, we're-just-trying-to-be-nice, we're friends. We had a tent and a bounce house in Golden Gate Estates and we still want to be your friend."

John_Galt writes:

Speaking of corruption...

Did you know that the Florida State House's judicial committee passed a bill to give themselves complete "Legislative Immunity"?

Learn more here http://passidomo.com/voting_record

Yes, our own State Rep Passidomo voted for it!

John_Galt writes:

in response to Ruger:

This is the same report where NDN stated Florida was the most corrupt? Its no secret that the most corrupt areas are in the east coast that have a majority democrat population.

http://www.sunshinestatenews.com/stor...

Most of our Republicans are actually Democrats in Republican's clothing... RINOs... they're just in it for the money and power. WAKE UP.

There IS an alternative!

http://www.electRichter.com

lemonjello writes:

in response to staghorn:

Dear sir:

I found no donation to the Democratic party by convicted felon Mr. David Mobley.

http://www.campaignmoney.com/finance....

Feel free to search for yourself.

Yours in success,

mission_accomplished

He probably meant, "under the table money". Is that not how you Dems work?

Never trust a WIC Carrying, Handout Wanting, ACORN Loving, Sack of Discharge, Liberal Hack©

unfatcat writes:

The most corrupt entity in the U.S. belongs to the Federal Govt., who under Obama, now also involves expansive agencies, and non-elected private persons of the world, who do not share the values of American citizens.

Perhaps we can get Romney to enact real penalties for these crimes against the public. The games they play for their own gain cause more than interruptions to progress; but destruction of countries and people's lives-EVIL.

Perhaps in the first Obama/Romney debate, Obama should explain the on-camera interviews that he had done prior to winning a senate seat, as he announced his non-American born status specifically in them; and in conjunction, his town of origin (non-U.S.) promoted his affiliation with their country and took credit for his birth. Like "fast and furious," elephants are laying end-to-end in this administration (both parties included).

limelight writes:

I find it HILARIOUS that UIC conducted this study. How many IL former governors are in prison now....???? HA!

garyOfTheGulf writes:

Doesn't it make you mad when we arn't #1!!!

wentfishn writes:

in response to SoldierStrong:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Not more corruption here , just less intelligent.

brianfl writes:

in response to Beachglow:

Corruption? Go to Memphis, Tennessee or Atlanta, Georgia. If convicted, they'd take the number one spot for sure. Most things swept under the rug, no convictions.

Ha!! I lived in Tennessee for a little bit before I moved here and I noticed that too. "Good ole boy" southern system at it's finest.

RainMan_Original writes:

in response to TheBigTeaBagger:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Har... I might agree with you if there weren't condoms or birth control.

But wait... that would take being personally accountable.

Something a PROGRESSIVE LIBERAL knows nothing about.

PROGRESSIVE LIBERALS allways exspect someone else to pay for it.... LOL

mwyatt22 writes:

You people just don't get it do you. The article says that Florida has a high number of corruption CONVICTIONS. That means that corrupt officials are being caught and convicted. That tells me that Florida is doing a great job in catching these scum bags, moreso that in other parts of the country where they are never caught or convicted. This is actually a good thing for Florida. To all you people that are discovering the corruption and reporting it, to all the people investigating these crimes, and to the people prosecuting them, I say keep up the good work. I have lived in other parts of the country and can tell you that if you never lived in New Orleans, then you have no idea what corruption is.

endtimes writes:

Judge Carr it is laughable that you think collier has no corruption have you not met Jim Colectta our commissioner look at what he has done,what he is doing and what he plans to do, corruption pures from this guy,
help us stop him

Toolong_Inthesun writes:

The D.C. stats at 16.70 convictions per 10,000 population is a little misleading when you factor in the 83.33 who had good lawyers.

SunStar writes:

Symptoms of third world!

volochine writes:

The article is vague and based on general statistics. What I remember about Florida is that someone named Kathleen Harris purged and prevented thousands of people from voting, and led to the election of President Bush in 2000 by 834 votes. That's pure corruption.

President Bush then, after 9/11, made the over-reaction to attack Iraq, leading to the deaths of 3,500 Americans, while ignoring Bin Laden.

Like the rest of the Nation, ethics went out the window long ago. Florida is unethical, but probably not guilty of the most corrupt state in the nation.

Ruger writes:

in response to volochine:

The article is vague and based on general statistics. What I remember about Florida is that someone named Kathleen Harris purged and prevented thousands of people from voting, and led to the election of President Bush in 2000 by 834 votes. That's pure corruption.

President Bush then, after 9/11, made the over-reaction to attack Iraq, leading to the deaths of 3,500 Americans, while ignoring Bin Laden.

Like the rest of the Nation, ethics went out the window long ago. Florida is unethical, but probably not guilty of the most corrupt state in the nation.

The worst area's for corruption in Florida have been identified...

http://www.sunshinestatenews.com/stor...

Forbes magazine ranking three Florida cities among the top 10 in the nation for being miserable -- Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach -- with corruption as a key factor.

TruthSquad writes:

If they are not crooks when they get elected, it does not take long to corrupt them.

I don't vote for anyone without vetting them against the Sheriff's website for arrests and the Clerk of Courts website for bankruptcy.

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