Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Politicians Behaving Badly: Hollywood City Commissioner Keith Wasserstrom
Hollywood City Commissioner Keith Wasserstrom, who is also an attorney in South Florida, has been charged with five felonies: one count of unlawful compensation for official behavior and four counts of official misconduct arising out his relationship, while he was a city commissioner, as a lobbyist for a St. Paul, Minnesota-based company, called Schwing Bioset (“Schwing”), which he helped obtain an $18 million wastewater treatment contract from the City of Hollywood.
According to the Probable Cause Affidavit, Wasserstrom and his law firm at the time were retained to assist Schwing obtain a contract from the City of Hollywood. In exchange, Wasserstrom and his firm would be paid money when Schwing got contracts from other cities or counties, which would be a lot easier once Schwing had a contract with the City of Hollywood because other cities and counties would be permitted by Florida law to “piggy-back” off the Hollywood contract, avoiding the time and expense of a competitive bidding process. According to the Probable Cause Affidavit, while engaged in intensive lobbying of the City of Hollywood and his fellow commissioners on behalf of Schwing, Wasserstrom filed conflict forms in which he falsely stated that he and his law firm did not represent Schwing or its representatives in connection with efforts to win the Hollywood contract for Schwing.
To my knowledge, it is relatively common in Florida for local and state lawmakers to act as lobbyists for companies seeking business from governmental entities other than the ones they were elected to. I do not know enough about the facts or the applicable law to express an informed opinion as to whether Wasserstrom actually violated any laws.
But I have to ask: Hey Keith, was it worth the few extra shekels to lobby for a company to get a contract from the very city you were elected to represent as a commissioner? Did you really think you were being hired to help Schwing because you are such a great lawyer? Was it enough money to make it worth it for you to tarnish your image and potentially ruin your professional and political career, and jeopardize the well-being, reputation, and future of your wife and children? When did greed and avarice come to prevail in your mind over altruism and your desire to do good as a public servant?