Shooting the Messenger

by Bernard McCormick Tuesday, January 31, 2023 1 Comment(s)

Sunday’s Sun-Sentinel column by Steve Bousquet – huge insider contracts in a previously obscure entity known as the North Springs Improvement District, which operates in Coral Springs and Parkland. Contracts worth $16 million have gone to companies owned by the man who apparently controls the purse strings of this quasi-government entity that has little oversight.

Bousquet credits the story to Bob Norman, a long-time investigative reporter who has broken or collaborated on some of the biggest scandals of the last 30 years. Not surprisingly, a spokesman for the embattled district used the Trump/DeSantis style defense – attacking the messenger.

Bob Norman joined TV Local 10 in May 2011 after 13 years as a print journalist in South Florida. 

In Bousquet’s words, the spokesman attacked a “blogger who does not work for a reputable news company.” This suggests Norman is some sort of gadfly who can’t be trusted. Woah. This is a writer who, beginning in the 1990s when he was the star reporter for Broward New Times, was deeply involved in the Scott Rothstein Ponzi scheme financial fraud case, caused a major shakeup in the North Broward Hospital District which had been beset with political manipulations and led a number of other high profile investigations which won him numerous journalism awards. Hardly a nobody.

Norman today is editor of the Florida Center for Government Accountability, a watchdog organization. If one wonders how he wound up with the current investigation, the reason traces to the decline of major newspapers. Constant staff cutting has left them without the resources to act on tips that lead to investigations. The Sun-Sentinel and Miami Herald both do an admirable job of reporting on the attempted dictatorship of Governor DeSantis and other major events, but their small staffs are too busy covering daily murders and immigrant drownings to adequately cover all the lesser-known entities such as the North Springs Improvement District, which are ripe for insider exploitation.

Norman’s work is part of a national trend. Top reporters for major papers, who have been forced into early retirement or been laid off, have formed independent groups filling the void left when papers came under financial pressure. These organizations operate on a shoestring, often use highly motivated volunteers, and rely on contributions from those interested in good government. These watchdog organizations rarely have large online followings, but they reach influential figures, as well as mainstream media. The Sun-Sentinel’s Bousquet picking up Bob Norman’s work is an example.

Other organizations doing similar work locally are Florida Bulldog, headed by Dan Christensen, which has broken stories of national importance such as high-placed Saudi Arabians involved in the 9-11 attacks, and Broward Beat, Buddy Nevins’ blog, which concentrates on local politics.

Media, especially print, is in sad shape these days. Whole networks are devoted to distortion of the daily news or direct misinformation. Nonsense abounds, to the point that some people think God is calling them to overthrow their demonic government. In such troubled times, blessed are the messengers.


The Districts Are Out of Control

This Comment had been Posted by Buddy Nevins

Two decades ago then-State Rep. Stacy Ritter, D-Parkland, repeatedly tried to curb the power of these unaccountable districts. She actually passed a bill changing the way the district commissioners are elected from landowners to all voters, but it was vetoed by Gov. Jeb Bush. I congratulate Bob Norman for again raising the question on who benefits from these largely unsupervised governments.

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