BRADENTON, Fla. — The Florida Supreme Court on Wednesday approved Gov. Charlie Crist’s request to impanel a statewide grand jury to conduct a year-long investigation into government corruption.
Crist, who has suspended or removed 33 people from public office since he became governor in January 2007, said the state needed to examine its laws and other avenues to prevent public corruption in the future.
Crist’s latest suspension came on Monday when he removed West Miami Mayor Cesar Raul Carasa from office. Carasa was charged recently with exploiting his official position for allegedly using a city cell phone to make $70,000 in long-distance calls unrelated to city business between 2006 and 2009.
“Corruption among local officials across our state erodes the sacred trust the people of Florida have with their elected leaders,” Crist said in a statement. “Florida’s state attorneys have done tremendous work to rid our state of corruption, yet the fact that I have suspended Florida’s 33rd public official in less than three years is clear evidence that more can and must be done.”
The only known direct case of public corruption tied to municipal bonds occurred in January when Palm Beach County commissioner Mary McCarty resigned from office and later pleaded guilty to depriving constituents of her honest services.
She was accused, among other things, of steering bond business to her husband, former banker Kevin McCarty, while he worked at Bear, Stearns & Co. and Raymond James & Associates. No charges were filed against the investment banks.
Kevin McCarty pleaded guilty for not reporting his wife’s illegal activities. In June, he began serving an eight-month sentence in prison.
While Mary McCarty’s case is the only one known to be connected to municipal bonds, three Palm Beach County commissioners and two West Palm Beach city commissioners were convicted of corruption charges in the last four years.
Several elected officials from Broward County were suspended in September on bribery charges unrelated to bonds.