Corruption in Florida must be addressed

Political corruption seems to be an ongoing problem in Florida, which is why Gov. Charlie Crist announced a petition to the state Supreme Court on Wednesday to create a grand jury to investigate corruption statewide.

“It’s obvious to me that something’s wrong with the system,” said Crist, who has removed about 30 public officials from office during his term.

The Supreme Court should approve his petition to stop corruption.

Florida ranks among the most corrupt states in the U.S., according to a USA Today analysis of Department of Justice data from 1998 to 2007. The state is No. 1 in volume with 824 public officials convicted of corruption charges by the federal government.

After population was accounted for, Florida tied with Pennsylvania for No. 12. There were 4.5 convictions for every 100,000 state residents. North Dakota had the highest conviction rate per capita.

Crist made the right decision by petitioning to form a grand jury to address this widespread corruption. Because Florida doesn’t have the small state advantages of North Dakota, increased vigilance is needed.

Crist said Wednesday the decision was made in response to “an unsettling string of crime, unconscionable violations of the public trust by public officials, predominantly in South Florida.”

Among the most recent incidents that could be under the jury’s scope is the arrest of three Broward County politicians last month on federal corruption charges. County Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion, county school board member Beverly Gallagher and former Miramar city commissioner Fitzroy Salesman are accused of accepting thousands of dollars in cash from undercover FBI agents in exchange for illegal favors, according to the Miami Herald.

One of Crist’s top campaign contributors, Dr. Alan Mendelsohn, was also arrested by the FBI for allegedly running a multimillion-dollar fraudulent fundraising and lobbying operation.

Crist called for a similar statewide grand jury in 2007 to investigate gang violence, which was reasonably successful, leading to several arrests from gangs connected to homicides, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Forming this grand jury likely will lead to more corruption convictions and discourage further abuses of power, so the Supreme Court should approve the petition.