For years, Ken Jenne sidestepped the ethical sinkholes of Tallahassee in a stellar political career.
But as Broward sheriff, he's suddenly under siege for conduct in - and outside - his elective office.
Both the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Broward State Attorney's Office this month launched twin investigations into public corruption.
FDLE agents and prosecutors are trying to determine whether Jenne broke the law when he moonlighted as a private consultant for at least two security companies - one worked for the Seminole Tribe in Hollywood, the other has sold hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment to his agency.
Jenne received about $60,000 from one client and $4,000 from the other, through a company called Havloc LLC that he set up with two BSO employees, Undersheriff Tom Carney and Lt. Col. Tom Brennan.
Legal and ethical experts say the sheriff's conduct has been troubling - and surprising - in view of his previous, largely unblemished tenure in the State Senate.
"The whole thing reeks of impropriety and maybe illegality, " said Miami-Dade attorney Jeffrey Weiner, a past president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
"The people of Broward County have every reason to be concerned about the integrity of his department, " Weiner said. "To be fair, there are at least two sides to every story. If he has some answers, that's fine. But if he doesn't, that's cause for concern." Said former Broward prosecutor Al Milián: "I think he's facing a political crisis which could represent some significant problems for him down the road."
Jenne's lawyer, prominent criminal defense attorney David Bogenschutz, declined to talk about specific allegations and has instructed the sheriff to keep quiet during the state probes. He said the sheriff met last week with an FDLE investigator in Fort Lauderdale.
"We believe he's done absolutely nothing wrong, and we're confident at the end of this hydra-headed investigation that he will come out and move on with the business of being sheriff of Broward County, " Bogenschutz said.
In Tallahassee, Gov. Jeb Bush told reporters Friday that he had not heard any updates on the FDLE investigation, saying: "It may take a while."
Jenne, who makes $156,395 as sheriff of the 6,100-employee agency, faces possible civil ethics violations. The penalties: no action, suspension, removal or fines up to $10,000.
Among the allegations:
- The managing directors of Jenne's consulting firm, Carney and Brennan, did an assessment of the Seminole tribe's police force in 2003 before the opening of its new casino - raising conflict of interest questions about the sheriff's dealing with a client in BSO's jurisdiction. The tribe's security firm, T&M Protection Resources, paid about $60,000 to Havloc, which Jenne reported on his income tax return.
The state ethics code states that no public officer can be employed by or contract with any business that "is subject to the regulation" of his agency.
- The following year, Jenne recommended to a BSO vendor, Innovative Surveillance Technology Inc., that it hire his consulting firm. Innovative asked Carney and Brennan to develop anti-terrorism training courses for Caribbean law enforcement agencies. Innovative, a Coral Springs firm that has sold BSO about $230,000 in equipment and services during the past five years, paid Jenne's firm $4,000 last year.
Bogenschutz told The Herald that Jenne might not have known that Innovative was doing business with his agency. The ethics code bars officials or employees from doing private business with a company that sells products or services to their agency.
The sheriff also faces potential criminal official misconduct charges, with felony penalties up to one-year in prison.
Among the allegations:
- Two BSO detectives were ordered to gather information about the Hollywood police's investigation into the 2002 shooting of Seminole tribal general counsel Jim Shore in his Hollywood home. Those detectives obtained information from Hollywood police and later discussed it with Jenne in the presence of T&M executives, who had hired his firm to do consulting work for the tribe. State law forbids a public official from sharing information about a criminal probe with outsiders who are not involved in the case, because the evidence could somehow be passed along to suspects.
- When Jenne recommended that Innovative Surveillance Technology, the BSO vendor, hire his consulting firm to craft police-training courses for Caribbean law enforcement agencies, the sheriff may have crossed a legal line.
State law bars an official from accepting "any pecuniary or other benefit" from a company doing business with his agency. It's called "unlawful compensation."
Legal ethicists expressed concern over Jenne's conduct as sheriff.
"Law enforcement, along with elected officials, are held to a higher standard of ethical conduct because they are in the public eye, " said Jessi Tamayo, an attorney who works as a post-graduate fellow with the Center for Ethics & Public Service at the University of Miami.
"The public has much higher expectations for elected officials and if there is the appearance of impropriety, the public can perceive it as reality."
Nova Southeastern University law professor Robert Jarvis, who teaches ethics, said Jenne's conduct "looks very bad. . . . "If I was Ken Jenne, I would be very concerned."