While still in office, former Broward School Board member Jennifer Gottlieb engaged in two different romantic affairs with men who worked for a company doing business with the school district, according to law enforcement records now made public.
Florida Department of Law Enforcement records show that two employees of Citigroup, which was hired to help Broward finance bonds used to build schools, admitted to sexual trysts with Gottlieb.
Richard Patterson, a Citigroup managing director in Tampa, said Gottlieb suggested ending their affair in 2007 after her campaign manager “advised against pursuing the relationship if she had any hopes of furthering her political career.” The pair mutually decided to part ways at that point, Patterson said.
The other Citigroup employee, Michael Baldwin, “broke down in tears and stated that he and Gottlieb are ‘in love’ like two high school kids, and they have been romantically involved for the past three years,” according to the FDLE records of Baldwin’s sworn testimony. Baldwin told investigators he has been married for 17 years. Gottlieb is married to Broward County Judge Ken Gottlieb, though public records show he filed for divorce in June.
The existence of the FDLE documents was first reported Wednesday by Local 10 News reporter Bob Norman. Neither Gottlieb, Patterson, nor Baldwin could be reached for comment late Wednesday. First elected in 2006, Gottlieb was reelected in 2010 but abruptly resigned from office last year. At the time of her resignation, Gottlieb was dogged by rumors of infidelity, as well as criticism of her role in pushing for the construction of Beachside Montessori Village in Hollywood. A state grand jury report issued months before Gottlieb’s resignation blasted the Montessori school as a “beachside boondoggle” that cost taxpayers $25 million and was unnecessarily built in a part of the county that had enough classroom space.
The now-public FDLE records were part of the state grand jury investigation into possible corruption in the Broward school district. Last year, the grand jury released a scathing 51-page report that cited wasteful spending and a too-cozy relationship between district officials and contractors, vendors and lobbyists.
Gottlieb has not been charged with criminal or ethics violations in connection with her romantic dalliances, even though she voted on Citigroup issues while she had the relationships. Public officials are generally required to recuse themselves from votes that could financially benefit a spouse or family member, but there are no such rules for votes that benefit a secret lover.
Anthony Alfieri, director of the University of Miami’s Center for Ethics and Public Service, said there should be rules preventing conduct like Gottlieb’s — both in ethics guidelines as well as criminal statutes. Alfieri noted that attorney bar associations across the country have rules regulating “sexual relationships” between attorneys and their clients “because those relationships are fraught with conflicts of interest.”
In testimony to investigators, Patterson said he would at times communicate with Gottlieb through her personal AOL e-mail account, which was not subject to public records laws. Patterson said he would also contact former School Board member Beverly Gallagher at her personal e-mail, though he said his relationship with Gallagher was “strictly professional.”
Gallagher was arrested in 2009 on corruption charges, and she pleaded guilty to bribes of $12,500 from undercover FBI agents she thought were contractors.
Patterson also told investigators he would travel to Broward at times when he had no actual business to conduct with the school district, and Gottlieb would pick him up at the airport. The pair would rendezvous at the Westin Diplomat Hotel.
When investigators spoke with School Board member Maureen Dinnen, it appears the subject at one point turned to Gottlieb.
“Ms. Dinnen stated that state law does not list romance as an illegal act,” the FDLE summary states. “Ms. Dinnen stated it would be inappropriate for a board member to regularly pick up a vendor at the airport and drive them to their hotel but she did not believe this was an illegal act.”