Trantalis declined to discuss McGuigan at length with a reporter Thursday, saying he preferred to first hear the thoughts of fellow board members.
He said, however, that he did not “want to replay the Sandusky episode” referring to the former Penn State assistant football coach, Jerry Sandusky, whose sexual involvement with children was reported to high-ranking university officials but never acted upon until the scandal exploded.
“That’s why it is important for us to understand what happened, who is involved, and to take such action as is necessary to eradicate the problem from the organization,” Trantalis said.
Much of the pressure has originated with Ron Book, a powerful lobbyist who can call in markers all over the state of Florida. He has been a vocal advocate for sexually abused children since learning that his now-adult daughter, Lauren Book, had been repeatedly abused as a child by her longtime nanny. The nanny was tried and sentenced to 15 years in prison. Book and his daughter now run Lauren’s Kids, an education and advocacy group for sexually abused children.
In a letter to the Broward House board, as well as many of the group’s funders, he called on the group to “protect [its] proud record of service” by removing or suspending McGuigan. McGuigan’s attorney has not responded to several calls from a Herald reporter.
“Do not damage the good reputation and good work of Broward House,” Book wrote in a letter sent by FedEx late Tuesday. “Do not expose yourselves and Broward House to future civil and criminal liability.”
McGuigan 53, first appeared on the radar screen of law enforcement agencies in 2000, when a teenager told Delray Beach police McGuigan invited him into his car, showed him a pornographic picture of a child, and asked him to perform sex acts. “Don’t worry,” the boy quoted McGuigan as saying. “I’m not going to hurt you.” The state attorney’s office declined to prosecute the case.
In 2009, McGuigan’s name surfaced again when 7-year-old Gabriel Myers, who had lived in McGuigan’s foster home, hanged himself about a month after leaving the home. An adult man from Massachusetts who read coverage of the boy’s death in The Herald contacted Margate police, who investigated the suicide, and claimed that McGuigan had molested him in his childhood.
Then, in February 2011, an 8-year-old boy told his caseworkers at ChildNet, Broward’s private foster care agency, that McGuigan had molested him, as well. Since then, McGuigan relinquished his foster care license, and DCF removed all children in state care from his home.
This past summer, McGuigan surrendered his right to raise a now-6-year-old boy he adopted from foster care, and a Broward judge formally terminated his parental rights.
“For me, this raises red flags,” Wexler said. “No doubt about it.”