Elementary lessons in hanky-panky

Published Sept. 27, 2012

You think it's easy being a political consultant? How would you like to have a client like Jennifer Gottlieb, who turned out to be the Kim Kardashian meets Madonna of the Broward County School Board?

Gottlieb, who transformed serving on a school board into the Body Heat of education, wound up as the femme fatale of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation into high finance hanky-panky.

The report noted that while she was serving as a School Board member, Gottlieb took up with Citigroup executive Richard Patterson, who was pitching to win some bond business with the School Board.

This, as Richard Nixon might have said, was wrong. Gottlieb was then married to a prominent judge, and it probably doesn't look good for a School Board member to be conducting her own sex education classes.

Still Gottlieb, ever the savvy politician, sensed that maybe, just maybe, canoodling with people trying to do business with the School Board could possibly be misconstrued by some people as declasse.

And so Gottlieb conferred with her political consultant about the affair and what she might do about it. The consultant, after first probably saying something like, "Are you completely insane?" also suggested she end the trysts if she wanted to continue to have a political career.

It's arguable that a public official needs to seek out a political consultant to know that romping about with someone conducting official business with the School Board would flunk the FCAT of carnal knowledge. Still, a second opinion never hurts.

Gottlieb was no dummy. She had to good sense to terminate the coo-coo-ca-choo with Patterson, which was a good thing. Because cutting off the illicit romance made it possible for her to begin an affair with Patterson's Citigroup colleague, Michael Baldwin, who was also lobbying for School Board business.

You have to give Gottlieb credit for taking one thing at a time.

While certainly salacious, not to mention embarrassing to everyone involved, the FDLE could not determine if Gottlieb had actually violated any laws.

Indeed, Baldwin told FDLE investigators that while he and Gottlieb were making whoopee, she steadfastly insisted on never accepting any gifts from her paramour.

Who says there are no standards anymore?

In fact, while making hay in various hotels, Gottlieb assiduously avoided ordering room service. Now there's a Margaret Thatcher moment for you.

While school boards in the Tampa Bay area wring their hands over whether sharia law should be taught in school, the Broward School Board has morphed into Law & Order.

In 2011, a statewide grand jury accused the Broward board of being so inept it rose to the level of "malfeasance, misfeasance and nonfeasance." Ah, the triple crown of cronyism, corruption and connivance.

And they weren't even referring to Gottlieb, the Barbarella of the Three Rs.

The grand jury uncovered instances of board members directing contracts to friends, approving unnecessary building contracts and helping pals place their children in preferred schools.

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One former board member is doing time in the hoosegow for taking payoffs from an undercover FBI agent. Another one is awaiting trial for also accepting gratuities.

At least these folks think big.

Against that backdrop of baksheesh, Gottlieb and her scruples against accepting gifts from her boyfriend almost comes off as a pillar of rectitude.

In Tampa Bay, the best we could come up with was a Pinellas County charter school pushing Church of Scientology materials off on unsuspecting students.

Oh, yes, Hillsborough also has its anti-Muslim cabal, fearful that students exposed to learning about Islam will suddenly want to move to Yemen.

But the Broward County School Board has taken abusing the public trough to master class levels.

The FDLE report suggests Gottlieb's Love Boat of the ABCs unraveled after her emails were hacked and sent on to her husband, perhaps by a jealous, former spurned suitor. Apparently the leaker was also miffed over all the attention Gottlieb was attracting from various vendors trying to win contracts with the school district. Gee, do you think?

Gottlieb abruptly resigned from the Broward County School Board in 2011. It's fair to assume her prospects for future elective office have been put to bed.