Cerabino: Ticket fixing? Chicago’s got nothing on us.


In my younger days as a reporter in Chicago, I interviewed alderman Vito Marzullo, who was about 85 years old at the time and in the midst of his umpteenth re-election campaign.

Marzullo had been representing his West Side district in the Chicago City Council since the Eisenhower Administration, serving as the embodiment of that city’s corrupt, and secure, machine political system. So Marzullo was more amused than worried about some young guy straight out of college, a naive idealist without any influential friends, who had filed to run against him.

“That guy doesn’t even know how to fix a parking ticket,” Marzullo told me about the challenger he would eventually crush.

I was thinking about the dearly departed Marzullo while considering Palm Beach County’s modern-day parking ticket antics of State Rep. Al Jacquet, D-Lantana, and his efforts to beat a ticket for parking at an expired meter on Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach last year.

The preliminary findings of the Palm Beach County Commission of Ethics suggest that Jacquet improperly used his position to spare him from the consequences of not feeding the parking meters like everyone else.

When Jacquet was the vice mayor of Delray Beach last year he tried to get a parking ticket voided first by using the “Do you know who I am?” gambit. And when that didn’t work, he got the ticket scratched by claiming to city officials that he had simply forgotten to display his official-business parking pass in his car’s windshield when it was ticketed.

Only problem, there is no such thing as a free parking pass for commissioners in Delray.

You’ve got to hand it to Jacquet. He’s got game. But I’m not sure that even Vito Marzullo would approve. After all, Marzullo’s parking-ticket fixing prowess was about him helping out his constituents with their tickets.

Jacquet’s just appears to be a ticket fixer for himself. There’s going to be a public hearing on this soon, and Jacquet told The Palm Beach Post’s Alexandra Seltzer that the probable-cause determination from the ethics commission isn’t going to be upheld after that hearing.

“Not one scintilla of evidence was presented,” Jacquet said. “We don’t believe any of that is true from what’s being alleged. It’s not fair for me to make any statements about things that are about to go to a hearing where I think it will be very clear at that time.”

I don’t know who “we” are. Seems like he did the fixing on his own, according to the two city employees who helped him out and have been reprimanded for doing so.

Jacquet already has caused more than a “scintilla” of harm to those workers, who have paid the price for Jacquet, all because he was trying to dodge a lousy $35 ticket.

And it’s not his first voided parking ticket in Delray Beach. Far more importantly, it’s not his most impressive experience in the field of shepherding government paperwork to his benefit.

His successful step up to the Florida Legislature last year was accomplished through the wizardry of exploiting incredibly lax laws for handling absentee ballots.

Jacquet, along with Palm Beach County Commission candidate Mack Bernard, paid home visits to voters who requested absentee ballots.

In Palm Beach County, it’s legal for candidates and their surrogates to know which voters get absentee ballots, and when those blank ballots are mailed by the elections office. And it’s also legal for candidates who are on those ballots to show up at the houses of those absentee voters on the day their blank ballots arrive in the mail.

And wait, there’s more. It’s also legal to go inside the homes of the absentee voters, and help them to fill out their ballots — even if your name is on the ballot. And then these voters can hand you their completed ballots and you can turn in any number of these ballots to the elections office to be counted.

This abuse-prone system is in stark contrast to in-person voting, where any electioneering, including a poster with the candidate’s name on it, is forbidden within 100 feet of the entrance to the polling room.

Jacquet didn’t do so well with those voters who showed up at the polls. He won his seat in the Florida House due to the overwhelming edge he had in absentee voting.

And yes, this was all legal.

So it seems a little bit beside the point that Jacquet is going to be facing the full brunt of an ethics investigation over the fixing of a parking ticket while the mechanism to fix an election goes unmentioned.

Vito Marzullo would have been impressed.

WANT MORE

CERABINO?

Read Frank Cerabino’s recent columns — including his round-up of hurricane acronyms — at myPalmBeachPost.com/frank



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