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Is Al Capellini a Crook? - 07/17/06

New revelations about Capellini's business relationships also raise questions about Larry Deetjen.

Yet another Bob Norman article about Mayor Capellini's business deals hit the New Times July 6th. It's titled "Mayor Al's Shady Pal."

A reader of this web site suggests a poll of Deerfield Beach residents. The subject: Capellini. The question: Who and what is he really?

1. Evil Criminal Mastermind.

2. Stupid Bumbling Opportunist.

The clamshell version of the latest story is that Capellini has business connections with a guy who used to be a major drug dealer in and around South Florida and the Chicago area. He's the Sam mentioned in an earlier Norman article, a convicted felon, who acted as a go-between for Capellini in certain business deals This included a land sale involving a buyer out of Chicago reputed to have mob connections. Meanwhile, this Sam, according to Norman's article, is behind the glitzy Club Cinema in Pompano Beach which faced some serious problems with city officials when it was being constructed. Capellini acted as the club's civil engineer and helped grease the skids for the project with the city. In his earlier days, Sam, whose full name is Sam Frontera, ran similar rock clubs in Chicago which were used to launder drug money. Norman does not allege that Club Cinema is that kind of operation.

This association with a dubious character does not prove that Capellini, himself, is a crook. But some people have a thing about public officials of their city doing private business with ex-con drug dealers. Put it in the context of other recent revelations about his deals and the antics of the other Al pal, Larry Deetjen, and there is reason to be troubled about the people who run City Hall in Deerfield Beach.

Alas, none of this means there will be fall out other than a flurry of "I-told-you-so" e-mails between people who already knew that Capellini is no damned good. In fact, there probably won't be. First off, to determine if Capellini has violated the law, in the case of Sam or let's say in the Lanzo Crystal Lake permit case, there must be official (and serious) investigations. Broward County does not have an impressive prosecution record when it comes to public corruption. Some citizens, for this reason, have urged higher-level prosecutors and state law enforcement officials to look into Deerfield Beach. Some have even contacted Governor Bush.

Remember also, Al Capellini and Larry Deetjen are still the darlings of many business insiders. Supporters stand before the city commission and lament that the city is sinking into a virtual hell of anarchism because Deetjen is suspended and Capellini is under attack by a biased press. In Deetjen's case, there is an almost cult-like base of support that is reminiscent of the fanatic loyalty of some to the late Amadeo Trinchitella.

While these stories of sleazy deals and shady friends are interesting and confirm to a degree what many suspected, they also leave unanswered other questions. Reporter Norman on the Steve Kane Radio Show (07/07/06) stated that the things going on in Deerfield Beach -- Capellini, the Boinis deal, Sylvia Poitier's incongruent loyalty to Deetjen, the Gonot recall -- are related, or, we think his word was, connected. But exactly how they are connected has not been fully explained. It would be quite interesting to know, and we don't know as of now, if Pete Boinis or Boinis people are in any way connected to Sam Frontera or his people. It would be bombshell information if they were. However, the pier proposal is suspect circumstantially, even without such explosive information: the intense way that Boinis fought for his deal, which included a massive propaganda campaign, a slick video, a website, political rallies, money funneled to commission candidates friendly to his plan, and the recall effort against Steve Gonot, who more than anyone ruined the pier proposal and set the stage for Deetjen's removal -- in other words an effort seemingly out of proportion to what is only supposed to be a restaurant -- sets the mind to thinking that there was more to the Boinis pier proposal than a restaurant. Some people thought the Boinis "restaurant" lease laid the groundwork for a beach front gambling casino if and when slots became legal in Florida, sometime, let's say. within the next 54 years. Of course, this is only speculation. The Gonot recallers deny that there is any connection between their attempt to oust Gonot and Boinis, and they deny that the recall effort is part of a strategy to save Larry Deetjen's job.

Whether Mayor Al, as Norman likes to call him, is a "Criminal Mastermind" or just an opportunistic oaf, Larry Deetjen's exact role is still to be defined. During the height of the Deetjen era, many felt that Capellini was the puppet and Deetjen the puppeteer. Deetjen was the mind behind the throne, in other words. But the charge is that Capellini used his position or influence to get favored treatment for his business associates. If Deetjen was not an active participant in some of this, what then was his role? Just a useful idiot? Doubtful: when he wrote the misleading letter to the county on behalf of the mayor's client regarding the Crystal Lake fill permit, he seemed to be an active member in a conspiracy to lie. This is true also when Deetjen helped the plaintiffs in the Tischler litigation. It is inconceivable that Deetjen was just a useful idiot in the lawsuit caper that was intended first to stop the referendum, then to overturn the two charter amendments approved by voters which limited development in the beach area, which both he and the mayor vigorously opposed. In an earlier writing we questioned whether Deetjen had not crossed the line with his anti-referendum rhetoric. City managers are not supposed to get into elections.

It is much more likely that Deetjen crossed the line in a bigger way: he conspired with Capellini to bring the lawsuit against the city and recruited Tischler and the other "Citizen Opponents" plaintiffs to make it appear they were not part of it. Deetjen helped the plaintiffs all he could and when the scheme was exposed, he and Capellini made up a story that Deetjen was directed to assist the plaintiffs by the city commission in executive session. This claim was later shown to be a lie.

No question that City Manager Deetjen was center stage in the pier restaurant proposal and the city's other attempt to turn city properties on the beach over to private developers, the Ocean Park Referendum. City Hall insiders -- that includes Mayor Capellini's business partners and possibly Capellini himself -- stood to make millions from these projects.

Deetjen must have had something to gain for his efforts.

Insider Trading, Deerfield Style - Updated 11/10/02

Some people think that the parking garage project is grounded more on the prospect of personal gain by public officials and their friends, than on the public good. The same thing might be said of the whole scheme of beach area redevelopment, starting with the CRA, and culminating with the proposal to designate the area as a Regional Activity Center (RAC) which would give City Hall broader powers to determine permitted land uses adjacent to the beach. In other words, it would pave the way for bigger and bigger buildings.

Part of this suspicion is just plain old fashioned cynicism, of course. But there are also the shadowy deals, decisions made without basis in fact or reason, decisions that defy public opinion, and the business relationships that we know exist between some public officials and developers.

The purpose of this article is to explore one such case, the business relationship of Mayor Al Capellini and Bill Gallo, whose firm was recently awarded the architectural contract to design a parking garage for the Main Beach Parking Lot. Did this relationship have a bearing on Gallo Architects winning the multi-million dollar garage contract over other firms experienced in parking garage design?

This is what we know. You can draw your own conclusions.

William J. "Bill" Gallo and his associate, Jerry DuBois, are business partners of Mayor Albert Capellini in a venture unrelated to the parking garage contract. Gallo Architects & Development Consultants, Inc. is a corporation registered at 1311 Newport Center Drive West, Deerfield Beach, Florida 33442. Bill Gallo is president of the firm.

Gallo is a Harvard graduate and active in a number of professional organizations. In an article which appears on the Flight Across America web site, he is identified as president of Gallo & DuBois, an architecture and construction company based in Deerfield Beach. Gallo & DuBois is not a (Florida) corporation and is not listed in the fictitious name registry.

As stated, Gallo's partner is Jerry DuBois, the president of JWR Construction Services, Inc., which is registered at the same Newport Center address as Gallo Architects. Gallo is the executive vice president and registered agent of JWR and Alicia DuBois is the secretary-treasurer of Gallo Architects.

We assume that "Gallo & DuBois" is a partnership between Gallo Architects and JWR, or their principals.

In private life, Mayor Capellini is the head of Atlantis Environmental Engineering, Inc., a Florida corporation registered at 1311 Newport Center Drive West, Deerfield Beach, Florida 33442, the same address as Gallo Architects and JWR.

Capellini, Gallo, and DuBois are also listed as partners in Arbor Green of Deerfield, LLC, along with Helmut Janssen of Boca Raton, in papers filed with the Florida Secretary of State. The mailing address of the Arbor Green company is the same Newport Center address, Suite C, which is the office of Capellini's company, Atlantis Environmental Engineering.

Without going into all the details of this complicated deal, Arbor Green is a townhome project in the Deer Creek Tennis Resort. For the benefit of readers who are not familiar with the geography of the city, Deer Creek is a residential development west of the beach area and is some miles away.

It might also be mentioned that the realtor for this project is the firm that employs Lynn Deetjen, the wife of City Manager Larry Deetjen. We do not know if the Deetjens have any other direct financial interest in the Arbor Green project.

Capellini abstained in Commission votes involving the Arbor Green project and also in the parking garage architectural contract. We shall assume, for the time being, that he was not in technical violation of state conflict of interest laws. Nevertheless, what we don't know for certain is whether the business relationship of the mayor and Gallo and DuBois influenced the commission's decision in some way, influenced the city staff in making its evaluation, or whether the mayor or city employees provided information to Gallo about the parking garage project that was not given to other proponents.

While we don't know for certain, it is hard to believe that given the close relationship of Capellini and Gallo, that there were not off-the-record discussions about the parking garage project that might have given Gallo an advantage over other competitors. The Gallo design was somewhat unique among the proposals and some say was the least meritorious.

We have been advised by a confidential source that in the Arbor Green case, a city employee left his position rather than sign off on the project because of some discrepancies he found. The employee was Dick Stevens, who was chief building inspector at the time. It is a fact that Mr. Stevens resigned, but we have not been able to confirm that this was the reason. Nevertheless, we can imagine it is a difficult position for city employees to act impartially toward projects or proposals in which the mayor or other elected officials are involved.

It is the mayor's right to pursue outside business interests and we suppose that there is always some tension between outside interests and public responsibilities. In this case, however, a controversial and costly contract was awarded to a business partner. This invites suspicion and raises legitimate questions about the deal. We don't think that the Mayor can just blow these questions off as he is inclined to do.

Can we be so bold as to suggest that the mayor could avoid the appearance of such improprieties in the future if he pursued his business interests exclusive of public office?