WEST PALM BEACH — Famous New York mobster John Gotti had nothing on Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw.
Bradshaw, not Gotti, is the real Teflon don.
After all, Gotti died in a federal penitentiary.
Bradshaw will likely die in office despite mounting evidence he misuses his sacred office — and the state remains unwilling to call him out.
Bradshaw and two underlings skated this week when the Florida Commission on Ethics decided there was no evidence Bradshaw, Chief Deputy Mike Gauger and former Internal Affairs investigator Mark Lewis misused their office.
They were accused of conspiring to use the tax-funded might of the agency to go after Bradshaw’s political enemies and local reporters.
The three were interviewed by the commission, and Lewis was crystal clean when he said he was ORDERED by in a meeting with Bradshaw and Gauger to investigate a candidate for sheriff in 2012 as well as the operator of a news website that allows deputies to post anonymously news from inside the agency.
Under oath, however, Bradshaw and Gauger contradicted their former deputy, and swore that wasn’t true.
And the matter was swept under the rug by the state.
Just like that.
No further confronting Bradshaw and Gauger.
No further investigations.
We broke the story: A hearing on complaints of abuse of power took place March 10 near the state capitol in Tallahassee.
It wasn’t open to the public, but it was supposed to help commissioners analyze three complaints drawn last year by Mark Dougan, a former deputy who runs the anti-Bradshaw website pbsotalk.ru.
A year ago, Dougan’s house in Palm Beach Gardens was raided by the FBI, Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office and PBSO, and Dougan’s computers and paperwork were confiscated hours after he emailed an anti-Bradshaw pamphlet to 30,000 voters.
Dougan managed to obtain the passport that was also seized by authorities and fled to Russia, where he filed for political asylum.
He has yet to be charged with any crime by local and federal authorities.
Bradshaw, Gauger and Lewis were accused of investigating a slew of people, including Dougan, former WPTV-Channel 5 reporter Katie Lagrone and Jim Donahue, a candidate for sheriff who ended up being arrested during the 2012 campaign.
The fraud charges against Donahue were dropped two months later, after he dropped out of the race.
Lagrone received a visit from the Department of Children and Families Services on an “anonymous” tip that her two young children weren’t being supervised properly. The state found no wrongdoing.
And Dougan has yet to receive an explanation for the March 2016 raid on his home.
How did Dougan get the information for his complaints?
He obtained secret recordings of Lewis talking to someone he thought was a woman planning to move to Loxahatchee and seeking to hire Lewis’ private construction business. Even if he claimed he eventually came to believe the caller was Dougan digitally distorting his voice, the recordings also show Lewis took a liking to his female caller and admitted things he probably shouldn’t have.
He eventually quit his part-time contract work with PBSO shortly after Gossip Extra published excerpts from the recordings.
In the phone calls, Lewis said his job was really to investigate people who might want to “harm” the sheriff, local judges and prosecutors.
By the way, Bradshaw’s policy is to not comment on stories that appear in news organizations that, he thinks, are against him. Gossip Extra is, in his aging mind, one of those.
According to published reports, Bradshaw and Gauger told the state Lewis was a PBSO retiree contracted to run background checks on job applicants.
Lewis, however, told the state his gig was secretly much higher-profile, and he took his orders only from Bradshaw and Gauger. He surrendered personal notes to the commission that seemed to confirm that.
Lewis also told ethics czars he was ordered to investigate Dougan as well as former candidate for sheriff Donahue, who was arrested for fraud during a speech.
Donahue told Gossip Extra in an interview last year he was quizzed about his arrest by two FBI agents who were looking into potentially illegal activities within PBSO. There’s been no action from the FBI so far.
The ethics commission, meanwhile, didn’t even address the discrepancies between Bradshaw and Gauger’s claims and Lewis’, and found “no probable cause” that any of the three abused their positions.
The commission refused to hear the recordings of Lewis and said it considered them illegal since Lewis didn’t know he was being recorded.