By Kevin Deutsch
An investigation by Broward’s top watchdog found longtime Coconut Creek Commissioner Lou Sarbone engaged in “criminal misconduct” when he moved to Fort Myers and continued to serve on the city commission while lying about his residency on sworn documents.
Broward County Inspector General John Scott determined that, in July 2020, Sarbone changed his primary domicile to Fort Myers but continued to serve as a commissioner for another 19 months, in violation of the city charter’s requirement that all commissioners live within the district they serve, according to a final investigative report issued by Scott’s office.
“Commissioner Sarbone engaged in additional misconduct by falsely swearing to the Broward County Supervisor that he legally resided at a Coconut Creek apartment he rented, then falsely swearing that he was a qualified Broward County voter,” wrote Scott, Broward’s first Inspector General. “As a result of his false assertions, Commissioner Sarbone improperly remained registered to vote in Broward County, and then during that time, he twice voted by mail. Commissioner Sarbone’s false assertions constituted swearing false oaths in connection with voting, third-degree felony violations of Florida’s election law.”
The OIG’s evidence that Sarbone lived in Fort Myers included his “swearing to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles that his physical street address and mailing address was his Fort Myers house, his directing certain mail to his Fort Myers house, his filing for and receiving a homestead exemption in Lee County for his Fort Myers house, and SunPass transponder records reflecting that the transponders associated with Sarbone and his wife “were in southeast Florida no more than 28.8 percent of the time and no more than 12 days at a time within our scope of 573 days,” the report states.
“We also determined that one of these transponders came into Broward County from Collier County, which is situated between Broward County and Lee County, on the day before or the day of a Coconut Creek city commission meeting on approximately 26 occasions,” Scott wrote.
Sarbone announced his resignation in March after five terms in office, making the bombshell announcement during a city commission meeting. It turns out he was being investigated by Scott when he stepped down but made no mention of the residency issue in his final remarks from the dais.
On February 24, 2022, near the conclusion of the OIG investigation, Scott’s investigators questioned Sarbone about the residency issues “until the interview was suspended, to be continued at a future date,” Scott wrote.
“Thereafter, Commissioner Sarbone declined to continue the interview and, fifteen days after his discontinued interview, on March 10, 2022, he announced his resignation from the commission, to be effective April 1, 2022.”
Sarbone, who served as mayor during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic—and implemented the first pandemic curfew in Broward County—first came under scrutiny for his residency in Feb. 2021, when Coconut Creek News reported he resided primarily in Fort Myers rather than Coconut Creek, legally disqualifying him from holding a local commission seat.
Scott said that, per his charter mandate, his office is referring the matter to the Broward State Attorney and the Florida Division of Elections.
The OIG oversees misconduct investigations, including fraud, corruption, abuse and ethics violations, and gross mismanagement in government.
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- Kevin Deutsch is an award-winning crime journalist and author. A graduate of Florida International University, Kevin has worked on staff at The Miami Herald, New York Daily News, and The Palm Beach Post.
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