The following article from the 1/8/98, electronic edition of the Fort
Lauderdale, Florida, Sun-Sentinel is part of an analysis to determine the
similarities between the modus operandi of the Florida Bar and organized
crime (utilizing a series of Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel articles on
government lawyer legal fees.)
ONE FIRM, MANY TIES
Sun-Sentinel Copyright (c) 1998, Sun-Sentinel Company and South
Florida Interactive, Inc.
- Some South Florida law firms are heavily involved in local
politics. They often hire former politicians or government officials
who are lawyers and contribute frequently to election campaigns.
Here's an in-depth look at one firm that fits that profile.
Becker & Poliakoff, based in Hollywood, represents eight local
government agencies in Palm Beach and Broward counties.
- Established in 1972 as condominium law specialists.
Practice broadened to include governmental, corporate, construction, real
estate and gaming. Based in Hollywood 70 attorneys on staff, the firm
has expanded throughout Florida and into China, Switzerland and the
Czech Republic. Also lobbies for the city of Hollywood. Created a
political action committee in the 1980s to raise money for candidates
- Alan Becker, former Florida state representative from 1972
1978. Fought for the rights of condominium owners, mobile-home owners
and apartment tenants.
- Gary Poliakoff, a University of Miami law school pal of
Becker's. President of the firm and an adjunct professor of
condominium law at Nova Southeastern Law School.
- Bernie Friedman, lawyer and lobbyist. In the mid-1970s, was
national president of the College Young Democrats of America. Student
speaker at the 1980 Democratic National Convention. Served as chief of
staff to former U.S. Rep. Larry Smith from 1982 to 1986. Got a job
through state Sen. Ken Jenne, D-Fort Lauderdale, as a campaign
consultant, working on a half-dozen 1986 legislative races. Sometimes
called Hollywood's sixth commissioner because of his influence at city
- Larry Smith - Former five-term from Hollywood was sentenced
federal prison in 1993 after pleading guilty to income tax evasion and
misusing $10,000 in campaign funds, part of which was used to settle a
Bahamian gambling debt. The Florida Supreme Court suspended his
license until 1998. Before his conviction, he had a governmental
consulting business in the law offices of Becker & Poliakoff. Smith,
who now works as a lobbyist, rents space from the firm and
collaborates with its members on work for private clients. In the
public sector, his clients have included the cities of Hallandale,
Hollywood and Pembroke Pines as well as the North Broward Hospital
District. He has lobbied before the Broward County Commission and the
- Simon Ferro - Former Florida Democratic Party chairman,
out of the firm's Miami office for five years until 1994.
- Alan Koslow - Former Hollywood city attorney who resigned
fire in 1993. After negotiating a settlement with a female city
employee with whom he was secretly having a relationship, he lied
about it to the Broward State Attorney's Office. He was suspended from
practicing law for 45 days. Soon after leaving his city job, he joined
Becker & Poliakoff, where he was recently promoted to partner.
Specializes in gambling issues and real estate development. Clients
include Gus Boulis, founder of Miami Subs and hotel developer on
- Karen Roselli - Former assistant city attorney in Coral
who was fired in 1993 for insubordination. She said she lost her job
because she tried to expose corruption in the former city attorney's
office. She sued and the city settled the case for $55,000. Now works
as an associate at Becker & Poliakoff's West Palm Beach office.
- The firm's contracts have generated $2.13 million in the
three years. They include:
- * $1.6 million from the Broward School Board to handle
construction disputes, litigation and revisions of the school
construction program. Includes fees paid to expert witnesses, such as
engineers, according to Becker.
- * $450,395 from Palm Beach County for land-use litigation
- The firm, its PAC and its attorneys have contributed to
candidates and causes over the years. Among last year's
- * $5,000 to a PAC that is trying to pass a multi-million
bond issue for school construction.
- * $1,948 to Hollywood city commissioners Eleanor Sobel and
- * $1,500 to a slate of four Tamarac city commission
backed by County Commissioner Norman Abramowitz, to whom the firm gave
$500 in his 1996 election bid.
- The firm and its attorneys also gave thousands of dollars
contributions to school board members and county commissioners in
their most recent elections.
- * $2,500 to Broward school board member Bob Parks.
- * $6,527 to four other Broward school board members,
$100- to $500-a-person fundraiser for Don Samuels in the firm's
- * $2,000 to Scott Cowan, the Broward county commissioner, a
strong supporter of business and real estate development.
- * $1,950 to Broward County Commissioner Suzanne Gunzberger,
whose district includes Hollywood and who has close ties to the firm's
- * $2,450 to other Broward County Commission
- * $2,000 to Palm Beach County Commissioner Mary
- * $2,000 to Palm Beach County Commissioner Carol
- * $4,000 to five other Palm Beach County
- Partner Becker said his firm takes pride in contributing to
- "It's our duty to do so," he said. "If lawyers don't care
the quality of people who make laws and enforce them, then who's
- Becker said the firm and its PAC contribute about $50,000 a
to candidates at the local, county and state level. He sees it as a
small price to pay to create valuable ties to government.
"There's no question that relationships are an inherent part of
the political-contribution system. We occasionally benefit from those
relationships," Becker said. "But they're not relationships of quid
pro quo. They're relationships of access and connections."
This Web page is one in a SERIES OF WEB PAGES
examining the modus operandi of the Florida Bar.
The home page of this Web site is entitled LEGAL
REFORM THROUGH TRANSFORMING THE DISCIPLINE OF LAW INTO A SCIENCE