Ex-school board member informed on Gottlieb from prison

Author: Bob Norman, Reporter, bnorman@Local10.com
Published On: Sep 27 2012 09:32:39 AM EDT   Updated On: Sep 27 2012 12:19:16 PM EDT

A recently released grand jury report provides a clue as to how Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigators learned then-School Board Member Jennifer Gottlieb was having an affair with one of the Citigroup bankers doing business with the school board.

The information came from ex-School Board Member Beverly Gallagher, who told investigators about it in a phone call from the Indiana prison where Gallagher is serving a three-year sentence after being busted in an FBI sting taking payoff money from an undercover agent.

Gallagher was in a hotel lobby in Tallahassee when she became suspicious that Gottlieb and Citigroup banker Michael Baldwin were having an intimate relationship. From the report:

Ms. Gallagher stated that she and Ms. Gottlieb attended a meeting in Tallahassee, Florida. Ms. Gallagher stated that as she was preparing to return home, she had a conversation with Ms. Gottlieb about returning home. Ms. Gottlieb informed Ms. Gallagher that she was renting a car as she (Ms. Gottlieb) had a 2:00 PM meeting in Jacksonville, Florida, she needed to attend.

Later that morning, Ms. Gallagher stated she met Michael Baldwin, a CITI Bank representative in the lobby and spoke with him about returning home. Mr. Baldwin informed Ms. Gallagher that he was traveling to Jacksonville, Florida, for a 2:00 PM meeting. Ms. Gallagher stated she was the chair of the SBBC at the time and was not aware of any meeting dealing with school board business being held in Jacksonville during that time frame.

It appears that this may have led investigators to Baldwin, who later broke down and confessed to the affair after being subpoenaed to testify. Gallagher was always on the periphery of the relationships between Gottlieb and the Citi bankers. There were emails between Gottlieb and Citi banker Rick Patterson that Gallagher might have been jealous of their closeness.

Gallagher herself was sent those emails -- as was Gottlieb's husband -- when someone hijacked Jennifer Gottlieb's own AOL account. Both Patterson and Baldwin said the sender was school board employee Dino DeCesare, whom Baldwin said Gottlieb described as a "former boyfriend." Patterson also claimed under oath that the unmarried Gallagher once made an unrequited pass at him.

A question that remains: Did Gottlieb charge travel to the school board (and taxpayers) for any trips she made for the purpose of seeing Patterson or Baldwin? Gallagher seemed to imply that she did, but it doesn't appear to have been substantiated. Investigators wrote, "Gallagher stated that CITI Bank representatives would sometimes have SBBC members fly to New York to 'sign' papers. Ms. Gallagher stated she believed Ms. Gottlieb traveled to New York at least twice for this purpose."

Gallagher also described what she called the "Big Five" -- a majority of board members she said acted in concert on the dais and violated Sunshine Laws in the process. From the report:

Ms. Gallagher stated that within the elected members of the SBBC, there is the “Big Five.” The Big Five are Bob Parks, Stephanie Kraft, Robin Bartleman, Jennifer Gottlieb, and [Maureen] Dinnen. Ms. Gallagher stated that the Big Five spoke about this coalition and that the contractors are very aware of the arrangement. Ms. Gallagher stated she was told that if she joined the coalition, she would always have the votes she needed to achieve what she wanted to accomplish while on the SBBC commission. Ms. Gallagher stated the coalition regularly violated the State of Florida’s Sunshine Law.