MARGATE, Fla. - For one former Margate businessman Patrick Fitzgerald, the sordid details that emerged from Margate Commissioner David McLean's bribery trial that ended this week with McLean's conviction became personal.
Fitzgerald, who owned a bar that competed with McLean's own bar business in the same Margate shopping plaza, learned that McLean had tried to hire a man to burn down his business.
"I was floored that he wanted to torch my business," Fitzgerald told Local 10. "What if I was in the place sweeping up? The other existing businesses that would have burned down."
In court documents, the FBI revealed that it learned that McLean in 2004 had tried to hire a man to commit arson at Fitzgerald's bar, the Your Place Cocktail Lounge.
What McLean didn't know: The man was an undercover FBI informant.
McLean wavered on doing it in one conversation, but later "suggested that the informant should go ahead with the arson, and McLean promised to take care of the informant financially after the act was completed." McLean later decided against it after he was elected to the commission.
Fitzgerald said he knew McLean, though they were business rivals, as a "so-called friend."
"He would come into the bar as a patron, start a tab, sometimes pay, sometimes not pay," said Fitzgerald.
He said the city often hassled his business with inspections and petty code warning and he suspected McLean may have been behind it.
"You have to keep wondering, 'Why, why, why,'" he said. "I'm not wondering no more. There was somebody that was corrupt in that office that affected my livelihood."
On FBI tapes, McLean talked of manipulating police and code enforcement officers to do his bidding -- and the city is now conducting its own investigation.
"I want to find out if there was anything the police did that they helped [McLean] in a way they wouldn't have helped another resident," said Commissioner Lesa Peerman. "If there was any inappropriate action being done by the police or a police officer, I would like to know what that is."
She said of all the allegations, the arson plot was the most shocking.
"I cannot imagine you setting a fire in a shopping...I can't even imagine anybody talking about that okay?" she said. "That totally blew my mind and everybody else who read it's mind...That whole plaza would have gone down, the whole thing."
Fitzgerald left Margate in 2010 and now manages the Beach Bums bar in Pompano Beach.
"All I know is lost my business and I love Margate," he said.
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