Nipping The Watchdog's Heel

Miami-Dade’s top public corruption prosecutor doesn’t have to worry about the Florida Bar coming after him anymore. Bar counsel Arne Vanstrum has dismissed a complaint against Joseph Centorino, the assistant state attorney who heads the public corruption unit, alleging he acted unethically by not prosecuting high-ranking officials in the Miami-Dade County Public Schools system.

Specifically, former schools consultant Laurance Costanzo accused Centorino of obstructing justice by protecting Miami-Dade Public Schools Superintendent Rudolph "Rudy" Crew, Schools Police Chief Gerald Darling, and district bureaucrat Rhonda Vangates for their alleged role in covering up the Northwestern Senior High School sex scandal that rocked the school district last year.

After initially notifying Costanzo this past December 17 that his complaint “has been determined to be a matter which warrants further investigation,” Vanstrum informed him this past March 20 that there was insufficient evidence indicating Centorino violated any bar rules. Vanstrum reached his conclusion after receiving a five page letter from Centorino's boss Chief Assistant State Attorney Don Horn who argued that Costanzo's allegations were "outreageous, unworthy of belief."

Centorino declined comment, but in an earlier interview said that Costanzo’s complaint “has no merit.” Meanwhile, Costanzo says Vanstrum is also part of the conspiracy to cover up public corruption. "I am not the least bit surprised," he says. "Birds of a feather flock together."

-- Francisco Alvarado

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