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School Board member Phyllis Hope: What's wrong with going to a party?

Broward School Board member Phyllis Hope told The Miami Herald Wednesday that she was at a December party mentioned in the criminal complaint against suspended Board member Beverly Gallagher.

"The only thing I can say is, it was a party and I wasn't the only elected official there," Hope said. "A lot of people were there. What is wrong with me going to a Christmas party?"

No allegations of wrongdoing have been brought against Hope. The complaint says an undercover federal agent asked Gallagher to invite influential people who could help their construction company client get work.

Hope said among the other elected officials there were Sunrise City Commissioner Sheila Alu and former Miramar City Commissioner Fitzroy Salesman. Salesman was arrested in the same federal corruption sting as Gallagher was last week, along with Broward County Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion.

When asked if she attended the party, Alu, a Broward prosecutor, said: "It would be inappropriate for me to comment on an ongoing FBI investigation."

Eric Schwartzreich, Salesman's attorney, said he did not know whether his client had been at the party.

Hope, who is running for re-election for her Weston-area seat on the School Board, would not go into further details about the party, though she wondered why other names weren't surfacing on reports about the party.

"Why are they only mentioning other people? There were a lot of people there," she said. "It's really trying to drag my reputation down because I went to a party."

Hope, adding that she has not been subpoenaed in the corruption investigation, said she was upset about her colleague Gallagher's arrest.

"It's just sad," she said. "I'm...just devastated."

 --Amy Sherman and Patricia Mazzei

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