Businessman kills himself at newspaper after exposé

Police were interviewing family members and trying to retrace the last hours of Arthur Teele, 60, before he entered the building shortly after 6pm on Wednesday. He asked a security guard to relay a message to one of the paper's columnists and fired two bullets from the gun.

The political career of Mr Teele, who was African-American, took off when President Ronald Reagan appointed him to the Department of Transport. More recently he served as both a city and county commissioner in the Miami area of southern Florida and also ran once for mayor.

But his reputation appeared ruined as legal challenges mounted. He was charged this month with multiple counts of fraud and money-laundering. Prosecutors said he had taken bribes of $59,000 (£34,000) in exchange for securing contracts for a company to work at Miami international airport.

In addition to facing state and federal corruption charges, Mr Teele was convicted earlier this year of threatening a police officer who was trailing him in connection with another corruption investigation. He was stripped of his seat on the city commission and given two years' probation.

Police wanted to know why Mr Teele chose The Miami Herald's lobby as a place to die. He had long been friends with a political columnist at the paper, Jim DeFede.

Through the security guard he told Mr DeFede he was leaving a package for him in the lobby.

There was speculation that by taking his life in the lobby of Florida's most important paper, Mr Teele may have been sending a message about the torment of his disgrace and how it had been made worse by the city's media. It seemed hardly a coincidence that the city's main alternative newspaper, the Miami New Times, published a front-page exposé yesterday detailing the new charges against him. It had the headline: "Tales of Teele: Sleaze Stories."

The Times story was available on its website on Wednesday, the day Mr Teele died. A sub-headline read: "Male prostitutes and multiple mistresses, drug money in Gucci shopping bags, bribery and extortion conspiracies. And you thought you'd heard it all about Art Teele."

Shock has been expressed by executives at both the newspapers. "It was the first thing that crossed my mind, that this was a response to our story, and it filled me with dread," said the New Times' editor, Jim Mullin. "Who knows? It's all speculation." A statement of condolence was released by The Miami Herald, which said that Mr DeFede had been sacked.

The newspaper said Mr DeFede had earlier tape-recorded an interview with Mr Teele without telling him it would be kept on tape. Before the corruption charges began to overtake him, Mr Teele was well known for championing the poorest neighbourhoods of Miami and leading efforts for urban rehabilitation. "He was a political giant in south Florida," said Chris Smith, a member of the Florida legislature, "It's sad to see it had come to him taking his own life."