The Plot To Depose King Jenne

Democrats and Republicans, blacks and whites, have banded together for one simple reason: to stop Ken Jenne from becoming Broward's first strong mayor.

It also led to an inevitable and long-term disenfranchisement in Broward not only for the GOP but for blacks and Hispanics. Realistically their only hope of representation on the commission is to win seats in single-member districts where they hold a majority.

That's why Hall and Calloway, who failed to respond to numerous requests for interviews, put their weight behind the committee and an NAACP-sponsored lawsuit to stop the strong-mayor referendum, according to Bucknam.

The lawsuit succeeded in Broward County Circuit Court when a judge agreed the referendum violated a state law that requires ballot issues to be explained clearly to voters. The ruling is under appeal. The plaintiff is Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner Carlton Moore, one of many local government officials in the county who fear they would lose power under a strong mayor.

Lobbyist Russ Klenet pitches business and city interests to Broward County commissioners
Lobbyist Russ Klenet pitches business and city interests to Broward County commissioners

If Jenne wins, a black, Republican, or Hispanic commissioner could be powerless, claims Ellyn Bogdanoff, "because Jenne could veto whatever they do."

Whatever the fate of the March 14 referendum, Klenet says he could see the writing on the wall the day he sat in the visitors' gallery of the state legislature and watched Jenne's allies from Broward County create the referendum. As soon as he picked up the telephone and let the folks back home know the hand they'd been dealt, the steering committee was born.

Jenne himself will speak of none of this and will not return telephone calls. His public information officer at the sheriff's office, Cheryl Stopnik, speaks for him and admits that "for years and years he felt the [strong mayor] would be a good form of government." But, she adds, "the job does not exist, and he doesn't want to speculate right now."

Although Jenne won't talk about it, Stopnik says he has been out raising money to create the job. As she describes it, Jenne has personally stumped for "the majority of the money" for Broward Referendum 2000, the pro-mayor political action committee that now has raised about $260,000.

And the sheriff has been campaigning for two years, according to Lionel Stewart, in large ways as well as small. Stewart makes his case in his favorite diner, Classics, hidden in a small strip mall off Flamingo Road in west Davie.

Low-key and amicable, Stewart jokes with others in the diner, all of whom are white, and discusses a round of golf with one. At 66 years of age, he admits that his desire to be sheriff infuses his daily life. He works out with weights five days a week, he says, and appears to have the stamina to campaign from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Stewart is only lately a tireless politician and a sharp critic of Jenne. A New York City native, Stewart retired from the Army and then spent a second 20-year career as a senior officer in the DEA before serving as a commander in the Broward Sheriff's Office from 1992 to 1993.

He has a strong opinion of what the sheriff's office is like under Jenne. According to Stewart it's like a mayoral campaign.

"Look at this," he exclaims, pulling out a manila envelope full of bric-a-brac acquired from the Jenne administration. Next to the scrambled eggs and toast, he pours an array of pens, key chains, bumper stickers, a pennant or two, and paperwork, all embossed with the BSO logo and the well-positioned and prominent name of Ken Jenne.

Stewart says the forms were all newly printed with Jenne's name to replace old forms. They are expensive to print, and all are useless if Jenne leaves office, he says.

Stewart's biggest irritation, though, was the massive and elaborate funeral for sheriff's deputy Michael Doane. On the force for only about one year, he died December 16, a couple of weeks after he crashed his car en route to a club where a shooting had been reported. The ceremony took place not in a church but at the Broward Center For the Performing Arts, where the main hall was filled with roughly 3000 law-enforcement officers. The ceremony included mounted horse patrols, a drill team's shotgun salute, numerous limousines, and -- in the concluding portion of the funeral outside -- even a fly-over. Eight helicopters created a "missing man" formation that approached high and from the east, with three in the lead and five behind. All for the benefit of viewers on the ground.

Squarely in the center of the action, dark-suited and somber, stood Ken Jenne.

"Who else gets that [kind of funeral] in this county? I mean come on," fumes Stewart. "Nobody gets that unless Jenne is campaigning. And that's what he's been doing, campaigning for mayor."

That kind of campaigning, along with a single-minded determination to achieve a goal, has always been part of Jenne, according to other members of the steering committee who have known and worked with him.

One of those is Bernie Friedman, a corporate attorney and lobbyist with a reputation for winning his clients the favor of local politicians in the Broward communities where they do business.

Publicity-shy and wary of media attention, Friedman nevertheless agrees to meet at the Hollywood offices of his firm, Becker & Poliakoff, where the names of about 40 partners are noted on a bronze plaque that lists offices in Hong Kong and Switzerland. Another plaque reads "Official Consulate of the Czech Republic." The opulence of the surroundings suggests just how successful these lawyers are: dark marble walls; gilded sculptures of racing hounds; even a stream that flows into the two-story entrance, past the lobby, and out of the building some 100 feet to the east. The stream slides through a manicured garden and into a several-acre lake, also owned by Becker & Poliakoff.

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