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Ceasar says he was "suspicious" of Lewis.
"Why would he need the whole county?" Ceasar says. Though he made no direct accusation, the chairman noted that "the list does have great value for resale as a profit center."
He denies Lewis' claim that he was banned from the DEC office after the contentious phone call. "This is like monkey business," he insists. "We've never banned anybody from the office."
Ceasar points out that Lewis also announced last week that he is running for a state House seat against Matt Meadows, a fellow black Democrat. This is a no-no in Ceasar's book, a sign of disloyalty. "This isn't about [VAN] or the Democratic Party or Mitch Ceasar," he says. "This is about Lewis and his ambitions."
Here's the problem: It's Ceasar's job to help Lewis achieve his ambitions, not thwart them. If two strong Democrats compete for a seat in the Legislature, he should help each equally, not try to destroy one of them.
And it's also clear to me that Ceasar is dead wrong about the database. He's hoarding information that is meant to be shared.
In the end, Ceasar alienated a bright and motivated Democrat from party leadership, someone who is determined to bring regular people into the mix. And you wonder why the best candidates the Florida Democrats have been able to field lately are the likes of Jim Stork, Ron Klein, and Bill McBride? It seems to pervade the Democratic Party at the national level as well. Call it the Kerry Syndrome.
This isn't meant to be a broad indictment against Ceasar. All the local party's failures certainly can't be blamed on him. A tall and engaging fellow, he definitely has his talents. I saw him in action during the 2000 presidential election fiasco. It was impressive. No doubt the DEC could do a lot worse.
But Ceasar proves that a party leader should have term limits, as most politicians do. The party has been stagnating under his leadership. Club meetings are dull, members dwindling. Old Democratic leaders are dying off, and nobody is filling their place.
Worse, the entire party is immersed in a culture fueled by moneyed interests one need only look at the recent actions of some of the top county Democrats, like Ilene Lieberman and Josephus Eggelletion, to see that. The elected Dems in Broward County, generally speaking, are uninspiring at best and abjectly unethical at worst.
And Ceasar feeds off that corrupt culture. As a lobbyist or "grant facilitator," as he terms it he tries to help cities get extra county and state money. At the same time, he represents private clients, including towing businesses and garbage companies, before the municipalities where he works.
It's an ethical minefield. And his employment record as a lobbyist isn't impressive. Numerous local municipalities including Wilton Manors, Pembroke Park, Miramar, Hallandale Beach, and Davie have decided not to renew contracts with him, often citing the lobbyist's ineffectiveness as the reason.
He does have part-time gigs with a couple of those cities and retains recurring contracts with Tamarac and Deerfield Beach, which together pay him more than $80,000 a year. There's no telling how much he makes from his private clients. Ceasar refuses to discuss his lobbying but claims to work 60 to 80 hours a week for his unpaid labor for the DEC. That wouldn't seem to leave him much time to earn that paycheck he gets from taxpayers.
In the end, nobody seems too happy. Hard-working Democrats like Randy Fleischer and Phil Busey complain that Ceasar doesn't do enough for the party. At the same time, elected officials have lamented that he doesn't do enough for their towns.
It's time for Ceasar to concentrate on his day job and let some new blood, like Andrew Lewis, make a go at reviving the Democratic Party.