All right, Stacy Ritter did, in fact, meet with prosecutors on Friday, according to the Sun-Sentinel. She had previously agreed to talk to prosecutors and then bowed out before again agreeing to meet. Yes, she was the answer to yesterday's blind item, but the newspaper is reporting she sat down on Friday.
That had to be a hell of an interview. My understanding is that one of the main topics was her votes for Vista Health Plans while the lobbying firm of her husband, Russ Klenet, represented the company before the county. She called in the vote (I hear she and Klenet were on a cruise ship or out of the country at the time -- hey, the vote was in June, and we know how Ritter likes to get out of town on elaborate vacations during the hot Florida summers). Either she or Klenet was allegedly contacted by company reps prior to her phoned-in vote. And of course, there's that golf cart she received from dirty developers Bruce and Shawn Chait.
Other votes are under scrutiny as well, according to sources.
The Sentinel also reported the madness that ensued at Tamarac City Hall when state investigators paid a visit. Apparently Tamarac Mayor Beth Talabisco was angry that Patricia Atkins-Grad, who has since been arrested for allegedly taking bribes from the Chaits, entertained the investigators, and a shouting match broke out. Commissioner Diane Glasser, who ran Atkins-Grad's campaign, was given immunity by prosecutors and said she wasn't paid anything by the Chaits. "The mayor was screaming why Patte let [state investigators] in," said Glasser, a top Democrat in Broward County who has long served as second in command to party Chairman Mitch Ceasar.
Oh, and about that golf cart: Ritter has changed her story more than Jeff Greene's Cuba trip. When I broke the golf cart story several weeks ago, Ritter told me that the gift from the Chaits was for her. She has changed that story since to say it was for her hubby, Klenet. She initially told me she thought it was an in-kind contribution to her campaign; then she said maybe it was just a gift. And of course, she has always said that that it wasn't meant to affect her vote. The Chaits apparently were just throwing around golf carts. Didn't you get one?
The really good news is that our list of code names in the investigation is growing.
Ilene Lieberman: "Redhead."
Atkins-Grad: "Nervous Nelly."
Beverly Stracher: "Fat Ass."
Stacy Ritter: "Lawyer."
The first three should stick, and they are all based directly on testimony in the investigation. But I feel like Ritter's is weak. Nothing really good is coming to me. I think we can do better.
-- The Marlins, I just can't quit them. I know I should. I know they pulled a fast one on those rubes down in Miami-Dade, I know owner Jeffrey Loria is skimping on the talent he puts on the field to fatten his wallet, but I can't stop watching the team. I don't know why I love it. The team abuses us all and has treated us like shit for years. All Marlins fans feel a little bit like Patty Hearst with the SLA.
If you don't know the sad and despicable story, it goes like this: While the Marlins, Loria, and David Samson were pleading poverty and claiming they needed a new taxpayer-subsidized stadium, the team was actually making a total of $50 million in straight-up profit in two years. While some demanded to see the team's finances, the county manager and mayor pushed the negotiations forward in blind fashion. The final deal on the stadium: Taxpayers put up $359 million while the team had to put up only
$150 million, due only after all construction is complete. But it gets even worse. The Marlins also get to keep all the stadium revenues generated by the stadium. The taxpayers get squat. Nothing! They aren't partners; they're flat-out chumps.
And the deal was done while the economy was basically imploding and, as the Above the Law blog put it, "county officials still have not acknowledged that now is the worst of all times to hand $359 million in pork to the already fattest pig in town."
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Car dealer Norman Braman, who preached and litigated against the stadium deal, comes across as the prophet, especially with the release of the Marlins' gawdy profit numbers (which were first reported on the blog Deadspin -- I'm telling you, these blog thingies are the future). He called the taxpayers "suckers" yesterday.
And the man is right that rain delays so many summer games at Joe Robbie. But did you see how the Marlins pulled it out against the Mets last night? It'll take a miracle to get the wild card, but go Fish!
(Did I mention they won two World Series?)
-- The blog seems to be running very well now after the Election Day disaster. You might notice that "Tales From the Campaign Trail" is down. That's because I couldn't alter the post due to technical problems, and I had a correction to make. So I took it down. The correction: The car with the District 31 state senate license plate in the photograph I posted didn't belong to Eleanor Sobel. I learned it actually belonged to Gail Schwartz, the former aide to Sobel's predecessor in the seat, Steve Geller. My apologies to Sobel for the mistake.