Former Tamarac Commissioner Ed Portner -- best-known as Stacy Ritter's dad -- claimed in yesterday's Sun-Sentinel that he took no money from criminally convicted developers Bruce and Shawn Chait before his vote for their controversial housing project on two golf courses in his city.
This after the Chaits' political operative, Beverly Stracher, told prosecutors that the developers bragged about bribing Portner, who is currently on probation after menacing his daughter with a gun in October 2009.
"[The Chaits] didn't give me a dime, and they didn't have to give me anything because I was a supporter of their project from the start," Portner told the newspaper.
Not so fast, Ed.
Portner was in fact dead-set against developing the Monterrey golf course a year before the Chaits brought their proposal to him. At the time, another developer, D.L. Horton, was planning to develop the golf course -- and residents were furious at the very thought.
Portner was with the residents at that time. His quote in a Sentinel article published back on July 14, 2005, could not have been any clearer.
"We have stated flatly to the people that the city is not going to let this happen," Portner said. "The city has no interest in changing anything. We're not going to rezone that area -- period."
The following year, Portner did a 180 -- and wound up breaking that pledge -- when the Chaits came in with a proposal of their own for the golf course. When he voted for the Chaits' project in March 2006, Tamarac City Hall was filled with protesting residents.
"There will be change whether you like it or not," Portner said at the meeting, drawing jeers from the crowd.
Inside, see what Portner says about that stunning reversal now -- and hear about the gifts he claims he gave to the Chaits.
When I asked Portner about his obvious about-face yesterday, he said initially that he didn't think he'd ever said he would never change the zoning on the golf course property. When I read him his quote, he said he changed his mind because the Chaits' project was less dense than the one proposed by Horton and involved townhouses rather than condos.
Portner also reiterated that he never took any money from the Chaits -- who allegedly paid off several Broward politicians, including three of Portner's colleagues on the Tamarac commission.
"There are times I wish I did, because at my age, I can use every dime I can get my hands on," said Portner. "[The Chaits] knew they had me at day one, so they didn't have to do anything for me. I was grateful for what they were doing for the city."
He said he was so grateful that he took the Chaits out dinner at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel and on another occasion treated them to ice cream at Jaxson's Ice Cream Parlour in Dania Beach. He said he also treated Shawn Chait to "several" lunches at the Woodlands Country Club, where he was allowed to eat without a membership because of his commissioner status at the time. On top of that, he said he bought both father and son separate bottles of liquor.
Portner said the Chaits treated him to a few breakfasts.
"I took them to dinner as appreciation for what they were doing for the city...," he said. "I think I did more for them than they did for me."
There have also been questions about Portner's Jaguar, which he purchased at a time near his vote for the Chaits. He said the cash he put down on the car was his own.
No matter the truth, Portner should be in the clear as far as the state is concerned. The two-year statute of limitations has apparently run out.
Portner said he and his daughter, Stacy, have been mending their relationship ever since he was sentenced to probation for threatening her with a gun. Portner was furious at the time of the incident because Ritter (who also voted for the Chaits' project and accepted a golf cart as a gift from them) was backing his opponent, Beth Talabisco, in the mayoral race that Talabisco would win.
Talabisco was recently removed from office after being charged criminally in the Chait case. I asked Portner if he was surprised about the Talabisco allegations.
"Not at all," he said of his former political nemesis.
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