In light of the explosive findings Bob Norman's been posting over at Daily Pulp, it's time we identify a trend in Broward corruption: power-mad married couples, ruling the region like a king and queen, carving up our public money like it's their Thanksgiving turkey.
For all the damage these duos inflict on the public trust, I don't feel an ounce of guilt about busting out Tom Ridge's trusty Homeland Security Terrorism Alert chart. After the jump, we'll rank Broward's power couples according to the severity of their threat to good governance. (Hint: In this past week, a new couple has knocked the long-reigning king and queen from their thrones.)
I'm speaking of the Krafts, of course. Just in this past hour, Pulp has reported that Mitch Kraft was hired by Prestige Homes to lobby the Broward County School Board -- including his wife Stephanie -- to lower the developer's mitigation fees, and that Stephanie Kraft actually intervened with the district to make sure that occurred. Conflicts of interest don't get any more blatant than that. Corruption Threat: Severe.
And who did the Krafts knock from the top spot? Why, the Russ Klenet-Stacy Ritter tandem, of course. The lobbyist Klenet was a business associate of accused Ponzi schemer Joel Steinger, while Ritter -- then a state rep -- cast a vote on a bill that Klenet had lobbied for on Steinger's behalf. As a thank-you, Steinger paid for the couple's Parkland home to be renovated. And that's just one in the extensive Klenet-Ritter canon. They score a tad lower than Krafts, if only because the Broward State Attorney's Office investigated and -- incredibly -- cleared Ritter. But federal investigators getting comfortable in Broward may be a bit more aggressive. Corruption Threat: High.
Broward County Commissioner Ilene Lieberman is married to a powerful Broward attorney, Stuart Michelson, the current city attorney in Sunrise. The couple owns an office near the Broward County Courthouse -- and what do you know? Lieberman is gung-ho about building a new courthouse, which figures to have a positive impact on the value of that investment. So gung-ho that she seems willing to defy voters to make it happen. Or maybe that's just the opinion of Ilene Michelson -- the name she uses when she puts on her lobbyist hat. As for Stuart Michelson, he landed the job in Sunrise after being hired by two commissioners who he'd previously defended in a private capacity after they were sued for defamation. Add the fact that he served as the campaign treasurer for the mayor's judicial bid, and you can see how he scored a quorum. Corruption Threat: Elevated.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Move just a few seats over on the Broward County Commission dais, there's Diana Wasserman-Rubin. Her husband, Richard Rubin, accepted a job with Ira Cor, a convicted felon turned land baron who wanted to win the county commission's approval for grants and real estate deals. Did Wasserman-Rubin cast votes that helped Cor's firm? You betcha! Corruption Threat: Elevated.
Now, you may ask, don't these power brokering couples have a responsibility to groom the next generation of ethically blind pols? Of course -- so kudos to Wasserman-Rubin for hiring Annie Gallagher as campaign coordinator. Annie Gallagher is the daughter of the former Broward school board member -- and now accused felon -- Beverly Gallagher. And Beverly's other daughter, Meghan Gallagher, is dating Phil Kaufold, who just happens to work for that same school district as a construction project manager. Kaufold and Meghan Gallagher may not be married (yet), but they have a pedigree that suggests they'll rise to positions of power, only to fall from grace. Corruption Threat: Guarded.
Back to that Broward County Commission; John Rodstrom we're looking at you. Specifically, we're wondering where you've stored your dirty laundry, because although you, too, reside in a powerful household -- wife Charlotte is a Fort Lauderdale Commissioner -- we're yet to discover any evidence of major ethical concern. But considering all the evidence above for corrupt marriages, can you blame us for being anxious when such influential people mate? Corruption Threat: Low.
Meanwhile, past Broward's northern border, the corruption by spouses has already bloomed, hasn't it, McCarty family?