Honey, I Rigged the Vote (Part II): With Wasserman-Rubin Charged, Time to Revisit the Juice's Corrupt Couples Watch-List
Way back in October, this blog used the Tom Ridge terrorist threat chart to rank Broward County's power couples according to the threat they posed to the integrity of local government. The duo of Richard Rubin and Commissioner Diana Wasserman-Rubin posed an "elevated" risk of committing corruption; and indeed Wasserman-Rubin was charged yesterday with unlawful compensation for votes she cast in favor of grant proposals her husband wrote for Southwest Ranches.
So what other Broward power couples are in danger of celebrating their next anniversary with a conjugal visit?
Mitch Kraft and Broward County School Board member Stephanie Kraft already scored as a severe threat to be indicted -- and if there was a ranking higher than severe, they'd get it. Mitch was hired to lobby the School Board to lower the mitigation fees for his client, Prestige Homes. That's a glaring conflict of interest, and now that Prestige Homes' Bruce and Shawn Chait are cooperating with investigators, the Krafts are in even more trouble than before. Threat: Severe-er
Last fall, lobbyist Russ Klenet and Broward County Commissioner Stacy Ritter looked like a couple who posed a high risk of being criminally charged. This was largely a consequence of Klenet's close dealings with felon and accused Ponzi schemer Joel Steinger, who paid for the couple's Parkland home to be remodeled. Since then, it's become evident that Ritter is a target of an investigation by the Broward State Attorney's Office, though it may not be for Steinger so much as for Ritter's dealings with the Chaits, who bought Ritter a golf cart
after before she cast a favorable vote for the developers, as Bob Norman reported on Pulp. For that, this couple deserves to get bumped up a notch. Threat: Severe.
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Ilene Lieberman represented an elevated risk of corruption when we last checked into her dealings, and we see no reason to change our mind. Lieberman lobbies under her husband's surname, Michelson -- as in Stuart Michelson, the city attorney of Sunrise. Since we last checked, Lieberman has come under criminal investigation. She has been a proponent for the new Broward County Courthouse while owning property nearby that's likely to appreciate nicely when that courthouse is built. Threat: Elevated.
In this enlightened age, let's acknowledge that gays too are entitled to loving, committed partnerships that can be applied toward some corrupt end. We're talking about you, Ken Keechl. The reigning Broward mayor and his partner have used Keechl's campaign war chest to pay the rent on a bungalow they own in Wilton Manors -- as you can see for yourself in the same Pulp post. If it's legal, it shouldn't be. But being a lawyer, maybe Keechl knows how to beat the case. Threat: Guarded.
With former Broward Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion behind bars, it's tempting to try to build a jailhouse quorum by adding a fifth commissioner, Sue Gunzburger, who is accused of teaming with her late husband to give his business a county contract. After all, she is under criminal investigation by Broward Sheriff's Office. Only that case is very old and very clouded by BSO's own conflicts of interest. Gunzburger and her allies threw their support behind Sheriff Al Lamberti's opponent during the 2008 election, and now Gunzburger says that Lamberti is doing a favor for her 2010 opponent, Steve Geller. Would a Lamberti-Geller team use taxpayers' resources to settle a political score? Quite possibly. Threat: Guarded.
Technically, Broward Commissioner Lois Wexler isn't married to lobbyist/Machiavellian campaign manager Judy Stern, but the two used to live together, Friends-style, in Wexler's Sunrise condo. And Wexler did cast a big vote in favor of a contractor client looking for a big score at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. Threat: Guarded.
Broward Commissioner John Rodstrom and Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Charlotte Rodstrom remain on our radar screen for the same reason they were last October: We get nervous when powerful people mate. But we'll reserve judgment until there's evidence against them. Besides, John Rodstrom deserves credit for being a leader on ethics reform. Threat: Low.
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