With fears of federal investigations swirling, rumors are flying around the Broward County commissioner like vultures on a desert highway. The subject of one of them is Commissioner Lois Wexler.
It goes like this: Wexler took a spa weekend in Sedona, Arizona, shortly after her election to the commission on the tab of lobbyist friend Judy Stern, who represents numerous clients before Wexler and the county board. Wexler even was said to have used an alias to hide it.
I asked her about it.
"I've never even been to a spa; I don't do facials and that kind of thing," Wexler said. "I've only been to Arizona once and it was back when I was on the School Board. And it was on School Board business, a software thing. Where was it? Phoenix? It was where the Suns play. I've never been to Sedona in my life."
So it's bull. End of story. Some politicians I know would probably lie like that to your face, but not Wexler. She's been around too long and has been above-average in terms of ethics, if not totally pristine. Her relationship with Stern does seem a bit cozy, after all.
Wexler told me that she did in fact go on a trip with Stern to the Atlantic Maritimes -- Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, etc. -- about four years ago (after she was elected in 2004). "I've gone traveling with Judy Stern several times," says Wexler. "She pays her way, and I pay my way. We've known each other since high school."
Both Wexler and Stern graduated from Miami Norland High School, three years apart. She says she and Stern exchange modest birthday gifts -- under the state-allowed $100 limit -- and have bought each other bottles of wine and flowers when dining at each other's houses.
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"It's nothing extravagant; it's just saying, 'I'm thinking of you,'" says Wexler.
Wexler was opposed to a gift ban proposed by colleague Sue Gunzburger, but she says she's now "come around" on the issue. "If it was back up before us, I would support it," she says.
She says she doesn't even socialize with Stern that much anymore. I asked her about the paranoia pervading the board right now.
"There's great fear," she says. "John [Rodstrom] had brought up the idea of going over the federal rules and then there was [recently prosecuted former Palm Beach County Commissioner] Mary McCarty. Didn't she get three and a half years? Oh my goodness, that's real time."