Monday Quick Takes
"Is it legal for me to do what I'm doing? The answer is yes, so long as the amount being paid is fair market value."
Those are the words of Broward County Mayor Ken Keechl to the Sun-Sentinel regarding the $3,100 of campaign money he pays in rent to himself and his domestic partner, Teddy Adcock, every month. So is $3,100 fair market value on the little, 1,200-square-foot home office in Wilton Manors?
Early indications are that the answer is no, including some crack research done here in the comments section (Godfather3 and Fraud Lauderdale stand out). But I intend to definitively answer that question, along with others raised about the mayor's real estate business, soon.
-- Sheriff Al Lamberti will get another test of his leadership after a deputy in a patrol car that witnesses say was speeding crashed into a vehicle that had made a left-hand turn in its path. The crash killed 14-year-old Cara Catlin and injured two others. One witness estimated the deputy's speed at 75 mph as it flew down Dixie Highway and hit the rear section of the car in which Catlin was traveling, cutting the car in half. No lights, no siren, and the violence of the crash speaks for itself. As a former cops reporter who has covered numerous fatal accidents, I can tell you that a car doesn't get split in half in a normal traffic crash. That's the epitome of deadly speed.
-- The following isn't so quick, but it's worth reproducing here. It's part of a transcript from a Broward County Ethics Commission meeting, a body whose very title is a contradiction in terms. This is Commissioner Stacy Ritter, who has been dogged by scandal, talking about how nobody really understands anything and how the ethical commission is misunderstood and how lobbyists (like her husband, Russell Klenet) don't really have all that much influence on the county commission. It includes what has to be the quote of the year: "Politics and lobbyists, just like politics and sex, sort of go hand-in-hand, sometimes in my house they are one and the same."
She also goes off on one of the most valuable activists we have in Broward County, Charlotte Greenbarg as well, claiming she "hates" the county commission.
All of this sudden focus on ethics by the commission and the Broward County School Board is a sham. Don't ever forget that. Ritter should be ashamed (for a number of reasons). You should be angry. Here's the transcript, which comes courtesy of the Hallandale Beach Blog:
STACY RITTER: Well, thanks. I didn't ask to be on the agenda, so I appreciate you giving me a couple of minutes.
I have spent some time -- good morning everybody. Thank you for your service. I have spent some time going through the minutes of the past several meetings, and have been quite frankly disturbed at some of the comments that have been coming from this Committee and feel there are some assumptions that have been made here that are, quite frankly, wrong. I have seen it in other Commissions and Committees where you are asked to do things and you may not know exactly what the Commission does, so you are asking for changes to stuff that you're really not sure what we do. ... I'm concerned that there appears to be a perception from this group that the County Commission is full of corrupt elected officials who want nothing better than to line their
pockets, and to date, we have had, since I have been on the Commission, in November 2006, one County Commissioner who has pled guilty to an offense that had nothing to do with his office and has been charged with an offense that has something to do with land use, not procurement, yet you have chosen to focus on procurement, and I haven't received a single e-mail from anybody in this county, either way, that focuses on procurement. There has never been a hint of scandal, as it relates to Broward County's procurement process, and yet, you wish to change a system that is quite frankly not broken. And I was most disturbed by my colleague Commissioner Wexler's comments as it relates to procurement, and what she perceives to be an issue, which I quite frankly don't see. You had all discussed with her, and this is the meeting she attended and I have lots of tabs that made me scratch my head, but she -- the Commissioner who sits on the most selection committees and who actually raised her hand three times yesterday to sit on the three selection committees that were on the agenda, seems to feel that Commissioners don't belong on the selection committee. Well, I like to lead by example, so if I don't think something should happen, I don't participate in the process. And so I scratch my head when one of my colleagues comes and says we should change something that she participates in quite freely, and gleefully, I might add.
When the conversation came to sand bagging, lots of people come to the table with agendas. I dare say that some of you have come with agendas too, which may not be what you are putting down on the public comment, but that doesn't make it illegal and it certainly doesn't make it unethical. If I'm sitting in a selection committee and I think company A is the best company, but company B is the stiffest competition, I may well choose to rank company B lower because I think company A should win. There is nothing wrong with that. There is nothing illegal or unethical in that, and if you want to know the reasons why we vote, all you have to do is ask us. Sometimes you will get the right answer and sometimes you will get the couched answer, but that is politics. I don't think the selection committee is broken.
Commissioner Wexler talked about intimidation of staff. The County Commission doesn't hire and fire staff, so they shouldn't be intimidated by us because we're not their bosses. The County Administrator is their bosses. And if they have issues with the County Administrator, they should take it up with her, not with us because we don't hire and fire the people that are sitting at the table with you.
There was a comment that not a lot of questions are asked by staff at selection committees because of the intimidation. I don't ask a lot of questions at selection committees, and I can promise you, I'm not intimidated by a single one of my colleagues. That is not the reason I don't ask questions. I don't ask questions because I read the proposals, which are thorough, and I listen and watch the presentations, which are equally thorough, and I make up my mind based on the proposals and the presentations. There is no intimidation there. I get my questions answered either beforehand or in the proposal and the presentation.
I think that your Inspector General local bill has some problems with it. You are allowing somebody who basically does what the auditor does. We're already paying for somebody to do much of what the Inspector General does, and I don't think the county needs an Inspector General and an auditor to overlap each other, and I think the County Commission, by the way -- I would certainly be willing to put an ordinance on the agenda to talk about an Inspector General. It's funny you want the Legislature to meddle in this, because in 2000, Mr. Scherer, you and I were on the same side of a strong mayor, to try to curtail the Legislators attempt to meddle into county business by putting a strong mayor on the ballot. We were at the same table to kill it, and our argument was, the Legislature shouldn't meddle in county business. They should take care of their own house and let the County Commission take care of its own house, but 10 years later, I know times change, people change and issues change, but I don't think the Legislature should meddle.
I think that there are, by the way, Legislatures who have been accused of things. Legislatures who have gone to jail, but I don't see you talking about them. There are Legislatures who actually work for businesses that have business in front of the Legislature, and vote on their issues, but I don't see you talk about their conflicts. I don't see you talk about the conflicts in Congress. I see you talk about selection committees, that Congress doesn't sit on selection committees; that the Legislature doesn't sit on selection committees. But the Legislature doesn't sit as the executive branch, which the County Commission does. The Legislature doesn't sit as the judicial branch, which the County Commission sometimes does, and we always sit as the Legislative branch. So really you can't compare -- and by the way, I have experience. I can speak from both angles. I was a Legislature. I know what is going on up there that nobody seems to care about. All you seem to care about is one of us is going to jail for something that had nothing to do with what he did here at the county, and I do not mean to diminish the offense. It was horrendous and no elected official should ever betray the public confidence, but you're going to allow an Inspector General to investigate anonymous complaints. Now as someone who has been the subject of anonymous attackers on the web, I can tell you that is really harmful. I believe also I have a constitutional amendment to confront my accuser. Now with an anonymous complaint, I lose that. How can you do that? How can you not let me, if I'm accused of something, defend myself to the person who is the accuser. I could go on. I have lots of notes and tabs.
I notice that last week you had Charlotte Greenbarg come to speak to you. She notoriously hates the County Commission. She notoriously hates the School Board. She made some comments about School Board members shouldn't sit on selection committees either, but I don't see anybody talking about that either, and I recognize that your purview is the County Commission, yet you have on occasion, gone outside of that and discussed things that are not within the quote purview of the Ethics Commission. If you want to, and we all want to make sure that our elected officials are trustworthy, and by the way, I'm not sure you could ever make 100 percent of the public believe that that is true. Those people who think we're dirty will always think we're dirty, no matter what we do or say, and those people who think we aren't will always think that. Then you might want to broaden it. You might want to broaden your local bill and say you know, it applies it Legislatures too, and it applies to municipal officials and it applies to the School Board and it applies to the Hospital District Commissioners and it applies to every Water Control Board supervisor in this county, to every single special district supervisor in this county, which there are 97, because quite frankly to single out the County Commissioner for something is wrong. If you want to talk about elected officials and corruption, let's talk about elected officials and corruption, but to paint us all on this County Commission with a broad brush, when I have seen members do nothing illegal or unethical -have seen members do things for their own reasons, which I may not agree with, but they are elected to do that, and if the public doesn't like the job we're doing, then the public knows how to get rid of us.
Exactly Mayor Ritter. And if the feds don't wash you out of government, then we can only hope the people will exercise that knowledge. As if to leave no doubt that she's a total reprobate, Ritter ends it by sucking up to Bill Scherer, the lawyer and power broker who is pushing the commission to build a new courthouse on or near land that he owns. "And this isn't personal, Bill," she said to Scherer, who himself was wrapped up in a huge corruption scandal at the North Broward Hospital District just a few years ago. "You and I have a personal relationship that completely transcends this, and I hope that you would know that. We're disagreeing on an issue, but we're not disagreeable. I still count you as a friend and I still hope that you count me as one at the end of the day."
Then we get the absurd from Ritter. Here's what she said next about "politics and sex sort of [going] hand-in-hand." To wit: "I think that perception of lobbyists is also misunderstood," she said. "And lobbyists purvey the system anyway. Politics and lobbyists, just like politics and sex sort of go hand-in-hand, sometimes in my house they are one and the same, but we just had a major procurement on the court house. Construction manager on the court house, the winner had no lobbyist, knocked on everyone of our doors all by himself."
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