Part III: Chairman Ceasar's Hands-On Management Style
When Donna Greenberg served as executive director of the Broward Democrats, the business of running the party would usually cause her to have to visit Democratic Chairman Mitch Ceasar's law office on Broward Boulevard in Plantation about once a week.
And once there, she says, it was always the same routine.
"He's very predictable," Greenberg, who was married, says of her former boss. "He would walk over, shut the blinds in his office, and close the door. Then he would come over, say 'You look tense,' and massage my neck. It was so weird. I was freaking out. I was like, 'What do I do?'"
It only got worse the one time that party business caused her to have to go to Ceasar's house in Plantation. She was there to collect photographs that were to be posted on the Broward Democratic Executive Committee website.
"He totally came onto me and tried to get me in bed," she said.
While she sat at his computer, he told her that she looked tense and started rubbing her shoulders.
"His hands went lower and lower until I had to
say, 'How can I relax when you have your hands down my shirt?' I tried to make light talk because I was so nervous, and I pretended like it didn't happen. I told him that I needed to get back to his office."
She got up from his computer, and he walked with her toward his bedroom.
"If you lay down, I can rub your solar plexus and that will really help you relax," she recalls him saying. "And that's when I said I really need to go. I got out of there as fast as I could. He called me later that day and said, 'I really am a good guy.'"
It's never easy when the boss comes on to you. Just ask Alicia Briggs, another former Democratic executive director who also worked at the direction of Ceasar, who was divorced at the time. Briggs' story was remarkably similar to Greenberg's.
"I'd go to his office to meet with him and he would give me these massages that were very inappropriate," says Briggs, an attorney. "The door was usually closed in his office, and he would come up behind me, and he would rub my neck and say I was tense, and his hands would work their way a little further down and a little further down. I would shrug it off or move away from him.
"He did that several times. I never asked him to give me a massage. He would say, 'I'm going home and getting [in the hot tub] -- would you like to join me?' He is so egotistical that I think he really thinks that everyone wants him. It was completely inappropriate, but I had just settled into the job, and I needed the job."
Some say it went further with other female executive directors. Another of Ceasar's executive directors, Nadezda Stepanovic, refused to speak at length about Ceasar's advances but said they occurred. "He is more than a handful to deal with," said Stepanovic. "He would say, 'You look very tired; you look like you need to relax.' Then he would rub the back of your neck and shoulders. I would say, 'Well, I'm really tense because you're my boss and you need to stop rubbing my back.' Is it appropriate? No."
Only one of the four former party directors who spoke about Ceasar on the record, Carol Coffman, said she wasn't propositioned at some point. To Greenberg, Ceasar's behavior was flat-out sexual harassment. She said that at one point, she considered suing Ceasar but decided against it. She left the Democratic Party's employ to work on the campaign of Ron Klein instead.
Greenberg said that at one point during her employment with the party, she asked for a raise from $30,000 to $40,000 from Ceasar that she assumed she wouldn't get since Ceasar was notoriously cheap. "He gave it to me," she said. "Either I was doing a great job or he was hoping I would keep my mouth shut."
Briggs wasn't quite as fortunate. She became pregnant while working for Ceasar and says that when her doctor ordered bed rest for her, he fired her.
"I was fired for being pregnant, and he wanted me to sign something that would hold him harmless," Briggs said. "I wouldn't do it."
She hired lawyer Randy Fleischer -- a Democratic activist who has had numerous battles with Ceasar -- and threatened to sue. Eventually Ceasar and the party settled with her out of court, she said.
Briggs said that Ceasar's wandering hands was only one example of his complete unsuitability to run the party.
"He's just not a good person," she said. "Anytime there was an election, anybody that dared run against him, he would literally blackball them from the party. He would have his minions make phone calls. He will stay there forever unless something happens."
Next: How Ceasar, with the help of state party officials, ran a farcical election to retain his position as Broward's top Democrat.
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