Sheila Alu: I'm Running for Broward County Commission If...

After a report on JAABlog appeared stating definitively that Sunrise Commissioner Sheila Alu is running for County Commission in 2012, I spoke with the potential candidate.

Alu tells me she is going to run for the seat currently held by the embattled Ilene Lieberman. There's a catch: Alu says she will run only if Lieberman doesn't try to reclaim the seat.

Alu, center, with recently elected Broward County Commissioner Barbara Sharief and union leader Dan Reynolds.
Alu, center, with recently elected Broward County Commissioner Barbara Sharief and union leader Dan Reynolds.

It looks almost certain that Lieberman will not be running, however. In fact, Lieberman has told numerous people privately that she will not run for reelection, according to multiple sources. It's no secret that Lieberman has missed numerous meetings of late and has almost dropped out of politics completely. She's been under the cloud of a State Attorney's Office corruption investigation, and she recently cited health issues as the reason she's gone AWOL.

Lieberman was supposed to be term-limited from the commission anyway until a John Rodstrom-backed lawsuit challenging the voter-backed term limits led to a ruling by Judge Lisa-Carol Phillips that they were unconstitutional. 

So it looks like a near-lock that Alu will indeed be running for Lieberman's seat. First she'll have to move, though, since she's renting a home in what is now Lois Wexler's district. And then, of course, there's her day job as a state prosecutor.

Inside, see what Alu says about that potential conflict of interest.

Alu currently holds a full-time job prosecuting accused felons in Broward County. The County Commission seat pays a full-time salary and then some ($90,000-plus), though some treat it as a part-time job at best.

Let's get this straight: There's no way that Alu should be able to hold both jobs at the same time. For one, the county runs the courthouse. For another, the State Attorney's Office, as has been made abundantly clear of late, polices the commission for corruption.

So it's definitely a conflict of interest, but on top of that, the public deserves both a commissioner who can devote the vast majority of her time to representing them and a prosecutor who isn't working another job.

Alu says she hasn't made a definitive decision but is leaning against trying to do both jobs.

"I don't think it's appropriate to hold both jobs," said Alu. "And I don't think it would even be possible. But I love the job [as a prosecutor], and I would hate to have to leave. It's meaningful."

Remember this is an issue -- serving two public masters -- that snagged gladhanding Angelo Castillo when he made his losing bid for the commission in November. 

When Alu jumps in the race, she'll be joining Lauderhill Vice Mayor Howard Berger, who has already filed for the seat and loaned himself $80,000 for his campaign. Berger is best-known for his backing of a ban on wearing saggy pants and support for a resolution against the building of a mosque near Ground Zero in NYC (both were knocked down by fellow commissioners). Accountant James Ale has also entered the race and currently has about $15,000 in his coffers. 

Alu's claim to fame has been anti-corruption efforts that included blowing the whistle on Ana Gardiner, the former chief criminal judge in Broward County, and assisting the FBI in its groundbreaking corruption investigation that netted the arrests of Joe Eggelletion, Beverly Gallagher, and Fitzroy Salesman, among others. She also very recently played a key role, along with Mayor Mike Ryan, of ridding her city of lobbyist Russ Klenet.

She's nothing if not controversial and has received criticism here and elsewhere for her vote to give Ilene Lieberman's husband, Stuart Michelson, a no-bid contract as city attorney of Sunrise.

"I think I'm the best person to represent the citizens and be an ethical advocate for the residents of the district," she told me.

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