Sheriff's Top Political Aide Defends Criminally Charged Krafts

You may not expect much drama and controversy out of a Coral Springs/Parkland Democratic Club meeting, but you got some last night.

The night was meant for Broward Public Defender Howard Finkelstein, who gave a very successful speech, but the drama arrived in the form of Sheriff Al Lamberti and his payrolled political sidekick, Alan Berkowitz.

Lamberti with Berkowitz, both standing. Sitting in the center is Judge Matt Destry.
Lamberti with Berkowitz, both standing. Sitting in the center is Judge Matt Destry.

They made an unannounced visit and the sheriff gave a little speech to the club before the meeting started. It wasn't the sheriff's words that brought consternation, though. It was what his aide Berkowitz said later.  

When the club discussed whether it should support Mayor Roy Gold in a bid to remove accused bribe-taker Mitch Kraft off the Coral Springs Planning and Zoning board, it was Lamberti's aide who came to the criminally charged Kraft's defense.

According to multiple sources, Berkowitz repeatedly said that Kraft was "innocent until proven guilty" and generally decried the idea of removing Kraft -- who took $10,000 from dirty developers Bruce and Shawn Chait to affect change on the school board where his wife Stephanie was serving -- from the board.

"I don't understand why a sheriff's representative would make a stink about that issue," said club member Jaemi Levine, herself an unsuccessful school board candidate. "He made it evident that he was supporting Mitch and Stephanie Kraft."

Innocent until proven guilty? I suggest that Berkowitz, who hasn't returned a call for comment, look at the facts of the Kraft case. Even if a jury somehow acquits Kraft or his wife, the facts establish what just about everyone agrees is political sleaze at its finest and certainly not actions that deserve continued membership on a volunteer board that deals with, yes, developers.

Berkowitz is former president of the Broward 10-13 Club, a heavily political group made up of retired New York City police officers. Berkowitz endorsed Lamberti in the 2008 election and after the victory was given a highly paid position at BSO. His job, according to political observers, appears to be accompanying Lamberti at political functions and running interference for Lamberti in the heavily political condo communities.

Inside, Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler explains today's Dolphins photo. One thing is clear: Fort Lauderdale can't come close to affording Jimmy Buffett.

Seiler told me today that the photograph included in the last post showing him with Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, lobbyist Ron Book, and Jimmy Buffett was taken during last year's Super Bowl.

And he wants you to know he bought his own ticket. In fact he bought two for about $1,200, he said.

Seiler, a member of the Super Bowl committee, said the photo was snapped at a time he was asking Buffett if he would perform at a beach concert in Fort Lauderdale.

"I asked [Buffett], "Would you ever do a beach concert?", and he indicated he wanted too much money," said Seiler. "It was a rather large number. Ross made a crack, 'Jimmy can you do it for any less?'"

Seiler refused to reveal Buffett's number publicly but he gave it to me and I can only tell you that it was indeed very high. If fact, it was exactly five times higher than I had guessed.

Seiler reiterated to me that he supported the Super Bowl and was open to the Dolphins' idea of taking Broward tax dollars to renovate the stadium. He said that lobbyist Book had talked with him of the plan in the past. As for Ross, he said he couldn't remember, but that the owner might have mentioned it to him in passing.

He said he had season tickets for the Dolphins and always paid his own way. He said he'd been in Ross's box but only to thank him for his support for the Orange Bowl. Seiler has been on the Orange Bowl committee for many years. 

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