Sue Gunzburger on Criticism From Fellow Commissioners: I'm Not Running for Miss Congeniality

Sue Gunzburger caught flack from her commission colleagues last night but has no regrets.
Sue Gunzburger caught flack from her commission colleagues last night but has no regrets.
Photo: C. Stiles

In an email that Broward County Commissioner Sue Gunzburger sent to campaign supporters late last night, she cheered the passage of an ethics reform package at a meeting just hours before and said that the possibility of being punished by her angry commission colleagues was a small price to pay for what she called "the success of our noble cause."


Of course, the other Broward commissioners are angry because last week, Gunzburger sounded an alarm that a group of commissioners were conspiring with the county attorney to "gut" ethics reform by passing it then adding a "glitch" ordinance that would roll back some of the reform package's toughest rules.

There was probably a gentler, more diplomatic way for Gunzburger to persuade her colleagues on the commission to commit fully to ethics reform. Taking shots at the entire commission in a campaign mailer, before those commissioners had the chance to vote on ethics reform, is a grandstanding move. It may damage Gunzburger's ability to get her colleagues' support on issues that are important to her commission district. And it will send a lot of campaign money to her opponent, Steve Geller, an ethical contortionist.


But Gunzburger did the right thing. Why take any chances that a more finessed approach doesn't work? The mere fact that the glitch ordinance was prepared made it a threat to serious ethics reform. It had to be blown up. In public.

No commissioner wants to damage her relationships, to risk censure or to be stripped of her vice mayor role, as the commission is threatening to do with Gunzburger -- unless it's for a truly righteous cause. And this one definitely qualifies.

So who cares if it's grandstanding? The point is it's a move toward better government in Broward County, and let's not quibble about how this sausage got made.

As you can see in this Sun-Sentinel video, Commissioner John Rodstrom mocked Gunzburger as the "Queen of Ethics" and screamed, "You can't out-ethics us!" But this time she did, because she helped make sure that there was no path back to the old way of doing business with Broward County officials.

OK, so not quite. As Bob Norman points out on Daily Pulp, Commissioner Stacy Ritter snuck in an amendment that totally handcuffs the Inspector General and which should do much to intimidate citizens who are considering filing an ethics complaint. Would have been nice if Gunzburger had done some grandstanding against that amendment, too.

Here's the full text of Gunzburger's email to supporters:

THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! 

 For the past few months, you answered my calls and loudly let the County Commission know you wanted them to adopt the proposed ethics reform package. You truly made the difference. 

The County Commission today adopted the entire proposed Ethics Code -- as drafted by the voter-created Ethics Commission -- without watering it down. This is great news for residents who truly care about cleaning up Broward politics. 

 We now have a ban on Commissioner's serving as paid lobbyists. We have a tough and total gift ban. We have new rules requiring transparency and making more Commission documents available online for public review. We removed Commissioner from the contract selection committee process. And the list of ethics reforms we adopted today goes on and on. Next up for me on ethics: Getting the key elements of the Ethics Code permanently enshrined in the County Charter. But that's a fight for another day. 

In one of those absurdly insane "only-in-Broward" moments, my colleagues first debated an ambush motion to censure me. Keep in mind this was something they wanted to debate today even before they were willing to discuss the ethics proposal. 

Why? 

 Because, the other Commissioners and County Attorney all complained that my relentless campaign for ethics reform (particularly these email blasts to you) had embarrassed the County Commission and caused unpleasant media scrutiny and sharp public criticism of them. 

Instead, they believed that "killing the Ethics Reform messenger" was the way to send a message telling me to stop criticizing the Commission. Let me be clear: If the price of winning passage of ethics reforms was a censure, I was willing to suffer that attack to ensure the success of our noble cause. 

 However -- at least today -- cooler heads prevailed and the ambush censure motion was not successful. Instead, another colleague announced he will seek at a future meeting in a few weeks to strip me of the ceremonial Vice Mayor title because of my attacks on the problems at the Commission and my uncompromising demands for ethics reform. But, at the end of the day, I remind myself that doing the right thing for you is always more important than winning any "Miss Congeniality" contest among my colleagues. 


 You stood with me before. I know you stand with me now. And you'll stand with me tomorrow. Because you know I will ALWAYS be "The People's Commissioner" who speaks out and fights for YOU ... regardless of the consequences. 

 Again, many thanks for your great help in achieving this ethics victory. For all of us.

Sincerely,

Sue


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