In early 2007, Ritter appointed Les Stracher to the influential board, which regulates development in Broward County. Stracher was the husband of political operative Beverly Stracher, whom the Chaits claim in sworn statements they paid $100,000 cash to help them secure favor from local politicians.
Beverly Stracher, who has not been charged with any crimes, is now a state witness in multiple corruption cases, as are the Chaits, who have pleaded guilty to bribery and other charges.
Les Stracher, who specializes in auto law, was also a partner of Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein at the time and had done some legal work for the Chaits. It was Stracher who represented the Chaits in their attempt to silence activist Patti Lynn, an early critic of the Chaits and their firm Prestige Homes. You may remember the nasty letter
he wrote Lynn at the behest of the Chaits.
Ritter voted in favor of the Chaits' project on December 5, 2006. The following month, on January 23, 2007, county records show she appointed Stracher to the planning council, which plays an extensive role in the approval process for major county developments like the Chaits' project. County records indicate Stracher remained on the planning council through October 2010.
It's not known if Les Stracher was involved with any planning council decisions on the Chaits' controversial project. The planning council did review and approve the development prior to Ritter's vote and the Stracher appointment.
As we now know, the Chaits gave Stacy Ritter a golf cart on the sly prior to her vote (along with thousands in campaign contributions). Of course, she didn't disclose that to the public when she voted in favor of their project.
Inside, read what Ritter said on the dais prior to her vote for the Chaits' project, which was opposed by many residents in Tamarac who didn't want a dense housing development stuffed in what had been two neighborhood golf courses. Ritter's statement should someday make the textbooks as an example of heinously disingenuous political discourse.
Remember while reading this that Ritter not only had accepted the gift and thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the Chaits but that three of the five members of the Tamarac commission who supported the project had allegedly taken bribes from the developers. Ritter also mentions her father, Ed Portner, who voted as Tamarac commissioner in favor of the project after first promising that he wouldn't support it. He has not been charged in that case but was later arrested and jailed for menacing his daughter with a gun.
Here is the brunt of Stacy Ritter's statement in favor of the Chaits' housing project at a Broward County Commission meeting on December 5, 2006:
This absolutely benefits Broward County as a whole, and I'm sorry that the residents of this community don't think the bottom line is important, but as someone who was elected to wisely spend the taxpayer dollars, the more that we have, the less there is a burden on those of us who currently live in Broward County. I moved here 32 years ago, and let me tell you something, if you don't think Broward County looks different than it did 32 years ago, you have your heads stuck in the sand. There is not a single one of us that lives in Broward County that has not had a dump truck in our neighborhood every now and then at 8 o'clock in the morning to 6 o'clock at night moving dirt, whether it's putting a new roof on a property that was blown away as a result of Hurricane Wilma or someone is upgrading their property and they're building something on the back end and the dump trucks come and the backhoes come and there's noise. Broward County is not a small place anymore. It's a large urban community.
The City of Tamarac supports this development. The entire City Commission is on board as supporting this particular development, and I heard somebody today, whether on this dais or in the audience, I can't recall, say that [the Chaits aren't] stepping up to the plate. They're paying off the rec leases. They're putting in traffic calming that they don't have to do, speed bumps, and you heard them say today that anything the City of Tamarac wants with respect to speed bumps, they'll put in. They're putting in new roads so that the residents of Mainlands 4's road are not impacted by this new development. They're building less units than originally proposed. They're assisting in increased water pressure in the City of Tamarac. They're putting a ten-foot barrier along the Turnpike both at the Monterey and Sabal Palm part of this development. They're finishing the sound wall in Sabal Palm. They're limiting the construction sometimes more than the City of Tamarac requires.
I don't -- I'm sort of baffled by this. I know that the impact of these residents' lives will change, but Broward County has changed, and the fact that you don't want younger families moving into your neighborhood is insulting to this mother of three teenagers. I'm sorry, if you believe that your roads are going to be congested because teenagers whip through there at all hours of the day, I would suggest to you that the parents that are raising those children are responsible, and that is not this commission's problem. That is the neighborhood's problem. Younger families, in fact, do not reduce the cost of your home. They increase the value of your home. I have never lived in a senior community. And I'm a baby boomer, and I do not intend to live in a senior community, and I'm sorry these people do not want children around. I do not want to live apart from them. I hope they live near me, and I hope we live in the same kinds of communities. I'm going to support this project. Broward County has changed significantly in the 32 years I've been here, and while I understand that some of the commissioners are concerned about the disappearance of open space, I grew up in this area, and if you don't think I travel it on a regular basis, I do and have since I received my driver's license. I know how clogged the roads are. I know that the roads have been clogged for 30 years. I drove Commercial Boulevard as a kid, and I continue to drive it today because my parents do not live far from this community.
And let me say this: I don't appreciate the personal comments about my father, who happens to be the vice mayor of the City of Tamarac. If you don't like an issue he takes, if you don't like a position he takes on an issue, you are more than welcome to come in front of this commission and express your disapproval, but I am personally insulted that you would come to this commission and speak about my father in the ways that you have. It is insulting to me; it is insulting to him. It is insulting to my family, and quite frankly it's insulting to those of you who live in this development, because it was unnecessary to make personal attacks against my father.
I hope that the commission will support this project. Broward County needs to continue to be the progressive county that it is, and believe me, in eight years in the Legislature, I have seen what it is like to live in a county that does not believe in moving forward. One of the reasons I ran for this commission was because I knew it was the progressive body that I could be proud to be a member of, recognizing that Broward has changed. Change is hard. We all know change is hard. It is human nature, but change is coming, and I would suggest that you accept it, you welcome it, and you recognize that this is a positive thing for Broward County.
She was insulted? Wow.
The commission vote in favor of the Chaits' project that day was 5-2 with John Rodstrom abstaining because he owns interest in a Fort Lauderdale golf course. Kristin Jacobs and Ken Keechl voted against the Chaits. Then-Mayor Joe Eggelletion -- who accepted some $25,000 in bribes from the Chaits and is now in prison -- voted for it, as did Ritter, Ilene Lieberman (whose husband worked for the Chaits and who solicited a $25,000 donation to her pet charity from the developers), Lois Wexler, and Diana Wasserman-Rubin (who has since been removed from the commission after her arrest on unrelated corruption charges).
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