Broward News

Don't Quit Your Day Job, Mayor

Lately, we haven't heard a peep about Broward Mayor Stacy Ritter getting a job in the Obama White House. It may be time to assume that she won't be hearing anything, either.

During the presidential campaign, Ritter had everything but the pom poms and the poodle skirt. No public official in the County was a fiercer advocate of Barack Obama's presidential campaign. When he spoke at the BankAtlantic, there was Ritter warming up the crowd. Ritter, who chaired Obama's Broward campaign, made radio appearances, pitched in as a fundraiser. All the little local deeds that in the patronage game of politics lead to a job in the victorious administration. Shortly after Obama's November victory, Ritter let the rumor mill churn up reports that she was being considered for a job. In January, she and her lobbyist husband Russ Klenet attended the inauguration, and Ritter made it known that she would be interviewed for a position.

But these intervening months from the election to the first 100-plus days have severely tarnished Ritter's reputation. Links to convicted felon and alleged Ponzi schemer Joel Steinger, first reported by New Times columnist Bob Norman, have been picked up by the Herald and Sun-Sentinel.  (Norman's handy Ritter "compendium" is here.) The feeding frenzy led Ritter to boycott all local media.

In late February, during the midst of that blooming scandal, I paid a visit to a town hall meeting Ritter had in the sprawling Kings Port condo complex in Tamarac.

It did not go well, for either of us. I didn't get my interview, and Ritter didn't offer a very convincing version of her relationship with Steinger. At that same meeting, an audience member asked Ritter whether she'd be joining Obama. "I can't tell you the answer to that question," Ritter answered. As of that date, she'd not heard from the Obama administration, but she confirmed having been interviewed. "When I talked to David Jacobson, he told me that if anything is possible, it wouldn't be for 4-5 months (after Obama takes office), which is April."

It's May. And Ritter is still in Broward. Jacobson, who was the special assistant to the president in the Office of Presidential Personnel when he talked to Ritter, is rumored to be Obama's nomination for U.S. ambassador to Canada. I've requested a chance to speak with Jacobson, but I'm not optimistic. (The White House press office refused to grant an interview request last month, citing a policy that it doesn't discuss candidates for unfilled administration positions.)

The Obama administration is famous for its rigorous background checks. Considering that the sixth Google hit under Ritter's name contains a boatload of conflicted interests and potential corruption, it's a safe bet that the White House has passed her over.

Check back later. If we happen to hear back from Jacobson, we'll post an update here.