Broward News

Did Stacy Ritter Compare Uber to Gay Marriage?

Broward County Commissioner Stacy Ritter is no stranger to controversy. But now she's hit a hot button, comparing the county's Uber controversy to that of clerks who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples after it was made legal.

In an email exchange obtained by New Times, Broward resident Christina Davis wrote Ritter to push her to persuade her colleagues to vote to keep Uber in Broward. In one of the replies, Ritter said that she supports gay marriage and that by not playing by the rules and regulations put in place by the county, Uber was acting just as egregiously as some clerks did when they refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.

From the email:
"I am a supporter of marriage equality and am appalled that court clerks around the nation are choosing to blatantly ignore the law of the land. I am equally appalled that Uber is blatantly ignoring the law."
It was a rather odd comparison, since marriage equality never comes up in any of the email exchanges between Ritter and Davis. 

Ritter, who didn't return calls seeking comment, seems to be referencing counties in Texas and Florida that ended courthouse marriage ceremonies just to avoid having to issue licenses to same-sex couples after same-sex marriage was legalized. 

It should be noted that on Tuesday, Ritter voted for revisiting the regulations set up by the county in order to get Uber back into Broward. But the email, which was sent out on July 6, seems to indicate that Ritter had grown frustrated with the ride-sharing company in the past several weeks, particularly when Uber announced it was leaving Broward rather than operate under the county-set regulations.

Ritter emphasized to Davis that her role as a county commissioner was to look out for public safety and that the regulations were put in place for just that. But Ritter also shared her frustrations over Uber "blasting out emails" to citizens that were "full of lies" and "propaganda and misinformation."

In the email, Ritter also claimed that Uber representatives were hard to reach and speak with:
"Good luck trying to actually speak to an Uber rep (not a driver) and ask questions yet you contacted me and you are getting a custom drafted response, not something auto-generated by a computer."
Ritter has had her fair share of scandals and controversy over the years.

In 2009, it was learned that Ritter and her husband, lobbyist Russ Klenet, were tied to Joel Steinger, a Fort Lauderdale businessman accused of running a $1 billion Ponzi scheme. Klenet became the lobbyist for Mutual Benefits Corp., of which Steinger was vice president. Ritter was a state rep at the time. In 2009, New Times reported that Ritter was absent in voting for legislation in 2004 designed to shield Mutual Benefits Corp. from regulation by Florida's department of banking and finance. At issue was that Ritter never notified the county of her conflict of interest, since her husband was employed by the company.

In 2011, Ritter admitted to violating Florida campaign laws after her campaign was accused of spending tens of thousands of dollars on phone bills for her husband's lobbying business, as well as fancy dinners, travel expenses, and groceries — all while Ritter had no opponent. In July, however, Ritter was cleared of the charges after the State's Attorney's Office said there was insufficient evidence to prove that a crime was committed.