Commissioner Dean Trantalis was ambushed with an ethics complaint by attorney Bill Scherer during Tuesday evening's public hearing for the new proposed Vintro Hotel on the beach.
It seemed like a well-organized attack, as Scherer accused Trantalis, in front of everyone at the meeting, of ethical violations concerning the hotel project.
Scherer said that Rick Smith, a realtor who had a client interested in buying the property where the hotel would be built, was once Trantalis' domestic partner. Scherer accused Trantalis of not disclosing this.
Broward resident Art Seitz, who attended the meeting, told New Times that Scherer's ambush was "the sleaziest thing that's happened in City Hall in decades."
Mayor Jack Seiler immediately called a recess to the proceedings. Moments later, Trantalis recused himself and called Scherer's accusation "ambush politics."
He also said he had no idea of any wrongdoings by his former partner.
"Because my former partner had a client that wanted to buy this property as well as other properties, I guess on the beach, he contacted me," as did others, Trantalis said. "To say he's a relative... he's not a relative because you know in Florida, gay people aren't allowed to marry.
"My instincts say I should fight this," Trantalis said before walking off.
Seitz says that Scherer had arrived with what looked like "160 pages" worth of ethic complaints toward Trantalis and that other things during the hearing seemed off.
Seitz alleges that a vote was rigged and that an actor was hired to pretend to be homeless.
"Here's this muscular guy that comes in wearing brand-new shoes and jeans," Seitz says. "He sounds articulate and yet tells everyone how he's slept in the park for the past several days."
Seitz alleges that the man was a prop to help sway votes.
"Dean didn't have a clue it was coming," Seitz says of Scherer's accusations.
As he recused himself from the hearing, Trantalis looked over at Scherer and said, "Nice try."
Where things get shady is the history between Trantalis and Scherer.
Scherer had sued Trantalis in the past, concerning a beach development proposal during a previous term on the commission. Meanwhile, Trantalis upset former City Commish Charlotte Rodstrom back in March. Rodstrom is the wife of former Broward Mayor John Rodstrom, who happens to be good friends with one Bill Scherer.
Rodstrom once challenged the county's term limit law. Scherer represented him.
"People were flabbergasted by the ambush," Seitz says. "This smelled of something that has been in the works. It's about getting Trantalis out of office."
Whether that's true is up for debate. But what is true was that Vice Mayor Bruce Roberts and Commissioner Romney Rogers admonished Scherer for making the public accusations.
They then voted 3-0 against a proposed 13-story beach hotel.
A call to Trantalis' office remains unreturned.
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