Geller: Judy Isn't in My Top Ten

Needless to say I've gotten a lot of feedback on my Judy Stern post yesterday, some of it from politicians named as having alliances with her.

Broward County Commission hopeful Angelo Castillo wrote on the blog yesterday evening that "nobody owns me." I heard from Broward County Commissioner John Rodstrom, who told me an interesting story I'll get to after the jump. And County Commission candidate Steve Geller called to clarify his own relationship with Stern, who is a notoriously manipulative lobbyist and campaign consultant.

"I talk to her because she knows the Byzantine world of Broward politics better than I do," Geller said. "She's given me advice. She understands some of the hidden

agendas and secret alliances that I don't understand. Do I like Judy? Yeah, she's someone that understands Broward politics."

He said she's raised money for his campaign against incumbent Suzanne Gunzburger but hasn't worked for his campaign or come to any of his campaign meetings.

"She's raised me very little money, less than $5,000," he said. "And she has no part in running my campaign. She is supporting me, but I'm sure she's not in the top ten in fundraising, though maybe she comes in at ten or 12."

Geller also softly rejected my calling him a lobbyist in yesterday's post.

"What is the statute of limitations on being a lobbyist?" he asked me. "Because I haven't sat before a city commission in two years. And I've said repeatedly that based on feedback and general feeling with the recent indictments and so on, I've been saying for months that I would not appear before any other government body [if elected to the County Commission]." 

It's the albatross around Geller's neck, this lobbying label -- though he richly deserved it after representing developers in Hollywood and Hallandale Beach while serving as a state senator (and Senate minority leader). Here's a little ditty I wrote on the topic back in 2008. 

I told Geller that once a lobbyist, always a lobbyist, though I suppose at some point it could morph into "former lobbyist." That point hasn't come yet in his case. I also pointed out that during the past two years, he's been largely out of public office (since he was term-limited out of the Senate). I wondered if it was because he'd lost the leverage of his state office. He said that it had nothing to do with that and that it was more because of the general economic downturn.

He also spoke about some of his more dubious associations, namely two Ponzi schemers, Scott Rothstein (whom he famously gave a "Jewish Avenger" cape and accepted $50,000 in campaign committee cash from) and Mutual Benefits rip-off artist Joel Steinger. He also threw lobbyist and Stacy Ritter husband Russ Klenet -- who became a right-hand man to the Steinger -- into that group as well.

He told me he just didn't know they weren't good people.  

"I never participated in their stuff," he said. "I didn't know they were wrongdoers."

For now, we'll let the voters sort that out. Now to Rodstrom. First, let's get this straight: Both John and Charlotte Rodstrom make no bones about their closeness with Judy Stern, who has run their campaigns and serves as a sounding board for them. But John Rodstrom told me they had no contact with Stern for more than a week. Why?

Because Charlotte Rodstrom, a Fort Lauderdale commissioner, had the audacity to vote last Tuesday against city pay raises for police and firefighters. Stern backed the Fraternal Order of Police for the raises and apparently threw a fit when Charlotte went against it. Ever since, it's been all silence and ice between Stern and the Rodstroms.

The pay raises, in my view, stink. Five percent this year and 5 percent over the next two years, plus various cost-of-living raises, is just too much at this time. Listen, the city, county, and country is going through a recession. Nobody's getting raises right now. The police -- especially considering the inauspicious year the department had -- and firefighters should go through it like everyone else, not get juicy raises just because they have political clout and Judy Stern on their side.

The funny part: Judy still won. The vote was 3-2, in part thanks to the vote of another of her acolytes, Mayor Jack Seiler. You have to love the pettiness and pandering of local politics.

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Journalist Bob Norman has been raking the muck of South Florida for the past 25 years. His work has led to criminal cases against corrupt politicians, the ouster of bad judges from the bench, and has garnered dozens of state, regional, and national awards.
Contact: Bob Norman