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How Will Russ and Stacy Justify This One?

Some of the more suspicious expenses Broward County Commissioner Stacy Ritter and her lobbyist husband Russ Klenet ran up during her controversial 2008 campaign involve "unknown" dinner receipts.

There are a few receipts that Ritter turned in to the Florida Elections Commission during its investigation that you just can't read. One of them is for a $319.24 dinner put on Klenet's charge card in 2008 (the date appears to be July 3 but it's unclear). Here's the receipt, bigger than life:

​I wanted to make it as big as I could to make all the little clues readable.  Inside, see where this dinner was eaten. Clue: It's more than 1,000 miles away.

The best indication is what looks like a legible piece of restaurant's address. Looks like Manchester. There is no Manchester in South Florida. There is a sizable Manchester in England, but that's not it.


No, it's gotta be Manchester, Vermont. It fits what we can see of the state abbreviation and the last three digits of the zip code are definitely 254. The zip code in Manchester Vermont is 05254 and you can almost make out all those numbers above.

So I'm satisfied the expense was made in Vermont. Now we know that Ritter and Klenet had numerous expensive dinners they charged to their campaign outside Ritter's district in northwest Broward. They ate and drank their way all over Broward County, down to Miami Beach and up to Boca Raton. But Vermont? How could Ritter and Klenet possibly justify a campaign dinner in another state for a local commission race?

Well, Vermont was a pretty a hot political spot in 2008. Remember the presidential election? And Ritter was backing Barack Obama with everything she had -- including her own campaign. She was the Broward chairperson for Obama's campaign and took trips up to New England to volunteer for him, including a week-long trip with Russ to Laconia, New Hampshire, in January 2008. We know she gave $15,000 to a committee tied to the national convention in Denver. We know she went to an Obama-related event in Chicago and charged her limo ride to the campaign. There's more where that comes from as you'll see later.  

So were she and Russ up in Vermont stumping for Obama? I don't know. I haven't been able to pinpoint any Obama campaign in Manchester at that time. Obama had already clinched the Democratic nomination at that point and he'd won the Vermont primary the previous March.

It's a mystery at this point and it's another one for the State Attorney's Office, which is investigating the campaign, to get to the bottom of -- along with thousands of dollars in other suspicious expenses.

-- They've identified the New York Jet sideliner who intentionally tripped -- and hurt -- Dolphin Nolan Carroll while he was running out of bounds during one of Brandon Fields' incredible punts in yesterday's game. It was Jet strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi. Guy should get a lifetime ban from the NFL. Read about it here and below you can see video from the incident if you missed it.


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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

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