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Judy Stern: All Clear For Profits

Well, URS is no longer the king of the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

Lucky the San Francisco-based firm got out without criminal charges. Commissioner Stacy Ritter and her lobbyist husband Russ Klenet are fortunate on the same score. The husband-and-wife team's underhanded and secret lobbying/governing connection marks one of the more corrupt moments in recent county commission history. Too bad Mike Satz didn't do his job when his office investigated.

But even if you can't count on the state attorney to clean up this town, at least the county commission expunged the stink of URS. (Reporter Scott Wyman, who plays way up high on the surface and seems to have an aversion to actually getting to the heart of any matter, outlines the the most rudimentary elements of the airport decision in the Sun-Sentinel today). Now set to oversee the airport is a company called DMJM Harris (referred to in county circles as "Dimjim").

Now there was all kinds of behind-the-scenes action that went on to get DMJM the lucrative contract to oversee the airport expansion, a project that (no matter what the Sentinel reports) is going to cost a helluva lot more than $1 billion.

And it all comes to one name: Lobbyist Judith Stern.

Stern, an omnipresent operator at the commission, rallied the troops to get DMJM the job. Key to getting that support was Mayor Lois Wexler, who counts Stern as one of her closest friends (and as a campaign manager). Wexler and Stern actually lived together in Wexler's Sunrise condo recently. Wexler, not surprisingly, is an unabashed Dimjim lover and voted it No. 1 yesterday.

I'm still tallying, but another DMJM vote came from Josephus Eggelletion, another Stern acolyte. Kristin Jacobs also went DMJM's way.

Interestingly, Ritter, whose husband lobbied for URS and who was a big supporter of the company before New Times exposed her shenanigans, voted a third company, Parsons, first and URS second. Looks like an anti-DMJM vote to me. Obviously, she didn't have enough gall to go all-in with URS.

John Rodstrom, another Stern pal, voted URS first and DMJM second.

DMJM had the county pretty well wired. In addition to clean-up hitter Stern, their registered lobbyists include Bernie Friedman (don't know how Sue Gunzburger voted, but Hollywood's Friedman is usually there to help, um, persuade her). Billy Rubin was also on the team, as was lawyer Sidney Calloway.

[NOTE: Gunzburger voted for Parsons, so Friedman's influence with her, whatever is left, obviously didn't pay off. It should be noted that she's the least beholden to lobbyists of anyone on the commish and that she's fought for limiting lobbyists' power on the process. Also: Friedman represents both URS and DMJM -- and in this case he was sided with URS.]

(Im)Moral of this post: If you want a big county contract, you better pay the right people.

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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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