Well, I finally rousted out Stephanie Kraft.
Over the weekend, I wrote that if her husband, Mitch Kraft, received a dime from Neil Sterling, it was illegal. Today I sent her a pointed email demanding answers. She wrote me back saying she would answer the questions after a board workshop was over.
Instead, she went to the Sun-Sentinel's Kathy Bushouse and admitted that her husband had been working for Sterling's firm, SRG Technology, for two years. Key passage:
Mitch Kraft was hired to do legal work for SRG Technology, LLC, a company founded by Sterling in August 2007 that is registered to Sterling's Fort Lauderdale home address, according to state corporate records.
Kraft said the job had nothing to do with her position as a School Board member, and that the two started working together after Sterling sought legal advice from Mitch Kraft.
"There's no conflict, no impropriety, no crime here," she said.
But Stephanie Kraft did not seek guidance from the Florida Commission on Ethics on whether her husband's job could create a conflict for her on the School Board. Rather, she relied on an opinion Sterling obtained from Tallahassee attorney Mark Herron, as well as from a 2007 ethics commission opinion for Broward County Commissioner Stacy Ritter.
Oh God, Broward has officially hit a more fiery ring of hell. Stephanie Kraft is using Stacy Ritter as an ethical example, and both of them are leaning on the gigantic joke that is the Florida Ethics Commission for a lifeline.
I broke the story about Mitch Kraft's reputed working relationship with Sterling last month, and it's clear that she went to great lengths to keep her financial relationship with Sterling out of public view. She hid the information from the state, failing to even ask for a legal from the Florida Ethics Commission. She hid it from the School Board, not bothering to ask General Counsel Ed Marko for an opinion. And she hid it from Broward County taxpayers, whose money she steered and approved to go to Sterling's clients. Never once did she recuse herself from any votes on Sterling's clients. Why? Because she knows that the fact that Sterling was pumping cash into her household would have been met with sheer outrage by the public.
Not only did she not recuse herself but she actively steered contracts Sterling's way while her husband was on his payroll. Just today, I uncovered the fact that Kraft voted Sterling's health insurance client, Vista, the number-one company by a mile in a controversial and lucrative contract to provide insurance to the district's 41,000 clients.
If this is legal, then there is no sense to have ethics laws. The FBI might as well close up its corruption unit. The federal government must put Kraft, her husband, and Neil Sterling behind bars. This case should lead to the destruction of the Ethics Commission as we know it, since that body is once again being exposed as a crutch for unethical politicians who rely on idiotic ethical opinions from daft, sold-out lawyers. Not that Kraft even bothered to get an ethics opinion -- that would have left a public paper trail to expose her own corruption. But the fact that she's trying to rely on a half-baked opinion from an ethics commission lawyer rationalizing Stacy Ritter's corruption shows just how absurd a joke the commission is.
If the Krafts and Sterling don't go to prison for a long time, the net effect of the entire federal effort -- an admirable one to date that has helped to restore a lot of faith in this town -- will be only to embolden the real corrupt powers in this town while showing that side players like Beverly Gallagher and Josephus Eggelletion are easily sacrificed.
The email that I sent today to Kraft comes after the jump.
I am reporting an article about health insurance at the school board and see that you were on the superintendent's committee that last year awarded Vista the sole contract. The committee I believe also recently voted unanimously to allow increases in rates, including a 40 percent jump in dependents' health insurance.
One thing that strikes me is that the contact amount listed for the contract with Vista was $1.7 billion over three years. That's more than $550 million a year. In years past, the cost has been about $200 million. Can you tell me why the contact cost ballooned so much with the Vista contract?
Also, I understand that lobbyist Neil Sterling rep'd Vista. Did he have any influence on your voting Vista No. 1 in all categories?
Finally, I have to reiterate the questions below from last month. Has your husband Mitch, or his law business or any other entity financially tied to him, received any money or gifts from SRG Technology? Has your husband or yourself received any money or gifts from any company owned or operated or represented by Neil Sterling? Sources tell me you spoke with FBI agents briefly, but that you have since hired a lawyer. Is that true? Are you cooperating with the federal probe?
You have said that I harbor animosity against you, but I assure you that's not the case. I'm just doing my job and your continued silence on the Sterling issue has only prompted further speculation -- speculation that I think is warranted considering your silence and the tremendous number of tax dollars at stake.
Thanks for your time and I look forward to your responses,
From: "Stephanie A. Kraft"
To: "Bob Norman"
We are in a Board workshop right now. I will be responding to this email when we are finished with our meeting.
Stephanie Arma Kraft, Esq.
School Board Member, District 4
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