Bob Norman's Pulp

Michelson Talks of Leaving Controversial Sunrise Job

Stuart Michelson, husband of investigated Broward County Commissioner Ilene Lieberman, is expected to leave his controversial job as city attorney for the City of Sunrise.

After criticism here and elsewhere regarding his no-bid appointment to the job -- which has paid him more than half a million dollars in the past year, including extra fees and bonuses -- Michelson has told elected leaders in the city that he likely will not reapply for the job when it goes out to bid.

"He said he doesn't intend to respond to the [city's request for letters of interest], and I think that would be a great loss to Sunrise," said Commissioner Sheila Alu, one of Michelson's few remaining supporters.

You might chalk it up as a victory for Sunrise Mayor Mike Ryan, who made putting the city attorney's job out to bid his first order of business after defeating Roger Wishner. Ryan said Michelson told him he definitely won't apply if the job goes in-house and that it was a possibility he wouldn't apply at all.

Michelson, who didn't return a message for comment, withstood some tough hearings about his job in recent weeks. Once Larry Sofield takes Wishner's seat in March, Michelson likely won't have the votes to regain his job.

His wife, who goes by Ilene Michelson during her work as a lobbyist, has been named in investigative reports in the corruption case involving dirty developers Bruce and Shawn Chait. She has not been charged with anything. Ilene Lieberman voted for the Chaits' controversial housing project, and her husband, Michelson, later did work for the Chaits, serving as their attorney in a code case in Tamarac and acting as Shawn Chait's lawyer during his first deposition with the State Attorney's Office during which the developer lied repeatedly about his payoffs to since-imprisoned Broward County Commissioner Joe Eggelletion.   

-- Sad news to report in the Larry Seidlin civil case. Barbara Kasler, the 84-year-old widow the former judge is accused of financially exploiting, has died. Kasler, who suffered serious health problems for the past several years, died Saturday of natural causes, according to sources.

-- The Daily Business Review has an interesting report on the Rothstein case. The bankruptcy trustee, Herbert Stettin, has made his first request for fees for his work. Inside, see how much Stettin thinks he's worth. 

Answer: $314,000. That's for about a year's part-time work on the bankruptcy. But what's interesting is that Stettin's fee isn't based on work hours; rather, it's based on his cut of the money that has been recovered for Rothstein's Ponzi victims. From the Daily Business Review article:

In his fee application, Stettin said he feels the fee is fair considering his recovery of funds and reducing the staff of Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler from 150 to 10 "almost overnight."

"As a result of Mr. Stettin's efforts, in coordination with his professionals, the RRA bankruptcy estate is now administratively solvent and on track to create a significant pool of assets for distribution to creditors, including the victims of Rothstein's Ponzi scheme, clients whose funds were stolen, innocent former employees owed money and general unsecured creditors," Stettin's fee filing states.

Based on a percentage of his collections, Stettin said he is entitled to collect $380,235 and has agreed to defer his request for the rest of the money.

These lawyers are incredible. Stettin needs his cut, huh? What is this, the Mafia? This guy is basically a public servant; he was appointed by the court to oversee this bankruptcy. Yeah, lawyers love big Ponzi cases. They love anything that can get them near a huge pot of money where they can make some claim for a percentage. That's the ticket.

I really like the way Stettin claims he's owed $380,000 -- nearly the salary of the president of the United States -- but he's going to do everyone a favor and not ask for all of it. Thanks, Herb.

What a racket. And nobody in our hallowed halls of justice wants to get in the way of the obscene gravy train -- hey, they might be the next lawyer to be appointed as a trustee in a big bankruptcy case. Everyone wants his cut, after all.  

Another piece of news in Julie Kay's report is that former RRA attorney Robert Buschel filed a motion to have bankrutpcy counsel Berger Singerman removed from the job. Why? Because Scott Rothstein's former brother-in-law, Reinaldo Leon, works for the firm. From the article:

Leon, who married Rothstein's sister in 1988 and divorced last year, received credit card payments, cars, school tuition, property taxes, vacations and Super Bowl trips from Rothstein while married to his sister, Buschel alleges.

Rothstein bought Leon's daughter a Pontiac G6 from Ed Morse on her 16th birthday and paid Leon's child $25,000 after graduating from high school.

"These facts, with all candor, should have been disclosed to the court and the public prior to Berger Singerman's appointment as counsel to the trustee," the motion states.

Buschel also questions why Berger Singerman has not filed a clawback lawsuit against Leon as the firm has against other beneficiaries of Rothstein's ill-gotten gains.

It's interesting, but I can't see it as enough to knock Berger Singerman out of there.

KEEP NEW TIMES BROWARD-PALM BEACH FREE... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
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