Remember this past February when the Miami Herald did a front-page story claiming that Broward Mayor Stacy Ritter voted on a measure in 2008 that benefited her lobbyist husband's client, the Florida Panthers?
First it looked bad for Ritter, since her husband, Russ Klenet, had been paid tens of thousands of dollars. Then it looked bad for the Herald, since it turned out that Ritter didn't vote on the measure at all. Here's a blog post that delved into the controversy at the time. The Herald later published a front-page story retracting the story.
The thing is that Ritter, whether she voted or not, should have recused herself and filed the required form with the county. Florida law demands it. I wrote about that in the blog post, and several weeks after the retraction was published, former Herald reporter Dan Chrisensen reported that Ritter may have indeed violated ethics law by not filing a conflict.
Ritter, for her part, showed her talent at twisting the truth throughout the controversy. First she said it wasn't a conflict at all because her lobbyist husband, Russ Klenet, didn't work for Arena Operating Co. but rather for another company that owns Arena Operating Co. It's the kind of tortured argument only an amoral lawyer (and Ritter is one and is counseled by others) could try to make.
Then she said that she wasn't required to file a conflict form. It was another tortured argument that ran contrary to the principles of sound and transparent government, and this time Broward County Attorney Jeffrey Newton backed her up. Moral: Neither Ritter nor Newton is to be trusted.
Anyway, fast-forward to last week. Another vote came up regarding the Florida Panthers and the arena. Here's a summary of the issue (though it's written in a way that's almost impossible to understand -- gotta love those bureaucrats!). Before the vote, Ritter piped up and said: "I don't have a conflict under the provision of Chapter 12 Florida Statutes, but in an abundance of caution and because of the appearance of a possible conflict of interest, I will abstain from voting on Item 69."
Get it? Even though her lobbyist husband was paid tens of thousands of dollars by the entity that she was supposed to vote on, it's not a conflict. It just looks a whole lot like a conflict, and because it looks so much like a conflict, she was going to go ahead and pretend like it was indeed a conflict and recuse herself from the vote. Nothing to see her, move on.
Maybe Ritter isn't a corrupt politician, but it sure does appear that way. Click here for a history of her shenanigans.