Broward County Commissioner Stacy Ritter called me today and in a brief and somewhat frenzied exchange, she accused me numerous times of lying about her.
She also confirmed that she's never been to Taiwan.
And on that, I'll take my medicine. A St. Petersburg Times story indicated that she had traveled there, and I made the wrong assumption. She said she never went on the trip. I apologized in the last post, and I'll apologize again right now to both her and her husband, Russ Klenet: I was wrong, I'm sorry, and I deeply regret it.
Credibility on this blog is paramount, and as regular readers know, I immediately correct any mistakes when I learn about them.
One of the difficult aspects of reporting on Ritter is that she usually doesn't respond to calls. In fact, she once said on a radio show that my newspaper was basically irrelevant and she wouldn't "give [him] the time of day."
And that's been the tenor of the relationship, with a few exceptions. I left a message on her phone just recently asking for an interview, and she didn't return the call. When I brought that up she said, "You lie. That's why I won't
talk to you. You do it maliciously, you do it recklessly, and those are buzzwords, my friend."
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I gently refuted those notions and asked her if she would answer a couple of questions about her vote for Vista Health, which had hired her husband's then-lobbying firm to influence the County Commission. She refused to answer any questions.
Before the phone call ended, though, she said, "Don't hesitate to pick up the phone."
Not going to go through all of the ethical problems that Ritter's relationship with Klenet presents or the numerous stories that have been published here and in other publications about it. Suffice to say that I've reported on them as truthfully and aggressively as I can. And that won't stop now. However, I hope some good comes from my mistake this morning and it helps to open up some real communication with Ritter, because I think that could do us both some good.