When Broward County Mayor Stacy Ritter goes out in public, she feels the eyes on her -- and they're telling her she's on her way to jail.
So yesterday afternoon she escaped into the last refuge of any corrupt Broward politician -- the retirement condo circuit. There, as the intrepid Thomas Francis reports on the Juice blog, she was embraced by octogenarian enablers at vote-rich Kings Point in Tamarac.
Ritter told the crowd she doesn't keep up with her husband's lobbying work and reiterated that she found Mutual Benefits honcho and veteran con man Joel Steinger to be "creepy" (this time she added that he made her "skin crawl"). Again, this is peculiar in light of the fact that witnesses at the swank and elaborate Mutual Benefits 2003 Christmas party say Ritter sat at Steinger's table and gabbed it up with him most of the night. She and Russ also invited Steinger and his ex-wife to the Parkland home (which Mutual Benefits renovated) for the couple's 2004 New Year's Eve party. This came after the SEC shut down Steinger's fraudulent company.
Klenet also bought another viatical company, Life Settlements International, after the SEC shut down Mutual Benefits, largely with Steinger-related money (for which he is now being sued). In other words, Klenet was in up to his ears with Steinger. Yet, the mayor told the Kings Point crowd that her hubbie was only in it for a lobbying "paycheck."
"I'm sorry, but this is very frustrating," Ritter told the audience. "Because people look at me like I'm heading off to jail."
Not to worry, Stacy, at least not there at King's Point. It was a mutual admiration society. One retiree in attendance said he still loved her and another, bringing to mind Sarah Palin rallies, said it was all the media's fault.
Interestingly, fallen ex-mayor of Deerfield Beach, Al Capellini, is also trying to save his corrupt skin via the not-so-vigilant condo crowd. In one of those flyers where he is improperly still calling himself "mayor," the criminally charged and governor-suspended Capellini writes, "The Future of Century Village is at Stake on Election Day," and asks, "Why Do So Many People In Century Village Support Our Mayor?"
The answer isn't pretty. These are the same folks, after all, who were controlled by Amadeo "Trinchi" Trinchitella for so many years. All the dirty behind-the-scenes deals wrought by that fellow are still slowly coming to light (check out some of the nonsense Trinchi pulled with the Capellini himself, and the North Broward Hospital District). The truth is that the retirees are all too often manipulated by shrewd political operators. They largely rely only on printed newspapers and bogus campaign material; missing out on the nitty-gritty Internet stuff. And once they embrace a politician -- ala Ritter -- they usually don't want to admit they were wrong. And imbued with a tough ethnic New York neighborhood ethos, a lot of the retirees tend to move in herds and place a high value on dogged loyalty, regardless of the sin.
Wow that sounds sort of harsh. For the record, I'm not anti-retiree. I've met many elderly condo dwellers and a lot of them are perfectly independent, despite the pack mentality. They're good upright and often wonderful people. Maybe that's the problem. They want to believe politicos like Ritter, Capellini, and Trinchi are good like them, so much so that a lot of them can't see past their own noses.