Sheriff Lamberti Under State Investigation Too

Broward Mayor Stacy Ritter isn't the only official facing a state campaign investigation; so is her WWF-lik archrival on the budget front, Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti.

Remember the patrol car that hung from a tall crane off Interstate 95 during the sheriff's race? It was an eye-catching endorsement for Lamberti in his race against Scott Israel last November. On the side of the car were the words "Keep Al Lamberti Our Sheriff." Under it was the disclaimer, "Political advertisement paid for and approved by Al Lamberti, Republican for Sheriff."

It would seem to have been one expensive campaign ad. A crane of that size rents for about $1,000 a day. Since the car was up for at least two weeks, that comes out to about $14,000.

According to a complaint filed by an unknown citizen with the Elections Commission, the problem is that Lamberti's campaign didn't pay for the crane, the car, or the land on which it sat.

Instead, it was provided by Advanced Roofing, a prominent Fort Lauderdale company that has done millions in business for local governments. Owner Rob Kornahrens says the hanging car was basically his idea.

"I met Al Lamberti a couple of times and told him, 'I'm over by I-95, and if you want to do something as an advertisement, we can do it," Kornahrens told me. "It's my own private crane. It was a private crane on private property that wasn't going to be used. It's no different than a sign on a building."

Kornahrens, who has already submitted an affidavit to the Elections Commission, said that he didn't buy the car but that it was supplied to him by a "private person" with the help of the campaign.

The complaint alleges that the giant advertisement amounted to an in-kind contribution for the sheriff that wasn't reported and greatly exceeded the $500 campaign contribution limit. Although it seems that Lamberti received a dubious windfall from a campaign contributor, the Elections Commission will have to determine if laws were broken. We may not know the result of the investigation for several months.

It's a third-degree felony in Florida for a candidate to "knowingly and willfully" accept more than the legal limit from a contributor. I don't think this amounts to a crime, but a fine might be in order. It reminds me of another in-kind contributor, Robert Bernstein. The North Broward Hospital District commissioner owns a building in Pompano along I-95 and always puts up a huge ad on the building for his favorite Republican, including Charlie Crist and the brothers Bush (I can't remember if Lamberti's name was up there or not). It's ridiculous that the Democratic Party hasn't been able to put a stop to that since it clearly violates the spirit -- and letter, I would argue -- of the state's election laws.

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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