Broward County Commissioner Chip LaMarca brought up a key -- and politically loaded -- question at yesterday's commission meeting. Essentially he asked: What about Ilene? Commissioner Ilene Lieberman, who has been AWOL for months now, was absent again yesterday. See how LaMarca's fellow commissioner reacted to LaMarca's question inside, along with what sources say is the real cause of Lieberman's problems.
Here's how LaMarca brought up the missing elephant in the room (you can see the video here):
"It's not a personal issue whatsoever, but need to know when there's going to be some finality or if we're going to have our fellow commissioner back in that seat," he said.
LaMarca was talking about the absence of Ilene Lieberman, who has been AWOL for months (though at times she has phoned it in). The other commissioners seemed stunned that LaMarca even raised the topic before they defended Lieberman, circling the wagons. John Rodstrom noted that they have "wide latitude" in missing meetings and that others have had extended absences due to family health issues. Stacy Ritter, a close Lieberman ally who is also the subject of corruption investigations, met LaMarca's words only with a stony silence.
Lieberman didn't explain why she was missing the meetings until recently, when she cited health issues. I'm hearing from political sources that those issues amount essentially to what might be called a nervous breakdown. The stress of the state corruption investigation -- which has led to evidence that is damning to Lieberman whether she is ultimately charged or not -- and the ensuing media crush has led to a crippling depression and to a serious physical ailment, sources say.
But it hasn't been confirmed. Lieberman has held her secret close.
The former tiger lady of the commission has became passive and quiet, telling friends that she's done with politics. The big problem is she has almost two years left in her term. I'm also hearing that she wants to stick this out long enough so that her replacement will run in an election rather than be appointed by Republican Gov. Rick Scott.
And therein lies the reason for some of the consternation from the Democratic members of the commission. LaMarca was pushing the issue, possibly on politically partisan lines. What Ritter and her comrades heard was, "When is she going to finally quit so we can get another Republican on this board?"
But whatever the motivation for it, LaMarca's question about Lieberman's extended absence is exactly the kind of question the people of Broward County would ask. Enough is enough. Lieberman should either find a way to make it to the next meeting or step down.
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