In light of her corruption charges, now-former Broward County School Board member Stephanie Kraft wrote on her Facebook page, "Appearances can be deceiving... things aren't always what they seem."Anybody following the School Board knows that way too well. While board members and the superintendent put great effort into presenting the image that they are all about education and children, they've shown over and over again that it's really all about them. Their power. Their money. Their lobbyist and construction friends who finance their campaigns and sometimes more.
As she walked out of the jail after 10 o'clock last night, Kraft stuck out her tongue and bit it, indicating that she couldn't talk. But she might as well have been sticking her tongue out at the people of Broward County. When her lawyer, Ken Padowitz, said she would be vindicated, it was more than just a farce or an attorney's stock answer (remember Joe Eggelletion et al.?); it was an in-your-face insult to the public. Kraft might be able to pray for an acquittal or a not-guilty verdict, but she'll never be vindicated. For those who need a refresher of the facts of the case, here again is the arrest report.
The real question is: Who's next to be charged? Let's talk about it inside after the jump.
Every corruption case that Michael Satz has filed so far -- from Deerfield Beach Mayor Al Capellini (who is so often forgotten) to Patricia Atkins-Grad to Diana Wasserman-Rubin to the Kraft -- is strong. All of these politicians clearly did wrong, and they are paying for it.
But he's amassing a lot of corruption cases. Should they all go to trial, it will be pretty arduous. These politicians are often pretty cunning (especially after a few terms in office in Broward), and so are their attorneys. The Krafts, of course, are both lawyers themselves (Mitch Kraft is a former prosecutor who used to call Satz boss). They tend to think they can find some ridiculous legalism to obscure the truth and wiggle out of justice.
Former Hollywood Commissioner Keith Wasserstrom thought he could do that and after an insane move by Judge Joel Lazarus throwing out his most serious charge, he almost made it. Unfortunately for Wasserstrom, a jury saw through his cover story and the antics of attorney Milton Hirsch and convicted him of official misconduct. Had Lazarus not inexplicably thrown out the unlawful-compensation charge, he'd have likely been convicted of that too.
Point is that Satz's corruption prosecutors have a pretty heavy workload right now. What people forget, though, is that Satz has an extraordinary resource at his disposal to continue the process of cleaning up this town: Charlie Crist's statewide grand jury on corruption.
Sources tell me the grand jury, which is run out of the Broward County Courthouse and overseen by Chief Judge Victor Tobin and Statewide Prosecutor William Shepherd, is churning. The focus, as I've reported in the past, appears to be on School Board issues.
Satz's office is deeply involved in the grand jury as well, if not totally steering it. Basically the power of the FDLE and the state Attorney General's Office is behind this thing. What an extraordinary resource for Satz to have at his disosal. Why wouldn't he throw a couple of the more complex cases over to the grand jury to alleviate the pressure a little?
I hear that's happening, and I hear that more charges will be announced very soon, but that hasn't been confirmed.
Let's recap the officials we know remain under investigation: Ilene Lieberman (Bev Stracher, the Transplant Foundation, her lobbying under the name of Michelson), Stacy Ritter (golf cart, Vista, etc.), Beth Talabisco ($21,000 slush fund), Marc Sultanof (Honda lease), and Ed Portner. There are more under investigation, but I'm not prepared to throw any more names out there. Sultanof is an interesting case because he's been out of office since November 2008. The statute of limitations for public officials is two years after they leave office. The clock is ticking on that case, but I don't think he'll be next.