Broward News

"That's Commissioner Chaz"

God help us, Chaz Stevens has been appointed to the board of the Deerfield Beach Housing Authority. Not even a very loud "No!" from Commissioner Marty Popelsky (at 1:20 in the video above) could stop Stevens' rise to power.

Of course, the activist blogger (he prefers "genius") played a crucial role in bringing to light the alleged corruption of the city's Community Development Division, which was the main event of last night's meeting.

Now the question is whether Stevens' appointment will trigger the mass resignation of the existing housing authority board and its longtime attorney, William Crawford, who has traded email insults with Stevens in the past few weeks.

The war of words between Crawford and Stevens has intensified as Stevens' appointment neared. Crawford, who has been the housing authority's attorney for 17 years, took umbrage to an email that Stevens sent Monday afternoon in which Stevens inquired about the housing authority's procurement process. In the past, Stevens has alleged that the housing authority has engaged in the same kinds of contract steering and favoritism that have been discovered in the city's Community Development Division.

Crawford responded to a list of procurement questions with a note that began:

You, sir, are a jerk. How the mayor and city commission could possibly appoint a vile and despicable person like you with no resume (I read it online as part of the agenda package for tomorrow night) is beyond me.
In the note, Crawford vowed to be "long gone" by the time Stevens was sworn in as a commissioner.

The email exchange between the two foes was copied to a long list of potentially interested parties in the media, the Broward State Attorney's Office, and the City of Deerfield Beach. Late Monday, Deerfield City Attorney Andy Maurodis finally intervened. He wrote to Crawford:
I write this letter with sadness as in my brief dealings with you I have found you to be a pleasant and courteous professional. My dismay results from what I see as an uncharacteristic, unprofessional and unnecessary bout of name-calling engaged in by a representative of a public body.

We are all aware of Mr. Stevens' proclivity for provocation and controversy. We must remember though that at this time he speaks as a private citizen representing no one but himself. That luxury does not fall to you as the attorney for a public body.
Clearly, Crawford let his emotions get the best of him. If he doesn't already regret sending those messages to Stevens, he will soon enough.

But now it's Stevens who must accept the grave responsibilities that come with public service. Can he be a humble, dispassionate advocate for integrity in local government?

Umm, well... that's a work in progress. Stevens celebrated his appointment with this blog post, in which he thanked Commissioner Bill Ganz for his vote...
And now that I have gotten that out of the way, let me take a moment to kick you right in the nuts.

At last night's meeting, you mentioned words to the effect "we asked the WDBA for an audit last summer". Question Sir to you... Exactly what was the impetus for that audit? Answer = me.

It's true that the demand for an audit of the Westside Deerfield Businessmen Association -- and its inability to produce one -- is what led to the inquiry into the city's Community Development Division.

But Ganz is the official who made those demands for financial records, not just from WDBA but from other nonprofits seeking city-allocated funds. His bold move to fire former City Manager Mike Mahaney was essential too. Then the interim city manager, Burgess Hanson, showed guts in ordering the forensic audit, knowing that it might open a Pandora's box.

So there were other players in the game. But if they want to be remembered for their roles in this minirevolution, they'd better hurry up and claim them, because Stevens is running away with the credit. He said to Ganz:
In truth then Sir, I saved Deerfield Beach.

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Thomas Francis