Broward County Mayor Ken Keechl is a godsend to the people of Broward.
Just ask Keechl. He has no problems talking about how great he is.
"The Broward County Commission was doing a terrible job," he told his fellow Democrats at their monthly meeting in Plantation. "Since I was elected along with Commissioner [Stacy] Ritter -- she was also elected at the same time -- we changed Broward County for the better. And the people are appreciative."
Whoa. Odds are that Keechl will regret those words, at the very least his mention of Ritter, who is still embroiled in a scandal involving Ponzi schemer Joel Steinger, who with his incredible Mutual Benefits fraud stole money from a lot more people than Scott Rothstein. Keechl too was involved with Steinger; he represented Mutual Benefits as an attorney in court, fighting to keep the con man's victims from getting their money back. Vile stuff. Keechl's longtime law partner, Michael McNerney, has been indicted in federal court on money-laundering and wire-fraud charges in the Steinger case, and Keechl's former law firm was sued by the receivership representing the victims. The firm settled for $10 million.
But what about Keechl now? Well, after promising to devote his time on the commission strictly to public office, he's joined another law firm, Kapelowitz Ostrow (couldn't very well stay with the old one, eh?). And he's the darling of Broward developers and power brokers, raising about $330,000 to lead all other candidates. But more interesting right now than how he got all that money is how he's spending it.
Let's start with his extravagant trip to San Francisco. In early December, Keechl went to the City by the Bay for at least three days, expensing it on his campaign account. And he apparently went first-class all the way. According to an October 6 expenditure, he spent a whopping $2,234.80 on a
plane ticket with Continental Airlines. The price would indicate a travel companion. Might that have been his longtime domestic (and real estate business) partner, Ted Adcock?
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He stayed at the "luxurious" Parc 55 Union Square Hotel, and he went all the way. His campaign expenditures show that he stayed at Parc 55, ringing up a bill of $1,225.19. Again, there is an indication he spent three nights at the hotel, which would mean he spent more than $400 a night on the room. If that is correct, he must have stayed in one of the deluxe suites with a view.
That's called living it up, folks. Way to put that big fat campaign account to use, Mayor. In addition to that, he charged meals at fine restaurants like Puccini & Pinetti, the Neptune Palace, Cityhouse, the Metropolitan Lounge, and Harvey's on Castro Street. In three days, he dropped about $540 on meals.
So after getting all that campaign money, it looks like the mayor decided to live like the fat cats who are bankrolling his election. The real question, though, is what the heck kind of campaign business does a Broward County mayor have in San Francisco?
UPDATED: Through his law office, Keechl got back to me. He said he went to San Francisco for the Victory Fund's Gay and Lesbian Leadership Conference, which was held at Parc 55. His travel companion was indeed Adcock, his "registered domestic partner." Keechl said it's legal for a candidate to bring his or her spouse or registered domestic partner on campaign trips and expense their travel, room, and food with campaign money. Were there any illegalities here? Probably not, but Keechl certainly gave us a textbook example of a politician taking his campaign account for everything it is worth and riding the edge of propriety while he was at it.