[Developer Bruce Chait's response has been added at the end of this post]
Former Tamarac Mayor Joe Schreiber told the Pulp today that Prestige Homes -- which is embroiled in a scandal involving Broward County Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion -- offered him $200,000 cash if he would agree to remove his wife, Mae Schreiber, from the mayor's race and throw his support over to Beth Flansbaum-Talabisco, who is the current mayor.
Schreiber says the father-and-son team behind Prestige -- Bruce and Shawn Chait -- arranged a meeting at the Denny's Restaurant at University and Commercial, where they made the proposition prior to the March 2006 election. Schreiber was mayor at the time but was on his way out due to term limits; his wife was running to replace him against several challengers, including the frontrunner, Flansbaum-Talabisco.
"Prestige contacted me and made an offer of $200,000 to get my wife out of the race and start supporting the current mayor, Talabisco," Schreiber said. "They said they would bring it in a cardboard box, cash. I didn't say anything. I told them I would talk to my wife and let them know. I met them the next day and told them no deal."
Mae Schreiber remained in the race to the end. A detailed message left at the developer's office regarding the allegation hasn't been returned. [UPDATED: Chait returned the call today and his response is detailed below].
It's the second recent bombshell allegation regarding Prestige. The Chaits threw big money into Tamarac political campaigns at that time as they sought approval to convert two Tamarac golf courses -- Monterrey and Sabal Palm -- into housing developments. The projects were highly controversial and faced major opposition from residents, but the Chaits won the support of the Tamarac commission, including Flansbaum-Talabisco. Prestige also managed to get the support of the County Commission, which also voted to approve the plan.
Prestige is currently being investigated by the State Attorney's Office for allegedly providing more than $10,000 in cash to pay the membership dues at the Parkland Golf and Country Club for County Commissioner Eggelletion, who supported the Prestige project and voted for it enthusiastically. Read about the details of that investigation here.
Schreiber, who held office in Tamarac from 1997 through 2006, only reluctantly told his story after I questioned him about it. He said that he decided not to go public at the time because he felt that it might be hard to prove and that the controversy might hurt him. But Schreiber said that in all his years in office, he'd never been approached with such a blatantly corrupt deal.
"I was mayor for years; I don't take bribes," said Schreiber. "The only thing I take is campaign contributions that are legal. I tried to run a clean house in Tamarac. We wouldn't take that money. We just dropped it and said no."
That Schreiber is telling his story now is a credit to him; blowing the whistle on anyone in corruption-rich Broward County is always an heroic thing to do, even if it is a bit belated. (Of course, Chait will have his own story, and I hope he tells it to the Pulp in short order.) Schreiber has been railing about dirty politics in Tamarac and Broward County since he left office and is one of those who believes that only the feds have any hope of cleaning up the place. Let's hope they listen.
UPDATED: Bruce Chait, owner of Prestige Homes, returned my call today.
"Let me ask you something, do you think before you write?" he said. "How old is Schreiber?"
I told him he was in his 80s (Schreiber is 86).
"Stop and think about something before you print it," he continued. "Why would I give somebody money not to run? Who's going to vote for an 85-year-old woman? Who voted for her? Her and her next-door neighbor?"
He pressed again, asking me why I would believe an old man. I told him that Schreiber was the mayor of Tamarac at the time of the alleged incident and that as a former mayor, I consider him a very strong source. I also told him that in my talks with him, he seems to have complete control of his faculties. Then Chait said he gave $500 to Mae Schreiber's campaign.
"Just think about what you write," he repeated. "I know your newspaper is a rag and nobody reads it, but think about what you write before you write it."
I told him that I was still waiting for an explanation of why his son paid Broward County Commissioner Joe Eggelletion's golf membership in cash. He didn't bite, sticking to his line.
"You're getting information from an 85-year-old man and people who are jealous, but I know you thrive on it," he said.
I told him I don't thrive on it, that I'm just trying to get down to the truth. I wanted to question him more. After all, he hadn't even denied it yet, just hitting with me questions. Then came another one.
"Where's the truth?" he asked. "Where's the truth, asshole?!"
Then he hung up the phone, leaving the question hanging in the air, answerless.