Why Wasn't Wasserman-Rubin's Hubby Arrested Too?

If the trend continues, there will be a lot of wheeling-and-dealing husbands of elected officials visiting their wives only in prison.

Think about it. In Broward County, corruption comes in twos. With most power couples in Broward, it works this way: The wives are fronted as elected officials, and the husbands cut the deals behind the scenes.

You have Broward County Commissioner Stacy Ritter on the dais and her husband, Russ Klenet, scurrying around making money as a lobbyist. You have Ilene Lieberman in office, with her husband, Stuart Michelson, representing cities and private firms as an attorney. You have Stephanie Kraft sitting on the School Board while her husband, Mitch, collects checks from lobbyist Neil Sterling and indicted developer Bruce Chait.

Not all of these cases necessarily entail crimes, but all three couples are under investigation right now. And that's the way it was with recently arrested Broward County Commissioner Diana Wasserman-Rubin too. She served in office while her husband sat on the cash. Richard Rubin was hired by an engineer (Craven Thompson), a lobbyist (George Platt), and finally Southwest Ranches, where he raked in $1.1 million for helping to persuade his wife and the rest of the County Commission to vote to give the town $11 million in grant money to develop its open land into parks.

Wasserman-Rubin is charged with seven felonies that theoretically could put her behind bars for 75 years. Rubin, meanwhile, is set to be a

free man.

It just seems wrong. Not that anyone should have any sympathy for Wasserman-Rubin. She became a political vampire, selling out the public and sucking taxpayers dry. She earned the right to spend many, many years in prison. But her husband should go down the river too, right?

The reason Rubin isn't charged is because he's not governed by the same laws as his wife, namely those that apply to elected officials. Wasserman-Rubin is charged with receiving unlawful compensation through her husband. In fact, it was Rubin who got that $45,000 in bonuses for her votes. But he's not elected, so he the unlawful compensation statutes don't apply to him. So the wife is left to hang out to dry.

But does that mean that it's impossible to charge the husbands (and the miscellaneous) lobbyists involved? No. Prosecutors could get creative. One idea would be to charge the husbands with conspiracy. Another would be to charge the husband-and-wife duos caught with their hands in the cookie jar with racketeering.

That's right, RICO. In the case of Wasserman-Rubin, this would seem the best way to go, in fact. Because make no mistake about it, the Town of Southwest Ranches for years was nothing but a racketeering operation. A small cabal of folks gamed the system to get $20 million in bond money for building parks that aren't there and may never be there. Rubin, for instance, worked hand in hand with felon Ira Cor to procure land. Cor then made obscene commissions -- in the hundreds of thousands of dollars -- for brokering the deals for Southwest Ranches. This little band of profiteers also tried to sell the School Board some swampland at a jacked-up price in what became a scandal all its own.

That's just one example. The point is that if this town is truly going to see clean up this town, the prosecutors might have to get a little creative. Knocking off the electeds is one thing, but if their husbands and others involved the schemes get off scot-free, justice will be a far sight away.

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Bob Norman
Contact: Bob Norman