I asked Mitchell Kraft a simple question on the phone Wednesday morning. Here's how the call went with Kraft, husband of School Board Member Stephanie Kraft:
Kraft: Hello?Pulp: Hi, Mitch. This is Bob Norman with the New Times.
Kraft: [Unhappily] Oh yes. Hello, Bob.
Pulp: Yeah, I have heard you have done work for SRG Technology, which is owned by School Board lobbyist Neil Sterling. Can you tell me about your work for that company?"
Kraft: I'm not going to answer your questions.
Pulp: You're not going to answer my question about SRG?
Mitch Kraft hung up the phone, which was troubling. Because if Kraft did any work at all for SRG, then it would present a serious conflict of interest for his wife. Although there is no proof this happened, I was following a tip and definitely expected an answer.
Sterling, the former School Board member who owns SRG, is probably the most powerful lobbyist working at the School Board. Along with partner Barbara Miller, Sterling has represented some of the board's most favored contractors, including Pirtle Construction, Zyscovich Architects, Weiss & Woolrich, and Recreational Construction & Design.
Mitch's wife, Stephanie Kraft, of course, has voted for all of those companies. On top of that, she has received tens of thousands of dollars at Sterling's fundraisers thrown at his house in Fort Lauderdale with School Board contractors, subcontractors, lawyers, and others.
If Mitch Kraft received any money from Sterling's company, it's the same under the law as if Stephanie Kraft had
received it herself.
But let's not get too far afield. There is no evidence showing that Mitch Kraft ever worked for SRG, just a bit of information, a tip. That's why I called Mitch Kraft. I also left a detailed voice mail with Neil Sterling, who never returned the call. Sterling is the lone principal listed on SRG's state corporate record, and the company's address is at his home. You might remember he helped School Board Member Beverly Gallagher get a job at another of his clients, Community Blood Center. How Gallagher got away with that I'll never know (oh yeah, Michael Satz).
After Mr. Kraft hung up, I called Mrs. Kraft and left a message about SRG with an aide. After that, I emailed Kraft with questions. Hours passed. I emailed her again, asking if she was going to respond. She then wrote me:
I honestly don't know why I should respond to you at all. It is obvious you harbor much animosity towards me and my colleagues. I don't expect that you would write a fair piece regardless of what the truth is. What would be the purpose in my responding.
I wrote her back that she should respond for the sake of accuracy. I also let her know I had no personal animosity for her. Even said I thought she was a good person, just misguided.
Dead silence since then.
Look we don't know what the truth is, and just because they don't deny it doesn't mean it happened. If Mitch Kraft received dime one from SRG, then it's a serious matter. If he didn't, then it's a moot point and this was just an exercise in futility brought on by the silence of a public official who has overseen billions of our tax dollars. That Kraft won't answer direct questions is, to me, a problem unto itself, no matter what the truth is about SRG.
That said, let's get an answer.