Posted by Brittany Wallman on June 29, 2010 02:00 PM
One of the aides in Broward County Commissioner Ilene Lieberman's office is a witness cooperating with the state in its ongoing corruption investigation of local politicians, her attorney said.
Last week's arrest affidavit for Tamarac City Commissioner Patricia Atkins-Grad includes mention of Beverly Stracher, who is now an aide to Lieberman.
The affidavit suggests Stracher, working in 2006 as a paid consultant on the Tamarac mayoral campaign of Beth Flansbaum-Talabisco, wanted to mask the relationship between the candidate and controversial Prestige Homes developers Shawn and Bruce Chait. The affidavit says that Stracher told her candidate to return contributions from the developers.
But Stracher is not under investigation, her attorney Eric Schwartzreich said Tuesday, and the events described are not illegal, he noted. 'Happens all the time. She didn't do anything wrong. She didn't do anything illegal.''
'She's cooperating with the state,'' he said. She can't comment further, he said, because 'there are ongoing investigations.''
All of this is coming out now because Prestige Homes execs Shawn and Bruce Chait are accused of bribing public officials in Broward County to get their golf-course-turned-neighborhood plans approved. On Friday, Tamarac Commissioner Atkins-Grad was arrested on charges she took bribes from the Chaits in return for her favorable votes on their project.
Josephus Eggelletion went from the Broward County Commission to a prison cell because he admitted taking a $25,000 bribe from the Chaits to vote for their project’s land-use change. The Chaits have been charged with bribery, and their development never got built.
Another Broward County Commissioner, Stacy Ritter, has admitted accepting a used golf cart from the Chaits, after she left state office. She told my colleague Scott Wyman that four or five years ago she was at a function and the Chaits were talking to her husband, lobbyist Russ Klenet, about their development plans. They told him they were getting rid of things, including golf carts, and Klenet asked if he could have one. She said the golf cart was 25 years old and inoperable. She's not she’s not been contacted by investigators.
In addition, Lieberman's husband, attorney Stuart Michelson (the city attorney for Sunrise), was enlisted by the Chaits for help in 2006 fighting a code violation.
Stracher is a former Sun-Sentinel reporter, whose husband, Les Stracher, was with the now-defunct Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler firm.
Back in 2006, when the events leading to Atkins-Grad's arrest allegedly occurred, Prestige Homes had the city of Tamarac abuzz with controversy because of its plans to develop a golf course into a residential community.
Stracher was a paid campaign consultant working on the Tamarac mayoral campaign of Beth Flansbaum-Talabisco, the arrest affidavit says. And Prestige Homes developers had given to her campaign. Atkins-Grad was also running and had accepted contributions from Prestige homes. She was seeking the seat Flansbaum-Talabisco was leaving behind.
'In late February and early March 2006,'' the arrest affidavit reads, 'Beverly Stracher, a paid consultant for Flansbaum-Talabisco's campaign, suggested to Flansbaum-Talabisco that she refund her campaign contributions from Prestige Homes. Flansbaum-Talabisco suggested to Atkins-Grad that she also refund her campaign contributions from Prestige Homes in order to hide the support Prestige Homes was giving the candidates and cloak the relationship between the candidates and Prestige Homes.''
I asked Lieberman for comment on her hiring of Stracher. I'll let you know what she says.