Timing is everything. On Thursday, Broward developers Bruce and Shawn Chait pleaded guilty to unlawful compensation and were sentenced to probation after giving prosecutors information about local politicians they allegedly paid off.
One of the politicians linked to the probe is Broward Commissioner Stacy Ritter, who happened to be my guest on News & Views on the day after the Chaits were sentenced. Like I said, timing is everything. Naturally, I asked Commissioner Ritter about her relationship with the Chaits.
“Anyone who has anything to do with Tamarac is being linked to the investigation of the Chaits, and I happen to represent Tamarac on the Commission,” she said.
Did she accept money from the Chaits?
“They gave me two checks for my State Senate campaign when I ran in 2005,” said Ritter, who described her relationship with the Chaits as “social.”
Has she been questioned by state or federal authorities about possible corruption allegations involving the Chaits?
“I’m not going to deny or confirm anything,” she said. “I’m a lawyer and lawyers know when to say appropriate things and when not to say anything.”
Ritter didn’t want to talk about the Chaits, but she did want to talk about the ballot question establishing an office of Inspector General in Broward County.
Isn’t it ironic, I asked, that a commissioner linked to two crooked developers is playing a major role in forming an Ethics Code and Inspector General’s Office?
“I think it should make the people of Broward more confident that the elected officials who are currently serving understand the problem of perception in Broward County. The Office of Inspector General should make the public feel that we’re taking this seriously.”
In a county that has seen a county commissioner hauled off to federal prison, a fellow county commissioner awaiting trial and a School Board member sentenced for accepting bribes—just to name a few of the corruption cases in Broward—we can only hope that Ritter is right — and that the adoption of a new Ethics Code and Inspector General will blow away the dark cloud currently hovering over Broward County Hall.