FT. LAUDERDALE (CBS4) – Tamarac Mayor Beth Flansbaum-Talabisco has been suspended from office by Florida Governor Rick Scott after she was arrested on public corruption charges.
Flansbaum-Talabisco was released on bond Wednesday afternoon just hours after she surrendered at the Broward County Jail.
Her arrest came after months of investigation by the Broward State Attorney’s Office for her connection to a pair of controversial developers.
Flansbaum-Talabisco, 57, was charged with unlawful compensation, bribery, official misconduct and conspiracy to commit unlawful compensation.
As she left the Broward Main Jail Wednesday afternoon, Flansbaum-Talabisco said nothing to waiting reporters, but her attorney spoke for her.
“When, and if, this case ever goes to trial, the evidence will show and we will be able to prove that the mayor received no illegal compensation whatsoever,” said her attorney, Larry Davis.
According to the State Attorney’s Office, Flansbaum-Talabisco allowed developers Bruce and Shawn Chait to secretly contribute $21,000 through a political action committee to support her 2006 campaign.
In exchange, the state claims, she would reportedly voted favorably for the Chaits’ company, Prestige Homes, which wanted to build more than 700 homes on two former golf courses near Florida’s Turnpike and Commercial Boulevard while avoiding paying big money in development fees to the city and Broward School District.
Flansbaum-Talabisco was released after posting $9,000 bond. Negotiations allowed her to surrender instead of facing arrest.
Tamarac’s City Manager Michael Cernech issued the following statement on Flansbaum-Talabisco’s arrest:
“The City of Tamarac takes seriously any allegations of wrongdoing and there is no way to diminish the importance of earning the public’s trust. The City’s role at this time is to provide all the services necessary for day-to-day operations and focus on the process set forth to address this situation.”
Flansbaum-Talabisco is not the first Tamarac politician to be arrested in connection with Chaits. Late last year, former commissioner Patty Grad was arrested and charged with public corruption.
Former city commissioner Marc Sultanof was also charged last year with six felony counts for reportedly accepting $30,000 from the Chaits in exchange for his commission votes on their project.
The Broward State Attorney’s Office charged Sultanof, 89, with three counts of official misconduct, one count of bribery, one count of unlawful compensation and one count of conspiracy to commit unlawful compensation.
According to his arrest affidavit, Sultanof received money from the Chaits, owners of Prestige Homes, between March 2006 through January 2007. His improper relationship with the Chaits reportedly continued through November 2008. He reportedly used the bribe to help pay for a 2006 Honda Accord.
Also implicated in the Chaits corruption probe are suspended Broward School Board member Stephanie Kraft and her husband Mitch.
The Krafts are charged with unlawful compensation, bribery and conspiracy to commit unlawful compensation. Stephanie Kraft is also charged with official misconduct. Both have pled not guilty.
According to the Broward State Attorney’s Office, the charges stem from illegal assistance that the Krafts gave to the Chaits who pled guilty last year to Unlawful Compensation charges of their own. Both were sentenced to probation.
According to the Broward State Attorney’s Office the Chaits hired Mitch Kraft to help them get schools-required development fees for one of their building projects effectively reduced by $500,000. Investigators found Stephanie Kraft then pushed school staff to put the reduced development fee that her husband helped arrange onto the school boards’ “consent” agenda.
Prosecutors say the Chait’s hired Mitch Kraft to help them, considering it “insurance that nothing would go wrong,” according to the arrest affidavit for the Kraft’s. They paid him $10,000.
The Tamarac City Commission voted that Vice Mayor Pam Bushnell should take over as authorities investigate.
Former Tamarac Mayor Joe Schreiber offered some advice for public officials.
“Be Honest! If you’re honest, you can get up in the morning, look in the mirror, see your face and be happy,” said Schreiber.