BY BUDDY NEVINS
Controversial nominee Barbra Stern was grilled for almost an hour by a Senate committee Monday before her nomination to the state Elections Commission was approved.
Barbra Stern: Allegations About Her Brushed Aside (Photo: Art Seitz)
Stern, the daughter of well-known lobbyist and campaign consultant Judy Stern, was the only one of four Election Commission nominees that was extensively questioned.
An insurance defense lawyer who lives in Fort Lauderdale, Stern easily fielded pointed questions about her co-ownership of a Fort Lauderdale condo that is rented to Democratic Sen. Maria Sachs.
Internet reports alleged that Sachs leases the Fort Lauderdale apartment, but doesn’t live in it. The reports say that senator uses it to fraudulently claim she lives in her northeast Broward and Palm Beach County district.
Chairman Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, did most of the questioning. He said he wanted to know, “Is this Election Commissioner participating in flaunting the (state) Constitution?”
The Florida Constitution requires senators to live in their district.
Stern maintained that although she is the co-owner of the apartment with her mother, she knew nothing about the lease to Sachs and never visited the property.
She said her mother made her the co-owner for estate purposes.
“Would you have any idea whether anybody lives there?” Latvala asked.
“I have no personal knowledge,” Stern answered.
Stern blamed the allegations about the apartment on a Republican blogger who has been “bullying me” and her mother.
Latvala noted that the allegations were also in the Miami Herald. Browardbeat.com has written stories about the apartment, too.
Latvala told the Miami Herald after the hearing about Sachs: “I’ll kiss your feet if she spent one night in that condominium.” He suggested Stern’s evasive answers were proof that she was part of a conspiracy to allow Sachs to violate the state Constitution.
There was a certain element of politics in this. Latvala was a strong supporter of former Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, who Sachs beat to win her seat last year.
In the end, Stern’s nomination to the Elections Commission was unanimously approved.
It now goes to the Senate floor for final approval.