BY BUDDY NEVINS
What was Broward Mayor Stacy Ritter thinking?
Why did she appoint County Commissioner Ilene Lieberman — according to The Miami Herald — to head the committee studying ways to build a new courthouse?
There are nine county commissioners. One has property within walking distance of the existing courthouse Liebrman.
There are nine county commissioners. One has abstained from voting on a new courthouse in the past because of her real estate holdings Lieberman.
Lieberman, by her own admission in the past, has a financial conflict in getting courthouse improvements built somewhere near her property.
What was Stacy thinking?
I know Ritter and Lieberman are close. They are buddies, pals, compadres.
Still, isn’t there anybody else who could head that committee? Lieberman shouldn’t take part in the discussion at all.
Here is the story:
On April 19, 2005, Lieberman publicly declared she had a conflict and would not vote on a new courthouse project. She was the principal in a company that owned property at 401 SE 12th St., which is about a half mile from the existing courthouse.
Eight months later, a limited liability company owned by Lieberman and her husband, Stuart Michelson, bought an office condominium even closer to the courthouse.
Michelson Holdings paid $1.35 million in Dec. 2005 for the condominium. It is just two blocks away from the courthouse at 800 SE Third Ave.
Lieberman felt that the property on 12th Street, which the Michelsons sold, would benefit financially from a courthouse project. Wouldn’t the condominium on Eighth Street benefit even more?
Wouldn’t subleases be more valuable with an improved courthouse near by? Wouldn’t the resale value of the property improve?
In November, voters passed a new county law which states that commissioners who declare a conflict on a vote should “not participate in any discussion in that matter.
Developer Jim Cummings represented The Broward Workshop during the debate over the new law. He said the business group was for it.
Cummings argued that a commissioner who is “an outstanding debater can steer the issue regardless of whether the commissioner eventually cast a vote.
He said “you can’t do anything betteron the ethics part than forbidding commissioners from taking part in discussions of issues where they have a financial interest.
Voters agreed with Cummings. The new law passed 440,556 to 131,167 not even close.
The law doesn’t mention committees. Still, anybody can see what the voters intended.
It is obvious to me, a non-lawyer. Voters don’t want even the appearance of a conflict!
The appearance of a conflict is exactly what they have now with Liberman as the head of that courthouse committee