Caught: Lobbyist Texting Commissioner


Is this a picture of lobbyist Judy Stern texting a Fort Lauderdale commissioner?

So says activist Art Seitz, who happens to be a photographer.

The texting by lobbyists to commissioners on the dais is a widespread practice in many city halls and at the county Government Center. It is a way to discuss an issue with the commissioner without anybody knowing it.

In this case, Seitz caught Stern texting a commissioner during a political debate.

I wasn’t there.  So I can’t verify these pictures. But Seitz has a pretty good track record.

You decide.

33 Responses to “Caught: Lobbyist Texting Commissioner”

  1. John Henry says:

    You can clearly see that “Bobby Dubose” is the one being texted.

  2. Bill D. says:

    Judy is a very powerful lobbyist, isn’t she? Shouldn’t these IM’s be subject to public records requests?

    Looking at her screen, she appears to be texting about a public matter.

  3. Privacy 101 says:

    If you zoom in, you can clearly see she is having a conversation with Bobby DuBose.

  4. Dear Lee Feldman says:

    Here is a photo of Judy Stern at the Candidate Debate the other night texting Bobby Dubose while he is in Broward Days about what appears to be a development issue. City Mananger Feldman please explain why and how Ms. Stern is not required to register with the City as a lobbyist?

  5. What should, I say next? says:

    What does the text on the BlackBerry say?

  6. Dear Lee Feldman says:


    Get ready for my 119 Public Records Request for Commissioner Dubose text messages. I hoep he doesnt accidentially delete them…

  7. Creekgirl says:

    “Dear Lee” wrote:

    I hoep he doesnt accidentially delete them…

    Just like this internet post(with misspelled words), All text messages sent in the United States of America are saved on a computer server for the Department of Homeland Security thanks to the good ole Patriot Act.

  8. Real Deal says:

    Pardon the suggestion but this entire conversation is crazy and lacks any legal basis. People have a right to send messages in this country. Voters have a right to hold their officials accountable for their actions. Separate the issues because when you try to combine them we stop being Americans and become something radically different.

  9. Big Whoops says:

    Florida’s wiretapping law is a “two-party consent” law. Florida makes it a crime to intercept or record a “wire, oral, or electronic communication” in Florida, unless all parties to the communication consent. See Fla. Stat. ch. 934.03.
    (taken from Citzens Media).
    Did Stern have a reasonable expectation of privacy (an exception to F.S. 934.03)? Is it reasonable to believe that her texts were private (regardless of the other person being a public official)? Would a reasonable person believe that a person is not leaning over your shoulder with a camera?
    I doubt that the person being texted was a public official or that it was about a public matter would be a defense (Seitz could not wiretap Stern’s home phone to listen to calls with public officials).
    Seitz may need to lawyer-up and quick.

  10. Richard J Kaplan says:

    Interesting post.

    Texting is recoverable even if erased by the parties.

    Texting about public business could be subject to a public records request.

    If a lobbyist sends a text while a matter is being debated, it puts the elected official in jeopardy since all lobbying must be disclosed in writing before any vote. The problem may be that there is insufficient time to file the written disclosure before the vote so the elected official could inadvertently be in violation.

    Add to that, that records could be reconstructed at a later date to determine if a lobbyist did lobby and the elected official failed to disclose properly.

    That is why, until we work this out better, we have advised for no one to contact BY ANY MEANS an elected official about a matter on the agenda that night once we arrive to the meeting, except by appearing in front of the Commission.

    If someone fails to comply with this, we will have to delay the matter to allow the proper disclosure to be filed.

  11. Privacy 101 says:

    Real Deal is missing the point. Yes, it’s legal to send messages in this country. But being a public official, doing public business, these text messages are subject to Public Records requests. Do you really believe they won’t be deleted by the people involved?

  12. Judy,Judy,Judy says:

    Someone should file a complaint with the inspector general.

  13. SAM FIELDS says:

    Dear Creek girl,
    I am curious as to the your source about all text messages being saved by the government per the Patriot Act

  14. Real Deal says:

    A public records request in Florida is limited to existing covered records. There is no duty to create a record that does not exist or even make such an attempt. Simply, if the record exists and is subject to disclosure then it must be disclosed. There is no point that I missed about that law nor was that the point of the post.

    Mayor Kaplan’s discussion is interesting except the contact was made at a city facility, likely through a city phone, equivalent to a city computer, by a lobbyist, we think, because it’s suggested she is not registered. The duty to report in that instance, if any, would fall on the lobbyist not the official. Officials only report contacts made outside of the office. Clearly, commission chambers is in the office.

    Such is the proper interpretation of the current ethics ordinance until it is challenged, which will happen, at which point it must be and struck down because it is unconstitutional and written with the intellectual and legal prowess of a four year old.

    The real point is we live in America where freedom of speech exists. There is nothing inherently illegal about any of these contacts. The sending of a text is no different than passing a note. Why shouldn’t someone be allowed to read a note during a meeting but not get a text?

    What matters in the end is how officials vote and perform irrespective of who texts, emails, calls, meets with them, passes them notes, hollers to them in hallways, sends up smoke signals, signs pulled by airplanes, billboards, what’s on their tee shirt, or stands up at a meeting with a sign. None of that matters and all of falls within our freedoms in this country. It is the voters that need to determine if that official is properly serving them based on their voting record and performance. The rest of this garbage is McCarthyism disguised as ethics.

  15. Richard J. Kaplan says:

    Real Deal,

    I hope you are right, but my understanding, and possibly the safer one, is that the exemption for lobbyist is only during a public meeting when being presented to the board publicly.

    If at any other time a lobbyist meets with a member of the board/commission on a matter for that board/commission privately, a disclosure of the contact and information about the contact is required. It doesn’t make a difference if it is in a city facility or not.

    At our City Hall, if a lobbyist comes in to meet privately with a member of the board/commission in our office, they first must file as a lobbyist and complete the disclosure form. If it occurs outside of City Hall or some place that they have bypassed the system, then I must fill out the disclosure form and file. The important part is that the correct papers are filed somehow.

    The law does speak about if disclosures are only if they are registered lobbyists. That is a concern because the responsibility is upon the lobbyist to file first. If they fail to register and lobby, I know they are in violation, but I do not know what effect it is on the member of the board/commission.

    As a practical matter, and until advised otherwise, I am still planning to file the disclosure if it appears warranted and let the lobbyist deal with any violations they may have incurred.

    PS A sent text is an existing record. Also, a note would be treated the same as a text. There is no difference under the public records law.

  16. City Activist Robert Walsh says:

    So this is what we have come down to. Number 1-you can’t prove SHIT Art who Judy “The Iron Lady” Stern was textiing. You want BATTLE ARt bring it on. Seems to me Art you want to go after Comm.Rodstrom and using Mrs.Stern as your pasty. Mrs.Stern you catch anyone invading your privavy estentially your civil rights we will go to battle all right. Bring it on ART Seitz.

  17. Whatever says:

    I’m all for full disclosure and the lessening of lobbyist influence, but I think it’s a little creepy to be taking photographs like that over someone’s shoulder.

  18. Get rid of de Jesus says:

    Hey @Real Deal (more like McFly or Moron), the record exists as soon as the send button is hit. It’s called a phone bill. And…if it’s paid for by the taxpayer’s, it’s public record. This is illegal no matter what anyone says or how anyone tries to spin it. I guess Debby Eisinger learned from Judy Stern, since her & Neal de Jesus texted constantly, and would not provide records. They even went so far as to bribe a developer and texted about it, and Mike Satz won’t do a thing about it.

  19. Dear Lee Feldman says:

    DOnt understand the confusion here, blow up the photo and the name on the phone is Bobby DuBose, amd Judy is talking about the time she spent “in the hood” and westside gazette. Bobby responds about how many jobs “he” created.

    Its a little fuzz but not that fuzzy. Maybe there are still unresolved issues of privacy or should she regeister as a lobbyist but there is no doubt who and what she was texting about

  20. Shitty Activist Robby Walsh says:

    Queen Judy should have NO expectation of privacy if she is in a public meeting. I think they should install cell phone jammers in the commission chamber. The Commission meeting is a public meeting with rules for addressing the commission. This texting is wrong and DuBose should be censured for it, along with any other public official who does it while conducting a public meeting. If the commissioner wants to excuse himself to the lobby and talk with Lobbyists, that is OK and would be seen exactly for what it is – influence peddling. Judy Stern is a sneak and Dubose is dishonest.

  21. Big Whoops Again says:

    If not illegal, it is surely creepy and bad form to lean over Stern’s shoulder and take a photo of whomever Stern was texting.
    I don’t find this man’s action admirable at all.
    If she was texting her daughter about dinner or perhaps a sick relative, would this creep publish those photos too?
    Whomever is on the other end of the texts is wholly irrelevant.
    The ends do not justify the means.

  22. creekgirl says:

    Mr. Fields,

    You must have miss the announcement:

    “Tracking Cell Phones

    In 2010, President Barack Obama’s administration announced that Americans have no reasonable expectation of privacy on their cell phones.”

    Here’s the link:

    The PATRIOT Act
    Title II Sect 201, 202, 203(b) gives the Man the authority, and the FCC regulates the Telcos.

  23. City Activist Robert Walsh says:

    Ok-first of all Judy stern does not have to register as a lobbyist because for the 100x she is NOT a Lobbyist. So now Comm.Dubos e is dishonest, should be censured etc. Secound this was not A Comm.mmeting this was a canidates forum. #3 Bobby Dubose was not even there. Any time you want to report the real story here Buddy, would be great. I mean really Art, really???? By th e way Judy beautiful ring(mother of pearl-I believe). Battle -Judy Stern was born to battle-bring it on!. Now i’m off to find the Cleveland Clinic….

  24. Real Deal says:

    Mayor Kaplan: You are becoming notorious for imagining what is in the ethics ordinance instead of just reading the plain language of what is there.

    Get Rid: Go look at your phone bill and see if they send you copies of your text messages. I doubt it. Under the law, unless you possess that record you are under no responsibility to request it or to create it. That is the law.

    The rest: I will not sit silent while the 1st Amendment of the Constitution is shat upon by idiots who haven’t a clue what ethics rules are supposed to look like. I again say that whatever your take on this situation might be there is nothing whatsoever wrong with a person choosing to contact another on any topic in any form at any time. Soldiers died including my family members to protect that right and I will defend it even if you all do not.

    You cannot create a rule that violates the constitutional right of free speech and call that good ethics. It is not good ethics. It is unconstitutional policy.

  25. Shitty Activist Robby Walsh says:

    My mistake. Texting at a Commission meeting is one thing, texting at a debate is another. Queen Judy still has no reasonable expectation of privacy with her text in public and she still is a sneak. And you Robert, I’m glad the meds kicked in and you got some help with your typing skills. You should, however, try to get your head removed from Judy’s hoo-ha.

  26. Richard J Kaplan says:

    Real Deal,

    I hope that either you are, or you become elected somewhere so you can go out and do what you think you can do. Then you can be the test case.

    I truly hope you are right on your opinions, but I am not the person that is willing to find out.

    As I said before, the law will have a chilling effect, and it has. Not just with me, but with anyone elected who is concerned about such matters. That was clearly the intention by those that wrote the law, and the IG who didn’t want binding attorney opinions to give some guidance.

  27. Buddy says:


    I don’t see Judy Stern as a hidden force in every campaign in politics. Nor do I see her as the Darth Vadar of politics.

    She tells me she was texting Commissioner Bobby DuBose to joke with him about complaints by candidates that the city hadn’t spent enough on Sistrunk Blvd. despite the millions spent on reviving the street.

  28. Unlce Tom says:

    Dear Uncle Tom aka Bobb DuBose

    How could a self respecting African American person allow Judy Stern to refer to your community as “the hood” as she did in this text.

    Gotta give her credit, hundreds of years since the Civil War and Dubose, Thurston and Smith are still slave hands for a white jewish woman(ok that is progressive, the theory of a white jewish woman who owns chattle)

  29. Real Deal says:

    The Broward ethics law is written in English but if some want to interpret it in Martian, they will inevitably arrive at alien conclusions. It is without question a lousy ordinance as written. Yet the language is clear enough to avoid paranoia about what it actually says. Officials with questions can sent those to their city attorney whose response binds the requesting official.

    Second, “a record” is a legal term defined by the Florida Sunshine Law. A text message is only a record if it meets that definition. Government must disclose such records as it possesses that don’t fall under an exception. Government is not required to create information it does not possess. Simply, either the record exists and they have it, in which case it must be disclosed, or it does not and the request cannot be processed. As a practical matter text messages are rarely “records” in that context. One cannot rationally argue a right to the “record” under the law while dismissing or failing to understand what that law says.

    Last, people are and should be entitled to contact their government officials in America irrespective of how they make a living. That’s called freedom of speech. A felon deprived of their civil rights, even while rotting in prison should have the right to contact their elected officials. Much less a business person living and working in a community.

    The ethical issue here never involves who makes contact or what the contact with officials involved. The ethics is always about how that official performs in office, irrespective of the contact made. Good ethics requires that the official listen to as many views as she can before making the honorable choice on behalf of the persons that official represents.

    The public is entitled to assess that performance. If they don’t they are acting unethically. The ethics problem is with them.

    Rules ironically established the name of ethics that violate our basic freedoms will fail the test of legal scrutiny because they uphold neither the law or ethics.

    Rules may not violate the Constitution in some misguided attempt to promote ethics. It will never work that way in a free society.

    I find it shameful that so unimpressive a group was put together to formulate the county ethics ordinance. There wasn’t one credentialed ethicist on the panel. They were not guided by accepted models or government ethics standards. This ordinace was almost literally pulled out of their asses and it shows. It needs to be rewritten from scratch to meet the mandate of the people for ethics reform while conforming to the requirements of the law.

    You all are on the wrong page with this entire discussion. You have been cheated out of ethics reform by a very astute County Commission and you don’t even realize it.


    I agree with Real Deal. The County Commission did everything it could to gut this law.

    Despite that, the law has gone a long way. It removed commissioners from the Selection and Negotiating Committees, notorious fountains of special interest contributions. They have to reveal their contacts with lobbyists.

  30. Richard J. Kaplan says:

    Buddy and Real Deal,

    I also agree. Also, what Buddy pointed out was essentially what it was supposed to be about in the first place, plus stop them from lobbying governments that they serve.

    Pretty simple, but so badly written.

  31. Real Deal says:

    Want examples of why this law sucks? I could give many but let me focus on the lobbyist part since everyone seems so keen on that one.

    Lobbyists are basically paid sales people for the companies they represent. Most get access to officials because they use their influence in raising them campaign funds. Not all. This form of engagement is legal according to federal, state and local laws. Businesses have a right to hire them and government officials are wise to hear them out. It doesn’t mean they have to agree. It simply means they are wise to listen.

    Lobbyists and their clients argue successfully that they have a First Amendment right to engage in lobbying. Under the law it appears that they do. However government can regulate how campaigns are financed and run though it chooses not to exercise that authority. That is the steop that proper ethics requires. You don’t stop or interfere with anyone making a living. You deal with the problem where it exists. Ethical decision making is not all about the outcome but also has to do with the means to achieve an outcome.

    Government has no authority to require an official elected by the people to resign should they or someone in their family choose to engage in any legal profession, including working as a lobbyist. To me it is an outrageous abuse of government authority to even approach the problem in that way. Government has no authority to prevent officials from working in any line of work they choose, much less their family. I have no problem with governments licensing businesses and if that means granting a license to lobbyists then they can do so. Rules about disclosure are OK as part of that licensure but it should be the lobbyist that makes these disclosures never the official. We have an active press and constituents to ask officials what they do and who they meet with.

    If a lobbyist who is also an elected official lobbies a city, tthat lobbyist/official assumes a voting conflict in their official capacity wherever they cast a vote. This is a voting conflict that demands recusal. Treat it that way and the matter becomes self-regulating without need for outrageous and unethical legal provisions.

    If your spouse is a lobbyist for a certain company, and you as an elected official are called to vote on something that would bring financial gain to you, your spouse or your family, that’s called a voting conflict. You should be forced to recuse yourself and the matter should be handled on that basis.

    But you can’t have government telling people what jobs they can or can’t hold in America. That’s outrageous.

    Forget that I generally despise lobbyists and find most of them revolting. American law is written precisely to produce justice despite my clear prejudice. I do not want my government making illegal rules in the name of good ethics. It is dangerous to the rule of law, of ethics, and ultimately to our liberty to permit them to act in those ways. I don’t believe our laws allow them to do it anyway.

    Family and professional associations may be a factor that voters consider when electing their officials. But overnment has no business being involved in such a thing.

    Further, the government has no right whatsoever to establish rules that require the disclosure of conversations made between any two Americans whether elected or not. We as individuals alone have command over that freedom. If they can force disclosure in these instances what keeps them from thinking up other freedoms to take from us? It is a dangerous and illegal path.

    The problem people have with lobbyists seems to involve their activities in the area of campaign fundraising. But where is the effort to reforming how campaigns are paid for? The lobbyist is the problem where the public refuses to fix a problem.

    If you look at the entire ordinance and compare it to those of more intelligent communities you will see that ours is just stupid, illegal and silly. I am offended by it because it pretends to be good policy but it is not.

    As Buddy said, it keeps Commissioners out of procurement committees. But this should have been in a procurement code. Not ethics because commissioners are not qualified to make those decisions anyway.

    Ethics is a series of rules, or the study of those rules that promotes good behavior. This ethics law discourages charitable involvement by officials, it imagines that a glass of water is a bribe, it almost literally makes hermits out of our elected officials, it was all done with the goal of creating as much hatred toward ethics as possible. It is laced with evil and disguised as good.

    A total, professional rewrite by people that understand ethics is required.

  32. I Know says:

    The effort to smear Judy Stern on blogs will fail. Her competitors like the mahor’s flunky and the one who ran for mayor are just losers who have to sink to that level. While they are sitting at their iPads in their pajamas, Judy is contributing to the city.

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