Corrupt Developers’ Shadow Hangs Over School Board Race


Corrupt developers Bruce and Shawn Chait’s dirty dollars have left a stain on Broward politics.  

That stain has seeped into the northwest Broward School Board race.

Both candidates Dave Thomas and Jaemi Levine — have ties to those caught up in the Chait mess.

Thomas and Levine are running to replace Stephanie Kraft.

Thomas is being supported by Kraft, who has been charged along with her husband of taking pay offs from the Chaits.

Levine was introduced to me by Bev Stracher, a political consultant who was a lobbyist for the Chaits.  Stracher is said to be squealing to prosecutors about the $100,000 in cash she received from the dirty developers.  

The two candidates mirror the long schism in the politics of Northwest Broward.  

Some of Northwest Broward’s political activists have been split into two camps for years — the Kraft group and another group clustered around County Commissioners Stacy Ritter and Ilene Lieberman.   

The two camps are bitter rivals, fueled by political enmity between Ritter and Kraft.

What’s the fight over?  Oh, there were issues like school boundaries.  But the disagreement is basically over who would have the most political power.

At one time, Ritter and Kraft talked about running for the same state Senate seat now held by Jeremy Ring.

Enter Jaemi Levine in 2005.

Levine was brought to my attention in 2005 by political consultant  Stracher, who encouraged me to write about Levine. 

(I wrote about her at least once here on December 3, 2005.  Part of that Sun-Sentinel column is below:

“Just where does Broward County School Board member Stephanie Kraft stand on evolution?

Kraft’s views appear to be devolving since her comment to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel last Sunday. Kraft was quoted as saying:

“Personally, I don’t understand how evolution works. I don’t understand how you went from one cell and then all of a sudden you got man. I think it [the evolution theory] makes as much sense as saying God created man.” Her re-election opponent Jaemi Levine said she suddenly had an issue because Kraft’s comments demonstrate that she is out of touch with the public.

A Coral Springs parent activist, Levine said that Kraft “must be seriously challenged about this.” )

Who is Stracher?

Bev Stracher

A former Sun-Sentinel reporter, she is one of Lieberman’s political acolytes.  She was a Lauderhill city commissioner when Lieberman was Lauderhill mayor.  She currently is one of Lieberman’s county aides.

Stracher is also a close friend of Ritter, according to both women.

Until recently, Stracher was the political workhorse of the Lieberman-Ritter group.  She handled campaigns they were interested in.  She generally only managed campaigns after getting the blessing of Lieberman.

When Levine first appeared on the political scene, she was a candidate supported by this anti-Kraft faction.  This would be natural, since she was running against Kraft in the 2006 election.

Stracher didn’t get any money from Levine’s campaign.  It has now been revealed that she was getting plenty of money from other quarters.

At roughly the same time she was pushing me to write about Levine, Stracher was lobbying for the developers Chaits, who have pleaded guilty to bribing public officials.

According to numerous published reports, Stracher is now “cooperating” with prosecutors in the Chait probe.  

Lieberman and Ritter are said by newspapers to be under investigation in the matter. And Kraft has been arrested in the probe stemming from the Chaits testimony.

That all these pols were touched by the Chaits is no big shock to me.  The pool of officials that could influence the Chait’s project was small and the developers were trying to buy everyone.

Bottom line:  Levine and Thomas have ties to those caught up in the Chaits’ web.

Will it make a difference Tuesday?

Voters will have to decide.

10 Responses to “Corrupt Developers’ Shadow Hangs Over School Board Race”

  1. Stephanie Kraft says:

    As far as I’m concerned, Stacy and I are not, nor have ever been political rivals. The only political rivalry between us is that in the minds of people like you and others who tried to manufacture some rivalry for their own political purposes.

    Yes, we had a disagreement on a boundary issue once upon a time, but that was not political, it was boundaries.

    I have never intended to run for any office that Stacy held or sought. To the contrary, when asked about my future political ambitions at one time, I said I was interested in Stacy’s seat, meaning, after she vacated it. That statement was mis-interpreted to assume I was going to run against her. I never intended that, especially as that meant I would have had to give up my seat on the SB at that time, and everyone who knew me knew I was planning on staying on the SB until my daughter graduate in 2009.

    I was actually approached to run for her current County Commission seat by some fairly powerful people, while she was still in the Senate race. I told people that I had heard that Stacy was going to jump into that race, and I would not run against her.

    Stacy and I sat down a few years ago and talked about the fact that while we had the same constituency, we were not rivals, and there was no point in being rivals, because there were plenty of opportunities for both of us, politically. The reason we met was because we had both heard the rumors about how we were rivals, and we met to assure each other that, as far as we were concerned, we were not.

    Stacy and I are not friends– that is, we don’t run in the same circles or hang out together, but we are friendly when we see each other, and, again, as far as I know we are not and have not been political rivals.

    So any “bitter political rivalry” may exist with some other people, but as far as I know, does not exist between myself and Stacy. At least, not on my part.

  2. Stephanie Kraft says:

    PS–my comments about evolution were also taken out of context. I said that for people who believe in evolution, the theory/belief that God created the universe in six days makes as much sense as the theory of evolution for people who believe in creationism. Both versions are hard to explain or believe to different people. I have always supported the teaching of evolution in our schools, just as I support parents’ rights to teach their children creationism if that is what they believe.

  3. Broward Parent says:

    The only indrect tie the Thomas has is that fact Stepahnie Kraft couldn’t stay out of the politics of the race for her former seat. Mr. Thomas didn;t seek her endorsement. SHe just jumped right in after backing Ronert Mayersohn’s failed attempt. So, your attempt to make that link is a bit thin.

  4. Broward Cleansweep says:

    Oh come on Buddy. Aren’t you close with Steph and Bev? The emails don’t lie…do they?

  5. Nick Steffens says:

    The part about Stephanie and evolution is too rich. Amazing, really.

  6. dems for dollars says:

    Stephanie – are you effing serious? You’re out of jail on bond, awaiting some further punishment and you’re no longer a school board member and you’re still responding to blog posts? Get a life; nobody really cares that much about your relationship with Stacy. It was barely important before, it’s irrelevant now and you’re done around here. Your time is up, get over it.

  7. dems for dollars says:

    furthermore, the blog post wasn’t even about your relationship with Stacy, it was just mentioned as part of something more interesting and actually of relevance!

  8. Lpeerman33063 says:

    Take note fake names, that is how it is done. You post your side of the story under your real name.
    I tip my hat to Ms Kraft for doing so.

  9. Kraft's Defense Attorney says:

    You need to lay low, and keep your mouth shut.

  10. SimpleMan says:

    You are a disgrace to your office, your community, and your family. You used your political office to get rich and wield power at the expense of school children. Your scheme to funnel money to the Chaits via the consent agenda was transparent. I can’t wait to hear how you got the other crooked board members to go along with you. Just remember us rank and file employees know you and your dirty tricks. What lies do you tell your daughter? Do you think she believes them? I guess money can whitewash a lot of things for a while. Your lack of shame is appalling but predictable. Clickety-clack, clickety-clack, clickety-kraft.