Gunzburger’s Ethics Reform Has Political Undertone


When Sue Gunzburger testified at the Ethics Commission earlier this year, she pushed hard to ban lobbying by her fellow county commissioners.

But Commissioner Gunzbuger didn’t reveal the political backstory driving her proposal.

Her reelection campaign believes such a prohibition will drive her 2010 opponent former state Sen. Steve Geller from the race.  

That assumption is false. 

“I’m in this to stay, Geller said.

The former senator has worked as a lobbyist in Broward in the past. It’s a  job that would be forbidden under the rules Gunzburger proposes.  

Geller is trying to dethrone Gunzburger from the southeast Broward commission seat she has held since 1992.

The campaign is being fought in the open, with the two Democratic candidates courting unions, condo leaders and the media.

It is also being fought behind-the-scenes at the Ethics Commission.

The Ethics Commission was created by voters to draft tough, new ethical guidelines for county commissioners. The group has not decided yet what rules they will recommend that voters approve next year.  

Gunzburger and the other commissioners were invited to testify to the commission. Here is what Gunzburger’s said to the Ethics Commission on May 13:

“The other thing that I feel is very important is that if you have outside employment, and I know the City of Hollywood passed this rule. I don’t know whether Pembroke Pines did. You cannot lobby another government entity in Broward County. Now I would say you cannot lobby down in your own home county. That means that I can’t go and — if I were a lobbyist, which I have never been, and go up to Vice Mayor Schechter and say I want you to allow this furniture store on Pines Boulevard — I can think of something years ago from your city, to be there and change the zoning for it, because Vice Mayor Schechter may have to come to me for something his city needs, and he is a city and I’m the county. That isn’t right because I’m putting undo pressure on Vice Mayor Schechter, so I think no one should be allowed to lobby down. If you want it work and lobby in a neighboring county, that is another story, because we don’t have any control over neighboring counties. I don’t have any problem with that, but I do have a problem lobbying within our own county.

On one level, the idea is a good one.  It forbids commissioners from having second jobs lobbying within Broward.

It is a response to the bad publicity that lobbying by Commissioners Ilene Lieberman, suspended Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion and others generated for the county commission. Lieberman and Eggelletion lobbied in Broward cities.

Beneath the surface, Gunzburger’s proposal has another goal –The hope that the prohibition will cause Geller to drop out of the race.

Geller is a lawyer and has represented developers in front of governments throughout Broward.

Although most would call that lobbying, Geller argued that he is only performing work as a lawyer.

Regardless of the terminology if the ban passes and Geller is elected to the county commission, he would be banned from promoting his clients to any government in Broward.

The Gunzburger campaign theorizes that Geller will be unable to afford the loss of income and quit the race, rather than risk an impoverished future.

It’s a brilliant political move — a win-win proposition.

Here is the political magic at work:

Commissioner Gunzburger promotes tougher ethics, something voters like.  At the same time, she quietly damages her political opponent. 

Geller isn’t falling for it.

The wily former Florida Senate Minority Leader now has outmaneuvered Gunzburger. 

When asked about a lobbying ban by commissioners, Geller says:

“I would not oppose that.  It’s clear that my opponent is trying to do everything she can to keep me from running.  I’m running for Broward County Commission, period.  Whatever the rules are for being a commissioner, I will abide by them.

If all these political twists and turns result in a lobbying ban, it is a benefit for Broward residents.

Residents are sick of the rank, open and repugnant influence peddling by county commissioners doubling as lobbyists.

Both Gunzburger and Geller say they will support the ban.

That’s a good thing.

17 Responses to “Gunzburger’s Ethics Reform Has Political Undertone”

  1. Nobody44441 says:

    Gunzburger – what has she ever done for Broward’s residents that did not serve her own interest or bias first? Broward doesn’t need dirty tricks or sneaky attacks. We’ve had way too much of that already. Apparently she doesn’t have much to show for all her years on the commission, otherwise people would want her back in and she wouldn’t have to try to win by trying to force any other candidate into a bad situation. She seems to think she is entitled to do whatever she wants in order to win again – Broward bedamned. Aren’t we lucky this time it looks like it might be a good thing? Who knows what she’ll support next in her own, and not Broward’s, interest.

  2. Miss Marple says:

    While you’re on the subject of ethics (yeah, right) how about Item #53 on the Dec 1st County Commission agenda: A motion to approve Edify, LLC to provide General Benefit Consulting Services to the County.
    Edify=Scott Rothstein=Howard Gruverman=Evan Jenne=Grant Smith. Gee, I wonder how that happened?

  3. Miss Lane says:

    It would also behoove the Commission to prohibit its own members from hitting up lobbyists for big contributions to the Commissioners’ favorite charities. This kind of pressure is equally undue and unfair.

  4. Just Curious says:

    Ask if Geller called memebers of the committee and asked them to vote against such measures before Gunzburger testified.

  5. seeingred says:

    While you’re on the subject of ethics (yeah, right) how about Item #53 on the Dec 1st County Commission agenda: A motion to approve Edify, LLC to provide General Benefit Consulting Services to the County.
    Edify=Scott Rothstein=Howard Gruverman=Evan Jenne=Grant Smith. Gee, I wonder how that happened?

    @Miss Marple, It happened just the way U think. It’s sad; the rich get greedier everyday. They ALL need to be investigated and if found guilty guilty, need to be made an example of! And not in Club Fed either!!

  6. Blue Man Scoop says:

    Geller knows the ban won’t apply to him. Lawyer regulation is preempted to the Florida Bar. The ban would probably be challenged on those grounds and IMHO likely be successful.

  7. Catch 22 says:

    It is entirely possible that Sue Gunzburger objects to her opponent being a lobbyist for more than one reason. I would go so to say it’s even likely.

    So what?

    She makes a a very strong and valid public policy argument against a county commissioner lobbying down. That argument should be implemented whether it offers her any political advantage or not because it is good public policy.

    What I consider worrisome is that Steve Geller refuses to properly address this question. Why doesn’t he just come out and saying that if elected he will not lobby down?

    Lots of people in this county strongly suspect that his only interest in elected office is to juice up his legal and lobbying practice. Nobody wants to elect a anyone to the county commission for that reason.

    Why won’t Geller come out and say that if elected he will not lobby down in Broward? Why won’t he come out and say that if elected he won’t practice land use or any government law in Broward?

    If he did that, he would be a much more viable candidate. But he won’t and this seems to confirm the suspicion that his agenda is running for office is not about the people, it’s entirely about him. Politicians need to start being rejected on that basis.

    His failure to come clean with that issue will lose him the election. That failure to disclose will paint him as a opportunistic politician less interested in representing the voters than in what elected office can do for him personally. He can’t win with that label on his back, not in this environment.

  8. Blue Man Scoop = Geller says:

    Blue Man Scoop sounds a lot like Steve Geller himself, because Geller has been telling everyone he can get around the lobbying ban by saying he’s practicing law …… and that the charter cannot prohibit him from earning a living as an attorney.

    Add to that what we know is true: Geller and his inner circle have aggressively lobbied Ethics Committee members to kill the lobbying ban. We can all see where lobbyist Steve Geller really stands on this issue: Geller plans to run, he plans to stay in the race, AND disgustingly he plans to use the commission seat to generate lobbying clients so as to enrich himself. Steve Geller: just another politician-lobbyist wearing two hats like Keith Wasserstrom, Joe Eggelletion, etc.

  9. Blue Man Scoop = Geller says:

    One more thing ….. I thought Gunzburger first proposed a lobbying ban, a gift ban, and several other ethics reforms for the Commission maybe 2-3 years ago. That was long before Geller was ever a potential rival to Gunzburger.

  10. Broward Voter says:

    Geller won’t win unless he agrees to not lobby regardless of whether a law is passed. The statement he gave is full of weasel words, like “I would not oppose that.” That doesn’t say he supports it. It just says if they pass a law, he will obey it. He really has no choice, does he.

  11. Find Another Way, says:

    Geller has already stolen millions from the public trough, so he must have enough stashed to say he will play by the rules.

    He is a despicable, repulsive pig of a man who has personally enriched himself while masquerading as a public servant.

    Go Sue, eat him alive. Why? Because you CAN!

    FROM BUDDY: There is absolutely no evidence that “Geller has already stolen millions” from the public or from anybody else. Such an allegation has never been made except in anonymous blog postings.

  12. Resident says:

    Only a lawyer can practice law, unless there is an exception, i.e., a lawyer, CPA or enrolled agent can practice in front of the IRS and in Tax Court.

    You may be a lawyer and act as a lobbyist, but I don’t see that being a lobbyist is the practice of law. Anyone can represent another, i.e., sports agents, engineers, planners, etc. Representing another is not the practice of law. But to say that to get around an anti lobbyist rule by alleging it is interferring with their ability to practice law is a stretch.

    Even if Geller tries to get away with it, it will look so bad and tainted, I would find it shocking for people to stand for it. But there is a reason they call it “Politics.”

  13. huh says:

    Who cares!! They are both useless drains on this society and need to go away from politics! That would be the best way for anyone who is in or has been in office to help the people. These slugs like to take our money and give it to their friends for over paid work!

  14. look at the facts says:

    Who in the world would vote for a sleezeball such as geller? Just look at his history and record. What a scumbag…

  15. Miss Marple says:

    I am so dismayed by what is going on in Broward County now. We have the Rothstein debacle with so many of those players intertwined with the County (Edify). We have the School Board – aarrghhh. Lamberti and Adderley seem to have connections to RRA. Lobbyists up the ying yang with way too much control. I am sure there are a couple of honest and competent attorneys out there but look at the sheer number of bad ones. So sue me over that last comment. The arrogance of the County Commission is beyond belief. Geller and Gunzberger – are we to seriously believe that what they do is only in our best interests? I think this may be the bleakest time ever for this county and I am not seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.

  16. buddy to the rescue says:

    buddy, since it is a topic of some debate in your story and the comments, please settle this question by verifying or calling b-s on this claim: did gunzberger **first** propose extensive ethics reforms for the commission on gifts, lobbying, etc, before or after geller got into the race. i’m not asking when she talked to the ethics group but when gunzberger first proposed it openly. can you answer this for me, buddy?

    FROM BUDDY: I know that Gunzburger suggested ethics reforms before Geller got into the race, but I don’t remember what she proposed doing.
    I assume that Geller would argue that the fact she couldn’t get the ethics reforms passed is proof that she is ineffective.

  17. Geller Can't Make that Argument says:

    Commissioner Gunzburger deserves credit for wanting greater ethics reforms at the County Commission long before Steve Geller was a candidate for that office. Him suggesting that she was ineffective because she couldn’t get her collegues to support her ethics reform, is a very slippery slope for him to take.

    First, he was no leader on ethics reform during his tenure on the Senate. At least Sue tried. Second, it opens the door to much greater scrutiny about Geller’s ineffectiveness at the State.

    It does not suit him either way to open himself up to that line of discussion. Apart from a last minute nowhere autism bill, a sweetheart departure bill from his Senate colleagues, there really isn’t much that Geller can take claim to personally in his career that impresses many locally.

    He has much greater to lose by going there than she does. I mean, consider the deplorable condition Florida is in right now, how little he did to stop it, leaving aside all the arguments that his voting record actually helped create our current disasterous situation.

    As indicated before, he has a smarter angle here. He simply needs to say that he will not lobby if elected. But he doesn’t seem willing to make that statement. And so the rap on him must be true. He’s out to get our votes so that he can be in office and pad his pocket that way.

    I can assure you that my vote will not be cast in that way or for that purpose.