Second Update: Ilene Lieberman Is No Longer Top Dog


Ilene Lieberman and I have always had a love-hate relationship.

She loves to hate me.

Her nose was always out of joint about what I wrote in the Sun-Sentinel.  She complained about me so often, I believe she had Editor Earl Maucker’s number on speed dial.

I’ve got a confession: I’ve always been interested in all things Lieberman.

She was the one with the sharp elbows.  She was the one with the agenda. She was the master of the back channel.

She was the one with the questions.  She was the one with the answers.  She was the one with the most to say on almost everything.

She was the de facto leader of the county commission for approximately the last decade.

No more.

The real significance behind Lieberman’s repeated absences from recent meetings is she is no longer top dog. Whatever reason Lieberman is missing meetings, it signifies that her political career is over.

She has given up.

They’ll be no campaign for Clerk of the Courts when she is term limited out next year. No campaign for re-election if the courts throw out the term limit law.  No more more campaigns at all.

She is politically finished

“I’m through with politics, she told one source.

I believe the source.

She sees the handwriting on the wall.   Broward voters are through with Lieberman.  Too much negative publicity swirling around her. Too many voters want something new.

Others see the handwriting, too.

Lauderhill Vice Mayor Howard Berger last month opened an account to run for Lieberman’s District One seat with $80,000 of his own money. Accounting manager James Ale of Sunrise has raised $15,500 and put in another $14,500 of his own.

Why Lieberman’s disappearing act?

She is under investigation for various things.  But wouldn’t the authorities want her to continue to participate in an attempt to gather information about other wrongdoing?

Maybe and maybe not. As a comment to this blog by “Hammerhead” noted, former School Board member Bev Gallagher started missing meetings…and then she was arrested.

Health problems? Family health problems?  Other personal problems?  Let others speculate in print. I won’t go there.

One thing about Ilene that I always admired is that she is tough.

She fought through a divorce, then raised kids while putting herself through law school. She became mayor of Lauderhill and took on political icon Gerry Thompson to wrestle a seat on the county commission. After that, she muscled her way to the head of Broward’s political pack.

This is not a woman who gives up easily.  Whatever is keeping her from meetings must be very, very serious.

The significance for us is that the county commission will no longer be dominated by Lieberman. Even if she returns, insiders will know she is a lame duck.

There hasn’t been a shift like this since Scott Cowan lost his majority control of county commission a dozen years ago to a faction that included Lieberman.

I feel the tectonic plates shifting under the Government Center.


This was originally posted as an answer to a comment.  A reader suggested that it would be more properly posted here and I agree.

This fixation by the media on Lieberman’s absences — I am guilty as the rest although the post was really about power at the county commission is somewhat unfair. Commissioner Sue Gunzburger missed a number of meetings a year or so ago when her husband was dying. Former Commissioner Diana Wasserman Rubin missed meetings periodically because of illness and again, very little was made of it. I don’t remember either of them issuing formal statements explaining their absences.

What is being missed is the positive things Lieberman has done. My problem with some Internet “news outlets is that the writers see everything in black and white. Usually black. Nobody is any good. There are no shades of gray.

People are not like that. They are more complicated. Lieberman is flawed, as we all are. She is condescending, arrogant and has a hard time seeing other points of view.

One example: She repeated a line to me often when I dared to question her approach to an issue. It was obviously designed to put me down: “I know you’re not a lawyer, but maybe you can understand this.

Get Lieberman alone at her home and she is a different person. She can be warm and caring. She is a great loving mother. She is also one of the best cooks I’ve ever met (Lori Parrish is very good, too.).

I can never forget that Lieberman took the worst possible adversity — the almost fatal illness of her son that resulted in a liver transplant — and turned it into a positive for the community. With her drive and single-minded dedication, she founded a fund-raising group and eventually coaxed a hospital into opening a transplant facility in Broward.

I can’t ignore that she was at the forefront of improvements such as broadcasting commission meetings to provide better access to the public. She was always perhaps the best prepared on any subject on the commission agenda. She took the job very, very seriously, which is perhaps why her absences are so noticed.

As I wrote above, Lieberman and I clashed repeatedly since her election in 1996. She was also a regular source and I never remember her lying to me, unlike some other politicians.

Lieberman was an expert at playing politics. Former Editor Earl Maucker told a story about how she came into his office complaining about me and vowing never to speak to me again. Less than 10 minutes after storming out of the building, she was on the phone to me with a tip. In the end, she knew I could be useful to her.

I stand by my theory that Lieberman will no longer be the de facto leader of the county commission. That means a big change at the county commission, but it doesn’t mean her entire career was a waste.

If Lieberman is about to be indicted or if she has a personal or family emergency, it shouldn’t be the only thing her career was about.

25 Responses to “Second Update: Ilene Lieberman Is No Longer Top Dog”

  1. Thomas Brooks says:

    This is a very fair and balanced analysis of the situation. I agree with it 100 %

  2. Politico says:

    Good post Buddy. Couldn’t agree with you more. Her self-serving nature appears to have done her in. Looks like her ego imploded.

  3. Bulldog says:

    It’s painfully obvious that it is a serious health problem and she feels after years of public service that she is entitled to some privacy in her life. The media needs to let her be and allow her to get better instead of bashing her about the head. One thing we’ve all learned about Ilene Lieberman is that she’s human like the rest of us. (Remember how Ann Kolb fought while she was sick and still served on the County Commission? Only the media was sympathetic — there weren’t any blogs back then, just real professional journalism occurred and respect for those who have given themselves to public service.) Say what you will about Ilene, she has been a dedicated public servant. You may not agree with everything she did or said, but she did her homework and was always prepared to do battle for what she believed was right.

  4. New Blood Needed says:

    There is talk that Bruce Edwards is meeting with various groups to talk about a run for Ilene’s seat. Edwards is a two term retired councilman from Planation and brother to Orange County Commissioner Ted Edwards. The Plantation native has strong roots in the community and is a long time businessman in town. Edwards is very well liked, recent poll showed him to be top choice for Plantation’s mayor race, but he had no interest in city day to day operations. If he does decide to run his campaign would start by April. Wait and see.

  5. ontheequator says:

    Underneath the outer shell is a very nice person.

  6. Hammerhead says:

    Buddy – recall that Beverly Gallagher missed many meetings for suspicious reasons in the weeks and months before she was called to turn herself in to the authorities. Perhaps it is not Satz who has that tiger by the tail.

    Just an observation.

    FROM BUDDY: ….and a very interesting observation.

  7. Boobdog says:

    There weren’t any blogs then? Only real professional journalism?Respect for those who had given themselves to public service?

    Are you serious? The failure of the professional journalists and the kowtowing editors kissing political butt made this a corrupt and dishonest county. Dirty politicians have treated this community as a personal slush fund forever.

    You sir are mistaken.


    First of all, I never met an editor in my lengthy career who thought much of our local politicians.

    I’m sure if I thought about it, I could find dozens of stories by professional journalists that made a difference in this county. I will name only three, none by me although I had my share:

    (1) A 1970s series in the defunct Fort Lauderdale News prompted a change in the county government’s structure, bringing it into the modern age.

    (2) A 1990s story in the Miami Herald caused election complaints to be filed against County Commissioner Scott Cowan, eventually leading to his quitting office.

    (3) A series in the 1980s in the Miami Herald exposed the corruption at Port Everglades, eventually leading to the dismantling of the insider controlled Port Everglades Authority.

  8. tellthetruth says:

    To New Blood:
    You forgot a little something about Bruce Edwards. He forced the city to spend money on a special election when he quit right after his re-election…Run Bruce Run!

    FROM BUDDY: Yes, I edited this post.
    Enough with the personal allegations about Mr. Edwards. They have nothing to do with the issues in Plantation.
    As far as the church vote in Plantation goes, I would hope they would adhere to what a much better person than me said about this very subject: “He without sin among you, let him cast the first stone…”

  9. Bruce Edwards says:

    I have not considered running for this seat. This new year brings a very difficult time with my dad in stage 4 cancer with no treatment left and thanks for the support from many. Bruce

  10. City Activist Robert Walsh says:

    Buddy I have to disagree with you. i think she is staying away from the Dais on instruction from the Feds. I think possibly(just a theory) that when question by the State att. off the Feds had a few questions of there own. (the Ilene Lieberman Botinical Gardens don’t impress Uncle Sam)So I think she spilled what she knew about this and that and that she is now cooperating w/ the Feds(don’t tell Att.Alu) and they are calling the shots and basiclly telling Red to stay home. I see your point Buddy nah, her think she is all done(no way). Then if wrong here why else besides your take Buddy is she sitting on the side lines?

  11. S only says:

    I always liked Ilene. She is a strong woman who paved the way to power for female generations to come. I wish her well.

  12. Plantation Native says:

    Bruce Edwards is a wonderful public servant, and it was a loss to the City of Plantation when he left office. Broward County would be a much better place if Mr. Edwards were afforded the opportunity to serve our residents on the County Commission. Bruce, you can count on my vote!

  13. Joe S. says:

    Buddy, who is likely to fill the void (i.e. the new “top dog” of the County Commission)?

    FROM BUDDY: This will be the subject of a future blog post.

  14. Kevin says:

    Is there anything in the County Charter that removes commissioners for missing a certain number of consecutive meetings? I know that there are some cities in Florida that have this provision. AND I know that the state constitution allows the governor to remove from office for this reason.



    I don’t believe there is. The charter allows commissioners to “determine its own rules and order of business.”

  15. S only says:

    This “more balanced” set of comments should have been part of your original story, not attached to someone’s comments. C’mon Buddy, this is an amendment tacked onto legislation that nobody reads.

  16. sunriseoversite says:

    This is a good story I enjoyed reading it. I like it most of all because it was fair and honest. I just feel to much power for one person doesn’t end well for anyone.

  17. janitorintheknow says:

    She deserves to be taken out with the TRASH….no pun…LOL

  18. Kevin says:


    I would think that if it gets to the point where she misses many, many meetings in a row without an excuse, one could interpret that as “misfeasance” (not doing one’s job) under the state constitution (instead of “malfeasance” which got Miriam Oliphant for simply being too stupid to do her job).

    Then again, I doubt that will happen. Nor should it at this point.

  19. Resident says:

    Berger would be the sorriest person to be a county commissioner. Other than sending out birthday cards he has done virtually nothing for all the years he has served.

    He doesn’t have a clue what is going on in his own city, nor has helped to try to solve anything. He doesn’t support anything but himself.

    He collects a paycheck and that’s about it. They would eat him up and spit him out if he won.

    He would be the last person I would ever vote for and when he goes up against someone who has actually done something, it will become clear.

  20. Thanks says:


    Thanks for giving Ilene the benefit of the doubt. Just as other commissioners who have missed meetings were given the benefit without explaining.

    When there are serious health issues often times commsssioners don’t disclose the nature of the illness until he/she/or a family member has a firm diagnosis.

  21. Death Frog 3 says:


    I will add to your list of professional journalists, with Wanda DeMarzo. She almost single handed toppled one of the most powerful politicians in Broward County history. She screwed up after, but her work on Jenne was relentless

    I’m a big fan of Wanda. She came to journalism relatively late in life and has done some very good work.

  22. Tiny Tony says:

    You forget Nevins. Lieberman has done some good and a lot of bad.
    Her law practice and her husband is based her county commission job.
    Stuart Michelson got his $500,000-a-year job in Sunrise because of her. Why don’t you mention some of that?

  23. redheadlover says:

    Second Update: Ilene Lieberman Is No Longer Top Dog
    Is this an Oxymoron cause she is still a DOG!!!

  24. City activist Robert Walsh says:

    I am glad that your blog topics are getting such a good response Buddy. One would ask(Buddy) to ask ELECTED Comm.Lieberman what is wrong with her besides the usual “Health Issues”. One would think this is no one business but hers(wrong). She is paid with tax dollars that don’t come from her and her husband. One would think being paid almost 100 grand to represent her district that she would consider telling the public what is wrong w/ her since she missed meetings for the last 2 months. Ok so she does not feel well, at least be truthful w/ the Public who is compensated her. I strongly feel going by her own admissons(health issues) that she should compensate the County by all these meetings she as missed. In other words divide the salary into each meeting she attends. If my calculations are right its about 2grand. Give that monies to charity of her choice(by all means). For her to be collecting a check every 2weeks is unethical. You try calling in sick like her pattern and your employer would demand and get a Dr. note verifying the “Health Isssue”. This is not right on so many levels. For and her husband to avoid answering specefic questions(what is wrong with you??)is not right. Be truthful w/ the residents Comm. We are paying you. I can honestly say if she was up for Reelection you would need a pick ax for her not to show up. Go work in the Private Sector and try this”Health Issues”. She brought this on herself. Best one when she states by phone (get this) my staff(that we are paying for) is here to help my Constituents,they damn near better be ,since she is not paying them. If this is to much for you Commissioner, Quit.

    FROM BUDDY: I am definitely not an expert on health care law. I do know that patients under federal law are guaranteed privacy. I am not sure that physicians have to reveal to employers the details of a patients’ illness.

    That said, Ilene Lieberman has been a county commissioner for more than 14 years. She obviously has some sort of disability insurance benefit, which if needed would take any burden off the taxpayers.

    Also, she did participate in many of the meetings by phone.

  25. Clarke Anthony says:

    Ilene Lieberman’s predecessor, Gerald Thompson, went public with alcoholism, a brain tumor and lung cancer. He was a true statesman. Commissioner Thompson presided over a County Commission meeting ten days after having the brain tumor removed. If he could do that, she needs to be honest with the public or start doing her job!