Lobbyists, Insiders Target New Courthouse Project


With the feds everywhere, you would think the lobbyists would be lying low.

Not in Broward County.

Lobbyists are already adding their “lobbyist tax to the $328 million courthouse project.

Guess who pays the “lobbyist tax?  You and me.

The lobbyist tax is the lobbyists’ millions in fees, which eventually will be built into the courthouse project and paid by taxpayers.

The first piece of the lucrative pie:  Up to $25 million for a new 1,000-space courthouse parking garage.  

A brawl between downtown Fort lauderdale’s most influential land owners is shaping up at the county commission for that multi-million dollar prize.  Both sides have hired boucou lobbyists.

William “Bill Scherer wants to add several stories unto the existing courthouse parking garage at Southeast Sixth Street and Third Avenue. 

Scherer already leases several hundred spaces in the garage under a deal inked two decades ago to provide parking for his New River Village apartments and condominiums.

His competition is long-time real estate investors John “Jack Loos and D. Fredrico Fazio along with the contractor Terry Stiles’ company. They want to build the garage at the site of the old Coca Cola plant at South Andrews Avenue and Seventh Street.

Scherer has lobbyists Jim Blosser, Justin Sayfie, Bernie Friedman and Neil Schiller working for him.

In his non-lobbyist life, Sayfie is the owner of the influential SayfieReport.com on the Internet. Friedman is known as a lobbyist businesses hire to try to get County Commission Sue Gunzburger’s vote. 

Loos, Fazio and Stiles have John Milledge signed up as a lobbyist.  But Scherer said his opponents have also hired Ron Book and Neil Sterling, who have not signed up for the project.

Book and Sterling are two lobbyists that printed reports indicate are under investigation by the feds.

Book and Sterling did not return calls for comment. Loos sent an e-mail advising me to talk to Doug Eagon, president of Stiles. Eagon did not return a call for comment.

The arguments:

Scherer says his property is a better deal because he has no land costs and is closer to the courthouse. The garage currently has a pedestrian bridge over Southeast Third Avenue leading directly into the building.

Loos and Fazio, through Legacy Development of Broward, bought the property in 2005 for around $6 million. The building was constructed in the 1930s as a Coca Cola bottling plant, but in recent years was the studio and offices for the local Comcast cable television.

Legacy has told commissioners, sources say, that their property is better because it would not be tied down to the existing footprint of the current garage.  They can tailor it to whatever the commission wants to build.

I would figure that the investigation into the county commission’s relationship with lobbyists will insure that this time, commissioners will pick the cheapest project regardless of who is doing the lobbying.

But then again, the Broward commission always surprises me.

6 Responses to “Lobbyists, Insiders Target New Courthouse Project”

  1. Jig is Up says:

    Lets start with the premise that whatever is built, it will be the result of backroom/corrupt process.
    Example 1.Several years ago our County Commission built a jail on downtown riverfront property!
    Example 2. The County Commission built a courthouse parking garage, but leases the spaces to an influential downtown lawyer/developer/fundraiser.
    Are you freak’n kidding me? Does anyone trust anyone in county government?
    God save us all…

  2. Democrat says:

    I always wondered how one of Broward’s biggest Republicans Scherer got the Democrats at the county commission to give him half of the county parking garage. I seem to remember that Lori Parrish and Scott Cowan led the give away.

  3. frank icanosty says:

    Bill Scherer is an honorable man, a successful attorney and businessman, and a man who has spent years dedicated to his church and community. If the people of broward county don’t like the nature of county business, they shouldn’t fault those-any of those-who profit by employing its framework to their advantage. Instead, they should focus on the wholly and obviously corrupt commission itself–an all-democrat commission that is part of an all-democrat South Florida government, I might add. Replace the commissioners and demand they change the rules rather than deriding and insulting those who are simply playing by the rules that currently exist.

  4. inquiring mind? says:

    Why is Ron Book being investigated?

    FROM BUDDY: My understanding is that the feds are looking at a lot of deals at the county and the School Board. Book has been involved as a lobbyist in at least one of the deals, involving a debris removal contract after Hurricane Wilma. That has interested investigators.
    He is not accused of doing anything wrong.

  5. Developer: We Aren’t Using Sterling : BrowardBeat.com says:

    […] Real estate investor and lawyer Bill Scherer told Browardbeat.com that Sterling was working for Legacy.  He was quoted as saying that in an earlier story here. […]

  6. Valigator says:

    This project needs to be looked at with a fine tooth comb. For Commissioners as Lieberman and the others who couldnt build a birdhouse between any of them, to make decisions with taxpayer dollars is ludicrous. We need an outside independant study with NO ties to any of these people or their Lobbyist that will fill the needs of the community and anticipate future growth. Other cities have built courthouses there has to be a better answer than to depend on those with self-serving agendas..Irene Lieberman seems to be running this dog and pony show..why, she is holding meetings collecting a “wish list” from attorneys and Judges. This is no way to fund an expansion project such as this. I think the city deserves and needs a new courthouse. With that said, it doesnt need people like Lieberman or those with no experience awarding contracts or dictating construction.