Nevins: Lieberman’s Two Smelly Deals



When Ilene Lieberman first ran for county commission, she sold herself as an outsider running against the clubby group controlling the Government Center.

In the 14 years since then, Lieberman has remade herself into everything she ran against the ultimate insider.

Through a combination of sharp elbows and a barbed wire personality, Lieberman morphed into the commissioner- in-charge of much that is wrong with Broward County.

Because like Frankenstein’s monster, she was reborn into something never anticipated by her early supporters:  

Lieberman has become the champion of the inside deal. The lobbyists’ friend. 

Today she is running the two biggest questionable deals at the county commission.

Lieberman is championing the proposed $1 billion, no-bid 20-year garbage contract. She is ramming a new courthouse down the throats of taxpayers, who rejected it in an earlier vote.

Unfortunately, Lieberman is exactly the wrong person to emcee these deals. 

I see too many hidden agendas.

The Courthouse

Lieberman is widely thought to be positioning herself to run for Clerk of the Courts in two years. 

She would have to steamroll the likeable Howard Forman out of the way and grab the job.

The clerk’s position pays about $50,000 more than Lieberman earns now as a commissioner.  Her eventual pension would be nudged upward, too.

Everything she is doing is colored by her need for political support.  

She delivers a courthouse for the legal establishment.  She gets their political support for her new job.

No one discusses that if Lieberman becomes Clerk of the Courts, she could end up working in the very courthouse she wants taxpayers to build.

No commissioner discusses that Lieberman and her husband Stuart Michelson own an office within spitting distance of the courthouse.  Will a new courthouse hurt their property value?  

Bad Blood And The Courthouse Garage

Just like no one discusses that she should recuse herself from any discussion of the parking garage. 


One of those who want to build the garage is lawyer Bill Scherer.  Scherer had a bitter lawsuit with Lieberman’s husband Stuart Michelson over legal fees five years ago.

The $400,000 scrap ended up in court.  It was settled, but bad blood remains.

How can Lieberman vote impartially on a deal when one of the applicants was in a very expensive law suit against her husband?

The Garbage Deal Is Garbage

The other smelly deal she is peddling a $1 billion, 20-year no-bid garage deal.  It was birthed with almost no input from average taxpayers.

I wrote about this deal months ago here. had an update on May 25 here.

Something is funny about this garbage contract. 

It was negotiated behind-closed doors and ratified by her Amen chorus on the obscure Resource Recovery Board.  Taxpayers and the media almost never attend meetings of the Board.

The Board is headed by Lieberman’s pet administrator Ron Greenstein, a former state legislator who lives in Tallahassee but still holds down the six-figure job at the local agency.

What’s going on here?  Why the intense pressure on cities to approve this no-bid deal more than a year before the current contract expires?    

When asked about the garbage contract, a local blogger told me that Lieberman bobbed and weaved.  

That’s okay. Lieberman can spin. She can do a little soft shoe.

But even Ilene Lieberman can’t pirouette around this fact:

No-bid deals stink.  Especially a $1 billion, 20-year long deal.

Should we expect a lot of waste industry money helping her next campaign?

What disappoints me is that I once had hope for Lieberman.  I thought she would change the commission’s direction, clean it up, make is more responsive and responsible.

Instead, she became the champion of the back channel deal.    

She became the water carrier for lobbyists.

She partied with the gild edge crowd doing business with the county, while her constituents struggled to pay their property taxes.

Lieberman has become what she was against 14 years ago.

And that is profoundly sad.

19 Responses to “Nevins: Lieberman’s Two Smelly Deals”

  1. Goldbricker says:

    She is gross.

  2. Garbage and Court House says:

    Let’s cut to the chase here.

    The garbage deal boils down to this. The State has certain requirements for recycling which by law must be met. The county is proposing a plan and the cities are studying the options. Cost benefit analysis must determine how to best meet the state requirements. Either the county plan meets that test or it doesn’t. Some cities think it does and others are still not sure. This is still in progress.
    All this jaded thinking gets us nowhere and amounts to nothing in the end. Look to the merits of the deals being proposed. Which one makes the most sense? Sometimes bidding works to get the best situation, and sometimes it costs more. It takes years of leadership to know which and if we cannot trust the people we elect to represent us, then get rid of them.

    This silly jumping to conclusions gets people nowhere. Look at the merits of the deal.

    As to the court house, that building is falling down. It has to be replaced. The county needs to step up and do that work because the people need it done whether they like it or not. This is a question of responsibility. As to the garage, options for locations exist. The option selected needs to make the most sense relative to cost. Again, cost benefit analysis is the only way to properly study that situation.

    Wherever they put the garage, all the properties around it will do well. This is not and should not be the focus on who owns what is not the answer. They should put the garage where the people going into the garage need it subject to common sense monetary review.

    Let’s analyze and conclude on the basis of cost benefit and stop guessing our way toward proper decision making.

  3. Floridan says:

    BN: “How can Lieberman vote impartially on a deal when one of the applicants was in a very expensive law suit against her husband?”

    Perhaps because she is legally required to?

    You might want to educate yourself by reading Florida Statutes 286.012 and 112.3143.


    She is not required to be chair of the Courthouse Task Force making all the key decisions about how the project is shaped. She is the only commissioner on this committee.

    Also, lets not be naive. She could say she has a conflict and not vote.

  4. James says:

    Just the tip of the iceberg.
    Lieberman and other folks who were on the county commission back when the Broward Arena was constructed in Sunrise did the citizens a terrible disservice when they voted to give big Wayne anything he wanted with respect to the arena. Big Wayne’s internal research showed that 60% of Panther’s season ticket holders lived in West Broward. So the folks on the county commission made sure the arena was where Wayne wanted it.. out in the sticks.. close to where his season ticket holders were. As if that were not bad enough, they even let Wayne have the management contract to run the arena. That contract was passed on to Alan Cohen when he bought the Panthers. Why in God’s name would a county commission give the owner of an alleged anchor tenant the management contract for the arena? Why did the county commission not hire a management company or a arena manager? That arena has consistently been one of the top 10 grossing arenas in North America. So how come every time a promoter wants to bring an event to town, the promoter pays rent to Alan Cohen rather than who really owns the arena, which is the citizens of Broward County.
    Meanwhile, Riverwalk is dead and in bankrupcy, and Las Olas is dying. You don’t suppose having one of the top 10 grossing arenas in America in downtown Ft. Lauderdale where it should be would help Las Olas do ya? Imagine 20K people 250 nights a year piling out of the arena into the streets of downtown Lauderdale, including Himmarshee and Las Olas. So instead of building a beautiful arena in downtown Lauderdale on the water which would generate a ton of business for downtown Lauderdale, we instead have an arena in the sticks, across from a mall that is closed when events at the arena are done with. A top 10 grossing arena in the wrong place, and a management contract given to a billionaire. Nice going Ms. Lieberman, Ms. Parrish, and the rest of ya’ll.

  5. Rob brower says:

    Wow Buddy… I wonder which one of your close friends chewed your ear about this until you relented and wrote this “garbage” (literally)? Was it Bill or Ali… or both? Let’s talk about their vested interests…wasn’t Ali a “steel magnolia”? Now she’s just another part of the lobbyist establishment darkening the halls of the County Commission. What about Bill Scherer who made MILLIONS off of the North Broward Hospital Distrct (via Broward taxpayers)and now is pretending to be the white knight saving taxpayers the cost of a new courthouse parking garage when he stands to gain MILLIONS OF DOLLARS……
    And your being used to be their water boy. Now that Buddy is what’s really sad.

  6. Frank White says:

    James, your plan neglects to recognize that there is NO parking or traffic plan for an arena of that size in the downtown area. It would be an absolute FIASCO

  7. Floridan says:

    BN: “Also, lets not be naive. She could say she has a conflict and not vote.”

    And what, exactly, would that conflict be?

    She would have to state the nature of the conflict, and if she were to suggest it was because her husband and Bill Scherer were involved in a now settled lawsuit several years ago, the County attorney would tell her that her reason does not constitute a conflict according to Florida statute.

    Again, I suggest you read the appropriate Florida statutes on what constitutes a conflict of interest and the requirement that a public official vote if there is not a legal conflict.


    A conflict of interest could be the increase in her office’s value from a new courthouse. She could declare it is a conflict and abstain from voting.

    School Board member Bob Parks abstained from voting on naming a high school track after him. This is not really a conflict under the law, but the School Board lawyer allowed it.

    As far as the Bill Scherer lawsuit, it is not a legal conflict. It just makes the process look unfair.

    But this academic debate doesn’t matter. She is chair of the courthouse task force and the only commissioner in the group. There are eight other commissioners. Why isn’t a commissioner who doesn’t own property near the courthouse on the group instead?

    You see, Floridian, that the political process is one of perception. Perception is reality. And the perception of many involved in this courthouse is that Lieberman is gaming the process to help her friends and hurt her enemies.

    Public Defender Howard Finkelstein quit the task force because it had become dominated by “who gets contracts and for how much.” In a conversation with me, he was extremely critical of Lieberman.

    You would think the county commission, which is being probed by law enforcement authorities and has been widely criticized for inside dealing, would not put someone like Lieberman in charge of the courthouse project.

    Too many questions.

    My bottom line is that Lieberman is the wrong person to be in charge of the courthouse process. She may not have legal conflicts under Florida’s weak ethics laws, but she sure has perceived ones.

  8. A Stretch At Best says:

    Improving the road in front of her property, the drainage in the area, the crime impacting the community could result in an increse in property value. Lowering taxes or increasing services could have the same result on her property.

    One can’t stop being a county commissioner simply because one owns property. Many lawyers have offices near the courthouse, just like doctors live near hospitals. None of that is a conflict or an appearance problem.

    If there is a conflict it has to involve direct or indirect cash in pocket. Value of property improving? That’s what they are supposed to do for every land owner. That is not enough to create a conflict in voting or action. Look at the deal itself and measure it on the merits.

  9. @Garbage and Court House says:

    @Garbage and Court House – 7:47 am

    Ilene? That you?

  10. Resident says:

    There was a time that Lieberman was a champion of ethic reform.

    I wondered where that went.

    And while Lieberman and the Commission thinks the ethic reforms being forced on them are badly flawed, somehow it is good enough to force it down all the other cities. Sounds like payback more than anything else.

    Also sounds like a good arguement in favor of county term limits, which I hope Lieberman will honor even if the law is overturned (especially because she once supported it).

  11. Lieberman and FBI says:

    Ilene Lieberman should be investigated. She was a lobbyist and her clients appeared before the county commission. Somehow her husband became city attorney of Sunrise. Ha Ha.
    As Buddy wrote, their is something fishy about everything she does.

  12. Howard Forman says:

    Ilene Lieberman for clerk of the courts. Wow. Imagine how she will fix what judges get what cases for her husband Stuart Michelson.
    What a pair.

    FROM BUDDY: This may be Howard Forman, but I assume its not the clerk of the courts.

  13. James says:

    Frank.. all those parking garages in downtown (Courthouse, Library, Bank of America) would be empty after 5 PM, and those spaces could be utilized, making the city / county even more money. Not to mention all the other private lots near the courthouse that would now be used during the summer evenings.

  14. Frank White says:

    What is stopping that from happening now? That neighborhood is up in arms over the church and the traffic and parking it will bring.

    The sun-sentinel ran an article last month that talked about how the cops were giving jaywalking tickets downtown. So now you get a parking ticket AND a jaywalking ticket with your $50 a plate dinner. THEY DON’T WANT PEOPLE DOWNTOWN. PERIOD.

  15. Hold Government Accountable says:

    How about Coral Springs Commissioner Roy Gold, who in December took a $500 contribution from Wheelabrator to his 2010 campaign for Mayor, less than 10 days after Gold moved for Coral Springs to adopt Resolution 2009-046 approving the terms of the MOU among Broward County, the Broward Solid Waste Disposal District, and Wheelabrator.

    As posted on Gold’s campaign website, “The Coral Springs Forum Dec. 24, 2009 edition recognized Commissioner and Resource Recovery Board Member Roy Gold for his work to secure “a $12 million signing bonus for member cities in a contract that is to be signed next year between the county, the board and Wheelabrator, a company that operates the waste-to- energy facilities where solid waste is disposed for 26 cities in the county.”

  16. Hold Government Accountable says:

    Commissioner Gold also is also representative on the Broward County Resource Recovery Board.

  17. James says:

    Frank.. You may be right. Obviously, they don’t want tens of thousands of people mingling around downtown Ft. Lauderdale at night or on weekends. Otherwise, the arena would have been built where Riverwalk is, or at the very least, at the intersection of Broward Boulevard and I-95 at the NW corner opposite the tri-rail station. The people running this town have no vision and a what’s in it for me mentality.

  18. Lieberman/Michelson is Corrupt says:

    Ilene Lieberman is corrupt. Why doesn’t anybody investigate how she screwed up Sunrise but forcing her husband Stuart Michelson into the job as city attorney so they could collect $500,000-a-year.

  19. County Commission’s Smelly $1 Billion No-Bid Garbage Deal Forges Ahead : says:

    […] is an earlier story, too, about Lieberman. There are more links in this […]