Outrage: Commissioners To Debate Gutting Ethics Reform


Can the ethically challenged Broward County Commission sink any lower?

Commissioners will consider next week a set of amendments to gut proposed ethics reform. 

The amendments are supposedly authored by the county attorney’s office.   I see the hand of Commissioner Ilene Lieberman in this.

Lieberman has consistently argued against ethics reform.  She has been accused in the past of using the county attorney’s office to further her aims of derailing any new ethics laws.

Commissioners will consider the following next Tuesday:

*Allowing every current commissioner to avoid provisions of the law.

*Permitting commissioners to lobby other governments in Broward County, removing a prohibition against such odious influence peddling. 

*Stripping out the ban on gifts from lobbyists or vendors to commissioners’ spouses and domestic partners. A lobbyist might be prevented from giving a gift to Lieberman, but they could give anything they want to Lieberman’s husband, Stuart Michelson. 

*Removing a prohibition against commissioners’ spouses, domestic partners and other immediate family members from lobbying the county commission.  Commissioner Stacy Ritter’s husband, Russ Klenet, is a lobbyist.

If this truly is the work of County Attorney Jeff Newton, he deserves to be fired.  Immediately. 

If Lieberman is behind this as I suspect, she also deserves to be fired.  By the public. 

This would be just another of Lieberman’s pathetic attempts to thwart the people’s deserve for clean government. Voters passed two referendums demanding ethics reform.

Lieberman is in no position to debate ethics. She was a paid lobbyist for developers while sitting on the commission dais.

People can see right through you, Ilene. 

I call on the only commissioner who has consistently backed ethics reform Sue Gunzburger to do everything in her power to stop this obscenity.

This attempt to crush ethics reform is the most outrageous flouting of the public will I’ve seen in over three decades of watching the county commission. 

Any commissioner who votes for these amendments deserves to be voted out of office.

22 Responses to “Outrage: Commissioners To Debate Gutting Ethics Reform”

  1. Just Beachy says:

    Buddy, After so very many, many years of reading and following YOU I still am so impressed with your forthright truth telling and exposure techniques. Thank you Buddy. I do not always agree with you, but I always admire you for not giving up nor in! I have an ole pic OF YOU SITTING ON a STEP WITH LOIS WEXLER AROUND THE TIME SHE LEFT THE SBBC AND WANDERED ON OVER TO THE COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OFFICES. THE TWO OF YOU WERE HEAD TO HEAD IN CONVERSATION. I KEEP IT TO INSPIRE MYSELF WHEN I NEED A BOOST!

    FROM BUDDY: Thanks!

  2. Politico says:

    Will the nonsense never end with this current County Commission.

  3. Sue Gunzburger says:

    Buddy: Great column! You’re right on the mark. Below is a letter I email blasted to my list of 2,500 Broward activists.

    Dear Friends,

    It seems County Attorney Jeff Newton, working again in stealth coordination with at least one of my colleagues, is conspiring for a second attempt to torpedo ethics reform. Click here to read respected political journalist Buddy Nevins’ new column exposing this latest scheme to derail ethics reform.

    In the Agenda and backup for next Tuesday’s Commission meeting –Item 8 — and the related amendments — on the 2 PM Agenda–, Mr. Newton is actually proposing that we adopt the proposed Ethics Code –Agenda Item #7– … and then vote minutes later to totally gut it. This is outrageous!

    The County Attorney’s so-called “glitch” ordinance proposal –Item 8– is a joke. It is nothing but a thinly veiled political attempt to kill ethics reform. It provides a lengthy “cooling off” period of many months before the ethics reforms would even take effect.

    Why is this lengthy delay needed? Do any of my colleagues really need 120 days or more time to become ethical and comply with the new Ethics Code before it takes effect? I hope not.

    In reality, the proposed delay is a stalling tactic to allow some of my colleagues to orchestrate lawsuits which would seek to kill ethics reform before the effective date. It would also eliminate any criminal penalties for violating the Ethics Code,

    Even worse are the proposed amendments, which are purportedly instigated and authored solely by the County Attorney. These amendments would:

    *   Totally kill the proposed ban on County Commissioners simultaneously collecting a public salary while also earning big bucks leveraging public office by serving as a paid lobbyist.
    *   Totally exempt Commission spouses/domestic partners from the gift ban.
    *   Exempt Commissioners, spouses/domestic partners, and Commission personal staff from most of the new ethics bans.
    *   Exempt all current commissioners from complying with strictest parts of the proposed new Ethics Code.

    With your help in June, we were able to scuttle the plot to kill ethics reform with a ridiculous “declaratory judgment” lawsuit. In response, the County Attorney hired — at taxpayer expense — attorney E. Bruce Johnson to weigh in with a “legal opinion” denouncing the proposed Ethics Code. Mr. Johnson’s lengthy opinion letter seemingly parroted the County Attorney’s absurd stance that any real ethics reform was unconstitutional.

    What the County Attorney and Mr. Johnson failed to disclose was that Mr. Johnson has a significant financial conflict of interest that should have prevented him from rendering any opinion. You see, Mr. Johnson’s own law firm earns money from having one of their attorneys (State Senator Chris Smith) engage in the same shady “lobbying down” conduct that we are seeking to ban. Thus, it was no surprise that Mr. Johnson put forward an opinion that the questionable conduct — the same conduct which puts money into his own pocket — is fine with him.

    On my own, I inquired last month of respected former Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth on this issue. He told me he reviewed the proposed Ethics Code and saw no problems with it. In fact, Attorney General Butterworth told me there was no reason he saw for bringing any declaratory judgment action against it nor for legitimately questioning the constitutionality of the ethics proposals.

    Despite this, the County Attorney (and presumably one or two of my colleagues) will not stop until ethics reform is killed. With the sad and disappointing headlines of the past year — the arrests and convictions — I couldn’t think any better argument would be needed to urge adoption of a tough code of ethics.


    Please call or email the Broward County Commissioner who represents your district. Demand that s/he vote on Tuesday to adopt the proposed Ethics Code –Public Hearing Agenda Item 7– and reject the so-called “glitch” ordinance –Public Hearing Agenda Item 8– and ALL of the County Attorney’s proposed amendments to Item 8.

    If you stand with me in support of real ethics reform, please contact your own Commissioner and let him/her (or all of them) know your views on this important issue. Here is the contact information:

    District 1 – Ilene Lieberman – 954.357.7001 – ilieberman@broward.org
    District 2 – Kristin Jacobs – 954.357.7002 – kjacobs@broward.org
    District 3 – Stacy Ritter – 954.357.7003 – sritter@broward.org
    District 4 – Mayor Ken Keechl – 954.357.7004 – kkeechl@broward.org
    District 5 – Lois Wexler – 954.357.7005 – lwexler@broward.org
    District 6 – Sue Gunzburger – I already stand with you 100% for real ethics reform.
    District 7 – John E. Rodstrom, Jr. – 954.357.7007 – jrodstrom@broward.org
    District 8 – Vacant
    District 9 – Albert C. Jones – 954.357.7009 – acjones@broward.org

    Be very clear in your comments to them. Let them know you will not be fooled by any slick political spin or intentionally complicated legal gibberish offered as excuses. The bottom line: Any Commissioner who votes in support of the “glitch” ordinance –Item 8 or ANY of the proposed amendments to Item 8 — is an ENEMY OF ETHICS REFORM.

    There can be no compromise on ethics. No matter how upset some of my colleagues may be with me for continuing to advance this most honorable cause.

    Please get involved right now. I need your help. This cause is too important for anyone to stay silent. Will you stand with me for ethics reform?

    Sue Gunzburger
    County Commissioner
    Distric 6 – Democrat

  4. W. Stanton says:

    I can’t believe any corporation would want to locate in Broward after reading about how corrupt our government is. They are digging Broward’s economic grave.

  5. DDA Person says:

    W. Stanton is right. Companies are sick of the pay-for-play environment at the county commission. Newcomers to Broward can’t break in unless they pay lobbyist friends of the commission, and in some cases the lobbyist commissioners themselves, lots of money. The publicity about the corruption combined with the inability of the commission to get work done has caused more than one major employer to go elsewhere.

  6. Resident says:

    Unless term limits don’t kick in, Lieberman is gone in 2012. Several others are gone in 2012 or 2014. I heard that Ritter may not run again. Between now and 2014 I think more than 1/2 of the County Commission will change.

    I have seen that the law could have been tweaked better (and a minor change maybe OK), but all in all, I thought it should be a no-brainer. Just shows you were our County Commissioners generally are.


  7. calfloridia says:

    As a member of the Ethics Commission, I find it disgusting that once again the County Attorney is attempting to thwart the will of Broward County voters -he should be fired! I understand that he is not even a resident of Broward County? Maybe the BOCC should send him packing back to Orange County where he belongs.
    I guess it should come as no surprise that “certain” members of the County Commission are working along with Newton to destroy any ethics reform – they just don’t get it! I suspect those Commissioners who employ the most defense attorneys are behind this latest attempt – thank you Buddy for helping get the word out!

  8. WOW ........ says:

    Geller has stated many times that he supports the whole ethics reform package. That he will not lobby local governments, will not permit his spouse or children to get Broward government jobs, and will put an end to Commissioners, like Gunzburger, putting herself on the very committees that select the lobbyist’s clients to get county contracts (and get campaign contributions in return).

    Gunzburger isn’t the “Queen of Ethics Reform” she’s really much more like David Copperfield who uses miss-direction and illusion to make voters “think” she’s royalty. She could have been setting an example all these years that she has TALKED A GOOD GAME but has made millions off county contracts. Geller’s net worth is like $700,000 on his last report and hers has gone up from $1 million to over $5 million while she’s been on the Commission. Doesn’t that make her the richest Commissioner? Imagine that. And she’s accusing Geller of getting rich! Sue, you’re the rich _itch!

    She’s been there for 18 years. My taxes aren’t lower! Are yours? They’re closing the parks and libraries. What’s next, tolls on Federal Highway, emptying the jails, how about selling Hallandale to Dade County? Now that would surely balance the county budget.

    Vote for Geller. Get some new blood on the Commission.

  9. Aao says:

    Really, WOW? Really? You cannot be serious that replacing the person Buddy says is the only real ethics reform supporter on the commission … with a developer lobbyist like Steve Geller … would improve the ethical problems on the commission. If anything, putting Geller there would certainly make the ethics problems worse.

  10. Geller Is A Lobbyist says:

    Geller is only in “support” of ethics reform since he started his campaign. He lobbied many times within his Senate district where city commissioners were frightened of retribution from Tallahassee if they turned him down.
    Geller is giving up nothing by supporting ethics reform. He specifically ruled out not lobbying at all, so he will get work from Broward developers in other parts of the state.
    Gunzburger has been for ethics reform for more than a decade.

  11. Privacy 101 says:

    “This attempt to crush ethics reform is the most outrageous flouting of the public will I’ve seen in over three decades of watching the county commission.”

    More than building a Courthouse already voted down by the public?

    I cannot wait to move out of this corrupt county.

  12. Lieberman Needs To Go says:

    According to today’s Sun-Sentinel, Lieberman is trying impose ethics reform on city officials and constitutional officers like the Sheriff. As a lawyer, she should know the county commission can’t mandate law to control on these other bodies. It is just a smoke screen giving her an excuse to kill the entire package of ethics laws.

  13. Citizens for a Strong Judiciary says:

    From: judith stern [mailto:jstern@sterncnslt.com]
    Sent: Friday, July 28, 2010 3:06 PM
    To: judith stern [mailto:jstern@sterncnslt.com]
    Subject: Citizens for a Strong Judiciary

    I just wanted to let everyone know that the ECO is in place, Citizens for a Strong Judiciary. As everyone is aware there has been great debate about what Judges we will be supporting. Besides helping our incumbent Judges we decided to throw support behind some candidates in open seats that deserve our support. After hearing from the group as well as Howard, Vic and Paul, Citizens for a Strong Judiciary will be supporting:
    Judge Rodriguez
    Judge Williams
    Judge Lebow
    Judge McCarthy
    Judge Merrigan
    Judge Pratt
    Judge Hurley
    Judge Robinson
    Candidate Mindy Solomon
    Candidate Deborah Steinstaltz

    FROM BUDDY: This appears to be a political dirty trick. This e-mail did not come from political consultant Judy Stern, but I posted it to show how nasty the judicial election has become.

    It was designed to smear candidates by (1) indicating that Stern was NOT backing them or (2) by indicating she was backing them. The idea is that Stern’s backing is a positive or a negative. In the Byzantine world of judicial politics, either one is possible.

    This is the third phony e-mail I have received. Two earlier ones were supposedly from other judicial candidates.

    I try to catch these fakes, but probably won’t catch every one. You are welcome to notify me if you spot an obvious phony.

  14. WOW ........ says:

    Aao, yea, REALLY i am serious. Sue is a liar, a hypocrite, and a mean, nasty person. She sure has you fooled. And Buddy? I won’t even go there. This is his blog.

    If she was ethical, she wouldn’t sit on committies. She wouldn’t have gotten rich on taxpayers money. She wouldn’t have felt good about selling CRAP to broward county. She wouldn’t try to run as commissioner yet again, while VOTING to have a term limit. She wouldn’t keep telling lie upon lie upon lie. I could go on and on and on…… like the energizer bunny.

    She herself restored beaches? Bullcrud…… The senate took 5 years to get that done and it wasn’t even her that did it. Maybe she voted yes, but she had no hand in that. She got the library done? Bullcrud….. that was another commissioner. All she has gotten done was money for herself and her family. So YES i am serious……..

  15. Striker Liker says:


    if you must resort to calling a woman a b___ then you have no creibility with me.

  16. To Wow says:

    What the Gunzburger/Geller race needs is another candidate. We don’t have a viable one.
    Geller is a slimy lobbyist and an employee of the developers.
    Gunzburger’s husband sold park benches to the county.
    Given that is the choice, I’ll take Gunzburger. Geller is a slimy lobbyist in the present tense. Gunzburger’s husband is long dead and sold the benches in the past, in the 1990s.

  17. Robin Rorapaugh says:

    As a member of the Ethics Commission that drafted the ordinance, I am not surprised that there is an attempt to gut it. We worked diligently to draft an ordinance that was easy to understand and would pass court muster.

    The subsequent gyrations from the County Attorney’s office to have the ordinance declared unconstitutional was ill conceived and not based on case law. The “OPINION” secured from private council again was not based on case law but rather on speculation.

    As I have listened to Commissioners, lobbyists and County hangers on complain about the ordinance, I always ask- Have you read it?. Funny thing is, 90% of the answers have been no.

    I invite any member of the public to read the original ordinance and the “glitch” language as proposed. I strongly advise the Commissioners to do the same before they cast their vote on the “glitch” language. It is better named “gut” language.

  18. WOW ........ says:

    Striker Liker,

    I didn’t call her that, you insinuated that I did. I could have been referring to a witch.

    See how easily things get misconstrued / changed / twisted.

    Interesting…… Thank you for letting me clarify.

  19. WOW ........ says:

    @To wow 3:29……. You vote for Sue, who has done nothing for this county for 18 yrs……. she will do nothing for us for another 4 except take more of our money….


  20. More things change, the more they stay the same says:

    Saw this on Jaab


    FYI wrote:

    Looks like from the above post Judy Stern, and Angelo Castillo’s attorney Mark Heron, have created Citizens for a Strong Judiciary on July 26, 2010 with the State


    Heron was also the Registered Agent on other ECO’s rumored to be linked to Stern, see below

    common sense http://election.dos.state.fl.us/committees/ComDetail.asp?account=45947

    liberty and justice for all


  21. Cracking Up says:

    Sue, Sue, Sue, I started reading the post that you wrote about ethics and then I fell on the floor hysterically laughing. Were you pushing for ethics reform when you were raking in the dough for years and years unethically with your plastic bench company? No, I didn’t think so. Everyone can see that your strong ethics stand now is purely a political stunt. Here is the list of people that believe that your ethics stand now is genuine: 1)Sue Gunzberger 2)Ron Gunzberger 3)Buddy Nevins. The rest of of see right through the bullshit.

  22. robert walsh says:

    What this sounds like regarding there little clause that some of them want to put into the Ethics Reform regarding say I or someone else makes a complaint and say with all there (commission) connections and say my complaint or concern comes back not sustained then I would have to cover the cost of the investigation. This would be a form of intimidate or scare the average resident. Bottom line we want Ethics Reform and no I mean absoultely no that there families or people working for them would be exempt from this new Ethics Reform sounds more like Ethics Reform is great for everyone else or any other branch of Gov’t but The Broward County Commission. Keep grasping for straws guys all this is. Reorm should come now not later. Are you listening Mayor Keechl you are part of this whole mess, you and your over the top(no pun intended)spending habits esp. on our dime(campaighn contibutions) Mess total mess even w/ your bouncing and behaving hair not impressed..City Activist Robert Walsh