Stacy Ritter Misleads Herald, Public About Vote Scandal -- UPDATED
Broward County Mayor Stacy Ritter should have just kept her mouth shut.
The Miami Herald got a few words out of Ritter regarding her and her husband Russ Klenet's Ponzi scheme/home renovation/voting scandal. And what does Ritter offer? Obfuscation and lies. From the article:
Ritter, a Democratic lawmaker at the time, disputes media reports suggesting that her votes benefited Mutual Benefits. She said she had no conflict.
''It was an amendment that wasn't written by Mutual Benefits, wasn't designed by Mutual Benefits,'' she said. ``If they did benefit, I do not recall that.''
Sure, Stacy, the St. Petersburg Times and Miami Herald was wrong about Mutual Benefits Corporation's involvement in the amendment when they wrote about it in 2004 -- and so, apparently was your husband, when he testifed in an SEC deposition under oath in 2005. Everybody's wrong but the political princess from Tamarac.
The truth is that the amendment Ritter voted for was the main issue Mutual Benefits and her husband, college dropout and former used car salesman Russ Klenet, was pushing. It kept the regulation of Mutual Benefits -- a fraudulent company that was wracking up complaints around the country even as it was paying Klenet 20 grand a month and renovating the couple's Parkland home -- under the relatively toothless Department of Insurance instead of the Department of Banking and Finance. How important was it to Klenet and Mutual Benefits? In his 2005 deposition with the SEC, Klenet described this regulatory battle with Gallagher as a "major war" and said it was a key facet of his job as a lobbyist. If that wasn't enough, here's what he says about the issue, starting on page 39 of the depo:
[T]he main political issue centered around the effort by certain members of the staff of the insurance commissioner's office to turn [Mutual Benefits' viatical] product into a security and that was not, you know, specific to Florida only, other states would try to do the same thing. ... [Mutual Benefits] opposed any changes by the Florida Legislature to turn the regulation of the product away from the Department of Insurance and instead turn it over to the Division of Banking and Securities.
Klenet is crystal clear here and it's equally clear that Mutual Benefits was indeed behind the amendment and, yes, benefited from the amendment that Ritter voted on.
The bogus explanation by Ritter should be just as troublesome to voters in Broward County as the original corruption is. That she would totally misrepresent this to the press shows just how devious the mayor can be.
Later in the article she says, "As I looked at the vote 111-0, it was clearly noncontroversial.'' Actually it was 111-1 (with eight not voting) so Ritter managed to get that wrong, too. But, as Herald reporters Amy Sherman and Dan Christensen note, the vote was tacked onto a giant financial services bill. It was a bad amendment that was underhandedly orchestrated by Ritter's husband. Period.
But Ritter won't admit that. She'll say whatever she thinks she needs to say to survive this thing. It's the politician's way.