She's Baaa-aaack

Categories: Crime, Politics
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Broward Cleansweep

There's indicted former Broward County School Board member Stephanie Kraft back out mingling with the peeps at last night's debate between Jaemi Levine and Kraft's favored candidate, Dave Thomas.

There are more shots on the Broward Cleansweep blog, including a couple that show Kraft chatting with candidate Thomas and his wife at the debate, which was held at the All County Music store in Tamarac.

Kraft doesn't appear to be letting those pesky felony corruption charges slow her down at all. Recently Kraft was also online promoting a rendition of "The Sound of Music" at J.P. Taravella High School, where she still serves as chairwoman of the booster club. You can see a reference to that show on the far right side of the above photo.

Mind you, this is a woman criminally charged with selling out her elected seat to a dirty developer -- and the evidence is damning. 

Thomas is a teacher at Taravella, and there are several photos that have surfaced of him chumming it up with his infamous backer. Is this really the kind of support anybody would want?

I asked Dave Thomas about it recently. Inside, hear how he describes his relationship with the alleged criminal and what he thinks about Kraft's backing of his candidacy.

First I asked him about the rather notorious photo of his meeting with Kraft at a Starbucks in Coral Springs prior to the primary vote.

"You first have to understand she is a J.P. Taravella parent," said Thomas. "I know Stephanie Kraft; my wife knows Stephanie Kraft. We're not best friends, but we do know each other."

He said Kraft initially supported Robert Mayersohn, but that changed at the Starbucks meeting, which he claimed was unplanned.  

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Kraft and Thomas during Starbucks meeting.
"It was a chance meeting, actually," Thomas told me. "I was in Starbucks. I go there occasionally but not all the time. I happened to be there and had a tea. She came in, saw me, and sat down. She said, 'You know I supported Mayersohn. He probably isn't going to win.' She said, 'I think it's going to be you and Jaemi [Levine] that comes through in the primary. I will probably help you. I have friends that can help you with early voting, PTA moms and some others."

 

That little gaggle of so-called "PTA moms" included one of Kraft's key political allies, Terese Nipon, who directs voting drives with a nonprofit group called "Kids Voting Broward." On the board of that group is, notably, Beverly Stracher, the political consultant who represented dirty developer Bruce Chait, who paid off the Krafts. Also on the list is fake ethics champion Norm Ostrau.

If Kraft had one single most cherished adviser and political ally, it was probably Nipon. Her School Board cell phone records show that the two women were in often constant contact, with numerous long conversations.

I asked Thomas what he thought about Kraft's arrest.  

"I think it's unfortunate," he said. "Any time a public official is accused of wrongdoing, we should feel saddened. We lose faith in our public officials, we think our whole system is corrupt. As a formal naval officer, as a teacher, I'm trying to do what I teach my kids all the time: Let the justice system run its course."

He said Kraft's actions "smack of wrongdoing," but he's also echoing Kraft's own camp, calling into question whether she knew that Chait had hired her husband, Mitch, at the time she was helping the developer get a half-million-dollar break from taxpayers in a School Board fee.

"I don't have all the information that the state prosecutor has," said Thomas. "I choose to let it run its course. If the facts are true, where is the knowledge base at? Did she know that Mitch was working with a firm that was seeking to do business with the School Board? And if so, why didn't she recuse herself from any boards or panels?"

Unfortunately for Kraft, her husband was also on the payroll of mega-School Board lobbyist Neil Sterling -- and again, she not only didn't recuse herself from issues regarding Sterling's clients but voted to give those clients hundreds of millions of dollars worth of public contracts.

Thomas chatted with Kraft last night and had chatted with her just a couple of days after she was booked in jail on the charges at another candidates' event. "I saw her after it was over, and I said hi to her and asked how she was doing. She said she was doing well, that she was getting a lot of supportive emails and phone calls from people. I said that's nice."

As last night's debate showed, Thomas isn't about to stop Kraft from backing his campaign.

"As far as support goes, I can't tell her not to support me," he said. "She can support whoever she wants."

We'll see on Tuesday if that backfires on his campaign.

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