UPDATED: Alleged Bribe-Taker Serves on Powerful City Committee

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When elected officials are charged with crimes, the governor suspends them from office until the case is resolved. But if a member of a key government committee or other government appointees get hit with, say, felony bribery charges, there is no such protocol to have them removed. That job, unfortunately, is left to the vagaries of local politicians.

Inside, see which Broward government continues to allow an alleged bribe-taker to serve on a key committee. The photo above is your clue.

 

The city is Coral Springs, and the alleged bribe-taker is Mitch Kraft, husband of former Broward School Board member Stephanie Kraft. (And the photo is Broward County Commissioner Stacy Ritter swearing in Springs' Mayor Roy Gold at the League of Cities.)

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The commish

Kraft, several weeks after being charged with bribery and unlawful compensation, continues to sit on the city's planning and zoning board. The City Commission has simply failed to act to remove him.

For those of you unfamiliar with your local P&Z board, that's where developers have to first go to get crucial approvals and variances on their projects. The decisions made by those boards concern millions of dollars at a stroke. And commissions usually follow the recommendations of the boards.

Kraft, mind you, is charged with taking a bribe from a pair of dirty developers, Bruce and Shawn Chait, in exchange for helping get them a half-million-dollar break from the School Board on a mitigation fee. His wife is, of course, also charged in the case.

UPDATED: Mayor Gold said he brought the issue up with his colleagues at a commission retreat. "The governor suspended Stephanie Kraft, and I felt that the City of Coral Springs should take a position," Gold told me this morning. "We had a retreat a couple of weeks back; it was on Sunday. During the retreat, I brought up this exact item, and I did not get any support for a suspension."

Gold said the first person he asked was Commissioner Tom Powers, who was recently acquitted of a criminal Sunshine Law violation himself.

"Tom said, 'Look, he's been charged, but he's innocent until proven guilty,'" Gold recalled. "And that's what I heard repeatedly. There was no vote for a support of a suspension."

Good for Gold for at least bringing it up. Any responsible city would immediately remove someone arrested on such a serious offense from such a sensitive and important committee. But who said Coral Springs was responsible or, for that matter, functional?

The city recently purged both its city manager (Michael Levinson) and city attorney (Sam Goren) after a judge tossed the Sunshine Law case that was filed against Powers and fellow Commissioner Vincent Boccard. Apparently the commissioners feel the top officials in their city must go for their cooperation with prosecutors in that case, but a dubious character like Kraft, who is charged with a serious crime by those same prosecutors, is welcome to continue serving. How very rogue.

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