Ilene Lieberman: From Political Godmother to Star Witness

liebermaninvite.jpg
Historical artifact: An invitation for a fundraiser Ilene Lieberman held for Talabisco to kick off her 2006 election.

 

I think it's safe to say we now know the primary reason Broward County Commissioner Ilene Lieberman was, quite literally, out of commission ​recently for several weeks: She was distraught over her involvement in the State Attorney's corruption investigation leading to her sworn testimony that implicated a former friend, Tamarac Mayor Beth Talabisco.

lieberman11.jpg
The mayor was suspended by the governor yesterday after she was hit with bribery, unlawful compensation, and official misconduct charges for allegedly trading her vote to approve a controversial housing development in exchange for $21,000 in political committee contributions from the developers of the project, Bruce and Shawn Chait.  

Lieberman, at this point, is the star witness in the case. It's not known what level of immunity she received for the testimony. Reliable sources have told me that the criminal investigation -- and ultimately her cooperation against Talabisco with prosecutors -- sank her into a deep depression and breakdown, causing her to essentially drop out of public life and 

miss numerous commission meetings (she has only recently returned).

The criminal case against Talabisco isn't airtight, but thanks to Lieberman, it floats. To understand her importance, you must understand her significance in Talabisco's life at the time.

Thumbnail image for talabiscobeth.jpg
Talabisco on the dais.
She wasn't just a friend and mentor; she was basically Talabisco's political godmother.

Lieberman saw talent and political promise in the statuesque and well-polished Talabisco, a trusted neighbor and friend and chosen successor. And in Lieberman, Talabisco found someone who could open all the right doors -- and raise for her obscene amounts of campaign money.

When Talabisco began her campaign for mayor in 2005, Lieberman held a fundraiser at her home that raised more than $20,000 in four hours. Much of it came from lobbyists -- like George Platt, Ron Book, and Dennis Mele -- who depended on Lieberman's vote on the County Commission. 

And Talabisco crushed her mayoral opponents -- Karen Roberts, Mae Schreiber, and the lesser-known Elayne Weisburd -- in the fundraising department. She raised more than $76,000, which was more than all three of them combined.

Still, the race was a dead heat. According to Talabisco's arrest affidavit, the Chaits financed a poll showing Talabisco was tied with Roberts and Schreiber. That's when it was decided that the campaign needed a late infusion of cash to fund a barrage of negative ads. 

There is no doubt that the Chaits secretly financed the political committee that was responsible for those eleventh-hour ads, soliciting $21,000 from two of their development firm's subcontractors.

There is no doubt that those ads helped Talabisco win the seat in March 2006.

And there is no doubt that Talabisco voted for the Chaits' controversial housing project just eight days after her election.

talabiscolieberman1.jpg
Blacktie South Florida
Talabisco and Lieberman before the split.
And there is no doubt that Talabisco met Chait at the home of her campaign manager, Beverly Stracher, where the plan to form the committee for the negative ads was discussed.

That is all bedrock circumstantial evidence suggesting that Talabisco and the Chaits struck a corrupt deal. The state, however, doesn't have definitive proof. There is no damning undercover recording or confession.

Shawn Chait told prosecutors that Stracher did most of the talking at the meeting. The arrest affidavit includes no testimony from Stracher, who was working both sides of the deal as Talabisco's campaign manager and a "consultant" for the Chaits' firm, Prestige Homes. Stracher's attorney, Eric Schwartzreich, has said his client is cooperating with prosecutors, but I have seen no official sign of it.

Make no mistake, Stracher -- whom the Chaits say they paid more than $100,000 cash for her shady services -- is at the heart of the corruption in this case. Interestingly, Lieberman hired Stracher last year, after the criminal investigation was under way, to work as an aide in her county office. 

That's right, the obviously corrupt Stracher is collecting a paycheck on the taxpayers' dime to work for Lieberman. Welcome to Broward County.

But the state clearly needed something else to seal the deal against Talabisco. And in Ilene Lieberman, they found it.

In addition to her fundraising support, Lieberman played an active role in Talabisco's campaign. According to the affidavit, Lieberman "reviewed and approved" the negative ads rolled out by the Chait-financed political committee.

She wasn't concerned about the ads -- but she testified that she was concerned about Talabisco's involvement with the Chaits.

She told prosecutors in a sworn statement that she spoke with Talabisco about the potential implications of her involvement with the Chaits, specifically that if she voted for the Chaits' development so soon after they funded the committee, it could constitute a voting conflict in violation of Florida law.

Lieberman's solution for the problem was typically devious of the commissioner -- she essentially told Talabisco that she should delay the vote for the project into the future so the improper quid pro quo wouldn't be so obvious. The arrest affidavit describes Talabisco's response: "Talabisco told Lieberman that she was still going to vote because she had made a commitment."

In terms of establishing Talabisco's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, that's the most important line in the affidavit. 

But there's more. The affidavit says that even before the conversation with Lieberman, Talabisco had asked the Chaits to delay the vote for the very same reason. But the Chaits were in a hurry. If the vote was delayed, a key state approval would expire. They refused to move the date.

To further establish her guilty mindset -- which goes to intent -- Talabisco loaned her campaign another $20,000 to put out positive ads in which she touted the fact that she'd returned the Chaits' political contributions.

Remember, this was the single biggest issue in the town, and hundreds of residents were outraged that the city was even considering the Chaits' dense housing project on two golf courses.

Those disingenuous ads show that Talabisco wanted to conceal her involvement with the Chaits -- and if there is a trial, I think they'll have a great impact on a jury.

liebermanchait.jpg
Lieberman, right, presenting Shawn Chait, second from left, with an award for his donations to the Transplant Foundation.
But Lieberman's turn on the stand will be the most significant. The question: What did Lieberman get in return for her testimony?

Lieberman is all wrapped up in the Chait scandal. Remember, she voted for their project too. And her husband, outgoing Sunrise City Attorney Stuart Michelson, worked for the Chaits. Michelson represented the developers in a code enforcement matter and represented Shawn Chait to at his initial deposition with prosecutors in the criminal matter in 2007.

That was back when it was confined to the golf membership the Chaits had purchased for Lieberman's colleague on the county commission, Josephus Eggelletion. Shawn Chait lied through his teeth at that deposition, claiming he had only delivered the cash for the membership because Eggelletion didn't have the time to do it himself.

The Chaits also donated $25,000 to the Transplant Foundation, the charity on which Lieberman sat on the board and hosted a golf tournament in Tamarac.

We likely won't know until the discovery is released in Talabisco's case what type of immunity Lieberman may have received for testifying against her former protégé. But the two had already had a personal and political fallout.

After that 2006 election, Talabisco backed a hefty and controversial tax on a select few businesses to fund redevelopment. Lieberman's husband, Michelson, represented the businesses before Tamarac in the dispute.

Michelson once told me that Talabisco never forgave him or his wife for that. Such is the way of politics in Tamarac. The schism only deepened over time. And in politics, sometimes payback -- even if it comes under great distress -- is a bitch.


Follow The Daily Pulp on Twitter: @TheDailyPulp.

Sponsor Content

My Voice Nation Help
26 comments
Garry's ex-wife
Garry's ex-wife

This couldn't have happened to a "nicer?????" woman, as, I'm sure, her Broward County staff will agree. This woman is known as "Dragon Lady" wherever she goes due to her obnoxious and demeaning personality. Poor whipped husband. We must feel sorry for him.

Parkland man
Parkland man

The state doesnt have to make a deal,they have plenty to put them all away,look at stacy she has her hands in everything,when is she going down,i think soon,and shes a lawyer,even better,looks to me like the lawyers are going down and some are running like dogs,and hideing like rats keep up the good work soa and the feds.

Micksta
Micksta

3 Commissioners arrested, including the Mayor, in 1 city for dealings with the Chaits' development. Tamarac is #1. Seriously, how are those 2 scumbags(Chaits) walking around free? County Commissioners stomping over their friends to cut a deal isnt surprising. The State Attorney going after small city officials over powerful County officials is.

Patti Lynn
Patti Lynn

I went to the memorial service for a really great man, Ron Hawthorne. Known in Tamarac as. "The Big Man with the Big Ideas," Ron never had a mean word to say to anyone. The eulogies truly reflected the feelings that almost everyone had for Ron. The Tamarac Chamber of Commerce owes its very existence to the knowledge, enthusiasm, and tenacity of Ron Hawthorne.

As I said, Ron never had a nasty word for anyone....so, While waiting in line to sign the guestbook, one of the Tamarac Commission arrestees arrived and was asked by another guest, "How are you doing?" The answer??? Hold your breath now.....here it is, in her own words: "Just waiting to be exonerated."

RIP Ron Hawthorne. You brought smiles to everyone you met. Thank you for who you were.

joe-6
joe-6

Thrown into a depression? Wow! Suddenly I feel sorry for this thieving hack just one of many in Broward. Anything they get on them is just the tip of the iceberg. These low lifes and their shitbird lawyer husbands have put Broward taxpayers on the hook for billions in bond payments

Virgil Starkwell
Virgil Starkwell

And can you imagine how much more exciting things are going to get when the Feds release their upcoming wrath?

Somebody make popcorn.

Judge Roy Bean
Judge Roy Bean

I find it hard to believe that Lieberman will be charged prior to the Talabisco going to trial. The prosecution will not want criminal charges hanging over all their witnesses. Two many crooks in a pot boil over in no convictions.

Pulp
Pulp

The Florida Supreme Court, to clarify.

Pulp
Pulp

Didn't include this important side note in the post. The state doesn't need to prove there was an agreement between Talabisco and the Chaits. This from the Supreme Court in the landmark Castillo ruling:

"We hold that circumstantial evidence is sufficient to prove the offense, and that proof of a specific agreement is not required. ... Public corruption has become sophisticated enough at least to expect that public officials soliciting or accepting unlawful compensation ordinarily will not be so audacious as to explicitly verbalize their intent."

In other words, this "this" for "that" is enough for prosecution, so long as the jury believes there was intent. For those serious about their public corruption law, here's a link to the Castillo ruling:

http://caselaw.findlaw.com/fl-...

Anthonydavis
Anthonydavis

Good God Bob, you need to see the latest acticle on the South Florida Times, SFLTIMES.COM Just what is going on at the Sheriff's house and why are you not getting the factual stories. The most powerful politician in Broward County and he's up to his "Sheriff" clusters on his uniform collars with liars and criminals.

DeathFrog3
DeathFrog3

Lieberman is NOT off the hook for any criminal liability. She received use and dirivitive use immunity for her testimony in the Talibisco matter.

That said if she is important enough in that case the state wont prosecute its star witness. The really fun thing is going to be when the Talibisco defense team attacks Lieberman. If Talibisco works a plea, does she uncover where Ilene's bodies are buried? I promise we are going to learn a lot about Ilene in the coming 18-24 months.

The one thing is true about these pols is that they will sell out anyone if it means they stay out of trouble. They literally eat their own.

Goldilocks
Goldilocks

Another 6-degrees of Kevin Bacon: Lest we not forget, Bev Stracher's husband was an RRA attorney.

Ilene's "illness" is nothing that can't be curbed by a little ativan. Quick! before all the pill mills are closed down.

unowho
unowho

Previous Blog....Linda ....YES!!! "ARRESTS" now how about convictions!!!.....Does anybody else have trouble getting the new Blogs!!! I was stuck on the Sylvia Poitier Blog anybody else???

unowho
unowho

Wow thats a first, a Broward Pols (Lieberman) with a conscience !!! ..."Kevink" ....there is no honour among theives!!!

Nucky Thompson
Nucky Thompson

Isn't there something wrong here ? The big fish are giving up the little fish to get a better deal. Who's Talabisco going to fink on ..the Tamarac city hall janitor ? To paraphrase Don King , "Only in Broward"

randomthoughts101
randomthoughts101

Lieberman is the godfather of corruption in Broward County. As the arrest come in, I think they will save her for last, even after Ritter, who took a golf cart from Chait and took 100k under the table from the mobster Stienger.

If you want to know the rock to look under, it is the no-bid garbage deal she has been pushing. Her career will end sitting in a federal prison in a herpetic state.

Ftlaud44
Ftlaud44

First? Woo-hoo! Learned a new term today. "Scott Slip." Use as in "I get to Scott Slip 6 hard-working public employees soon."

Job
Job

Does all this help or hurt Satz's bid for reelection? Does the political apparatus pay him back or does his new image as an honest official win out with the voters?

Patti Lynn
Patti Lynn

And Bev Stracher's husband is the one who signed the Certified letter, from RRA, to ME, telling me to stop talking bad about those fine, upstanding citizens, Bruce & Shawn Chait....or else they were going to sue me!

KARMA, baby, KARMA

Mike
Mike

Where do you come up with the notion that the stanky assed slimball Lieberman has a "conscience". She is a lowlife scumbag who would do anything to obtain the only the only thing she loves which is money.

Micksta
Micksta

I thought that land grabber Rodstrom was the Godfather and Ilene was the Godmother. What does that make Gunzberger and her no bid contracts for playground equipment that her husband supplied for years? I've heard more people say they didnt want to go behind her back more than the other Commissioners. At least we are slowly getting rid of them!

joe-6
joe-6

no way did she and hubby just take a golf cart. They would have been ridiculed by their partners in crime. One hard to trace way to bribe a hack (could be Stace, could be any hack in America) is to buy them a nice vacation property abroad. Caribbean is nice or could be further away. Could be more a retirement property than a vacation property if you don't want to be flagged

anonymous
anonymous

Lieberman will be arrested in December, 2011.

anonymous
anonymous

Satz should have done his job a long time ago. Too little, too late I say

unowho
unowho

You must be new "KEVINK" means No Sale or Bullshit or Hogwash or Mierda or Not true orI do not believe it or Lieberman is a low life selfish and greedy scumbag who loves $$$$$$$$$$

Now Trending

Miami Concert Tickets

Around The Web

From the Vault

 

General

Loading...