A Commissioner Under Oath: The Lieberman File

Suspended Tamarac Mayor Beth Talabisco was arraigned today and pleaded not guilty to corruption charges involving dirty developers Bruce and Shawn Chait. 

Talabisco may not have been forced to stand in court if it hadn't been for the testimony against her by Broward County Commissioner Ilene Lieberman, who went under oath in an interview with prosecutors on December 2, 2010. Lieberman was given immunity from the investigation for her testimony -- even though her husband, Stuart Michelson, had been hired by the Chaits after her own vote on the County Commission for the project and the developers contributed $25,000 before the vote as well.

First, the date is interesting. Prior to her testimony, Lieberman had shown up to the previous County Commission meeting on November 16. After she testified, Lieberman missed meetings on December 7, December 14, January 4, January 11, January 25, and February 1 (though she participated telephonically at some of them). She didn't return until February 8, after her absences had caused much public debate. 

liebermanilene1.jpg
Lieberman
​This would tend to support the theory -- promoted by political sources -- that Lieberman missed those meetings due to stress over her cooperation (though she claimed health issues at one point).

Her involvement in the case appears to be limited to the Talabisco case. Prosecutors asked her nothing during her sworn interview about her own husband's own work for the Chaits or that $25,000 donation they made to her charity. 

The State Attorney's Office alleges that Talabisco struck a deal with the developers to approve their controversial housing development in her city in exchange for $21,000 they secretly put into a 527 political committee that was used for a late-hour attack ad campaign against her two opponents in 2006.

Lieberman is a key witness in the case -- but her testimony indicates she's a lousy witness -- contradictory, evasive, and vague. 

t
Thumbnail image for talabiscodavis.jpg
Talabisco on her way out of jail with her husband, Jack, left, and lawyer Larry Davis.
​She said under oath that she was Talabisco's "mentor" at the time of the 2006 election and was involved in helping her run her campaign. Emails obtained by prosecutors indicate that Lieberman personally approved the attack ads. 

A copy of Lieberman's sworn statement, however, shows that Lieberman totally contradicted herself on a key point, namely if she had ever even spoken with Talabisco about her vote for the Chaits' project or their help in her campaign. 

"Did you talk to Beth [Talabisco] about the [527 political committee]?" Camacho asked Lieberman.  

"No," she answered. 

"Did you and Beth ever have a conversation to the effect that the Chaits were the ones putting money in the 527?" Camacho repeated. 

"No," answered Lieberman. 

"Did you and her ever talk about it?" Camacho asked the commissioner for a third time. 

"No," she said. 

At that point, Lieberman's attorney, Bruce Zimet, asked Camacho, "Can we just have a second?"

Inside, see how Lieberman answered those same questions after a "brief recess." 
When they returned, Camacho asked again about conversations that Lieberman had with Talabisco about the 527 committee. And boy, had the commissioner changed her tune. 

"Yeah," Lieberman began. "We had some discussions about issues with the 527, about specific opponents and what, you know, what might be good issues to use." 

They then spoke about the nature of the political committee, with Lieberman saying it was necessary to distance Talabisco from the attack ads because otherwise "it would seem, you know, very self-serving on [Talabisco's] part." 

In other words, it was sleazy politics 101, but that's a given. Why did Lieberman initially deny it not once but three times? When she came back from the recess, had she decided to tell the truth or had she decided to tell a lie?  

Reading the 40-page statement, it becomes clear that Lieberman is evasive and vague with Camacho and investigator Angelo Pazienza at every turn. She's reluctant to say much of anything and seems intent to lay everything off on a dead man, the late Norm Abramowitz, a former Tamarac mayor and county commissioner who played a key behind-the-scenes role in the Chaits' efforts.

The questioning continued. 

"Knowing that they're the ones putting the money in the 527 and a vote is coming up so quickly, did you discuss that with Talabisco?" asked Camacho. 

"Yes," answered Lieberman. "You know, we discussed at that this was an issue that was best on the back burner for now, you know, not to come forward." 

That's quite an admission from an elected official: Lieberman admits that she counseled her friend (at the time) to try to delay the vote so the conflict of interest wouldn't be so obvious.

But once again, Lieberman wasn't forthcoming that she had ever really spoken with Talabisco about the fact that her vote would consitute a conflict of interest. 

"Did you guys ever discuss the fact that since there's a 527 and the vote's coming up whether or not she had a conflict?" Camacho asked. 

"No," said Lieberman. "You know, she was very difficult to discuss those things with." 

"What do you mean by that?" 

"You know, she had her own opinions on this issue and, you know, she was in close contact with Norm [Abramowitz]. I think she spoke to him more than she spoke to me. And so, you know, that was her commitment." 

Camacho plowed forward, asking her if she believed that Talabisco had a voting conflict. 

"Yes," Lieberman answered. 

"Did you ever tell her yourself, 'I believe you have a conflict?'" 

"It wouldn't be my position to tell her." 

At this point, Pazienza told Lieberman, "That isn't what she asked you." 

"Hold on," Camacho continued. "My question is not just as a commissioner but you're also her friend. Because back then, you all were very close." 

"Yeah," Lieberman agrees. 

"I'm not asking you as Commissioner Lieberman; I'm asking you as her friend, would you have talked to her about how close it was and whether or not she had a conflict?" 

"I'm sure I would have talked to her about how close it was... that it may create a conflict," Lieberman answered. "But it wasn't my call to make." 

"And I understand that," said Camacho. "And that was my question. As her friend, based on everything I know how close you all were back then, one can only assume you guys are going to talk about that." 

"Yes," Lieberman agreed. 

"And you're going to give her your opinion. What she does is her call, but you're going to give her your opinion. Do you guys did have that conversation?" 

"Yes," Lieberman answered. 

"What did you tell her?" 

"I told her that I thought she had a conflict in what was happening between, you know, the 527 and the vote that was coming up." 

"When you told her she felt she had a conflict, as best as you can recall, what was her position?" 

"She was still going to go ahead with it." 

"Why?" asked Pazienza. 

"Do you know why?" asked Camacho. 

"Because she had made a commitment, she said," answered Lieberman. 

"To who?" asked Pazienza. 

"To Norm Abramowitz." 

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25 comments
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Jadl124
Jadl124

If Zimet is her attorney, she'llget time.

City Activist Robert walsh
City Activist Robert walsh

So this red headed mess(lieberman) lied to investigators. simple question concerning the 527 and she screws up by lying. I'll tell you Mrs.talabisco put both these bitchs on the stand, bring out that that they have gotten immunity and run w/ that over and over. let the jury know that both Stracher/Lieberman our two-faced bitch's and only out for their own ass. i mean really both of them who knew from the start that the Chaits donations would cause a conflict. Now that the shit is hitting the fan , now all of a suddden they(lieberman/stracher) are as pure as a New England snow storm? i think not.

gimmesamore
gimmesamore

Love the pic of Jack and Larry sandwhiching the Tally during her perp walk...

Too bad there's enough immunity out there to prevent certain peple from getting the "Jail Virus." WTF? Do these prosecutors really need to serve up get out of jail free cards to prove these cases, or are they being lazy? Maybe they just don't think they can beat guys like Bogey, Haddad and Larry. Trust me, all those guys have taken their lumps just like any other criminal defense attorney in town. They can't protect every shit bag politico in the tri-county area. I say try 'em all. Guarantee after the first guilty verdict, the rest of these defendants will fold like a $2.00 lawn chair.

Totally Blonde
Totally Blonde

The Feds and everyone else have to look at the big, big picture and the big, big money coming to Broward County. They have to look at the Port/Airport expansions. If they start digging they will be able to arrest poilticians, lobbyists and developers. Like winning the trifecta! Little old developers paying off politicians to build their mega complexes pales in comparison to the money to be laundered, exchanged and doled out to the politically connected when you're talking about billions of dollars in expansion. Are they even looking at it?

Christy
Christy

Word Of the day:

Phalanx

Christy
Christy

Off topic:

Scott Rothstein to be deposed.

"Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein, the maestro who orchestrated Florida's largest investment fraud, may soon be sitting down across from a phalanx of lawyers to face a lengthy grilling under oath.

No one knows what Rothstein might want to say, or whether he would invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, but a federal judge on Monday said he will give the go-ahead for bankruptcy lawyers and attorneys for Rothstein's bilked investors to take the locked-up fraudster's deposition.

If Rothstein wants any hope of freedom one day, it may be in his best interest to tell all."

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/ne...

Christy
Christy

We need Sheila ALu to take Ilene Lie-berman's spot. Sheila has a few challenges:

"Raising money will also be a challenge for Alu. She needs 160 donors with $500 each just to catch up with Berger’s personal loan.

She has made a lot of enemies over the years among developers and big-money insiders. That may be a good thing for voters and the media, but it makes it harder to fund a campaign".

http://www.browardbeat.com/jaa...

MoreBS
MoreBS

Off topic, Pulp...I read in the SS Gov. Scott is trying to basically get rid of Citizens Insurance. Didn't any of his Big Time Insurance buddies tell him the big boys are not insuring houses older than 1995?

Woodlands
Woodlands

Broward County Commissioner Ilene Lieberman missed those meetings because the stress that she was under caused her shingles (herpes) to flare up. Ilene, if you stop ratting on your friends, you won't miss work so much and you can keep your shingles (herpes) under control.

Did you also turn in the Judge on the Tao deal?

Guest
Guest

Good thing she ratted. Let her come clean on all of them, then in exchange for immunity "make her" voluntarily step down frot the commission. How could the public or the other commissioners look at her with anything but distain.

Nucky Thompson
Nucky Thompson

I say it again , the SAO has it arse over tit. Who gives immunity to the big fish to catch the small fish, only here in Bizzaro Broward .

DeathFrog3
DeathFrog3

She has very limited immunity. The immunity she received is minor and wont keep her from being charged.

SR
SR

Good Point on the immunity.

Also her lack of knowledge of the 527 if proven is perjury and would nulify any immunity deal. It could also be a basis for an obstruction of justice charge.

But I think the investigation needs to go towards her work at the transplant charity. Look to see who was moved up the ladder for a transplant. Very interesting. It needs to be investigated.

Guest
Guest

She's been given immunity for her testimony, but that only means to me she's still guity of crimes and unlawful acts. The Governor(or who ever has that power) should remove her from the commission. How can she still vote and participate in the activities of being an honest public servant as if she had a clean slate? As far as I'm concerned she wasn't given immunity from humiliation as a criminal. Step down Lieberman or be removed!

val
val

Bob,

You recently promised a surprising report about the death of Judge Charlie Kaplan. When will that be?

Pulp
Pulp

I couldn't have made that promise since I'm not working on such a report.

LolaB
LolaB

Ugh...nothing worse than dumb old wannbe politicians....a true blow to the intelligence of women. The both should take a much need vacation to someplace where solitude can be found.....jail.

DeadNormAbromowitz
DeadNormAbromowitz

Helloooooooooooooo everybody and big " What da Fuck???!!!!!!! Geeeez, hey, just 'cause I said I'd call ya, didn't mean on your time-table. Damn, a few glasses of Boone Farm Strawberryhill and we doin' the horizontal mambo and now we're fuckin' soulmates! Blame me will ya??? I can't wait to hear what lil M and Crazy Ed have to say about dis shit, Lil M knows better, I'll cap his ass in a few months when he gets here and Crazy Ed, well, dude can't remember what he had for breakfast, he's gonna remember sumting from a few years ago? Damn, Lil M picks a Honda, Patty a Beemer, Crazy Ed a Jag and his offspring a fuckin golfcart? Talk 'bout yer idiots, anyway peeps, don't believe dis shit about me, they be lying on me, to quote Crazy Ed...I did more for dem then they ever did for me!!!!" Yea, I know, I had a hard time with that one, but he said it with a straight face....or was it a stroke?

Joe6
Joe6

Lieberman looks like death warmed over. She might not have much time to enjoy her ill gotten gain

In other news--A shitbird lawyer and his girlfriend tried to steal from an old lady's estate http://www.onlineathens.com/st...

DeadBum
DeadBum

Sorry about the double post and flippant attitude earlier. But, hey, ya gotta cry or ya gotta laugh. What I find fascinating (in a kind-of-stare-at-a-car-crash way) is that the woman needs the rather active assistance of her attorney to Tell the Truth.

DeathFrog3
DeathFrog3

Pulp, In the beginning of the statement, There should be a monologue by Camacho stating Lieberman has "Use and derivitive use immunity" and explains to her what that means. Use and Derivitive use immunity means that they cannot use Lieberman's statement or anything they learn from the statement against her. That's not to say she has "transactional" immunity meaning she gets a pass on all of her illegal deeds.

This may also be a perjury trap.

Lieberman may still be charged.

markus
markus

These are a couple of stupid, lying, cheating (and very ugly) women!!And they are in a world of hurt right now with the judicial system.

DeathFrog3
DeathFrog3

1st again take that unowho

unowho
unowho

Hey what the heck, Pulp tipping you off when he posts new blog??? ...

DeadBum
DeadBum

Come on, DF3, don't you think Dead Norm should have got the first on this one?

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