Broward County Commissioner and Lobbyist Husband accost Media Trackers investigator
This is cross posted from our Florida Media Trackers’ site.
2ND NOV 2012 AT 12:25 | BY TOM LAUDER
In the midst of a close re-election campaign, Broward Commissioner Stacy Ritter and her lobbyist husband Russ Klenet aggressively engaged a Media Trackers Florida correspondent investigating voting irregularities at an early voting location in Coral Springs, Florida. While speaking with local firefighters and sheriff’s representatives in the library parking lot, this reporter was approached by Mr. Klenet. Armed with a smartphone camera, a clearly agitated Klenet attempted to take pictures of this reporter’s credentials. Ritter snapped pictures from a nearby sidewalk. After walking away, this reporter was approached by Ritter and a Broward Democratic activist demanding more pictures.
Minutes later, Klenet again approached this reporter. Klenet refused to answer questions regarding his work for Car Charging Group. In September, Media Trackers Florida reported that Ritter faces potential conflicts of interest, as public records show her husband Russ Klenet is the registered lobbyist for a company peddling electric car charging stations to cities in Broward County. Official records for the cities and the county do not show a lobbyist listed for the company. Klenet , a lobbyist for the City of Coconut Creek in 2008, currently lobbies on behalf of the cities of Oakland Park, Parkland, Plantation and Pompano Beach.
Also in September, Media Trackers Florida reported on the County Commission’s decision to give more than $7 million in taxpayer funds to the local NHL franchise to build a night club at the hockey arena. Russell Klenet is the registered lobbyist for Sunrise Sports and Entertainment, which operates the arena. Broward County Administrator Bertha Henry and her staff worked a deal with the Panthers to funnel $7.7 million in tourist tax dollars to the Panthers for the construction of a lavish Las Vegas-style nightclub.
Unhappy with questions regarding sharing his office space with two different lobbying firms, Klenet launched a vulgar diatribe repeatedly calling this reporter a “pussy.”
Ritter showcased this aggressive approach in a threatening voicemail on a constituent’s phone. Back in June, Media Trackers Florida exposed how Ritter threatened Jaemi Levine with a lawsuit over a Facebook post. Ritter scolded Levine, a Coral Springs resident, saying “false, defamatory, and malicious” were “buzz words” for legal action.
In 2009, Ritter produced a file she compiled against Brenda Chalifour, a Fort Lauderdale environmental lawyer who opposed the Commission’s attempt to expand the airport runway. According to published reports, the file, entitled, “Is Ms. Brenda Chalifour a Broward County Lobbyist” questioned whether Chailfour was acting as lobbyist instead of a concerned citizen. Chalifour later filed an ethics complaint against Stacy Ritter. In response to 28 ethics charges brought against her by the Florida Elections Commission, Ritter released a YouTube video claiming she was being “stalked” by her detractors.
On November9, 2010, Commissioner Ritter attempted to ban press coverage during Commission meetings:
“COMMISSIONER RITTER: Do we have a county policy about photography within the chamber as to who is allowed to take pictures and who is not? I know for example in the legislature in chamber since the public is not allowed there is an official photographer and members of the press in the press gallery upstairs are allowed to take photographs. Lately I have begun to feel stalked by what has been going on at these meetings and at workshops and selection committee meetings. I am wondering if there is a policy. I feel it right now, being stalked. I am wondering if there is a policy as to who can and cannot take photographs in chambers or at meetings and if we should consider doing that.
COUNTY ATTORNEY: I am not aware of a policy. We can certainly look into whether or not in terms of prohibiting photographs.
COMMISSIONER RITTER: I would like to know who is taking pictures. A lot of times people come in with cameras. … I would be curious to know who is taking photographs and I don’t know. ”
Both Klenet and Ritter also made references to knowing the home address of this reporter.
Ritter is being challenged by Republican Robert “Bob” Sutton for the District 3 seat on the Broward County Commission.