Broward County Commissioner Stacy Ritter must be breathing a sigh of relief, or a sigh of exhaustion… either would be understandable.
The Broward County State Attorney’s Office cleared Broward County Commissioner Stacy Ritter of allegations with their closeout memorandum dated July 2nd. Despite 5 years of scrutiny, including a reopening of a previously closed investigation, the 3 separate allegations were finally put to rest the debate on whether or not Commissioner Ritter received unlawful compensation due to her husband Russ Klenet’s association and involvement with Vista Health Plan, and their petitioning efforts to be the single source health insurance provider for Broward County. The second and third allegations focused on Ritter’s Election activities with her acceptance of a golf cart from land developers Shawn and Bruce Chait, and with campaign fund spending. The Broward State Attorney’s office found insufficient evidence to prove a violation of election laws by accepting the golf cart, or in her campaign spending during the her 2008 campaign.
Though the investigations did not yield sufficient evidence to prove violations, some of the details revealed are not very flattering to the County Commissioner, arguably one of the more savvy politicians in South Florida. Ritter herself made it clear to the investigators that “there was an appearance of impropriety”. That is hardly an understatement. A golf cart from corrupt developers, voting on a contract from a company lobbied by her husband, and campaign expenditures that – while explainable and legally allowable – could hardly be called “thrifty”.
The allegations and investigations have been closely covered by state and local media publications, including this one, for years. The scrutiny on Commissioner Ritter’s actions at comments has been intense.
Despite the scrutiny, Stacy Ritter has continued to serve as Commissioner, often smiling in the face of questioning commentary and slightly less than polite editorials. Though the commentary and editorials may be viewed as some as “deserved” or “to be expected when one is a politician”, her resilience is worthy of admiration. Unlike other elected officials serving in Broward County, Ritter’s skin isn’t thin, and while it would be a gross exaggeration to say that she is influenced by adverse commentary, she does listen and give attention to the issues being covered in those commentaries.
Wait. Before the right-leaning readers of this publication start crowing for blood, and the left-leaning readers start shouting a victory chant, keep reading…
Commissioner Ritter does something that few politicians, regardless of party affiliation, are willing to do: She considers an issue and votes accordingly – meaning that she analyzes the issue and votes the way that makes sense to her, often pointing out from the dais the foolishness, impracticality, or outright stupidity of proposals. Often her votes and commentary on Broward’s fiscal issues are more conservative than the only sitting Republican on the County Commission, Chip LaMarca. Her votes and commentary are also often opposed to the knee-jerk social spending repeated by Commissioner Dale A. Holness, constantly bemoaning the plight of his constituents (Side note: How much better ARE those areas since Holness has been in office?). If you doubt that, take a look at the transcripts from the Broward County Commission meetings.
It is a stretch to imagine an elected official that always votes precisely the way that EVERY constituent would like. Frankly, it is impossible. Commissioner Stacy Ritter has been scrutinized and investigated, showing more than a couple of faults and “appearances of impropriety”. She is well aware that she has a media spotlight focused upon her, it’s unlikely that she will forget the glare of that attention anytime soon, Few people would likely be able to remain pristine in that amount of sunshine, although it might be interesting and even necessary to see other Commissioners investigated as intensely. Commissioner Stacy Ritter has been cleared… and the asterisk that follows that word is the knowledge that constituents, journalists and media types will still be keeping an eye on her continuing service as an elected official. Keeping that in mind, the sigh of relief is well-deserved by Commissioner Ritter. At least, that’s the way I see it…hopefully you do too.