By: Sharon Aron Baron
Twice suspended Tamarac Mayor Beth Talabisco has a new trial date set for February.
Back in 2011, Talabisco, 61, was suspended after being charged with unlawful compensation, bribery, official misconduct and conspiracy to commit unlawful compensation. In 2012, Judge Cynthia Imperato dismissed the public corruption charges against her citing a lack of evidence. Shortly thereafter, Governor Rick Scott restored her to office.
Then in July of 2013, the Fourth District Court of Appeal decided that Judge Imperato was out of line when she threw out the case, causing the charges to be reinstated. After the State’s Supreme Court refused to hear her case, the Governor suspended her from office for a second time.
The trial is set for February 9, 2015 and Talabisco, represented by her attorney Larry Davis, will appear in front of Judge Andrew Siegel.
Talabisco is accused of secretly accepting $27,000 in PAC or political action committee money from father and son developers Bruce and Shawn Chait to to run ads during her 2006 campaign. In exchange for their contribution, the state claimed that she voted favorably for the Chaits’ company, Prestige Homes, which wanted to build more than 700 homes on two former golf courses near Florida’s Turnpike and Commercial Boulevard.
Talabisco was just one of many elected officials in Broward County who were charged in connection with developers Bruce and Shawn Chait. Former City Commissioner Patte Atkins-Grad was found not guilty on eight counts of unlawful compensation, however, she admitted she took $6,300 worth of benefits from the developers, who paid for her election victory party and helped lease a BMW for her. Although cleared by the jury, her decision to come back to office after those actions did not sit well for the constituents in her district who went through a historical year-long recall process by petition to remove her from office. When it was inevitable that a recall election would be scheduled, Atkins-Grad resigned.
Former Broward County School Board Member Stephanie Kraft was convicted of official misconduct in December, but wasn’t sentenced to any prison time thanks to the support she received from the community. Kraft was accused of using the power of her elected office to help Bruce and Shawn Chait get a $500,000 break on school board fees in exchange for $10,000 paid to her husband Mitch Kraft, who goes on trial soon. During the four years while awaiting trail, Kraft was still very involved with her church, schools, and community. Friends and supporters also came out and spoke on her behalf, which may have influenced Judge Destry’s decision to sentence her to five years probation.