By: Patti Lynn
This is a series of reports from Patti Lynn, who is covering the trial of Patte Atkins-Grad, the suspended Tamarac City Commissioner who is charged with eight felony charges for allegedly taking cash or gifts from father and son developers Bruce and Shawn Chait. Lynn ran against Atkins-Grad two times for the City Commission seat.
Atkins-Grad was arrested as a Commissioner back in 2010 because she failed to disclose payments for a $2,300 BMW lease and $4,000 for her victory party back in 2006 for her election as state law requires. She has been charged with two counts of bribery and unlawful compensation, three counts of official misconduct, and one count of conspiracy to commit unlawful compensation.
A correction to start with: Norman Grad advised me, in court today, that he is NOT related to David or Patte Atkins-Grad. If an apology is in order, I apologize. It is great that you’re coming to support David and Patricia, especially since you are not related.
The opening motions, before the jury being brought in, seemed innocuous. The now-deceased Norman Abramowitz, former Mayor of Tamarac, played a part. It appears that he met with Bruce Chait and Patte Atkins-Grad, to assure that a majority of three commissioners in the City of Tamarac would approve the project.
Whatever nefarious plans were hatched, we’ll all find out in the next several days.
Jury instructions were normal. Judge Bober advised the jurors of the charges: Unlawful Compensation, counts 1 and 4: Bribery, counts 2 and 5; Official Misconduct, counts 3, 6, and 7; and Conspiracy to Commit Unlawful Compensation. That totals EIGHT felonies.
The Prosecutor’s opening arguments centered around the Chaits, father and son, Bruce and Shawn, being sure that the commission would approve their project. According to Assistant State Attorney Deborah Zimet, the Community Development Department in the City of Tamarac would recommend approval, but theirs was only a suggestion. The city commission has the only vote to make it happen. The Chaits needed to control three commissioners.
Attorney Melnick gave an opening statement for the defense. He outlined how his client, a naïve woman, maybe not be very intelligent, was manipulated. Diane Glasser manipulated her, Mayor Michael Udine of Parkland manipulated her, and Shawn Chait manipulated her.
Mr. Melnick stated that Patte Atkins-Grad was always in favor of the development, and everyone knew her position. That’s not exactly true. In fact, in campaign meetings in 2006, Patte Atkins-Grad refused to state her position on the golf course development. Her words were, “It might come before me on the commission, so I’m not allowed to say how I would vote.” Oh really?
During a 10 minute break, I wandered out of the courtroom where I saw Tamarac City Commissioner Diane Glasser and her forever sidekick, Percy Johnson. Although she was scheduled to testify today, the court was recessed before her expected long testimony. There was only enough time for two witnesses.
The first witness was from Verizon telephone. She outlined the great number of phone calls that transpired between Atkins-Grad and Shawn Chait. There were more than 250.
The second witness was Patte’s friend, neighbor, and campaign treasurer, Marilyn Beyer. She acknowledged that she only saw copies of checks donated to the campaign, never the actual checks. She also never disbursed funds from the campaign account. The deposits and withdrawals were all made by candidate Patte Atkins-Grad. An important part of her testimony was that the City of Tamarac provided her with a notebook of instructions for a campaign treasurer. She also stated that Atkins-Grad received a notebook, but she, Mrs. Beyer, didn’t know what was in it.
Tomorrow, day 4, the first witness is scheduled to be Tamarac Commissioner Diane Glasser. Glasser was Ms. Atkins-Grad’s campaign manager for her first campaign. The defense has emphasized Glasser’s political qualifications. She was the Vice-Mayor of Tamarac, a State Committee Woman for Broward County Democrats, and a representative to the National Democratic Party.
Most of the Miami major media representatives attended on this, the first day of testimony. Tomorrow will be another interesting day in court.