By: Sharon Aron Baron
The four-year ordeal ended for former Mayor Beth Talabisco on Wednesday after she was found not guilty on all counts on charges of corruption.
The jury took less than two hours to return their verdict after the week-long trial.
Talabisco was accused of knowingly accepting financial campaign assistance for a poll and mailers from land developers Bruce and Shawn Chait during her 2006 campaign for mayor, which distributed negative campaign information about the other two candidates. Then, ten days after taking office, voting in favor of the Chaits land project.
The project turned the Sabal Palm and Monterey golf courses in Tamarac into a housing project complete with single-family homes, townhomes, and parks.
Prosecutor Catherine Maus told the jury that when Talabisco declined to file the voting conflict, she neglected to say that she received a benefit that got her elected. “By not telling them, she was depriving them of that information.”
Attorney Larry Davis told the jury, “Beth voted for the project for the merits of the project itself.”
The deal passed in the commission 5-0.
In 2011, Talabisco, 62, was suspended as mayor 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.
Davis showed the jury a list of the politicians who received money or goods from the Chaits like former Broward Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion, Former School Board Member Stephanie Kraft, City Commissioner Mark Sultanof, Former Commissioner Patte Atkins-Grad, — even former Coral Springs Mayor Scott Brook. He said Talabisco didn’t receive anything material in return, except a poll and an ECO or electioneering committee piece.
Davis pointed out that the Chaits only received four years probation, and after two years, they received administrative probation.
“I think there is no doubt in our minds that the Chaits are corrupt. They are dirty, and they bribe people, but they aren’t on trial here. Their intents or motives shouldn’t be the focus here.”