By: Patti Lynn
This is a series of reports from Patti Lynn, who is covering Patte Atkins-Grad’s trial, the suspended Tamarac City Commissioner 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.
Today was the shortest day of the trial of suspended City of Tamarac Commissioner Patricia “Patte” Atkins-Grad. The prosecution had one witness.
The prosecution called Jennifer Bramley, Community Development Director for the City Of Tamarac, as the state’s last witness. Bramley was with the City of Coral Springs before working for Tamarac.
She has an extensive background in the field, and she is good at what she does.
Her testimony was direct and precise. The Sabal Palm/Monterey Development projects had begun before her employment with the City of Tamarac, as her starting date was January 4, 2007. Patte Atkins-Grad voted on the project for the first time on March 22, 2006.
She stated, under oath, that she examined the plusses and minuses of the proposed development and added requirements, where necessary, to mitigate the impact to traffic, schools, utilities to the neighboring communities. She was comfortable with the work her department did. She knew that there were stipulations in the agreement between the Chaits, the city, and the county. Most of those stipulations involved payments to several of the Mainlands communities. Those payments resulted from agreements that the Chaits made with several Boards of Directors of these associations, which paid their recreation leases off, even giving them extra cash.
It did not come up in testimony, but those provisions involving payments to the affected associations were carried forward with the land, not only with the Chaits. They could only be eliminated or modified by County Commissioners or the City of Tamarac Commission. It should be interesting to see if either governing board has dealt with the Mainlands communities. Yet another blow regarding these pieces of land.
The jury was told that Prestige Homes of Tamarac’s plans for the property ‘went south.’ That is, Bruce and Shawn Chait did not get to develop the property, recoup their investment, or make the millions that they thought would be theirs once the land-use zoning was changed.
Under cross-examination, Jennifer Bramley admitted that the Chaits were aggressive when dealing with her and her department. They yelled a lot; they didn’t want to comply with the code compliance issues that the Magistrate had ordered. The picture that she painted of Shawn Chait was one of a bully, an entitled individual, one to whom people seldom said “No.”
Although it was state evidence, her portrayal may be of benefit to Atkins-Grad’s defense.
With the jury out of the room, defense attorney Melnick requested a direct verdict of acquittal. He went through each element of the alleged crimes, focusing on the corrupt intent, emphasizing Atkins-Grad’s lack of intelligence and experience in the political field.
The Assistant State Attorney countered each of his arguments with examples of the alleged official misconduct and corruption. Judge Bernard Bober denied the motion, determining sufficient circumstantial evidence for the matter to be brought before the jury.
The prosecution rested. The defense advised that they had no witnesses. The judge was thorough, asking defendant Atkins-Grad if she had sufficient information to decide that she did not wish to take the stand. He advised that she was entitled to speak to the jury, but with that entitlement came the state’s right to cross-examine her. Ms. Atkins-Grad, upon further questioning by Judge Bober, advised the court that, “I cannot testify.”
The court was adjourned at 2:35 pm and will resume tomorrow at 2:00 pm. The attorneys will give their closing arguments, the judge will instruct the jurors, two alternates will be dismissed, and deliberations will begin.