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.
5 December 2012
Once again, the court started a little later than scheduled. Judge Bober’s courtroom never seems to stop; something is always going on.
Today’s first witness was Tamarac City Commissioner Diane Glasser. To excuse some of her, “I don’t remember,” or “It was a long time ago,” Glasser advised the court that she was 84 years old and had had some medical problems. The problems included a small stroke which seems to have affected her long-term memory. She said, when she is reminded, she sometimes remembers. She was asked about serving as a City of Tamarac Commissioner with her medical and memory loss problems.
“The things in the City of Tamarac are all short-term. I have no problem (with that).”
Perhaps Tamarac’s residents might.
Diane Glasser couldn’t remember who had told her about Patte Atkins-Grad and her desire to become a city commissioner. She may have conferred with former Mayor Norman Abramowitz; she couldn’t remember. Patricia Atkins-Grad called her, and they met to discuss a campaign. She did remember that she told Atkins-Grad that her fee for campaign manager would be $5,000. Atkins-Grad told her that that was too much for her, and they agreed on a $4000 fee. That agreement is so much smoke and mirrors.
The only money that came out of Atkins-Grad’s campaign to pay Glasser was a paltry amount, less than $200, to reimburse her for some petty cash expenditure. No one knows what for. Glasser stated, emphatically, that there was no contract for her serving as campaign manager. She knew that they agreed to the four grand.
Perhaps Glasser isn’t too upset. She said The Chaits, meaning father and son Bruce and Shawn, paid the fee. They met in a bagel shop on March 15, 2006, just the day after the election, where Bruce Chait handed her an envelope.
Glasser said that she never looked in the envelope until she arrived home. The $4000 that was owed was not in the envelope. Was Diane upset? Would you be? The envelope had a check, made out to Diane Glasser for $15,000.
“It was a bonus,” said Glasser to the jury, “for doing a good job on the campaign.”
The other item that Tamarac City Commissioner Glasser mentioned was that she had also managed Commissioner Harry Dressler’s successful commission campaign at the same time as the Atkins-Grad campaign. I wonder what those fees were?
The links between Shawn Chait and Patricia Atkins-Grad were harder for Glasser to explain. Shawn Chait told Glasser that he was “Anxious for Atkins-Grad to be elected.”
According to Glasser, she never discussed Shawn Chait’s participation or involvement in the campaign. Nor did they ever discuss the possible conflict of interest that may have existed regarding Chait’s plans to apply to the city commission to alter the zoning of the Sabal Palm and Monterey golf Courses.
Contrary to a previous statement by defense attorney Melnick, Glasser said that she had never heard Patte Atkins-Grad express a position on the conversion of the golf courses. Glasser did state that there was ongoing contact between Shawn Chait and Patte Atkins-Grad throughout the zoning approval process in Tamarac. Glasser also stated that she never mentioned to Atkins-Grad that her involvement with Shawn Chait might present a conflict at the time of the campaign, that she was “confident, in going forward with the campaign for Patricia Atkins-Grad to be a commissioner in the City of Tamarac.”
When asked if Patte Atkins-Grad had an opponent in the 2006 election, Diane Glasser said yes.
When asked who the opponent was, Glasser was at a loss. “Patti, I can’t remember her name.” Glasser testified.
My last name was never made a part of the record. I was just Patti, that redheaded woman sitting over there.
There came a time, Glasser stated, when investigators for the State Attorney’s Office visited the offices of the mayor and commissioners in Tamarac. The visit engendered screaming and yelling from unknown people, although Atkins-Grad was in the office. It was rumored that Atkins-Grad actually let them in the locked and secure commissioner offices. Glasser swore, under oath, that she had no idea who was doing the yelling. She did admit that Atkins-Grad called her right after the incident and yelled, “You took the money, too, didn’t you?”
Glasser said that she told her no, and Patte told her to forget it.
I don’t think that the taxpayers in Tamarac are going to forget it.
Defense attorney Melnick attempted to lay the blame on Glasser. After her own testimony as to her political experience and state and national responsibilities, Melnick asked if her memory was faulty in an inquiring manner. Again, Glasser acknowledged some memory problems. He then asked her if Atkins-Grad didn’t depend on her to tell her what to do. Glasser stated that she couldn’t lead her around by the hand.
That ended her testimony, and the court was granted a 10-minute recess.
Before court reconvening, famed defense attorney David Bogenschutz entered the courtroom and sat in the rear row. A few folks said hi. Then, in a classic Patte Atkins-Grad moment, Patte left the defense table, came through the gate separating the spectators from the legal proceedings, and introduced herself to the famed Bogenschutz. While they were chatting,
the judge returned to the bench, and the court resumed.
Bruce Chait, the principal in Prestige Homes of Tamarac, was sworn in as the next witness. The defense will emphasize the felony conviction, due to this case, on Bruce Chait’s record.
He will attempt to show that all of these allegations against Patte Atkins-Grad are baseless attempts by Chait to save himself and his son from doing prison time. Hopefully, the jury will understand that an agreement can be made that directs the subject of the plea to testify against another person. Any such plea cannot direct the person what they must say, only telling the truth. Bruce and Shawn Chait may have been given reduced sentences, BUT if they’re found to have lied in any testimony, then the plea is tossed out, and off to jail they go. They have no motive to be dishonest.
The testimony of Bruce Chait must have been difficult for the Atkins-Grad family to hear. After outlining the financial plans he envisioned for the Sabal Palm and Monterey golf courses, Bruce Chait testified to his meetings and dealings with Patricia Atkins-Grad.
His original introduction was at the home of Norman Abramowitz, who is now deceased. It was Norman, Bruce said that advised Atkins-Grad of what was going to happen next and where she stood in their plans.
“You’re being drafted,” Abramowitz told Grad, “You are our draft pick. That means we picked you, and if we call you up and tell you to do something, you have to do it. There can’t be any, ‘well, I don’t want to do that.’ You must say yes.”
“Absolutely, I’ll do it. No problem.”
Mr. Melnick asked Bruce Chait what he thought of the intellectual capacity of Atkins-Grad. His response was, “She wasn’t the smartest woman that I ever met.” Melnick pushed harder. Bruce Chait admitted that he had said to several people that Patte Atkins-Grad was dumber than a rock. He also admitted that he did not have the patience even to attempt to deal with her.
Finally, the reason for David Bogenschutz”s presence. He had been Bruce Chait’s attorney in the case that also involved former county commissioner Josephus Eggeletion. Chait admitted to paying him thousands of dollars, in addition to membership in the Parkland Country Club, or Golf and Tennis Club. He also boasted that, even though he admitted to his guilt in the case, he was very sure that he would be acquitted in a court of law.
“Yes,” he said, “I would have beaten those charges.”
Let’s see if the defense continues to harp on the mental insufficiency of Patricia Atkins-Grad. They seem to be trying to prove that she didn’t have the brains to know that she was breaking the law. I, for one, feel that she’s as competent today as she was on the day that she decided to run for office. We should probably be more concerned with the competence of a sitting commissioner, Diane Glasser. She admits that she has a memory problem.
All of these memory lapses. That’s how the people in the Mainlands 3, 4, 5, 6, & 7 were sold out. If Bruce Chait had regrets, they did not encompass the residents surrounding his project. Nor did Diane Glasser or Patte Atkins-Grad.