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 each of bribery and unlawful compensation, three counts of official misconduct, and one count of conspiracy to commit unlawful compensation.
December 6, 2012
Today, while sitting in court, I reminisced about the 2nd day of jury selection. That’s when a couple of jurors were excused because they believed that they couldn’t be fair when dealing with older adults.
Patte Atkins-Grad is no longer the redhead that she was when she was a Tamarac city commissioner. She stopped coloring her hair, and now her hair is mostly gray with some dark colors underneath.
That tactic may not be as productive as she thought. Her attorney, Mr. Melnick, has a matching hair color palette. Considering the hair color alone, they could be the Bobbsey twins. Yet, there he is, running the defense. He doesn’t appear to be feeble or disabled because of his gray hair. He doesn’t appear to be aged and infirm. We’ll see how this works out later.
Some of today’s testimony came from Shawn Chait, son of developer Bruce Chait and a former employee of his dad’s defunct company, Prestige Homes of Tamarac. Much of the testimony reiterated what his father testified to yesterday. The differences were interesting. As an aside, it appears that Shawn Chait has lost a lot of weight. He actually looks younger than he did in 2006 and 2007.
Shawn Chait indicated that he gave Patte Atkins-Grad and Diane Glasser a lot more cash than has been previously reported. He swore that he advised them to “Spend whatever you need to, I’ll take care of it.”
He also stated that he did not know Glasser until the Atkins-Grad, campaign. After Atkins-Grad entered the commission race, Chait alleged that he met Glasser and/or Atkins-Grad two to three times a week. Those meetings took place at the Atkins-Grad home, Glasser’s favorite breakfast place at Nob Hill and McNab, or wherever they wanted to meet. Chait indicated that cash was exchanged at many of these meetings.
On cross-examination, Chait rebuffed any claim that there were romantic feelings between the married Atkins-Grad and the single Shawn Chait. He did admit that there may have been conversations that did not involve his “project,” but he insisted that the only interest that he had in Patte was her vote on the Tamarac commission for the project. When pressed by the defense attorney, Melnick, Chait advised that he could not recall if Atkins-Grad ever advised him that her husband, David, had been ill.
Subsequent to Shawn Chait’s testimony, five more witnesses appeared in court. Two were from Brahman Motors, giving the contract details and information regarding the lease of Atkins-Grad’s BMW. Two more were from the City of Tamarac.
Long-time City Clerk Marian Swenson gave testimony regarding the information supplied to candidates running for Tamarac elected offices. She also stated, under oath, to the validity of the City of Tamarac Commission meeting minutes, detailing the steps in Prestige Homes’ request for a zoning change. Swenson gave sworn testimony stating that Atkins-Grad had never declared that she had a conflict of interest in any matter that came before her while she was in office.
Swenson was appointed as an interim City Commissioner when Mayor Beth Talabisco was indicted and removed from office. She testified that when Atkins-Grad was elected and Swenson was an interim commissioner, the City of Tamarac paid the Mayor and each commissioner $700 a month for a car allowance. Perhaps the jurors might remember that Atkins-Grad’s lease payments were only $509.48 a month.
Interim City Clerk Patricia “Pat” Teufel verified that Atkins-Grad had never filed any State Form #8B, which is a declaration of a conflict of interest. She did state that Atkins-Grad had filed a Florida Form # 9, which is used when an elected official receives a gift with a value of more than $100 Atkins-Grad stated that on February 3, 2009, she accepted a gift, a dinner, worth more than the $100 limit. It was for $150, and it was given by present Democratic State Committeeman and lobbyist Michael Moscowitz.
The last witness was Monica Avila. She had been the catering supervisor for Diamante’s before leaving to work for the Signature Grand. She stated that PAG had come in with Glasser, then said she also came in with a man to book Diamante’s for a Victory Party. Avila said that Atkins-Grad kept pointing out her important position, and she asked for special favors. She didn’t want to pay the sales tax that the State of Florida required on the victory party. She wanted discounts. Monica told Atkins-Grad that she would advise her boss that she was not authorized to give such discounts.
The initial Inquiry Sheet, created when Patte came into Diamante’s seeking information, was submitted into evidence. The actual contract was also submitted. The total cost of Atkins-Grad’s celebration of her victory in the election was $4,374. There was a $500 deposit that had no campaign expense documentation to show where it came from. There was a Balance Paid of $3874 that was also out in Never-Neverland. Shawn Chait says that he paid for it. Atkins-Grad remained mute.
Court resumes on Monday, December 10th, at 1:30 PM. The prosecution claims that there is one more witness to present. The name Beth Talabisco was not mentioned as that witness. The defense has advised that it has one and maybe two witnesses. Michael Udine, the Mayor of Parkland, will be available on Monday afternoon, said Melnick.
The defense will also take the long weekend to determine whether disgraced City of Tamarac commissioner Patricia Atkins-Grad will testify.
Monday may be the last day of testimony in this case. Judge Bober advised the jurors that this trial would be DONE by December 14th.
Stay tuned or show up. This is a seminal case in the enforcement of the ethical conduct of elected officials. Citizens should demand that their elected officials represent them and not use their positions to feather their own nests.
Show up, make your voice heard. Your actual presence may send a message to those not yet indicted.