DELRAY BEACH, Fla. – State Sen. Maria Sachs has a beautiful $1.5 million estate in Boca Raton where she has lived with her family for years. But she was effectively evicted from sprawling property when she was elected in November.
The reason: The home lies well outside her district and the Florida Constitution demands that legislators reside where they serve.
Sachs, a Democrat whose district office is in Delray Beach, now claims to live in a little 740 square-foot condo in Fort Lauderdale owned by lobbyist Judy Stern, a long-time friend.
Special section: Local 10 Investigates
The surveillance tape, however, tells a different story. Video shot last week by a private investigator and obtained by Local 10 shows Sachs' silver Corvette pulling into the Boca Raton estate outside her district in the evening, then leaving the home the following morning. The private investigator caught Sachs returning again to the estate later in the evening.
A neighbor living in the Fort Lauderdale condo building said that Sachs' son is actually living in the condo. When Local 10's Bob Norman knocked on the door a man answered from inside refused to open the door. He claimed the senator was there, but when asked if Local 10 could speak with her, the man refused before going silent.
Stern, who claims Sachs has been paying rent on the condo since her November election, confirmed that Sachs' son Marcello stays at the condo.
Republican Senator Jack Latvala, Ethics Committee Chairman, questioned whether Sachs actually resides in the Fort Lauderdale condo in her district where she claims to live, or if she continues to live in the vast, $1.5 million-estate in Boca Raton with her husband outside the district.
"I'm inquiring on a constitutional issue, a requirement that legislators live in the district that they serve," said Latvala, who based his claims on a story that appeared in a conservative website called Media Trackers.
Latvala questioned whether Judy Stern's daughter and condo co-owner, Barbra Stern, was "flouting the Constitution" as an appointed state elections commissioner.
Norman tried unsuccessfully for several days to arrange an interview with Sachs before she finally catching up with her at a Democratic Caucus meeting Tuesday night.
"Where do you live?" he asked Sachs repeatedly.
She refused to answer before she claimed Norman had missed two opportunities to interview her in the past and eventually walked away.