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Plot thickens in Hallandale Beach political spying case

Commissioners say evidence points to development company

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Hallandale Beach candidate Annabelle Taub said Monday she didn't know what she was in for when threw her hat in the ring for a spot on the dais.

"I knew I would be sacrificing some of my privacy," she said. "What I didn't know was that I would have a group of creepy hired guns stalking and illegally tracking me."

Taub, along with commissioners Michelle Lazarow and Keith London, allege they discovered what appear to be illegally installed GPS tracking devices on their cars -- small black boxes that they've turned over to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which is now conducting a criminal investigation. They also claim private investigators have been following them, with London catching one on cellphone video.

At a news conference Monday, they said a clue as to who's paying for the alleged spying comes in a television attack ad that contains apparent surveillance video of Lazarow and London. The ad was placed by a political committee called Protecting Coastal Communities, which has been funded with about $100,000 provided by companies tied to the city's Diplomat Golf & Tennis Course -- the same company involved in a state corruption investigation into Taub's opponent, Bill Julian.

Julian was caught on audiotape admitting that he agreed to accept a secret side deal -- involving a new van for his favorite charity and 300 campaign workers on the street to help him in his re-election -- from the developers before he voted earlier this year to approve the Diplomat's $450 million high-rise project.

London, Lazarow and Taub allege that the surveillance video in the ad ties the spying campaign to the developer-funded political committee that sponsored it.

"A shady PAC funded by prominent lobbyists and the same developers who are accused of bribing Bill Julian is running a TV commercial using footage that was obtained illegally by private investigators that placed tracking devices on all of our cars," Lazarow said.

When asked on the telephone about both the political money and the political surveillance, Diplomat principal Louis Birdman said he had no idea about it before hanging up the phone.

No evidence has surfaced as to the source of the tracking devices, and the FDLE is not commenting on the investigation.

"What kind of shady business is going on in our city that these people will break the law and violate our constitutional rights in order to maintain political power?" Lazarow said.