Stacy Ritter Admits To 14 Elections Violations

Counts Related To Lobbyist Husband Dropped In Settlement

Stacy Ritter with lobbyist husband Russ Klenet

Broward County Commissioner Stacy Ritter has admitted to 14 campaign law violations but the Florida Elections Commission agreed to dismiss many of the more damning charges against her in a settlement agreement signed today. 

Ritter, who was represented byTallahassee attorney Mark Herron and Miami lawyer Benedict Kuehne to represent her, agreed to pay a fine of $8,300.

The board of commissioners will hear the case in February 2012 where it can either accept, reject, or modify the agreement.

In an extensive investigation, the elections commission found probable cause that Ritter committed 28 elections violations during her last campaign in which she ran without opposition.

The worst of the charges unvolved tens of thousands of dollars spent by the campaign on dubious expenses, including phone bills for her husband Russ Klenet's lobbying business and other family members. More than $20,000 was spent on fancy dinners, groceries, and travel despite the fact that Ritter had no opponent.

The state dismissed those charges in lieu of Ritter's admission of guilt for failing to report 11 $500 contributions and failing to file campaign reports.

Eric Lipman, general counsel of the elections commission, refused to comment on the case. 

"It's a slap on the wrist and if that's what the law provides for, it's pitiful," said Brenda Chalifour, who filed the complaint. "The law allows you to break the law and walk away. I don't think it's justice served. I would hope somebody is looking at any possible criminal aspect in it."

Chalifour confirmed that she has been interviewed by state prosecutors in a criminal probe of Ritter's campaign, but the status of that investigation isn't known. 

More on this later.

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