Developer: I Paid Lobbyist $25,000 To Attend One Meeting

Developer Shawn Chait, who is a lead witness in a half-dozen corruption cases, revealed in recent deposition one of the many lobbyists he hired to help persuade politicians to vote for his controversial housing development was Michael Moskowitz.

That's not so surprising: Moskowitz, the state committeeman for the Broward Democratic Party, has very close ties to Broward County commissioners Stacy Ritter and Ilene Lieberman. His influence is certainly valuable to developers looking for favorable votes.

What's surprising is how much Chait -- who worked with his father Bruce Chait at their development firm Prestige Homes and is serving a probation term after pleading guilty to unlawful compensation -- says Moskowitz charged him to attend a single commission meeting: $25,000.

In a recent deposition in suspended Tamarac Mayor Beth Talabisco's criminal case, Chait didn't specify which commission meeting Moskowitz attended on his behalf. But the county commission approved his housing development plan on two golf courses in Tamarac over the opposition of many residents.

"We had spoken to Mike [Moskowitz] and Mike told us he would be helpful delivering votes," Chait said in the depo.

Chait said Moskowitz didn't even speak at the meeting. He said he had spoken to individual commissioners, but didn't specify whom.

"And this was not a success fee?" Talabisco's attorney, Larry Davis, asked at the deposition. "This was $25,000 whether it was approved or not approved?"

"I think he wanted more and we negotiated down to 25 to tell you the truth," Chait answered.

Moskowitz, who didn't return a message left at his law office for comment yesterday, was part of a veritable dream team of lobbyists Chait hired that is only now coming to light. Among them:

-- John Milledge. He played a leading role in the county lobbying efforts on Chait's behalf. who met with county commissioners on Chait's behalf. Milledge counts the Florida Panthers and Stiles Corporation among his clients, chairs the Broward Center for the Performing Arts and serves as general counsel for the Fort Lauderdale Downtown Development Authority.

-- Judy Stern. She accompanied Chait to a meeting or two with Broward County Commissioner John Rodstrom. She said she charged him her standard fee for such work, $5,000. Rodstrom abstained from the vote due to a minor conflict of interest.

-- Ron Book. He told me that Chait hired him but the relationship quickly soured over a disagreement. He said he didn't remember how much he charged Chait or if he received any fee for his services at all.

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