Less than three months before becoming the Tamarac City Attorney, John Herin publicly attacked City staff for allowing a Broward County board to discuss a development project near the Woodlands neighborhood. According official records, on February 25, 2021, Herin spoke at the Broward County Planning Council meeting in opposition to a 13th Floor Homes development proposal. Herin said City staff was “shirking their responsibility” by allowing the Planning Council to discuss the matter. “[City staff is] kicking the can down the road,” Herin said.
Herin publicly opposed the 13th Floor Homes project more than once. In December 2020, Herin spoke at the Planning Council meeting about the development. According to the meeting minutes, Herin represented a group known as “Defend The Woodlands.” Among the Woodlands residents speaking at the same meeting was former Broward County Commissioner Ilene Lieberman Michelson.
On May 12, 2021, John Herin was hired as the new Tamarac City Attorney.
On August 27, 2021, Tamarac City Manager Michael Cernech was arrested for his role in a plot to extort $3.4 million from a local developer. Authorities say Cernech conspired with disgraced developers Bruce and Shawn Chait in a plot against 13th Floor Homes. Cernech is accused of helping the Chaits derail the same 13th Floor Homes development project near the Woodlands.
An affidavit filed by a Florida Department Of Law Enforcement (FDLE) agent detailed numerous communications and meetings between Cernech and the Chaits regarding the Tamarac property once owned by the Chaits. Hoping to recoup gains they felt they deserved, the Chaits attempted to get 13th Floor Homes, the current owner of the Woodlands parcel, to pay $3.4 million in compensation. If 13th Floor Homes refused pay, the Chaits and Cernech were prepared to scuttle any future development plans with bogus claims of contamination at the site.
The affidavit by FDLE Special Agent Monica Baldo included text messages obtained from the telephones of Bruce and Shaw Chait. Both men were arrested in March 2021. The text messages were from February and March 2021.
In February, 13th Floor Homes, after realizing Cernech was involved in the matter, requested a meeting with the Chaits. On March 1, 2021, the victim met the Chaits at a Coconut Creek restaurant. The FDLE monitored the entire meeting.
Two days later, Bruce Chait asked Cernech if it was “time to let the genie out of the bottle.” Cernech said, “He’s stalling…wait until they get a call from Bolton…he’s their 3rd vote, they need him or it’s over for them.”
Chait was still worried about his plan succeeding. “We still have the Bolton card to play,” Cernech said.
Later that day, Bruce Chait texted Cernech again. “Any thoughts how we can get to douche bags attention without dropping the [atom] bomb.”
Cernech replied, “Bolton.”
Chait responded, “Should I have [alleged co-conspirator John] Colonel send Bolton another letter.”
CHAITS LONG HISTORY IN TAMARAC POLITICS
More than ten years ago, the Chaits’ project on the very same land lead to the arrest of numerous Broward elected officials including former Broward County School Board Member Stephanie Kraft, former Broward County Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion and former Tamarac Mayor Beth Talabisco.
Talabisco was accused of accepting financial help from the Chaits in exchange for her support of their project on the Woodlands parcel.
In September 2011, the Sun-Sentinel reported how the attorney for Beth Talabisco questioned Ilene Lieberman’s role in the initial Chait mess in Tamarac.
The prosecution also agreed to let Davis again question an investigator for the State Attorney’s Office about whether Lieberman is or was under criminal investigation herself when she gave damning sworn testimony against Flansbaum-Talabisco. When Davis first questioned the investigator under oath in August, prosecutors refused to let him answer questions about whether the State Attorney’s Office was investigating Lieberman.
Talabisco’s attorney wanted Ilene Lieberman’s telephone phone records “because she has testified she wasn’t involved in the fundraising group in question in Flansbaum-Talabisco’s case, but another witness has testified Lieberman phoned him and asked him to set it up.“
“I don’t think the Chaits ever gave Ilene Lieberman anything. I don’t think Ilene is under any kind of investigation … I think a lot of people like to throw around names and allegations,”her attorney Bruce Zimet said.
But another Sun-Sentinel report covers Lieberman’s alleged role in a shady political action committee.
“[Lobbyist Alex] Hecker testified he got a phone call from Lieberman to set up the 527, an Electioneering Communications Organization, independent of a candidate’s campaign, and was told he would receive a call from Shawn Chait.
The name of the ECO: ‘Tamarac Residents for Good Government.’
Ilene Lieberman was never charged with any crime.
But Ilene Lieberman and her husband Stuart Michaelson are still fighting against 13th Floor Homes plans for the Woodlands. Today, Michelson filed paperwork for the Tamarac District Two seat currently held by Elberg Mike Gelin.
Michelson told Tamarac Talk he has “devoted much of my time over the last five years to opposing 13th Floor’s development plan, which would destroy the unique and serene character of this neighborhood and diminish the value of the existing homes.”
Gelin is giving up his seat in a quixotic bid to unseat popular Tamarac Mayor Michelle Gomez.
The first donor to Gelin’s mayoral campaign is Woodlands resident Christopher Hodgkins. He is a founding member of Stuart Michelson’s Save The Woodlands group.
Their Woodlands group are staunch supporters of Gelin and his fellow Commissioner Marlon Bolton.
Defend The Woodlands, once represented by John Herin, also strongly supports Gelin and Bolton. On its website, Defend The Woodlands wrote Gelin and Bolton were TWO CITY COMMISSIONERS WHO MAKE YOU FEEL GOOD ABOUT THE FUTURE OF LOCAL POLITICS!”
Defend The Woodlands said, Gelin and Bolton “questioned the applicant for the lack of viable answers to the residents’ concerns, and both voted against the rezoning and land use amendment application. The residents of The Woodlands, in an outrageous majority, are grateful for counting with two awesome public servants that ran for office for the right reasons, that expressed their conviction to stand and vote with the community and that are earning the public’s trust with their good judgement when they translate the community values into policy directives.”
REDBROWARD asked John Herin about his role in these Woodlands groups, his ties to Stuart Michelson and Ilene Lieberman and whether he discussed his view of City staff with Commissioner or staff themselves.
Herin responded with, “The Woodlands development project is currently the subject of on-going litigation, and therefore, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on that project at this time.”
Herin has recused himself from any dealings with 13th Floors Homes and the Woodlands. He recommended the City hire Max Lohman as outside counsel.
So Tamarac taxpayers are paying two attorneys.
Now, some Tamarac residents wonder if Herin’s opposition to the Woodlands project is behind his refusal to allow residents to criticize Gelin and Bolton at Commission meetings while allowing the two men to continually attack Mayor Gomez and Commissioner Elvin Villalobos.
Tamarac residents deserve straight answers, right?