Earlier this week, two residents used the process set forth in City of Fort Lauderdale Charter to challenge the qualifications of District 1 Commission candidate John Herbst. The Charter requires a commissioner to be a resident of the City for six months prior to the election. Ken Keechl, a Democrat, and Chris Williams, a Republican, filed affidavits claiming Herbst did not meet the six month requirement.
Under the City Charter, the challenge will be heard by the City Commission. Even though the process set forth by the City Charter has been followed, Steve Bousquet and his merry band of Sun-Sentinel Opinion Makers™️ called the challenge a “direct attack on democracy.”
The Sun-Sentinel wrote, “To subvert the will of the voters is outrageous.” Bousquet seems particularly peeved that the men to fired Herbst from his city job will now decide his electoral fate. “If Trantalis voted to disqualify Herbst, it will lack all credibility with Fort Lauderdale voters,” the paper wrote. “Herbst won. His opponents should get over it.”
It sounds like something the Herbst campaign would say.
Before the election, Herbst told REDBROWARD that Democrat lobbyist Judy Stern was running his campaign. REDBROWARD has questioned the ties between Stern and Sun-Sentinel Opinion Editor Steve Bousquet.
When they endorsed him, Bousquet and Co. wrote how Herbst recognized the danger posed by lobbyists at City Hall. “We need to recognize the influence of lobbyists who push bad projects on our neighborhoods,” Herbst told the Sun-Sentinel.
Despite the myriad of lobbyists working in Fort Lauderdale, Herbst and Bousquet singled out land use attorney Stephanie Toothaker. Herbst said Toothaker “has her thumb on the scale,” a saying used to described cheating. The Sun-Sentinel even asked Herbst’s opponent, Ken Keechl for his opinion on Toothaker.
One lobbyist never mentioned in the endorsement is Judy Stern. The controversial Stern has been a fixture in Fort Lauderdale for decades. Stern is listed a registered lobbyist in the City of Fort Lauderdale for four companies: Suntex Marinas, The Corradino Group, Skanska USA and Garth Business Solutions.
Just before the election, Bousquet penned another story about John Herbst. It was more love letter than news report.
Bousquet wrote, “While other candidates rely on canned, phony text messages that could have come from a car dealer, or slick direct-mail attacks that are half-true at best and usually end up in the trash, Herbst is out there in the flesh with his dog Chester, walking Bayview Drive and tweeting about it.”
Did Bousquet, who lives in Tallahassee, speak with Judy Stern about the challenge?
If an election challenge is really a “direct attack on democracy,” then Judy Stern is someone who can change that.
Judy Stern is a current member of the Fort Lauderdale Charter Revision Commission. Judy Stern has been on the commission since the early 2000s. In 2017, Judy Stern was the chairwoman of the charter revision commission when the section dealing with candidate qualifications was discussed.
Why didn’t Judy Stern protect democracy in Fort Lauderdale!!!
Oh yeah, that’s right. Democracy is not under “direct attack” in Fort Lauderdale. Judy Stern and her cronies just want you to think it is.
Shame on them.
UPDATE: An earlier version of this story misidentified Chris Williams as a Democrat. Mr. Williams is a Republican. We regret the error.
Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick loves to tell voters she is a “lifelong” resident of Miramar. Cherfilus-McCormick is seeking to replace the late Alcee Hastings in the US House of Representatives. The district includes Miramar and other west Broward cities as well as parts of Palm Beach. Yet records show, Cherfilus’ husband and stepson live in Maryland home owned by her parents.
In September 2017, Shelia Cherfilus-McCormick married Corlie McCormick, a former assistant Attorney General of Maryland. According to a bridal website, the bride and groom met while attending Howard University in Washington D.C. The wedding ceremony was held at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington, D.C.
Property records for Anne Arundell county in Maryland show Cherfilus-McCormick’s parents, Dr. Gabriel Smith amd Marie Smith, purchased at home in July 2016. In September 2017, records show Gabriel Smith made a “non arms length” transfer of the property to EMS Investment Group LP. Maryland records show EMS Investment Group LP uses a Miramar address as its place of business.
Broward Property Appraiser records show this Miramar address is the home of Dr. Gabriel T. Smith and Marie Cherfilus Smith. State voter registration records show Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick is registered to vote at this address.
CANDIDATE SAYS SHE HAS NOT LIVED WITH HUSBAND SINCE MARRIAGE
This is Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick‘s third attempt to win the CD 20 seat. She ran against Alcee Hastings in 2018 and 2020. During this time period, her husband opened The McCormick Law Firm LLC in Annapolis, Maryland. According to his website, Corlie McCormick practices law in Maryland, Washington D.C., The U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Corlie McCormick does not practice law in Florida.
When REDBROWARD asked Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick where she lived, she said, “Miramar.” She denied living at the Gambrills, Maryland home with her husband. Cherfilus-McCormick stated she has never lived in the Maryland home. She admitted her parents owned the property. She claimed that EMS Investment Group was a “family trust” entity created to help her older parents consolidate their assets.
Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick she has not lived with husband since their September 2017. In fact, Cherfilus-McCormick revealed her husband lives in the Gambrills home with his son and her sister Marjorie Cherfilus.
When asked if she would live in the Maryland home if she is elected to Congress, Cherfilus-McCormick said, “no.”
Cherfilus-McCormick stated her husband has no plans to practice in law in the State of Florida.
Cherfilus-McCormick grew indignant when asked if she thought voters would believe she does not live with her husband, who lives with her sister, in a home owned by her family.
Cherfilus-McCormick ranted about reporters spreading lies and gossip about her. She asked for time to review records and documents and promised to contact REDBROWARD with an updated statement. Cherfilus-McCormick never called us back.
Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick is not the first CD 20 candidate to face residency questions.
In 2013, an investigation by this reporter exposed then-State Rep. Perry Thurston’s flouting of the Florida Constitution’s residency requirements. Thurston admitted he lives outside his House district “when I want to.” Thurston’s admission added weight to evidence he lived outside the House district he represents, in violation of the Florida Constitution. Article III of the Florida Constitution requires state legislators to live in the districts they represent. WPLG LOCAL 10 reporter Bob Norman caught Thurston at the Plantation home he owns with his wife outside the House district he represents. Thurston represents House District 94 while living in House District 99 in Plantation.
Thurston claimed to be living with a convicted felon in a small home in Lauderhill, rather than with his wife and children in their two-story Plantation home. The Broward County Property Appraiser’s Office determined Thurston “violated the law” by using the homestead tax exemption for his Plantation home while he claimed to be living in Lauderhill. The Property Appraiser removed Perry Thurston’s exemption.
Perry Thurston currently represents parts of Broward in the Florida Senate.
In May 2013, this reporter exposed Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness’ false claim that he reside in the district he represents. The evidence showed Holness lived outside the district he represents, though Article II, Section 2.01 A(3) of the Broward County Charter clearly states each commissioner “must be a resident of the particular district upon election.”
Holness claimed he lived in a run-down Lauderhill townhouse near the Florida Turnpike.
In May 2013, records from the Broward County Supervisor of Elections (SOE), stated Holness was registered to vote within District 9 by claiming to live in a small, older 940-square foot townhome in the Royal Oaks townhome development at 2630 N.W. 52nd Avenue in Lauderhill. Property records from the Broward County Property Appraiser (BCPA) show Holmes owns the small home but does not list it as his primary residence for his homestead tax exemption.
Property records listed the mailing address for Holness’ home as 4325 West Sunrise Blvd in Lauderhill. This is the business address for All Broward Realty, Inc., a company owned by Holness.
As Media Trackers Florida reported, the 2006 Central Lauderhill Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) master plan shows Lauderhill officials targeted the Royal Oaks for a dramatic makeover funded by federal and state grants. The plan says Royal Oaks is in disrepair and in need of landscaping upkeep. The entire neighborhood was part of an ambitious plan to build parks and improve roads and sewers. The Royal Oaks neighborhood was identified as properties suitable for acquisition, demolition and redevelopment[.]
As vice mayor of Lauderhill in 2006, Holness wrote the Central Lauderhill CRA master plan. Florida Department of State records show Holness has been an official of the Royal Oaks Condominium Association since 2000.
One month after our story, Bob Norman of Local 10 News visited Holness’ townhouse. Norman described the unit as, “A small run-down housing unit in Lauderhill stacked to the ceiling with furniture and boxes. A realtor’s locked box hangs from the door knob. The refrigerator isn’t plugged in and its door is wide open.”
“Nobody lives there,” said Herbert Fray, a handyman who tends the yards there.
Seeking answers, Bob Norman visited Holness at the Broward Government Center.
“Well, sir, we went to that home and there’s no way you live there. Do you live in your district?” asked Local 10 investigative reporter Bob Norman.
“I do,” Holness replied before leaving without answering any more questions.
Since those reports, Holness and his wife have moved to a home in the upscale Plantation neighborhood surrounding the Fort Lauderdale Country Club.
The residency requirements for US Congress are not as strict as the Florida Legislature. A candidate does not have to live in the congressional district. He is simplu required to live anywhere in the State.
Usually, a candidate will win a district and then relocate to the Washington D.C., returning on occasion for fundraising and photo opportunities.
In 2008, South Florida Congressman Robert Wexler made national headlines after reporters revealed he lived in Maryland with his family. Wexler told the Sun-Sentinel he grew tired of being a “weekend father” who commuted between Florida and Washington D.C. Wexler said he even though he relocated his family to Maryland, he “established my residency at my in-laws’ home in Delray Beach.”
Is Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick playing the same residency games as Robert Wexler, Perry Thurston and Dale Holness?
Will voters believe Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick has never lived under the same roof as the man she married four years ago?
Will CD 20 voters believe that Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick lives with her elderly parents in a Miramar home while her husband and sister live in a million-dollar home located in an affluent Washington D.C. suburb?