Tag Archives: Stephanie Toothaker

HYPOCRITES? Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Heather Moraitis (And Cronies) Bashing Inter Miami Soccer Team After Taking Money From David Beckham & Praising Stadium As “Signature” Deal

Heather Moraitis & Mary Fertig

Inter Miami CF should be the toast of the town. Over the last month, fans filled DRV PINK Stadium as the Fort Lauderdale-based Major League Soccer franchise gained 21 points over 10 games to jump into the MLS playoff race. Instead, owner David Beckham and his partners were smeared in local and international newspapers thanks to curious attacks by Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Heather Moraitis and her cronies.

On August 20th, Heather Moraitis launched her first attack on David Beckham and Inter Miami in a Sun-Sentinel story. According to the story, Moraitis feared a “sweetheart deal” which allowed Inter Miami to build a stadium (at the team’s expense) on the city owned Lockhart Stadium site would “turn into one of the worst failures of her political career.” Moraitis was angered when she learned Inter Miami was pursuing a National Womens Soccer League (NWSL) team. While the NWSL team would play at DRV PINK, Moraitis feared some of the empty forty acres of land on the stadium site would be used for the women’s team.

As part of the Lockhart Stadium deal, Inter Miami CF agreed to build a park on some of the land located along Commercial Boulevard by 2022. Once the deal was signed, Heather Moraitis controlled to process to figure out what would be built on the site. Moraitis held numerous meetings for “community input” to decide final plans for the park. This has lead to constantly changing plans. At one Fort Lauderdale Commission workshop, REDBROWARD heard Moraitis advocate for an “e-sports arena” on the site.

Yet, in the Sun-Sentinel article, Heather Moraitis blamed Beckham for the delay in building the park. She badmouthed the NWSL idea as a “surprise” and compared it to a broken promise. “There is no way I am giving them 1 inch of land,” Moraitis said.

BECKHAM SMEAR GOES INTERNATIONAL

Less than a week later, Heather Moraitis’ attacks on David Beckham and Inter Miami went global. David Beckham, a former captain of England and a Manchester United great, is an international superstar. Surely Moraitis and her team should have expected the international media to react when she accused him of reneging on a deal with Fort Lauderdale. In the British newspaper, The Guardian, Moraitis said, “It seems like an empty promise. I understand everyone has a bottom line and they want to make money, but you can’t do it on the backs of the people.” She complained the area was fenced off and used for parking. Longtime soccer and high school football fans know the area has always been used as a parking lot.

Moraitis told The Guardian that the team “stalled for two years.” She failed to mention her endless community meetings, her changing plans for the site or even COVID-19 lockdown.

“It seems like an empty promise,” Moraitis said. “I’m not even sure David Beckham knows what’s going on…My city feels let down.”

INTER MIAMI RESPONDS TO MORAITIS

On August 26, 2021, Inter Miami CF Vice President and General Counsel Pablo Alvarez sent a letter to Mayor Dean Trantalis, Heather Moraitis and the rest of the Fort Lauderdale City Commission. Alvarez said the team was “surprised and saddened” by Heather Moraitis’ remarks.

Alvarez told Commissioners:

However, the fact is Inter Miami patiently waited while Commissioner Moraitis worked through various plans and designed for the south side of the site. Over the past two years we have attended meetings, provided resources and worked in good faith. While we appreciate her zeal, many changes were made, and directions varied sometimes week to week. As such, it is confusing that she is now saying we have slowed a process her office directed.”

Alvarez stated the Inter Miami could not start building anything since City has not approved a plan or design for the site.

Alvarez said Inter Miami “still believes in and wants a community park on the site.” He said the new stadium has increased jobs, generated revenue and “helped increase Fort Lauderdale’s exposure through…sporting events televised locally and worldwide.” He reminded Commissioners that the stadium was used by the City during the pandemic for COVID-19 testing and vaccinations.

TRANTALIS DESTROYS MORAITIS NARRATIVE

Earlier this month, Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis exposed Heather Moraitis in a blistering power point presentation at a commission workshop. Trantalis told the Sun-Sentinel Moraitis had embarrassed the City and David Beckham without justification. “We understand through his partners that he was extremely embarrassed and felt betrayed by the comments of the vice mayor,” Trantalis said. “It hurt his reputation.”

Trantalis told Moraitis, “We cannot diss people in the public, especially in the international press.”

Trantalis methodically deconstructed Heather Moraitis’ attacks on Beckham and Inter Miami. He called Moraitis’ attack an “unprecedented media campaign” which “made misstatements about the city and its relationship with the Inter Miami soccer team and its ownership.” Trantalis said, “Statements implied that they were made on behalf of city government and the City Commission even though they were not.”

Trantalis stated the Moraitis attacks were featured in The Guardian, The Daily Mail, the Daily Express and The Times of London as well as foreign language media.

Dean Trantalis demonstrated who was to blame for any delay when he revealed the numerous different proposals for the park created by Heather Moraitis.

On September 13th, Heather Moraitis and her allies ran crying to the Sun-Sentinel. Moraitis called Trantalis’ presentation an “intimidation tactic” designed to silence her. “I feel like you’re trying to silence me,” Moraitis told the mayor. “My people want a park. I am going to shout from the rooftop of City Hall. I will not be silenced.”

Moraitis told the Sun-Sentinel, “Every single thing I said I meant and I stand by it. If they want to change the 20 acres, to me that’s a broken promise.”

Moraitis ally and busybody Mary Fertig told the Sun-Sentinel Moraitis was the victim. Fertig said, “This meeting was supposed to be about potential uses for the Lockhart community site,” she said. “But the only PowerPoint shown was about smearing Vice Mayor Moraitis.” More on Fertig in a bit.

Heather Moraitis claims she was shocked by Trantalis’ claim she had lunch with David Beckham. “I never had lunch with David Beckham,” she said. “I refused to meet with him before the vote. I didn’t want anyone to say I approved the deal because I was star-struck.”

While Heather Moraitis may have declined lunch with David Beckham, campaign records show she happily took the soccer superstar’s money.

SERVING FLORIDA?

Is Heather Moraitis Serving Fort Lauderdale?

While her 2020 re-election campaign did not receive contributions from Inter Miami CF, David Beckham or his partners, State records show they were generous donors to Heather Moraitis’ State political committee. Election records show the Serving Florida political committee was formed in January 2020. While based in Tallahassee, the chairman of Serving Florida is George R. Moraitis of Fort Lauderdale. Heather Moraitis is married to George Reynold Moraitis, a former State Representative.

While she now calls it a “sweetheart deal,” Heather Moraitis celebrated the Lockhart deal with Inter Miami on the Serving Florida website. According to the website, “Heather’s signature projects as a city commissioner include bringing David Beckham’s Inter Miami soccer team–successfully revitalizing Lockhart Park–and creating an aviation and aerospace technical program in partnership with Broward County Public Schools.”

Just two months after it was created, campaign records show Serving Florida received contributions from companies and individuals with business in the City of Fort Lauderdale.

In March 2020, Serving Florida picked up more than $7,000 from Miami Beckham United, Inter Miami, Mastec and Inter Miami lawyer/lobbyist Stephanie Toothaker.

In Heather Moraitis’ world, having lunch with David Beckham would look bad. But cashing Team Beckham’s checks is no problem?

LAUDERDALE TOMORROW

Mary Fertig

Moraitis ally and neighborhood scold Mary Fertig posted the articles bashing David Beckham on her “Lauderdale Tomorrow” Facebook page. On August 26, 2021, Fertig posted, “We have more pending projects, never completed? Why is a park for the people the last piece of property that our Commissioners protect?” But Fertig failed to mention her previous Lauderdale Tomorrow posts praising Inter Miami for agreeing to build her pet project.

The old Lockhart Stadium hosted numerous football games for Fort Lauderdale high schools. When the Inter Miami deal was negotiated, Fertig asked Beckham to build a field for football use. Fertig praised Inter Miami when they agreed to built a stadium for local high school teams.

On March 19, 2019, Lauderdale Tomorrow posted “Mary Fertig’s report on ‘Public Purpose For Public Land’.” Fertig declared it a “good day at City Hall” after Inter Miami agreed to allow teams to use the new fields on the Lockhart site.

Fertig said she “asked that Lockhart Stadium once again be the home stadium for Fort Lauderdale High School and Stranahan…”

The stadium was built and sits just east of the main stadium.

Fertig never mentioned e-sports or dog parks or splash pads. Mary Fertig wanted a football stadium for Fort Lauderdale High School. And Team Beckham built that stadium.

Inter Miami Built The Football Stadium Mary Fertig Wanted

In October 2020, Heather Moraitis thanked Inter Miami for the new stadium during a photo op before the Fort Lauderdale High game against Dillard. Moraitis singled out Mary Fertig for praise. She said Fertig helped keep the stadium a top priority.

Now, Heather Moraitis and Mary Fertig want more.

For some reason, Moraitis and Fertig value a “destination park” at a parking lot bordered by an airport on the west and industrial buildings on the east more than a national sports team owned by David Beckham and the Mas Brothers.

The nearest residential neighborhood is located in Tamarac. Does Heather Moraitis want to build a “destination park” for Tamarac residents?

Did Heather Moraitis’ quest to land a partnership with Broward Schools cause the numerous delays?

Is anyone really clamoring for a dog park and splash pad along the racetrack formerly known as Commercial Boulevard?

Is someone seeking leverage in the One Stop deal in downtown Fort Lauderdale?

Why does Heather Moraitis have a state political committee?

Campaign Advisers For Mayor Dean Trantalis Now Lobbyists For Second Company Seeking To Build Fort Lauderdale Water Plant

Blake Macdiarmid, Steven Glassman and Dean Trantalis

Earlier this month, REDBROWARD exposed the roles Mayor Dean Trantalis’s campaign advisers were playing in the plans to privately build a new water treatment plant in Fort Lauderdale. During a January press conference discussing the City’s failing sewer system, Trantalis discussed plans to replace the aging Fiveash plant. Trantalis states, “several international players in the water industry have expressed an interest in a fast-tracked public-private solution that can bring more efficiency, more stable cost, guaranteed maintenance and higher water quality.” Trantalis said “we’ll see” if it is the right solution for Fort Lauderdale.

During a summer 2019 trip to Israel, Dean Trantalis met with five major Israeli investment groups for “discussions involving partnerships for major infrastructure and public works projects in Fort Lauderdale.” When detailing the finds of his trip during an October 2019 meeting of the Infrastructure Taskforce Committee (ITC), Trantalis said, “he “met with Israeli companies, Poseidon and Suez, both companies want to forward a P3 proposal regarding the water plant.”

When asked about the P3 process by a committee member, Trantalis said, “that at this it isn’t known specifically how the process of using a P3 approach will work with competitive job bidding.”

According to official meeting logs, on December 2, 2019 Mayor Dean Trantalis met with a Poseidon Water lobbyist, Stephanie Toothaker at Doc B’s restaurant in Fort Lauderdale. Toothaker registered as a Poseidon Water lobbyist on November 19, 2019. One day later, Eric Johnson of Johnson Solutions registered as a Poseidon Water lobbyist. Then, on December 2, 2019, (the same day Toothaker met with Trantalis, Sorensen and Moraitis), James MacDiarmid of Layline Solutions registered as a lobbyist for Poseidon Water.

Published reports state Eric Johnson (via Johnson Strategies) represents Dean Trantalis. In his 2018 run for Mayor, Trantalis paid Johnson Campaigns $6,600 for consulting. According to State of Florida records, Johnson Campaigns is owned by Eric Johnson. City of Fort Lauderdale records show Johnson represents several clients.

While these same records show James MacDiarmid only represents one client, he is no stranger to City Hall. State records show Layline Solutions LLC was formed by twenty-one year Ian MacDiarmid in March 2019. The State records list a Miami Beach address as Layline Solutions’ place of business.

Official voter registration records show Ian MacDiarmid’s father, James Blake MacDiarmid, is registered to vote at the same Miami Beach address.

During the 2018 campaign, Blake MacDiarmid was a paid consultant for Commissioner Heather Moraitis. On November 14, 2017 Moraitis paid $10,000 to Blake MacDiarmid Inc (at the same Miami Beach address) for “professional fees.”

On his website, MacDiarmid, the self-proclaimed “mayoral whisperer,” claims to be an adviser to Dean Trantalis, Steve Glassman, Ben Sorensen and Heather Moraitis.

BEYOND THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE

Now, official records show Toothaker, Johnson and MacDiarmid are registered lobbyists for Poseidon’s competition.

On Friday February 21, 2020, Stephanie Toothaker, Eric Johnson and James Blake MacDiarmid registered as lobbyists for Fort Lauderdale Water LLC at 461 From Road, Suite 400 in Paramus, New Jersey.

On February 19, 2020, Eric Johnson of Johnson Strategies registered as a lobbyist for Suez at 461 From Road Suite 400 in Paramus, New Jersey. On February 21st, Toothaker also registered as a lobbyist for Suez.

In March 2018, the Press & Journal reported how one Pennsylvania town regrets allowing Suez to control its water service. Residents of Middletown received news of an 11.5% surcharge added to water bills. “The change is not a rate hike. It is a surcharge to make up for water usage in the last three years that fell below a target in the 50-year lease with Suez.”

Middletown Council President Damon Suglia said the council in 2014 “really put this town in a long-term bind” with the lease.

“Suez knew those numbers (regarding water usage) were not realistic for us to reach in a town of our size,” Suglia said. “The borough is landlocked” and cannot grow beyond its current borders.

“Because we made an upfront payment and our investors invested in that upfront payment, there has to be a level of confidence that there is going to be adequate revenues to support the debt service and the recovery of that investment,” Kevin Chandler, vice president of Suez’s North Division told the Press & Journal.

Kevin Chandler is listed as the principal for Fort Lauderdale Water LLC.

Does Mayor Dean Trantalis care that Kevin Chandler and Suez put their investors ahead of water customers?

Does Mayor Dean Trantalis even care about Fort Lauderdale Water customers?

What happened to Poseidon Water? Did they pull out of plans to build the replacement water treatment plant?

Why did Trantalis campaign advisers switch allegiances from Poseidon to Suez/Fort Lauderdale Water? Are they lobbying for both companies?

How do Dean Trantalis campaign advisers keep getting hired by these multinational corporations seeking to build P3 projects in Fort Lauderdale?

Why did Mayor Dean Trantalis specifically mention Poseidon and Suez during the ITC meeting last year?

Doesn’t Fort Lauderdale deserve answers?

Dean Trantalis
Eric Johnson’s Johnson Strategies website lists The City of Fort Lauderdale as a a client.