In September, Steve Bousquet and his Sun-Sentinel Opinion Makers™️ dubbed John Herbst as the candidate with the “once-in-a-lifetime chance” to reshape the City of Fort Lauderdale. Herbst is no newcomer to city government. Seven months earlier, Herbst, the longtime city auditor, was fired by Mayor Dean Trantalis and the current city commission.
Claiming he is armed with “a fine-tuned BS detector,” Bousquet and his Opinion Makers™️ said Herbst “soundly rejects the status quo, which is just what this city needs.”
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.
In addition to her lobbyist role, Stern is campaign manager/consultant.
In fact, despite his alleged dislike of lobbyists, John Herbst is using Judy Stern to run his campaign. Herbst told REDBROWARD that he has known Stern for many years.
But Judy is not the only Stern in Herbst‘s corner. In April 2022, the lawyer for John Herbst wrote a letter to Fort Lauderdale City Attorney Alain Boileau seeking to settle matters surrounding his dismissal. John Herbst’s lawyer is Barbra Stern, daughter of Judy Stern.
So why didn’t Steve Bousquet and his Opinion Makers™️ ask John Herbst about Judy Stern?
Last week, 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.” Judy Stern couldn’t have said it better herself.
According to political insiders, Bousquet and Stern are friends.
Does Steve Bousquet have a duty to disclose ties to a campaign consultant before endorsing her candidate?
Did Steve Bousquet use the Sun-Sentinel to target a youthful competitor of Judy Stern?
Does Tallahassee resident Bousquet really think Stephanie Toothaker is the only land use lawyer working in Fort Lauderdale?
Do candidates using Judy Stern get preferential treatment by the Sun-Sentinel?
REDBROWARD reached out to Steve Bousquet for comment. As of publication, he has not responded.
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.
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?
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.
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?