It is a major personal victory for Ritter, part of a settlement in a case stemming from her 2008 county commission election.
The settlement is recommended by the staff of the Florida Elections Commission. It still must be formally approved by the Florida Elections Commission, which will consider it early next year.
As part of the settlement obtained first by Browardbeat.com, staff investigators will drop the claim there that Ritter was guilty of “falsely reporting or deliberately failing to include information” on her campaign financial reports.
Also dropped were allegations that Ritter failed to “report the purpose” of $5,348.66 in reimbursements to her husband, Russ Klenet, who managed her campaign. In addition, claims were dropped that Ritter took money after she was unopposed in June 2008 and failed to return some of those contributions.
Of the 28 original allegations which the elections commission staff originally found probable cause, 17 were dropped.
The 11 that remain are largely technical. They include only the allegation that Ritter failed to report 11 contributions of $500 apiece.
She had agreed to pay an $8,300 fine for the 11 violations.
Ritter has admitted many times she failed to report the 11 contributions, blaming “accounting and data entry by staff during my 2008 campaign”. The allegations that remain appear to back her version of what happened.
Ten of the contributions are from real estate companies owned by two Coral Springs developers and given on the same day, April 10, 2007, and no doubt processed at the same time.
She told me more than a year ago that a glitch somehow prevented the April 10 contributions and one on Oct. 9, 2007 from appearing on the list filed with the Supervisor of Elections. She said then:
“Although any bookkeeping errors were clearly unintentional, I take full responsibility.”
In her 2008 race, Ritter raised more than $190,000. The allegations that remain involve $5,500 in contributions not reported.
The case has dragged on for more than a year after a complaint was filed by one of Ritter’s political enemies — a lobbyist for Dania Beach fighting the runway expansion at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. Ritter was a driving force behind the expansion project.
In September 2010 that the commission staff announced that it found probable cause to believe she violated state election laws 26 times. Negotiations have been going on since then between the staff and Ritter’s lawyer which resulted in last week’s settlement.