The Krafts, married nearly 28 years, have pleaded not guilty and are being tried separately. Mitchell Kraft, a former assistant state attorney and a Tamarac city attorney, has a Dec. 22 hearing in his case.
Developer Bruce Chait, 66, and his son Shawn Chait, 41, and their company Prestige Homes of South Florida Inc. sought to build 728 residences on two golf courses along West Commercial Boulevard in Tamarac, near Florida’s Turnpike.
“School Board member, defendant Kraft and her husband together obtained a $500,000 break in Broward County School Board fees,” Prosecutor Catherine Maus told the jury of five women and two men. “In reward, Mr. Kraft was paid $10,000 by Bruce Chait.” The alleged transaction happened in 2007. The development was never built and that discount was never realized. The school district at one time wanted the Chaits to pay fees of $1.7 million, while the developers offered $1.2 million.
The project and fees to compensate the district for the impact that new students in all of those homes would have on county schools was on a July 24, 2007, agenda for School Board members to vote on. Maus said Stephanie Kraft didn’t pull the Chaits’ item from the agenda for discussion with her colleagues; she didn’t file a conflict of interest form to disclose that her husband was part of a team seeking the break on fees and she left the dais and avoided the vote.
“She’s not going to be involved in this hot political issue, with people picketing out in Tamarac over houses being built on golf courses,” Defense attorney Kenneth Padowitz told the jury.
He also said evidence would show Stephanie Kraft didn’t place the item on the agenda. It was called item J-15, which meant it was put on the agenda by staff. If a board member had placed it on the agenda, it would have been labeled as a “B” item, according to the lawyer.
He said School Board members who served at the time will testify that Stephanie Kraft never lobbied them about the project or encouraged them to vote a certain way.
The jury will hear testimony that Mitchell Kraft did not take work from the Chaits to avoid conflict with his wife until after the vote happened and that the $10,000 payment was a legal retainer, Padowitz said.
The Chaits are scheduled to testify. In 2010, they pleaded guilty to unlawful compensation and were sentenced to four years’ probation on the condition they cooperate with prosecutors. The Chaits have given sworn statements about payments, gifts and other benefits to local politicians, including the Krafts.
“Bruce and Shawn Chait never communicated with Stephanie Kraft in any way,” Padowitz said.