Faced with the revelation that state prosecutors are investigating them, Broward County Commissioner Diana Wasserman-Rubin and her husband are proclaiming their innocence in business dealings with the town of Southwest Ranches.
Both maintain she was not aware her husband would profit from her votes on grant applications that he had written on behalf of the town for new parks, trails and open space. Richard Rubin received a $15,000 bonus from Southwest Ranches after winning several county grants in 2003.
Wasserman-Rubin and her husband said they believed the investigation ended when she admitted in 2007 to violating ethics laws and paid a $15,000 civil fine to the state Ethics Commission. Both said they have not heard from any investigators since.
"I'm an honest and sincere person, and I committed my biggest error in public service when I voted on several grants, one of which triggered a bonus for my husband," Wasserman-Rubin said. "I didn't know that, and I've paid $15,000 as a result. That's the only transgression I've had in 30 years of public service."
Prosecutors for State Attorney Michael Satz confirmed this week that they are investigating Wasserman-Rubin and have issued subpoenas. The town of Southwest Ranches recently received a subpoena and has sent it to its law firm of Becker & Poliakoff for review.
The investigation is part of a growing corruption cloud over local government. Wasserman-Rubin's commission colleague, Josephus Eggelletion, pleaded guilty in December to federal money-laundering charges and resigned from office. A School Board member and a former Miramar city commissioner have also been indicted.
Rubin, who has long worked as a government grants writer and planner, said he has not done any business in Broward in more than three years as a result of the initial Ethics Commission complaint.
"I love my wife and wanted to make sure she stayed in office," Rubin said. "I didn't want to do anything that had any appearance of a conflict."
A spokesman for Satz's office, Ron Ishoy, said the investigation has been going on for more than two years. "The state does not tell the people we're investigating that we're investigating them," Ishoy said.
According to Rubin, he was first hired by Southwest Ranches in 2000 after the town was formed to help draw up a comprehensive land-use plan. He said the town later hired him to also write grant applications.
He said that although he initially received the grant work without any bid process, the town later sought bids and decided to continue with him. Rubin's consulting salary rose from $6,500 a month in 2001 to $13,000 a month in 2005.
Rubin's work helped the town secure more than $11.4 million in aid from a parks bond issue controlled by county commissioners. Wasserman-Rubin not only voted to approve the grant applications, but lobbied county parks staff on behalf of the town's projects.
Rubin said he also helped the town on its sale of a 30-acre swamp site to the Broward County School District. The district paid Southwest Ranches $4.3 million, more than what four appraisers said it was worth, and pursued the deal even after they realized the land was unsuitable for a new high school.
Wasserman-Rubin served on the School Board for 12 years before joining the County Commission.
Rubin said he worked with the town's real estate broker, Ira Cor, on the sale. He helped prepare the sales contract and authored a report on what steps would be needed in terms of land-use regulations and wetlands analysis.
While Wasserman-Rubin and her husband are defending themselves, town officials are scrambling to figure out what happened to years of e-mails that include the time when Rubin and Town Administrator John Canada worked there.
Town Clerk Debra Doré-Thomas discovered e-mails were missing a few weeks ago while searching for electronic messages from her predecessor.
Unbeknownst to town officials, in early November part-time contractor Brian Haines wiped files belonging to former employees and contractors from the computer system, said Deputy Town Attorney Keith Poliakoff.
"He said he did it so the system would work faster," Poliakoff said.
A computer forensics team is working to recover the e-mails. The town expects to recover 90 percent of the lost records.
Scott Wyman can be reached at swyman@SunSentinel.com or 954-356-4511.