For the second time in five years, State Sen. Maria Sachs (D-Delray Beach) is playing games with the Florida Constitution in an attempt to avoid the Constitution’s residency requirements for state legislators. The Florida Constitution requires all legislators to live within the districts they represent. A Media Trackers Florida investigation, however, shows Sachs is a serial offender against the Constitution by repeatedly living outside her legislative district.
Last week, Media Trackers Florida reported Sachs claims she has left the million-dollar Boca Raton equestrian estate she shares with her husband and has moved into a small rental unit behind a Fort Lauderdale strip mall to satisfy the Constitution’s residency requirements. Redistricting recently moved Sachs five-acre equestrian estate outside the boundaries of Senate District 34, which she represents. To satisfy Floridas constitutional requirements, the wealthy state senator claims she now lives in a small, 740-square foot apartment in her Senate district owned by lobbyist Judy Stern and Stern’s daughter, Barbra Stern.
Back in 2008, Sachs had similar residency issues while representing District 86 in the Florida House of Representatives. Sachs’ five-acre equestrian estate is not located in district 86, so Sachs rented a small apartment in Delray Beach and claimed to live there. The 718 square-foot duplex was 10.9 miles from the Sachs estate.
In 2008, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported Sachs wrote to the Palm Beach Property Appraiser that her husband Peter “continues to enjoy the above [equestrian] residence as his primary residence and homestead.” Sachs removed the Homestead tax exemption for herself.
The Sun-Sentinel spoke with Michael Tespic, owner of the duplex, who produced a lease signed by Sachs in February 2008. “It’s just convenient for her work, I guess,” said Tepsic, who lives in the other half.
“I am claiming residency within my district, and I do live there,” Sachs told the Sun Sentinel. “I also do live in Tallahassee, and I also do live at [the house west of Boca Raton].”
When asked how many nights she spends at each home, Sachs said it “is not important as long as I follow the law.”
Last week, a neighbor at the Fort Lauderdale rental unit told Media Trackers Florida that Sachs’ purported unit has been vacant for at least six months.
The neighbor reported the last tenant, a political campaign operative, lived there only briefly last year.
Records from the Broward County Property Appraiser confirm both lobbyist Judy Stern and her daughter Barbra Stern, a member of the Florida Elections Commission, own the unit.
Records for 2012 from the Florida Division of Corporations list Maria Sachs as the registered agent for Sachs’ law pratice. Sachs’ practice is located at 955 NW 17TH AVENUE SUITE E, DELRAY BEACH, FL 33445. Maria Sachs, registered agent, lists her address as the equestrian estate in Boca Raton. These records were filed on January 24, 2012.
Sachs’ staff refused repeated requests for comment.