New Broward School Board member was accused of abuse by former fiancee. He says there were ‘a lot of lies.’

South Florida Sun-Sentinel | By Anthony Man | August 31, 2022

Ryan Reiter, appointed Friday to the Broward School by Gov. Ron DeSantis, was accused by a former fiancee of abuse in a court filing five years ago. For most of 2017 and 2018, records show, he was prohibited by court order from having contact with her.

In requesting the injunction for protection, the woman said there was “verbal and physical abuse,” and Circuit Judge Michael Kaplan issued several short-term orders for Reiter to stay away from her as the case proceeded, then an order of protection that lasted a year.

In a petition for protection, filed in Broward County Circuit Court on July 19, 2017, the woman described a volatile relationship with confrontations fueled by alcohol. She said she “always forgave him because I thought he was under stress and gone through the death of a family member.”

She said she was “fearful now that we are no longer in a relationship,” adding that “he was a Marine and is capable of damage if he desired, as well as has a hot temper and anger issues. I would just like for us to both move on and leave each other alone with no more communication or contact and for me to feel safe in my home without worrying if he will come over.”

In a telephone interview Wednesday, Reiter said the picture painted in the petition filed by the woman is wholly inaccurate and the allegations of physical abuse “absolutely did not happen.”

“It was a very toxic relationship. There were a lot of lies in the report that was submitted. … There was nothing there, and it was incredibly damaging to my reputation,” he said. “Long story short: This is a big he said-she said thing.”

“People who know me now know who I am. I’ve had to go through years of therapy just to get rid of her gaslighting issues and the trust issues that I had with people. It took about a year or so after that whole incident to really start opening up and trusting people,” he said.

Order issued

Broward Circuit Judge Michael Kaplan issued an initial short-term order the same day the woman filed the petition. At the end of the final, 12-month order, records with the Clerk of Courts show she did not appear in court to pursue the matter, and it was dismissed.

Michael Gottlieb, a Broward criminal defense attorney, said he wouldn’t necessarily draw conclusions based on the judge’s issuance of the orders. (Gottlieb, also a state representative, spoke generally about how such cases are handled, and without details about the parties involved or specific allegations.)

“Not knowing the facts, I think granting it for a year is a suggestion to me that the allegations were relatively minor and that this issue likely has or will resolve itself in short order. Otherwise, I expect that the judge would have granted a permanent restraining order, or certainly one longer than a year,” he said.

The couple lived together and were, she said in her petition, engaged to be married. She reported that in December 2016, she had broken up with him and called off their planned wedding. After an argument, she wrote, “he told me to leave and leave the ring, so I ended up leaving him and leaving the ring.”

After an argument at a 2017 Father’s Day brunch, she wrote that she packed her belongings from their residence, went to stay with a friend and soon told him she found a new apartment and “the relationship was over.”

After a confrontation the next month, she filed the petition for injunction for protection against domestic violence.

School Board appointment

Reiter became one of nine members of the Broward School Board when DeSantis suspended four members on Friday and appointed four replacements. Reiter’s appointment is short term; it runs through the November elections.

Citing the conclusions of a grand jury report that was publicly released on Aug. 19, DeSantis’ office said the suspended board members had “shown a pattern of emboldening unacceptable behavior, including fraud and mismanagement, across the district.”

The governor’s office appointments questionnaire doesn’t ask about previous civil cases. Reiter said he didn’t raise the issue during the appointment process. “It wasn’t a criminal issue. It was entirely civil,” he said. “There were no arrests made. It’s entirely hearsay.”

Who is Reiter?

Reiter, now 36, was an aide to state Rep. Chip LaMarca from May 2013 to March 2014 when LaMarca was a member of the Broward County Commission. After working for LaMarca, he was government affairs manager at the county Children’s Services Council from March 2014 to September 2015.

Most recently, he has been director of government relations at Kaufman Lynn Construction, where he has worked since September 2015. He is a former Marine sergeant who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He is also a past president of the Broward Young Republicans.

Night in July 2017

The two parties offer completely different versions of an incident, one night in July 2017, just before she filed the petition.

Her recounting, according to court records:

Reiter called her “about” 10 times and sent a series of texts, one of which said “he was on his way over.” When she read that, she replied repeatedly that he shouldn’t come over and — not getting an answer — she texted him “saying he was scaring me and I was going to call the cops.”

She later heard “banging” at a neighbor’s door and Reiter “screaming ‘open the door.’” She said the neighbor told police he tried to unscrew the peephole to the neighbor’s apartment.

“By that time, he was calling my phone repeatedly,” then a police officer answered, “spoke to him and said they were going to come pay him a visit.”

Ryan Reiter in an undated picture taken at a breakfast held by the Tower Forum in downtown Fort Lauderdale. (Brittany Wallman)

His recounting:

“Yes, I did go over to her house. She took my dog from me. We had a dog at the time, Lincoln. She took my dog from the apartment [and] left the key after she took him. And I wanted my dog back. She kept saying ‘no, no no.’”

He said he knocked at a neighbor’s door because he didn’t know which apartment was hers, then left when he heard someone say they had called the police. He said there was no prying of the peephole or attempt to damage the door.

The final entry in the case file was a March 13, 2019, order in which Kaplan denied a request from Reiter’s attorney to have the case expunged.

Staff writer Brittany Wallman contributed to this report.

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