By Dan Christensen, BrowardBulldog.org
New Broward Sheriff Scott Israel has shuffled his office’s outside lobbying team, signing $7,000-a-month contracts with a pair of well-connected lobbyists with clients whose interests sometimes conflict with BSO.
The contracts with Fort Lauderdale’s William Rubin and Tallahassee’s Brian Ballard, both of whom are known for their close ties to Republican Gov. Rick Scott, were signed by Democrat Israel three weeks ago.
Out the door: Tallahassee lobbyists David Ericks, an ex-Plantation cop, and his daughter, Candice.
“Ballard Partners and The Rubin Group are BSO’s only external lobbyists,” said BSO general counsel Ron Gunzburger. They will represent the sheriff “before the state legislature and other governmental entities,” Gunzburger said.
Rubin recently registered to lobby for the sheriff at Broward County, along with his associate Heather Turnbull. It is apparently the first time a Broward sheriff has paid someone to lobby county staff and the elected commissioners who fund his office.
“I think it’s a waste of money. My door is wide open to the sheriff and his staff on any issues he has,” Commissioner Lois Wexler said Wednesday.
Mayor Kristin Jacobs and Vice Mayor Barbara Sharief did not respond to requests for comment.
“Wow,” said former Broward Mayor John Rodstrom. “I wonder how effective it will be. If it comes down to a budgetary issue I think commissioners will come down on their own behalf and not the sheriff’s behalf.”
Rubin represents two of BSO’s biggest vendors. Coventry Health Care provides medical and other insurance coverage to BSO’s 5,800 employees. Miami’s Armor Correctional Health Services provides care to approximately 4,600 inmates in the county’s five jails.
Rubin’s clients also include American Traffic Solutions – the red-light camera company that uses BSO personnel to review violation notices in the sheriff’s jurisdictions – and Deerfield Beach, which contracts with BSO for local police services.
Will Rubin’s connections to the sheriff give his clients an inside track in resolving disputes or negotiating future contracts? Gunzburger, the sheriff’s general counsel, said no.
“It was made very clear that they (and their employees/partners) could not play any role in lobbying BSO on behalf of any of their other clients,” said Gunzburger. “They both understand this, and the conflict language confirming this is in the contracts.”
Rubin’s 15-page BSO contract contains an eight-paragraph “conflict of interest” section. It does not, however, prohibit Rubin from lobbying the sheriff on behalf of other clients, but does require him to disclose when a client “has or may potentially have an interest adverse to the interest of the sheriff.”
The conflict section in Ballard’s contract is a single paragraph. It says Ballard represented that his work for BSO had not created any conflicts, and he agreed to notify BSO should a conflict arise.
Ballard’s long client list does not appear to include any BSO vendors or BSO contract cities. He and Rubin, however, are both registered to represent Davie’s Nova Southeastern University, according to Florida Senate records.
BSO and Nova are partners in a number of educational initiatives including college degree programs, research and conferences in criminal justice. Another joint effort is the Executive Leadership Program, a 17-week study course for public safety professionals that costs $1,995.
Rubin and Ballard also represent GEO, the Boca Raton prison company.
GEO had a multi-million dollar contract with BSO to run a detention facility on Powerline Road in Pompano Beach until 2007, and it was said to be interested later when there was talk about privatizing the county’s jail system.
The idea never went anywhere, but BSO’s 1,500 detention deputies are always alert to signs of a change that could affect their jobs.
The Federation of Public Employees represents the guards. President Dan Reynolds said Wednesday that he’s spoken with Sheriff Israel and he’s not concerned.
“I believe the sheriff when he tells me he’s opposed to privatization,” Reynolds said.