Advertising mogul threw fundraiser for chairman’s wife amid Broward Health deals

ig's report

By Buddy Nevins and Dan Christensen 

Jordan Zimmerman is flanked by Broward Health Commissioners Darryl Wright, left, and David Di Pietro at last June's fundraiser for Judge Nina Di Pietro. Photo: Downtown Photo, Fort Lauderdale

Jordan Zimmerman is flanked by Broward Health Commissioners Darryl Wright, left, and David Di Pietro at last June’s fundraiser for Judge Nina Di Pietro. Photo: Downtown Photo, Fort Lauderdale

Just seven weeks after signing a $2.1 million-a-year no-bid contract with Broward Health, advertising executive Jordan Zimmerman threw a political fundraiser for the wife of the hospital district’s chairman.

Broward County Court Judge Nina Di Pietro, whose husband David Di Pietro chairs Broward Health’s board of commissioners, raised almost $22,000, nearly all of it from lawyers, auto dealers and other non-healthcare companies, campaign records say.

Jordan and Terry Zimmerman, his wife, spent nearly $2,000 hosting the June 25 reception at Zimmerman Advertising’s showcase modernistic headquarters on North Andrews Avenue in Fort Lauderdale.

A few months later, Zimmerman was back before Broward Health’s board seeking approval for yet another advertising deal – this one worth as much as $71.4 million over six years.

That deal, supported by David Di Pietro and a majority of the board, was set for approval at last month’s board meeting, but was put on hold after Broward President/CEO Dr. Nabil El Sanadi’s Jan. 23 suicide.

Broward Health Chief Financial Officer Robert K. Martin opposed the deal at the Dec. 17 board meeting, saying it was based on bogus statistics that made it appear like a good deal when it was not.

Martin was fired Jan. 7. He was later given a settlement agreement that included a large payout and a requirement that he not disparage Broward Health.

No influence?

In an interview, David Di Pietro said Zimmerman’s help for his wife’s campaign didn’t influence his decision to favor awarding the contract to Zimmerman Advertising.

“I don’t run Nina’s campaign. I don’t directly solicit money. I haven’t since she started her campaign,” Di Pietro said. “We had horrible advertising…a football player. I want a marketing strategy so the public knows about the healthcare our doctors and staff provide. Even if it’s not Zimmerman we need a marketing plan.”

Jordan Zimmerman and Judge Nina Di Pietro. Photo: Downtown Photo, Fort Lauderdale

Jordan Zimmerman and Judge Nina Di Pietro. Photo: Downtown Photo, Fort Lauderdale

The money raised for Nina Di Pietro at the Zimmerman fundraiser is a fraction of the $237,968 she had in her campaign account as of the end of January, including $100,000 of her own money.

At least $35,000, however, came from more than 50 donors who self-identify as healthcare firms, physicians or clinics. No other candidate for a county court judgeship, a job that deals with criminal misdemeanors and civil disputes for less than $15,000, has received close to that amount from the healthcare industry.

Judge Di Pietro had an opponent who has since dropped out. She has raised more than double the amount of any other Broward County Court candidate. Likewise, she also has a bigger campaign warchest than veteran politicians like former State Sens. Nan Rich and Steve Geller, who are running for Broward County Commission, traditionally more expensive races.

Gov. Rick Scott appointed Nina Di Pietro to the bench on April 30. Because appointed judges run in the first General Election after their appointment, the Zimmerman fundraiser was to finance her 2016 campaign.

Among those attending the fundraiser was County Commissioner Chip LaMarca, a Zimmerman employee and friend and Republican political ally of David Di Pietro; Broward Health Commissioner Darryl Wright; longtime Northeast Broward GOP activist William “Bill” Bucknam; and Levi Williams, former Broward Republican Party general counsel.

Among those contributing $1,000 that day were retired AutoNation president and chief executive officer Mike Maroone, Coral Gables businessman and car dealer Manny Kadre, Kadre’s company MBB Auto Management, and Lighthouse Point lawyer William R. Scherer III.

On May 5, Zimmerman’s firm signed a $2.1 million-a-year advertising contract with Broward Health. The deal is renewable for three years. No proposals or bids were sought from other firms.

Dr. El Sanadi signed the contract on behalf of Broward Health, but appears to have have exceeded his authority in doing so. The signing authority of Broward Health’s chief executive is $250,000; the board must approve deals beyond that. A review of the minutes of every public board meeting in 2015 revealed no indication that Zimmerman’s initial contract was ever brought to the board for its approval.

The agreement placed Zimmerman in charge of all broadcast, print, billboard, digital advertising production and purchasing, plus outreach to the “mainly Hispanic and Creole” minority communities, according to the contract.

A board of Republican activists

Broward Health’s commissioners, who sit on the governing board that David Di Pietro chairs, are all Republican activists appointed by Gov. Scott to run the public health system. Di Pietro was first appointed in September 2011.

Besieged by public and private healthcare competitors, Broward Health has trouble filling its beds with patients paying for elective surgery. The public hospital system’s patient admissions are down nearly three percent and operating revenues are under budget by nearly $29 million this year.

El Sanadi, named president/CEO in December 2014, apparently became convinced that a new advertising strategy was called for.

Sources differ on how Jordan Zimmerman, who had little experience handling marketing for a public health system, suddenly became Broward Health’s potential savior.

Zimmerman said in an interview that former Republican U. S. Sen. George LeMieux, now chairman of the board of the Republican legal and lobbying powerhouse Gunster, introduced him to El Sanadi.

Zimmerman said El Sanadi “believed BH wasn’t performing like it should” and that Zimmerman Advertising could help with a stepped-up advertising campaign.

A majority of the board, including Di Pietro, later agreed.

Zimmerman, using talents described in news releases as “ambitious entrepreneurship, fearless energy and strategy,” built a multi-million-dollar advertising company with a client list that claims the likes of Papa John’s, Party City and AutoNation, but no healthcare firms. Zimmerman is now part of the Omnicon Group.

Before raising money for Judge Di Pietro, Zimmerman was a well-known and reliable donor to Republican campaigns.

In 2012, Zimmerman co-hosted a $25,000-a-plate dinner for GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, whose Broward campaign chairman was David Di Pietro. Last July, Zimmerman co-hosted a $10,800-a-ticket reception for ex-Gov. Jeb Bush’s recent presidential bid.

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Latest comments

  • And the award goes to….. The NBHD board for the greediest pigs in the county and Best performance in the film “Biggest Bunch of Liars”
    Commissioner Wright, you can quit acting so sanctimonious, you are as dirty as the rest. A picture is worth 1,000 words.

  • Correction needed.
    The December 2015 board meeting minutes where this was discussed are still not on the BH website. If you have them, can you post them please.

  • Omg wake up people. Back and forth on the blog comments are public bashing of Managers, VPs etc. This is so much bigger than those employeed as managers and VPs.
    It is all political. We had an unethical politically corrupt Ceo in Frank Nask and then El Sanadi. Which of course trickled down from the head vermin Ricky the rat Scott and his ler me get appointed to this idiot board and screw the tax payers for as much as I can the hell with providing equitable quality healthcare to the community remainder of the rodent infested board of commissioners.
    El Sanadi did not want to face the repercussions of his illegal doings and did home self off.
    Can we offer rat poising to the board members as they do not seem to want to remove themselves?

  • Mr. Wayne Black, please check out the previous no bid contacts from 2012, 2013, 2014 with the Miami advertising agency who also received a multi million dollar contract.

  • Talk about recycling. the marketing Sr VP responsible for the previous mulli million dollar no bid contact, who got axed by El Sanadi just got a VP job with HCA

  • David Di Pietro worked closely on the LaMarca reelection campaign and was seen in election coverage footage reviewing the poll results with the Commissioner at the Lighthouse Point Marina.

  • this is insanity. everyday there is another story about bh. buddy, in all your years covering the place have you ever seen it this bad? it almost makes me long for the likes of lippman, jenne, scherer and trower.

  • Rick Scott is in this up to his neck, and Di Pietro is his point man. Everyone knew Scott was going to appoint his wife.

    Follow the big pot of public money as Scott and his boys figure out a way to maneuver it into their pockets. By the way, those Tannehill commercials were pretty good. No need to switch ad agencies.

    Bottom line here is that the scam is figured out. Thanks Dan and Buddy. Now, lets see what gets done about it.

    The balls in your court G men.

  • anyone wondering how slick dick is setting this up need only search sunbiz by officer to see businesses in fl he has reported investment interests in, and understand why he seeks tax reductions and big business loopholes that thus far, the legislature is holding back. If it looks like skunk, if it smells like a skunk, it must assuredly be a skunk!

  • And dippity do da is his puppet wanna be.

  • To all of the executives, board members, Rick Scott, and cronies. What is it like to wake up each day knowing you are this disrespected and hated?

  • Don’t know why politicians keep saying our kids need STEM educations. Looks like politics is where the money is at. LaMarca finally resolved his foreclosure case and both of his mortgages are now satisfied as of November 2015. Like to know how good of deal the bank gave him.

    BH should hire Mercury to put a good spin on this like Eva Moskowitz for abusive teaching and Michigan Gov Snyder for the Flint poisoned water.

  • How disturbing all of this is!!! Does anyone in leadership at BH care about patients??? Is this a “good ole boy network” or what? Where is merit is the decision making process? NES never ran a business!!! Why in the hell would anyone think he could be a CEO? This was definitely part of a bigger plan for a few individuals to get richer! The CEO’s from all four hospitals should be fired along with most of the administrative teams. Start fresh with positive people who have the right intentions instead of a bunch of self centered, incompetent, losers.

  • Just when you think it couldn’t get any worse….peeling back the onion. Stay with it, Dan and Buddy!

  • Here is your list of outside players with their hands in this political sewer. Ed Pozzuoli, LaMarca, Lemieux and the people he surrounds himself with. And let’s not forget Frank Nask and his recently fired “lady friend”. It’s a shame. There are many employees at BH who only care about patient care and all of this garbage detracts from the great job they do..

  • Don’t forget R Scott who “appointed” the Florida Inspector General, “Mimi me” DiPietro and all of the BH board members, mini me’s spouse as judge, etc. and if these are the visible players, who are the not so visible ones, leaving all to further ponder how far up and how far across the board does this blood money really extend among judges and politicians…….

  • Would love to know if this Zimmerman BS was stopped dead in its tracks or is silently being pushed through.

  • As the stomach churns. The saga of BH is hopefully turning a corner with P Grant as the CEO. I just hope she doesnt turn up dead in a restroom with a pistol in her pocket. Sirius, Rain Dancer, qui tam, Akward moment you all are on the money (sorry bout the pun) and at times teach me a thing or two. Why are you all not talking to the Feds?

    As for the Z deal here’s how this will go down. RS VP with Trump, Zimmerman for Governor, Dr. zacharia zacharia will be annointed CEO. Since the double Z is the #1 fund raiser for the GOP in the us. This is Carnacks view of the future from the crystal ball.

    If you think this is fantasy just sit back and wait. Just remember you heard it hear first

  • I am calling for an investigation into the illegal misuse of taxpayers money by Broward Health Commissioner Christopher Ure for his personal gain.

    Commissioner Ure used public tax dollars in order to benefit himself in a personal opinion article published in the SunSentinel on March 21, 2016. This is clearly defined as abuse of position for personal gain under Florida law.

    Article here:

    By definition, “opinion” is defined as
    “an individual’s belief, judgment, or way of thinking about something : what someone thinks about a particular thing.”

    The North Broward Hospital District and public taxes paid for the individual commissioner’s “opinion” publication and drafting with Hill & Knowles, who Commissioner Ure personally selected and had then- acting CEO Kevin Fusco hire (without formal bid, by the way) to self promote his opinion without consulation or inclusion of other Board members.

    This matter should be investigated and referred to the Florida Attorney General and Florida Inspector General under violation of Florida law 112.313 Standards of conduct for public officers, employees of agencies, and local government attorneys.—

    At the very least, the invoice for Hill & Knowles should be reconciled for it and should be made public along with the personal check from Commissioner Ure for reimbursement to the Broward County taxpayers. @browardhealth @sunsentinel @floridabulldog #browardbeat #christopherure #kevinfusco @pambondi @FLGovScott @miamiherald

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