Broward Health deal exposes ethics loopholes big enough for multi-million dollar deals

ig's report

By Dan Christensen and Buddy Nevins, 

Broward Commissioner Chip LaMarca, left, and Broward Health's late CEO Dr. Nabil El Sanadi

Broward Commissioner Chip LaMarca, left, and Broward Health’s late CEO Dr. Nabil El Sanadi

Broward County Commissioner Chip LaMarca was part of a “concerted campaign” to divert public Broward Health money to pay for a marketing effort run by his employer, Zimmerman Advertising.

Zimmerman had sought to convince Broward Health CEO Dr. Nabil El Sanadi that the district’s “budget was insufficient to do the marketing job that the district needed,” according to an independent special counsel’s report provided to the district on Wednesday.

LaMarca allegedly got so heavy-handed during the push to obtain a no-bid, $71.4-million advertising contract that he once threatened El Sanadi, whose Jan. 23 suicide triggered a series of disclosures about investigations and insider deals that have rocked the public hospital system.

“I put you here, and I can take you out,” LaMarca said, according to Broward Health Vice President Doris Peek, whose statements are contained in a report presented to Broward Health’s governing board on Wednesday.

LaMarca denies making such a threat.

“Having been raised by a good mother, the only way I can describe that woman [Peek] is that she was untruthful,” LaMarca said in an interview on Thursday.

LaMarca also denies lobbying Broward Health on Zimmerman’s behalf.

He takes that position because Broward’s Code of Ethics forbids elected officials, including county commissioners, from lobbying any governmental entities in Broward. The prohibition includes taxing authorities like the North Broward Hospital District, Broward Health’s legal name.

But there’s a loophole in Broward’s Code of Ethics big enough to drive multi-million dollar deals through. The loophole is even broader in state law, upon which the county based its 2011 ordinance.

The problem is in the definition of lobbyist. Lobbyists are generally thought of as people who seek to influence decisions made by government officials.

A narrow definition

Broward’s definition is considerably narrower. With some exceptions, it says a lobbyist is “a person who is retained, with or without compensation, for the purpose of lobbying, or a person who is employed by another person entity, on a full-time or part-time basis, principally to lobby on behalf of that other person or entity.”

Florida law’s definition of a lobbyist is even more limited. Lobbyists are persons who are paid to lobby, or are “principally employed” to lobby “by another person or governmental entity.”

Jordan Zimmerman

Jordan Zimmerman

Hired by Zimmerman last May, LaMarca held the title vice president of community relations, reporting directly to company founder Jordan Zimmerman. He has told a reporter, and the county attorney’s office while seeking a legal opinion about the matter, that his principal duty at Zimmerman wasn’t to lobby.

Thus, LaMarca’s not legally a lobbyist even though he acknowledged representing Zimmerman in talks about an advertising deal with Broward Health officials.

Specifically, LaMarca told both a reporter and the Fort Lauderdale law firm that reported to Broward Health’s board this week that he had attended a series of meetings about the advertising deal with Broward Health representatives over several months, including parts of “shade” meetings that are closed to the public. He also said he’d invited all seven board members to tour Zimmerman’s swank Cypress Creek offices, including three who accepted.

“According to LaMarca, the purpose of these tours was educational and no specifics of any marketing plan were discussed,” says the report by attorney Mitchell Berger.

The report goes on to say LaMarca assisted Jordan Zimmerman with a June 25, 2015 fundraiser for then-Broward Health Chairman David Di Pietro’s wife, County Court Judge Nina Di Pietro.

LaMarca ‘advocated’ for Zimmerman?

“We have been advised that Mr. LaMarca advocated on Zimmerman’s behalf, although Mr. LaMarca denies this,” Berger wrote. Yet even if LaMarca advocated for Zimmerman, and it “occurred in the course of his employment by Zimmerman, he would not constitute a ‘lobbyist’ under the district’s policy.”

Berger’s report to the board said he’d been unable to locate “any lobbying registrations related to the Zimmerman contract.”

As has reported, however, Broward Health does not require lobbyists to register.

A state governmental accountability bill that would have required hospital districts, children’s services districts and expressway authorities to register lobbyists died during the legislative session that ended March 11.

LaMarca quit his job with Zimmerman on March 25. He said he did so in order to speak with Berger during the lawyer’s investigation. Zimmerman’s lawyer didn’t want him speaking because Florida’s Chief Inspector General Melinda Miguel is reviewing Zimmerman’s $2.1-million marketing contract with Broward Health, an agreement that was to be amended by the proposed $71.4-million deal.

“I liked working for Zimmerman. It was a great place,” said LaMarca. “My regret is that Jordan Zimmerman ever met Dr. El Sanadi or got that contract.”

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  • 71.4 million dollars over 5 years for what LeMarca calls a “media buy” works out to about 270 grand a week on advertising over the next 5 years. Really guys? What do other hospital districts spend per week on advertising? Nice try Chip. Im sure your former employer would have found all kinds of ways to chisel away at that stone. Between all the inflated costs for talent, copy, artwork, radio and television time, etc, Zimmerman would have made out nicely. Did any other agencies get a chance to land the account? How many creative ideas were pitched to the CEO and the Board? Now that the whole deal’s been shit canned, I guess Zimmerman had no more use for you. But I guess lots of folks just quit a 100k per year cake job. By the way, whose idea was it to meet at Waffle House? Denny’s or IHOP would have been more preferable. Don’t ya think?

  • Keep digging how Chip LaMarca who was is foreclosure and broke suddenly paid off his house!

  • If this were Law and Order, if Olivia was investigating the suicide of a CEO who shot himself in the chest and his gun was found in his pocket, and if someone being interviewed said “I put you here, and I can take you out,” I suspect that would result in a full out investigation to rule out foul play. Now I’m not accusing or suggesting foul play, and I’m not a TV show writer, but perhaps there is a BIG lesson here for Chippy boy about shutting his big thug trap and to consider removing his twisted sorry self from politics, never mind from Zimmerman. I do highly doubt he resigned and that this is just “The Z” attempting damage control as rumor has it he has BIG political ambitions. After seeing what Scotty boy has done to Fl, hopefully republicans have learned a lesson and won’t vote for “The Z” should such rumor unfold.

  • PS. Anyone know what Scotty boys position was with regard to lobbyists needing to register when meeting with public entities mentioned in this article?

  • Nothing like a morning cup of java and juicy headline news. For those needing a refresher:

    Some began to question the political angles of this foreclosure case when LaMarca hired legal counsel. LaMarca and his wife are represented by Steven Stoll and David DiPietro. Both attorneys are active in Broward County Republican politics.

  • If I were Doris Peek I’d start packing an Uzi,Things are going to get hot. Rain dancer the 71.5 million dollar contract was brought to the board. DDP knocked it down to 5 million. The full amount was not not received by Zimmerman so this put a kink in the proposed bilking of BH funds to super paks. Which made the govenor angry and after the last straw hiring a democratic lawfirm to help over see the multiple requests from the ilustrious Miguel (IG) he suspended DDP and Wright. What I find entriging is that Mr Black is silent. I hope he’s not found in a restroom shot in the heart with a 38 in his pocket.

    I wonder where the Feds are in this whole enchilada.
    I can just imagine the sounds of shredders in Zimmermans offices.
    As for the fund raiser for DDP wife who are you going to hire for the job an unknown marketting firm or one that your govenor tells you to hire? One habd washes the other but when both hands are washing in cesspool sludge its impossible not to get dirty.

  • More on LaMarca’s foreclosure despite earning in excess of $100K as commissioner and one construction firm. Aside of the fact DDP has history with Chippy boy, here’s where the other “honest” attorney ended up. Was Chippy boys mortgage involved in this scheme?

    “Steven Stoll, a licensed mortgage broker and a licensed attorney, and Stephen Orchard, also a licensed attorney, participated in the scheme by handling the closings of the fraudulently procured loans, along with licensed mortgage brokers Matthew Gulla and Rene Rodriguez, Jr.”

    “U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer stated, “This indictment charges a group of individuals who conspired to enrich themselves by committing mortgage fraud. It includes a number of professionals who betrayed their profession for greed, and in the process, undermined the integrity of the mortgage marketplace on which we all rely. Our office is determined to continue to bring to justice those who engage in such pervasive criminal schemes.”

  • Hmmmm. Rene Rodriguez, Jr. Hey Rocky. For the record. What’s your real first name? Just checking.

  • No, qui tam. Not the same tho funny they share last name and first initial.

  • Seems to me LaMarca just one more pawn on the chessboard though I sense the game is finally heating up. I see Tripp Scott law firm was briefly mentioned in a different but one of the many articles/blogs recently about BH. James Scott is a founding member, republican, and former member of the Fl senate for 24 years. This means he would have been a colleague of former republican Fl senator George Lemieux, who was linked in another article to Zimmerman. So my question is this: Are we finally moving towards the kings and queens on the chessboard, the republican queen being Lenieux, and republican king being Rick Scott? Is it they who are orchestrating all of this, will true intent of bilking hundreds of millions of dollars from Broward residents, via the cash cow BH, putting that money into super pacs while forcing privatization of BH (and MHS)?

  • Charlotte Mather. What’s her role in all of this. She is on the payroll at BH but never there and also the director of the Ann Storck center, close friend of Limeaux for years. Another blood sucker of Broward Health. I think her husband now works there too.

  • Here we go again, just another example of how a Broward Health commissioner violates the code of ethics, sound business practice and common sense. Why would LaMarca NOT sequester himself if the company he WORKS for is vying for Broward business?
    He doesn’t have to dismiss himself from the board but by all rights should have removed himself from ANY involvement with respect to Zimmerman’s business dealings with Broward.

    When will it stop?!

  • This story is beginning to feel more like the pelican brief! A man lost his life here folks. I knew politics were dirty, but this is just plain filth!

  • I suspect this will be Lamarca’s last term as commissioner..

  • Death Throws.. what I was asking was whether any other agencies were invited to submit plans or creative ideas. Usually, when a company has a huge marketing budget, they bring in several different advertising agencies to pitch ideas. You usually audition at least 3 agencies, then choose the best one, based on creative ideas, an understanding of the market, and who can make the most financial sense. I have no doubt that Zimmerman had access to the board. But did any other of the very good ad agencies that we have here in south Florida?

    My other point was that if they would have handed 71.4 million over to Zimmerman for “media buys”, most of that money would not have gone to “media buys”.. Hence, Radio, television, billboard, print, etc. If so, they’d be spending about 270K a week over a 5 years period on “media buys.” That money was destined for Zimmerman’s pockets, LeMarca’s pockets, and the super pacs.

    It’s pretty insulting to one with even average intelligence when LaMarca tells the people authoring the report that all that money was for “media buys.” Hey Chip, some of us are paying attention, and we don’t need marketing or advertising degrees to know that BH isn’t going to spend 270K a week on advertising. Even your buddy DDP knew that was bullshit.

  • Sounds to me like Peek is protecting El Sanadi. It would stand to reason that he could have committed suicide because he did something he thought he’d be in hot water for and rather than face the music it was easier to just handle things this way. If she said that El Sanadi was threatened by LaMarca, it could be because she doesn’t want anyone digging any deeper or looking any further for a reason for this Zimmerman deal happening.

    It also looks to me like Van Hoose should be looked at.. I googled her. She was the director of scheduling for Rick Scott. If Slick Rick wants to privatize he would do nothing to set BH up for success and that could include placing a minion or two to do his will on the board.

  • I think all this noise deflects from the big boys who are the master puppeteers; Lemieux and Scott. Keep following the cookie crumb trail ……,,,

  • I agree qui tam, it has Lemieux dirty paws all over it. Charlotte Mather Taylor should not be overlooked in this mess. Every deal needs a silent partner.

  • I would love to spray this story with Luminol.

    Great Job, Buddy and Dan.

  • Interesting Charlotte has flown under the radar all of this time. You are right. The woman is never in her office so I’d like to know where she’s been and what she’s been up to too. Her office toy chest speaks volumes about her political alliances!

  • Sheila VanHoose turned her back as commissioner for Broward County public school system to instead represent the charter school system. So not only has this spoiled brat sold out the public in ensuring quality public school education, but now she is selling out quality public health. She is the female embodiment of Rick Scott, out to do his dirty deeds. So if you can’t afford private school, and if you choose not to have your healthcare needs met at an HCA or possibly Tenet facility, you best start demanding her removal from the BOC at BH. And remember Sheila, what goes around comes back around. Your payback will come. It’s just how karma works!

  • Charlotte Mather isn’t as clean as everyone thinks. Someone needs to take a look at the last year or two the contracts signed for outside services that have Charlotte’s husband attached to them, Carl Taylor. In particular the contract with JHD Associates.

  • Bulldog should pull her conflict of interest disclosures to see if Charlitte disclosed this as required.

  • What about all the good employees the ones who have clean hands. Do their job right and follow the rules. It’s horrible that a man is gone and all this back stabbing just keeps going on. Has anyone thought about his poor family! What happened to Powerfull Medicine? So Unfair to the wonderful employees at Broward Health who work so hard everyday and have to be abused by outside people who believe everything they read! Our community is sadden by all this mess. We need a new CEO who can get us back in good standing with our community, staff and doctors. In the mean time I believe Mrs Grant will do her best to help the hospital get back in good graces with the communtity and the employees. Broward Health has been around way to long serving thousands of people to crumble.

  • So Unfair. You apparently missed the MANY positive blogs about well intended employees. I won’t reiterate. You need to read more. As for your accusation re: backstabbing, I suggest you educate yourself about the schemes. Bloggers are putting truths out on the table in an effort to do exactly what you want; clean BH up, making it not only a better place to work, but also a place where concerned citizens will feel safe receiving their care. If you keep your head buried in the sand then I hope you are ready for privatization and working for those entities.

  • Does anyone think that it’s a coincidence that new BH Corporate Offices are a block away from Zimmerman offices? Why isn’t there a BH Urgent Care Clinic on Commercial Blvd in the same area where there is empty office space available?

  • Have you heard the latest in the “chip and Davy” hour! Davy claims he found a tracking device on his car and he was being followed. He took the tracking device off and it mysteriously disappeared. Then he went back in the house, took another bong hit and finished watching “house of cards.” Omg. These guys are such amateurs. Dear Tea Party douchebags, this is what happens when you think you are smarter then everyone else.

  • Also, I love that Chip keeps saying he wasn’t a lobbyist he was “community outreach” for Z. Because, you know, if you keep calling a zebra a giraffe, that’s make it a girfaffe.

  • Chips eyes kept diverting during channel 10 interview. Interesting body language and verbiage. As for tracking device, should have made sure given to FBI.

  • Well, I guess you removed my comment because I called Paul Grant a cunt. I was only calling a spade a spade. Wait, guess I can’t say that either, sorry.

  • Hmmmm. Wonder if P Bondi or M Miguel plan to do anything about that not inconveniently found tracking device on DDPs, a commissioners car…….if neither of them launch an all out investigation what does that say about their intentions and potential tie to Slick Scott or worse?

  • The agency that BH had before Zimmerman arrived is one of the best in the business. “Powerful Medicine” is considered by many ad pros to be one of the best tag lines in the healthcare industry. Those Ryan Tannehill commercials were good. There was no need to switch agencies. But if they really wanted a change, why not audition several agencies? This no-bid Zimmerman connection was a bad idea from the word go. Bad for BH, bad for the healthcare industry, and really unfair to other ad agencies. Its just not the way business normally gets done. Ad agencies dont get no bid contracts worth millions from publicly funded entities. It was just another way for someone to raid the BH coffers.

    As far as CL, he was hired by Zimmerman to grease the wheels at BH. He was up to his neck in the whole deal. Everyone was willing to do..Whatever it Takes!

    Now that the shits hit the fan, the deal appears to be derailed, and CL coincidentally is no longer with Zimmerman.

    Everyone is scrambling to cover their ass. Amazing journalists Dan and Buddy informing the public and digging up good stuff. FBI investigation. State investigation. People losing sleep at night. Lots of lawyers involved. Lots of doctors involved. Lots of politicians involved. Oh the drama. This is some wild shit. I’m going to write a weekly television series based on BH and send it to Hollywood.

  • I have a new state drink; Slime Ricky! Scott and Lemieux have ties to this and I’m looking forward to their exposure before MM vacuums up the paper trail.

  • Bulldog. Why no discussion forum re: dick getting his butt reamed? Since he touts that prolife BS, I’d love for him to tell us two things: 1) does he only have sex when attempting to procreate since he must assuredly know accidents can happen and 2) if he loves children so much why did he turn his back on Medicaid funding that would have helped all so many sick babies and children that he so dearly cares about????

  • AW. Let’s not forget the sidekick AG, PB!

    “Three years ago, Pam Bondi’s office was looking into claims from Floridians who claimed the Trump Institute — a Florida affiliate of Donald Trump’s now-infamous-and-shuttered “Trump University” — had scammed them out of thousands of dollars.

    Similar complaints in New York prompted its attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, to file a lawsuit, calling Trump’s get-rich seminars a “bait and switch scheme.”

    Yet in Florida, there was no action. So the Orlando Sentinel made an inquiry, and Bondi’s office vowed to look into the matter in a story that ran on Sept. 14, 2013.

    Three days later, Trump’s charitable foundation cut a check to a committee supporting Bondi’s re-election campaign — for $25,000.”

  • in case anyone is concerned about all of those Nova students and residents that are at BHMC I will leave this here

  • Interesting information about Pam Bondi and Donald Trump, QT. Hopefully that squashes the idea of Rick Scott becoming VP if Trump gets nominated as the republican presidential candidate. She appears to be a chip off of the Rick Scott block!

    Loved watching Rick Scott getting yelled at this week at Starbucks. It was unfortunate that others did not jump in and express their outrage too. Florida is the laughing stock of the nation. But watching the Trump movement, other states should talk!

  • I’m highly amused by what a woos Scotty boy is. Confronted by just one little woman he was incapable of facing her in the moment, of getting a single cup of coffee, and is now using super pac money to launch an all out war against her as if she is the one with the character flaws. Thank you Scotty boy for putting yourself in the limelight and showing the entire US what a small little dick you really are!

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