In a signal that Broward Health’s controversial no-bid $71.4 million deal with Zimmerman Advertising is dead, blueprints have been drafted for a new, smaller marketing campaign for the public health system.
The Zimmerman agreement collapsed after the suicide of former Broward Health CEO Nabil El Sanadi. His death triggered a wave of negative publicity as news surfaced of separate investigations by the governor’s office and the FBI of business practices at Broward Health.
“It’s done,” Broward Health Commissioner Maureen Canada said. “With all the heat that came onto the Board (of Commissioners) with the contract, it was better we move on.”
Advertising firms earlier this month were asked to provide ideas and potential budgets to produce media ads for Broward Health’s four public hospitals, 16 community health clinics, four urgent care centers and the Broward Health Physicians Group of roughly 90 doctors, according to the Request for Proposals obtained by Floridabulldog.org.
Inviting competitive bidding from registered firms for the lucrative, possibly multi-million dollar contract is a change from last year, when the agreement was planned in private and then steered publicly to Zimmerman without any proposals from other firms.
Zimmerman signed a $2.1 million one-year contract in May 2015. Within months, Broward Health Commissioners agreed to expand Zimmerman’s contract to a six-year, $71.4 million agreement.
The Fort Lauderdale-based firm, its showcase headquarters off I-95 and its flamboyant founder Jordan Zimmerman were familiar to some commissioners and El Sanadi, who was instrumental in fashioning the no-bid deal.
Zimmerman is a Republican campaign contributor. The seven commissioners who govern the tax-assisted health care system are all Republican activists appointed by Gov. Rick Scott, who also appointed El Sanadi, another heavy contributor to the Republican Party of Florida, to the Florida Board of Medicine.
Death before deal done
El Sanadi committed suicide Jan. 23, four days before the board was set to approve the deal. The deal, put on temporary hold in the wake of El Sanadi’s death, fell apart after FloridaBulldog.org first reported on the unusual advertising deal Feb. 16.
Now Broward Health’s original one-year contract with Zimmerman is winding down.
“The Zimmerman contract for $2.1M expires on May 4th. Zimmerman continues to work on tactics on the marketing plan scheduled for the month of April,” Doris Peek, Broward Health’s director of marketing wrote in an e-mail.
The Zimmerman deal is one of several being examined by the Florida’s Chief Inspector General in an extensive probe of Broward Health’s contracts and the correspondence concerning them stretching back to July 2012. In a separate investigation, a Fort the FBI and a Fort Lauderdale federal grand jury are gathering evidence of corruption in purchasing, according to numerous sources and public statements by staff and others.
Gov. Scott suspended former Broward Health Chair David Di Pietro and Commissioner Darryl Wright in March after Inspector General Melinda M. Miguel complained about interference with her probe. A key supporter of the Zimmerman contract at Broward Health, Di Pietro won his commission job back in Broward Circuit Court, but resigned before an appeal by the governor could be heard.
Peek said she doesn’t know if Zimmerman will bid on the new contract, saying, “Zimmerman is welcome to respond and should they respond would be evaluated in the same manner as all other responding vendors.” Proposals are due to the Broward Health staff by 3 p.m. May 5, one day after Zimmerman’s contract ends.
Jordan Zimmerman did not respond to an e-mailed request for comment.
The cost and other terms of the new ad campaign will be negotiated between the firm chosen by staff and approved by commissioners. It will be based on what responding firms bid compared to a no-growth “flat” budget predicted by the financially challenged public health system next year, Peek said. The firm winning the contract will get an annual retainer and a production fee.
New contract smaller
Firms are being told that the new contract will be less extensive than the one given Zimmerman. That previous contract gave Zimmerman responsibility for media ad buying, outdoor and online media. It also included a 15 percent commission on all clicks on digital ads. These tasks have been removed from the new proposal and given back to staff.
Peek was insistent that any firm chosen will be required to show the advertising is working. Zimmerman balked at including performance standards in that firm’s contract, but Peek called including them “common practice.”
The revamped contract is for “external brand awareness and service line promotions, development of media plans for Broward Health…and creative design of multi-media advertisements for all divisions of Broward Health,” the Request for Proposals states.
The winner will be expected to present Broward Health with “billing documentation including detailed invoicing from media outlets” and produce weekly status reports for health care executives.
Commissioner Canada said the hospital district has a new interim CEO, Pauline Grant, and a new dedication toward transparency in its business dealings.
“We’re resurrecting the marketing and communications contract in a transparent way,” she said. “We’re moving forward in a different direction.”