By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org
The Broward Sheriff’s Office has paid out as much as $750,000 to buy bleeding control kits from a South Carolina company that Sheriff Gregory Tony did business with before he became sheriff, and where he worked as an executive for more than a year.
Last July, two weeks after BSO issued a purchase order for the kits, the CEO and founder of winning bidder North American Rescue LLC funneled $5,000 to Tony’s political action committee.
The contribution was originally listed in Broward Supervisor of Elections records under the CEO’s name, but in what looked to be an effort to disguise the source of the contribution, the committee quickly deleted his name and changed its report to show that the contribution came from a company at the same South Carolina address. A campaign spokeswoman, however, said the change was made simply to fix an internal accounting error.
Since becoming sheriff in January 2019, Tony has concealed his former job as director of Community Development for North American Rescue in 2016-2017. He hasn’t mentioned it when his job history was discussed, and he deleted mention of it from his LinkedIn profile.
Tony did not respond to a written request for comment submitted Sunday.
While working for North American, and even earlier when he was a police officer in Coral Springs in 2015, Tony ran his own side business Blue Spear Solutions, which marketed a number of North American’s products – including bleeding control kits and stations. That relationship continues today with Blue Spear now in the name of his wife, Holly. Blue Spear’s website says it is a “proud partner” of North American Rescue.
BSO’s bleed kit proposal
BSO records obtained by Florida Bulldog show the sheriff’s bid proposal for a two-year contract for 654 “bleeding control kit stations and IFAKS [Individual First Aid Kits]” went out June 3, 2019. The Stop the Bleed stations were to include a wall mount, carrying cases for eight individual bleeding control bags, the bags contents and a litter [patient carrier].” The bags included a tourniquet, blanket, shears, gloves, gauze and dressings.
The contract was funded through the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian program, established by law initially to help schools hire armed guards. Feis died while protecting others during the horrific Valentine’s Day 2018 shooting at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 dead and 17 others injured.
Nine bidders responded by the June 20 deadline. North American Rescue, based in South Carolina but incorporated in Delaware, came in with the lowest bid, $599.98 per unit, or $392,386.92. The next-lowest unit bid was $635, with the rest ranging from $700 to nearly $900 per unit.
The bid was reviewed by BSO’s Purchasing Division, where things took an interesting turn.
On July 11, a purchasing agent sent a memo about the North American deal to Col. James Reyes, the head of BSO’s Department of Administration, requesting approval “in the amount of $750,000 to cover the one time purchase and any additional purchases within the two year term under the same terms and conditions of the contract.” Reyes approved the deal the next day.
Curiously, the original number requested for approval by the purchasing agent on June 27 was $500,000. Who ordered the $250,000 bump, and why is not known.
Not all bleed kit money spent
Not all of the $750,000 was spent immediately, with the first purchase made last July when BSO bought 854 bleeding control stations at a total cost of $512,382.92. Sheriff Tony did not respond when asked whether the balance was later spent on additional kits.
Sheriff Tony, 41, has aggressively promoted North American’s bleeding control kits as critical for public safety. Twice last year, BSO put out press releases talking about Tony’s plans to distribute thousands of the bright red bleeding control kits to every public and charter school in Broward “to stop the severity of bleeding and save lives if needed.”
In September, Tony staged a press conference at a warehouse where he displayed the kits, emblazoned with his name and BSO’s logo, for reporters and television cameras. Tony – who last year disclosed he has a negative net worth of more than $73,000 – was asked about North American Rescue and whether Blue Spear Solutions would benefit from the sale.
Tony acknowledged that when he ran Blue Spear prior to becoming sheriff Blue Spear had “partnered up” with North American Rescue “in designing and building some of these [bleeding control] cases.” He also said, “I worked there under contract. That’s clear.”
But Tony was more than a contract worker at North American, where he held the title of Director of Community Development. Florida Bulldog has learned that in 2016-2017 the company reported paying him wages totaling more than $80,000.
Tony went on to tell reporters that Blue Spear was not involved in purchasing the bleed kits from BSO. “I’m disconnected from Blue Spear and absolutely no. Okay. Zero involvement. We would not step into that in terms of my wife running that company. There’s an ethics aspect to that that I think the whole community would have an issue with, not only myself. So we distanced ourselves off, put this thing into permit and let it go through the necessary checks and balances and they just happened to have the lowest price point of roughly 10 different vendors that applied,” Tony said.
The sheriff no longer runs Blue Spear, but he continues to own the trademark to Blue Spear’s name and logo.
Blue Spear uninvolved in sale
There is no indication that Blue Spear participated in the sale. But some of North American’s eight competing bidders weren’t actual competitors. For instance, the president of Miami’s Grit Born LLC, Gabe Rodriguez, said his company distributes North American Rescue’s products and couldn’t come close to offering North American’s direct price to BSO.
“That’s the way it works sometimes,” Rodriguez said. “Some distributors might not like the idea of that, but we understand they have the right to do that.”
Another bidder was Melville, N.Y.-based Henry Schein Inc., a Fortune 500 distributor of health care products. Schein bid $704.93 per unit, or about $100 more than North American. The bid seems odd, however, because Henry Schein acquired North American Rescue for an undisclosed price in March 2019, four months before BSO’s bid went out.
Two weeks after BSO issued its confirmation to North American that it was placing an order worth $512,000 , a political action committee that’s supporting Sheriff Tony reported a series of noteworthy transactions. All took place on a single day, July 29, 2019.
Broward First PAC initially reported that “Bob Castalini,” identified as a CEO with a post office box in Greenville, S.C., made a contribution of $5,000. In fact, Castalini is Robert Castellani, the CEO and founder of North American Rescue LLC.
Records kept by the Broward Supervisor of Elections Office show that Broward First then immediately sent “Castalini” two $5,000 refund checks, for a total of $10,000. The same day, Circle Creek Holdings made two contributions by check of $5,000, or $10,000, the records show.
But a spokeswoman for Tony’s campaign said Monday that there was in fact just one $5,000 contribution from Circle Creek. She said the campaign’s efforts to fix an error in “our internal records” led to reporting changes that created confusion. “We got the check from Circle Creek Holdings. Period,” She explained that in recording the check from Circle Creek someone included note to “thank Mr. Castalini.” Another person saw that and mistakenly inserted the “Castalini” name as the contributor, she said.
Either way, the source of the contribution comes back to North American CEO Castellani.
Circle Creek and the CEO used the same address. Further, South Carolina corporate records show that Circle Creek’s owner is North American Rescue’s chief financial officer Dean Bugner and its registered agent is North American’s general counsel, Curtis Stodghill.
Broward First PAC was established on June 24, 2019 by Adam Nadler, owner of the Coral Springs gym CrossFit Immersion. Tony worked out at the gym, and it is where the Sun Sentinel has reported he met Andrew Pollack, father of Meadow Pollack, who was shot to death during the Parkland tragedy. Andrew Pollack was a prominent supporter of Gov. Ron DeSantis, and has said he recommended Tony to the governor to replace Sheriff Scott Israel, according to the Sun Sentinel.
To date, Tony has raised nearly $1 million in his bid for election to a full four-year term in 2020. According to the Broward Supervisor of Elections, most of it – $600,000 – came from billionaire hedge fund investor S. Donald Sussman, owner of Fort Lauderdale’s priciest home.