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Waste Management scholarships gifted to Cooper City commissioner’s twins may violate ethics laws

cooper city
cooper city
Cooper City Commissioner Lisa Mallozzi prepares on May 28 to announce the recipients of four Waste Management scholarships, including her twin daughters. Company lobbyist Andres Limones Cruz holds the ceremonial check.

By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org

On Jan. 29, Cooper City Commissioner Lisa Mallozzi certified that she had completed four hours of annual required ethics training. She did the same for 2022 and 2023. Unfortunately, there was no requirement that she learn what she was taught.

Four months later, in a May 28 special recognition ceremony at city hall, Mallozzi took the podium to hand out scholarship awards to four high school seniors provided by the city’s longtime, though recently replaced, trash hauler Waste Management. Company lobbyist Andres Limones Cruz stood nearby holding the obligatory giant presentation check.

Two of the $1,250 scholarships went to Mallozzi’s twin daughters, who have different last names from their mother. They use their father’s last name.

With the mayor, commissioners and others present, Mallozzi looked as if she hardly knew her daughters. No motherly kisses or hugs.

“Congratulations on being selected as a Waste Management Scholarship Award recipient. Your dedication and commitment to furthering your education and advancing your skills is truly commendable,” Mallozzi said blandly as she presented a certificate to one of her daughters, commission video shows.

cooper city
Cooper City Commissioner Lisa Mallozzi

Acceptance of the scholarships appears to violate state law, a county ordinance and a city ordinance. The giving of those gifts likewise appears to violate state law and the city’s ethics ordinance that matches state law.

ETHICS LAWS

Broward County’s Code of Ethics for Elected Officials says flatly, “No Elected Official or relative…shall accept any gift, directly or indirectly, with a value in excess of $5.00” from the city’s lobbyists or vendors. A vendor means a person or entity that has supplied goods or services within the last two years.

State law regarding public officers and employees declares, “It is essential to the proper conduct and operation of government that public officials be independent and impartial and that public office not be used for private gain other than the remuneration provided by law.”

The Code of Ethics that follows says local officials like Mallozzi who are required to file financial disclosure forms are “prohibited from knowingly accepting, directly or indirectly, a gift from a vendor doing business with…or a lobbyist who lobbies” their city… “if he or she knows or reasonably believes that the gift has a value in excess of $100.”

Relatives aren’t mentioned in that particular state prohibition, but the $2,500 in scholarship funds from Waste Management will inure to the benefit of Mallozzi and her husband by reducing their parental contribution to the girls’ college education.

The same state ethics code also prohibits vendors and lobbyists at cities from “giving, either directly or indirectly, a gift that has a value in excess of $100” to a local official.

Waste Management was Cooper City’s residential solid waste and recycling hauler for more than 20 years. In 2023, for the first time in many years, the city sought competitive bids and in December the commission voted 3-2 to hire Pompano Beach’s Coastal Waste & Recycling. The residents will see a 21 percent savings for the same level of service, the city manager said.

MALLOZZI’S ‘VERY GOOD FRIENDSHIPS’

Cooper City City Attorney Jacob Horowitz

Mallozzi has been on the Cooper City Commission for much of the last 20 years, serving from 2007-2018 and again since 2022. In 2022, Waste Management contributed $1,000 to her campaign.

In December 2023 she voted against hiring Coastal Waste and declared her preference for Waste Management. She said, “In addition to donations, I also have friendships with members of Waste Management. Um, very good friendships…They worked the entire time that I was here. I never counted any complaints,” commission video shows.

In an interview with Florida Bulldog on Friday, Mallozzi said City Attorney Jacob Horowitz had obtained an advance “opinion” from the Florida Commission on Ethics on her behalf “and the ethics committee gave the full go ahead and everything was fine.”

“There was nothing underhanded in any way, shape or form whatsoever,” Mallozzi said.

But everything isn’t fine. As described by Horowitz, he received an “informal opinion” emailed to him by the ethics commission’s general counsel, Steven Zuilkowski – not the commission itself. And while Zuilkowski does state in his email that “the Commissioner will not have a conflict of interest under the facts as you describe them,” he appears to have no authority to make such an exonerating declaration.

The ethics commission does not use “informal” opinions. They are not even mentioned in the commission’s administrative rules. Says the commission’s website, “Opinions may be requested by letter presenting a question based on a real situation and including a detailed description of the situation. Opinions are issued by the Commission and are binding.” Such opinions, known as advisory opinions, must be signed by the commission’s chairman.

WASTE MANAGEMENT’S SCHOLARSHIP

Both Waste Management’s and Coastal Waste’s contracts with the city include annual scholarship awards to eligible resident students with a minimum core GPA of 3.0 and minimum of 40 community service hours. In January, Cooper City and Waste Management announced the 2023-2024 scholarship program. Eleven students applied by the Feb. 29 deadline, city records show.

Cooper City Commissioner Jeff Green

A selection committee made up of 10 members of the city’s Green Advisory Board and “one representative of Waste Management” reviewed and scored the applications and chose the winners. The award criteria included community service, a personal essay, weighted GPA and two character references.

The mayor and the city’s four commissioners each pick two members of the board.

Apparently, no one on the board thought it odd that a commissioner’s children were entered in the city-sponsored event.

Nor did anyone think it unusual that attached to the applications from Mallozzi’s daughters, both signed by their mother as parent, were identical letters of recommendation from her city hall colleague, Cooper City Commissioner Jeff Green, who in December had joined Mallozzi in voting against hiring Coastal Waste, declaring that he also preferred Waste Management.

The four-paragraph letters, on commission letterhead, list the same community activities for both girls, while observing that each “has a quiet and calm demeanor during challenging situations (that) suggests a level of maturity found well beyond her age.”

Asked about that, Mallozzi said, “They do everything together. They’re twins.”

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Latest comments

  • Gee…more dishonest, unethical, law-violating conduct by a Broward County public official! Why am I NOT surprised? Florida leads the nation in fraud and corruption, especially, for instance, the PREJUDICED, CORRUPT JUDGES in the 17th Judicial Circuit Court in Broward County! What a shame these self-described “Watchdogs” who publicly tout their “investigative journalism” exposing wrongdoing by public officials (while asking for donations), can’t seem to find the courage to expose some of the WORST, most DESPICABLE judges in South Florida, despite the clear and convincing evidence I’ve provided them with! (Emphasis added). I guess they’re AFRAID of these errant judges!

  • And the stink just keeps on coming from these mobsters. The elaborate ruse of unfamiliarity by the mother in handing the corrupt checks to her daughters – their hiding their common last name, and the pantomime of indifference in delivering the checks. It’s all disgusting. And who would expect any dissent from THIS state’s laughable “Ethics Commission.” This is what happens when corruption is routine and obvious at the top of the heap, and licensed thereby all the way down the line.

  • It is not a fine line. It is pretty clear what the regs say. Mallozi could have avoided this by having their father sign the applications, but no, she signed them for her name recognition. She knew her name would draw the most attention from the WM employee and the advisory board members who scored all of the candidates. The WM employee scored them 97 & 97 and one other candidate 99 which was the top 3 out of 11. Two members of the advisory board scored both of them “100”. There was only one other candidate that scored 100 from one of the same board members. So that’s 2 out of 3 out of 11 who received a score of “100”.

    Even if you think it is ethical, it stills doesn’t pass the smell test because she accepted thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from WM during her previous tenure and current tenure as commissioner. She also, along with Commissioner Green, voted 100% for WM every time their contract came up for renewal, except for the very latest vote and she reversed her (1st Reading – WM) previous vote to Coastal (Final Vote). My assumption, she only did this because between the two readings, the awards were established. The next question, why didn’t the board release the results immediately, why did they wait until after the final vote? With what I have seen in this City over the last 20+ years, it was probably done so that Mallozi could say I didn’t vote for their last contract, I voted for Coastal. I have seen this game played before and it always was bullshit and still is.

    My second beef is with Commissioner Green. Why did he write his letter of recommendation on City letterhead. Doing so, reflects a recommendation from his constituents which is definitely not the case. But I guess when you are good personal friends with another commissioner and vote yes/no together almost 100% of the time, it is no wonder he wrote a letter of recommendation. I don’t recall him ever writing a letter like this over the last 12 years, why all of the sudden? Is it because he is termed out in 4 1/2 months and he doesn’t have to answer to his constituents in the next election!?! Again, it was for name recognition.

  • Take the scholarships back and put this commissioner in prison

  • What was she thinking?! Don’t they understand that public service is reserved for the elite with inherited and independent wealth, or those with no hope to ever participate or win anything, less it be “corruption!” Please people: Spend your time looking at how the Broward School Board, County government, and their contract/employment machine, are pilfering your money – that’s where the real corruption is! Not a $1,250 scholarship…

  • The author touches on the real story of malfeasance; how year after year after year the commission, often led by the 60% cabal of Mallozzi, Green, and Curran voted in unison to keep WM on without competitive bidding, and commanded the commission’s many other decisions with their majority.

  • Who curates and selects which commends are considered “latest comments?” Why aren’t ALL comments listed in this website???

  • Why should she even consider playing by the rules? I mean, Gregg Toney hasnt been truthfull on any issue or question in the past three decades. Hes been caught lying on official documents, lying to the governor, and lying to state and federal officials. When hes confronted, he looks around for a female audience, then grabs his crotch and laughs. Hes done nothing but benefit from his actions. So why would this smelly turd even consider following the rules?

  • Dan C / Fl Bulldog – you need a ‘Like’ icon on the comments. That said, yep, ethics and stuff is stipulated but that’s about it. The Broward OIG is a figure head.

    He and staff paid big bucks with our precious tax dollars. For what?
    Why bother…..

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