BY BUDDY NEVINS
Bill Bodenhamer, Broward’s parking czar
A long-time Broward political insider’s company is being blocked from extending its airport parking contract after being accused of “knowingly submitted false invoices for payments to the county on over 100 occasions,” according to documents obtained by Browardbeat.com.
Broward Aviation Director Kent George alleges in a letter to county commissioners that the USA Parking admits to the doctoring the invoices from 2005-2007.
USA Parking’s lawyer vehemently denied the charges.
“As for the November 8 letter referring to ‘false invoices’, that characterization is misleading and inaccurate,” said Joseph M. Goldstein of Shutts & Bowen law firm in an e-mail to Browardbeat.com.
The fight is over managing the airport’s 11,644-space public garages and outdoor lots, which have $40 million in annual parking revenue. It will pit powerbroker and USA Parking Chief Executive Officer Bill Bodenhamer against George, who was hired to run the airport in 2007after doing the same thing in Pittsburg, PA.
Bodenhamer is a long-time downtown Fort Lauderdale political player, reliable campaign contributor and a member of the Downtown Development Authority of Fort Lauderdale.
He founded USA Parking in 1980. It now manages roughly 66,000 parking in five states and Puerto Rico and has $130 million in revenue.
Commission sources say Bodenhamer fears his reputation is being threatened by the Aviation chief’s allegations.
The parking titan is preparing for all out war. He has 10 lobbyists registered for the battle, including some of the most durable in Broward.
Among them are Jim Scott, a former County Commissioner and former Florida Senate President; Billy Rubin, a long-time insider who is close to former Sheriff Ken Jenne, Gov. Rick Scott and several commissioners; Judy Stern, who doubles as a political strategist who worked on several commissioners’ campaigns; Alain Jean, a former operative for Jenne, and Ron Book, who is part of almost every major deal in South Florida for over 25 years.
The existing contract expires on Dec. 14. Kent wants to extend the contract on a month-by-month basis until a new management group is picked from three of the four companies that submitted proposals.
The fourth company is USA Parking and Kent told commissioners in his letter he is excluding it because of the past problems with the invoices.
“Aviation does not intend to present to the Board (of County Commissioners) an extension to the USA Parking Systems Inc. existing contract or include USA Parking Systems Inc. in the negotiations of the temporary month-to-month contract,” Kent wrote.
USA Parking is fighting the exclusion.
“We have filed a bid protest appeal to this determination, which is pending,” USA Parking’s lawyer Goldstein wrote.
This is landing in the laps of the commission less than a month after the new commissioners Martin Kiar and Tim Ryan take office. The swearing in is scheduled for Nov. 20.
Kiar and Ryan are former Florida House members, thus are used to being lobbied on controversial issues worth millions of dollars. In fact, several of Bodenhammer’s lobbyists like Scott, Rubin and Book work in Tallahassee.
Ryan received campaign contributions this year from both Scott, his law firm and Stern. She also helped manage his campaign.
Although he was unopposed, Kiar received contributions from Stern, Rubin’s company, Book and Book’s company.
Bodenhamer’s company and/or all his 10 lobbyists are regular contributors in many commission campaigns.
One commissioner best summed up the dispute in today’s succinct language of a text message:
“Staff is pissed at USA. Really pissed and r trying to destroy and discredit the company. USA is worried about its future with Broward.”