Update: An earlier version did not make the point that Commissioner Romney Rogers was the only “No” vote against the project. I’m sorry if my mistake in leaving his vote out led anybody to believe he supported it.
BY BUDDY NEVINS
I have always been amazed how cheap it is to influence a Broward politician.
Take Fort Lauderdale.
The city’s was roasted for “misconduct” in the award of a $32 million contract to build the planned Fort Lauderdale Aquatic Center. The Inspector General said that the city’s bid process contained widespread “deficiencies” and a “violation” of state law governing purchasing.
No favoritism towards the winner of the contract — Recreational Design and Construction (RDC) – could be proven, the IG report stated.
But I gotta wonder if favoritism was there and just couldn’t be proved.
I looked at the campaign contribution reports for the four city commissioners who voted for the project — Romney Rogers was the only “No” vote. The contributions came in while they were discussing the project which was eventually handed to RDC.
RDC’s lobbyists were James Blosser, Hope Calhoun, Alain Jean, Neil Sterling and Stephanie Toothaker.
These five RDC lobbyists gave the five commissioners thousands of dollars in contributions. Here is just one sheet of contributions to Commissioner Bruce Roberts from individuals associated with the project or RDC (click to enlarge) :
Bruce Roberts: The former police chief got money, too. (Fort Lauderdale has a $250 contribution limit on city races.)
Note lobbyist Blosser’s wife held a fund raiser for Roberts (The first contribution listed.). Others associated with the project are listed on other sheets of Roberts’ contributions.
Roberts is not alone.
Former Commissioner Charlotte Rodstrom got at least $2,500 and then wrote a paean to the project in her newsletter, saying it represents “a major improvement” for the city.
Commissioer Bobby DeBose got roughly $1,600. Mayor Jack Seiler picked up $1,850.
We’re not talking huge sums. But believe me: This money buys access.
The lobbyists get their calls answered and get appointments with commissioners. For the average resident, reaching their commissioner is not as easy.
All this for a few grand and that backs up my point.
Fort Lauderdale’s Commission has always been a bargain basement buy for lobbyists. Lobbyists spread around a few thousand and win (are steered?) a deeply flawed $32 million contract.
Some believe the Fort Lauderdale commissioners are political whores. If so they are common streetwalkers, not chic call girls.