The Children’s Service Council of Broward County paid the CEO of local non-profit organization for television advertisement just days before it terminated the group’s contracts for a “substantial and insurmountable cash flow crisis.” On March 10, 2014, the Children’s Services Council paid $2000 to the Haitian Broadcasting Network of America to produce television commercials. According to State records, Francois Leconte is the president of the Haitian Broadcasting Network Of America, Inc. Official State records show Leconte is also the president/CEO of Minority Development and Empowerment, Inc. (MDEI). On March 20, 2014 the Children’s Services Council of Broward County terminated its contracts with MDEI.
Children’s Services Council of Broward County entered into two contracts with Leconte and MDEI worth $346,976 of taxpayer dollars. MDEI received $246,976 for a “Youth Force” program at Pompano Beach Middle School. At the March 20, 2014 Children’s Services board meeting, several council members “expressed concern about alleged failure of MDEI to pay staff hired pursuant to their contract with the Children’s Services Council.” According to the meeting minutes, Leconte called on March 18, 2014 to formally request the “early and immediate termination” of the contracts with MDEI. CSC board members were told “a series of non-CSC contract circumstance have created a substantial and insurmountable cash flow crisis that has left agency unable to meet payroll and other financial obligations.”
The Children’s Services Council terminated the contracts with MDEI and transferred them to HANDY and Hispanic Unity of Florida. The agreement with Leconte for television advertisments was never mentioned.
The “substantial and insurmountable cash flow crisis” at MDEI might be related to the actions of the City of Fort Lauderdale Community Services Board. On December 9, 2013, the Community Services Board voted to defund MDEI as “quickly as possible.” MDEI had received $118,000 to assist in HIV/AIDS testing and housing for people with HIV/AIDS. According to the board meeting minutes, City of Fort Lauderdale staff stated monitoring of MDEI was “problematic.” The Housing Administrator said, “Invoicing issues occurred when some receipts did not match the amounts requested, and payments were stopped. MDEI was instructed that canceled checks must be submitted with all reimbursement requests; however, some vendors did not have canceled checks, which resulted in rejection of those invoices. Other difficulties include receipt of incorrect documents and MDEI staff issues.” Staff stated, “The City Attorney’s Office has been made aware of MDEI’s issues since July 2013. He clarified that the $118,000 provided to MDEI was for assistance in staffing: none of these funds went toward a financial housing subsidy.”
The decision to pay Leconte for advertisements mirrors the Children’s Services Council’s decision to pay Community Access Center for media advertisements. Yesterday, RED BROWARD revealed the Children’s Services Council agreed to pay $5000 to the Community Access Center to purchase television advertising. This local non-profit organization is tied to Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness.
Why did the Children’s Services Council decide to purchase airtime on an obscure television station? Was this purchase part of Bitner Goodman’s $55,000 media plan? Were Children’s Services Council officials aware of Leconte’s involvement in Haitian Broadcasting Network of America? Were the commercials produced? Did the commericals actually air? Did CSC officials attempt to cancel the agreement after the MDEI contracts were terminated? Were CSC officials aware of Leconte’s partisan political activities?
In 2012, Broward Clerk of Courts Howard Forman paid Leconte $600 for campaign work. Last April, MDEI hosted a press conference for Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. RED BROWARD reported how Hispanic Unity Of Florida, also supported by CSC, hosts Wasserman Schultz press conferences.
In 2009, MDEI hosted the “Spirit of the Caribbean Awards” at the Signature Grand in Davie. MDEI gave the “Government Leadership” award to Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. The group gave its “Inspirational Leadership” award to Sandra Bernard Bastien of the Children Services Council of Broward County. Leconte said, “Florida is one of the most diverse states in the Nation, and we feel these individuals and organizations go above and beyond to celebrate and appreciate the pluralism in our community.”
Now, Children’s Services Council President/CEO Cindy Arenberg Seltzer needs to go “above and beyond” by answering questions about how the CSC is spending $55 million dollars of taxpayers’ money. She needs to give answers before voters see the CSC reauthorization question on the November 2014 ballot.