The leaders of the Children’s Services Council of Broward County (CSC) were told a non-profit organization tied to County Commissioner Dale Holness was actually a “Haitian TV station.” The CSC board members, including County Commissioner Sue Gunzburger, School Board Member Robin Bartleman, Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runice and CSC President Cindy Arenberg Seltzer, were being asked to approve a $115,000 media buy plan. Unfamiliar with many of the entities in the media plan, Commissioner Gunzburger asked Chief Communications Officer Sandra Bernard-Bastien to explain each item. RED BROWARD has obtained an audio recording of the February 2014 meeting where Bernard-Bastien said, “Community Access Center is a Haitian TV station.”
Last week, RED BROWARD exposed the Children’s Services Council media plan included a $5,000 payment to the Community Access Center (CAC). Bernard-Bastien told board members this “small amount of dollars” was a wise investment. She said, “What we found is that, for particularly Caribbean media, we spend $5,000 they give us $50,000.”
According to its website, the mission of Community Access Center is “to assist individuals and families with access to culturally competent, cost effective social and clinical services to ensure their needs are met and improves their quality of life.” Community Access Center appears to be a clearinghouse for dozens of government programs such as Medicaid, food stamps, free HIV testing, free pregnancy tests and services, voter registration, and immigration services. Federal records, State records and the CAC letterhead show Commissioner Dale Holness as a member of its board of directors.
Last April, Holness asked fellow commissioners to approve a $15,000 payment to Community Access Center. Commissioner Stacy Ritter called the request “pork.” Holness said the money would be spent on Haitian Cultural Month activities. The Commission, including Republican Chip LaMarca, approved his request.
Community Access Center is not a television station. Community Access Center is not a radio station. Community Access Center is not a newspaper publisher. But that did not stop the Children’s Services Council from paying Community Access Center for television interviews, radio interviews and newspaper advertisements.
According to the media agreement obtained by RED BROWARD, Community Access Center would produce two taped interviews with officials of the Children’s Services Council to “promote CSC Broward Aware Campaign and Summer Safety in the Haitian Community.” These interviews would air on Community Access Center’s “tele-access” show on Comcast. The Children’s Services Council paid $2,200 for thirty minutes of airtime on the Comcast public access channel.
Children’s Services Council paid Community Access Center $1,000 for two advertisements in Le Floridean newspaper. According to its website, Le Floridien has been “an important part of the day for the Haitian population’s most sophisticated readers” since 2001. The first ad, touting the “Broward Aware” event, was to run in the March 16-31, 2014 edition. However, that edition does not contain the half-page advertisement. The issue has advertisements for Community Access Center and Island TV, but nothing about “Broward Aware” or the Children’s Services Council.
The Children’s Services Council paid Community Access Center $1,800 of taxpayer dollars for “Haitian AM Radio-Interviews.” The interviews were to be spread out among three radio stations: WSRF 1580, WLQY 1320 and WJCC 1700. The agreement called for ten minute “in-studio” live interviews regarding the Broward Aware event in March and again in June for “Summer Safety.” Each interview was priced at $300 each.
Bernard-Bastien may have been to convince board members that Community Access Center was a “Haitian TV station,” but what about CSC President Cindy Arenberg Seltzer?
In March 2014, an episode of “Future First: Focus On Broward’s Children” was posted on the CSC’s YouTube channel. The program is hosted by Cindy Arenberg Seltzer. Sandra Bernard-Bastien is the executive producer. As RED BROWARD revealed last week, the Children’s Services Council spends more than $31,000 a year to produce the program which airs on the BECON channel.
This episode of “Future First” featured a panel discussion of the Affordable Healthcare Act, better known as Obamacare. One of the panelists was Magaly Prezeau, CEO of Community Access Center. Arenberg Seltzer asked Prezeau about confused first-time insurance buyers. Prezeau said Caribbean immigrants were confused about the difference between “free” insurance and “affordable” insurance. She mentioned confusion surrounding immigration status, Medicaid and undocumented immigrants.
The credits state this episode was recorded in “February 2014.” The CSC board meeting was held on February 11, 2014.
Did Cindy Arenberg Seltzer know Sandra Bernard-Bastien was misleading CSC board members when she said Community Access Center was a “Haitian TV station?’ Who told Bernard-Bastien that Community Access Center was able to broker media deals and produce television interviews?
What is the true nature of Community Access Center? Does it deliver social services to Broward residents or is it a “TV station.” What is Commissioner Dale Holness’ real involvement in Community Access Center?
Broward voters deserve answers before the reauthorization of the Children’s Services Council appears on the November ballot.