Is the legal team for former Broward Health Chairman David Di Pietro trying to stop REDBROWARD from publishing an embarrassing story tied to the Young At Art Children’s Museum in Davie?
On March 18, 2016, Florida Governor Rick Scott removed Di Pietro from his Broward Health post over “‘grave concerns’ about interference by board members into a state investigation of the public hospital system.” Di Pietro hired six lawyers to fight Governor Scott’s decision. Di Pietro’s legal dream team included Brian Silber, Bruce Green and Jay Spechler.
INTIMIDATION AT BROWARD HEALTH
In response to Di Pietro’s lawsuit, Governor Scott cited a letter from his Chief Inspector General who was conducting an investigation of the Broward Health Board and contracts at the District. Scott’s legal brief stated, “Board Members may have the authority…and there are suspicions about pressure being applied by certain Board members on staff of Broward Health to steer contracts to various entities.”
According to published reports, investigators are looking into a multi-million dollar contract between Broward Health and Zimmerman Advertising. At the time the $70 million dollar contract was being negotiated, Broward County Commissioner Chip La Marca was an employee of Zimmerman Advertising. David Di Pietro is a close friend, political adviser and lawyer for La Marca.
REDBROWARD reported an investigation by the Berger Singerman law firm discovered a pattern of threats and intimidation directed by County Commissioner Chip LaMarca at Broward Health employees. Berger Singerman was hired by the Broward Health commissioners to monitor the Inspector General of Florida investigation into claims of corruption involving contract procurement at the North Broward Hospital District. Mitchell Berger and lawyers at his firm interviewed LaMarca and Broward Health officials regarding the multi-million dollar contract with Zimmerman Advertising.
Chip LaMarca’s role in the $71 million dollar contract for Zimmerman Advertising dominates the 132 page report from Berger Singerman. The report details an August 2015 meeting at a North Broward Waffle House restaurant.
Chip LaMarca met the late Dr. Nabil El Sanadi and Doris Peek, a Broward Health senior vice president to discuss the Zimmerman Advertising contract. While LaMarca claims Zimmerman hired him to perform “community relations,” the Berger Singerman report shows he was the main force pushing the contract. According to the report, Peek claims LaMarca threatened El Sanadi. Peek stated the purpose of the meeting “was to discuss Zimmerman’s desire to epand its contract with the District and Mr. LaMarca carried the conversation.” LaMarca told Berger Singerman lawyers that El Sanadi called for the meeting. LaMarca said El Sanadi wanted his advice on “how El Sanadi should approach Mr. Zimmerman about the maketing issue.” Peek claims LaMarca stated at this meeting that his role at Zimmerman was to develop new business for Zimmerman Advertising.
At the same meeting, Peek stated LaMarca asked Broward Health to move its marketing working group meetings to a new night. The group met on Tuesdays, the same day as Broward County Commission meetings. When she asked why he wanted to attend these meetings, Peek claims LaMarca said, “he wished to identify new opportunities which could be mutually beneficial to the District and Zimmerman.”
During the Waffle House meeting, Peek claims Chip LaMarca leveled a direct threat at El Sanadi. Peek told investigators that LaMarca said, “I put you here, and I can take you out.” Peek believes LaMarca wanted El Sanadi to support the lucrative contract for Zimmerman Advertising. El Sanadi committed suicide earlier this year.
Last week, POLITICO reported Broward Health has not turned over documents related to Chip LaMarca. “Melinda Miguel, Scott’s chief inspector general, sent a letter to Broward Health Board of Commissioners Chairman Rocky Rodriguez Monday saying she was ‘deeply troubled by what may be an intentional effort to withhold requested emails from my office’ and told him that Broward Health has until Sept. 23 to provide her office with all the emails she requested from the health care district.” According to POLITICO reporter Christine Sexton, “Miguel’s letter specifically notes that she is looking for emails from Chip LaMarca, Broward County Commissioner and Vice President of Community Relations for the Zimmerman Advertising Agency; former commissioner and board chairman David Di Pietro; and, former Chief Executive Officer Nabil El Sanadi, who commited suicide in January.
Even though he’s no longer the chairman of Broward Health, David Di Pietro still heads at least one local board. He is the Chairman of the Board of the Young At Art (YAA) Children’s Museum. The executive director of YAA is Mindy Shrago, the wife of Jay Spechler. As REDBROWARD reported last year, YAA is battling the Broward County Commission over loan payments. According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Broward County invested $20.6 million into YAA, expecting $11.2 million back in 11 years. But the museum defaulted almost immediately after the museum opened in 2012. The deal was changed to allow YAA to repay the money over 37 years. Sun-Sentinel reporter Brittany Wallman wrote, “County Auditor Evan Lukic said in a recent memo the museum isn’t honoring that agreement, either. The museum was to give the county half of any pledge payments, a tab Lukic says was underpaid by $240,888. Lukic also doubted the museum’s ability to pay what it owes in the future.”
Di Pietro told Wallman, “People want to give money to not-for-profit museums….They don’t want to give money to the government.”
WHO WANTS TO SILENCE RED BROWARD?
During early voting last month, Silber, Spechler and Di Pietro were spotted campaigning for Judge Nina Weatherly Di Pietro, Mrs. David Di Pietro. In a conversation with Spechler and his wife Mindy Shrago at the Coral Ridge Mall early voting location, this reporter asked Spechler about an issue concerning Young At Art Museum. Spechler, a former Broward County Judge, became enraged. Spechler asked this reporter how he would “feel if somebody came after your kids.” When this reported asked if Spechler was issuing a threat, Shrago implored her husband to calm down because, “we’re so close to a new deal” with Broward County.
Less than a month later, one of Di Pietro’s lawyer sent a legal letter to Broward Health Commissioner Sheela Van Hoose. On September 6, attorney Bruce Green sent a letter to Van Hoose demanding she preserve all emails, data and equipment related to REDBROWARD.com. At one point, Van Hoose owned the REDBROWARD domain name. Green wrote, “We consider personnel information and electronic data to be a valuable and irreplaceable source of discovert and/or evidence in this matter. The laws and rules prohibiting destruction of evidence apply to electronic data with the same force as they apply to other kinds of evidence.”
Green never stated the “matter” involving REDBROWARD.com. There is no ongoing legal matter. Green never identified his client. It appears Green’s letter is an attempt to intimidate REDBROWARD and/or Van Hoose with the threat of some future legal action.
Shortly after the Green letter was sent, an emissary was sent by Spechler to an intermediary to broker a “truce.” They were told to contract REDBROWARD directly. The next day, somenone posted a picture of this reporter and his family on the JAABlaw website. The minor children of this reporter were clearly visible in the photograph. The post included a link to a gay slur and a heavy dose of body shaming. The operator of the website pulled the post. Thank you.