Yesterday, Broward County Commissioner Chip La Marca made a stunning announcement before the Broward County Commission discussed whether cease negotiations with the taxpayer-funded Young At Art(YAA) children’s museum in Davie. La Marca stated he discussed the agenda item with the County Attorney, “Due to a concern that I had a conflict of interest with the chairman of the board of directors of the Young At Art museum. Although there does not appear to be an actual conflict, in an abundance of caution to avoid the appearance of a conflict, I will remain on the dais for the item but I will not participate in the discussion…I have abstained from voting on the item.” La Marca’s close friend and adviser David Di Pietro is the chairman of the YAA board of directors.
La Marca did not recuse himself from an April 5, 2015 vote regarding Young At Art. In fact, County visitor logs show La Marca and Di Pietro met on April 4th to discuss the agenda item. The log states the two friends met alone. The April 5th vote was 8-0 with Commissioner Tim Ryan absent.
This reporter exposed a conflict regarding a 2014 Young At Art vote. David Di Pietro represented Chip La Marca in his recent foreclosure case. A review of the LaMarca case files shows David DiPietro filed most of the documents in the case.
On October 2, 2013, a Broward court order granted mediation between Wells Fargo and LaMarca, appointing a “Joy Speechler” as mediator. Local lawyers believe the court website misspelled mediator Jay Spechler’s name as “Joy Speechler.” Spechler, a former Broward County judge, is a prominent mediator who frequently works with DiPietro.
At the October 22, 2013 commission meeting, Chip LaMarca and seven other Broward County Commissioners voted to approve a new financial arrangement with a local children’s art museum. In the days before the vote, Mindy Shrago, Executive Director/CEO of Young At Art, visited commissioners. The Commission visitors log shows Shrago met with LaMarca on October 21, 2013 at 4:00pm.
Mindy Shrago is the wife of former Judge Jay Spechler. She is the mother of Zack and Ali Shrago Spechler, two of the YAA artists REDBROWARD revealed to be behind raunchy art exhibits.
LaMarca never mentioned a potential conflict of interest before casting his vote on the refinancing measure.
So why the change of heart from La Marca? What changed since April 5, 2016?
BROWARD HEALTH INVESTIGATION INVOLVING DI PIETRO & LA MARCA CONTINUES
Published reports state multiple investigations continue into the bidding practices at Broward Health. In March, Florida Governor Rick Scott removed David Di Pietro from his post as chairman of the North Broward Hospital District (Broward Health).
In April, REDBROWARD reported Mitch Berger’s investigation uncovered evidence LaMarca was the driving force behind the huge Zimmerman contract.
Chip LaMarca’s role in the $71 million dollar contract for Zimmerman Advertising dominates the 132 page report from Berger Singerman. 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.
LaMarca told the Sun-Sentinel he never made the threat. He called Peek’s testimony, a “ridiculous, outlandish statement.” LaMarca told the newspaper he quit his job at Zimmerman so he could, “speak freely to the lawyers writing the report to protect ‘my reputation and my name.’”
State investigators are still trying to gather information related to Zimmerman and LaMarca. Last month, 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 committed suicide in January.”
Did all these folks running around town with badges and subpoena power cause Chip La Marca’s change of heart?