Controversial Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness wants to reward his foreign campaign donors with a long-term contract to operate the cricket facilities at the Central Broward Regional Park in Lauderhill. Last December, published reports said Holness had been working for “nearly a year to bring this item forward.” Holness was working to give businessman Krishna Persaud control of the $80 million dollar cricket facility along Sunrise Boulevard. “Kris Persaud and his team members are willing to invest their own funds to help Broward County utilize CBRP[Central Broward Regional Park] & Stadium to fulfill its mission of providing international cricket games that will not only bring tourists to Broward County, but also grow our economy and create jobs for the people of Broward County,” said Commissioner Holness.
The Sun-Sentinel reported commissioners were open to Persaud controlling the “white elephant.” Persaud board he had “the means” to bring big cricket tournaments to Broward county. “There is now the opportunity for Broward County to realize the dream of those who planned and built this great facility,” Persaud wrote to the county on Nov. 30.
The item appears on Tuesday’s county commission meeting agenda.
COUNTY STAFF VOICES CONCERNS DURING NEGOTIATIONS
Broward County staff grew increasingly concerned during meetings with Krishna Persaud and lobbyist John Milledge. A January 17, 2017 negotiation meeting exposed the vague details surrounding Persaud’s attempt to gain control of CBRP. Persaud and his Worldwide Sports Management Group sought a five-year contract with 5 five-year renewal options plus control over booking all events at the park. In exchange, Persaud guaranteed $120,000 (in monthly installments) and three cricket events.
County staffers were skeptical of Persaud’s offer. By the time of the meeting, staff had not received financial statements from Persaud or Worldwide Sports Management Group. Staff tried to explain the submission of two-years worth of financial statements were common in any county deal. Persaud believed his reputation of being a wealthy businessman should be sufficient. He told staff, “I mean–it’s a well-known fact that the sponsor of this, and that’s me, okay, has the financial wherewithal.”
Persaud grew more annoyed with staff’s insistence on actual financial documentation. He said, “I’m being taken back, because I’m telling you, in 2016 I acquire $100 million in real estate. You’re telling me that you need the whole shebang for me to guarantee 10 or 15 thousand dollars a month to the Parks Department? I, you know, I’ll do it. But it’s style.”
Staff was concerned the $120,000 guaranteed payment was substantially less than the previous year’s revenue. Plus, Persaud was demanding use of the facilities for office space and use of a skybox. Also, Persaud refused to guarantee investments to improve the facility.
Staffers were concerned that two of the three events guaranteed by Persaud had been previously booked by county staff. They were concerned that all other events would be booked through Persaud’s group instead of the county. Persaud’s deal would give him near total control of the facility yet none of the burden of upkeep.
In the end, County staff believed other qualified bidders should be considered to operate the cricket facility.
So why was Dale Holness pushing for the deal? A deal that had been negotiated outside the normal bidding process?
PERSAUD FUNDED SHADOWY PRO-HOLNESS PAC
Last August, REDBROWARD exposed Persaud’s financial support of Dale Holness’ re-election campaign. The Latino Vote political committee was funded by Persaud, the director of Oxbridge RE Holdings, a Cayman Islands-based reinsurance company. Even though the political committee was formed in July 2015, it did not receive any contributions until August 2016. Four of the five contributions were tied to Krishna Persaud.
According to their website, Oxbridge RE Holdings is a “Cayman Islands reinsurance holding company that provides reinsurance business solutions primarily to property and casualty insurers in the Gulf Coast region of the United States. Through our wholly owned Cayman Islands reinsurance subsidiary, Oxbridge Reinsurance Limited, we write fully collateralized policies to cover property losses from specified catastrophes.” Basically, Oxbridge insures waterfront properties from risks posed by hurricanes. Oxbridge is closely tied to Homeowners Choice, Inc. (HCI) a private Tampa-based insurance company which is supposed to help Citizens Insurance. Published reports claim nearly all of Oxbridge’s revenue comes from dealings with HCI. Persaud is the former director of HCI and Oxbridge chairman Paresh Patel is the founder of HCI.
The four contributions to the Latino Vote group were made by real estate companies owned by Krishna and Sumentra Persaud. These same companies and others owned by Persaud have made direct contributions to Holness’ campaign. In Broward county, Persaud has regularly purchased foreclosed developments at bargain prices.
According to the Broward Supervisor of Elections website, Latino Vote made two $1,000 campaign contributions to the Dale Holness campaign.
In 2013, Tampa television investigators looked into the financial health of HCI. WFTS-ABC reported “Although Homeowners Choice’s parent company saw its New York Stock Exchange-listed common shares more than double in price during the past year, its insurance unit gets a “D” from Weiss Ratings, which evaluates the strength of financial services companies.” Investment watchdogs worried about HCI’s financial practices.
“Seven years on, they’re still not, in our opinion, able to deal with a severe catastrophe,” said analyst Gavin Magor. He was troubled that Homeowners Choice pays regular dividends to common shareholders so soon in its history. “It’s preferable for them not to do that,” he said. “And I would say that for any of these young startup companies.”
The Motley Fool website was stunned HCI used its finances to purchase waterfront real estate property instead of bonds. “Most insurers invest premiums held in reserve against future payments in conservative bonds and other fixed-income securities. This allows the insurer to earn investment profits while still maintaining its ability to pay claims. And even stranger, the company has purchased real estate — it spent $13.7 million to buy two marinas and an adjacent property that are susceptible to Gulf of Mexico storms.” The website called the practice a “red flag.”
Last August, REDBROWARD asked, if Broward County Commissioners have little say over Tampa and Cayman Island insurance companies, why the big push for Holness?