Campaign finance records show the owner of the Jamaica Tallawahs cricket team gave more than $11,000 to Broward County Commissioner Mark Bogen before the Commission voted to give up control of the cricket stadium. As REDBROWARD reported, in June 2017, the Broward County Commission gave control of events at the taxpayer-owned Central Broward Regional Park to Krishna Persaud and Worldwide Sports Management Group. First proposed in December 2016, Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness pushed for the County to give control to Persaud. Commissioners voted to bypass requirements to guarantee a competive process and negotiate directly with Persaud.  County staff and auditors were opposed to this “no-bid” process.

In February, REDBROWARD exposed how Dale Holness’ close ties to Krishna Persaud may have lead the Commissioner to reward his foreign campaign donors with a long-term contract to operate the cricket facilities at the Central Broward Regional Park.  Published reports in December 2016 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.

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. By the time of the meeting, staff had not received financial statements from Persaud or Worldwide Sports Management Group.

FOREIGN DONOR FUNDED HOLNESS’ 2016 CAMPAIGN

Last summer, 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.

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. According to the Broward Supervisor of Elections website, Latino Vote made two $1,000 campaign contributions to the Dale Holness campaign.

FOREIGN DONOR GIVES CAMPAIGN MONEY TO BOGEN RE-ELECTION

When the cricket stadium deal came up at the February 7, 2017 Broward County Commission meeting, Mark Bogen said the County should negotiate a deal with Krishna Persaud. Bogen said a deal would be a “win-win” for everybody. Nineteen days later, several companies owned by Krishna Persaud gave $11,000 to County Commissioner Mark Bogen’s 2018 re-election campaign.

Campaign treasure reports, filed with the Broward Supervisor of Elections Office, show Mark Bogen received thirteen campaign contributions from companies owned by Krishna Persaud. These compaines were Silver Palm Square LLC, Windsor Forest Apartments, Oasis Square, Oakland Hills Square, Lauder Ridge Apartments, KFC Properties LLC, Emerald Place Apartments, Canterbury Square, Golf Villas Square, One Park Plaza, and Parrots Landing. Mark Bogen received $1,000 from each company. (Records show two duplicate contributions by “Canterbury Square” were refunded.) Bogen also received campaign contributions from Persaud’s lawyer, John Milledge.

One month later, Mark Bogen gave a full-throated endorsement of the Persaud deal. At the March 28, 2017 Broward County Commission meeting, other groups sought to submit bids to the County regarding the cricket stadium. Bogen, a lawyer, conducted a harsh cross-examination of Mahammad Qureshi, the man daring to bid against Krishna Persaud.

BOGEN BECOMES ADVOCATE FOR PERSAUD DEAL?

From the County Commission dais, Mark Bogen quizzed Qureshi about cricket events he conducted at the Central Broward Regional Park. Bogen asked Qureshi about a 2008 Memorial Day event at the park. Qureshi said his three day event drew about 5,000 spectators to an opening ceremony, a reggae performance and cricket matches. Then, Bogen called on a County Parks official to undermine Qureshi.

“Hey Dan [West], I–I just was curious. [I]t’s my understanding they’ve produced tournaments where three to 500 people attend, not 5,000” Bogen said. West stated the County sysyem to track attendance was not in place until 2012. “I don’t know–I’m not aware of the 2008 tournament,” West said. “We can certainly check that out.”

“No, I just–Okay,” Bogen said.

Then, Bogen gave a stunning insight into his lack of business acumen.

“When you have a business idea and somebody wants to come and say, hmm, I like that idea, I want to do it, that bothers me,” Bogen yelled. “It bothers me that–that [Qureshi]…never came to our County with this business idea.”

Bogen was not happy that Quresho dared to bid against Persaud’s “idea.” He said, “I don’t like that.”

Someone needs to tell Commissioner Mark Bogen that’s how capitalism works. Companies take an idea and try to do it better, faster and/or cheaper. It’s called competition. And competition is good for business and consumers.

McDonald’s vs Burger King. Ford vs Chevy. Amazon vs Wal-Mart. Coke vs Pepsi.

Businesses and consumers will examine competing companies to figure out who has the better product or better price or better reputation.

When Broward County Government needs goods or services, they solicit bids and proposals from interested businesses. To avoid even the appearance of impropriety, County staff will conduct a scoring for the bids and present their findings to the elected officials. In theory, it gives the County Commissioners all the information needed to make the best deals for County taxpayers without the influence of lobbyists and campaign contributions.

In the cricket stadium deal, County Commissioner Dale Holness wanted his fellow Commissioners to short circuit the process. Only two Commissioners voted against ingoring the County’s established bidding process.

Now, the whole thing looks bad. Did campaign contributions influence Commissioner Dale Holness and Commissioner Mark Bogen? Both men will say “of course not,” but it still looks bad, right?

If Mark Bogen had let the bidding process continue, County staff would have vetted both bids. Instead, Bogen acted like the judge and jury from the Commission dais.

Broward taxpayers deserve better.

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