Two of the most controversial County Commissioners from Miami-Dade and Broward appeared to form an alliance in order to influence the 2020 Election, federal records show. In October, a company owned by relatives of Miami-Dade Commissioner Keon Hardemon made a large contribution to the “People of Principle PAC” based in Margate. In September, REDBROWARD revealed Broward Mayor Dale Holness’ campaign team appeared to be behind the mysterious federal political committee backing mostly black candidates.
In numerous mailers sent to Broward Democrats, the People of Principle PAC urged voters to use “your voice” by supporting Dale Holness, Congressman Alcee Hastings and other black candidates. Even though the mailer stated “#BlackVotesMatter” and “#BlackExcellence,” the piece included several white candidates such as Judge Frank Ledee, Judge Patti Englander Henning and Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz.
Records show Holness’ longtime campaign marketing guru Omar Smith is tied to the “People Over Principle PAC.”
Federal Election Commission (FEC) records show People of Principle PAC was created by Charmalin Brown in January 2019. Brown used the address of a Margate UPS store as the headquarters for the political committee. In April 2019, Charmalin Brown purchased the domain name currently used by People Of Principle PAC.
State corporation records show Charmalin Brown, a tax preparer, started a business in 2006 using Omar Smith as her registered agent. Brown used a home on the 300 block of Berenger Walk in Royal Palm Beach as her business address. Numerous records show Omar Smith uses the same Berenger Walk address.
At the time of our first report, Federal records showed People of Principle PAC failed to report its financial information. The FEC sent “failure to file” notices on August 15, 2019, February 19, 2020 and May 1, 2020 to the committee.
Now, the Federal Elections Commission website lists numerous contributions to People Of Principle PAC.
HARDEMON FAMILY FUNDS SHADY BROWARD PAC
On October 3, 2020, B and B Professional Consultants, Inc. made a $2,500 contribution to the federal “People of Principle PAC.” State business records show B and B Professional Consultants, Inc. is owned by Keon Hardemon’s aunt, Barbara Hardemon.
According to published reports, Barbara Hardemon and her husband Billy Hardemon are closely tied to projects coming before the Miami City Commission where Keon Hardemon served before winning a seat on the Miami-Dade County Commission.
In March 2019, the Miami Herald featured Barbara Hardemon in “How Miami commissioner’s aunt became a high-priced lobbyist.“
After failing the previous year to convince the city to hold a voter referendum on the project at Jungle Island, real estate investment firm ESJ Capital Partners hired Barbara Hardemon to hurriedly set up meetings during the first week in June with Commissioner Keon Hardemon’s staff. Over a 48-hour stretch, they say she assisted in negotiating a deal that will steer millions into housing and economic development funds during the life of the park’s extended lease on Watson Island and helped nail down her nephew’s support for a voter referendum.
One month later, Barbara Hardemon was hired again, this time by David Beckham’s Major League Soccer franchise as it neared a make-or-break vote on a $1 billion stadium and retail proposal. She registered three days before a scheduled vote and arranged a lunch at a waterfront restaurant between her nephew and the Mas brothers, the Miami businessmen who are part owners of the MLS franchise. Days later, Commissioner Hardemon voted in a close decision to put the proposal on the November ballot.
In August 2020, the Florida Bulldog exposed how one activist claimed Keon Hardemon funded a non-profit operated by Barbara and Billy Hardemon.
The same day, [Grady] Muhammad filed a letter with the city clerk addressed to Mayor Francis Suarez…attacking Hardemon for sponsoring and voting for resolutions that awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars in city and federal grants to the Martin Luther King Economic Development Corp. and the Foundation Of Community Assistance and Leadership, aka FOCAL, since he was first elected in 2013. Billy Hardemon is the economic development corporation’s volunteer chairman and his wife, Barbara, is FOCAL’s $25,094-a-year executive director. Their two daughters are also employed by the foundation, earning annual salaries of $70,494 and $50,989, respectively.
“Over the last seven years, Keon Hardemon has given…over seven million dollars via waving of competitive bids to both not-for-profit organizations headed by his uncle Billy and his auntie Barbara Hardemon,” Muhammad wrote.
According to the Bulldog, the actual amount given to the Hardemon’s non-profit was closer to $12 million dollars.
In response to the story, Keon Hardemon told the Bulldog, “Such an accusation just before election day is clearly an attempt by him and my opponents who know him well to organize and send an unpaid, illegal, and negative political advertisement with your assistance.”
“Billy Hardemon echoed his nephew’s comments. ‘Grady is obviously trying to slime Keon,’ Billy said. ‘I consider him a hater.'”
In 1996, the Miami-Dade government was rocked by the FBI investigation dubbed “Operation Green Palm.”
The Los Angeles Times reported, “Bahamian offshore bank accounts, shadowy meetings with informants on borrowed pleasure yachts, multimillion-dollar extortions, slush funds–this one might have it all. The once powerful are being brought low, including a lion of the Cuban-exile community, Cesar Odio, now facing charges that he allegedly shook down city vendors so he could buy a new Rolex.”
Elected officials were charged after Howard Gary recorded conversations documenting shakedown of companies seeking to do business in Miami. One of the officials charged was Miami-Dade County Commissioner James Burke.
In addition to Burke, a Federal grand jury indicted Burke’s aide, Billy Hardemon. According to the Sun-Sentinel, Hardemon claimed the charges were racist.
“The charges contained in this indictment are damnable lies,” Hardemon said. “This case is not Operation Greenpalm. Operation Greenpalm has turned into operation high-tech lynching.”
Hardemon, Burke and a third individual were “charged with 12 counts of conspiracy, bribery, money laundering and wire fraud. The government alleges they were involved in a bond kickback scheme involving the $180 million refinancing of a garbage recycling plant and a proposed $210 million bond issue to build a new Miami Heat arena.”
While Burke was convicted of the charges, Billy Hardemon was acquitted in 1999.
One year, Billy Hardemon entered into a plea agreement with the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office over charges stemming from misuse of campaign funds:
Don Ungurait, spokesman for the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office, said Hardemon accepted guilt but was not technically convicted.
That means Hardemon can say he has never been convicted, even though he will serve a year of probation.
Ungurait said Hardemon was accused of taking campaign contributions over the $500 limit and of having inaccurate campaign finance reports, then testifying that they were accurate.
Hardemon had also been charged with felony counts that accused him of using his campaign money to pay people who were not doing anything for the campaign, but those charges were dropped when a witness died and another recanted.
Even though Keon Hardemon serves in Miami-Dade, the Hardemon family has been involved in Broward politics for several years.
MIAMI ETHICS PROBE PUT SPOTLIGHT ON MIRAMAR GOVERNMENT
An August 2013 investigation by the Miami-Dade Ethics Commission exposed the role Billy and Barbara Hardemon played in City of Miramar politics. The 2013 complaint alleged Billy Hardemon, then an employee with the Miami-Dade County Department of Public Works and Waste Management (PWWM), spent “substantial amounts of county time, taken without authorized leave, in the City of Miramar, in Broward County…during hours when Hardemon was understood to be working at his Miami-Dade County job.”
What was Billy Hardemon doing in Miramar? According to the complaint, Hardemon attended numerous City of Miramar government meetings as the “de facto chief of staff” for Miramar City Commissioner Yvette Colburne. (Other employees claimed Hardemon served a similar role with Miramar City Commissioner Alexandra Davis).
In an interview with investigators, Colburne admitted Billy Hardemon was her “advisor.” She said his role was to advise her and “attend meetings for and with her.” While he assisted with her campaign, Colburne stated Hardemon was not paid or compensated in anyway.
However, investigators determined Colburne’s campaign paid $2,000 to B and B Professional Consultants, Inc., a company owned by Barbara Hardemon.
Colburne told investigators that Billy Hardemon and Barbara Hardemon were members of “Team Colburne.” As to his employment in Miami-Dade County, Colburne told investigators, “I felt that was being handled with his superiors.”
The whistleblower claimed Hardemon’s superior, PWWM director Kathleen Woods-Richardson, was fully aware of his violations.
When asked if she was aware of Hardemon working for Yvette Colburne in Miramar, Woods-Richardson told investigators, “absolutely not!”
Investigators were shocked by Woods-Richardson’s denial. In addition to calling Hardemon a “friend,” Woods-Richardson’s assistant was Yvette Colburne.
Additionally, the interview with Kathleen Woods-Richardson was held at the Miramar government center. After Colburne was elected to office, Woods-Richardson was named Miramar City Manager.
While the investigator was not persuaded by the testimony of Colburne and Woods-Richardson, he could find no evidence that Woods-Richardson “directed” Hardemon to work for Colburne in order to increase her chances of becoming city manager.
Both Yvette Colburne and Alexandra Davis are allies of Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness.
Miami. Miramar. And now, elections all over Broward. Will Hardemon’s influence extend further across Broward County? Does Dale Holness need allies in Miami-Dade County?
Do Broward residents really want Miami-Dade lobbyists and officials influencing their governments?