Broward School Board candidate Allen Zeman talks a good game when it comes to corruption. Zeman likes to use buzzwords like ethics and transparency. Yet, when REDBROWARD asked him about support from “mega-lobbyist” Neil Sterling, Zeman was anything but transparent.
Zeman did not respond to our phone call or emails about Sterling. After our story was published, Zeman scrubbed Neil Sterling from his campaign website. Allen Zeman would rather hide his ties to Neil Sterling than answer simple questions.
Let’s assume Zeman is victorious in his campaign against incumbent School Board Member Donna Korn.
What happens if Neil Sterling seeks a contract with Broward Schools?
A contract for what you ask? Isn’t Neil Sterling just a lobbyist?
Sterling is the owner of Blender Solutions, a Fort Lauderdale based technology company offering digital solutions to teachers and students. According to its website, Neil Sterling founded Blender Solutions thirteen years ago, the exact same time when School Board Member Beverly Gallagher was arrested on corruption charges. Sterling and his partner Barbara Miller were two of Gallagher’s closest advisors.
Two of Blender Solutions’ biggest clients are Miami-Dade Public Schools and The School District of Palm Beach County.
Sterling’s company sponsored technology conferences for Palm Beach Schools and “powers” the District’s website.
Makes sense that Fort Lauderdale native Neil Sterling would want to provide services for his hometown schools, no?
What would Board Member Allen Zeman if Blender Solutions seeks a deal with Broward Schools?
Why did Zeman use same picture of Neil Sterling that’s on the Blender Solutions website?
Broward voters deserve answers, no?
(Editors Note: This reporter served on the Broward Schools Diversity Committee as an appointee of two board members, the final one being Donna Korn. I have not had any contact with Korn since 2018.)
Broward School Board candidate Allen Zeman removed the endorsement by controversial “mega-lobbyist” Neil Sterling from his campaign website. Zeman’s move to hide Sterling’s support comes one day after REDBROWARD asked him about his ties to Sterling. Allen Zeman did not respond to our questions.
As REDBROWARD reported on Wednesday, Zeman told the Sun-Sentinel he would fight against the corruption plaguing Broward Schools.
“Changing culture is hard, but in this case, it must be done. Transparency needs to start now, before the election,” Zeman wrote. “The current culture is unacceptable and does disservice to our 30,000 employees, the students and all the parents of students. I will lead this effort by example.”
Allen Zeman thinks cozying up to Neil Sterling is leading by example?
Allen Zeman thinks refusing to answer questions about his ties to Neil Sterling is leading by example?
Allen Zeman thinks scrubbing Neil Sterling from his website to hide him from Broward voters is leading by example?
Some Zeman supporters and even a reporter or two think Neil Sterling’s involvement in Broward schools was too long ago to matter.
Sure, former School Board Member Beverly Gallagher was arrested 13 years ago. Yes, she finished her Federal prison sentence 9 years ago.
Yet many of the folks who helped perpetuate the corruption in Broward Schools still remain.
Others think Neil Sterling was just a lobbyist. No different from the average lobbyist pushing his or her client’s agenda.
While he was never charged with any crime, allow Bob Norman to fill in some blanks about the Neil Sterling saga:
Sterling is the quiet, behind-the-scenes corruptor at the School Board. He’s the one who helped get Beverly Gallagher a dubious job at Community Blood Centers before she was nabbed by the FBI in a corruption sting. He’s the one who holds fundraisers for School Board members that raise them tens of thousands of dollars at a pop from contractors and subcontractors who rode the board’s unnecessary school construction boom that looted hundreds of millions of dollars from taxpayers and helped saddle us all with $2 billion in district debt. He’s the one who partnered with political consultant Barbara Miller so that he could own the board members from their initial campaigns forward. And of course, he was the one who represented those same builders and architects before the board and helped get them hundreds of millions in contracts to fuel that same bogus building boom.
Although it sounds heinous, you might still think: But where’s the case? Easy. Look at Stephanie and Mitch Kraft. Now the Krafts are knee-deep in the corruption investigation involving dirty developers Bruce and Shawn Chait. That’s being handled by the State Attorney’s Office right now, but what nobody is talking about is the fact that Mitch Kraft, Stephanie’s husband, was secretly on Sterling’s payroll for the better part of two years.
Stephanie Kraft voted on Sterling’s projects every step of the way, never disclosing that her husband was being paid by the lobbyist. But here’s the coup de grace: Stephanie Kraft personally steered through a lucrative and highly controversial contract for Sterling’s client in the health care world, Vista Healthplan Inc., to make Vista the sole provider of health insurance for board employees.
She sat on the Superintendent’s Insurance Advisory Committee and used her position to back Vista. She helped the firm get a three-year contract to provide health insurance to 41,000 school district employees. The contract was worth $1.7 billion. That averages out to about $565 million a year. Previous contracts to cover school district employees had cost about $200 million a year. The reason for the huge increase has never been explained.
Vista has jacked up rates on employees’ children by as much as 45 percent. The huge rate increase will add hundreds of dollars each month to the bills of many shocked and dismayed employees. The committee on which Kraft sits voted unanimously to approve the increase before the full board voted to authorize it. The committee was made up of several district officials, a couple of union officials, and three board members, including Kraft, the terrible Bob Parks, and Robin Bartleman. Five companies made the short list, but the committee voted Vista as number one. It was Kraft’s job to rank the companies, and she led the charge for Vista. She gave Vista a whopping score of 95, versus her second-highest score of 81 for Humana. Of course, she never revealed that her husband was on Sterling’s payroll at the time.