Records show Pembroke Pines Vice Mayor Iris Siple pressured city manager Charlie Dodge to approve an event sponsored by the Optimist Club of West Pembroke Pines. Emails obtained by REDBROWARD show Siple contacted Dodge via her personal AOL email address. Last week, REDBROWARD exposed Siple’s use of her personal email to conduct city business as well as a large contribution to her campaign by the Optimist Club.
On March 10, 2015 at 6:45 pm, Siple sent the following email to Dodge:
“CD what is going on with the optimist permit for their carnival on the flamingo property? What is the conflict?”
The next day, Dodge explained another group had filed for a permit on the same day. He wrote, “This is similar to what happened last year when there was a major conflict with the Hispanic Chamber event because the Optimist partnered with the Broward Fair. It resulted in a loss for the Hispanic Fair.” Dodge explained he learned of the issue the day before from then-vice mayor Jay Schwartz. “I have not received any communication from the Optimist,” Dodge wrote. “We have instructed the Optimist year after year that they need to plan and coordinate better with the City, but it appears they make plans and come to the City at the last minute.”
Minutes later, Siple demanded to know who was hosting the competing carnival. Dodge informed Siple the Pembroke Pines Charter School carnival was being held on University Drive.
Siple responded, “Not sure what the problem is. Different dates and locations are very far from each other. Will draw from very different areas of attendees. I see no problem with allowing both.”
Six minutes later, Dodge approved the Optimist Club carnival. In his reply to Siple, Dodge made it clear he was not happy with the decision.
“I just repsonded to [Vincent] Gripp approving the event. Many are the same kids, Charter School students who plan [sic] Optimist sports. That is not the point,” Dodge wrote. “This event was just decided about three weeks ago. he never notified the city until yesterday, or that was the day I was advised about it.”
Siple’s only response was to ask if he told Grippa about the approval because “they r under a time deadline.”
Last week, REDBROWARD spoke to Vincent Grippa about the Optimist Club’s $500 contribution to Siple.
Grippa told REDBROWARD his group backed Siple due to her support of Pembroke Pines children. “[Siple] speaks up for the kids, she stands up and supports the youth of the community,” Grippa said.
According to State and Federal records, the Optimist Club of West Pembroke Pines is registered as a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization. Federal law expressly prohibits these groups from making political contributions.
Grippa said he was unaware the contribution was a violation of the law. He said he would contract their attorney to confirm it is indeed a violation.
The next day, REDBROWARD was contacted by Mario Costa, a former officer with the Optimist Club. Costa stated he was the accountant for the group. He claimed the Optimist Club became a 501 (c)(4). Under Federal rules, a 501(c)(4) can engage in political activities. When asked for documentation of the change, Costa urged REDBROWARD to “take his word for it.”
After repeatedly being asked for something in writing, Costa promised to find some document but he said, “I could put anything down on a piece of paper and give it to you.”
The Form 990 filed with IRS by the Optimist Club in 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011 show the group listed as a 501(c)(3).
State records show 2009 Articles of Incorporation, signed by Costa and Grippa, proclaiming the group to be a 501(c)(3). The records include the rules prohibiting political activities and campaign contributions.
Costa never produced the promised documentation. Siple has not responded to requests for comment.
Early voting is taking place now in Pembroke Pines. Siple is running against Ryann Greenberg and Chris Ziadie.