FDLE Investigation Exposed Chip LaMarca Close Ties To Another Broward Health Commissioner

  The drama swirling around Broward Health is not the first time County Commissioner Chip LaMarca has been front and center in a Florida Department Of Law Enforcement (FDLE) investigation. According to numerous published reports, the FBI, FDLE and the Office of Inspector General (OIG) are looking into various contracts at Broward Health including a $71 million dollar deal with Zimmerman Advertising. Until last week, LaMarca was the vice president of community relations for Zimmerman Advertising.  As REDBROWARD reported yesterday, lawyers hired by Broward Health believed LaMarca to be the leading advocate for the massive multi-million dollar deal.

But in 2006, FDLE investigated Chip LaMarca’s role at a local electrical construction firm. The FDLE report exposes close ties between Chip LaMarca and the family of Broward Health Commissioner Maureen Spieker Canada.

On November 1, 2006, FDLE Special Agent Joseph Demma and Special Agent Supervisor Dan Cerione met with Robert Morgan, CEO of MGI Morgan General Mechanical Group and Wiliam Buckham of MWI Moving Water Industries to discuss “The unlawful and fraudulent use of Mr. Brown’s company name and Contractor License…by a former employee, Charles ‘Chip’ John LaMarca.” The FDLE agents were told LaMarca used Brown’s information to obtain notarized electrical permits from the City of Riviera Beach. Morgan provided a proposal document, on MGI letterehead, to Transparent Protection Systems. The proposal was signed by J. Charlie French of Transparent and LaMarca. When Morgan spoke with French, he told Morgan, “Mr. LaMarca stated to just write the check out to me, it will be cheaper for you.” French followed LaMarca’s instructions.

Morgan stated he fired LaMarca on September 20, 2006.

FDLE secured the assistance of the Broward State Attorney’s Office to further investigate the matter. The FDLE stated the investigated was based upon Morgan’s allegations of fraud, forgery, notary violation and possible official misconduct. In 2006, LaMarca was a City of Lighthouse Point commissioner.

On November 6, 2006, the Broward State Attorney’s Office issued two subpoenas for Chip LaMarca’s bank records. FDLE determined LaMarca paid for permits from Riviera Beach and Boca Raton with checks from his personal checking accounts. The Riviera Beach permit check was signed by LaMarca. The check for the Boca Raton permit was signed by his wife, Eileen LaMarca.

LAMARCA GOES ON THE OFFENSIVE

Following the review of personal and business banking records, FDLE decided to reach out to LaMarca’s current employers. On June 5, 2008, FDLE spoke with R.T. Armstrong, vice president of Kreg Electric, Inc. Armstrong stated LaMarca sells and installs generators. Armstrong said when the time comes to hook the generators to a transfer switch, “Kreg Electric applies for the appropriate permit and paperwork and a certified electrician completes the installation.” Armstrong had no complaints about LaMarca.

As the FDLE agent left Kreg Electric, LaMarca called the agent’s cellular telephone. LaMarca wanted to know why the FDLE was asking questions about him. LaMarca said his relationship with MGI had “deteriorated and as a result, employees of the company became bitter and provided information to the business community that was less than accurate. Mr. LaMarca attributed the situation to the failed business relationship.”

LAMARCA TALKS TO FDLE

Five days later, FDLE Special Agent James Futch interviewed Chip LaMarca. He described his role at MGI. He said he would arrange the sale and installation of residential and commercial generators. LaMarca said he was “not a licensed electrical contractor and as such could not acquire an electrical permit or conduct the electrical connections.”

LaMarca claimed his relationship with Morgan turned bitter over his compensation. He claimed Morgan owned him $72,000 he never paid. After he “pressed the issue” to avail, LaMarca claimed he quit to work for Kreg Electric, Inc. According to the FDLE report, “Mr. LaMarca indicated he considered the issue to be in the past and wanted nothing more to do with the situation.”

LaMarca denied forging signatures, denied improperly notarizing a document and stated he never worked a job under the MGI name without giving MGI monies owed them.

REPORT SHOWS LAMARCA TIES TO ANOTHER BROWARD HEALTH COMMISSIONER

More than one year later, the Broward State Attorney declined to bring charges in the matter. However, FDLE investigators discovered irregularities in a generator installation job in Lighthouse Point.

The investigators focused on generators installed at the Lighthouse home of Christian D. Spieker. Robert Morgan told special agents a generator and concrete slab had been installed at Spieker’s home. Morgan stated he had no record of the job and received no money. Morgan believed the installation would have a $12,000 price tag.

Morgan believed the Spieker installation may have been absorbed into a $250,000 installation at the Lighthouse Point marina. FDLE determined Spieker owned the marina. FDLE agents pulled the permit for the Spieker home installation.

Morgan stated the document contained his signature, but the job “was not submitted through MGI and he had no prior knowledge of this job’s existence. When presented with the permit for the Lighthouse Point Marina job, Morgan stated the signature was not his. Both permits were notarized by LaMarca.

According to State records, the Lighthouse Point Marina is owned and operated by Christian Spieker and his sister, Maureen Spieker Canada.  In 2014, Canada was appointed to the Broward Health Board of Commissioners. LaMarca was reference for Canada on her application for the position. In 2015, Chip LaMarca appointed Christian Spieker to the Broward Marine Advisory Committee.

CANADA RUNNING INTERFERENCE?

Last week, Canada urged fellow commissioners to delay naming a new board chair. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel quoted Canada attacking Florida Inspector General Melinda Miguel over Governor Rick Scott’s removal of David DiPietro and Darryl Wright from the board. Canada said, “If she disagrees with our decision as a board, that is not a basis for the suspension of the commissioners.”

Investigation Documents Chip LaMarca’s Threats and Intimidation Of Broward Health Employees

An investigation by the Berger Singerman law firm discovered a pattern of threats and intimidation directed by Broward County Commissioner Chip LaMarca at Broward Health employees. Berger Singerman was hired by the Broward Health commissioners to monitor the Inspector General of Florida investigation into claims of corruption involving contract procurement at the North Broward Hospital District. Mitchell Berger and lawyers at his firm interviewed LaMarca and Broward Health officials regarding a multi-million dollar contract with Zimmerman Advertising.

Chip LaMarca’s role in the $71 million dollar contract for Zimmerman Advertising dominates the 132 page report from Berger Singerman. The report was made public at last week’s meeting of the Broward Health Board. Over the weekend, many news reports focused upon an August 2015 meeting at a North Broward Waffle House restaurant.

Chip LaMarca met the late Dr. Nabil El Sanadi and Doris Peek, a Broward Health senior vice president to discuss the Zimmerman Advertising contract. While LaMarca claims Zimmerman hired him to perform “community relations,” the Berger Singerman report shows he was the main force pushing the contract. According to the report, Peek claims LaMarca threatened El Sanadi. Peek stated the purpose of the meeting “was to discuss Zimmerman’s desire to epand its contract with the District and Mr. LaMarca carried the conversation.” LaMarca told Berger Singerman lawyers that El Sanadi called for the meeting. LaMarca said El Sanadi wanted his advice on “how El Sanadi should approach Mr. Zimmerman about the maketing issue.” Peek claims LaMarca stated at this meeting that his role at Zimmerman was to develop new business for Zimmerman Advertising.

At the same meeting, Peek stated LaMarca asked Broward Health to move its marketing working group meetings to a new night. The group met on Tuesdays, the same day as Broward County Commission meetings. When she asked why he wanted to attend these meetings, Peek claims LaMarca said, “he wished to identify new opportunities which could be mutually beneficial to the District and Zimmerman.”

During the Waffle House meeting, Peek claims Chip LaMarca leveled a direct threat at El Sanadi. Peek told investigators that LaMarca said, “I put you here, and I can take you out.” Peek believes LaMarca wanted El Sanadi to support the lucrative contract for Zimmerman Advertising. El Sanadi committed suicide earlier this year.

LAMARCA GOES ON THE OFFENSIVE

After news of the threat went public, Chip LaMarca moved quickly to deny that it ever happened.  LaMarca told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel it was “ridiculous, outlandish statement.” In an interview with the Florida Bulldog, LaMarca said, “Having been raised by a good mother, the only way I can describe that woman [Peek] is that she was untruthful.” LaMarca told Bob Norman of WPLG Local 10 News, “This is an unfactual allegation. It’s a lie….I wouldn’t threaten a friend.”

The Berger Singerman reports states LaMarca ire may have been directed at Doris Peek as well. Peek was originally scheduled to deliver the Zimmerman proposal to the Broward Health board, but Berger Singerman lawyers learned El Sanadi wanted Peek “removed from the process” because “members of the Zimmerman team were complaining about her ‘interference’ and ‘obstruction.'” Peek believed Jordan Zimmerman and Chip LaMarca tried to get her fired many times between 2015 and El Sanadi’s death in 2016.

LaMarca denied her tried to get Peek fired, “Although he did concede that he believed her to be ‘skeptical’ of Zimmerman’s abilities.”

LaMarca claims he resigned as Vice President of Community Relations for Zimmerman Advertising on March 25 in order to talk to Berger Singerman lawyers. On the same day, lawyers for Zimmerman Advertising advised Berger Singerman they spoke to the Chief Inspector General of Florida. William Shepherd of Holland & Knight wrote, “We have offered to cooperate in [the Inspector General] formal investigation if she feels that is necessary; however, at this time, it does not seem appropriate to work with your law firm in its private engagement.” Why would Chip LaMarca decide not to wait for the Inspector General? Has LaMarca already talked to State investigators? Why would he give up a lucrative job to speak with Berger Singerman lawyers? Was he aware of Peek’s allegations before his interview?