David Brown, Democrat candidate for Broward Supervisor of Elections, isn’t pulling any punches when it comes to the performance of his opponent. At a recent candidate forum in Plantation, Brown was highly-critical of Dr. Brenda Snipes’ performance of her official duties. Snipes was not present at the forum.
Brown blamed Snipes for Broward’s low voter turnout rates. He blasted Snipes’ acceptance of a $16,000 raise, vowing to decline any increase in salary until the turnout rate increases to the statewide average. Brown said Snipes has dropped the ball with early voting as well.
Brown said there is insufficient parking at early voting sites in western Broward. He said poll workers told him voters leave without casting a ballot because they cannot find a parking space at the Cooper City library.
Brown said Snipes was wrong to tout her early voting location at the the Coral Ridge Mall as a success. He said the Fort Lauderdale shopping center closed its doors an hour before voting was scheduled to end.
Brown said voters we left banging on doors on Sunday evening.
David Brown took a swipe at Snipes’ in-house lawyer, Burnadette Norris-Weeks for supporting local candidates.
According to the Broward Supervisor of Elections Office (SOE), Dr. Brenda Snipes’ “private contract” attorney operated without a contract for twelve years. Burnadette Norris-Weeks has been general counsel for SOE since 2003. The contract, provided by SOE, shows Norris-Weeks signed the “Attorney-Client Fee Contract” on January 1, 2015. Dr. Snipes did not sign the contract until May 14, 2015.
The contract states Norris-Weeks handles, “all legal matters as the assigned General Counsel for [Snipes].” Norris-Weeks receives a flat fee of $5,000 per month. The flat fee does not cover, “matters requiring travel outside of Broward County or litigation matters filed in Federal Court, in any court of appeals or administrative proceeding.” For those matters, SOE must pay Norris-Weeks $175 per hour.
Even with a contract, Snipes’ arrangement with Norris-Weeks is unique among Broward’s Constitutional Officers. Attorney Mila Schwartzreich is employed by Broward County Property Appraiser Lori Parrish. Vanessa Steinerts is employed by Broward Clerk of Courts Howard Forman. Ron Gunzburger heads a team of lawyers employed by Broward Sheriff Scott Israel. Norris-Weeks is not even listed on the SOE website.
Invoices obtained by REDBROWARD show Norris-Weeks was paid nearly $175,000 between 2012 and 2014. She billed SOE $175 per hour to answer questions from SOE employees and respond to emails from local political consultants. She even billed the same hourly rate to attend election canvassing meetings. During this three year period, Norris-Weeks earned thousands of dollars handling cases in Broward County courtrooms.
In July 2014, REDBROWARD reported Burnadette Norris-Weeks fought to keep non-Democrats from voting in the Broward Commission District 2 primary. In hearings to exclude bogus write-in candidate Tyron Francois from the ballot, Norris-Weeks gave Judge Sandra Perlman a myriad of excuses of why it was too late to open the August 26 primary to Republican and Independent voters. On July 11, Francois testified he did not live in District 2 at the time of qualifying. Francois admitted under oath that he knew Dale Holness’ daughter. Superlawyer William Scherer produced a photograph of Francois and Damara Holness.
RED BROWARD reported Burnadette Norris-Weeks is a longtime supporter of Dale Holness. In October 2012, she made a $500 contribution to Holness’ re-election campaign. Weeks later, Holness was a guest at Norris-Weeks “holiday party.” RED BROWARD obtained pictures of the party Norris-Weeks posted on Facebook. Norris-Weeks took exception to the reporting of her support for Holness. In a conversation with a Daily Broward contributor, she questioned why we did not report her contributions to other Broward Commissioners. Norris-Weeks said, “Last time I checked, there was no prohibition on giving a contribution and I fail to understand the link between the contribution and my responsibilities to my client as an attorney.”
Invoices submitted by Norris-Weeks show she was paid $5,057.50 for the two-day Francois hearing in July. Invoices related to the Francois matter, submitted between June and October 2014, total nearly $40,000 worth of taxpayer dollars.
REDBROWARD asked Dr. Snipes to explain why she did not have a contract with her private contract attorney for twelve years. We asked Dr. Snipes why she suddenly signed a contract in May 2015.
Dr. Snipes has not responded to our request for comment.
Mystery surrounds a $1,000 campaign contribution to Congressman Alcee Hastings reported yesterday to the Federal Elections Commission (FEC). The Hastings campaign listed a $1,000 contribution on June 30, 2015 by Mr. Aaron C. Weeks, Esq., a self-employed attorney from Fort Lauderdale. One problem, according to the Florida Bar, Mr. Aaron C. Weeks is not an attorney.
Aaron C. Weeks is married to Burnadette Norris-Weeks, the private contract attorney for the Broward Supervisor of Elections Office (SOE). The address used for the Hastings contribution is tied to Norris-Weeks’ non-profit organization, South Florida Women of Color Empowerment Institute. On its Facebook page, the Hastings campaign posted a photograph of the Congressman and Norris-Weeks at the June 30th fundraiser in Fort Lauderdale.
As the attorney for Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes, Norris-Weeks must surely be aware of the need for accurate information on campaign financial reports. These reports allow the public to follow the money given to politicians and candidates. The accuracy of these reports helps ward off undue influence on our political system.
Did the Hastings campaign make a mistake in its report to the FEC?
Did Norris-Weeks list herself as “Mrs. Aaron C. Weeks Esq.” and the campaign forgot the “s?” REDBROWARD could not find another contribution made under the name “Mrs. Aaron C. Weeks.” Also, two local lawyers had never seen a case of a married attorney using “Esq.” in conjunction with the use of spouse’s name.
Was someone trying to hide the contribution to Hastings?
Over the last few months, REDBROWARD exposed the political and financial ties between Congressman Hastings and Norris-Weeks. The ties included payments from the Hastings campaign to Norris-Weeks. In 2012 Hastings gave Norris-Weeks money for her “Step Up To The Polls” voting event and presented her with the Mildred Hastings Tenacity Award. Additionally, Hastings has sponsored Norris-Weeks’ Women of Color Empowerment Conferences.
How much influence does Congressman Alcee Hastings have over the elections process in Broward County?
Will Hastings fix the FEC report?
Broward voters deserve answers from Congressman Alcee Hastings, Dr. Brenda Snipes and Burnadette Norris-Weeks.