While the average citizen may think lobbyists introduce politicians to their special interest clients, sworn testimony shows Hallandale Beach Keith London introduced his lobbyist ally Evan Ross to Gulfstream Park Casino executives. As REDBROWARD reported, London and Ross gave sworn testimony to the Broward State Attorney’s Office in early 2017. Their testimony was part of the State Attorney’s Office investigation of former Hallandale Beach Vice Mayor Bill Julian. The probe started after London and Ross leaked recordings of Julian to a local television station. The Broward State Attorney believed Julian was the victim of a political dirty trick and cleared him of any wrongdoing.
In his February 20, 2017 sworn testimony Keith London said Evan Ross was “helping” him with a Diplomat Hotel development project at the time the Julian recordings were made. London said he was not paying him. Asked how Ross was helping, London testified, “By exposing Bill Julian’s–exposing Bill Julian to be the patsy that he is, and the guy that really didn’t care about the city and just was there to be Joy Cooper’s lap dog.”
London explained he met Evan Ross in 2014 at a campaign event for Florida House Representative Joe Geller. “Evan was helping his campaign,” London said. Schulson asked what triggered Ross’ interest in Hallandale Beach.
“We became friendly in 2014 after we met at the Joe Geller event,” London said.
Soon after their meeting, Evan Ross became involved in Hallandale Beach politics although London could not tell when Ross started coming to meetings.
LONDON INTRODUCED ROSS TO GAMING INDUSTRY BIGWIGS
In his March 2017 sworn testimony, Evan Ross gives a more detailed version of how his relationship with Keith London began.
Ross told Assistant State Attorney David Schulson he worked on Joe Geller’s 2014 campaign for the Florida House. Ross could not recall if he was paid by the Geller campaign. “He may have paid me, but if he did, I don’t think it was anything of note,” Ross said. “[B]ecause Joe is somebody I’m very close to, and I told him to save the money for things he needed, and if there was anything left over at the end, I’d be happy to be paid.”
Ross confirmed he met Keith London at a Joe Geller fundraiser in North Miami Beach in 2014. Ross said he gave London advice during his 2014 Hallandale Beach campaign, but he “didn’t play a major role”in London’s campaign.
Ross said he became friends with London. “We enjoyed bouncing ideas off of each other and developed a friendship,” Ross testified. He testified London introduced him to Commissioner Michele Lazarow to discuss supporting Joe Geller.
Ross said he began attending Hallandale Beach City Commission meetings in 2014.
Schulson asked Ross if, prior to meeting Keith London, he had any affiliation to Gulfstream Park. Ross said his grandfather worked in the admissions department for twenty-five years.
Schulson asked Ross about the people Keith London introduced to him. “I believe the first person that Keith introduced me to a Gulfstream was Alon Ossip,” Ross said. “He is the CEO of The Stronach Group, which is Gulfstream’s parent company.” Ross said he met Ossip at a community meeting hosted by Keith London at a Gulfstream Park restaurant in 2016. Ross said it was the first time he met anyone involved with Gulfstream Park.
Ross said he met Michael Fucheck, Gulfstream Park general counsel, at a City Commission meeting.
Asked about his relationship with Alon Ossip, Ross testified, “We developed a relationship. We stayed in some level of communication.”
Schulson asked if Ross discussed forming political action committees (PAC) with Ossip. Ross said he discussed Hallandale Beach politics with Ossip. Ross said, “[Ossip] was not the person that I dealt with when it came to discussing money, generally for campaigns.”
Ross said discussions about the PAC were with Michael Fucheck and Tim Ritvo, the COO of The Stronach Group. Ross said he helped form the Ethics Matter political committee which ended up “being involved exclusively was [sic] issues surrounding Hallandale Beach.”
Ross said, “Gulfstream funded that PAC almost exclusively.”
Asked why Gulfstream funded the Ethics Matter PAC, Ross said, “Gulfstream felt very strongly that they were not being treated fairly by the City Of Hallandale Beach, that they were being almost extorted by the city and they wanted to see a change in the way that the city was run.” Ross said Gulfstream contributed $75,000 to his political committee.
Ross said Gulfstream made contributions to other political committees he created including Public Service, Good Government, Citizens For Public Service and Progressive Principles.
When asked to describe Keith London’s relationship with Gulfstream, Ross said, “Commissioner London…had a reasonable view of the issues and just wanted to treat Gulfstream fairly.”
GULFSTREAM BACKED PAC FUNDED LONDON ALLIES
REDBROWARD previously exposed Ross’ role in shadowy political committees funded by gaming interests in Hallandale Beach.
According to April 2016 campaign treasurer reports, Lazarow received $3,000 from the Village At Gulfstream Park, Gulfstream Park and Orchid Concessions. Taub received the same exact contributions in September 2016.
In October, Michele Lazarow and Anabelle Taub recorded large contributions from out of state gaming interests.
Just days before the November election, Michele Lazarow and Anabelle Taub received maximum contributions of $1,000 from several political committees created by Evan Ross. On October 31, Lazarow received a $1,000 contribution from each of the following committees: Good Government, Public Service, and Progressive Principles.
On November 3, Anabelle Taub received $1,000 contributions from Good Government, Public Service, Progressive Principles.
Lazarow and Taub also received $1,000 each from the Ethics Matter political committee.
In a November 5, 2016 “Dirtiest Election In Broward County“ editorial, Evan Ross told the Sun-Sentinel that Gulfstream wanted to work with Hallandale Beach. “[T]hey just don’t want to be strong-armed into giving it away or pressured into getting a deal done in an unreasonable amount of time,” Ross said. He declared a deal could be reached within 12 months if Michele Lazarow and Anabelle Taub won the election.
In his sworn testimony, Evan Ross said Keith London was Anabelle Taub’s campaign manager.