Pines Vice Mayor Iris Siple Used Personal Email For City Business

Records obtained by REDBROWARD show Pembroke Pines Vice Mayor Iris Siple used her personal email address to conduct city business. While County ethics rules do not prohibit conducting business by personal email, Siple claimed she only conducted city business with her city email address. REDBROWARD obtained dozens of emails from Siple discussing various city issues such as traffic, garbage pickup, and police misconduct.

On July 28, 2015, Florida State Rep. Rick Stark replied to an email from Siple regarding a solidier killed in Afghanistan. From Siple’s reply, it is clear Stark questioned her use of a personal email address. Siple wrote, “It is active for personal. I use city email for city issues. isiple@ppines.com.” This email was sent via Siple’s iPhone using an AOL.com email address.

But dozens of emails show Siple used the AOL address, not the city email address, to discuss city issues. In January 2015, Siple used her AOL address to send lobbying disclosure forms to the city clerk’s office. Between January and June 2015, Siple used her AOL email address to send important documents to the city clerk. These documents included her letter of intent to run for re-election, her official financial report and her financial disclosure forms.

In January 2015, Siple emailed information regarding the Broward Inspector General to the Pines city attorney. In March 2015, Siple sent emails to city manager Charlie Dodge discussing incidents involving Pembroke Pines police officers. She sent emails to the Pines Police Chief discussing the “monthly scorecard for 911 communications.”

On March 22, 2015 Siple emailed a city employee seeking “help logging on to my home city computer.”

A document from the Office of the Broward Inspector General states personal emails can become public records. Usually, a public records request is made to the city clerk’s office. City employees, staff and officials would receive the request and forward the information to the person who made the request.

As witnessed in the Hillary Clinton email scandal, issues arise when an official acts as their own custodian of records.

How secure is Iris Siple’s AOL email account? How secure is Iris Siple’s home “city computer?” Is Iris Siple’s iPhone secure from hackers?

Siple is the chief administrator for the Broward Clerk of the Courts. Does she use her AOL email acccount for official Clerk of the Courts business?

Siple did not respond to requests for comment.

She faces re-election on March 15.

Pembroke Pines Non-Profit Gave Campaign Money To Vice Mayor Iris Siple

A Pembroke Pines non-profit organization violated the law by making a campaign contribution to Pines Vice Mayor Iris Siple. Last June, the Optimist Club of West Pembroke Pines gave $500 to Siple’s re-election campaign. 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.

According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website, the Optimist Club of West Pembroke Pines could lose its tax exempt status over the Siple contribution. The IRS states:

Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity. Violating this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes

The Optimist Club of West Pembroke Pines funds athletic activities for youth and adults such as football and softball. Why would the organization would jeopardize its tax exempt status over a small campaign contribution?

The organization’s president Vincent 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.

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.

Siple is running against Ryann Greenberg and Christopher Ziadie on March 15, 2016.