Fort Lauderdale Board Members Fail To Disclose Ties To AHF Before Voting In Favor Of “Trantalis Tower” Appeal

AHF CEO Michael Weinstein, seated front row, at Sunserve

When the City of Fort Lauderdale’s Board of Adjustment held a marathon meeting to hear the appeal by AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) over its controversial “Trantalis Tower” project, two members failed to disclose ties to AHF which might give rise to an appearance of a conflict of interest. Late last year, the City Attorney affirmed a decision by the Zoning Administrator which held, “AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) project is a Level V Social Service Residential Facility (SSRF). Whereas the applicant has stated the proposed use is a Mixed-use affordable workforce housing development and not an SSRF.” Under this decision, AHF could not build “Trantalis Tower” near downtown.

On Wednesday evening, seven members of the Board of Adjustment presided over a “quasi-judicial proceeding” in front of nearly two hundred residents. Kendall Coffey represented AHF and Daniel Abbott represented the City of Fort Lauderdale. Local attorney Howard Nelson served as acting chairman of the Board of Adjustment.

According to the rules set forth by a city attorney, the proceedings were to be conducted as if it was a court proceeding. AHF would present its case and witnesses, the City would have an opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses and then the City would offer its case and witnesses with AHF allowed to cross-examine. Nelson stated that Board members and the public would also be permitted to speak.

As the hearing began, the members of the Board made disclosures regarding contact with anyone connected to the appeal. Several mentioned site visits or brief, unrelated conservations with the attorneys, but no members disclosed any ties to AHF or groups and people supporting the AHF project.

From the start, Nelson interrupted lawyers and witnesses. Nelson asked AHF witnesses very leading questions then nodded and smiled when they gave the response. When Daniel Abbott cross-examined AHF South executive Tim Kahane, supporters in the audience hissed disapproval. Instead of asking the audience to remain quiet, Nelson went on a tirade about “civility.” Nelson even mentioned “knowing all the members” of Abbott’s law firm in what many observers saw as an attempt to stop Abbott’s line of questioning.

During a break, REDBROWARD asked Howard Nelson about his comments to Daniel Abbott. Nelson said he knows “just about every lawyer in town” and denied it was an intimidation tactic. When asked why he did not make similar remarks to Kendal Coffey, Nelson became visibly upset. He called this reporter an “asshole” before bumping into yours truly. He then remarked “nice belly.”

Howard Nelson

In the early morning hours on Thursday, the Board of Adjustment voted 4-3 to deny the AHF appeal. Blaise McGinely, Chadwick Maxey and Howard Nelson voted in favor of AHF.

MAXEY SHILLED FOR AHF EXACTLY ONE YEAR AGO

Last January, REDBROWARD exposed the role the New Leaders Council (NLC) played in a Fort Lauderdale City Hall meeting. For a candlelight vigil at City Hall, AHF filled two buses with employees of AHF, members of affiliated groups and even young Democrat Party leaders. The made-for-television vigil was orchestrated by AHF legislative affairs director Ebonni Bryant. In a post-meeting Facebook message, Bryant thanked several fellow members of the New Leaders Council (NLC) for their support.

Bryant is a former NLC official.

According to the NLC website, the group is “the hub for progressive Millennial thought leadership.” NLC claims its training program “equips our leaders with the skills to run for office, manage campaigns, create start-ups and networks of thought leaders. NLC leaders take their activism back into their communities and workplaces to impact progressive change.”

Following the vigil, Ben Sorensen held a meeting to discuss the AHF project. Chadwick Maxey, the director of the NLC Broward chapter, spoke at this meeting. Claiming he was troubled by the lack of affordable housing south of the New River, Maxey gave alleged information on rental properties from the Apartments.com website. Even though he never revealed his affiliation with NLC, Maxey sat with Ebonni Bryant, Sean Ford, Vanessa Villaverde and other NLC members at the meeting.

Bryant and Villaverde attended the Board of Adjustment meeting, but this time Maxey had a seat on the dais.

During his failed January 2018 campaign for Fort Lauderdale City Commission, Chadwick Maxey received two campaign contributions from Jason King, the former AHF lobbyist/legislative affairs director. In a January interview with the Sun-Sentinel, Mayor Dean Trantalis called Jason King his “plus 1” and said King introduced him to AHF CEO Michael Weinstein.

Maxey never disclosed his ties to Trantalis, King, NLC or Bryant. He never disclosed his public support for the project in 2019.

LET THE SUN(Serve) IN?

Sunserve is local non-profit which, in recognition “that the entire LGBTQ community has the right to quality care, our mission is to provide critical life assistance and professional mental health services with an emphasis on economically disadvantaged, marginalized youth, adults and seniors in the greater South Florida metropolitan area.” In May 2019, AHF CEO Michael Weinstein visited Sunserve at their offices in Wilton Manors.

In a Facebook post, Sunserve stated, “Without the support that comes directly from AHF, Sunserve would not be able to help as many people living with HIV/AIDS diagnosis as we do now! Thank you, thank you, thank you from the bottom of our hearts!” The post includes a picture of the Sunserve staff with Michael Weinstein.

In other posts, Sunserve lists AHF as one of its top donors along with United Way. According to Sunserve materials, AHF donations to Sunserve total more than $100,000 dollars. In numerous posts, the close ties between AHF and Sunserve are inescapable. AHF is listed as a prominent sponsor of nearly event Sunserve event. When a Sunserve staffer visited a local radio program, the host stated, “Learned a LOT about @ahfsouth and @sunserveftl.”

While AHF is always listed as the top donor on the “Diamond Level,” Sunserve also boasts a lengthy list of other supporters. With a contribution between $6,000 and $8,500, Mayor Dean Trantalis is listed as “Platinum Level” donor. In another fun fact, Dean Trantalis works for the owner of the building which houses Sunserve.

Way down on the “Bronze Level,” you will find local attorney Howard Nelson and his wife Gayle Nelson. The same Howard Nelson who chaired the Board of Adjustment hearing.

In an other coincidence, Gayle Nelson works at Sunserve, According to her LinkedIn page, Gayle Nelson has been a “Registered Clinical Social Work Intern (SunServe), Certified Healing Touch Therapist” since July 2014.

While he claimed to be ignorant of the media coverage, is it possible Howard Nelson saw AHF on the agenda and never thought how they were a big deal at the place where his wife works and where he donates his hard-earned money?

Since the AHF appeal dealt with claims it would offer “social services” to residents of Trantalis Tower, did Howard Nelson ever think, “gee, my wife is a social worker for an AHF-funded organization that offers social services, maybe I should say something?”

Did Howard Nelson recognize the many Sunserve staffers in the audience at Wednesday’s meeting?

REDBROWARD asked Howard Nelson for comment about his ties to Sunserve. We asked if he spoke with anyone related to AHF, Sunserve, City of Fort Lauderdale officials, any City staff or any advisers to officials or staff. We asked Howard Nelson if he should have disclosed even the appearance of a conflict of interest before the hearing.

Howard Nelson did not respond to our request for comment.

Dean Trantalis visits SunServe

AIDS HEALTHCARE FOUNDATION (AHF) Spent More Than $53 Million On CEO Michael Weinstein’s Radical Political Causes

According to State of California records, the non-profit AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) spent more than $53 million dollars over the last four years funding the radical political causes of its CEO, Michael Weinstein. Since 2015, AHF was the major financial backer of rent control legislation, drug price control legislation, and anti gentrification issues. AHF even funded legislation that would have made Michael Weinstein the “porn czar” of the adult movie industry.

According to POLITICO, “Under the leadership of Weinstein, AHF has morphed over more than three decades into not only a massive health care enterprise but a controversial political player that has raised eyebrows with its unusual “social enterprise” model. Weinstein was paid $432,828 in 2017, according to the organization’s tax form.” Where did AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) get all this money to fund Weinstein’s political causes?

That’s what California State Sen. Ben Hueso asked the State Attorney General to find out.

“The senator’s concerns center on a somewhat obscure federal drug discount program known as 340B, which requires pharmaceutical companies to sell their drugs at steep discounts to participating hospitals and other providers that serve a significant percentage of indigent patients.

The providers, including the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which operates more than 50 pharmacies nationwide, are then allowed to turn around and charge public programs like Medicaid and Medicare for the standard amount. The providers then use the difference to enhance staffing and provide services to help low-income patients.

But none of the savings reaped from 340B — or virtually any federal grant or funding program — can be used for lobbying or any kind of political expenses.”

Hueso believes AHF has spent more than $60 million dollars since the 2012 election cycle.

HOW MUCH IS AHF SPENDING ON “TRANTALIS TOWER”

Early this year, REDBROWARD documented Weinstein’s campaign against Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Ben Sorenson. In a series of commercials airing on WTVJ/NBC6, Sorenson is attacked over his opposition over plans by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) to build a sixteen story building dubbed “Trantalis Tower.” The massive project, featuring more than 600 micro-units, is located in Fort Lauderdale District 2 which Sorenson represents.

One commercial urged residents to contact Sorenson in order to stop an affordable housing crisis. Even though Sorenson is a leading advocate for the homeless, he drew the ire of AHF after listening to the concerns of nearby residents. In addition to complaints over the size of the development and traffic issues, local residents are concerned over AHF’s lack of transparency over potential residents of “Trantalis Tower.”

The ominous sounding “Meet The Faces Of Fort Lauderdale” ad claims Ben Sorenson “turned his back on those who need his help the most.”

These commercials were not the first time AHF attacked local officials.

In 2017, AHF spent $115,000 attacking the Mayor of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. According to published reports, Mayor Sharon Weston Broome angered AHF leaders when she threatened their funding. The Advocate reported, “AHF started airing television ads on local airways in July that criticize Broome’s decision to cut off the national organization’s share of the federal funding Baton Rouge spends on HIV treatment and testing.”

In April 2019, AHF spent $90,000 on television ads opposing a California housing measure introduced by State Sen. Scott Wiener.

So how much did AHF spend attacking Ben Sorenson? Unlike its California spending, AHF’s political spending is nowhere to be found in State of Florida records. But records from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) show AHF spent more than $38,000 on advertising campaigns with Comcast in the Miami/Fort Lauderdale market.

What’s next? Will AHF supporters who marched in Los Angeles come to downtown Fort Lauderdale? Will the AHF supporters targeting California landlords start to target Broward developers? Do Fort Lauderdale residents want their city to become like Los Angeles?

Why is Mayor Dean Trantalis and his cowed City Commission so silent about Weinstein’s radical political plans?

AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) Openly Using Facilities To Push CEO Michael Weinstein’s Political Agenda

The non-profit AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) pharmacies dominate the market when it comes to HIV and STD treatments. Serving more than 800,000 clients worldwide, published reports claim AHF, “is a $1.3 billion operation that makes about 80 percent of its revenue from selling drugs through its pharmacies.” According to its website, AHF provides a full range of pharmacological services by, “Pharmacist, Technicians and Nurses that are specialty trained, with oversight and consultation from the AHF Chief of Medicine and AHF provider staff. All are specialty trained and have National Certifications in their specialty area of expertise.” Apparently, AHF pharmacists and nurses have an unexpected area of expertise–running political campaigns supported by their CEO Michael Weinstein.

According to the “Housing Is A Human Right” website, AHF pharmacies and thrift stores are being used to promote a rent control measure in California.

The website urges readers to “Sign The Rental Affordability Act” at an AHF facility:

The rent is still too damn high in California! It’s fueling our housing affordability and homeless crises. But you can do something about it. Go to an AIDS Healthcare Foundation location and give us your signature to place the Rental Affordability Act on the 2020 ballot.

The Rental Affordability Act allows local governments to expand their rent control policies to housing that is more than 15 years old; allows local governments to limit the rent increase for a new tenant who moves into a vacated unit; and exempts the owner of one or two homes from any rent control law.

With rent control, we can rein in unfair, excessive rents — and keep people in their homes. Find an AHF location near you!

The site lists twenty-two AHF pharmacies and Out Of The Closet Thrift Stores the Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco areas. According to AHF, each Out Of The Closet houses a full pharmacy.

According to AHF, its accredited pharmacies offer culturally aware personalized services without discrimination. So why would AHF allow its pharmacies to be used to collect signatures from anyone off the street? Or worse, why would AHF allow its patients to exposed to political opponents of the Rent Affordability Act?

RADICAL CEO FIGHTING LANDLORDS SINCE HE WAS TEENAGER

As REDBROWARD revealed last December, when he was just fourteen years old, Michael Weinstein joined a “group of activists occupying” a New York high-rise development. Weinstein and friends were opposed to the gentrification of their Brooklyn neighborhoods.

According to an April 2017 exposé in the New York Times Magazine, Michael Weinstein’s an “ex-Trotskyite” who founded one of California’s first gay communist organizations. After his move to Los Angeles in 1972, Weinstein started the “Lavender And Red Union.” In 1977, a socialist newspaper reported the Lavender And Red Union, “a self-proclaimed “communist’ gay liberation group…recently embarked upon a cautious ideological turn toward Trotskyism.” The socialist paper said the group’s call for a “permanent revolution” was “a clear break with the Stalinist/Maoist/New Left milieu from which we emerged.”

Weinstein went on to become an editor for “Young Spartacus,” the official newspaper of the Spartacist League. Throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s, Young Spartacus produced the typical pro-Communist screeds. Headlines of the Young Spartacus blasted US attempts to undermine the Soviet Union or Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini, while other stories praised unions and left-wing political groups.

By the late 1980s, Weinstein’s activism turned to the growing AIDS crisis. According to the NYT Magazine, Weinstein’s AHF, Inc. currently has a $1.4 billion dollar budget equaling the budget of Planned Parenthood.

According to activist Peter Staley, a Weinstein critic, AHF’s noble mission to help those with HIV/AIDS is hurt by Weinstein’s political agenda. Staley told the New York Times Magazine, “A.H.F.’s problem is that once it created the largest AIDS empire on the planet, it started using that power for nefarious purposes: Michael Weinstein’s twisted political views.”

WEINSTEIN PUSHES RADICAL AGENDA

Also in December 2018, Weinstein discussed his “radical” political agenda with Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont). Weinstein discussed his “radical” plans to change Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles and other U.S. cities. Weinstein was representing his Healthy Housing Foundation, the same group seeking to build a 680 unit building near downtown Fort Lauderdale. Weinstein discussed his ideas alongside Sanders, actor Danny Glover and other far-left activists.

Michael Weinstein’s ideas were filled with the coded language favored by socialists.

Noting he is a world traveler, Michael Weinstein called Los Angeles the homeless capital of the world. “I have never seen more homelessness than in the city of Los Angeles,” Weinstein said. “It’s scandalous…shameful.”

Weinstein said, “We cannot treat shelter as a commodity.” He said housing is the number one economic justice issue and inequality issue in America. “People choosing between food and shelter…it’s scandalous.”

Weinstein placed blame on Democrats who “run the biggest cities in the country.” He said Democrat politicians have “been involved in the multi-billion dollar giveaways to the real estate interests.” Weinstein claimed a political contribution to council members or the mayor could allow a developer to build bigger towers. “All of it luxury,” Weinstein said.

Weinstein said citizens should not be happy with “crumbs” politicians give in the form of affordable housing. He said 1/3 of every new building should be set aside as affordable housing.

Weinstein spoke with Sanders about his failed plans to force rent control measures in Los Angeles.

Weinstein said we must secure “housing for Americans” and not foreign investors “who are moving their money from one despotic country.”

Weinstein admitted this “sounds radical but it’s doable.”

FORT LAUDERDALE AHF FACILITIES USED BY PROGRESSIVE GROUPS

Michael Weinstein told Bernie Sanders about his controversial micro-Housing building in Fort Lauderdale. Dubbed “Trantalis Tower,” the sixteen story behemoth is opposed by a large number of local residents. Weinstein mocked these residents:

We are attempting to build 680 micro units in downtown Fort Lauderdale right now. And you would think we’re trying to overthrow the entire government, Ok. It is so ugly and raucous, the opposition. This is in a non-residential area south of downtown Fort Lauderdale. We have to organize at the local level for sure.

Weinstein does not seemed troubled by strict Federal regulations prohibiting political activity by non-profit organizations.

In January, REDBROWARD exposed how AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) forged close ties to a local progressive group recruiting millennial political candidates. REDBROWARD exposed the New Leaders Council (NLC) role advocating for AHF’s planned sixteen-story low income housing tower in Fort Lauderdale. REDBROWARD obtained photographs showing numerous NLC events being held at AHF headquarters in Fort Lauderdale.

NLC leadership shilled for the controversial “Trantalis Tower” at a Fort Lauderdale meeting hosted Vice Mayor Ben Sorensen complete with a candlelight vigil. The vigil turned out to be nothing more than a made-for-local-television event orchestrated by AHF legislative affairs director Ebonni Bryant. She is the former NLC co-director.

After she passed out shirts and signs to the “protestors”, Bryant delivered AHF talking points to local television reporters.

In a post-meeting Facebook message, Bryant thanked several fellow members of the New Leaders Council (NLC) for their support.

Stephanie Rosendorf, another NLC alum, works as an aide for Broward County Commissioner Nan Rich. Rosendorf spread word of last Monday’s vigil via her official Broward County e-mail.

The NLC website lists Chadwick Maxey as the director of the NLC Broward chapter. Maxey, a senior property manger with Diversified Realty Development, spoke at last Monday’s meeting. Maxey said he was troubled by the lack of affordable housing south of the New River. While he never revealed his affiliation with NLC, Chad Maxey sat with Ebonni Bryant and other NLC members at the meeting.

During his 2018 campaign for the Fort Lauderdale Commission Chad Maxey received two contributions from Jason King, the former AHF lobbyist/legislative affairs director. In a December interview with the Sun-Sentinel, Mayor Dean Trantalis said Jason King introduced him to AHF CEO Michael Weinstein.

Last week, the Fort Lauderdale City Attorney declared the Trantalis Tower proposal violated numerous city rules and regulations. The local AHF director vowed to fight the City and residents. Michael Kahane told the Sun-Sentinel, “This is extremely frustrating in large part because it’s just a delay tactic, But it’s not going to result in this building not being constructed. We are going to do everything and anything that is appropriate and necessary to make sure this development gets built.”

Does this mean Weinstein will use the thirteen south Florida AHF pharmacies as the frontline in his battle against Fort Lauderdale residents?