Commissioner Chip LaMarca Co-Hosted Fundraiser With Lawyer Conducting Broward Health Investigation

David DiPietro, left, with Chip LaMarca, attending a Judge Nina Weatherly DiPietro fundraiser at Zimmerman Advertising
David DiPietro, left, with Chip LaMarca attending Judge Nina Weatherly DiPietro fundraiser at Zimmerman Advertising
Broward County Commissioner Chip LaMarca co-hosted a political fundraiser with the attorney hired to conduct an investigation into misconduct at Broward Health involving LaMarca himself. In June, attorney Mitch Berger hosted a “meet and greet” luncheon at his Berger Singerman firm for Fort Lauderdale Commission candidate Ben Sorenson. Chip LaMarca was the second name listed on the Sorenson invitation. In February, former Broward Health Chairman David Di Pietro, LaMarca’s close adviser and personal attorney, hired Berger Singerman to help State investigators conduct an audit at Broward Health. Following Broward Health CEO Nabil El-Sanadi’s death in January, the State launched an investigation into a $71 million dollar contract involving Broward Health and Zimmerman Advertising. Chip LaMarca was an employee of Zimmerman.

In April, REDBROWARD reported Mitch Berger’s investigation uncovered evidence LaMarca was the driving force behind the huge Zimmerman contract.

Chip LaMarca’s role in the $71 million dollar contract for Zimmerman Advertising dominates the 132 page report from Berger Singerman. 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.”

INTIMIDATION ON THE MENU AT WAFFLE HOUSE

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 told the Sun-Sentinel he never made the threat. He called Peek’s testimony, a “ridiculous, outlandish statement.” LaMarca told the newspaper he quit his job at Zimmerman so he could, “speak freely to the lawyers writing the report to protect ‘my reputation and my name.'”

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’s 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.”

In March, the Broward Health board fired Berger Singerman. Florida Chief Inspector General Melinda Miguel accused Berger Singerman of interfering with her review and recommended the suspensions of David Di Pietro, the former chairman, and Commissioner Darryl Wright. Gov. Scott suspended both men for “malfeasance” within hours of that recommendation on March 18.

Earlier this month, Broward Health debated whether to pay $200,000 in legal fees to Berger Singerman. According to POLITICO, new chairman Rocky Rodriguez said it wasn’t the “right time” to discuss the bill, and said he needed to get some answers “here and there” regarding the fees.

Several well-place sources claim former Broward Health insiders were applying pressure to board members to pay Berger Singerman. Just as this matter was coming before the board, David Di Pietro’s legal team send a threatening letter to Broward Health Commissioner Sheela Van Hoose. (At one time, Van Hoose owned the REDBROWARD domain name). Attorney Bruce Green, who represented Di Pietro in his lawsuit against Governor Rick Scott, sent a vague letter to Van Hoose ordering her to preserve emails and electronic data regarding REDBROWARD.com. Green never revealed his client and their is no current legal action against Van Hoose or REDBROWARD.com.

State investigators are still trying to gather information related to Zimmerman and LaMarca. Last week, POLITICO reported Broward Health has not turned over documents related to Chip LaMarca. “Melinda Miguel, Scott’s chief inspector general, sent a letter to Broward Health Board of Commissioners Chairman Rocky Rodriguez Monday saying she was ‘deeply troubled by what may be an intentional effort to withhold requested emails from my office’ and told him that Broward Health has until Sept. 23 to provide her office with all the emails she requested from the health care district.” According to POLITICO reporter Christine Sexton, “Miguel’s letter specifically notes that she is looking for emails from Chip LaMarca, Broward County Commissioner and Vice President of Community Relations for the Zimmerman Advertising Agency; former commissioner and board chairman David Di Pietro; and, former Chief Executive Officer Nabil El Sanadi, who commited suicide in January.”

DI PIETRO & LA MARCA AND INSIDERS

In light of the Ben Sorenson fundraiser, questions should be asked about Di Pietro and LaMarca’s relationship with Mitch Berger. Why did Di Pietro, a former operative of the local Mitt Romney and Donald Trump campaigns, hire Democrat power fundraiser Mitch Berger? Are Di Pietro, LaMarca and Berger friends? Does Berger often co-host parties with individuals he has investigated? Was Di Pietro hoping to gain Democrat support for his wife’s political campaign? Judge Nina Weatherly Di Pietro is on the November ballot.

This would not be the first time Di Pietro turned to friends for help in legal matters involving Chip LaMarca.

In 2013, this reporter covered foreclosure proceedings against Chip LaMarca. In May of 2012, Wells Fargo Bank initiated court proceedings in an attempt to collect more than $385,000 from LaMarca and his wife, Eileen LaMarca. A Media Trackers Florida review of court records revealed how lobbyists, professional sports franchises, and the proliferation of campaign cash played a role in the foreclosure case.

Court records showed LaMarca failed to make payments on a line of credit issued by Wells Fargo bank in June of 2006. Bank statements showed he stopped making payments in August of 2010, just before winning the 2010 county commissioner election.

David DiPietro represented LaMarca in the foreclosure case.

On October 2, 2013 a court order granted mediation between Wells Fargo and LaMarca, appointing a “Joy Speechler” as mediator. Local lawyers believe the court website misspelled mediator Jay Spechler’s name as “Joy Speechler.” Spechler, a former Broward County judge, is a prominent mediator who frequently works with DiPietro.

Just days later at Broward County Commission meeting, LaMarca and seven other Broward County Commissioners voted to approve a new financial arrangement with a local children’s art museum. Several years ago, the Commission gave $3 million to help build a new facility for the Young At Art Museum.  In exchange for a 40-year lease, the museum promised to repay the money over 11 years.

With nearly $2 million in past due payments, Young At Art announced it would miss another payment deadline. The County Commission voted to allow Young At Art to refinance the deal and make its payments over 40 years rather than 11. In the days before the vote, Mindy Shrago, Executive Director/CEO of Young At Art, visited commissioners. The Commission visitors log shows Shrago met with LaMarca on October 21, 2013 at 4:00pm.

Mindy Shrago is the wife of former Judge Jay Spechler. LaMarca never mentioned a potential conflict of interest before casting his vote on the refinancing measure.

INTIMIDATION GAME PART DEUX

This week, REDBROWARD exposed an apparent attempt to prevent a story regarding Young At Art.

As the new chairman of the Young At Art board, David Di Pietro is trying to work out another new deal between the faltering children’s museum and the County. According to the Sun-Sentinel, Broward County invested $20.6 million into YAA, expecting $11.2 million back in 11 years. But the museum defaulted almost immediately after the museum opened in 2012. The deal was changed to allow YAA to repay the money over 37 years. Sun-Sentinel reporter Brittany Wallman wrote, “County Auditor Evan Lukic said in a recent memo the museum isn’t honoring that agreement, either. The museum was to give the county half of any pledge payments, a tab Lukic says was underpaid by $240,888. Lukic also doubted the museum’s ability to pay what it owes in the future.”

During early voting in August at the Coral Ridge Mall,  Jay Spechler and Mindy Shrago were spotted campaigning for Judge Nina Weatherly Di Pietro. In a conversation with Spechler and Shrago, this reporter asked Spechler about an issue concerning Young At Art Museum. A visibly angry Spechler asked this reporter how he would “feel if somebody came after your kids.” When this reporter asked if Spechler was issuing a threat, Shrago implored her husband to calm down because, “we’re so close to a new deal” with Broward County.

Less than a month later, one of Di Pietro’s lawyers sent the legal letter to Broward Health Commissioner Sheela Van Hoose. Shortly after the letter was sent, Spechler sent an emissary to broker a “truce.” They were told to contract REDBROWARD directly. The next day, someone posted a picture of this reporter and his family on the JAABLaw website. The minor children of this reporter were clearly visible in the photograph, which included a link to a gay slur and a heavy dose of body shaming. Thankfully, the operator of JAABLaw pulled the post.


 

SOON: THE VIDEOS YOUNG AT ART DOES NOT WANT YOU TO SEE

INTIMIDATION GAME: Former Broward Health Chairman’s Legal Team Trying To Stop Embarrassing Museum Story?

from left: Brian Silber, David Di Pietro & Jay Spechler
Is the legal team for former Broward Health Chairman David Di Pietro trying to stop REDBROWARD from publishing an embarrassing story tied to the Young At Art Children’s Museum in Davie? 

On March 18, 2016, Florida Governor Rick Scott removed Di Pietro from his Broward Health post over “‘grave concerns’ about interference by board members into a state investigation of the public hospital system.” Di Pietro hired six lawyers to fight Governor Scott’s decision. Di Pietro’s legal dream team included Brian Silber, Bruce Green and Jay Spechler.

INTIMIDATION AT BROWARD HEALTH

In response to Di Pietro’s lawsuit, Governor Scott cited a letter from his Chief Inspector General who was conducting an investigation of the Broward Health Board and contracts at the District. Scott’s legal brief stated, “Board Members may have the authority…and there are suspicions about pressure being applied by certain Board members on staff of Broward Health to steer contracts to various entities.”

According to published reports, investigators are looking into a multi-million dollar contract between Broward Health and Zimmerman Advertising. At the time the $70 million dollar contract was being negotiated, Broward County Commissioner Chip La Marca was an employee of Zimmerman Advertising. David Di Pietro is a close friend, political adviser and lawyer for La Marca.

REDBROWARD reported an investigation by the Berger Singerman law firm discovered a pattern of threats and intimidation directed by 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 the 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 details 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.

Last week, POLITICO reported Broward Health has not turned over documents related to Chip LaMarca. “Melinda Miguel, Scott’s chief inspector general, sent a letter to Broward Health Board of Commissioners Chairman Rocky Rodriguez Monday saying she was ‘deeply troubled by what may be an intentional effort to withhold requested emails from my office’ and told him that Broward Health has until Sept. 23 to provide her office with all the emails she requested from the health care district.” According to POLITICO reporter Christine Sexton, “Miguel’s letter specifically notes that she is looking for emails from Chip LaMarca, Broward County Commissioner and Vice President of Community Relations for the Zimmerman Advertising Agency; former commissioner and board chairman David Di Pietro; and, former Chief Executive Officer Nabil El Sanadi, who commited suicide in January.

THE CHAIRMAN

Even though he’s no longer the chairman of Broward Health, David Di Pietro still heads at least one local board. He is the Chairman of the Board of the Young At Art (YAA) Children’s Museum. The executive director of YAA is Mindy Shrago, the wife of Jay Spechler. As REDBROWARD reported last year, YAA is battling the Broward County Commission over loan payments. According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Broward County invested $20.6 million into YAA, expecting $11.2 million back in 11 years. But the museum defaulted almost immediately after the museum opened in 2012. The deal was changed to allow YAA to repay the money over 37 years. Sun-Sentinel reporter Brittany Wallman wrote, “County Auditor Evan Lukic said in a recent memo the museum isn’t honoring that agreement, either. The museum was to give the county half of any pledge payments, a tab Lukic says was underpaid by $240,888. Lukic also doubted the museum’s ability to pay what it owes in the future.”

Di Pietro told Wallman, “People want to give money to not-for-profit museums….They don’t want to give money to the government.”

WHO WANTS TO SILENCE RED BROWARD?

During early voting last month, Silber, Spechler and Di Pietro were spotted campaigning for Judge Nina Weatherly Di Pietro, Mrs. David Di Pietro. In a conversation with Spechler and his wife Mindy Shrago at the Coral Ridge Mall early voting location, this reporter asked Spechler about an issue concerning Young At Art Museum. Spechler, a former Broward County Judge, became enraged. Spechler asked this reporter how he would “feel if somebody came after your kids.” When this reported asked if Spechler was issuing a threat, Shrago implored her husband to calm down because, “we’re so close to a new deal” with Broward County.

Less than a month later, one of Di Pietro’s lawyer sent a legal letter to Broward Health Commissioner Sheela Van Hoose. On September 6, attorney Bruce Green sent a letter to Van Hoose demanding she preserve all emails, data and equipment related to REDBROWARD.com. At one point, Van Hoose owned the REDBROWARD domain name. Green wrote, “We consider personnel information and electronic data to be a valuable and irreplaceable source of discovert and/or evidence in this matter. The laws and rules prohibiting destruction of evidence apply to electronic data with the same force as they apply to other kinds of evidence.”

Green never stated the “matter” involving REDBROWARD.com. There is no ongoing legal matter. Green never identified his client. It appears Green’s letter is an attempt to intimidate REDBROWARD and/or Van Hoose with the threat of some future legal action.

Shortly after the Green letter was sent, an emissary was sent by Spechler to an intermediary to broker a “truce.” They were told to contract REDBROWARD directly. The next day, somenone posted a picture of this reporter and his family on the JAABlaw website. The minor children of this reporter were clearly visible in the photograph. The post included a link to a gay slur and a heavy dose of body shaming. The operator of the website pulled the post. Thank you.


NEXT: THE STORY YAA DOESN’T WANT YOU TO SEE

 

 

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.”