Broward Elections Lawyer Hosted Candidate Forums

Burnadette Norris-Weeks, the private contract attorney for Broward Supervisor of Elections (SOE) Brenda Snipes, has been hosting candidate forums since at least 2006. Snipes and Norris-Weeks have come under fire for her political activities while serving as the Elections Office chief legal adviser. Snipes rebuffed requests from Broward County Commissioners to keep her employees and vendors from dealing with elections issues involving candidates they have supported and/or endorsed.

REDBROWARD revealed Burnadette Norris-Weeks operated “The Right Group” political committee from 2003 to 2013. Her committee gave campaign contributions to many local politicians including Joe Eggelletion and Brenda Snipes. REDBROWARD reported the treasurer of Norris-Weeks’ committee is the wife of former South Florida Sun-Sentinel senior editorial writer Douglas C. Lyons.

In March 2006, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel announced a forum for Fort Lauderdale City Commission candidates at the African American Research Library. According to the Sun-Sentinel, “The Council of Civic Associations, which sponsored an earlier forum, is also sponsoring this one. This time, the forum is co-sponsored by The Right Group, a nonprofit political committee formed to educate and empower African-American voters in Broward County.” All political committees are “non-profit.”

Days later, the Sun-Sentinel reported how organizers were upset some candidates skipped the forum. “City Commission candidate Charlotte Rodstrom shunned the only official citywide election forum Thursday, one specifically aimed at black voters,” the newspaper reported. “At the forum, candidates were to take turns responding to questions, including one about whether Sistrunk Boulevard should be narrowed to two lanes. That plan is stalled, because Broward County Commissioner John Rodstrom, the candidate’s husband, has blocked it.”

Did Norris-Weeks support the Sistrunk Boulevard plan? Did she oppose Charlotte Rodstrom’s candidacy? The newspaper never mentioned Norris-Weeks’ involvement with “The Right Group.”

In 2012, The Sun-Sentinel announced another Right Group sponsored candidate forum, “Candidates Forum,6 p.m. at 2520 NW Sixth St., Fort Lauderdale. Free. Call 954-345-7745.” This number is connected to a business owned by Burnadette Norris-Weeks. No further information on the forum is available.

Another stunning example of the partisan political activities by the lawyer for Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes raises more questions:

Did Dr. Snipes know about The Right Group political committee?

Did Dr. Snipes know about the candidate forums sponsored by The Right Group?

How many candidate forums have been hosted by The Right Group?

Did any candidates who received contributions from The Right Group attend these forums?

Did The Right Group endorse any candidates?

Did the South Florida Sun-Sentinel endorse any candidates supported by The Right Group?

If so, what was the involvement of former South Florida Sun-Sentinel senior editorial writer Douglas C. Lyons?

Douglas Lyons & Burnadette Norris Weeks
Douglas Lyons & Burnadette Norris Weeks

Broward Supervisor Of Elections Headlined Partisan Discussion For Potential Candidates

snipespanel2In another stunning example of partisan behavior, Broward Supervisor of Elections (SOE) Brenda Snipes headlined a Democrat panel for political candidates at a conference organized by her office’s attorney. Snipes was the part of the “Running for Office and Promoting Issue-Based Campaigns” session at the 2014 South Florida Women Of Color Empowerment Conference in Fort Lauderdale. As REDBROWARD reported last week, the group is the brainchild of Burnadette Norris Weeks, Snipes’ “right-hand” private contract lawyer. Snipes is a member of the group’s advisory board.

Earlier this month, Broward County Commissioner Mark Bogen asked Snipes about her employees playing any role in matters regarding candidates they may have supported. Bogen asked if Snipes knew Norris Weeks supported his opponent in the 2014 election. Snipes said she was not aware of Norris Weeks’ support for Lisa Aronson. The election faced several legal challenges with Norris Weeks representing Snipes in court.

Hoping to short-circuit his line of questioning, Snipes called Bogen a “bully” and rejected calls for her to be a “leader in ethics.” When Bogen placed his request on the County Commission agenda, Norris Weeks claimed it was a race-based attacked on Snipes’ office. Bogen pulled the item for a later meeting.

Snipes’s claim to be unaware of Norris Weeks’ partisan political actions strains credulity. In a June 8th editorial urging Snipes to accept Bogen’s proposal, The South Florida Sun-Sentinel wrote she must, “Apply the highest ethical standards, integrity and professionalism, and avoid even the appearance of impropriety.”

At the 2014 conference, Snipes’ panel provided an “overview of the key elements of a campaign, including assessing and establishing oneself as a candidate and voter contact. This session will also cover how to promote and support an issue-based campaign.”

Moderated by Kathy Eggleston, the panel was composed solely of Democrats: Snipes, Deirdre MacNab of the League of Women Voters, Rep. Hazelle Rogers and Palm Beach Commissioner Priscilla Taylor.

Why is the Supervisor of Elections giving advice on “establishing oneself as a candidate?” The Broward SOE website has complete instructions on how to file for office. Was Snipes providing different information? Was she giving inside hints and tips?

As for “voter contact,” the Broward SOE website gives information on purchasing voter information. Was Snipes talking about other forms of voter contact?

Which “issue-based campaigns” were discussed? Did Snipes offer opinions on which issues she preferred over others?

REDBROWARD exposed get out the vote rallies organized by Norris Weeks were promoted by Congressman Alcee Hastings and Sun Sentinel editor Douglas Lyons.

Hastings and Lyons sat next to each other at Snipes’ “Running For Office” panel. Days after the Sun-Sentinel editorial was published, Lyons announced he was leaving the Sun-Sentinel. BrowardBeat.com wrote, “Speculation in the city room is that Lyons was either laid off because of the newspaper’s dire finances or he had a falling out with Rosemary O’Hara, the editorial page editor and Lyons’ boss.”

Lyons told Facebook friends he was interested in starting a blog.

Perhaps his friend Burnadette Norris Weeks can help.

Douglas Lyons & Burnadette Norris Weeks
Douglas Lyons & Burnadette Norris Weeks
Kathy Eggleston posing next to Douglas Lyons
Kathy Eggleston posing next to Douglas Lyons