Former Broward County Commissioner Stacy Ritter took to the Chicago airwaves to promote Broward County. As the president/CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau, Ritter appeared on WGN Radio to promote the upcoming “Taste Of Fort Lauderdale” event which is part of the South Beach Wine and Food Fest.
According to the Broward Supervisor of Elections Office (SOE), Dr. Brenda Snipes’ “private contract” attorney operated without a contract for twelve years. Burnadette Norris-Weeks has been general counsel for SOE since 2003. The contract, provided by SOE, shows Norris-Weeks signed the “Attorney-Client Fee Contract” on January 1, 2015. Dr. Snipes did not sign the contract until May 14, 2015.
The contract states Norris-Weeks handles, “all legal matters as the assigned General Counsel for [Snipes].” Norris-Weeks receives a flat fee of $5,000 per month. The flat fee does not cover, “matters requiring travel outside of Broward County or litigation matters filed in Federal Court, in any court of appeals or administrative proceeding.” For those matters, SOE must pay Norris-Weeks $175 per hour.
Even with a contract, Snipes’ arrangement with Norris-Weeks is unique among Broward’s Constitutional Officers. Attorney Mila Schwartzreich is employed by Broward County Property Appraiser Lori Parrish. Vanessa Steinerts is employed by Broward Clerk of Courts Howard Forman. Ron Gunzburger heads a team of lawyers employed by Broward Sheriff Scott Israel. Norris-Weeks is not even listed on the SOE website.
Invoices obtained by REDBROWARD show Norris-Weeks was paid nearly $175,000 between 2012 and 2014. She billed SOE $175 per hour to answer questions from SOE employees and respond to emails from local political consultants. She even billed the same hourly rate to attend election canvassing meetings. During this three year period, Norris-Weeks earned thousands of dollars handling cases in Broward County courtrooms.
In July 2014, REDBROWARD reported Burnadette Norris-Weeks fought to keep non-Democrats from voting in the Broward Commission District 2 primary. In hearings to exclude bogus write-in candidate Tyron Francois from the ballot, Norris-Weeks gave Judge Sandra Perlman a myriad of excuses of why it was too late to open the August 26 primary to Republican and Independent voters. On July 11, Francois testified he did not live in District 2 at the time of qualifying. Francois admitted under oath that he knew Dale Holness’ daughter. Superlawyer William Scherer produced a photograph of Francois and Damara Holness.
RED BROWARD reported Burnadette Norris-Weeks is a longtime supporter of Dale Holness. In October 2012, she made a $500 contribution to Holness’ re-election campaign. Weeks later, Holness was a guest at Norris-Weeks “holiday party.” RED BROWARD obtained pictures of the party Norris-Weeks posted on Facebook. Norris-Weeks took exception to the reporting of her support for Holness. In a conversation with a Daily Broward contributor, she questioned why we did not report her contributions to other Broward Commissioners. Norris-Weeks said, “Last time I checked, there was no prohibition on giving a contribution and I fail to understand the link between the contribution and my responsibilities to my client as an attorney.”
Invoices submitted by Norris-Weeks show she was paid $5,057.50 for the two-day Francois hearing in July. Invoices related to the Francois matter, submitted between June and October 2014, total nearly $40,000 worth of taxpayer dollars.
REDBROWARD asked Dr. Snipes to explain why she did not have a contract with her private contract attorney for twelve years. We asked Dr. Snipes why she suddenly signed a contract in May 2015.
Dr. Snipes has not responded to our request for comment.
Documents sent to the Florida Division of Elections show the political committee operated by Broward Supervisor of Elections attorney Burnadette Norris-Weeks was operated out of Opa-Locka City Hall. Last month, REDBROWARD reported “The Right Group” political committee was formed by Norris-Weeks in 2003. The Right Group spent $34,000 over ten years. Norris-Weeks’ committee made contributions to the political campaigns of Perry Thurston, Joe Eggelletion, Joe Gibbons, Alain Jean, Eric Jones, Chris Smith, Carlton Moore, and even Broward Supervisor Of Elections Dr.Brenda Snipes. The committee was disbanded in June 2013.
Throughout its ten year existence, The Right Group received numerous “fail to file” letters and fines from the Florida Division of Elections. In March 2010, Norris-Weeks responded to one of the State’s letters. She stated no money had been collected due to a death in her family. REDBROWARD reported The Right Group’s money came from membership dues. One contribution came from Doris Harrell, the committee’s treasurer. Ms. Harrell is the wife of former South Florida Sun-Sentinel senior editorial writer Douglas C. Lyons.
Norris-Weeks’ March 2, 2010 letter was faxed from a telephone number associated with her Fort Lauderdale law firm. However, the fax cover sheet tells a different story.
The header of the printed fax cover sheet contains the words, “The Right Group.” The footer section of the sheet lists the following address:
“780 Fisherman Street, Suite 335, Opa-Locka, FL, 33054”
This address is the Opa-Locka City Government center. It is clearly listed as the official City of Opa-Locka address in this 2010 City of Opa-Locka Comprehensive Annual Financial Report. The United States Federal Register lists this address as the official contact information for the City of Opa-Locka.
So, why did Burnadette Norris-Weeks use the City of Opa-Locka as the address for “The Right Group” political committee?
Did Norris-Weeks operate her political committee while serving as the Opa-Locka city attorney?
Is Dr. Brenda Snipes asking her private contract attorney about her partisan political activities?
Broward voters deserve answers before the 2016 general election.