Dale Holness Seeking Volunteers For Broward Recount

Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness continues to play a major role in Andrew Gillum’s bid to be the next Governor of Florida. On Tuesday, Holness’ daughter Damara sent an urgent email to supporters seeking volunteers for the election recount. The email came from a Dale Holness email account with his name emblazoned on the top.

Ms. Holness wrote, “We are in need of ballot observers” between Thursday, November 15th and Sunday, November 18th. Anyone wishing to volunteer is urged to email or call Holness for training information.

This is not the first time Dale Holness has teamed up with his daughter to influence a Broward election.

In July 2014, Judge Sandra Perlman opened the Broward County Commission District 2 Democrat primary to all voters when she disqualified write-in candidate Tyron Francois from the ballot. In sworn testimony, Francois admitted he did not live in District 2. He lived in District 9 which is represented by Dale Holness. Francois’ testimony confirmed what many Broward political insiders believed–that Dale Holness played a role in Francois’ write-in candidacy.

Broward superlawyer William Scherer, representing the plaintiff, asked if Francois knew Commissioner Holness. Francois said he voted for Holness in 2012 but did not really know him. Francois testified that no lawyer, politician, political consultant or anyone else assisted him.

Francois’ story began to fall apart after Scherer asked who lived with him at his Lauderdale Lakes home. After claiming he lived with his brother, Francois admitted his mother owned the house. Francois testified no one else lived at that address. Scherer asked if he knew Damara Holness used his address as legal residence.

Francois’ attorney Robert Vaughan strongly objected to the mention of Holness’ daughter. Francois denied any relationship with Damara Holness but admitted he knew her. He said he had met her a few times, but “not often.” Francois stated he never discussed his candidacy with Ms. Holness.

After the lunch recess, Francois was recalled to the witness stand to explain a picture from Damara Holness’ Twitter account. Scherer obtained a picture of Francois and Holness posted to Twitter on March 14, 2014. The picture showed Francois and Damara Holness staring into each other’s eyes in the front seat of an automobile. The picture was captioned, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”  The caption included an animated emoticon of heart with an arrow through it.

Scherer asked Francois what the animated heart meant to him. The courtroom observers snickered when Francois said it could mean just about anything.

SNIPES’ LAWYER FOUGHT OPEN PRIMARY

Burnadette Norris Weeks, the attorney for Broward Supervisor of Elections (SOE) Brenda Snipes, tried desperately to delay any decision in the Francois matter. Norris-Weeks claimed it was too late to open the primary. She repeatedly told Judge Perlman that ballots were already printed and “coded.” Judge Perlman asked Norris-Weeks why Snipes did not testify at hearing. She claimed Snipes was out of town. Perlman asked why no SOE employee testified about the ballots. Norris-Weeks tried to blame Scherer for not calling any employee to testify.

Norris-Weeks stated Snipes’ office was working on with a skeleton crew. Perlman asked how many employees worked at the Supervisor of Elections office. While she did not know the exact number, Norris-Weeks believed the number to be less than 50 employees.

RED BROWARD reported Burnadette Norris-Weeks is a supporter of Dale Holness. In October 2012, she made a $500 contribution to Holness’ re-election campaign. A few weeks later, Holness was a guest at Norris-Weeks “holiday party.” RED BROWARD obtained pictures of the party Norris-Weeks posted on Facebook.

A month before the Francois hearing, Norris Weeks was photographed dancing with Dale Holness at an airport business convention in Denver. In June 2014, Holness and Burnadette Norris-Weeks attended the Airport Minority Advisory Council (AMAC) conference. Norris-Weeks attended the conference, not as Snipes’ attorney, but as a businesswoman with a big airport concessions contract awarded by the Broward County Commission.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Airport Concessions Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (ACDBE) program is supposed to increase opportunities for minority and women-owned small businesses to operate as concessionaires in airports around the country. Locally, Broward County Office of Economic and Small Business Development (OESBD) “works to certify local firms as ACDBEs and to establish annual ACDBE participation goals for the County’s airport projects.” In order to qualify, a business must be “51% owned, controlled and managed by socially and economically disadvantaged U.S. citizen or legal resident who belongs to one or more of the following categories: African-American, Asian-Pacific, Hispanic, Native, Sub-continent Asian, or female.” An individual owner’s Personal Net Worth (PNW) must not exceed $1.32 million excluding personal residence.

In order to retain its food and concession contracts at Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport, The Paradies Shops needed to comply with the ACDBE guidelines. In 2006, Paradies formed Paradies-Broward LLC. According to State of Florida corporate records, Paradies-Broward LLC was comprised of four members: The Paradies Shops, JD Ruffin Associates Inc., Maria Soldani Consulting LLC and Right Consulting LLC. Burnadette Norris-Weeks is listed as a member of Paradies-Broward LLC.

In December 2013, Broward Commissioners approved the latest agreement with Paradies-Broward LLC. Records show Right Consulting LLC owns a 9% share of the Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport concession business.

Nothing in Norris-Weeks’ resume shows past experience in airport concessions. Following law school, she worked for a Tallahassee law firm and the Florida House of Representatives. After a year with the Florida Attorney General’s office, Norris-Weeks joined a Fort Lauderdale insurance company. In 1999, she opened her own legal practice in Fort Lauderdale. Right Consulting LLC was created in 2004.

Norris-Weeks and Holness were listed on the official roster of AMAC conference attendees. RED BROWARD obtained photographs of Norris-Weeks and Holness at the June 6-10 conference. Several photographs show Norris-Weeks and Holness smiling and dancing together. Another shows them wearing novelty Sunny.org sunglasses. Sunny.org is the Fort Lauderdale Tourism Council.

TEAM GILLUM

Last week, REDBROWARD reported on Burnadette Norris Weeks’ absence from media coverage of the Broward elections recount. Just days before the election, Norris Weeks posted a picture of Dale Holness wearing a Gillum t-shirt on Facebook. Norris Weeks wrote “NOBODY is working harder for Gillum in Broward County than…Dale VC Holness.”

Since September, REDBROWARD documented how Dale Holness’ “hard work” caused problems from the Gillum campaign.

In September, Holness hosted a Gillum fundraiser at a building the County Commission was asked to purchase as the new home of Brenda Snipes’ election office. Then, a political committee tied to Dale Holness got into hot water over a pro-Andrew Gillum endorsement card. The A Better Florida For All card included four judicial candidates alongside partisan candidates. The inclusion violates judicial campaign ethics. A Broward Judge would rule the card could not be handed out to voters.

Just before the November election, Project Veritas Action posted undercover video of an Andrew Gillum campaign staffer calling Florida a “cracker state.” The employee, Omar Smith, is the man behind the A Better Florida For All committee. And the undercover video was recorded at Dale Holness’ real estate office in Plantation.

The Gillum campaign cut all ties to Omar Smith.

A copy of the A Better Florida For All card is clearly visible in pictures posted on social media of Dale Holness and Damara Holness at his offices.

Should Brenda Snipes let Team Holness into the recount?

Here’s the full email sent by Holness.

There is an election recount in Florida for numerous Democratic candidates including Mayor Andrew Gillum, the Democratic nominee for Governor of Florida. We are in need of ballot observers who can volunteer from Thursday, November 15th, 2018 until Sunday, November 18th, 2018 at the Broward Supervisor of Elections office located in the back of Lauderhill Mall.

If you are interested, email Damara Holness at Damara.Holness@gmail.com with your First Name, Last Name, Email Address, Zip Code and Date of Birth, or call directly at (954) xxx-xxxx. You will then receive an email with an election observer training webinar and you can select the shifts you are able to volunteer.

Thank you in advance. Let’s Bring it Home!

Sincerely,
Damara Holness

https://youtu.be/Df_3Kk5ExdU

What Recount?!? Broward Elections Office Lawyer Busy Promoting Her Pricey Empowerment Conference On Radio

Missing votes? Uncounted votes? Broward Supervisor Of Elections Brenda Snipes’ Office called it a “conspiracy theory.” Heck, on election night, Snipes’ lawyer Burnadette Norris Weeks called Broward turnout “crazy” and “insane.”

With a recount scheduled for Saturday evening, you might think Snipes and Ms. Norris Weeks must be huddled somewhere making sure the “crazy” and “insane” numbers are legit, right?

Nope.

Burnadette Norris Weeks was on the radio promoting her pricey women’s empowerment conference held next weekend at the Marriott Harbor Beach Resort in Fort Lauderdale.

Here’s our June 2015 story on the conference.

LAWSUIT: Brenda Snipes Hiding Debbie Wasserman-Schultz Ballots From Opponent Tim Canova

In a lawsuit filed in Broward County Circuit Court, U.S. Congressional candidate Tim Canova alleges Supervisor Of Elections Brenda Snipes is refusing to produce public records in accordance with the Florida Constitution. Canova. a law professor, wants to review ballots cast in the August 2016 Democratic primary. Canova ran against Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-Out Of Touch) in the District 23 race. Canova is running again in 2018.

According to the lawsuit, Canova made public records requests to the Broward Supervisor of Elections Office (SOE) in March and May 2017. Canova wanted to make copies or scans of the August 2016 ballots. In an April 2017 phone call Broward SOE claimed ballots cannot be copied or scanned. Burnadette Norris-Weeks, attorney for Brenda Snipes, stated that Florida statutes only allowed SOE employees to touch the ballots. Canova's lawyer argued they did not want to "touch" ballots, they simply want copies made by SOE employees. Canova offered to pay to have copiers and scanning machines brought to Snipes' office.

In a May 2017 letter to Norris-Weeks, Canova's lawyer wrote, "You cited to no case law or statutory support that provides any exception to the production of the records sought under Chapter 119, Florida Statutes and we know of none. Ballots are public records and they should be made available for copying/electronic scanning…."

According to the lawsuit, Snipes would not allow a court reporter to be present when ballots were reviewed. Snipes also refused to allow any review of the ballots to be video recorded. The Florida Attorney General's Office issued a written opinion stating ballots are public records subject to copying.

SNIPES PLAYING LEGAL GAMES WITH PUBLIC RECORDS?

In July, Brenda Snipes asked Broward Circuit Court Judge Raag Singhal to dismiss Canova's lawsuit. The motion, prepared by Burnadette Norris-Weeks, claims Snipes' office never refused any request to copy ballots; "At no time has Defendant or any representative of Defendant denied Plaintiff the opportunity to photcopy ballots. Additionally, Plaintiff never requested photocopies of ballots and has failed to show the Court evidence of the same," Norris-Weeks wrote.

According to Snipes' motion, Canova only requested scanning of ballots, not photocopies. Snipes' argument is silly. In her motion to dismiss, Snipes includes the original public records request. Canova's representative offers to pay for all costs associated with copying the ballots including the salaries of SOE employees. Canova's team offers to provide exact copy to SOE with an added layer of encryption.

Is Snipes' unaware of modern technology? What is the difference between "photocopies" and "scans?" Most modern printers are scanners as well. Who wouldn't want a USB drive instead of a truck full of copies? Norris-Weeks never cites to any law drawing a distinction in copying methods.

Plus, if "photocopies" were allowed, why didn't Norris-Weeks mention it to avoid going to court?

SNIPES' LEGAL BILLS KEEP PILING UP

This is just the latest legal case involving Brenda Snipes' questionable management of Broward elections. Last month during a Federal lawsuit, Snipes admitted under oath that illegal votes were cast. to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, “Snipes acknowledged the processes her office have been using aren’t perfect and that some non-citizens and felons have voted despite not being eligible — especially right before major elections when groups are actively registering new voters.” Snipes testified in a Federal lawsuit brought by Broward resident Andrea Bellitto and the American Civil Rights Union (ACRU) for violations of Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993.

Last week, REDBROWARD detailed the Republican Party of Florida lawsuit against Snipes filed in Broward Circuit Court.

Three lawsuits against Brenda Snipes means lots of legal bills paid by the taxpayers of Broward County. Snipes' repeatedly claimed that Burnadette Norris-Weeks was her private contract attorney.

In 2015, REBROWARD revealed Norris-Weeks worked for years without a formal contract with the Supervisor of Elections Office.

According to documents from 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.

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.

REDBROWARD 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.

POLITICS AS USUAL AT BROWARD ELECTIONS OFFICE?

In June 2015, Broward County Commissioners questioned the political activities of Snipes’ office. REDBROWARD reported Norris-Weeks, the private contract attorney for Broward Supervisor of Elections (SOE), hosted candidate forums since at least 2006. 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.”

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.

The Right Group spent $34,000 over the ten years. Norris Weeks’ committee made contributions to the political campaigns of Perry Thurston, Joe Eggelletion, Joe Gibbons, Alain Jean, Eric Jones, Margaret Bates, Chris Smith, Carlton Moore, Albert Jones, Brenda Snipes and even Stacy Ritter.

In September 2014, South Florida Sun-Sentinel Senior Editorial Writer Douglas Lyons wrote an article comparing Norris Weeks to civil rights hero Florynce Kennedy. He wrote about Norris Weeks’ plan to build a non-profit center on Sistrunk Boulevard. Lyons wrote, “To many, it’s a gamble. Launching a research facility isn’t easy, particularly in an area too many people associate with crime, poverty and urban decay. Norris-Weeks wants to prove all the skeptics wrong, something that would make ‘Flo’ Kennedy smile.”

Lyons never disclosed to readers his wife’s ties to Burnadette Norris Weeks.

In 2015, a South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial supported a Broward County Commission proposal (originally submitted by Commissioner Mark Bogen) which called on Snipes to, “Apply the highest ethical standards, integrity and professionalism, and avoid even the appearance of impropriety.” The editorial described Norris Weeks’ actions in the legal dispute over the County Commission District 2 race; “Norris-Weeks guided and defended the supervisor’s response to his lawsuit, in a case that began over the residency of a write-in candidate. With Norris-Week’s support, Snipes decided not to count the votes of the August primary that showed Bogen had won — effectively giving his opponents more time to campaign.”

Three days after the editorial was published, Lyons announced he was no longer with the Sun-Sentinel.

Fast forward two years, more ongoing lawsuits, growing legal bills, and partisan political ties. Many local political observers wonder if Governor Rick Scott will get more involved.

Also, what is Tim Canova looking for? Clearly someone believes there may be issues with the 2016 Democratic primary ballots in Broward County.

Broward residents deserve answers from Brenda Snipes, not legal games and big legal fees.