Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Steven Glassman Blew Off Concerned Residents After Taking Big Campaign Contributions From AIDS Healthcare Foundation Employees & PAC Tied To AHF Lobbyist

Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Steven M. Glassman (D-Selfie) cancelled a meeting with concerned Rio Vista residents after receiving large campaign contributions from AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) employees and a political committee tied to a former AHF lobbyist. Last summer, Rio Vista asked Glassman to take a “walking tour” of the proposed site of the AHF apartment building dubbed “Trantalis Tower.” The residents were concerned over the lack of transparency over who would live in the fifteen story building made up of tiny “micro unit” apartments as well as the type of social services AHF would provide to residents.

According to Kevin Cochrane, the tour organizer, Glassman received an e-mail invitation on August 12, 2019 to join the residents’ walking tour. Glassman was told District 4 Commissioner Ben Sorensen was joining residents for an August 13, 2019 tour of the site. On August 14th, Glassman responded to Cochrane. “I am sorry we missed the first tour,” Glassman wrote. “I will get back to you on Friday with some potential dates. How long was the tour?”

On August 16th, Cochrane told Glassman that Mayor Dean Trantalis scheduled a September 5th tour and asked him to find dates before the Mayor’s tour. On August 20th, Cochrane sent a fourth follow up email to Glassman advising him that Commissioner Heather Moraitis scheduled a September 19th tour with his group.

On August 29th, Cochrane sent his seventh email to Glassman. He told Glassman that Commissioner Robert McKinzie scheduled a September 25th walking tour.

The next day, Glassman finally responded. He said he could meet Cochrane’s group on October 10, 2019. Cochrane immediately accepted.

Nearly one month later, Cochrane contacted Glassman about the tour. On September 20, 2019, He told Glassman the AHF project was due to be heard before a City board before his tour. Cochrane mentioned nearly 300 residents had joined Trantalis, Sorensen and Moraitis on their tours and asked if he could scheduled a date before the AHF was to be heard.

Glassman took two weeks to respond. He told Cochrane the Fort Lauderdale City Attorney issued an adverse opinion regarding the AHF project. Glassman cancelled his tour with no further explanation.

So, what changed?

GLASSMAN MEETS WITH AHF OFFICIALS

Official City records show Commissioner Steven M. Glassman met with AHF lobbyists, lawyers and employees four times since 2018. On September 5, 2019 Glassman met with AHF attorney Debbie Orshefsky, AHF employee Ebonni Chrispin and “Trantalis Tower” architect Margi Nothard at City Hall.

One week later, the AHF checks started coming in.

On November 12th Glassman received a $1,000 contribution from David Poole of Santa Rosa Beach, Florida. Poole is the legislative affairs director for AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

That same day, Glassman received a maximum $1,000 contribution from Florida AIDS HIV PAC, a Tallahassee based political committee. State records show Towson Fraser as the chairperson of Florida AIDS HIV PAC. State lobbyist records show Fraser was a lobbyist for AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

Seven days later, Glassman received another $1,000 check from an AHF employee. Michael Kahane, AHF Southern Bureau Chief, made his contribution on the day of Glassman’s re-election campaign kickoff on Fort Lauderdale Beach.

Other guests at Glassman’s fundraiser included Mayor Dean Trantalis and Glassman political adviser Blake MacDiarmid of Miami Beach.

What was Steve Glassman doing on October 10th instead of meeting with residents? On Facebook, he was posting about the great success of his September fundraiser.

If the City Attorney made the AHF project a moot point, why didn’t Glassman return the contributions to Poole, Kahane and the Florida AIDS HIV PAC?

As REDBROWARD reported, Glassman loves to attend cultural events with lobbyists or talk about his BFF David Beckham. Instead of talking to residents of Rio Vista about “Trantalis Tower” or the sewer break disaster, Glassman poses with the Scooby Doo Gang, chows down on cupcakes after Zumba class or attends Oscar parties.

Doesn’t Fort Lauderdale deserve real leadership?

Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis Enjoys Fancy Weekend Lunch With AHF Attorney and Director

First, the good news. It appears Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis did not spend the long MLK holiday weekend soaking up the sun on some distant beach. Nope, Mayor Dean Trantalis spent his Saturday morning working on City business. And now the bad news, City records show Trantalis enjoyed a fancy lunch discussing AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) housing with its lawyer and its executive director.

City of Fort Lauderdale lobbyist contact logs show Trantalis had a noon lunch meeting with lawyer Debbie Orshefsky and AHF employee Michael Kahane at the Capital Grille in The Galleria Mall. The Capital Grille is no mall food court restaurant. It’s lunch menu is foodie’s delight.

Diners can start with a variety of appetizers including New England clam chowder, French onion soup or Tuna Tartare with avocado, mango and sriracha (only $19). If you’re watching your calories, you might enjoy burrata with heirloom tomatoes ($15), Maine lobster salad with citrus vinaigrette ($27) or seared salmon with avocado, mango, tomato salad in a champagne vinaigrette (a bargain at $22).

At lunch, The Capital Grille offers several burger options for the sophisticated palate. You can pick from a $26 lobster and crab burger with housemade tartar sauce. Meat lovers can choose the “Grille’s Signature Cheeseburger” which is a “A blend of short rib, chuck and brisket by Pat LaFrieda, with candied applewood smoked bacon and Vermont cheddar” for a mere $19 plus tax. If you want fancier, you might want to try the ribeye burger “Cooked to your wishes and served on a grilled French loaf” for only $27 bucks.

If you want a full meal at lunch, The Capital Grille does not disappoint. Customers can enjoy, Filet Mignon ($32), bone-in dry-aged NY strip steak ($30), sushi grade seasame seared tuna with gingered rice ($32), or sliced filet mignon with cipollini onions, wild mushrooms and fig essence, “A rich twist on our popular, classic Filet Mignon” for just $35 smackers.

If dining on a budget, diners could try the $22 plates. First, pick one starter (Porcini mushroom bisque, clam chowder or field of greens salad), then pick from the following:

Mini Tenderloin Sandwiches (2) with Parmesan Truffle Fries

Crispy Chicken Sandwich with Hot Honey and Chili Mayo with Parmesan Truffle Fries

Sauteed Jumbo Shrimp with Mushrooms and Parmesan Risotto

Parmesan Crusted Salmon with Roasted Garlic, Heirloom Tomato and White Wine Lemon Butter

No wonder lobbyists and the Mayor love The Capital Grille.

Why did Team AHF take Mayor Dean Trantalis out for a fancy lunch?

As REDBROWARD previously reported, just ten days earlier, the City of Fort Lauderdale Board of Adjustment voted 4-3 to deny the AHF’s appeal of ruling which stopped its building of the fifteen-story “Trantalis Tower” near downtown Fort Lauderdale.

Was Team AHF presenting a new plan to Trantalis? Why the need to discuss the matter on the weekend, away from City Hall? Did anyone else happen to stop by the lunch meeting? Why was Dean Trantalis focused on a private development instead of the sewer breaks and polluted waterways?

Fort Lauderdale needs leadership, not politicos wining and dining with developers and donors, no?

Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis and Commissioner Steve Glassman

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