Is Our City For Sale? Commissioners, Contracts & Campaign Contributions

City-forsale

By: Howard Melamed

Our City Commissioners that are running for reelection have been taking campaign contributions from companies that require them to vote in favor of their contracts. Our city code of ethics allow them to do so, at will, but nonetheless this practice stinks.

Maybe it is easy to go after companies and lobbyist that have business before the city, hitting them up for campaign contributions. Maybe, the lobbyists and other companies think that by contributing to a particular candidate’s campaign fund they will have LEGAL influence on the commissioners.

With millions of dollars at stake, anyone can see how it’s possible that influence pedaling is going on in this city. Especially when single source contracts are given out for large amounts of money, and election campaigns now costing thousands and thousands of dollars.

There is no doubt that given the fact that our city commissioners make decisions on hundreds of millions of dollars that affect our city, the taxes we pay, and the quality of services we receive, that we need to be assured that there is no possibility of any city commissioner being unduly influenced by campaign contributions.

Accepting contributions from companies or individuals that are doing business and may be doing business with the city is completely legal according to City Attorney John Hearn who specifically responded to our request on this matter.

“Florida Commission on Ethics opinions provide that there is no voting conflict where an elected official votes on an issue which affects a campaign contributor.  This would include those campaign contributors who are vendors of the City.”  – John Hearn, City Attorney

However that does not make it right.  As well, it does not mean we cannot hold our commissioners accountable to a higher standard.

No less of an example is Commissioner Tom Powers who has declared his candidacy for Mayor, and has raised almost all of his funds from companies and lobbyists that have or have had business before the city.  He has voted on contracts in their favor after either soliciting them directly, or with the knowledge  that they have put into his campaign bank account the maximum contributions permissible by law.  For the trash contract,  Tom Powers received 12 – $500 payments from recycling related companies and lobbyists.   He received additional campaign funds from the winner – WastePro.

No one can say that EVERY recycling company gave money to Powers prior to the vote because they believed that he would make a great Mayor for Coral Springs. They contributed because there is the perception that if they didn’t, then the ones that gave would have a better chance at getting his vote. This influence got him $6,000 of contributions, plus more coming. Powers NEVER declared before the city commissioners that he received funds from the companies prior to voting, because he did not have to, since this is not contrary to the ethics code of the city. However, in not doing so stinks more than the trash that is being collected.  Every commissioner should openly declare ANY conflicts that they may have on any issue that comes before them for their vote  since this is the only honorable thing to do if you are holding office.

Regarding the single-sourced contract to Motorola, Powers received contributions ONLY from Motorola affiliated business entities, $2,000 contributed to his campaign before he voted on giving them the contract.

Then there are contributions received from towing companies, the management company that handles the Coral Springs Center for the Performing Arts (that has yet to turn a profit), and two large land developers donating generously before their rezoning issues were voted upon by Powers in their favor.  Then there are the car dealerships who no doubt depend on relaxed code enforcement and there is the Broward County Firefighter’s Union (correction updated Jan 9), who has been given favorable terms on their recent contract negotiations.

All in all, Tom Powers has received $15,000 or more in campaign contributions from special interest groups out of the $16,000 he has raised to date. Powers has put in a total of $100 of his own money. Any amount a candidate can get from OPM (Other People’s Money) reduces the amount the candidate has to put in.  A sitting city commissioner of course benefits financially from getting contributions from companies with the perceived notion of favoritism.  It is not in the best interests of the citizens that the commissioners are supposed to be representing.

To be fair, Tom Powers is not the only sitting city commission running for office that has taken campaign contributions from companies that need their vote. Young city commissioner Dan Daley has received similar contributions from similar companies.  They are smaller amounts, but given the fact that they only needed three of the city commissioners to agree on any issues brought before the city, most of the contributors, no doubt, performed the calculations and gave him a little less.

All of the candidates financial reports are on the city website and offer the evidence to what has been discussed in this article. Make sure you follow the money trail and addresses to really investigate where the money is actually coming from. In some cases, several companies owned by the same person have contributed.

Campaign Treasurer’s Report 2014 Elections

Everyone has to ask themselves if they are comfortable with city commissioners going after campaign contributions from people and companies doing business with the city. They must hold all candidates responsible for taking this type of money, and consider it when they vote in the upcoming November elections.

I cannot find any reason why this is a good thing for the citizens.  In fact, the only thing that I can say is that this city is for sale – for cheap.

About the Author

Howard Melamed is running for Coral Springs City Commissioner Seat #4, in a nonpartisan election. More information can be found at howardmelamed.com and is the owner and editor of Coralsprings.com, a local website. As a resident of Coral Springs for 23 years, Melamed has written over 200 articles, and has recently published a book titled “the Science of Opportunity” available on Amazon.com. He an expert in cell phone technology and is the CEO of CellAntenna Corporation, a multinational multimillion dollar company that is headquartered in Coral Springs. He has appeared on radio, television and has been quoted in newspapers around the world.

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About Howard Melamed

avatar Howard Melamed is a long-time resident of Coral Springs. He is a civil engineer and CEO of CellAntenna Corporation which has been located in Coral Springs since 1992. He serves on the City of Coral Springs Economic Development Advisory Committee and is the editor of Coralsprings.com.

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  • Frank Spagnola

    I see you are running for for Coral Springs City Commissioner Seat #4 …. So this article is your way of slamming the currently commissioners. Tell me if you make it to power will you not do exactly the same thing? You control this website so I doubt my comment will even make the page, but really this tactic you have used here just lost my vote (and of course all the people I happen to mention this article to)

    • Elect Howard Melamed

      Hi Frank, Interesting that you would say you would not vote for me considering that according to the Voters Database you are not even registered to vote in Coral Springs. So , what are you?
      Actually I am not running against any of the commissioners that I am commenting on. Seat #4 is an open seat, and as such I have nothing to gain by providing the information. I would not have done the same thing, and you are free to see exactly who contributes to my campaign and it is definitely not the special interest groups and lobbyists.
      Since when is telling the truth, a tactic? If so, I am guilty as charged 🙂

    • Elect Howard Melamed

      Hi Frank. According to the list I have of registered voters in Coral Springs which is public record, you cannot vote anyway. So, I never had your vote to start off with.
      However, instead of looking into tactics, etc etc, Can you tell me if you are in favor or not in favor of city commissioners where you live taking contributions to their campaign and then voting on issues before the city ?
      If I get elected, I will not do the same thing. the reason is simple. It is immoral.

  • CS

    Not sure where you are getting your facts from. I don’t see any contributions from any police unions for Tom Powers. And apparently you didn’t follow the last round of union negotiations, because there was nothing favorable about them, and Tom Powers certainly wasn’t supportive. Seems like you are just spreading mis-information. Not a good quality for someone running for office, Howard.

    • Elect Howard Melamed

      Thank you for pointing out the mistake that I misread which union is supporting Tom Powers. In fact, on 09-23/2013 it was the FireFighters Union, who is also negotiating and received favorable terms with the city. I will correct the article and admitting the error is a great sign for someone running for office.
      In any event, the point is that Powers is under the influence and even the one I made a mistake on, is still one too many.

  • Diane L. Yousefi

    Anyone running for Commission must follow the code
    of ethics, which Mr Melamad signed. Even a 5% error
    should be accounted for.

    It should be a conflict to use a public forum for any degree
    of slander.

    • Howard Melamed

      Hi Diane. Actually I am not sure why you are slandering me. I have signed nothing. In fact my 5% mistake was the fact that I said police instead of firefighter . either way the amounts are in fact 100% right. I am not the city commissioner ..yet. So you are in support of commissioners taking money from lobbyists and special interest groups? This was the point of the article no matter hownyou want to focus the attention on me. We cannot allow special interest groups from taking over city hall or even the appearance of it. How come you are not speaking on this?

      • Diane L. Yousefi

        You didn’t sign a code of conduct? There is no legality from the
        money that the present Commissioners have taken.

        • Howard Melamed

          Not sure where you got your facts from, but I have signed nothing. However there is the moral obligation that one has to tell the truth. There is nothing wrong with doing just that. Read my article and look at the city website link and you will see that my facts are right. This is not a loose cannon shooting 🙂 I did my research.

          Similarly, I specifically stated that there is nothing illegal with taking money from special interest groups. Instead this is immoral and not becoming of any politician that holds an import roll as to public trust. The fact that it is legal to do so, does not make it right to do so.

          Sticking on the issue……are you in favor of politicians taking money from lobbyists and special interest groups for their campaign, and voting on issues in their favor…whether it is legal or illegal? That was the point of the article. So your answer is …?

          • Live in Glass Houses

            If I were running for office, before I would make comments like that, I would make sure that not only was I correct (which he is not), I wouldn’t complain about someone who is doing the same thing thing as my friends that I support (See “The Gold Fund”), I would also explain why companies located in the DC area were donating to my campaign (guess they don’t want to do business here either, they just love him so much… Thanks for the link to the reports), and I would also not break so many elections rules (I would be really careful about that one specifically).

            And is he running to try to sell coralsprings.com to the city again for a million dollars? I have a feeling that he is just running to try to make money off of the city for his amateur website.

            He seems like a very classy gentleman. Those who live in glass houses………