Records show Broward County officials rushed the Federal minority small business certification process which helped Burnadette Norris-Weeks land a million dollar concession contract at Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport. Norris-Weeks is the attorney for the Broward Supervisior of Elections Office (SOE). Ms. Norris-Weeks has recently represented SOE in cases involving County Commissioners Kristin Jacobs and Dale Holness. In July, RED BROWARD reported one month before his role in the District 2 write-in candidate controversy was revealed in open court, Commissioner Dale Holness danced with Norris-Weeks at a Denver airport conference. In early June, Holness and Norris-Weeks attended the Airport Minority Advisory Council (AMAC) conference. Norris-Weeks attended the conference to promote her company Right Consulting LLC.
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, the County Commission sought to end Paradies monopoly over airport concessions. 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.
Norris-Weeks formed Right Consulting LLC in January 2004. But in 2006, she added a new partner with expertise in airport concessions.
Records obtained from the Broward Office of Economic and Small Business Development show Norris-Weeks made Judith DeBourg her partner in September 2006. The State of Florida Unified Certification Program “On Site Checking List” shows Norris-Weeks and DeBourg each owned 50% of Right Consulting. Under “History and Structure of the Firm,” it states, “Burnadette Norris Weeks decided to start firm in order to position the company to do airport type concessions and met with Judith DeBourg with the expertise needed to form the LLC.”
The checklist was reviewed on September 26, 2006 by Lorraine M. Gassett, a Broward County OESBD employee. On the application, dated September 16, 2006, is the handwritten word “RUSH.”
Like Burnadette Norris-Weeks, Judith DeBourg had no experience with airport concessions. However, DeBourg had close ties to a Broward politician. In May 1999, Buddy Nevins wrote DeBourg used her political connections to secure airport business. Nevins wrote, “Broward County commissioners this week handed an airport contract to Judith Debourg. Debourg got her work the old-fashioned way at the governmental center. She was Commissioner Kristin Jacobs’ campaign manager.” DeBourg had no shame. “It didn’t hurt to know the right people,” Debourg said. Jacobs dismissed accusations DeBourg got the contract due to her political ties. Jacobs said, “[DeBourg] deserves the work. She’ll do a great job.”
On her 2006 OESBD application, Norris-Weeks stated Right Consulting’s gross revenue was just $1,200. In 2012, Right Consulting’s gross receipts ballooned to $100,784. A 2013 OESBD memorandum states Right Consulting LLC enjoyed gross receipts of $7, 067, 873.07.
No records indicate Norris-Weeks informed the court of her business dealings with the County when she appeared as Brenda Snipes’ attorney in cases involving Jacobs and Holness.