On Tuesday February 19, 2013 Rico Petrocelli, chairman of the Broward Republican Executive Committee resigned effective immediately. Petrocelli’s reign lasted just 79 days. This is a fact. Almost everything else you’ve read about Petrocelli’s resignation is pure Broward-style baloney.
In his public statement, Petrocelli says he quit over “irreconcilable differences” with his fellow board members. On Facebook, Petrocelli wrote, “Not giving interviews, etc from TV or Print. In the best interest of the Party…” But at a Wednesday morning meeting Petrocelli told his fellow Broward County Housing Authority Board Members he had talked to Anthony Man of the Sun-Sentinel. In fact, when Petrocelli’s cell phone rang during the Pledge of Allegiance, he laughingly told the board it was the Miami Herald calling him.
Make no mistake, Petrocelli and his allies are trying to paint him as the victim.
Michael George DeGruccio, Petrocelli’s hand-picked flunky, posted a picture from “The Mutiny On The Bounty” on his Facebook page. It was yet another ham-fisted attempt to paint Petrocelli and DeGruccio as “victims”. One problem: It’s not true.
From the day Petrocelli took the reins of BREC from Richard DeNapoli, sources have painted a picture of disarray and questionable decisions and practices implemented by Team Petrocelli.
RED BROWARD documented the push for fewer meetings. It was true.
We exposed his plans to get non-REC member Sheela Venero VanHoose onto a key RPOF committee. It was true.
We documented Petrocelli’s questionable 20% commission scheme. It was true.
We documented the controversial luncheon for Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll. It was true.
We posted the State’s ethics investigation into Petrocelli. We posted how Petrocelli endorsed a controversial Democrat in Plantation.
We documented his maneuvers to turn BREC headquarters into a private investigation firm. Again, it was true.
Petrocelli followed the patented Broward politician handbook: “Deny. Nobody reads/watches them. Ignore them. It will all go away.” Sadly, this usually works in Broward County.
It didn’t work this time. People listened. Some of those people are BREC board members.
From the start, it was clear Petrocelli was going ignore his board. He had the unwavering support of DeGruccio and Mark McCarthy, BREC treasurer. Petrocelli had State Committeewoman Sharon Day running interference for him.
The new board members wanted transparency. They wanted to know about the money being raised. They wanted to know about payments being made to DeGruccio and others. When board members requested access to key files or computers, they were told DeGruccio had passwords. When the board wanted to have a meeting Petrocelli said he was too tired to attend.
Petrocelli never wanted to give answers.
Money was clearly an issue. On December 18, 2012 Petrocelli authorized payments to DeGruccio and Benjamin Bennett totaling $800. Questions had been raised by BREC members regarding Bennett’s role at BREC. At the January BREC meeting, Petrocelli dubbed Bennett his “Chief Sergeant at Arms”. But official BREC business cards named Bennett as a “consultant”. A plausible question would then be ‘What kind of consulting did Bennett offer?’
Bennett, a former Tamarac police officer was charged in 1982 with 10 felony counts including drug dealing and conspiracy to commit armed robbery. He served four years of a 15 year prison sentence. In 1985, while still incarcerated, Bennett was interviewed by the Sun-Sentinel, and stated “I’ve done a lot of good since I’ve been in prison, and I want that known. So much has been said about me that’s not true.”
With such a background, concerned BREC members were right to ask for more information regarding Bennett’s role in the county party. Petrocelli warned that Bennett was now a “minister” and any questions may jeopardize donations Bennett brought into the BREC coffers. Petrocelli was also a former police officer. He was dismissed from the Hacienda Village police department in 1977. BREC treasurer Mark McCarthy is a private investigator as well. Questions were raised if Petrocelli and Associates was conducting its business out of the BREC offices. We may never know. Minutes after Petrocelli announced his resignation, State Committeewoman and RNC co-chair Sharon Day issued an email screed attacking the board for daring to question Petrocelli’s actions.
“Dear Rico, I am sorry that you felt the need to make this decision, and I can honestly say I fully understand from the meetings I was a part of and the never ending accusatory email threads.
I hope this is enough communications for the members of this Executive Board and I hope beyond an interim Chair no one is planning to run for Chairman from this board!
Believe in America – Vote Republican”
Apparently, Ms. Day doesn’t like questions from those she perceives as underlings. Day protégé and Gov. Scott aide Sheela Venero VanHoose censored RED BROWARD when we exposed Petrocelli’s schemes. We reported Day was upset, but she wasn’t upset at Petrocelli. Turns out she was one of Petrocelli’s biggest fans.
Though she serves at the pleasure of those who elected her, Day is the self-appointed “queen” of the Broward do-nothing establishment. She touts her titles at BREC meetings, but what does she do for Broward Republicans? She doesn’t support local candidates. Name one local candidate who got a dime from Sharon Day. At the BREC meetings she drones on about RNC fundraising and how she only hires Republican money managers and brokers. Wow, talk about rich people problems. I dare Day to name each of the local and State Republicans who ran in the last election. No peeking Sharon.
Sharon Day is Petrocelli’s fellow commissioner over at the Broward County Housing Authority. They distribute Federal tax dollars to local builders and landlords. Gee, how very Republican of them. Day and Petrocelli were appointed by Florida’s favorite turncoat, former Governor Charlie Crist.
Now that Petrocelli is gone, expect the rest of the Broward Do-Nothing Establishment to come out of the woodwork. “The Chairmen” aka Broward County Commissioner Chip LaMarca, Ed Pozzuoli and Kevin Tynan, are probably sharing some wings with Karen Harrington as we speak. They secretly courted Harrington to challenge DeNapoli in December. When DeNapoli bowed out, “the chairmen” hung Harrington out to dry. We doubt Harrington will listen to their overtures this time.
Back in 2010, LaMarca and friends tried to get local attorney David DiPietro (who?) to run against Denapoli. Maybe they’ll try to get him to run this time. It would be a classic example of “pulling a LaMarca”. Di Pietro gave Broward State Attorney Mike Satz a big fat $500 contribution last year even though he had a Republican challenger. You remember Mike Satz; He’s the Democrat who has let corruption run rampant in Broward County since 1976. Di Pietro operates several political action committees including A Better Broward, Broward Citizens For A Strong Judiciary and Mile Marker 1. Di Pietro supported Judy Stern’s favorite judicial candidate last year. BREC doesn’t need a LaMarca apologist at the helm.
Are you starting to see why Broward Republicans always come up short? Last year you worked hard. You organized. You made calls. You knocked on doors. You wrote letters. You raised money. BREC spent money. Yet we have nothing to show for it. Day & Co. blame “messaging” and “branding” and crazy tea party candidates.
They never take blame. They circle the wagons. They protect their own.
Petrocelli is gone, but the work to unshackle the Broward Republican Party from the Broward Do-Nothing Establishment rages on.