One month before his role in the District 2 write-in candidate controversy was revealed in open court, Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness danced with the attorney for the Broward Supervisor of Elections at a Denver airport conference. In early June, 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 contract awarded by the Broward County Commission.
On June 23, RED BROWARD reported District 2 write-in candidate Tyron Francois did not live in the district. Florida Statute 99.0615 states, “At the time of qualification, all write-in candidates must reside within the district represented by the office sought.” Days later, a lawsuit was filed in Broward County Circuit court seeking the removal of Francois from the County Commission District 2 race. Francois’ presence on the ballot prevented non-Democrats from voting in the August 26 primary.
At the July 10 emergency hearing, Burnadette Norris-Weeks fought to keep non-Democrats from voting in the Broward Commission District 2 primary. She 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.
The picture showed Francois and 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.
In a historic decision, Judge Sandra Perlman opened the Broward County Commission District 2 Democrat primary to all voters by disqualifying write-in candidate Tyron Francois from the ballot.
On Thursday, another emergency hearing was held to determine whether to hold Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes in contempt. Earlier in the week, Snipes’ office informed District 2 candidates that absentee ballots had been sent to Democrat voters only. Appearing before Circuit Court Judge John Murphy III, Norris-Weeks and Snipes tried to blame the State of Florida for the delays. They claimed the State needed to sign off on moving the Democrat primary to November. In a letter, State officials said the matter was between Snipes and the Court. “So I don’t think that it’s been evidenced that I’ve been sitting on my hands,” Snipes said.
Last April, RED BROWARD reported Holness was supporting community activist Carmen Jones in the District 2 race. “Carmen would be an excellent County Commissioner…and she will be a great asset working for the people of Broward County.” Political insiders believe a closed primary would benefit Jones and liberal Democrat Lisa Aronson.
On July 15, the Sun-Sentinel Broward Politics blog tweeted about Holness’ involvement in the District 2 race. In an interview with the Sun-Sentinel editorial board, District 2 candidate Terry Williams-Edden said, “[S]he was told Commissioner Dale Holness put Carmen Jones in race to split black vote to help Lisa Aronson.”
RED BROWARD reported Snipes’ attorney Burnadette Norris-Weeks is a 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 DailyBroward contributor, she questioned why we did not report her recent contribution to Broward Commissioner Chip LaMarca or William Scherer’s support of other candidates. 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.”
On April 24, 2014, Norris-Weeks gave $350 to Chip LaMarca’s re-election campaign. Last week, questions were raised about Holness’ role in LaMarca’s race. The Sun-Sentinel reports Broward County Commissioners Dale Holness and Chip LaMarca may have a role in the Jason Steele campaign. “Some even wondered whether Commissioner Dale Holness put Steele, an African-American, in the race as a favor to Republican incumbent Chip LaMarca, to draw Democrat votes away from whichever Democrat ends up on the November ballot (Ken Keechl or Ben Lap). That theory had it that Holness was doing a favor for LaMarca by splitting the non-Republican vote so that LaMarca could win. Observers have noted that LaMarca is one of the few allies Holness sometimes has on the dais.” Steele denied this theory. “I’m not in the race to take votes away from anybody,” he said. “I just want to truly make a difference in my community.”
In 2012, Norris-Weeks gave $300 to Miramar Vice Mayor Alexandra Davis for her re-election. Now, Davis is running against Broward Mayor Barbara Sharief. Davis is backed by Dale Holness. Norris-Weeks has not contributed to Davis’ commission campaign, but a corporation under Norris-Weeks control has made one.
On May 22, 2014 Right Consulting LLC gave $300 to Alexandra Davis’ campaign. On February 4, 2014, Right Consulting LLC gave $500 to District 2 candidate Lisa Aronson. According to the State of Florida, Burnadette Norris-Weeks is the managing member of Right Consulting LLC. On Lisa Aronson’s campaign reports, she writes Right Consulting LLC is in the “airport concessions” business.
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 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.
In 2006, Norris-Weeks added a member with airport experience to Right Consulting LLC. State documents show Judith DeBourg joined Right Consulting in September 2006. DeBourg had experience landing Broward county government contracts. In May 1999, Buddy Nevins wrote DeBourg used political connections to secure airport business. He 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 told Nevins it didn’t matter who Debourg knew. “She deserves the work. She’ll do a great job.”
The write-in candidate in Kristin Jacobs’ Florida House District 96 admits he does not live in the district. Brenda Snipes’ office is a named defendant in lawsuit to get Ronald Bray removed for the ballot. That case is being heard in a Leon county circuit court. Norris-Weeks and her husband have made over $1,000 in contributions to Jacobs’ past campaigns.
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.