The Democrats' 537 Consulting LLC certainly looks a lot like the Republicans' disgraced Victory Strategies did in 2010.
It's time Annette Taddeo, Miami-Dade Democratic Party chairwoman just named Charlie Crist's running mate, explained a few things about the company set up by two party staff members, one of them her executive director, and receiving "consulting" business from the Miami-Dade Democratic Executive Committee.
Under Taddeo's leadership, the Miami-Dade DEC gave a contract to 537 Consulting LLC -- a company whose registered agents are local DEC Executive Director Juan C. Cuba and local DEC Communications Director Rachel Johnson.
537 Consulting's address is listed as3635 SW 23 St., Miami, FL 33145.
The company was formed at approximately the same time in early 2013 as the contract was drawn, ostensibly to move the Miami-Dade DEC's employees from a W2, salaried status, to a 1099 independent-contractor designation. Taddeo told party members the DEC was short on cash and couldn't afford to pay staff Social Security and other benefits. She told the executive committee 537 Consulting LLC would be given the contract to pay staff.
By all accounts the contract was presented to the executive committee membership as a fait accomplis, already reviewed and approved by attorney Joe Geller of Greenspoon Marder. There was nothing to vote on, so no vote taken.
The contract was never put out for bid.
Taddeo has to know about all of this. She has to. Under FDP and Miami-Dade DEC bylaws, the chair signs all payroll checks. The pertinent information is in 2.2.6, page 13 of the FDP document, stating policy plainly:"Checks in the amount of twenty-fivethousand dollars ($25,000) or less and staff salary checks may be signed by the state chaironly." The same holds true for county executive committees -- the county DEC chair signs the salary checks.
Taddeo had to know she was paying her executive director Cuba as what? An independent contractor? Or, if not, a salaried employee? Is he double dipping? Under the 1099 description, Cuba as top executive doesn't qualify as an independent contractor.
This conceivably could present a problem for the Florida Democratic Party. DEC chairmen and treasurers are required to be bonded and it looks as if Miami-Dade's are not. Or, if they are, certainly the item/expenditure doesn't show up anywhere that I can find.
So, Taddeo skips the bidding process, gives an exclusive contract to an employee, to accept money for "consulting" -- which includes paying himself and his partner in the business, another DEC director.
Doesn't she think Democrats -- in fact, all Floridians who recognize Taddeo could be Florida's next lieutenant governor -- might want this convoluted business relationship with 537 Consulting LLC, explained?
As a reminder, RPOF Chairman Jim Greer went to prison for his contract with a company set up by his executive director, Delmar Johnson.The two-page contract gave Johnson's company, VictoryStrategies, 10 percent of the money he raised from major donors. For that reason alone, how the Cuba-Johnson company functions needs fresh air and sunshine.
Maybe it's all as clean as a G-rated Disney cartoon, but it's unusual enough to scare even the party faithful. And it smells bad, this 537 Consulting LLC.
Check out Florida Statutes 103.121(3) -- attached below -- and think again about Victory Strategies: "Any chair or treasurer of a state or county executive committee of any political party who knowingly misappropriates, or makes an unlawfulexpenditure of, or a false or improper accounting for, the funds of such committee is guiltyof a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s.775.084."
From the Miami-Dade DEC treasurer's report (it's online), here's the list of expenditures -- checks written to 537 Consulting LLC -- during the first quarter of 2014:
- $995.50 on 1/8/14 for valet parking at a New Year's Eve event
- $4,200.00 on 1/15/14 for "Dec. 20 invoice for political consulting"
- $3,425.00 on 1/15/14 for "Jan. 3 invoice for political consulting"
- $8,050.00 on 2/7/14 for "political consulting for the month of January"
- $8,050.00 on 3/3/14 for "political consulting for the month of February"
- $864.00 on 3/17/14 for "food and event space at Annual Legislative Reception"
- $713.00 on 3/17/14 for "Website costs in Jan. and Feb."
- $1,479.90 on 3/17/14 for "online advertising on social media platforms."
Was 537 Consulting LLC established by the Democrats for the sole purpose of doing their own business? Does 537 Consulting LLC have other clients? Even one? It pays wages and presumably performs social media tasks, but what else does it do? How much else? Do Cuba and Johnson get any piece of the action apart from their pay?
I'd like to hear Taddeo explain how giving a contract to her executive director's new company and paying him to work for the party at the same timeisn't a conflict of interest.
I would also like to apologize for being unable to reach either Taddeo or Cuba. Taddeo had a busy weekend, I can understand that. But Juan Cuba was out of sight -- at least for me, and I was unsuccessful in finding him. Cuba is something of an enigma, more like the Incredible Disappearing Man than the Democrat running in House District 116 against Jose Felix Diaz. There is no mention of 537 Consulting LLC on his LinkedIn resume, no prominent photo of him on the Internet.
Still, I wish I could have produced answers for you instead of questions. There's still time. You deserve to know the truth and you will have it.
Reach Nancy Smith at email@example.com or at 228-282-2423.