Minority Report II
North Broward Hospital District Commissioner Dorsey Miller appears to have used his influence to help Enterprise Security, a minority-owned Fort Lauderdale firm, land a contract worth about $500,000 a year to help guard the district's four hospitals.
At the same time, Enterprise was paying the commissioner's company, D.C. Miller & Associates, an undisclosed amount of money in consulting fees, according to district records.
The revelation, a potentially criminal conflict of interest, comes on the heels of last month's report in New Times that Miller, who was appointed to the board in 2000 by Gov. Jeb Bush, used his public position to help another company, American Medical Depot, win millions in district supply business without a bidding process [see "Minority Report," June 10]. American Medical Depot has paid Miller more than $100,000 since 2001.
It's against the law in Florida for a public official to use his or her governmental position for personal profit. The Broward State Attorney's Office, which has a decidedly poor record in prosecuting public corruption, is investigating Miller's relationship with American Medical.
Miller, one of Florida's most influential black Republicans and a former official in the governor's campaign, insisted last week that he did nothing wrong in either case. Instead, he portrays himself as the victim. "Any time you speak out on blacks and minorities, you become a target," the commissioner says. "My obligation is to recuse myself and not get involved with allocations from the district going to those companies that are my clients. That's what I did."
The record, though, indicates otherwise in both the American Medical and Enterprise cases. The commissioner, who was recently picked by the White House to help bring black votes to President Bush this November, clearly played a significant role in Enterprise's windfall. As chairman of the district's Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) committee in 2002, he demanded that businesses with large district contracts share their NBHD revenues with minority companies. One of those large contractors was Wackenhut, the Palm Beach Gardens-based security giant. Wackenhut has a contract worth about four million dollars a year to provide protective services for the district, which is the sixth-largest public health system in the country.
At the beginning of 2002, Wackenhut subcontracted less than 8 percent of its district business to minority companies. After Miller's urging, district officials mandated that the company raise its commitment to 15 percent.
Miller proudly admits that he pushed for more minority participation at Wackenhut and other companies, but he says he never shifted any public money directly to Enterprise. MBE committee meeting minutes, however, clearly show that he did help steer business to Enterprise during a district committee meeting on April 16, 2002. At the monthly meeting, district contracts administrator Bob Jackson reported that Wackenhut would immediately comply with the new minority requirements if it could use two vendors from Miami-Dade County that were registered with the district. Miller balked at this suggestion, according to the minutes: "Commissioner Miller commented that the goal was to have as much Broward County participation as possible."
With that, Wackenhut was ordered to find local companies -- and Enterprise happens to be the largest black-owned security business in Broward County. According to Bill Schira, Wackenhut's supervisor of Broward operations, Enterprise was one of only three companies that qualified for the job and, by necessity, all three were added to the district contract. Schira was familiar with Enterprise -- which owes hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Internal Revenue Service and recently filed for bankruptcy -- because the firm also subcontracts with Wackenhut on a Broward County Commission contract.
Miller says he was only following the rules when he demanded that Wackenhut use Broward firms, since local companies are supposed to take precedence. "I've said we need to deal with locals when we can," Miller reiterates. "And where we can deal with minorities in Broward County, that should be our priority."
The commissioner didn't complain, though, when the MBE committee that he chaired steered millions in district business to his other client, American Medical Depot. That firm, which is owned by the Agrawal family from India, is based in Miami-Dade County.
During the April 2002 meeting, the MBE committee voted to approve an amended Wackenhut contract that included the minority stipulation, according to district records. Miller never revealed his business relationship with Enterprise and didn't abstain from that vote. The particulars of that financial arrangement remain unknown, since Enterprise owner George Beasley wouldn't comment for this article, and Miller refuses to discuss it. "That's between me and Enterprise," Miller says. "I'm not going to put that in the paper. I can tell you what I haven't done, and that was to get them business with the district."
Miller also voted during a regular board meeting on June 26, 2002 to approve the amended Wackenhut contract as well. When asked about that vote, Miller said he had no recollection of it.
In August 2002, Wackenhut signed the new contract. Wackenhut's Schira says he approached Beasley in November 2002 to see if Enterprise would be interested in working at the hospital district. "He refused to do it," Schira recalled. "Mr. Beasley said he couldn't because he works with Dorsey Miller."
A few weeks later, Beasley called him back to see if the job was still available, said Schira. "As I understand it -- and I wasn't present -- Mr. Miller informed the board that he had recused himself from all votes and discussions regarding the contract," Schira explained. "Mr. Beasley told me that when he called me later and said he would like to participate."
Miller denies that he ever contacted district officials about Enterprise or intervened to help Beasley join the contract. "I advised Enterprise not to work with the district," Miller says. "But I also told [Beasley] that it was his company and he could do what he wanted."
Enterprise and Wackenhut signed a contract on February 3, 2003. Soon, the minority company was doing roughly $40,000 a month in business at NBHD, according to district records.
At the March 2003 MBE committee meeting, the Wackenhut contract was again discussed and, for the first time, Miller recused himself from the discussion, but not before "reminding" the board of a Wackenhut pledge to give 17 percent of its security business to minority companies to help it meet the 15 percent requirement for the year, according to minutes.
Not long after the contract was signed, Miller, Wackenhut's Schira, and Enterprise's Beasley met in the commissioner's Lauderhill office. Miller contends that Schira called the gathering, which was attended by Beasley. "I told them I couldn't deal with them, but I also told them that I had a very big concern that [Wackenhut] hasn't done enough business with minorities," Miller recalls.
That implies that Miller was urging Schira to give more business to Enterprise, but the commissioner denies that was the case. Schira, who initially denied he'd ever spoken at all with Miller, acknowledged attending the gathering with Beasley and the commissioner, but denied that he arranged it. "Beasley orchestrated the meeting," he said. "He wanted to introduce us to Mr. Miller. It was a meet and greet."
When informed that Miller told New Times the meeting concerned Wackenhut's level of minority participation, Schira adjusted his explanation a bit. "We were there to show him that we had a significant amount of minority participation in our contracts," he said.
Schira also insisted that neither Miller nor any other district official ever asked him to give Enterprise more business: "He never suggested that we increase Enterprise's participation in the contract, as far as my recollection goes."
Miller's maneuverings, in both the public arena and private realm, went largely unnoticed. He didn't file conflict-of-interest forms during early MBE committee discussions about the Wackenhut contract or when he voted to increase the company's level of minority participation. He did, however, file one three months after the March 2003 meeting. District general counsel Bill Scherer instructed him to do so after becoming aware of the state attorney's criminal investigation involving American Medical Depot. By law, however, the forms are supposed to be filled out within ten days.
"I was not aware I was supposed to file that form," says Miller. "I had never had a situation where I had a perceived conflict. We did it the day I found out I was supposed to do it."
Prosecutor John Hanlon, who has overseen the Miller investigation, wouldn't say if he is looking into the Enterprise contract. Schira, however, said he hasn't been contacted by any authorities regarding Miller. Hanlon, a long-time public corruption investigator who hasn't prosecuted a case involving an elected or appointed official since 1993, refused to comment.
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