The garbage contract is up in North Lauderdale -- and suddenly there's a lot of family involvement in the business.
Long-time Mayor Jack Brady announced at the January 11 commission meeting that his grown son got a job with a subsidiary of Republic Services, the company that currently provides garbage service to his city, in North Carolina.
Shortly after that, Commissioner David Hilton chimed in that his own son recently was given a job at Waste Pro, a garbage firm that is now vying for his city's business.
So the sons of two city commissioners got jobs during one of the greatest recessions in American history with garbage firms vying for their cities' business within a year of the garbage contract coming up for a vote. That's a heck of a coincidence, isn't it?
Both Brady and Hilton asked North Lauderdale City Attorney Sam Goren -- who represents numerous Broward municipalities, including corruption-ravaged Tamarac -- if their sons' jobs would pose a conflict of interest when it comes to choosing among the firms.
Inside, see what Goren said about the situation and what both a very, uh, colorful Brady and Hilton had to say about their sons' garbage company jobs.
Goren first said that if the vote "would inure to the special private gain or loss to either of you as public officials or to a relative, which includes your children... then the answer is you can't vote," according to the official meeting minutes.
But then Goren applied his own rather lenient interpretation of Florida ethics and criminal corruption laws:
"Mr. Goren further stated that to the extent that they have children who work for these large companies, they are one of hundreds or thousands of employees nationally, so any decision you might make... would not independently benefit you unless you are being bribed to make a decision which is not the case."
Isn't that special?
You'd think that Goren -- who has watched as Tamarac has been ravaged by the arrests of its mayor and two commissioners on bribery charges -- might want to tighten up the ethical standards of the politicians in his cities rather than start getting into such nuances.
And what about B-word Goren brought up? Today I asked Mayor Brady, who has served on the North Lauderdale commission for more than 20 years, if he had any involvement in his son's hiring by the Republic Services subsidiary in North Carolina.
When I initially brought up the garbage contract, he mentioned the cone of silence that has been placed on commissioners. They aren't allowed to talk to lobbyists or company reps about the contract.
"I want to keep my ass out of trouble," Brady said.
When I asked about his son's employment, the mayor immediately went on the defensive.
"Give me a break," said Brady, in his accent from Albany, New York. "You're picking on my family now?... You come after me, that's one thing. You come after my family, we got a problem."
He said something in Italian ending in "Calabrese," and I asked him what it meant.
"Don't let the name Brady fool you -- I'm an American first, but my heritage is Irish and Italian," he said. "There are three things I believe in: God, family, and community."
What his Italian heritage had to do with anything, I don't know (though it's no secret that a whole lot of people in the garbage business are Italian). I asked him if his son put him down as a reference when he got the job at Republic.
"I don't know what he did," said Brady.
I asked him if he talked to anybody at Republic about the job.
I tried several variations of the question, but he wouldn't give me an answer. He said something about the media being unfair and mentioned that he spent four years in the military.
"Have you fought for your country?" he asked me in challenging fashion.
"I fight for my country every day," I found myself answering. "And I respect your service in the military."
OK, onto the Hilton family's involvement with Waste Pro.
Understand that after the city decided to hire a consultant to make recommendations on the best deals in the garbage industry and the cone of silence was instituted, Commissioner John Cangemi (who has a brother you might remember) suddenly suggested during the March 8 commission meeting that the city should "piggyback" off the new Miramar contract with Waste Pro.
If the city piggybacks, it won't have to go out for bids. When Cangemi made the recommendation, the cone of silence had been in place for two months. Fellow Commissioner Rich Moyle thought the suggestion stank. From the meeting minutes:
"Since we decided to go out for an RFP and had a cone of silence in place, [Moyle] said something doesn't feel right to him about this... Commissioner Moyle stated that it's not that he is objecting to Waste Pro, but [he] is objecting to the process, and he does not think we are going down the right road for our residents."
Waste Pro is a relative upstart in Broward's garbage business that has been aggressively wooing politicians. Last August, the firm treated a bunch of local politicians
at the Florida League of Cities convention to a free dinner at Gulfstream Park, where they gave the elected officials all the steak and drinks they could stuff into their mouths at the III Forks restaurant. Unfortunately, that's a common ploy used by contractors to get up-close and personal with politicians and get them loose and grateful when it comes voting time.
Mayor Brady was brought in for that dinner. So was Commissioner David Hilton. Also present was Miramar Mayor Lori Moseley, who also brought along her daughter to enjoy the experience. Funny that now Miramar and Waste Pro are in business together.
You have to watch these functions -- actually see the politicians get brought to fancy restaurants in a bus and then proceed to fill their faces with the best food and drinks money can buy on a garbage company's dime -- to really understand how repulsive they are.
The dinner was organized by Mayor Frank Ortis of Pembroke Pines -- another Goren city. Ortis doubles as a lobbyist.
When I asked Brady about the Waste Pro dinner, he said, "I had dinner with both companies, and I put it on my [gift disclosure] forms."
Hilton told me the dinner and the city garbage contract had nothing to do with Waste Pro's hiring of his son. He said he didn't talk to anyone at Waste Pro about getting his son the job but acknowledged that Waste Pro was one of several companies he'd recommended his son seek employment.
I asked him if he planned to vote on the garbage contract.
"I've had that discussion with the city attorney, and he advised me that it probably would not be a conflict," Hilton said. "But if it came up, I would again bring it up with the city attorney and ask for his advice again."
Before Goren gives the green light, he might want to remember all the corruption arrests that have rocked Broward -- and a little something one of the Waste Pro representatives said at the bar during that Gulfstream dinner.
"What does a mayor make? Maybe $78,000? Then you got contractors coming in with millions and millions of dollars, you don't think they want a piece of the pie?"