Cornered! Pious Comm. Anthony A. Sanders consistently ignored Hallandale Beach's most-concerned taxpayers, and now, as they see their suspicions about him proving to be entirely justified by an IG investigation, because of his own words, deeds and votes, they're urging him to quit and come clean. Words, deeds and votes that the South Florida press corps has almost completely ignored for four long years.
A Hallandale Beach program that funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants and contributions to community groups is a key focus of the Broward Inspector General’s widespread investigation of city management practices.
Documents obtained by Broward Bulldog show the Inspector General obtained city files on eight community-based organizations, several linked to City Commissioner Anthony Sanders or his wife, Jessica. The documents include information about city payments to Jessica Sanders and others associated with the groups.
While records indicate that the Inspector General’s probe is multi-faceted, investigators appear to be strongly focused on city grants and charitable contributions made through its Community Partnership Grants program.
City records show that such giveaways increased 60 percent in the past three years — from $400,000 in fiscal year 2009-2010 to $647,000 this year.
“As economic times worsened the city saw a greater need for services in the community which directly corresponded with the increase in the amount of requests to the city,” City Manager Mark Antonio wrote in a letter. He added that for 2012 “two teams of professionals who were non-city employees” reviewed 29 applications.
Available city documents show that in 2010 and 2011, city grants and donations did not specify where the money came from: the general fund, the Community Redevelopment Agency or the Law Enforcement Trust fund. But this year, after a CRA management makeover, they were shown as follows: general fund, $256,130; CRA, $274,600; and Law Enforcement Trust Fund, $116,654.
The Inspector General asked for the files on these program recipients:
• Eagles Wings Development Center Inc., job training and social services program, $50,000 in the past two years.
• Greater Mt. Everett Resources and Learning Center, a work force training program for construction trades, $61,000 this year.
• Lampkin’s Creative Arts for All LLC, including Dizzy Fingers School of Excellence, Inc., training youth in how to advance in the arts, $50,000 this year.
• Palms Center for the Arts, Inc., a youth arts and job preparation program, $107,000 past three years.
• Palm Community Action Coalition, community based program assistance, $26,000 over two years.
• Palms of Hallandale Beach Weed and Seed, a crime prevention and community development program associated with the Department of Justice, $143,000 past three years.
• Phileo Outreach Ministries Inc., a program for rehabilitation of youth, $45,000 past two years.
• Zamar School of Performing Arts, Inc., $25,000 two years ago.
State corporate records for Eagles Wing listed Hallandale Beach Commissioner Anthony Sanders as president and his wife, Jessica, director, in 2009. In 2010 and 2011, Jessica was listed as director, but Anthony Sanders was not listed. He was appointed to the City Commission on Sept. 8, 2008 to fill a vacancy.
Jessica Sanders also has ties to two other non-profits on the Inspector General’s list, according to public records.
She is a contact for the Palms Community Action Coalition, which until April 2011 was known as the Palms Community Development Corporation. Jessica Sanders, as “interim site coordinator” for Palms of Hallandale Beach Weed and Seed, appeared at a July 14, 2011 Hallandale Beach commission meeting before a vote to award a $45,000 grant to her group. “Vice Mayor Sanders excused himself from the dais during the presentation and recused himself from voting,” city minutes say.
In an interview this week, Commissioner Sanders indicated that he is perplexed about the county’s inquiry.
“I can’t answer why they are asking for the records,” he said. “They are looking at nonprofits. I don’t mind that they are looking at Eagles Wings. It is a service to the community and always has been…food programs, job training and other services.”
Sanders indicated he may meet with IG investigators soon.
Jessica Sanders said there has been no wrongdoing and noted that she has provided some records to IG investigators. She said that she and her husband “stayed here to make a difference. We do good work.”
“I’m not concerned about the probe,’’ she added.
Her income from the Weed and Seed program was not from city funds, she said, but came from the Department of Justice, which backed the program. She said that on several occasions, she was asked by the Weed and Seed governing board to operate the program when the group’s administrators failed to perform.
The county investigators also sought information payments made by the city to Nellie Bacon, Clara Brown, Deborah Brown, Selinda Washington-Jackson and Jacquelyn Rosenau.
According to state corporation records, Rosenau is director at Eagles Wing. Clara Brown is corporate secretary for Palms Community Action Coalition. Deborah Brown was president of Palm Center for the Arts in 2011, and a principal and director of Zamar School in 2011. Washington-Jackson works for Weed and Seed. Rosenau used to work for the agency.
The city supplied copies of its lease and rental agreements with non-profits to investigators.
Those agreements are with: Hallandale Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, Zamar School of Performing Arts, and the Palm Center for the Arts.
The chamber, which received $25,000 from the city in 2010, has an office in City Hall, next to the commission chambers. The rental fee for approximately 400 square feet of space is $1 a month.
The Palm Center for the Arts, 501 NW First Ave., sits on land the city purchased with CRA funds in 2009 from Anthony Sanders’ nonprofit Higher Vision Ministries; a commissioner at the time, Sanders did not vote on the sale.
Sanders bought the property in 2001 for $45,000 and sold it to the city for $235,000 after receiving a $46,000 property improvement loan. The city initially agreed to forgive $7,500 of the loan. When the city bought Sanders’ property, however, it forgave an additional $7,500 when at the time the sale was finalized. City officials have said it was an error by the city.
In August 2009, the city leased Sanders’ former property to the Palm Center for the Arts for a one-time fee of $10, on the condition it provide community art and music training programs. While the lease states the center is not allowed to sublet or rent the facility, the city modified the agreement to permit the Zamar School for Performing Arts to operate a summer camp at the center in the summer in 2009.
A provision in the Palm Center lease allowed for a summer camp music program. The city helped Zamar with $25,000 to operate the camp.
The IG’s office has also requested information about additional money given to various groups that was more than initially authorized.
No, unfortunately for us, it seems that the very person-to-person tasks and activities that many political candidates actually believe they'd find most satisfying in making a genuine difference, actually bore Sanders.
Comm. Sanders has made clear over almost four years that he wanted nothing to do with such responsibilities, and even now, in the moment where he has drawn so much unfavorable attention to himself and this city, he seems to almost flinch at the very idea that the public has the right to expect something from him.
But that counter-intuitive attitude of Sanders also explains why after 46 months on the job, and doing so in such a dreary and undistinguished way, so many HB residents not only find him insufferable and completely lacking, but are perfectly willing to watch from a distance as he and his wife slowly twists in the wind, amid calls for him to resign.
Sanders certainly hasn't wanted for opportunities to do the right thing, but in 46 months, where at some point Sanders could've learned the fundamental difference between being a lapdog for the comfortable and the status quo in our area, and an energetic and fully-engaged watchdog for the public's best interests, he has consciously opted-out.
The same way that he has SO FREQUENTLY AND CONSISTENTLY been the only one of the five commissioners to NOT attend a public meeting or forum somewhere in the city.
Instead, to be generous, he's only done the right thing, by my eyes, on an important issue maybe three times.
That is, to the extent that he's actually paying attention, and there's yet another one of the fundamental criticisms of Sanders -he honestly doesn't know what going on in this city and consistently takes the word of both the mayor and city staff who are themselves, unworthy of the responsibilities they have and myopic in their vision.
It's been Comm. Sanders' great fortune to be an elected official at a time when the public is both apathetic and intensely cynical, and the local news media has been both incurious and unwilling to report what is right in front of them.
And it has been our great collective misfortune.
To be blunt, Comm. Sanders has never quite figured out what his role was on the dais.
Not so with Sanders, which is why he has richly earned the enmity of Hallandale Beach's most-informed taxpayers, people who are NOT apathetic and who DO pay attention to what actually happens in this city.
Comm. Anthony A. Sanders has rightly earned the suspicion cast upon him now and the distrust of a large segment of the community.