By Dan Christensen
Former Department of Children & Families Secretary Bob Butterworth lobbied heavily this year to persuade his former agency to award his nonprofit company and its for-profit partner a $44 million-a-year state management contract.
Butterworth, however, is not registered in Tallahassee to lobby state officials.
The Broward Behavioral Health Coalition, Butterworths group, won the competition in March to become Browards new managing entity for substance abuse and mental health services.
Now, after months of delays caused by an unsuccessful bid protest, Butterworth is negotiating final contract terms with DCF. A signed deal is expected by Nov. 1.
As president of Broward Behavioral, Butterworth led the companys campaign to secure the lucrative, multi-year contract. Its bid was chosen over one made by Partnership for Community Health, a group of established Broward healthcare providers.
State procurement records obtained by BrowardBulldog.org show Butterworth assembled, signed and submitted a lengthy bid proposal on behalf of Broward Behavioral and its partner, Miami-based Concordia Behavioral Health.
Butterworth, a former Florida attorney general and Broward County sheriff, later participated in pre-award negotiations that included direct correspondence with DCFs lead negotiator in which Butterworth advocated the merits of BBHC/Concordia teams cost-savings proposal.
One state ethics expert said Butterworth, a Democrat and also a former judge and prosecutor, might have taken advantage of holes in the state law regulating lobbyists.
Its like Swiss cheese, said Philip Claypool, the retired executive director and general counsel for the Florida ethics commission.
Florida law broadly defines lobbying as seeking, on behalf of another person, to influence an agency with respect to a decision of the agency in the area of policy or procurement.
But its definition of a lobbyist is narrower, turning on questions of a persons employment, pay and job description.
I think there is an argument on both sides, said Claypool. The question would have to be determined by knowing who paid whom, for what, and when, as well as what communications were made, when and under what circumstances.
The Florida ethics commission can investigate alleged failures to register or to submit a required compensation report. It does not initiate probes, but responds to sworn complaints. Violators may be reprimanded, censured or prohibited from lobbying for up to two years. They can also be fined up to $5,000.
Butterworth declined several requests to discuss his push to obtain the DCF contract and explain why he is not registered to lobby executive branch agencies.
Butterworth, who also serves as Broward Behaviorals chairman, told Sun-Sentinel columnist Michael Mayo in June that Concordia owned by Miami businessman Carlos Saladrigas was paying him as both a lawyer and a lobbyist.
That potentially conflicting relationship is not disclosed in the proposal Broward Behavioral submitted to DCF, an agency that Butterworth ran from January 2007 to August 2008.
Butterworths financial arrangement with Broward Behavioral also is not discussed in the proposal documents. Company bylaws allow officers to be paid reasonable compensation for their services.