Black elected officials group restructures amid criminal probe PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Sample ImageThe Broward Black Elected Officials, Inc. has installed a new president amid an ongoing criminal probe from the Broward State Attorney's Office into the group's financial matters.

Former BBEO President Levoyd Williams could not be reached for comment, but sources told the South Florida Times that he completed his term and did not run for re-election as the group's president during a recent meeting.

The group has implemented a new set of guidelines and  procedures aimed at improving the way it handles financial matters.

“The goal of the organization is the same, which is to empower black elected officials,'' said Lauderhill City Commissioner Margaret Bates, the group’s new president. “We just have new people in positions, and we’ve put in place the proper oversight procedures going forward from here.''

Bates confirmed that she is the new president of the organization, but declined to disclose details about the new safeguards. 

“We don’t have to do that,” she said when asked to provide specifics. 

Williams, a Lauderdale Lakes city commissioner, had been the group’s president since it incorporated in 2004. 

Williams first came under pressure to step down last spring after the Broward Times, which has since changed its name to the South Florida Times, reported that the group operated out of Lauderdale Lakes City Hall at no expense. The newspaper also reported that much of the money the group collected in the name of scholarships during 2005 was spent instead on a lavish gala. 

Williams’ refusal to step down or open the BBEO’s financial records to members led several members to resign from the group. Some members even called for a criminal investigation. That prompted Williams to release the group’s Internal Revenue Service 990 tax return forms for 2005 and 2006 to another newspaper. 

Those tax returns revealed numerous inaccuracies and omissions that led more members to leave the group. 

Ron Ishoy, a spokesman for the Broward State Attorney’s Office, acknowledged that  prosecutors have opened a criminal investigation into the group’s financial dealings. This week, Ishoy said the probe continues.

 Some former BBEO members said they were unlikely to get involved in the group again, particularly if its operations and financial matters are not fully open to members and the public. 

“I don’t know what’s going on with them. They sent me something, but I didn’t read yet,” Lauderdale Lakes Mayor and former BBEO member Sam Brown acknowledged. “I’m staying right where I am, because I’m have not been involved or associated with the organization for months, and I don’t expect that to change.’’ 

Other members such as Lauderhill City Commissioner Dale Holness, who has distanced himself from the group but did not resign, seemed to approach the news of a restructuring with caution, as well. 

“I don’t think I even have a current paid membership, because I am for openness and transparency, especially when you’re running a non-profit organization and taking people’s money,” Holness said. “I had encouraged them to change leadership and suggested we focus on moving forward to address education initiatives in the black community and other issues that negatively affects us.’’ 

On Dec. 7, 2007 the group held a breakfast named the "Breakfast & Champagne Launch for The Gala II,'' a fundraising event for the group's next gala, at the swanky CERO Grill restaurant on Fort Lauderdale’s beach. The group also began sending out invitations to the gala celebration last week. 

“I doubt if you will see a lot of people at the gala. There are too many questions and it’s just not worth all the fuss,” Brown said.

Photo: Margaret Bates

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