POMPANO BEACH — A local activist with ties to numerous elected officials and some of Broward County’s most influential movers and shakers is facing arrest, possibly as early as next week, over his lobbying activities and allegations of extortion.
“There is an investigation, but I can’t talk about it,” said Vicente Thrower, a 30-year-old Pompano Beach resident.
Thrower’s attorney, Michael Hursey of Davie, could not be reached for comment, but officials with the Broward State Attorney’s Office confirmed the investigation. Through a spokesperson, prosecutors declined to discuss the matter, and would not comment on any surrender or plea negotiations that may be underway.
But according to several sources familiar with the probe who requested anonymity, Thrower is under criminal investigation in connection with his lobbying activities. He and his company allegedly performed lobbying work on behalf of developers who sought city approval of their projects, while at the same time he served as an influential member of the city’s West Community Redevelopment Agency (WCRA) and other advisory boards.
The most serious portion of the investigation, sources said, centers on allegations that Thrower sought payment from a city vendor whose contract was about to expire, and had an extension pending, in exchange for his support. By extending the contract, the vendor would not face competition from other contractors if it was put out to bid.
“I’ve done nothing wrong,” Thrower said while acknowledging the allegation.
According to sources, Thrower and his attorney have been negotiating a plea deal with prosecutors, and he has reportedly informed family and friends that he could end up serving jail time, and may have to surrender next week.
When asked about any plea agreement, Thrower said, “I can’t talk about anything, nothing.”
On June 26, 2008, International Enterprise Development, Inc., a firm that specializes in micro-business development, was awarded a one-year, $60,000 contract to manage the city’s Northwest Pompano Beach Business Loan Fund. The program is commonly referenced as the “micro-loan” program.
Among other things, the program provides training and support, as well as small and micro loans to people and businesses in the predominantly black, northwest section of the city that are unable to obtain loans from conventional lending institutions.
The company’s one-year contract has been extended previously on a month-to-month basis, and is currently up for renewal. With the approval of the CRA manager, who receives input from the WCRA advisory board members, the contract could be extended or advertised for other firms to compete for it.
Thrower said he is accused of attempting to extort $5,000 from Dr. Lynn Allison, the company’s president, in exchange for his support of a contract extension. He would not go into details, but a high-placed source says the amount was $2,000.
When contacted, Allison said only: “I’m sorry. I am not in any position to discuss it.”
Thrower performed consulting and lobbying work on an individual basis for several developers, including the La Cite’ Development, L.L.C firm. He was also the founder, president and CEO of Global Solutions & Government Consultants, Inc., a company that lobbied on behalf of developers and small businesses.
That firm was formed in 2007 and was administratively dissolved a year later, according to records on file with the Florida Division of Corporations.
Thrower insists that he has done nothing improper, and points to a letter he received from the city’s attorneys as proof.
“I’m not going into any details,” Thrower said. “But everything I did was above board. I have 1090s [IRS tax forms] and a letter from the city attorney.”
City Attorney Gordon Linn said in an email that he was not familiar with any such letter, but did provide a copy of a July 26, 2006 opinion that Asst. City Attorney Mark E. Berman provided after Thrower requested one.
“Based upon the information we have been able to obtain from you, it is the legal opinion of this office that no conflict of interest would exist were you to act as a compensated consultant for La Cite’ Development, L.L.C., provided that you do not take any action on any matter brought before the CRA Advisory Board by La Cite’ Development, L.L.C., and that any conduct on your part as a member of the CRA Advisory Board does not provide a benefit to either you or La Cite’ Development, L.L.C.,” Berman wrote.
“Be advised that this opinion is based solely upon the limited information you have provided and does not take into account any substantial changes in facts or circumstances which may arise.”
Thrower served on the city of Pompano Beach’s Affordable Housing Advisory Committee, its Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and the West Community Redevelopment Advisory Board (WCRA). He also served on Broward County’s Small Business Development Board. As a result of the criminal investigation, he resigned from all those boards on March 4.
“Please accept this letter as my official resignation from all boards that I presently reside on,” Thrower wrote to Pompano Beach City Clerk Mary Chambers in a March 4 resignation letter. “Due to the circumstances that have surfaced beyond my control, I am no longer able to carry out my tenure on either board and be beneficial to the community and city of Pompano Beach.”