HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – When Hallandale Beach Vice Mayor Bill Julian voted to approve a towering and at times controversial new $450 million condominium and hotel development at his city's Diplomat Golf & Tennis Club, he practically gushed over the development team in the audience of the March 2 commission meeting.
"I’m not twisting their arm, but they've been so good to us," Julian said.
He then smiled in the direction of the developers, Mike Meyers and Louis Birdman, and their well-heeled lawyer, Debbie Orshefsky, a partner at Holland & Knight and one of the most prolific development attorneys in South Florida.
Also there was Joe Gibbons, a former state representative who was hired to do community outreach for the developers.
Later, Julian voted with the majority to approve the development and voted against a measure to force the developers to provide $700,000 toward a park, purchase a fire truck for the city and give $25,000 for historical preservation.
The next day came a mysterious robo-call aimed squarely at the vice mayor's kindness towards the developers.
"Maybe Bill Julian needs to be reminded that he's supposed to represent Hallandale's residents," said the female voice on the call that went to numerous city households. "Not the wealthy developers whom he expects to fund his campaign."
WARNING: STRONG LANGUAGE USED IN VIDEO LINKED BELOW
There was also a number to punch to listen to the robo-call, a number that Julian called more than once.
At the end of the robo-call was a beep, signaling that it was going to a voicemail recording.
On one of Julian's calls, he apparently failed to hang up his phone and inadvertently left behind an audio recording of a private conversation. Local 10 News obtained a copy of the recording, which appears to contain damning admissions from Julian. It begins with Julian explaining his vote against the park.
"How many (expletive) parks does this city need?" asks an unidentified person, apparently a woman, with whom Julian is talking.
"We got like 13," Julian said.
"Four square (expletive) miles," the unidentified person said.
"And we're putting $15 million into them," Julian said. "We don’t have parks."
He then begins explaining his vote against the funding for historical preservation -- and that's when he drops a bombshell.
"What they don't know is they're buying the food bank a frigging van that I couldn't tell anybody," Julian said.
Here Julian appears to say that the developers secretly promised him that they would buy the Hallandale Food Pantry, Julian's pet project in the city, a new van, but that because it was a secret he "couldn't tell anybody."
Then comes another shocker from Julian.
"Orshefsky tells me, before this, 'Don't worry, we'll have 300 people out in the street for you when you run for office,'" the vice mayor said on the phone.
Julian seems to admit that Orshefsky, the developer's attorney, promised him that he would be provided 300 campaign workers to help his reelection in November, something that if it occurred would likely cost tens of thousands of dollars.
When Hallandale Beach Commissioner Keith London was played the recording, he said he wanted the tape turned over to the state attorney's office for a criminal investigation.
"It certainly sounds like a bribe," London said to Local 10 News. "Bill Julian, on your audio recording, certainly sounds to me like he's admitting taking a bribe for two things -- 300 campaign workers and a van."
Julian had no idea the audiotape existed until he was confronted by Local 10 News reporter Bob Norman with it during a recent interview in his City Hall office. When asked if he had accepted a promise of campaign workers from Orshefsky in exchange for his vote for the Diplomat, Julian denied it, saying, "I did not accept anything."
Then he was handed the recording to hear for himself.
Julian's response to the recording will be shown Wednesday on Local 10 News at 11 p.m.