HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – After a recent commission meeting, Hallandale Beach City Attorney V. Lynn Whitfield vehemently denied playing politics with commissioners in her city.
"I don't give campaign advice. I don't give election advice," said Whitfield, who has held the post since 2011. "I don't do elections."
That's a good thing since Whitfield engaging in campaigning in her own city would constitute not only a clear conflict of interest, but could also possibly be a violation of law, as Florida statutes make it a misdemeanor for public officials to use their authority to interfere with elections in their own cities.
What Whitfield didn't know when she made that denial is that Local 10 News obtained an audiotape of an inadvertently recorded conversation she had with her city's vice mayor, Bill Julian, in which she clearly provided Julian campaign advice and guidance.
In the audiotape, Whitfield is speaking with Julian after they had both just listened to a robocall attacking him for his vote to approve a $450 million high-rise development a the Diplomat Golf & Tennis Club in his city.
"Vice mayor let me say this, I can't advise you on personal stuff and definitely I can't advise you on election stuff, OK?" she tells Julian on the recording.
But then she immediately turns around and gives him campaign advice.
"When they do stuff to you, my advice, personally, is to plan, because you are going to do a lot of speaking for this election," she tells Julian. "Plan out, list out, 'This is how they are going to come after me.'"
"I have to be ready for that," Julian replies.
"Be ready for that and just smile," Whitfield said.
Whitfield also explains to Julian how he can politically attack fellow Keith London, a fellow Hallandale Beach commissioner and a longtime Julian foe, telling London also voted for the development and that "technically" he too voted against forcing the Diplomat developers to provide additional money for parks, a fire truck and other amenities for residents. After hearing the recording for the first time, London said he was "livid."
"Obviously, she doesn't know the basics of the city charter that says you work for the city," London said. "It doesn't say you work for Bill Julian. She's not here to give personal advice to Bill Julian, and she's certainly not here to give election advice to Bill Julian, and that's what she's doing."
The recording is sure to add yet more bitterness to the politically divided city -- and it is just one of many that Julian inadvertently left behind when he called a number to listen to the negative robocall attacking his vote.
At the end of the robocall was a beep, signaling that it was going to a voicemail recording.
On no fewer than 10 of his calls, the vice mayor apparently failed to hang up his phone properly and inadvertently left behind audio recordings of private conversations that have been obtained by Local 10 News.
The first recording released was a bombshell: In it Julian admitted that he had agreed to accept secret gifts from the Diplomat -- including a van for his favorite charity and 300 workers to help with his campaign -- before his vote for the development.
On the Whitfield recording, the city attorney tells Julian that she’s certain is yet another commissioner, Michele Lazarow, whose voice is on the robocall.
"That's Lazarow’s voice," Whitfield said on the recording. "I know her voice."
Lazarow is a close ally of London and the two of them have called for Whitfield to be removed from her job several times in the past. When London threatened to terminate Whitfield last year, Whitfield accused him of racial discrimination and hired special counsel to investigate him.
London was cleared in the investigation.
Lazarow said that not only is it not her voice on the robocall, but that she had absolutely nothing to with the call whatsoever and had no advance knowledge of it.
"I'm filing a bar complaint (against Whitfield)," Lazarow said after hearing the recording. "It's really a vile accusation, considering it's a political agenda."
At a recent commission meeting, Whitfield refused to listen to the recording and wouldn't comment on it.
"I'm not listening to that," she said. "I don't know how you have my voice on anything. I'm not answering your questions."