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CRESPOGRAM REPORT

JULY 9, 2012

GROVE KEY MARINA

When Tomas Regalado, the Mayor of Miami, says that every deal done in Miami is “a bad deal,” you need to listen to him.  He knows what he’s talking about, because he’s been a party to a lot of bad deals during the 17 1/2 years he’s been an elected official in the City of Miami.


The thing about the bad deals in Miami is that even when the politicians and their henchmen know that the deal will be scrutinized, they still keep trying to screw the pooch.


Take the latest deal involving the Request For Proposal (RFP 11-12-025), to take over the operation of Grove Key Marina and Scotty’s Landing.  Even a moron would know that this was a deal that would generate some interest in the community, and more than a cursory look by some folks.


Yet, even with this knowledge, the Regalado administration has managed to take a straight forward process, and do it in a way that raises serious questions about what has been going on behind the scenes. 


WHY WAS GROVE WATERFRONT LLC ALLOWED TO BID ON THIS DEAL


Most of the energy and attention focused so far on this RFP process came from the patrons and supporters of Scotty’s Landing, which has a sub-lease from Grove Key Marina, the current lease holder of the property that was put out for bid.


At the Selection Committee meeting, several dozen folks, encouraged and supported by Scotty’s Landing showed up wearing Support Scotty’s tee shirts.

MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE

Somehow, lost among all the cheerleading by these folks, as well as the comments and rebuttals posted on the Coconut Grove Grapevine about what a treasure Scotty’s Landing was to the Coconut Grove community, a very salient fact that either these folks and others didn’t know, or that the folks that did know decided wasn’t worth mentioning, was that Grove Key Marina OWES $2.5 MILLION IN BACK TAXES TO THE CITY OF MIAMI.


That’s right, the total amount, according to the Miami-Dade property Appraiser is $2,536,845.43.

In fact, the Property Appraiser’s records indicate that taxes haven’t been paid on this property since 1998.


WHO’S TO BLAME


You would think that if nothing else, just good business sense would have convinced the folks associated with Grove Key Marina to think twice about submitting a bid when they owed so much money in taxes on their current deal with the City.  But this is Miami, Bitches!, and I guess they figured that since they were in so deep already, why not let the words of Jay Paul Getty guide their actions: “If you owe the bank $100 that’s your problem.  If you owe the bank $100 million, that’s the bank’s problem.”


In this case, the City of Miami’s problem is also a problem for the citizens of Miami, and like so many other financial problems that plague the City, both the City’s Asset Management Department and the Selection Committee managed to pretend that there was no tax problem.


They did this by flagrantly ignoring the provisions in the rules that the City’s Asset Management Department created specifically for the applicants submitting the RFP’s on this project.

To truly appreciate the irony involved in this situation, consider that the Head of both the City’s Asset Management Department and the Selection Committee was none other than Henry Torre.


Henry Torre is either as dumb as a rock, or there was some ulterior motive as to why the RFP submission by Grove Key Marina and Scotty’s Landing wasn’t “automatically disqualified,” because I first found out about this tax problem from a batch of documents I received from Asset Management in May.  So there is no question but that Torre had to have known of this problem well before the RFP’s were submitted, yet he did nothing about it.


Here is the line item for Grove Key Marina in a list of of active leases maintained by the City’s Asset Management Department that I was given in May as part of a public records request that details the Grove Key Marina’s financial standing with the City.

In the latest Biscayne Times, columnist Jack King, offered the following observation on this selection:


        “Next Martinez selected a bid-review committee that

        included two City of Miami employees, a Miami Beach

        employee, an architect, and a person who I thought

        to be a restaurant specialist and who is employed by

        a company called Restaurant Services, Inc. Turns out

        that company is the food services delivery wing of

        Burger King.


        So it turns out that there is not a single person on the

        review committee who has any knowledge of waterfront

        development, restaurant operation, or marina operation.

        That’s pretty amazing when you consider that this is

        an RFP for a waterfront marina and restaurant. Hey,

        maybe Burger King could be the signature restaurant

        on the water!”


By far the most significant difference however, is that the UDP process starts with a public hearing where the issues are discussed, and ends up with a review of the proposals by a Certified Public Accountant to insure that the deal on the up and up before it is finally accepted by the City Commission.


Here is the portion of Section 29-A of the City Charter that spells it all out.

Requests for proposals for unified development projects shall generally define the nature of the uses the city is seeking for the unified development project and the estimated allocations of land for each use. They shall also state the following:

(1)

the specific parcel of land contemplated to be used or the geographic area the city desires to develop pursuant to the unified development project;

(2)

the specific evaluation criteria to be used by the below-mentioned certified public accounting firm;

(3)

the specific evaluation criteria to be used by the below-mentioned review committee;

(4)

the extent of the city's proposed commitment of funds, property, and services;

(5)

the definitions of the terms "substantial increase" and "material alteration" that will apply to the project pursuant to subsection (e)(4) hereof; and

(6)

a reservation of the right to reject all proposals and of the right of termination referred to in subsection (e)(4), below.

After public notice there shall be a public hearing at which the commission shall consider:

(1)

the contents of the request for proposals for the subject unified development project;

(2)

the selection of a certified public accounting firm, which shall include at least one member with previous experience in the type of development in question; and

(3)

the recommendations of the city manager for the appointment of persons to serve on the review committee. Said review committee shall consist of an appropriate number of city officials or employees and an equal number plus one of members of the public, whose names shall be submitted by the city manager no fewer than five days prior to the above-mentioned public hearing.

At the conclusion of the public hearing the city commission shall authorize the issuance of a request for proposals, select a certified public accounting firm, and appoint the members of the review committee only from among the persons recommended by the city manager.

The procedure for the selection of an integrated package proposals shall be as follows:

(1)

all proposals shall be analyzed by a certified public accounting firm appointed by the commission based only on the evaluation criteria applicable to said certified public accounting firm contained in the request for proposals. Said certified public accounting firm shall render a written report of its findings to the city manager.

(2)

the review committee shall evaluate each proposal based only on the evaluation criteria applicable to said review committee contained in the request for proposals. Said review committee shall render a written report to the city manager of its evaluation of each proposal, including any minority opinions.

(3)

taking into consideration the findings of the aforementioned certified public accounting firm and the evaluations of the aforementioned review committee, the city manager shall recommend one or more of the proposals for acceptance by the city commission, or alternatively, the city manager may recommend that all proposals be rejected. If there are three or more proposals and the city manager recommends only one, or if the city manager recommends rejection of all proposals, the city manager shall state in writing the reasons for such recommendation.

In transmitting his or her recommendation or recommendations to the commission, the city manager shall include the written reports, including any minority opinions, rendered to by the aforementioned certified accounting firm and review committee.

(4)

all contracts for unified development projects shall be awarded to the person whose proposal is most advantageous to the city, as determined by the city commission.

When it came to the selection process for the Grove Key Marina and Scotty’s Landing property, the Selection Committee met on Wednesday, June 20th to hear the proposals, then met two days later, on June 22nd to make a decision on which proposal to support, and then their recommendation went to the City Manager where he managed to review the proposal, forward it to the City’s Budget Department, Risk Management and Asset Management, prepare a Draft Lease Agreement and submit the whole package for inclusion in the Agenda for the July 12th City Commission meeting, all by July 2nd.


THE ENTIRE SELECTION PROCESS TOOK 12 DAYS.


When City Manager, Johnny “The Doormat” Martinez decides to move on a deal, he can be faster than a three speed dildo.


As for the argument that all of this had to be expedited because of the need to get it approved by the City Commission in time to put it on the November ballot for voter approval, that is true as far as it goes, but the Regalado administration started the process not this March when the issued the RFP, but as late as the summer of 2011 when the discussions were first held about whether to split the RFP in two and have one specifically for Scotty’s Landing and one for Grove Key Marina, or to combine them.


Between those discussions and the repeated tweaking of the RFP language in ways that some believe was done purposely to benefit one of the applicants, the process dragged on from last summer to March of this year.


HOLLAND AND KNIGHT WEIGHS IN ON BEHALF OF GROVE WATERFRONT LLC WITH WITH A NOTICE TO TO THE CITY TO APPEAL THE SELECTION PROCESS


I have been informed by multiple sources that several days after the Selection Committee Meeting on June 22nd, the law firm of Holland and Knight filed a brief letter with the City notifying them that they were prepared to challenge the recommendation of the Selection Committee.


Since then, I have also been informed that the City Attorney’s Office has prepared a letter that supposedly claims that Grove Waterfront LLC has NO basis on which to challenge the process, or the City Manager’s recommendation to the City Commission.


The only way they could attempt to make such a claim, I’ve been told, would be to argue that a challenge could only be raised if the City had chosen to conduct this process under the provisions of it being a UDP.


How Machiavellian is that?


But then again, this Grove Key Marina owes the City $2,536,845.43 in back taxes, so, by rights, they shouldn’t have been allowed in the bidding process to begin with!


TWO DEGREES OF SEPARATION MAKE THIS A MIAMI SOAP OPERA


It seems that there’s nothing that the locals like more when a big money deal like this pops up, than to start getting all conspiratorial.


Right at the top of the list of names that has surfaced in the game of speculation over whose really involved - some of them supposedly secretly - with the winning group DAVID ONE, has been my homeboy Monty Trainer, Stephen Kneapler, and Victor De Jurre.


Monty, I’ve been told by Groveites, has been walking around the Grove for the last couple years telling folks that he was planning a comeback with a new Monty’s, and Kneapler, his pal back in the day, is also a close pal of Regalado, and a former boyfriend of City Attorney Julie Bru - he supposedly used to cruise up to the dock at the MRC Building to pick her up in his yacht before she ditched him for Officer Suzy, Coconut Grove’s favorite bike officer.


Kneapler, whose no stranger to controversy, has been described by Miami New Times, as the guy who for years “has wrestled with the City of Miami over its terms for leasing municipal waterfront property, usually in an effort to turn over less money to city coffers.” 


A large part of that controversy had to do with Kneapler’s ownership of Monty’s with then Mayor, Manny Diaz, that landed Diaz in hot water when it was discovered that the rent and property taxes had not been paid.  What is it with all these people who cant seem to pay rent or taxes on City property?


It gets even more complicated by the fact that Victor De Yurre, subject of a revealing new story in Miami new Times, who used to be a Miami City Commissioner, and is currently running for a Circuit Court judgeship, just happens to be the Registered Agent for DAVID ONE, also turns out to be the Baby Daddy for City Attorney Julie Bru’s daughter.


That’s enough material for at least one Tele-novella, don’t you think?


More importantly, since De Jurre is the Baby Daddy for the City Attorney’s daughter, maybe the City Attorney needs to recuse herself from any further involvement in this deal.


QUESTIONS THAT INQUIRING MINDS THINK NEED ANSWERING


First, now that Grove Key Marina and Scotty’s Landing are on the verge of going out of business, whose going to be responsible for paying the $2,536,845.43 in back taxes?


That’s real money, and given that the Selection Committee, the Director of Asset Management and the City Manager have all failed to mention it along the way  is not only suspicious, but I think that’s the very first question that one of the 5 Dwarfs on the City Commission needs to ask, and get an answer to before anything else happens with this deal.


There’s no way that the put upon citizens of Miami need to see their tax dollars used to cover this debt.


Secondly, the 5 Dwarfs need to call up someone from DAVID ONE and get them on the record as to whether Mr.’s Kneapler, Diaz, Trainer, or any other interesting folks are part of the DAVID ONE deal.


The City of Miami has a nasty history of secret deals being discovered after the fact, and then everybody pretending to look the other way when they are discovered.


Lastly, what’s the real backstory as to why Grove Waterfront LLC was allowed to bid on this deal, when it was known that they owed $2.5 million in back taxes. 


That didn’t just happen, and given the way in which the schemers in Regaladoland operate, you can almost bet that the unpaid $2.5 million guarantees that this deal is far from over.


Between this deal and the Jungle Island deal, also on the City Commission agenda this week, there are enough secret parts to these deals to call in the CIA to investigate.


It’s Miami, Bitches!

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SCOTTY’S LANDING

(For a more detailed review of the Grove Key Marina tax obligations, as well as the current standing of ALL the other City waterfront properties in the same area, along with a copy of the Lease Addendum that allowed for Scotty’s Landing to be built, click HERE.)


WHEN YOU NEED TO RUSH THE PROCESS, A JULIE BRU LEGAL OPINION IS JUST WHAT YOU NEED


By the very size and scope of what’s being expected by the City for the redevelopment the Grove Key Marina and Scotty’s Landing properties, this project would under all of the definitions detailed in Section 29-A of the City Charter, have been considered a “Unified Development Project.” 


Of course, between the fact that the City has now become Regaladoland, and that July, as we’ve come to learn, is the time when the SKANKIEST, SCUMMIEST deals are usually done, it’s no surprise to discover that in order to slip this by with a minimum amount of oversight, the Regalado administration turned to the always pliant City Attorney Julie Bru, to get a legal opinion from her office that would allow them to bypass the requirements associated with a “Unified Development Project.”


The task was made easier by the fact that the last time the City undertook a “Unified Development Project” was in 2005, when they did one for the City’s Mel Reese Golf Course.  None of the current members of the Commission were around at the time, so consequently there is no institutional memory to rely on, other than Regalado’s and Julie Bru’s, or in movie terms, Frankenstein and his Bride.


There are significant differences between classifying a project as a “Unified Development Project” and a solicitation for bids through your normal RFP process.


The most important differences are that under a “Unified Development Project” the City Commission (The 5 Dwarfs), is in charge of the process, and under your normal RFP, the process is overseen by the City Manager (The Doormat.)  Some might consider this little more than a Morton’s Fork choice, but the level of oversight and scrutiny are different, starting with the fact that the UDP process starts with the City Commission being the ones to select the members of the Selection Commission, versus the decision left up to the Director of Asset Management submitting his choices to the City Manager for approval.