AUGUST 24, 2012



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One of the first places that was destroyed as Hurricane Andrew tore across Miami that fateful night of August 24, 1992, was the  Marina that was part of Monty’s.

In the weeks that followed, as the scramble to get FEMA money started, Steve Kneapler, who had taken over the City lease when Monty Trainer went off to a federal prison camp to work on his tennis game, showed up at City Hall in an effort to get the City to include the Marina in their list of locations needing FEMA funds.

Asked if the Marina had had flood insurance as per the City lease, Kneapler replied yes, and he was told it should be no problem, once he provided the City with a copy of the insurance binder.

Weeks went by, and the binder was never delivered.

Finally, one day Kneapler admitted that there had been no flood insurance on the property.  He was told that without that proof of insurance the City would not apply for FEMA money on their behalf.

That that did not sit well with Kneapler, who started bitching to all the elected officials, and to Cesar Odio, the City Manager, to no avail.

A few months passed, and Kneapler requested a meeting with Frank Rollason, who was then the Deputy Fire Chief in charge of overseeing the FEMA recovery effort. Joining Kneapler at the meeting was Manny Diaz, Monty’s lawyer at the time, to pitch a new proposal.

The Florida Legislature was considering enacting legislation to help in financing the Hurricane Andrew recovery through sales tax rebates, and Kneapler and Diaz wanted the City to submit an application for them to be included in this funding.

Rollason pointed out that they had no insurance, and therefore that would be a problem with getting money from the legislature.

They went round and round over this, and finally agreed that Rollason would submit an application only if it included the information that Monty’s did not have the required flood insurance when Andrew destroyed the marina.


Several months later, much to his surprise, Rollason got a call informing him that in spite of the failure of Kneapler to protect the City’s property by not having any flood insurance, the Florida Legislature had specifically included, by name, a $820,000  grant in the Hurricane Andrew Recovery and Rebuilding Trust Fund to rebuild Monty Trainer’s Marina.

Having succeeded once, Kneapler and his pals went back for a double dip the next year, claiming that they needed more money to cover cost overruns, only to have Governor Lawton Chiles say, enough is enough.

This is a story that has largely been forgotten, but deserves to be retold both because of the possibility that in the next few days Miami will once again be hit by a hurricane, and because it  reveals a practice I’ve long referred to as legislative larceny.

Legislative larceny is when elected officials and their pals in the private sector conspire to loot the till of money, property or government services in ways that are little more than theft by fountain pen.

It’s always been the case that from City Hall to the State House to the halls of Congress, disasters have always served as an opportunity for legislative larceny, and most of the time, the story about who got what never gets told.

In this instance, the Florida taxpayers ended up paying for the rebuilding of Monty Trainer’s Marina because, just like today, the people in City government whose job it was to be on top of making sure that the City’s resources were protected - in this case that the Marina had proper insurance - didn’t do their job.

So instead of Kneapler and his partners being forced to cover the costs of rebuilding because of their failure - or refusal? - to spend the money to buy insurance, Florida’s taxpayers, thanks to the handful of local legislators who introduced and protected this appropriation as it made its way through the process, ended up being the patsies whose tax dollars paid the bills.

In the years that followed, Manny Diaz went from being Steve Kneapler’s lawyer, to being his partner, and then after Diaz became Mayor, it was discovered, as reported by Jim DeFede among others, that, “the public discovered the mayor’s restaurant was behind almost $200,000 in unpaid rent, nearly $100,000 in delinquent property taxes, and that it had stiffed the state almost $250,000 in sales tax payment.”

In Miami, little changes but the names when it comes to screwing the pooch.

Carrying on the Kneapler tradition today are Scott Wessel of Grove Key Marina, and Armando Lacasa’s son, Carlos,  with Vero’s On The Bay  They are the latest poster boys for the City of Miami’s failure to oversee the management of public property on behalf of the taxpayers.

Wessel denies owing $2.9 million in unpaid taxes and $333,492.00 in unpaid fuel tax receipts, and says that it’s the City’s property and they owe the taxes, and Carlos Lacasa along the original permit holder owe $47,000.00, in unpaid rent.

Whether Miami get’s a direct hit from this hurricane next week or not, no one should ever underestimate the perfidy of the Regalado administration, the Miami City Commission and the usual suspects who think that the City’s resources are their’s to loot, from continuing to engage in legislative larceny at every opportunity, and taking whatever advantage they can from a disaster.

It’s Miami, Bitches!