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CRESPOGRAM REPORT

JULY 16, 2012

THIS MESS DIDN’T HAPPEN BY MISTAKE

IT’S AN INSIDERS GAME

If there is any silver lining to the latest chapter of the Grove Key Marina/Scotty’s Landing/Chart House story that I am going to tell you, it’s that at least the morons working for the City aren’t in charge of national security.


Since some of you who are regular readers are also folks inside the ball park, so to speak, you know that at last Thursday’s Commission meeting the Commissioners expressed a level of frustration and unhappiness with all that had occurred up to that point in this RFP process, and after one group’ who had submitted a proposal withdrew - Grove Marine Ventures LLC - the Commissioners, while agreeing to allow City Manager, Johnny “The Door Doormat” Martinez, to come back at the July 26th Commission meeting with a revised recommendation(s) on whether to award the contract to one of the 3 remaining companies - GroveMarina Ventures, LLC pulled out - or start from scratch.


Here’s my view of what’s happening that includes information you won’t find anywhere else. At the end of the day, remember that this is Miami, and what what people think happened, or will happen isn’t what is an illusion wrapped up in a conspiracy.


PLAYING ROUGH IN THE SANDOX


In many ways, Miami is like cities all over the world.  The regular political players are like kids in a sandbox, who sometimes play nice, and sometime squabble.


The one thing that happens in sandboxes though, is that if a new kid shows up and wants to play, the odds are that everyone already in the sandbox will quit fighting amongst themselves and gang up on the new kid.


That’s essentially what was going on in the days before last week’s Commission meeting where efforts were made to undo the Selection Committee’s recommendation and City Manager’s  agreement to award the RFP to the group David One LLC.


Leading this effort was Lucia Dougherty, on behalf of her client the AAA Marina Group, who had come in 3rd in the Selection Committee’s recommendation process, but who claimed that they had been robbed.


AAA was headed by Geraldo Leyva Jr. and Alan Lima, who currently have the lease on the city’s Grove Harbour Marina and the building where the Fresh Market is.


On July 10th, Lucia, on behalf of the AAA Marina Group, had a letter hand delivered to the Mayor, City Commissioners, City Manager, City Attorney and City Clerk, that demonstrated that was pretty much the equivalent of a multi-warhead missile.


In it, she detailed reasons challenging the qualifications of the David One group to manage the project.  She then turned her attention to the tax issues Grove Key Marina/Scotty’s Landing, and then followed up on the method by which the Selection Committee evaluated the AAA Marina Group’s proposal, and finished it off with a final slap at David One, pointing out that the AAA Marina Group’s proposal offered the City more money.


It’s no wonder that Lucia represents more clients than anyone else in the City of Miami.  Here is her letter.

While the main focus surrounding Grove Key Marina/Scotty’s Landing in the days leading up to the City Commission had been on the unpaid 2,536,845.43 in property taxes, another wrinkle had surfaced having to do with  a short term “revocable license” that the City had negotiated with them in late June, and a new allegation that they owed the City an additional $300,000 over the sale of fuel at the Marina in 2008.


WHAT’S ANOTHER $333, 492 IN UNPAID MONEY OWED TO THE CITY BETWEEN FRIENDS


Yes, on top of the $2.5 million in unpaid taxes, it turns out that Grove Key Marina short changed the City out of $333,492.00 in fuel sales back in 2008.


I raised the issue with Norman Seagall, the lawyer for Grove Key, the day before the Commission meeting, who responded by claiming that:


        “As for the fuel tax, this issue was raised in the last

        couple of days. Grove Key has been audited many

        times before and those audits have always shown

        that my client has paid the City what was properly

        due and owning. I can't comment on whether they

        will pay an "outstanding bill" because I do not believe

        there is such a bill- just an erroneous audit entry.”


Contrary to Mr. Seagall’s claim, the record reveals that the City had as far back as 2003 never audited Grove Key/Scotty’s Landing, and the claim that the outstanding bill was “just an erroneous audit entry,” was belied by a letter from Assistant City Manager, m Alice “Alice In Regaladoland” Bravo, that detailed not only the exact owed, but also for the first time revealed what the direct annual loss to the City was as a result of the refusal of Grove Key Marina/Scotty’s Landing to pay their property taxes.


Here is that letter.

Even though the record indicates that Grove Key Marina/Scotty’s Landing has never been audited by the office of the Independent Auditor - other than this audit that was conducted recently to close out the lease agreement before the City entered in a revocable license agreement - it does show that Monty’s during the years 2003 to 2011 was audited 6 times.


The question that begs an answer is, why?  Why did  a  company that refused to pay property taxes for all those years get a free pass when it came to being audited?


TWO DEGREES OF SEPARATION


Those of you who visit this site regularly know that I like to apply the theory of Two Degrees Of Separation as a way to help connect the dots - or people - and also to unravel the randomness of relationships that are often far from coincidental.


In this case the most interesting 2 degrees Of Separation involve the Grove Waterfront, LLC group. 


Until now, I have exclusively focused on Scott Wessel, because he is the current lease holder of Grove Key Marina and Scotty’s Landing.


It turns out however, that the proposal submitted by Wessel, really included a larger group of folks, the most important one being Pedro Martin, the President of the Terra Group, whose offices are right across the street from Grove Key Marina.


Let’s see how many 2 Degrees Of Separation exist between Mr. Martin, and Commissioner “Ethics” Sarnoff.


First, both Grove Key Marina and Grove Waterfront LLC, employed the lobbying services of Steve Marin, Sarnoff’s Rasputin - or vice versa, depending on whose telling you the stories


Secondly, Pedro Martin was the original purchaser of the Miami Herald property for a project to be called CitiSquare, before selling his option on the land to Mark Siffin, for $40 million.


Siffin then became best pals with Sarnoff, who in turn became the vocal cheerleader and leader of the pack in rushing through the Commission in July of 2010, the City’s approval for Siffin to stick 5-240 foot tall LED billboard towers atop an 11 story parking garage he planned to build on the property.


By the time the deal collapsed, Uber real estate broker Edie Laquer, sued Martin and Siffin over their failure to pay her commission on the deal.  In February of this year Siffin settled by paying her $905,771.00. The lawsuit against Pedro Martin is still going on.


In a recently obtained collection of emails, one email from Tibor Hollo (Ted), to Sarnoff in February of 2010, provided a list of high powered, wealthy individuals to be invited to a luncheon where they would be asked to contribute to the development of the 1814 Brickell Park. Among those Hollo included were Pedro Martin and  Mark Siffin. I wrote an extensive story about how this park deal was put together, HERE.


Here is Hollo’s email, and the list.

None of these relationships necessarily implies that anything untoward has occurred between these folks and Commissioner “Ethics,” but at the same time political decisions made on the basis of merit, are different then if they are colored by campaign donations, the influence of a lobbyist who also served as a campaign consultant, and by perhaps money donated to the Commissioner’s  pet cause of the last couple years. 


In Sarnoff’s 2011 campaign, Pedro Martin, through some of his numerous corporations and LLC’s, gave Sarnoff $7500. Scott Wessel gave $1000, and his Office Manager, Caroline Cashion - who is Sarnoff’s next door neighbor - gave $500.


At the same time folks associated with the other groups who submitted bids, also donated money to Sarnoff. Lucia Dougherty donated to Sarnoff as did Brian May, the lobbyist for David One, who incidentally seems to have had a very bad month at Miami City Hall, seeing his Jungle Island client forced to withdraw their bid to extend their contract with the City, and having his David One client attacked by Lucia Dougherty, that could result in their being disqualified by the City Manager.


HOW DID THE CITY GET INTO THIS MESS


At the Commission meeting last week, every Commissioner expressed frustration over how this RFP process had resulted in such a mess.  The tape of the portion of the Commission meeting where this was discussed, runs 42 minutes, and I have posted it HERE.


The crux of the problem continues to be the abysmally poor guidance and assistance that the Commission gets on issues of both policy and process from both the City’s professional staff, as well as their  own staffs.


In my July 9th story where I first started explaining how this RFP process was flawed, I explained that this project should have been done as a Unified Development Project (UDP), under the provisions of Section 29-A, of the City Charter, known as Contracts For,Unified Development Project, And Real Property; Safeguards, and provided the relevant portions of the Charter for everyone to read.


Here is an excerpt of the meeting where Commissioner Carollo questions City Attorney Julie Bru about the option of using the UDP process.  This is a really critical piece of video, so I urge you to take the time to watch it.

You notice that instead of answering the question directly with a Yes, or a No, Julie Bru engages in a boiler plate description of what a UDP does.


For those who continue to express concern, frustration and even anger over the gross incompetence exhibited time after time by the City of Miami in situations such as this, the above video clip illustrates where the rubber meets the road.


Neither the City Manager, nor the City Attorney, view as part of their job descriptions an overarching responsibility to provide any clear guidance regarding impartial policy decisions to the City Commission, nor do they necessarily consider as part of their  responsibility providing information that would be in the best interests of the citizens.


Most of what passes for policy and process decisions in the Regalado administration center on the back room machinations crafted to forward the interests of one special interest, or one political crony, or another.


In this Grove Key Marina issue, it was the City Attorney’s office who independently chose to ignore using the UDP format, without discussing it with the Commissioners in a public forum.


That’s right, it was the City Attorney’s Office who not only made the decision to bypass the provisions of Section 29-A of the City Charter, but also approved all of the other procedural steps taken that led to this fiasco.


If this were an American City, instead of the Banana Republic known as Regaladoland, with a corrupt Mayor and a collection of weak, self-dealing and conniving individuals sitting on the City Commission, someone would rise up and demand that the City Attorney be fired for of this latest example of gross negligence and incompetence.


But that’s not going to happen, because each of these people, from the Mayor, to the City Manager to the City Commissioners all in their own way takes advantage of Bru’s willingness to be their legal whore when they too have a deal that requires a  little Hocus Pocus.


THE EXCUSE IS ALWAYS, WE COULD HAVE DONE IT BETTER


Here is clip from the meeting where City Manager, Johnny “The Doormat” Martinez, discussing the use of the UDP process, and then expands on what has been done, and what could have been done.

Martinez is in charge of managing the City’s administration. He gets paid $195,000.00, plus benefits. Julie Bru is the City’s top lawyer and collects 228,828.00, plus benefits.


Collectively these two, time after time, on issue after issue manage to demonstrate a level of incompetence and duplicity that call into question whether they should be charged with the crime of fraud for collecting a pay check under false pretenses.


GROVE KEY MARINA ALWAYS HAD A PLAN B AND A MAGICIAN CAPABLE OF PULLING A RABBIT OUT OF THE HAT IF NEEDED


Last October I received an anonymous email that contained the following sentence:


        “Scotty's...has hired sarnoffs guy, steve marin the

        lobbyist to get them a 7 year extension without putting

        it out to bid,  their lease is up 6/22/12,right around the

        corner if an rfp were to be put out.


Even then, folks inside the city were beginning to become alarmed about the back room political maneuvering that was taking place, including re-writes of the RFP proposal that that appeared to be directed by someone(s) interested in making the proposal more tailored to the benefit of someone who would be submitting a bid.


If you believe the information contained in the anonymous email that I received, then Grove Key Marina/Scotty’s Landing has benefitted from the decision made on Friday afternoon by the City Manager to scrap the whole RFP process and start all over, by getting at least one additional year, and most likely 2 years until a new RFP process is conducted and the proposal is put before the voters.


The “Revocable License” entered into between the City and Grove Key Marina for another year was signed on June 25, 2012. 


What’s most revealing is that the City, when given an opportunity to include language that would have required Grove Key Marina to accept responsibility for paying the back taxes, gave them a free pass. The document can be read HERE.


That’s if the Commission get’s it’s act together. Given that Commissioner “Ethics” Sarnoff, claims that this whole issue is really a Coconut Grove/District 2 issue,  and that he made such a big deal about wanting the TV show, Burn Notice, to vacate the Coconut Grove Convention Center at the end of October, all point to a renewed interest in trying to force everyone to do what he wants.


Among the things he wants, it to keep Steve Marin happy by making sure that Scott Wessel gets to keep Grove Key Marina/Scotty’s Landing as long as he wants.


It’s Miami, Bitches!

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