By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
Despite the "concern" expressed by Reno's office, the "obvious" intention of Winn showing his displeasure, and the "apparent" truth that the incident resulted in a settlement favoring the commissioner's son-in-law, prosecutors found nothing wrong with Winn's behavior. This past May the case was closed.
Prosecutors made a similar finding in the case of Miami City Commissioner Miller Dawkins. In 1984 former Miami Police Chief Kenneth Harms, in spoken and written testimony, told a county grand jury that he had information from informants that "Commissioner Miller Dawkins was taking political kickbacks." During several meetings with G. Ray Havens, Reno's chief investigator, Harms said he had received tips that Dawkins was accepting kickbacks from a city consultant who arranged for businesses to have their garbage picked up by city crews. (Officially, businesses must hire private waste-removal companies; city crews are restricted to residential garbage pickup.) Before contacting Reno's office, Harms, who spent six years as chief, had an aide call the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for assistance in investigating the matter. Before Harms could meet with agents, however, he was fired. (The grand jury before which he testified was convened to investigate the firing.)
According to Reno's probe, Harms received the information from Clarance "Pat" Patterson, then-director of the city's solid waste division. Reno's investigation into these allegations consisted solely of conversations with Harms, Patterson, and another alleged informant. According to the inquiry, Patterson "stated that he never met with Harms, never discussed with Harms any such information, and could only conclude that Harms was confused." At the time, Patterson worked for then-city manager Howard Gary, a political ally of Dawkins and adversary of Harms.
Based on denials from Patterson and the informant, the case was closed. The well-regarded former police chief was "confused."
The chief also must have been confused about Howard Gary, the city manager who fired him during a 2:47 a.m. telephone call on January 27, 1984. Gary's position is filled by appointment, not election, but his office comes under the state attorney's purview. In sworn testimony, Harms told the grand jury that Gary had purchased land adjacent to a city development project, "creating the distinct impression that he was buying property with insider information"; and that Gary misused the city auto repair shop by having his private cars fixed there at city expense, and by accepting a city gasoline allowance but continuing to use city pumps to fill his tank. Harms also testified that Gary was on the board of directors of Sunshine State Bank, whose president was then under federal investigation. Harms told the jurors that Gary received favorable treatment in obtaining loans from the bank and that the bank "has gotten at least one [zoning] variance through Gary."
After an extensive investigation, Reno's office cleared Gary of all wrongdoing. In an April 11, 1984 letter to then-Mayor Maurice Ferre, Reno wrote, "It was common knowledge that the City Manager was having repair work done on his private vehicles," but that the work was a legal, if inefficient, use of city funds. She wrote that Gary "received beneficial treatment by the Sunshine State Bank, but we are unable to discover any benefit Mr. Gary gave in return."
No charges. Case closed. But Gary's ties to the city remain open. He maintains a contract with Miami as a consultant.
In 1986 Reno's office investigated North Miami Beach Councilwoman Mary Foote at the request of North Miami Beach City Attorney Howard Lennard. Prosecutors decided that Foote, a real estate agent who no longer sits on the city council, had done no wrong in accepting $5900 in commissions on sales of land she had recently voted to rezone or exempt from existing zoning. In the two cases Lennard presented to Reno, Foote received commissions even though she hadn't handled the sales. She got the money - after voting - as referral fees from real estate agents whose clients benefited from the zoning changes.
In one instance, Foote received a $900 commission on the sale of a house after voting to change the zoning of one block in North Miami Beach from residential to residential and office. A realty company, the Leo Jaeson Corporation, then arranged for a chiropractor to buy the house and use it as an office. Shortly afterward, the Leo Jaeson Corporation sent Foote a check. Company president Brian Leslie told Reno's investigators he gave Foote the money because "there was enough money in it that I felt generous to do so." He also told investigators he was "grateful that they [Foote's real estate company] thought of me and introduced me to this property. And it's a way of saying thank you. It's a small town."
In the other case, Foote received a $5000 referral fee after voting to allow Figueredo Chevrolet to keep an existing sixteen-square-foot sign on property it was renting, in an area where the maximum sign size was three square feet. Shortly after the vote, Figueredo purchased the land. Again Foote did not handle the sale; she merely introduced the seller to another real estate agent.
Reno's office considered three charges - unlawful compensation, conflict of interest, and violations of the county "gift" ordinance, which prohibits people from accepting gifts in exchange for votes. On the first, prosecutors decided "there is no evidence...which would prove that she received a pecuniary benefit as a result of using her influence to obtain the zoning variances." On the second, they judged that because Foote was not "a beneficiary at the time she voted," she didn't break the law. Because she didn't get the money until after the vote, she's fine, Reno's office decided. Prosecutors also cleared Foote of violating the "gift" ordinance: "There is no evidence to indicate that Mary Foote accepted the money in return for her voting on the zoning matter."