Feel a Whole Lot Debtor

A business relationship is a beautiful thing A until it turns ugly. Just ask County Commissioner Art Teele.

The timing of that defense also bore political significance. The very next day, April 27, the newly elected thirteen-member county commission would be sworn in and would undertake its first official action: the election of a chairman. Teele had been working hard behind the scenes to line up the votes he needed for that position, which carried with it the power to appoint other commissioners to committee chairmanships. Teele already knew what he wanted for himself A chairmanship of the powerful finance committee, which oversees Dade County's budget, including all major capital projects and bond measures.

Kugler's publicized demand for immediate repayment raised the obvious question about Teele: If he can't manage his personal finances, why should anyone trust him with billions of dollars from county taxpayers? "In Germany you would go straight to jail for something like this," Kugler says scornfully. "Here the law is different, so that's why I give this matter to the attorneys."

Those attorneys and their actions may not have had any effect on Teele's local political career A he was voted commission chairman and appointed himself to head the finance committee A but they did prompt the commissioner to action. "Mr. Kugler is a very intelligent man," says Teele. "The simple fact of the matter is that he has been saying certain things and filing things in court to get me to pay more personal attention to this matter. He has succeeded."

Two weeks ago Judge Cristol ruled that Kugler's original petition had not been properly delivered to Teele. But before the process could begin anew, the two sides reached a settlement. Teele says Kugler consented to reduce the amount owed to about $250,000. In return Teele has agreed to sell a home he owns in Tallahassee to begin repaying the money. (Kugler's Miami attorneys would only confirm that a "general understanding" has been reached. Kugler himself was unavailable for comment this past week.)

Teele is downplaying the conflict and emphasizes its amicable resolution. "I still consider Mr. Kugler a friend," he says. "He has always been a gentleman with me, as I have with him." The commissioner, however, is less generous with those who would make an issue of his personal financial affairs. He complains that he, like every other black man in the United States, must put his "butt on the line" by accepting personal responsibility for business loans. And he chides the press for failing to note that he and his companies have successfully paid back nearly $20 million in loans over the past ten years. Both his and AETC's finances, he says, are now in good shape. "I've taken risks and will continue to take risks," he adds. "This story is only three-quarters of the way through. The question is: Does it end happily


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