Look Who's Talking

When a county prosecutor invokes the Sunshine Law, three Miami Beach officials get burned

During questioning, Nevel also cast doubt on the credibility of Wayne and Rosales. He said Wayne had "turned against him" when he refused to hire a friend of the commissioner's, and claimed that Rosales became "vindictive toward him" when he rejected her requests for "personal loans and other favors" after she became commissioner. (Rosales is a public-housing tenant; one of the authority's commission seats is always occupied by a tenant.)

The assistant state attorney concluded that Wayne, Rosales, and Schneider had committed violations of the Sunshine Law. Rosales and Schneider had been granted immunity in exchange for their testimony, and were charged with noncriminal infractions A the most severe charge at the state's disposal. Wayne did not receive immunity but was charged with only a noncriminal infraction owing to "his high level of cooperation and to provide parity between him and the other offending commissioners," as Centorino explained in his memo. None of the commissioners contested the charges. Wayne and Schneider were ordered to pay a $250 fine, and Rosales, who is indigent, completed about 25 hours of community service, the prosecutor says.

Centorino stopped short of charging Nevel. "As an attorney who had advised the Housing Authority on Sunshine Law issues, Nevel arguably bears some responsibility for a deeply flawed decision-making process," the prosecutor scolded in his memo. No law prevented Nevel from lobbying individual commissioners, Centorino noted, provided he didn't act as a communications liaison between them. Centorino felt Nevel's admission of being "coy" may have been "indicative of a lack of care on his part [but] does not prove that he acted as a conduit to promote illegal communications."

As for the controversial Wolfie's lunch, Centorino found that if a discussion about the commission had taken place, it was "apparently unplanned and disjointed and may not have been initiated by Nevel." Wayne's and Rosales's testimony may be "impeached" because of their deteriorating relationships with Nevel, he added.

Wayne resigned this past September after nine years on the board. "I resigned because there was too much backroom politics," he comments. "I don't think anyone has ever gone public like I have. Do you know how many times there have been Sunshine Law violations down there? It goes on all the time! It's a joke!" He says he blew the whistle on himself because he was disgusted by what he calls David Nevel's "master plan: He built up a feeling that Murray Gilman stood in his way to achieve great results for the Housing Authority," explains Wayne, a 58-year-old public relations consultant and long-time Beach resident. "This was political manipulation to take over the housing authority to do with it what he wanted."

Nevel resigned his post this past October. His departure had nothing to do with the investigation, he says, but rather with his desire to re-enter the private sector. (He now serves part-time as the Housing Authority's project and program-development counsel.) "I consider [the state attorney's finding] to be a complete exoneration of me, as if one was even needed," he proclaims. "The [accusations were] basically just an attempted smear by a couple of commissioners and were the result of my refusal to knuckle under."

Centorino is pleased with the results of investigation even though the court was restricted to meting out small civil penalties. "I would not classify this as a nonserious violation," he declares. "It may seem like a minor thing, but these are people who are for the most part upstanding citizens in the community, and for them to be charged with any kind of infraction by the State Attorney's Office is difficult for them to swallow. It made people notice that there is a Sunshine Law and it had a powerful effect." He pauses, then adds, "You have to hope it did.

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