By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By David Villano
By Jose D. Duran
By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Luther Campbell
Then there's the mysterious FBI investigation.
In 1996 agents began probing the disappearance of former Sofge employee Maureen Deulomnick, whom Haley Sofge says was his girlfriend at the time. She vanished from a beach on Big Harbor Cay in the Bahamas while on a fishing trip with the Sofges and several other people, according to Haley. "I have no closure," he says. "I had a girl that was in my life for quite a few years and disappeared on a fishing vacation over in the Bahamas." Adds Chuck: "We were questioned in the beginning, and we did all the homework and research and did everything we felt we could to find her. We were physically exhausted." Three other tour boat owners told New Times they were questioned by an FBI agent about Deulomnick last year. The FBI declined to comment on the probe.
Haley Sofge says some of his competitors have tried to implicate him in the disappearance. "That's a dirty rumor. That's a real nasty rumor talking about that," he snaps. "You're talking about a human being. You're not talking about business. You're talking about something personal."
Bogner would not comment on the investigation or Chuck Sofge's arrests. "How far into someone's personal life am I supposed to get?" he huffs. He adds that the Sofges are "model tenants" because they always pay on time.
For Bogner, changes at Miamarina are not happening fast enough. Now he's run into a delay at city hall.
This month, at Abrams and Bogner's request, interim City Manager Donald Warshaw asked commissioners to rescind the current requirement that commercial boat operators submit a "certificate of public convenience and necessity" when they apply for a dock lease. Among other things, the certificate asks applicants if they have a criminal record. In a memo to commissioners, Warshaw wrote: "The elimination of the certificate will relieve the City from determining the moral fitness and character of the applicant and, instead, evaluate potential operators' experience, operation, and revenue potential to the City."
The commission deferred action on the proposed change and on Bogner's master plan until a public hearing can be held. Because the commission is in recess during August, that will not happen until September.
Still, Bogner cites progress. The marina's manager observes that the section of the marina reserved for private pleasure boats is filling up. Of 45 slips in that area, 15 have permanent leases, compared to a mere 2 when Bogner arrived. "I'm trying to make this place as high-quality and competitive as the other marinas in the area," Bogner says.
But getting people to stop by Miamarina is not easy. On a recent weekend afternoon, Bogner crouched in his office, two-way radio microphone in hand, and looked through a window toward Biscayne Bay. He focused on a sports fishing vessel named Better Idea, which was towing a Jet Ski.
He called the Better Idea skipper. "Sir, we'll have somebody standing by on the dock, sir, to help you with your lines."
Soon the boat's big-bellied captain entered the office. "What a beautiful marina," he exclaimed.
"That's what I like to hear," said Bogner with a smile.
The man went outside to wait for some friends who would soon arrive in another boat. But a half-hour later, the Better Idea captain returned. He said he was at the wrong marina. His friends were at Watson Island.