By David Villano
By Jose D. Duran
By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Luther Campbell
By Frank Owen
By Allie Conti
The timing of the payments is interesting, because during 1997, 1998, and 1999 Big Miriam and her husband were involved in a feud with the Miami-Dade Housing Agency, which is overseen by the county commission. The agency had suspended the Alonsos' federal rent subsidies following reports that one of their properties had not been properly maintained. Under pressure from Leonel Alonso, housing-agency director Rene Rodriguez overturned that decision and reinstated the subsidies.
Miriam Alonso was later upbraided by the county ethics commission and federal housing officials because it appeared she used her position as a commissioner to help get her way with the housing agency. Only now do we know that she paid a top agency administrator $8000 from her campaign account and another $3500 from her daughter's campaign.
In addition New Times has learned that Garcia's wife currently is a part-time employee on Alonso's commission payroll and that Garcia's daughter was on Alonso's payroll as a commission aide from March 1997 until January 1998. Investigators are trying to determine whether those positions constitute "no-show" jobs.
Juan Garcia defends the $11,500 paid to him by the two Miriam Alonsos and says he did nothing wrong. "I never participated in anything [at the housing agency] that had to do with Miriam or any of her properties," he claims. He says every year he has filed an "outside-income form" with the county disclosing the fact that he expects to be working outside county government.
The county elections department, which maintains those forms, says it has no such forms on file for the past two years. Records for previous years, including 1997 and 1998, are in storage and could not be immediately retrieved.
Nevertheless Garcia admits that nowhere on the forms did he disclose he was going to be working for a county commissioner who also did business with the housing agency. Nor did he mention that fact to his boss, Rene Rodriguez, when he requested permission to perform outside work.
Garcia's role in political campaigns has raised concerns in the past. In 1992 he admitted he helped launder $10,000 from the 1991 election campaign of former Miami City Commissioner Victor De Yurre, converting the money into cash and then funneling most of it back to De Yurre. According to Garcia's account, which appeared in the Miami Herald on July 22, 1992, De Yurre wanted to convert some of his campaign funds to cash to help pay back taxes he owed to the Internal Revenue Service. De Yurre's campaign wrote a check for $10,000 to a company owned by Garcia's son. The check was listed on disclosure forms as a payment for "consultants." Garcia's son deposited the check, kept some of the money for himself, and gave almost $8000 in cash to his father, who passed it along to De Yurre.
De Yurre denied the allegation, and a subsequent investigation by the FBI failed to produce criminal charges.