Inside the Country Club Community Council

"Gus" Exposito played hardball in unincorporated Miami-Dade for as long as he could

"This car wash is an eyesore and causes traffic problems at this gas station," Exposito eloquently wrote. "There is [sic] bad odors coming from the car wash and the employees are hanging up rags and floor mats on the trees.... We hope that Amoco Corporation can correct this situation as soon as possible."

In 1999 several Country Club residents anonymously reported Exposito to the state's Department of Business and Professional Regulation alleging he was an unlicensed roofer. At the time, Exposito's Tech Roofing Inc. was operating using the roofing contractor's license issued to Z-Jeff Roofing. According to public records, the license was under the name of "Annette de Vera." According to state incorporation records, de Vera is listed as sole director of Z-Jeff until 1994. The records also indicate that the corporation was inactive at the time. Last year, they show Z-Jeff as active, and list Exposito as the company's president and sole director. According to state public records, de Vera did not give Exposito permission to use her roofing license to do work for Tech Roofing. She told state investigators that she only authorized use of the license under Z-Jeff Roofing. On October 16, 2000, the state fined Exposito more than $5000 in fines and legal fees for working as an unlicensed roofing contractor.

Meanwhile residents' suspicions about cozy relationships between Exposito and various developers continued unabated. Their suspicions were fanned when Exposito earlier this year asked the EC if he could solicit roofing jobs from developers who had appeared before the council.

Left to right: Council candidate Edward Redondo, with former council chairman Agustin "Gus" Exposito and Jesus Martinez, at Latin Builders Association dinner in July honoring Exposito's Z-Jeff Roofing Inc.
Courtesy Proyecto Magazine
Left to right: Council candidate Edward Redondo, with former council chairman Agustin "Gus" Exposito and Jesus Martinez, at Latin Builders Association dinner in July honoring Exposito's Z-Jeff Roofing Inc.

On February 15, the EC told Exposito to forget it.

A few months later, the EC, with the Public Corruption Unit and the State Attorney's office, is once again investigating Exposito. This time it's for his overzealous attempt last May to have the Country Club Community Council reconsider its 3-2 denial of the Capo family's residential project -- worth an estimated $70 million, and grandly called "the Bellaggio."

According to witnesses who attended the hearing in the auditorium of American High School, Exposito confronted Stuart Arguello, the swing vote on the council, after the meeting, and tried to get him to change his mind.

"I observed Exposito make efforts to have the matter reheard so the council could change its vote," said Michael Pizzi, a councilman of the neighboring town of Miami Lakes (whose residents opposed the Bellaggio project). "I thought it was unusual that a member would push so hard for an application to go through [after it had been defeated]," Pizzi told New Times.

Arguello, who has since resigned from the council as well, denies that Exposito tried to pressure him: "He just wanted to know if I was sure I knew what I was voting for," he says. "He never wanted me to reconsider or change my vote."

Pizzi, a criminal defense lawyer who often butts heads with developers and special interests, shared his observations with the Ethics Commission and the State Attorney, who promptly began their investigation.

In a letter to the State Attorney and the EC, Pizzi says he observed Exposito demanding that the council go back on the record so the members could change their votes to defer the application instead of voting to deny it. "I noted to the assistant county attorney that Exposito was violating the Sunshine Law," Pizzi said. "I also observed him conferring with the applicant's attorneys and offering assistance." Pizzi additionally claims he heard Exposito tell Arguello that he needed to tell staff that Arguello wanted to change his vote.

Mirtha Mendez, a 54-year-old resident of Miami Lakes, says Exposito stormed out of the auditorium and told Arguello that there had been "a mistake. He told Arguello the council had to re-vote on the application," claims Mendez, who added that she was interviewed by Public Corruption detectives about a month and a half ago. She said Exposito was extremely agitated following the Bellaggio vote.

"He was ticked off the thing was voted down," she said. "I don't think he expected that to happen. You knew which way he was going to vote on the Bellaggio project even before he sat down for the meeting."

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