By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
It was true that Ed Gorman and his brother Bourke had met with Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas and voiced concerns about their dealings with MDHA. They also met with assistant county manager Tony Crapp. They say their discussion with the mayor was not an attempt at underhandedness but the result of extreme frustration with the lack of response when they tried to communicate with MDHA officials. "I know Rene Rodriguez," Gorman explains, "and we'd talked many times. But at some point he stopped returning all my phone calls. I never got a return call from the last ten calls I made to his office."
Jerry Flick also has a litany of noncommunication complaints, including one full year of unreturned phone calls from Rodriguez, and numerous unreturned calls and correspondence directed to Emma Duffie, de Pedro-Gonzalez's successor at MDHA. (De Pedro-Gonzalez left the agency in January.)
The miscommunication, however, has been as bad as the lack of communication, according to Flick and Gorman. "It was surreal," Gorman says. "We were told to fill out certain forms, and every time we filled out a form and sent it in, they'd tell us it was the wrong form. Then they'd send us another form and we'd send it in and they'd say, 'That's the wrong form.' It was just nuts."
Flick says his dealings with the county took a strange turn when Emma Duffie became director of new markets: "I thought she was Maria's secretary, so it was a little surprising to me. Then it became clear that she didn't understand some of the terminology when we were talking about housing issues." At the least, she didn't seem to understand the difficulties Flick was experiencing as a result of the reverter clause. She provided him with a list of lenders who supposedly had no problems with the clause. According to Flick, of the five lenders on the list, four were consultants or nonprofits that only dealt with qualified community development corporations. "The fifth one was SunTrust Bank," Flick says. "They just laughed at me when I told them about the reverter clause."
Flick eventually found financing through Neighborhood Housing Lenders, a Tampa-based consortium of banks that funds affordable-housing efforts in South Florida. He's waiting on his building permits. Gorman is fighting the county's efforts to take back the five lots he planned to build on. Neither developer has built a single house in conjunction with the MDHA.