Today he sits in his corner office in Florida City's futuristic city hall, designed by renowned Miami architect Andres Duany for a cool $5.6 million.

"Not one penny from local taxes," Wallace boasts. Indeed, with every year in office, the mayor gets better at bringing home the bacon. He estimates $7 million of his $18 million city budget last year came from federal, state, or private grants. He even admits to using outdated census information that depicts Florida City as poorer than it truly is to get the grants. But the ends justify the means. "How do you run a city in a terrible economy without raising taxes? That's what keeps my job fresh."

Wallace now earns $150,000 a year to run his 11,000-resident city, where average income is still a paltry $9,337 a year — roughly a third the state average. Four of every ten residents live in poverty. When Wallace retires, though, he'll receive $120,000 until he dies, under a measure he introduced in 2005.

Tim Milton, a convicted felon, hands out campaign flyers for Brady's opponents on election night.
Michael E. Miller
Tim Milton, a convicted felon, hands out campaign flyers for Brady's opponents on election night.

But the mayor shrugs off the suggestion that he and his staff are overpaid. "I will not apologize for something that works," he says firmly.

Darin Baldwin was tired of staying silent. A few days after Thanksgiving in 2009, the 14-year veteran of Florida City government stuffed four envelopes with everything he knew about Otis Wallace. He scrawled the addresses of the FBI, Miami-Dade Police Department, Gov. Charlie Crist, and the county commission. Then he dropped the envelopes into the mail.

For more than two years, only a handful of individuals inside those organizations knew of Baldwin's letter and his later testimony to investigators. But the documents, obtained by New Times, contain explosive allegations against Wallace. In them, Baldwin says the mayor traded his vote for land he later flipped for $1 million. Baldwin also claims that members of Wallace's administration took hundreds of thousands in bribes that were later passed to the mayor. Prosecutors never charged him, but the documents and New Times' own two-month investigation raise troubling questions about Wallace's administration.

On December 11, 2009, Baldwin secretly met with investigators in a warehouse across from Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Cemetery in Doral and spilled his guts. In a sworn statement to the FBI and Miami-Dade Police's Public Corruption Investigations Bureau, Baldwin said he had served as Florida City's public works director for eight years but was fed-up with corruption.

Baldwin began by describing how Wallace had allegedly sold his vote to Steve Torcise Sr., a real estate developer who owned land in Florida City. According to Baldwin, the two made a deal: If Wallace voted to rezone 100 acres of land — and convinced commissioners to do the same — Torcise would sell the mayor a chunk for the cut-rate price of $100,000. Once rezoned, both men would resell the land for a huge profit.

"Torcise gave the mayor ten acres of land in return for [getting] the other hundreds of acres rezoned," Baldwin told investigators. "The mayor, in turn, after he got it rezoned, sold it for a million dollars."

Baldwin's testimony didn't end with accusations over a shady land deal. He also claimed developers and businesses routinely were asked for bribes. When they needed permits or contracts, businesses would approach the community development director, Bill Kiriloff, and he'd refer them to Tomas Mesa, a former building and zoning director. Mesa then demanded anywhere from $5,000 to $25,000 to ensure the deal went through. Some of the money was then kicked back to the mayor, Baldwin alleged.

Often, Kiriloff would bypass lower bids to reward companies that paid bribes, Baldwin continued. The corruption was easy to hide, he testified: "For various reasons, if they didn't dot an i or cross a t or they left out a paper, they'll disqualify someone."

Finally, Baldwin told investigators that Mark Ben-Asher, the finance director, was complicit in the scam, falsifying documents to benefit the mayor and funneling illicit funds to Kiriloff and Mesa. "He's the right-hand man to the mayor," Baldwin said.

Wallace fired Baldwin a few months after he went to the feds. New Times was unable to reach Baldwin for comment.

The mayor strongly denies all of his former employee's allegations, dismissing them as "sworn testimony by a liar." He says he fired Baldwin because electrical parts went missing on his watch — not for ratting to the feds. "Just because a guy that I fired wants to connect me to a land deal doesn't mean that I should know anything about it," Wallace says.

Mesa, Torcise, and Ben-Asher also deny their alleged roles in the schemes. Yet the investigation didn't end with Baldwin's claims alone.

Although public records don't show Torcise directly sold Wallace any land, they do show that in 2002, Torcise sold two parcels for $233,100 to a company called Avenue B St, Inc. The land was rezoned for residential in June 2003, just weeks before Avenue B St sold it to another company for $810,000 — a hefty fourfold profit. The vice president of Avenue B St is none other than Mesa, who at the time was still zoning director.

Torcise admits to selling the land to Mesa but says politics had nothing to do with the deal. "I sold a piece of surplus land to Tom Mesa and he got it zoned," Torcise says. "I had nothing to do with the rezoning."

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11 comments
g3j5
g3j5

what if he had her son killed... and if u stay in Florida city you know how this shit is they jus start building shit down here lol them ugly ass trees they put up that nigga pocketing all the money put his sister out and he got millions talkin bout he be at the football games he should be at every game its fuckin 120$ to play this shit is corrupt down here only thing the police do is ride around and fuck hoes

Pj3x71
Pj3x71

Mayor Otis Wallace is a very honest hard working man that i have none for quit some time. I meet him when my kids start playing football at the park, where he spend lots of hour cheering and supporting our kids.Continue doing your job that you have done so well..... I here the same guy that went to the FBI is also a convicted felon himself, that also sold and use drugs himself...

runrandrand
runrandrand

WHY IS THIS USELESS STORY IN IT'S THIRD WEEKEND CYCLE? THE NEWS IS EVEN SLOWER THEN THE DAYTONA RACE START THAT WASN'T-----! MAYBE THE HERALD PRESSES SHOULD INK UP AND START PRINTING COUNTERFIT MONEY TO HELP THE BANKRUPT CITY---WHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!

Hym
Hym

Damn! The New Times sure does have a way and a tone to how they write these character assassinating stories. I have never met Mr. Wallace and even though I did not graduate from high school, I can read. I can definitely read through this bull and see that the New Times failed to substantiate the title of the article. Other than putting his sister out of the house, the story reads like a desperate attempt to sell newspapers. I must admit though, it was entertaining.

Dannykeehan
Dannykeehan

Martin Luther King will be turning in his grave. give a poor man the same job and leave it for 28 years, then at the end of it find out if he has change. i bet he will?

Joy
Joy

So hot! Do u need meet more hot girls? Come here! Just click hereā†’stDsTer.,.c0m.You won't be disappointed!

jtp12
jtp12

Good job Mike Miller. If you had the time, I am sure you could uncover even more. All the land, hotel/motel, real estate transactions should be investigated in that area.This is exactly what is wrong with America today. This whole scenario infiltrates our entire system. Unfortunately, it is investigated and then nothing is ever done.We just need more good reporters like you. Power, money, and corruption. Will it ever end?

Oh, one last thing, do you have a bodyguard?

husterredt
husterredt

typical in Florida City & Homestead, corruption is everywhere, Bateman is not far behind, actually he is partners with Wallace, Berrones and Henschel, its about time the FBI looks intoit..Good Job, Get them all!!!!!!!!!!!

Kcgriefs
Kcgriefs

So since he makes an appearance at a park filled with constituents he is corruption free? I am not sure what is weaker, your spelling or your logic.

Bebep
Bebep

A desperate attempt to sell their FREE newspaper.

Congratulations on not graduating high school.

Ash
Ash

You might be able to read but perhaps you have a problem with comprehension. It's sad because he did many admirable things (as this article points out). He couldn't resist the temptation of corruption. He's slippery but they all get caught eventually.

 
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