Despite Jean Monestime's Conflict, Miami-Dade Gives $3 Million To Dubious Project
Are you looking for taxpayer money from
Miami-Dade County for a questionable project, but you've been
convicted of felony tax evasion and a misdemeanor attempt at boarding
an airplane with a loaded gun? No problem!
At least it's not a problem for Yoram
Izhak, a commercial property owner who recently scored a $3 million
grant to repave roads, install new lights, and add landscaping at a
rough-around-the-edges shopping center at NW 79th Street and 27th
Avenue in Liberty City. The renovation will supposedly attract a national
department store to the long-struggling neighborhood, but neither the
developer nor the county will say what chains they've lined up to
Banana Republican could not reach Izhak directly to comment about the cases or the grant, but his attorney, Glenn Widom, said the half-decade-old convictions have nothing to do with the Izhak's ability to turnaround the shopping center. Furthermore, Izhak only had to pay $75 and serve less than two years probation for his crimes, Widom adds. "I can see no reasonable relationship between his criminal charges and Northside Centre other than subjecting Mr. Izhak and his family to embarrassment," Widom says. "This is simply not newsworthy."
The county commission unanimously
approved the deal without discussion January 24, even though the
plan's original sponsor, Jean Monestime, pulled his name and
withheld his vote at the last minute when the Miami-Dade ethics
commission ruled he had a conflict of interest.
Izhak owned Northside Centre LLC, the
company that runs the similarly named shopping center, until late
last year, when he transferred control to his wife and three business
partners. Izhak also owns 50 percent of M.I.A. Properties, which
leases office space to Monestime -- a business relationship that put
him at conflict, the ethics board ruled.
The commissioner's colleagues were
apparently as untroubled by the sponsor's conflict as by Izhak's
In 2004, the businessman pleaded guilty
to tax evasion in Miami federal court. A year earlier, he pleaded
guilty to a federal misdemeanor gun charge after screeners at Fort
Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport discovered a loaded .38
Special inside his carry-on briefcase on October 9, 2002.
Monestime also stands behind the deal.
"The developer is investing $3
million in addition to the grant for a rundown property next to a
poor community," Monestime says. "The owners are also obligated
to create and retain 200 jobs before they ever get a nickel from the