Miami-Dade Paying $340,000 To Lobbying Firms Tied To Marlins Debacle, Genting Agenda UPDATE

The four firms representing Miami-Dade

County before the state legislature are mired in potential conflicts

of interests and ongoing controversies. Yesterday, county

commissioners awarded $120,000 each to law firms Ronald L. Book P.A.

and Rutledge, Ecenia & Purnell, as well as $50,000 each for

Akerman Senterfitt and Ballard Partners -- $90,000 less than they originally allocated. This past Dec. 28, Mayor Carlos Gimenez vetoed the commission's decision to divide

$450,000 among the four firms because it would not save taxpayers any

money - which is why commissioners claimed they wanted to rebid the

county's lobbying contract in the first place.

The firms getting rich off taxpayers have close ties to Malaysian gambling giant Genting, executives tied up in criminal probes and even employ the same clowns who helped negotiate the disastrous Miami Marlins stadium deal. Click through for the worst conflicts for each.

Ron Book: Once again, commissioners chose to hire Book, the über-lobbyist who represents dozens of private clients and municipalities with competing interests. For example, he represents the city of Miami, Magic City Casino, and the Miami Dolphins. All three entities, just like Miami-Dade government, have a big-time stake in the outcome of the casino resort bill under consideration by state lawmakers.

Rutledge: The Rudtledge firm, which subcontracts its portion of the lobbying contract to Becker & Poliakoff and Dutko Worldwide. Becker employs the mayor's son Carlos Gimenez Jr. and state Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla as government lobbyists, as well as former county manager George Burgess as chief operations officer. Dutko recently had on its roster Alfredo Mesa and Javier Soto, a pair of ex-county executives who worked for former Mayor Alex Penelas. 

Although they are no longer with Dutko, Mesa and Soto worked for the firm when they represented the Miami Marlins at the time the ball club was negotiating the terms of its stadium deal with Penelas' successor Carlos Alvarez. You know, the same controversial deal that is now the subject of a probe by the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission

Akerman Senterfit and Ballard: Akerman raised $30,000 for Gimenez's reelection, while Ballard Partners, which also lobbies on behalf of Genting, has a managing partner tied up in an ugly criminal probe. (The firm's owner Brian Ballard is Mitt Romney's national campaign finance co-chairman).

Managing partner Sylvester Lukis' wife, Vicki Lopez Lukis, was the subject of scathing investigation by the state Department of Juvenile Justice's inspector general last June. Investigators concluded Lopez Lukis used her contract to help troubled teenage girls for personal gain, buying meals at fancy restaurants, gifts for friends and lawmakers, and other unauthorized expenses. No criminal charges were filed, but the inspector general recommended the juvenile justice department recover at least $110,000 from Lopez Lukis.

Update: The Governor's Chief Inspector General has released a new report finding that the Department of Juvenile Justice's investigation into Lukis had been sloppy and incorrect. 

After reviewing the previous investigation into Lukis, the department found the previous report was not "sufficient, competent or relevant" enough to accuse Lukis or the group of abusing state funds. The investigation found that "no evidence was identified or found to indicate that any invoices were falsified or that contractual services were not delivered." 

You can read the full updated report here:
CIG Final Report

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