John DuBois is one freaked-out Palmetto Bay Village vice-mayor. In an odd twist to the millionaire security systems entrepreneur's ongoing legal war with the Miami-Dade County Department of Environmental Resources & Management, Dubois thought he was being spied on by unknown individuals in a helicopter and a boat on the morning of March 7. He called Miami-Dade Police to report "suspicious activity" taking place near his $2.5 million six-acre waterfront estate on Old Cutler Road. The cops never identified the chopper, but figured out the boat was operated by DERM officials conducting environmental tests in the canal hugging DuBois' backyard.
The incident was another bizarre episode involving DERM and DuBois, who declined comment when reached on his cellphone.
Last September, DERM sued DuBois in Miami-Dade Circuit Court alleging he had failed to pay fines and he had refused to plant new mangrove trees to replace the red, white, and black mangrove trees in his backyard he illegally cut down in 2003. At the time the complaint was filed, DuBois was a candidate in the Palmetto Bay elections. In a failed motion to dismiss it, he complained the timing of the lawsuit was suspect, saying he was "disappointed the plaintiff decided to file suit eight weeks before the election." The lawsuit is still pending.
DuBois was also the subject of a recently concluded investigation by the Miami-Dade ethics commission. Last year, citizen watchdog and North Miami resident Nancy Lee filed a complaint alleging DuBois arranged a sweetheart mortgage deal for Miami-Dade County Commissioner Lynda Bell's husband in exchange for her assistance in his DERM case.
Lee Hefty, DERM director, told ethics investigators that shortly after Bell took office in November 2010, she requested that he meet with DuBois, who later told the county bureaucrat that "he would do all he could to get rid of DERM." DuBois, Bell, and her husband Mark all denied a "quid pro quo" deal. They told investigators that DuBois agreed to provide Mark Bell with a $225,000 loan at a six percent finance rate and a 10 percent down payment so that he could purchase a hotel in Homestead.
The ethics commission closed the case in June after finding no evidence that the Bells benefited financially from DuBois' loan.
The "suspicious activity" incident on March 7 is much weirder. DuBois told county cops that at 10:45 in the morning he observed a grey helicopter with a blue stripe hovering at approximately 100 feet above his house. Five to seven minutes later, the chopper flew away and he saw a boat, also grey in color, approaching his property at a high rate of speed. The boat stopped about 200 yards away from his backyard and stayed there for approximately 15 minutes.
"DuBois used a high powered lens to get a closer look at the boat," according to the incident report. "He saw two people on the boat. At least one of them was wearing a ski mask." He also claimed the boat had the letters DERM written across it.
Later that evening, DuBois called the cops again. This time, he complained about a sign that had been erected on Old Cutler and SW 144 Street mocking him about the helicopter and boat sighting. He was on his way to a weekly poker game at a pal's house.
On March 12, DuBois called Lt. Greg Truitt, the Palmetto Bay Village Policing Unit, to let him know a team of DERM inspectors were coming to the property the following morning. The next day, Truitt drove to DuBois house, where he spoke to DERM coastal scientist John Ricisak, who informed him DERM does not have any helicopters. Ricisak also said his team was not on the canal on March 7.
Truitt told Ricisak that the "suspicious activity" DuBois reported "had potential Homeland Security implications" because the property has been used for "military operations in the past."
Truitt later confirmed with another DERM official that one of the department's boats was conducting water tests in the canal. But none of the crew members was wearing a ski mask. And the lieutenant could not confirm the existence of the helicopter.
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Sounds like DuBois can relate to R&B artist Rockewell:
Follow Francisco Alvarado on Twitter: @thefrankness