Real Estate

As Baptist Health's SoBe Plans Stall, Conflict of Interest Accusations Hit Planning Board

For more than six decades, Mount Sinai Medical Center has been Miami Beach's premier hospital. But now Baptist Health South Florida, another huge regional medical chain, wants to open a much smaller, urgent-care center in South Beach. Mount Sinai -- along with the city's planning board and chamber of commerce -- is pushing back.

That surprised Wayne Brackin, chief operating officer of Baptist Health South Florida. "We thought we'd be welcomed [by the chamber] with open arms, as we have in the past," he says.

Over the past few weeks, a series of actions by the city's planning board and its chamber of commerce have blocked quick development of the facility.

Part of the problem may trace to two of the planning board's six members who have strong ties to Mount Sinai. Jonathan Beloff is a lawyer who has listed himself in official biographies as an executive vice president of the Mount Sinai Medical Center Foundation and a Mount Sinai board member. Planning board member Randolph Gumenick has listed himself as a member of Mount Sinai's executive committee. (Neither Beloff nor Gumenick returned New Times' phone calls and emails seeking comment.)

On January 28, rather than simply approve the application, the planning board voted unanimously to ask the city commission to pay for an independent study on the new health center's impact. Neither man abstained from the vote.

One speaker at the planning board meeting was Steve Sonenreich, Mount Sinai's CEO. Though he insisted the hospital had no official position, he later told reporters: "I have great concerns about... the compatibility with the neighboring community."

At a meeting in February, city commissioners declined to fund the independent study and kicked it back to the planning board. Last Tuesday, the project went before the city's chamber of commerce. It denied Baptist's membership. Sonenreich is on the chamber's

board of governors. (The chamber has since said it will reconsider the application.)

Baptist, meanwhile, is revising its plans to address traffic concerns before the project returns to the planning board March 24.

"It's a process with rules, and we'll follow the rules," Brackin says.

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Trevor Bach