William "Bill" Perry III is the consummate insider. Once head of the Miami Sports and Exhibition Authority and a county mayoral candidate, he has been at the center of a passel of questionable deals. In 2002, he received a last-minute $98,000 loan from the Miami-Dade Empowerment Trust to stop foreclosure on his Miami Shores home. A year later, the trust lent $500,000 more to Worldwide Concessions Inc. to open a Chili's at Bayside Marketplace when the company was under federal investigation in an unrelated deal at Miami International Airport. Perry was one of the firm's partners. (No charges were filed in the case.)
Now Perry is suing two other members of South Florida's African-American aristocracy in Miami-Dade Circuit Court: Dewey Knight III, son of the first black deputy county manager, and Otis Pitts Jr., a housing expert whose new paradigm for affordable housing earned him a MacArthur Foundation genius grant.
The claim: Knight, Pitts, and three others — Raul Masvidal, Alben Duffie, and Antonio Junior — gypped Perry out of his share for developing the Martin Luther King Jr. office building at NW 62nd Street and 27th Avenue.
In 2001, the six men formed a partnership to develop the 220,000-square-foot-building, which the county now owns. The development team was paid $2.4 million for its work. According to the lawsuit, which was filed this past August 7, the group "failed to turn over the funds [Perry] earned as a result of his participation in the MLK project." Neither the amount nor details of the disagreement are enumerated.
Perry declined comment on the suit. His attorney, Mark Douthit; Knight; Pitts; and Duffie did not respond to messages. In addition, calls to Masvidal, under indictment in a separate housing-related case, were unreturned.
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The key to the dispute might be the associates' connection to Alex Penelas, who was Miami-Dade mayor from 1996 to 2004, says a longtime county lobbyist who did not want to be identified. "These guys made a ton of money when Penelas was in power. Now it looks like they are fighting for the few crumbs that are left."