Developers Bundling Money for Carlos Gimenez Too

A couple of blogs have been barking up a storm about certain real estate developers tied to dubious projects getting cozy with Julio Robaina, but Carlos Gimenez has his fair share as well. The donations reinforce the fact both candidates represent special interests and folks they will have to answer to.

According to Gimenez's June 10 quarterly report, his top benefactors are:

  • Michael Gardner, president of a Plantation-based real estate development company, who contributed $4,500 through nine of his corporations. Before the run-off Gardner bundled $6,500 for Gimenez. Gardner's firm Pointe Group is building the Grove Village on Grand, a controversial seven-block mixed-used project in West Coconut Grove, one of Miami's oldest African American neighborhoods. Some black activists have complained to Miami and county officials that Gardner's project will gentrify the neighborhood, accelerating the exodus of black residents out of the Grove.
  • Michael Adler, ex-principal of AA Acquisitions, ponied up $4,500 through nine of his companies too. Previously, he gave Gimenez $4,000 in bundled donations. In 2008, after AA Acquisitions signed a lease with the county to develop a $230 million business park at Opa-Locka airport, existing tenants filed a complaint with the Federal Aviation Administration accusing Miami-Dade officials and Adler's company of economic discrimination. The minority-owned firms alleged Adler ignored their repeated attempts to negotiate long-term leases with AA Acquisitions. Last April, county commissioners (including Gimenez) unanimously voted to give $3.9 million in job growth incentives for the project so Adler could instead lure a global trade show operator to develop a trade center, showroom and warehouse complex on the 240-acre site. This past May, Adler told the South Florida Business Journal he was no longer involved in the Opa-Locka airport deal.
  • Jeffrey Berkowitz, the developer who built the big box retail center on Fifth Street and Alton Road on Miami Beach, is another one who gave Gimenez $4,500 for the run-off. Berkowitz's wife Yolanda, who is identified as a "community activist" in Gimenez's report, gave $500 as well. Before the run-off, Berkowitz's companies combined for $5,500 for Gimenez's run. Berkowitz is responsible for putting the garish Romero Britto sculpture that fronts his Miami Beach project. He's also the developer of the Dadeland Station shopping center that in 1997 was the focus of serious problems with the county's building department. Inspectors discovered the building had dangerous flaws that required Berkowitz to spend $8.5 million to fix the three-story structure and adjacent garage. The county ultimately ruled that the construction company Berkowitz hired was to blame for the violations.
  • Partners at Bilzin Sumberg Baena Price & Axelrod, a law firm specializing in land use and zoning matters, have given $4,250 to Gimenez adding to the $12,050 the firm's lawyers gave the former county commissioner prior to the run off. In 2005, Partner Stanley Price, who gave Gimenez the $500 maximum, was caught on tape discussing a lobbyist fee for former state Rep. Ralph Arza (who ironically is one of Robaina's top confidantes) with client and developer Masoud Shojaee. Price explained to Shojaee that Arza was the "2000-pound gorilla in Doral" where the developer was seeking a rezoning approval from the city council. During the conversation, Price said about Arza: "He wanted $50,000 and I said you'll take $20,000 and you'll get a bonus of $30,000 when the zoning's delivered to us. And that's a tremendous payday for him." No criminal charges were filed.
  • Seven members of the Havenick family, who own Magic City Casino, each contributed the $500 maximum to Gimenez's war chest for a total of $3,500. Five companies controlled by the parimutual operators also gave $500 each for a total of $2,500. The Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement are investigating $510,000 in secret payments the Havenicks (who also own Miami Jai-Alai) made to a company tied to Congressman David Rivera in 2008 when he helped run a political campaign backed by the family to legalize slots at parimutuel facilities in Miami-Dade.

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Francisco Alvarado was born in Nicaragua and grew up in Miami, giving him unique insight into the Magic City and all its dark corners. An investigative reporter with a knack for uncovering corruption, Alvarado made his bones as a staff writer at Miami New Times and remains in dogged pursuit of the next juicy story.