Did Homestead Manager Cover Up a Crash Involving Mayor Steve Bateman?

Back in late January, the City of Homestead contracted A&B Paint & Body Shop at 142 SW Fifth Ave. to repair significant damage to the front and rear of a city-owned Ford Expedition driven by Mayor Steve Bateman. Total cost: $1,303.86, which the city paid for.

So this past March 24, I submitted a public records request for a copy of the crash report after I received a tip that the mayor had been involved in an accident and that Manager Sergio Purrinos covered it up.

Purrinos, who was accused of misconduct when he was Doral's city manager, was out of town when I made my inquiry. But his assistant, Marlene Volkert, provided me with the following account:

There was no "crash." Mayor Steven Bateman and Councilman Jimmie L. Williams were returning to Homestead in the City-owned Ford Expedition from a Florida League of Cities, Institute for Elected Municipal Officials Conference in Gainesville, Florida.

The left-rear tire failed about 100 miles from Gainesville while the vehicle was travelling approximately 70 mph. When the left-rear tire disintegrated, it damaged the vehicle's bodywork. The vehicle was safely driven to a stop without impacting anything. The tire was changed and the vehicle was driven without incident to Homestead.

According to the city's risk manager, Priscilla Thompson, there are no legal requirements to file an accident report for a tire blow-out unless that blow-out results in an accident with another vehicle or results in incidental property damage external to the vehicle itself.

Repairs to city vehicles that are damaged in such cases are handled without "incident" reports.
Oh, really? Well, those must have been some serious tire shreds that the pieces would not only damage the back of the SUV but also propel themselves forward to bang up the front of the vehicle too.

Needless to say, Volkert's explanation doesn't add up. And today I received copies of text messages Purrinos sent Bateman that indicate the city manager was trying to keep the incident on the down-low.

Jan. 21, 1:15 p.m., Purrinos texts: "I have Ilene solving your issue at Enterprise now...Don't worry we'll take care of everything."

Jan. 22, 11:43 p.m., Purrinos texts: "Call me when you can... Ref emergency spot pick up behind Carl Pelt Good Year, up against the fence next to the Sacred Heart Church."

Jan. 23, 4:47 p.m., Purrinos texts: "Been up since early, just left the office, but don't worry the fire has been put out."

Jan 23, 7:54 p.m., Purrinos texts: "The fire wasn't bad, I know who I am dealing with but will be smarter next time..."

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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.