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Ethics Panel: Key Biscayne Mayor Must Abstain from Development Vote

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Working for Key Biscayne’s biggest real estate developer has its price. This past May 21, the Miami-Dade ethics commission notified Village Mayor Robert Vernon that he cannot vote on a plan to expand the island municipality’s open green space. The reason: Vernon is a real estate broker for Edgardo DeFortuna’s Fortune International Realty Inc.

DeFortuna, under his development company SBR-Fortune Associates, has built several condo projects on Key Biscayne. He is currently seeking approval to redevelop the Sonesta Hotel. A citizen’s committee is recommending the village negotiate lease agreements or buy land from DeFortuna.

The ethics commission ruled that the committee findings give DeFortuna an “explicit advantage.” By voting on the plan, Vernon “could conceivably enhance your business relationship with Mr. DeFortuna at Fortune International Realty,” opined ethics commission Executive Director Robert Meyers.

Vernon, who has abstained from voting on other matters involving his employer, says he will abide by the ethics commission’s ruling. The green space plan will be heard by the village council at it’s June 5 meeting. “I will not be voting,” Vernon assured. --Francisco Alvarado

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