Today may not technically be a holiday, but for Miami-Dade residents, it marks one of the treasured moments in the yearly calendar: Another former public official starts their corruption trial! Former Homestead Mayor Steve Bateman is theman on the stand in criminal court this morning
, facing down two felony counts of unlawful compensation related to an allegedly crooked deal with a medical clinic.
Bateman was the last of three local mayors arrested in a corruption crackdown last summer. Prosecutors went 50-50 on the other two cases, nailing Sweetwater's ex-mayor on corruption charges but watching Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi beat his rap. How will Bateman fare?
Bateman's case centers on a consulting deal with Community Health of South Florida Inc., a clinic that hoped to open a new center in downtown Homestead.
Prosecutors say that Bateman had a secret, $125-per-hour gig working for the company behind the scenes, while in his role as mayor he helped grease the wheels for the deal, including fast-tracking a sewer extension to the building they hoped to move into.
Bateman has vigorously fought the charges, and even filed for re-election two days after his arrest, though he wasn't able to win back his job with the case hanging over his head. He says his work as a consultant never affected his role as mayor.
"I had to wear two hats," Bateman tells the Miami Herald. "I think I did a good job separating the hats, and we'll prove that."
The charges came after years of fighting between the mayor and other officials in the southern Dade County city.
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Bateman had already landed in hot water over his ties to another medical firm, the for-profit Dade Medical College, which wanted to build a new campus in Homestead. Bateman supported the deal and allegedly helped steer the real estate deal to his wife, a local realtor.
Dade Medical's president, Ernesto Perez was later indicted himself after New Times revealed that he'd never disclosed a previous conviction for sexual assault on a child. He's been indicted for perjury for allegedly lying about those charges while expunging his record.
Bateman's time in office includes a colorful parade of other scandals and controversies, including facing vandalism accusations after cutting through a lock at a local high school and claims he'd used city resources to make campaign ads.