Boy, Steven Bateman doesn't know when to quit. Today, the Miami Herald published an article about another suspicious deal involving the Homestead mayor that appears riddled with conflicts-of-interest. It's becoming a pattern that has spawned separate investigations by the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office and the Miami-Dade Ethics Commission into Bateman's cozy relationships with people and entities that rely on Homestead city government for approvals.
The latest Bateman debacle involves nonprofit agency Community Health of South Florida Inc., which is paying the mayor $125 an hour -- more than $4,5000 for one week's work -- to be its construction consultant. Bateman allegedly failed to publicly disclose his lucrative gig to the City Council and Miami-Dade County officials while he's been lobbying on behalf of Community Health. As a council member, Bateman must also publicly excuse himself from voting on any matters involving Community Health.
Bateman has a history of acting squirrelly since first elected mayor in 2009. Here's a timeline of his shadiest moments in office:
January 2010: The city pays A&B Paint & Body Shop $1,303 to repair significant damage to the front and rear of Bateman's city-owned Ford Expedition. Then-city manager Sergio Purriños claimed that one of the SUV's rear tires blew out while Bateman was on his way to Gainesville. The disintegrated tire caused the damage to the vehicle's bodywork, Purriños insisted. But no accident report was recorded and text messages between Purriños and Bateman suggested they were trying to keep the damage to the Ford under the lid. In one of the messages, Purriños wrote to Bateman: "Been up since early, just left the office, but don't worry the fire has been put out."
October 2011: During his re-election campaign, Bateman collected $5,500 in political donations from the owners of Prime Home Builders, a company that went from owing $114,000 in fines to city to just paying $802 after the mayor allegedly intervened on their behalf. According to Purriños, Bateman also ordered him to rescind a $10,499 electric bill racked up by the mayor's friend Joseph Strano.
January 2012: Local videographer Jorge Delgado sued the city, alleging Homestead officials stiffed him on a $8,200 bill to produce a video about Bateman. In his complaint, Delgado alleged that he ended up cutting a video Bateman used for his reelection campaign. He also claimed Bateman's city-paid personal assistant, Lourdes Llanos, hired him and directed him. That means the mayor may have broken state election law which prohibits candidates from using taxpayer resources for political campaigns. However, a subsequent ethics commission probe could not find probable cause to charge Bateman.
November 2012: The Herald reports on a sweetheart luxury car deal involving Bateman's wife Donna and Wayne Rosen, a Homestead developer who contributed at least $3,000 for the mayor's reelection campaign. Donna purchased a gold 2004 Mercedes Benz S430 with only 42,000 miles on it from a local CarMax auto dealer. Worth between $13,600 and $22,000, Donna paid $13,000 for her Benzo. Coincidentally, CarMax bought the car from a company owned by Rosen, who insisted there was nothing fishy about the sale. It's against Florida ethics laws for an elected official to "directly or indirectly" accept a gift worth more than $100 from a lobbyist, political committee or committee of continuous existence.
March 2013: Witnesses gave sworn statements to Homestead police detectives that Bateman admitted to vandalizing the city-owned La Ley Sports Complex because of a dispute with the facility's operator, Miami attorney John Ruiz. According to police, Ruiz accused Bateman of cutting off a lock to a gate blocking access to a side road. According to at least two other people interviewed by police, Bateman said he cut the lock because Ruiz wouldn't do it.
June 2013: The Herald reports that ethics investigators and the state attorney's office are investigating Bateman's role lobbying city officials to help Ernesto Perez, the owner of Dade Medical College, buy land owned by the city at a bargain basement price. In addition to bundling 15 $500 contributions for Bateman's reelection, Perez also employs Donna as a real estate consultant.
Follow Francisco Alvarado on Twitter: @thefrankness.
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