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| Columns |

Judy Waldman is in Prime Company With Homestead Mayor Steve Bateman

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A family of real estate developers who

avoided paying more than $100,000 in code violations in Homestead

thanks to Mayor

Steve Bateman sure knows how to spoil the city's elected

officials. Through various corporations they own, Eduardo, Fred,

and Larry Abbo also contributed $5,500

to Vice-Mayor Judy Waldman's reelection campaign -- the exact

amount they gave to Bateman's reelection bid. The contributions were

made six months after the Abbos saw their fine for posting illegal

signs drop dramatically from $114,000 to a measly $802. Bateman and

Waldman are facing challengers in the upcoming November city

election.

According to city documents, Homestead's code enforcement chief recommended slashing the fine following a meeting with an executive for the Abbo's company Prime Home Builders and then-City Manager Sergio Purriños in June of last year. Investigators from the Miami-Dade Police public corruption unit looked into an allegation, among several others, that Bateman ordered Purriños to cut the Abbos a break. The year-long probe resulted in no criminal charges being filed against the mayor, who has denied any wrongdoing.

The fine reduction was ultimately approved this past January by Bernice Ratajczak, the city's special master who is supposed to act as an independent arbitrator for people and businesses appealing code violations. Ratajczak is a close friend of Waldman's. Both women live less than a block away from one another.

In addition to giving her campaign contributions, the Abbos - who own Portofino Coal Fired Pizza in Homestead - have raised funds and provided food for Waldman's charity organization, the Little Angels Foundation, which had its tax exempt status revoked by the Internal Revenue Service for failure to file tax forms for three consecutive years.

Waldman did not return two messages seeking comment. Fred Abbo responded via e-mail, saying he and his family "are not aware of either the mayor or the vice-mayor having any particular say in the correction of these improperly calculated fines."


Abbo says Prime Home Builders and several other developers appealed the fines because the city did not properly notify them regarding the code violations. 

He asserted the campaign contributions to Bateman and Waldman, as well as support of Little Angels, had nothing to with getting the fines reduced. "There is nothing wrong in contributing money to help persons succeed who we believe can contribute positively to the betterment of the community, and who are interested in creating jobs and promote economic growth," Abbo said.

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