North Miami Beach Councilman Myron Rosner sits under a green awning on the west side of his single-story three-bedroom house on NE 178th Terrace. The vinyl shelter is one of several enhancements the Montreal native has made to his peach-colored home since he and his wife, Circuit Court Judge Sarah Zabel, purchased the property in 1993. Rosner, a general contractor who owns a construction firm, enclosed the patio and turned it into his home office. He put in a swimming pool and extended the stone-paved driveway into his back yard, where he parks his boat.
"I went through the same permitting process as every one else," attests Rosner, who is the front-runner to become North Miami Beach mayor in the May 5 election. "If I wasn't entitled to a permit, then I shouldn't have gotten one."
For the past three months, Rosner has been accused of using his public office on nine occasions to circumvent North Miami Beach's building and zoning rules for his home improvements. The kicker is that Rosner is a member of the Miami-Dade Board of Rules and Appeals — the body that doles out punishment against builders who skirt local construction laws.
North Miami Beach politics
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In February and March, city residents Barbara Falsey and D.D. Thompson Drumhiller filed separate complaints against Rosner with the Florida and Miami-Dade ethics commissions. Drumhiller also complained to the state's Department of Business and Professional Regulation. "When someone holds themselves up to run for mayor," Drumhiller says, "I expect some integrity." Falsey echoes Drumhiller's comments. "An elected official should be beyond reproach," she says.
For example, Drumhiller provided the ethics commissions with documents showing Rosner was required to go before the city council when he sought approval for his awning in 2006. Instead, Drumhiller alleges, Rosner pressured then-community development director Tom Vageline — who oversaw the city's building office — to sign off on his permit and bypass the city council. She also charges that Rosner did not obtain a permit to build the driveway for his boat. "He is a general contractor licensed in our state," Drumhiller notes. "How is he not going to know what he needs to do? Please."
According to documents provided by Drumhiller, state and Miami-Dade ethics officials are investigating the complaints. This past February 11, Florida ethics commission executive director Philip Claypool notified Rosner he was under investigation. On March 30, Miami-Dade ethics investigator Manuel Diaz requested that North Miami Beach building official Phil Azan inspect Rosner's property for the alleged violations.
Rosner says his critics are friends of incumbent North Miami Beach Mayor Ray Marin. "None of my neighbors have ever complained about the work I've done on my house. But now all of a sudden these women, who don't live on my block, are filing ethics complaints against me right before the election. This just shows that the mayor doesn't know how to fight a campaign above board."