Miami Beach Might Have to Name Its Fancy New Tennis Center After a Convicted Felon

Miami has a long, proud history of granting civic immortality to our scummiest citizens, from naming a street after a Hialeah sugar company run by a former coke smuggler to UM's increasingly embarrassing Alex Rodriguez Park to the long-lost Jose Canseco Street in Westchester.

The latest flap over naming rights comes in Miami Beach, where commissioners so far haven't been able to find a way not to name their newly renovated tennis courts after a convicted felon who bribed a corrupt mayor and was accused of sexual harassment.

The courts in Flamingo Park have been named for onetime powerbroker Abel Holtz since he helped build the city a tennis stadium.

Problem is, Holtz's reputation went down in flames in classic corrupt Miami fashion in 1994, when he admitted to lying to a grand jury about bribing ex-Mayor Alex Daoud. Holtz never admitted how much he'd paid Daoud or what he got in return, but he told a federal judge he'd paid the mayor for legal services he never actually rendered.

Daoud later testified on the stand he'd accepted $1,000 to $1,500 a month from Holtz as bribes in return for political favors.

Holtz's name had already been tarred by the time he was convicted of that felony. He'd been accused in 1992 by his bank's legal counsel and by another woman of sexual harassment, and then outraged the board of directors by paying them a $355,000 settlement from bank funds, not his personal accounts.

So given all that history, with the courts in Flamingo recently reopening after a $3.5 million renovation, some observers have suggested that the Beach rethink continuing to honor Holtz.

Problem is, the Beach's legal counsel has advised that an agreement signed in the 1980s still obligates the city to name the park after the disgraced banker.

The commission was scheduled to take up the thorny issue last night but ended up sending a recommendation to leave the name unchanged back to a committee.

On the bright side, the Flamingo Park Holtz Tennis Center still has a much nicer ring to it than A-Rod Park.

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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink