Need a quick infusion of cash? Don't bother signing up to sell cheap knives door-to-door or be part of dodgy medical study. Instead, head up to North Miami and bid for a city contract. Because as one company learned, you can quite easily bankroll yourself through the North Miami City Council. Last week, North Miami City Councilman Scott Galvin sent out an email to his constituents detailing a recently approved contract from the city to a local company, IMECO Inc., to clean some sidewalks between NE Sixth Avenue and NE Ninth Avenue. The cost to the city? A whopping $99,000.
But that might not be IMECO's only payday from North Miami. On Tuesday night, the city council will vote on whether to award a staggering $270,000 to IMECO for a landscaping project on Pioneer Boulevard. That's all despite the fact that IMECO's general manager is currently facing felony charges for racketeering and fraud alongside some notoriously corrupt Opa-Locka politicians and lobbyists.
Calls to IMECO seeking comment were not returned.
The latest North Miami fiasco, which Stephanie Kienzle at Voters Opinion jumped on Monday, began with the sidewalk cleaning contract that was approved by the North Miami Community Redevelopment Agency on September 11. IMECO was one of three companies to apply for the bid. But in an email sent out on October 4, Galvin wrote that the contract "is a waste of taxpayers' dollars," considering the sidewalks were put in only a year ago. Galvin added that he walked the sidewalks himself and found them to be "in almost pristine condition."
When Riptide reached out to Galvin to find out more about the contract, he told us that the CRA was going to re-do the bidding process, acknowledging "flaws" in the way the bid was arranged. Galvin, however, doesn't want the contract to happen at all. "I'm going to try to kill the project altogether," he says.
Of course, there's also the matter of the even larger contract IMECO stands to land if the city council approves the company's latest bid, for $270,000 on a landscaping project. Galvin doesn't know if that contract vote will go through, given the heat the city is taking for the sidewalks deal. But he doesn't want his fellow council members to approve IMECO without first asking some questions about the company.
For starters, there's the issue of the company's general manager, Faustin Denis, being on trial. On November 25, 2009, Denis was arrested on charges of racketeering and fraud over $50,000, along with former Opa-Locka City Commissioner Terence Pinder and former lobbyist and disgraced former cop Dante Starks.
Those three were part of a case involving former Opa-Locka city consultant Emmanuel Nwadike, who pled guilty to separate money laundering and extortion charges in 2011. Nwadike admitted to bribing two city commissioners, including Pinder, to get almost $4 million in construction contracts from Opa-Locka. Denis and his compatriots are set to go to trial later this week.
Galvin also questions whether IMECO is actually a local company, as they purported to be in their bid for the landscaping contract. The Florida Department of State's Division of Corporations lists IMECO's primary address in Hialeah, and the Florida Department of Business Regulation has them registered in Miramar and Lauderhill.
Galvin adds that he believes IMECO had been contracted before the sidewalk cleaning to do work for the city. "This company is only a year old, but already has three different contracts," Galvin says. "That's some winning streak."
The expensive public projects come on the heels of some money and political woes for North Miami. Back in September, the Department of Housing and Urban Development fined the city $154,000 after it was discovered that the mother of Councilwoman Marie Steril had improperly received federal grant money to purchase a house. Earlier this month, the Miami Herald reported that CRA coordinator Lesley Prudent was working a second job as a radio host on city time, despite a $77,000 a year salary.
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And here on Riptide, we reported that North Miami Mayor Andre Pierre is facing accusations that he put campaign advertising on bus benches without paying for it, the same crime that led to the arrest of former North Miami Beach Mayor Myron Rosner.
For now, Galvin wants an investigation into IMECO and the contracts the company's won.
"I'm not looking to embarrass anyone, but I've got to ask how completely our staff vetted this," he says.