When Opa-locka Mayor Myra Taylor got
$5,000 in city funds for an event she was organizing, she promised
some of the proceeds would be used to help poor parents pay for their
children's day care. But in reality, the only child who
benefited was Taylor's adult daughter, according to a Miami-Dade
ethics commission investigation that resulted in a
$1,500 fine for the mayor earlier this month.
Taylor, who was a council member at the time the funds were allocated, did not return two messages left at Opa-locka City Hall and her non-profit community redevelopment agency. She agreed to pay the fine as part of a settlement agreement with the ethics commission.
According to the commission's complaint against Taylor, a Civil Rights Supper was held on February 27 of last year. It was organized by the Opa-locka Educational and Cultural Foundation, which lists her as the sole officer. When ethics investigators interviewed former City Attorney Burnadette Norris-Weeks this past March 24, she claimed she discouraged Taylor from attempting to direct city funds to the foundation and the event. "If the city was going to give money to her organization, that would not be proper," Norris-Weeks said. The lawyer also recalled Taylor saying she wanted event proceeds to go to the private school she owns. Norris-Weeks told investigators that she advised Taylor against that.
Subsequently, Norris-Weeks attested, Taylor said the funds would be "solely used as scholarships to help needy children and their families pay for daycare expenses." One month before the Civil Rights Supper, the Opa-locka City Council, including Taylor, voted 4-1 to provide the $5,000. At the time, Taylor was running for mayor.
Ethics investigators found that the Taylor had raised $24,035, including the city's $5,000 contribution, for the event. Other donors included local businesses, city vendors, and several Opa-locka employees, including then City Manager Clarence Patterson. According to the ethics complaint, Taylor's foundation spent roughly $18,500 to put on the Civil Rights Supper, which was held at Florida Memorial University. Only $1,500 was set aside for scholarships at three day care centers. Yet, Punkin Entertainment, a defunct corporation run by Taylor's adult daughter Lila, was paid $2,683.
The ethics complaint criticized Taylor for not providing more money to the kids. "Clearly, not all the available proceeds from the Civil Rights Supper were used to benefit needy children in the Opa-Locka area," wrote investigator Karl Ross. "Instead, a token few children benefited - none so much as Taylor's own daughter, Lila - while the event itself served to elevate the profile of then-Vice-Mayor Taylor, who was seeking to bolster her political aspirations of becoming mayor."