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Recently dismissed ethics complaints against three lobbyists provide a glimpse into how developers will pay off so-called community activists to win support for their projects.

In finding that zoning lawyers Juan Mayol, Joseph Goldstein, and Richard Perez did in fact register to lobby on behalf of their client Q2 -- a group of developers that want to build residential homes just outside of Florida City -- the ethics commission exposed another problem.

Turns out that Mayol "did not disclose $30,000 paid to South Miami-Dade community activist Kentward Forbes to bring speakers to public meetings to show support for the projects," according to a December 9 press release from the ethics commission.

The watchdog agency further determined "that many lobbyists have interpreted current law as not requiring a listing of fees paid to community organizers as lobbying expenditures." The ethics commission sent Mayol a "letter of guidance" clarifying that he needs to list payments like the one to Forbes, a board member of the Naranja Community Redevelopment Agency, on his expenditure reports.

Developers doling out cash to community exploiters masquerading as activists is nothing new. Remember the Related Group paid $100,000 to Barbara Carey-Shuler and Barbara Hardemon for "community outreach" when the developer was seeking approval for its Mercy Hospital condo project.

It' not illegal, but it is shady as hell.

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Francisco Alvarado was born in Nicaragua and grew up in Miami, giving him unique insight into the Magic City and all its dark corners. An investigative reporter with a knack for uncovering corruption, Alvarado made his bones as a staff writer at Miami New Times and remains in dogged pursuit of the next juicy story.