Columns

With Friends Like These

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A: The mayor basically, after hearing everybody, offered his opinion, which was that he felt that continuing work under the contract in light of all that was going on, and he recognized that Church & Tower would be putting forth considerable amounts of money, things that were in dispute and in question, but that continuing work under the contract, even with some of the disputed amounts in hand while an independent investigation was being conducted, would be problematic. And he thought that the public would not accept the fact that we were trying to resolve the issue before the state attorney's investigation had concluded and made its findings, and that, really, he thought, and he thought the public would agree, that that investigation and audit should take place and be concluded before continuing any work or resolving monetary issues with them.

In his own deposition, Sergio Pino recounted that after the meeting, Cancela spoke to Penelas privately and reportedly asked the mayor, "Are you doing this for a political reason or are you doing this because you feel Church & Tower has done something wrong?" Not surprisingly, the mayor denied he was being guided by politics. But the mere fact that a friend and ally of Penelas would have enough doubts about the mayor's motivation to pose such a question is itself revealing.

May, in his deposition, disclosed for the first time that lobbyist Rodney Barreto was brought in by the Mas family in an effort to push the settlement agreement. Barreto, however, is not registered to lobby on behalf of Church & Tower. His involvement will confirm the view, held by many, that Penelas allows lobbyists such as Barreto and Christopher Korge to play a larger role than they should in the behind-the-scenes affairs of county government.

May also discussed a meeting between Cuban American National Foundation president Pepe Hernandez and the mayor shortly before Jorge Mas Canosa's death.

Q: What did [the mayor] tell you about his meeting with Mr. Hernandez?
A: He told me that Mr. Hernandez had come to his house, the mayor's house, and had pleaded with the mayor that Mr. Mas Canosa, Sr., who was very ill at the time, had sent Mr. Hernandez to plead with the mayor to please allow the matter to be resolved. I believe all of that took place subsequent to my meeting with Mr. Adorno.

Q: And did the mayor tell you what he said to Mr. Hernandez?
A: Not specifically. The only thing he mentioned was something to the effect that he had indicated to Mr. Hernandez that he didn't have any intention of changing his position.

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Jim DeFede
Contact: Jim DeFede