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NUMBER 52 - MARCH 28, 2019
GANGSTER'S PARADISE - IT'S BAD ENOUGH WHEN THE CITY COMMISSIONERS SCREW THE TAXPAYERS IN PUBLIC. IT'S A LOT WORSE WHEN THE SCHEMERS COOK THE CITY'S BOOKS IN SECRET AS A WAY TO GIVE MONEY TO A NON-PROFIT RUN BY A COMMISSIONER'S UNCLE
First, kudos to the story that Joey Flechas and David Smiley did about the activities of Commissioner Keon Hardemon's aunt and uncle, Barbara and Billy Hardemon.
The story proves that when they want to, or perhaps even when forced to, they can write good stories that are more than the usual dribble and bullshit about what goes on at Miami City Hall. You can read their story HERE.
As part of the story, Flechas and Smiley mentioned in passing that Commissioner Hardemon's Uncle Billy was the Chairman of the Martin Luther Kings Economic Development Corporation.
Unfortunately they did not follow up on that revelation with the below information that would have provided another dimension into the questionable relationship between Keon and his Uncle Billy.
THE MARTIN LUTHER KING CANDLEIGHT VIGIL
Prior to Keon Hardemon becoming a member of the Miami City Commission in 2014, the city allocated a total of $275,000 for Special Events.
This is the description of how that money was spent from the 2012-2013 Operating Budget.
At that time, the only event paid for by taxpayers were the costs associated with the annual Martin Luther King Parade held in January.
By 2015 however, the $275,000 had grown to $475,000, and thanks to Keon Hardemon, a new event had been added to the list along with a $50,000 budget: the Martin Luther King Candlelight Vigil.
From the beginning that money was allocated to the Martin Luther Kings Economic Development Corporation.
Normally, it would be hard to figure out how a supposed economic development corporation would be tasked with putting on a community event of this kind, but then again, this economic development corporations benefited from having a chairman who had a nephew on the Miami City Commission, and therefore Uncle Billy had a chunk of city money that he could spend to embellish the family name and standing in the community thanks to Keon.
The budget for the event remained the same until the 2nd Budget Meeting of the City Commission on September 27, 2018.
At that event, then Commission Chairman Keon Hardemon proposed a $90,000 increase to fund this event.
By the end of the discussion over how other commissioners also wanted more public money to finance fireworks and parades in their districts and they voted, Hardemon secured the additional $90,000, which when added to the original $50,000 that was committed for this candlelight vigil bought their total to allocation to $140.000.
And this is where things really get squirrelly.
The 2018-2019 Operating Budget for the city (Page 79,) shows that months after the approval of the additional monies for all of the events the amount now allocated for Citywide festivals and special events ballooned to $987,000, and that instead of the $140,000 that should have been the total amount allocated for the Martin Luther King Candlelight Vigil, that amount is now $232,000.
Just so you understand that this is not a scribbler's error, on page 354 of the 2018-2019 Operating Budget, the proposed amounts for these Festivals and Special Events was listed.
At that time, The proposed budget included $50,000 for the Candlelight Vigil, and a total for all of the events of $717,000.
The only rational conclusion that can be drawn is that after the 2nd City Commission Budget hearing on September 27th, and after the vote approving the additional $90,000 was approved, someone went in and added an additional $92,000.
And just so that there is no misunderstanding, here is a memo from Sandra Bridgeman, the City's Chief Financial Officer, dated October 5, 2018, to Christopher Rose, the City's Budget Director, confirming the addition of the additional $90,000.
This is not the first instance or discovery that changes have been made to an ordinance after been introduced, discussed and voted on by the City Commission, or for that matter other city documents.
In a March 6th story, I wrote about how Professor Frank Schnidman wrote to Miami City Attorney Victoria Mendez, pointing out to her that language in a historic preservation document had been changed without notice. Here is the relevant part of his email to Mendez:
Even worse, last year the commission discussed and voted on new limits for the use of Bayfront Park by outside events. There was a restriction placed on the number of days that the park could be used for these events and it was stipulated in the ordinance that the money collected would go to the Bayfront Park Trust Board.
Again, without any discussion or a vote, someone went in after the ordinance was approved and changed the language to read that the money collected from these events would go to the City's General Fund.
This is a copy of the email I wrote questioning this.
This is the response I got from Victoria Mendez, the City Attorney.
In short, this is as close to an admission of document tampering as you'll get from the city, but clearly someone tried to pull a fat one.
THE CITY OPERATES LIKE A CRIMINAL ENTERPRISE
The City of Miami holds the shameful distinction of being the only city in America that was twice caught cooking the books on the issuance of city bonds.
The last time they were caught they lied during the investigation, they lied during the trial and in the end the taxpayers ended up having to cover the millions of dollars that it cost in attorneys fees and fines for those lies.
Just about every week I write a story that details one kind of crooked scheme or another involving either an elected official, or a senior member of the city's administration.
When they aren't pissing away money, or trying to arrange for favors or sweetheart deals for the deep-pocket political contributors who have donated millions and millions of dollars to lightweights like Francis Suarez, favors that these donors consider to be nothing more than an expected return on their investment, some of these same politicians end up in foreign countries shilling condos for real estate developers, or doing private deals behind closed doors that seldom get exposed.
And these are just the low hanging fruit deals that someone like me is able to uncover through public records and loyal readers. There are other deals, deals more sophisticated that I get told about, but have no ability to track down because I don't have a badge or subpoena power.
Everyone in the city administration portrays themselves to be as smart as rocket scientists, and as ethical and high-minded as the Pope and the Virgin Mary.
That is until they are revealed to be incompetent morons, venal and capable of stealing pennies off a dead man's eyes, after they've used his name on an absentee ballot.
Cooking the city's books in Miami is not only not a surprise, but the only question that it raises is if it was done once, how many other times has it been done, and for who?
With a BILLION DOLLAR BUDGET there are a gazillion ways to move money around, and shave $10,000 here, or $20,000 there, and stick it somewhere else.
Whose going to go looking, certainly no one on the public payroll?
I contend that this $92,000 could not have been inserted into this account without there being collusion between the City's Budget Director Christopher Rose, and whoever the person was who ordered it done.
There were too many steps, too many numbers to change, and too many eyes that, if this were a simple mistake, would not have spotted and corrected a mistake.
In short, this is the kind of political financial fuckery that makes me remind you that,
It's Miami, Bitches!
Keon Hardemon and his Uncle Billy Hardemon
WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN KEON HARDEMON AND YOUR RUN-OF-THE-MILL SCHEMER ON THE STREETS OF MIAMI? THEY CALL HARDEMON, COMMISSIONER
Now that Keon Hardemon has let it be known that he has aspirations for higher office - in this case the County Commission - he's like a man possessed in an effort to pull off as many hustles as he can in the city before he has to vacate his city commission seat, and at the rate he's going it looks like he's going to cart the office furniture with him as he walks out the door.
Like scamming politicians before him, he had seized on one specific endeavor by which he both intendes to leave his mark, and walk out the door fat and sassy. That project is the Magic City Innovation District in Little Haiti, which has already received some notoriety as a result of the way in which Commission Chairman "Sellout" Russell shut Hardemon down a couple weeks ago when Hardemon thought he was on a roll to shuck and jive everyone on the Commission to go along with his privately negotiated "Community Benefits Plan," that would have generated $31 million dollars for use by both a newly created Little Haiti Revitalization Trust, and $1 million to a non-existent group called the Concerned leaders of Little Haiti.
It didn't help when matters when Robert Zangrillo, the largest investor in this deal was arrested by the FBI for allegedly paying a bribe to get one of his daughters into USC. The word now is that he's removed himself, but what does that really mean? Is he out completely, or just taking a backseat until his criminal case is resolved? Somebody needs to explain all of that in more detail?
Following that embarrassment came the revelation that Hardemon's Auntie Barbara had been paid as much as $20,000 to arrange a meeting between her nephew Keon and representatives of Magic City days before the commission meeting. A question that was not answered is whether Auntie Barbara, like all the boy lobbyists in the sandbox, will get a monthly check from the developers if the project passes.
This is a part of the lobbying game that no one wants to talk about, much less acknowledge, but this is at the core of all of the major lobbying deals, and inside the bubble everyone knows that this is where the real money in the lobbying business is made.
Now, as the ordinance comes back up for a 1st Reading, there's a companion ordinance that Hardemon will introduce to create the Little Haiti Revitalization Trust, and just this portion tells you just what he's got up his sleeve.
Legislation LH Revitalizati... by on Scribd
That's right, Hardemon is going to attempt to control this board even after he leaves office by being the person who appoint 4 of the 5 members.
It's just a brazen power grab by a guy who has demonstrated that family comes first, and that after family comes cronies who will do whatever he wants, just like when Hardemon got upset when the folks on the Liberty City Revitalization Trust, wouldn't do his bidding and agree to give a cocktail lounge on 7th Avenue $315,000 for a remodeling, and he replaced all of those in opposition, with folks who would do what he wanted. You can read the Miami Herald story about that HERE, and watch the video of the meeting HERE.
There always seems to be shit in the game when it comes to young Commissioner Hardemon and his deals, and this one is especially troubling because this one has consequences for a large portion of northeast Miami far beyond the construction of a couple buildings.
Here is a marked up copy of the ordinance that points out some of the questionable language.
NUMBER 52 - MARCH 28, 2019
YOU'RE INVITED TO THE $232,000 CONCERT AND CANDLELIGHT VIGIL
This is in no way meant to be disrespectful to the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., because this isn't about him, but about taxpayer money, and how an event that was not even an event until Commissioner Keon Hardemon became a City Commisisoner and arranged for the MLK-EDU, chaired by his Uncle Billy Hardemon, to get a $50,000 annual grant to stage this event
And then this year, that $50,000, after a vote by the City Commisison on September 27, 2018 went to $140,000, and then after that, when it popped up in the City's Annual budget it had gone from $140,000 to $232,000.
For those who didn't read the story last week, here it is below.
It's a wonderous thing how money appears and disappears in the City of Miami, along with language in legislation that wasn't in the legislation when it was proposed and voted on.
I guess we could call it, It's Miami, Bitches! Magic.