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NUMBER 151 - OCTOBER 2, 2019
DID JOE CAROLLO VIOLATE THE CONFLICT OF INTEREST LAW AND/OR THE JENNINGS RULE LAST WEEK, AND HOW A FERRIS WHEEL MANAGED TO EXPOSE MANY OF THE REASONS WHY THE CITY OF MIAMI IS SO FUCKED UP
I first learned of the deal to put a ferris wheel at Bayside Marketplace back in January of this year when I got a tip that attorney Wayne Pathman, who also happens to be the Chairman of the city's Sea Level Rise Committee, had appeared at the December 2018 PZAB meeting claiming that he represented both Bayside Marketplace and Skyviews of America - the ferris wheel company - in their effort to get a change in Miami 21, the city's master zoning code, that would allow allow a ferris wheel to be added to the list of amusements allowed in the section of the code dealing with civic spaces.
The PZAB Board voted against the changes at that meeting.
Here is the video of that portion of the PZAB meeting, and very early on you can hear Pathman make the claim that he was representing Bayside Marketplace AND Skyviews of America.
Copyrighted: 2011,2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019
Why did this catch my attention?
Because when Pathman showed up at the PZAB meeting, he hadn't bothered to register as a lobbyist for Skyviews of America. In fact, Pathman never registered as a lobbyist for Skyviews of America, and only in July of 2019 did he register as a lobbyist for Skyview Miami, a corporate spin-off.
By this time Pathman had lobbied commissioners in their offices, and made several appearances before the City Commission and the PZAB Board.
This is not the kind of lackadaisical behavior one would expect of an experienced lawyer who not only had a history of dealing with the city, but who also the Chairman of a city board that on occasion dealt with lobbyists.
That was the first alarm bell that set my radar off about this deal.
The second thing that set off an alarm bell was the fact that the item allowing the ferris wheel at Bayside Marketplace had not been sponsored by Commissioner "Sellout" Russell, in whose District Bayside Marketplace is located.
The item had been sponsored by District I Commissioner Willie Gort.
Earlier this year when I first discovered this, I called Russell's office and spoke to one of his former employees to ask why Russell would pass on sponsoring an item for a project of this importance in his district, but I never got a satisfactory answer.
I tend to have a short attention span when it comes to stories, either they get written, or they slip away and so when this one seemed to falter over a debate about language changes in the ordinance, I moved on to other stories.
Over the weekend everything came back to me when I watched the video of the commission meeting and listened to Gort's acceptance of Bayside's counter proposal to Commissioner "Comemierda" Carollo's demand that Bayside agree to give the city a bigger split of the portion of the Net/Gross they would receive from the ferris wheel.
Gort's acquiesce to the Bayside counter-offer without considering that even more money might be available with some hard bargaining prompted my recalling how Gort had engaged in one of those self-aggrandizing deals that politician engage in by using taxpayer money to inflate their egos.
Back in 2016, Gort had partnered up with the Bayside Foundation to create the Willie Gort Scholarship Fund, funded with hundreds of thousands of dollars since then using money funds he receives for his district every year.
Connecting the dots explained why the folks at Bayside Marketplace would turn to Gort to sponsor this ordinance change.
This is reason number two of why the city is so fucked up. Time after time a little digging reveals the cozy relationships that businesses that have deals with the city also have with the Mayor or members of of the city commission allowing them to walk away with deals resulting in the taxpayers getting screwed.
Gort's deal with Bayside was no doubt on Carollo's mind when he let loose with one of his perennial claims about his fellow politicians being on the take.
Here is the video clip where Gort defends himself against Carollo's charges of being on the take.
There is no small irony when you watch this to know that it was Joe Carollo back in 2011, who got suspicious of all the bus bench advertising that popped up in Willie's district during his reelection campaign and went to the FDLE, who in turn ended up opening an investigation on Willie for receiving $18,000 of "free" bus bench advertising for his campaign.
after the case was closed - a story that was bolstered by copies of all the FDLE investigative files - that when the FDLE Special Agent overseeing the investigation went to Tim VanderGiesen, the State Attorney's Division Chief for Public Corruption to get a subpoena to seize Gort's computer, VanderGiesen shut the investigation down.
This was a brazen and naked an example of how the Family and Friends Plan works in Miami when it comes to protecting Cuban politicians from criminal prosecution.
The third reason why last week's efforts to allow a ferris wheel at Bayside Marketplace can be found by watching the video of what took place during the discussion the commission meeting.
From beginning to end, the back and forth between Carollo, his fellow commissioners, Pathman, the Bayside Marketplace representative and representatives of the city's administration was chock full of priceless soundbites, lies, mis-statements, examples of gross incompetence and threats from beginning to end.
It was the kind of exchange that justifies putting out an RFP for some start-up company setting up a booth in one corner of the commission chambers with play-by-play announcers and a crew using the same kind of fancy graphics and replay capability that they use when broadcasting NFL games as a way to provide the public a real understanding of what goes on at these city commission meeting.
Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, is as it seems, even as you're watching it. Here is the video of the entire 54:51 minute portion of the meeting.
At this point in this story I would normally drop in some video snippets of some of the crazier moments during the meeting to comment on, but, while organizing the various documents and links I decided to do a search of the ferris wheel company, and low-and-behold, this story took a detour that even I had never expected or considered.
JOE CAROLLO AND THE JENNINGS RULE
Here is a screen grab of the corporate filing for Skyviews Of America, LLC.
The name Jim Riggs might not mean anything to any of you, but when I saw it, my alarm bells went off to DEFCON 5.
On July 15th, If you look above, and then below, you'll see that the same Jim Riggs whose address is 9780 E. Gary Road, appears not only as one of the principals of the ferris wheel company, but also of Platinum Advisors, LLC., a company that Carollo declared was a principal source of his income in 2018.
In fact, Carollo had first listed Platinum Advisors, LLC., as a principal source of his income in 2017.
As I wrote in my July story, when I got a copy of the 2017 report I had contacted the company to find out what Carollo had been hired to do that made them his primary source of income.
A representative of Platinum Advisors LLC told me they had hired him to be the equivalent of their local location representative, because they were considering several possible development deals in South Florida.
The representative then went on to tell me that when they discovered that Carollo was running for the City Commission, they had amicably terminated their relationship.
When I discovered this year that Carollo had again listed Platinum Advisors LLC in his 2018 report, I made another call to the company and this time I spoke to James Riggs.
After I explained why I was calling, he confirmed that his company had ended their relationship with Carollo in early 2017, and had not entered into, or engaged him for any reason since then.
At the time, I had no reason not to believe Rigg's version of events, and so I wrote, "In short, Carollo's claim that Platinum Advisors LLC was a major source of income to his company last year now seems to be a lie."
Given the discovery that Riggs is one of the principals behind the ferris wheel deal, I can no longer can believe Riggs claim that he and Carollo have not had any contact or relationship since before Carollo was elected to the City Commission in November of 2017.
I say this for several reasons.
First, I don't believe in coincidences.
Joe Carollo working for Jim Riggs, Jim Riggs, popping up as a principal with the ferris wheel company, and Carollo slapping Bayside Marketplace around demanding more money from this deal was one connection too many for Carollo's actions to be just the actons of a city commissioner looking for a better deal for the taxpayers.
Secondly, if you listen to Carollo in the tape above he repeatedly makes claims about how much money this ferris wheel company would make, and why the city, based on those amounts, was entitled to more than the 6% of the 50% of Net/Gross that Bayside Marketplace had finally admitted under pressure that they were going to receive.
At one point Carollo even offered to bet Commissioner Hardemon that this deal would be better than the ULTRA deal.
All of that seemed strange at the time, because Carollo's instance that there there was a lot more money at play than anyone knew indicated that he was privy to information that no one else in the city knew or was aware of.
This prompted me to send carollo an email.
I had no expectation of getting a response from Carollo, and I haven't, but at this point I doubt anyone, including Jim Riggs, and/or Bayside Marketplace wants to answer any questions because I suspect that the answers will reveal that once again, the citizens of Miami are not only getting screwed, but that somehow, and in some way the folks at Bayside Marketplace pissed Carollo off, and in his usual way, just like he did with the ULTRA folks when he introduced the contract he negotiated with them, and then announced that he would vote against it, that his efforts to force Bayside Marketplace to give the city more money has less to do with money for the city, and more to do with Carollo getting even for whatever they did to piss him off.
The big question is, what will Jim Riggs and Bayside do in response?
The fact that Carollo worked for Riggs, and failed to publicly admit that, or to recuse himself, raises a question of whether at the very least Carollo failed to comply with the Conflict Of Interest statute, or the Jennings Rule, or perhaps worse, has engaged in what is known as Tortious Interference?
It's Miami, Bitches!
The Crespogram has just learned that Skyview Miami, and it's principal owner Jim Riggs, filed an ethics complaint and a lawsuit against Miami City Commissioner Joe Carollo on Monday.
The ethics complaint will just be one more wasted effort since the Unethical Commission will at best fine Carollo $1000 and send him a Letter Of Instruction telling him not to try and extort any of his former clients from the dais in the future, but the lawsuit might be interesting, depending on what it's attempting to obtain in the way of punishment.
The lawsuit itself has not been upload on the Miami-Dade Clerk of Court website yet - some much for converting to a digital sytem - but it should be up by tomorrow.
And NO, I did not know this before I wrote and posted my story, but what it does say is that the Miami Herald reporters don't have to unionize before they start behaving like union members.
I'm 300 miles away from Miami and I still scoop Joey Flechas!
It's Miami, Bitches!