A local attorney has filed a complaint against David Beckham, Jorge Mas and others involved in an MLS stadium referendum for alleged illegal lobbying with the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust.
The two-page complaint accuses Beckham, Mas and other lobbyists registered for the Miami Beckham United LLC including City Commissioner Keon Hardemon’s aunt Barbara, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s son CJ and others of failing to register for a second company named Miami Freedom Park, LLC which is the proposed beneficiary of a 99-year lease on the ballot in the latest controversial City of Miami stadium referendum. (Which I personally oppose.)
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez is also named in the complaint as well as City Manager Emilio T. Gonzalez who is the top municipal administrative employee, as knowingly allowing unregistered lobbying, along with the City Commission. That could be difficult to prove.
“The key to an effective democracy is government in the open,” says Miami lawyer David Winker, who filed the complaint and staunchly opposes the MLS referendum on the November 6th ballot.
“This Freedom Park no-bid deal is a real step backward for South Florida politics,” says Winker.
“This is a non-issue,” says the Beckham group’s attorney Richard Perez of the prestigious law firm Holland & Knight.
“All of the lobbyist are registered under Miami Beckham United,” says Perez.
But the City of Miami Clerk’s office, which is in charge of lobbyist registration and tracking disagreed when presented with the specific scenario.
“If a person represents company A on one issue, and company b is working on the same issue, then both company A and company B must register as principals, even though the two companies are working on the same issue,” said clerk’s office employee Rosa Castillo who gave this explanation in regards to the specific situation at hand.
“Because the two companies are two different organizations, that is why the individual lobbyists themselves should be registered for each principal, so if there are two companies involved, and if they are going to speak on behalf of both companies, the individuals should be registered to each principal.”
Perez still disagreed after reading the city’s response, emailing back that it was “still a non-issue” to which he attached a previous ruling from the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust on a relatively similar matter.
However, the facts of the Beckham complaint are a little different from the case Perez provided, because the City of Miami’s lobbying registration list does show that one member of the Miami Freedom Park, LLC did register as a lobbyist, ironically, the traffic engineer, whose work the Beckham group refuses to provide to the public.
The Miami Beckham United LLC’s other fourteen lobbyists — including Richard Perez — are not registered as under the second principal, which is the actual company seeking a 99-year lease for $3.5 million per year on 100 acres — that promises not to rely upon City funds, but could definitely apply for County, State and Federal dollars to clean up contamination sealed under the public Melreese Golf Course they seek to demolish.
“I didn’t file this for a long time because I was struggling to find out the relationship between Miami Beckham United LLC and Miami Freedom Park LLC,” the attorney David Winker wrote me this morning. “I know this is the gang of billionaires that can’t shoot straight, but either: (i) only one person got it right, or (ii) there is something fishy going on.”
Winker emphasised that Miami Beckham United LLC is the soccer group’s entity pursuing another no-bid stadium deal with Miami-Dade County, which Florida’s 3rd District Court of Appeals just upheld leading to questions about which stadium site Beckham’s group will ultimately pursue if this month’s stadium referendum also passes.
“So in the end that is why I felt comfortable filing it- I can’t figure out what’s going on and the reporters aren’t digging into any if this to help us get to the bottom of anything,” Winker wrote. “So hopefully the Ethics Board can get to the bottom of it...”
This is not the first allegation of illegal lobbying by Major League Soccer in Miami, but it is the first that I know of which has resulted in an ethics complaint. Yet, there is a reason why smart money in Miami always hires Richard Perez as their lawyer and lobbyist, and he is not named in the complaint.
Here’s a copy of the complaint: