JUNE 2, 2016





It’s always interesting to watch the goings on at Miami City Hall when a particularly nasty piece of business is on the agenda so that one or another of the Mayor’s or Commissioner’s pals wants a sweetheart deal that they feel they’re entitled to by virtue of either the money they’ve spent on lobbyists and bribes - legal and illegal - or the connections they’ve leveraged in an effort to insure that they get what they want

At last Thursday’s Commission meeting, one of those deals came up involving the bid protest I wrote about in Part I of this series that came about when Suntex, one of the three companies that had originally submitted a bid proposal to take over the operation of the Rickenbacker Marina filed a supplemental letter of protest - the letter came after their original letter of protest - alleging that another of the companies - Virginia Key Marina LLC a/k/a RCI Group - had failed to acknowledge, much less include as part of their proposal the fact that they had been involved in one of the largest environmental disasters in South Florida in 2002, when a construction company they had hired to build new docks at the Miami Beach Marina hit some old sewer pipes that led to the contamination and shut down of 20 miles of South Florida coastline and beaches because of the raw sewage that flowed into the Bay.

The failure to reveal that information Suntex claimed, violated the language in the RFP that stated that such a failure would result in an automatic disqualification.

Between family members and former campaign managers showing up to lobby their respective family members and candidates, I think that perhaps the City’s Charter Review Committee should consider requiring a version of the Jennings Rule that would require the Commissioners to publicly state at the beginning of an item that their relative, or their former campaign manager has registered to lobby on one side or the other, that they have registered and whether they’ve been personally lobbied by them.

I think that the general public deserves to know this kind of information, and that they at least be shown the same courtesy as fans going to a ballgame who are provided with a list of who the players are.


Turning now to the action on the playing field - to keep the analogies from clashing - Al Dobson, doubling up as the lobbyist and attorney representing Virginia Key Marina LLC a/k/a RCI Group, proceeded as often as he could to argue that Suntex and their attorneys should have known about this sewage spill, and that that knowledge along with their failure in not including this information in their original protest letter was reason enough to deny Suntex the right to argue the issue in a supplemental protest, or for that matter allow them to raise the issue before before the City Commission in an effort to stop the Commission from throwing out their protest.

You often hear this kind of argument made in cases where some poor guy sitting on death row is arguing for a new trial on the basis of new evidence that he claims will prove that he’s innocent, and the prosecuting attorney is arguing that the evidence should not be allowed or considered because it should have been introduced during the trial, and since it wasn’t, no matter the reason, this guy deserves to be put to death, regardless of whether the evidence will actually prove his innocence.

In short, it’s an argument that is predicated on excluding facts - regardless of when or where they were discovered - from being used to determine justice.

In this case, the argument used by Commission Chairman Hardemon and the attorneys supporting the position of Virginia Key Marina LLC a/k/a RCI Group was actually a red herring, intended to deflect attention from who was really responsible for determining whether the information that was excluded from the Virginia Key LLC proposal should have resulted in them being disqualified.

If, as Al Dobson kept implying, the facts of this spill should have been known to  “everyone” including to Suntex and their attorneys,  then that same knowledge should also have first and foremost been known to the city officials who were not only involved in preparing the specific language in the RFP that made the exclusion of this information the grounds for an automatic disqualification, but who were also responsible for collecting and/or writing and posting all of the following documents on the City’s website as part of the RFP.

Based on this extensive list of documents, there is no way that anyone in the City, starting with the Mayor, who would have obviously been tipped of by the fraudster Stephen Kneapler, and then going down the list to the City Manager, the City Attorney and the Director of the City’s Department of Real Estate and Asset Management (DREAM) along with his staff, can claim that they were unaware of this spill.

It would fly in the face of credulity that a professional staff charged with putting together an RFP of this magnitude would not on their own have come across information about this environmental spill of raw sewage.

Consequently, if they knew, or even if they didn’t, but were made aware of the information after the submission of the proposals, then regardless of when or how the City discovered this information, the language of the RFP - which they were responsible for since they wrote it - places the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of the City and the Director of DREAM to disqualify the bidder who failed to provide the information that they were involved in an environmental disaster of this magnitude.

There’s no rocket science involved in this. If you write and/or authorize the language for an RFP, and that language calls for an automatic disqualification of a company that submits a bid for failing to divulge  “material facts” about their involvement in a major environmental disaster, then there is no need for a protest to be submitted by another bidder, much less having the process become political by shoving it off on the City Commission.


On Wednesday afternoon, the day before last week’s Commission meeting, I exchanged a series of emails with Daniel Rotenberg, the Director of DREAM, that initially centered on the fact that I had submitted a request for his emails, along with other emails related to this RFP protest the week before, and that he and his staff had refused to provide me with anything other that the two formal Memorandums where he rejected the Bid Protests submitted by the two other companies - documents that I included as backups in Part I of this series - and yet after I had submitted my request, he and/or his staff had provided David Smiley from the Miami Herald a series of emails that Smiley referenced in his story the day before the Commission meeting that revealed that Rotenberg had first considered supporting the initial protest submitted by Suntex, by stating that he saw “some wisdom intaking a second look at the project.”

Our email exchange continued after I decided to do a little research into Rotenberg’s past history and discovered a website for a real estate development company that he had headed in the past, but which the Florida Secretary of State’s Sunbiz website stated had shut down in 2008.

What peaked my interest was that the website was not only still up 8 years after the company was supposed shut down, but it included Rotenberg’s current cellphone number and a hot email address.

I sent an email to that email address and was surprised when he responded. His response included an explanation that the company was still active and that he had obtained a waiver from the City Manager to operate an outside business while he was the Director of DREAM. The company he further claimed, did not own, nor did he do any business inside of Florida.

At no time, in any of the emails that we exchanged did he ever ask, or did I ever agree that our exchange was “off the record,” so, I’m going to cut to the chase and state that not only did he state that agreed with what I wrote in Part I of this series, but I’m going to reprint the salient comment that he made to me in his last email that I think demands everyone’s immediate and undivided attention.  This is what he wrote me.

        “I won’t put in writing what has been going on here

        internally, but it has not been peaceful. I hope I get

        the chance to voice myself tomorrow.”

Well, he didn’t get a chance to voice himself at the last Commission meeting, and in fact there is one piece of video tape where you clearly see City Manager Danny Alfonso signaling him to walk away from the podium.


Because Suntex had filed an original letter of protest which had not included any information about this environmental spill of raw sewage  the issue that became the center of the hearing before the City Commission last week was whether they were allowed to submit a second protest letter, based on information they claimed they had not been aware of before they submitted their first protest letter because this new information did not fall within “the four corners of their original protest.” 

In legal terms this was a classic case of, “If you can’t argue the facts, argue the law.”

The Suntex lawyers argued that the special facts of the spill trumped the restrictions posed by a provision of the charter regarding multiple protest letters, especially since the Charter also included the right of the Commission to go beyond “the four corners” of a protest to consider any and all facts in reaching a decision.

The Chairman, Keon Hardemon, along with the attorneys representing the city’s staff and the bidder, whose bid would be thrown out if in fact it was determined that they had failed to reveal their participation in this environmental disaster tried to argue that the 2nd protest letter should be thrown on the basis that it was filed after the original protest, and therefore didn’t fit within the “fours corners” of the original protest.

As usual, a lot of questionable and misleading statements were made during the hearing - facts and the truth are often the first things that goes out the window when these hearings take place, especially since no one is required to be sworn-in - and a review of the video of the meeting, (that I’ve included at the bottom of this story), shows how adamantly Commission Chairman Hardemon kept harping about the importance he placed on requiring that process be followed, especially as it related to excluding the right of Suntex to be allowed to submit a supplemental protest letter, while all the while attempting to convince his fellow members to go along in dismissing the protest, which from the beginning raised a troubling question about why and how Virginia Key Marina LLC a/k/a RCI Group decided two weeks before the hearing that hiring the Commissioner’s Aunt, Barbara Hardemon, to be one of their lobbyists was a gpod last effort to persuade the Commission - or her nephew - to support their positiom.

What’s interesting about this lobbyist registration - and I must point out that the Commissioner’s Auntie Barbara has every right to sell her services as a lobbyist to whomever is willing to hire her - is that she failed to identify who she was actually hired by, because B & B Professional Consulting, Inc., is not her client, it’s her company, and while she identifies the Virginia Key LLC’s RFP and lease as the issue she was lobbying about, her failure to report who actually hired her is something that perhaps the Ethics Commission might want to ask her.

There is a persistent problem that centers on the constant rumors - and evidence as seen below - about the Commissioner’s family being hired by companies that have business either before the CIty Commission or the SEOPW CRA, and then watch as Commissioner leads the charge to further the interests, or carry the water bucket for these same companies.

IBecause he didn’t get a chance at the last meeting, I think that at the next Commission meeting Daniel Rotenberg needs to be provided the opportunity to talk without being waved away from the podium, and I’ll go even further by saying that I think that he needs to be put under oath, so that not only the members of City Commission, but also the attorneys for representing all of the bidders have an opportunity to question him as to just what exactly did he mean that things were not “peaceful,” and even more importantly, just what does he know about the fraudster Stephen Kneapler’s involvement and activities in pushing this deal forward, including his own conversations - if any - with Kneapler.

It’s not often that such a high level city employee claims he has inside information and expresses a hope he gets to tell what he knows at a City Commission meeting.

In fact, I would go further and say that the first people that need to interview Mr. Rotenberg is the FBI.

Maybe Daniel Rotenberg might decide that this is a very good time to claim Whistleblower status, and get the legal protection that that claim provides.

This RFP has been a skanky deal from the beginning, and the persistent allegations from numerous parties in and out of city government who all claim to be privy to knowledge of the fraudster Stephen Kneapler working behind the scenes to get this contract approved for his former - and perhaps future - business partner Robert Christoph Jr.; the hiring of the Commission’s Chairman’s auntie as a lobbyist two weeks before the item to consider the protests came up for discussion - but after the information about the environmental spill became public - along with the whys and hows of what really went on behind closed doors, and what kinds of deals or arrangements may have been offered for a favorable vote to reject the protests all raise serious questions as to just what has been going on behind the scenes, and that make it’s past time for the FBI move into Miami City Hall.

It’s Miami, Bitches!


Nor was Commissioner Hardemon’s auntie Barbara the only interesting lobbyist to register on behalf one of the bidders for this proposal. Fernando Diez, the former campaign manager for Commissioner Ken Russell was hired by Suntex.

Diez has come a long way since he worked for lobbyist Steve Marin, and after supposedly toying with the idea of following a career path of working on political campaigns, it looks like he’s decided that maybe lobbying offers more financial rewards.