AUGUST 11, 2014







There are a lot of reasons why we live in a community that is so uninvolved in paying attention to, or demanding better behavior from local politicians.

This story is about the two primary reasons that I believe is at the root of why public corruption is allowed to flourish in Miami-Dade County.

The most important reason that public corruption is so prevalent in Miami-Dade County is that we have a corrupt State Attorney. It’s actually that simple. She’s corrupt, and the evidence is evident in how she and her office refuses to prosecute those who are in the “Family and Friends Plan.”

The second reason is because the local news media, and especially the Miami Herald, is abysmally bad at devoting time and effort to reporting on public corruption as public corruption, especially in the City of Miami. 

In my previous stories dealing with how the City Attorney’s Office crafted a bogus legal opinion to sandbag the Independent’s Auditor’s Report on how a current, and two former members of the City Attorney’s staff, as well as 6 Bayfront Park Management Trust Board Members received VIP tickets valued at $849.95, I revealed how this totally bogus legal opinion resulted first, in a slanted and totally inaccurate story in the Miami Herald clearing these people of any wrong doing, and now how this Herald story resulted in a Google link to the story with the header below that illustrates how easy it is to go from manipulating a Miami Herald story to exonerating these people on the premiere internet search engine.

Of course, none of the other news media distinguished themselves by acting like real media, because they either repeated the claims made in the Herald story, or ignored the story completely.

Even worse, as significant as this story was and is, it pales next to the really significant news story that no one in the “real” news media has either recognized or reported on, even though it’s been under their noses for almost a month now.

On July 14th, as part of my first story about these “free tickets,” I reported on the Independent Auditor’s revelation in the leaked draft copy of his report that 4,974 free tickets had been distributed by the Ultra promoters, and that they were refusing to identity the recipients of these tickets.  This is a portion of what I wrote then, including the section of the draft report that I highlighted.


Buried in this draft report  however, is a revelation that takes this story in a direction that folks in the City and the folks who put on the Ultra Music festival are probably now trying to figure out how to pretend doesn’t mean what it says.

This was a significant revelation, especially the last sentence where the Auditor stated that the attorney for the Ultra promoters was refusing to provide a copy of the sign-in lists that contained the names of the people who received these 4,974 tickets.

I thought at the time that this was the portion of my story that someone at the Miami Herald, or Miami New Times, or even the TV stations would jump on. 

These 4,974 tickets represented real money. At $399.95 per ticket, it represented $1,989,315.50 of income that the promoters were willing to give away, yet keep the recipients secret by claiming that that information was a “trade secret.”

Why, I wondered, would the Ultra Music promoters feel the need to give away 4,974 “free tickets” IN ADDITION TO the 3,120 “free tickets” that they had contractually agreed to give away without paying the City a $2 surcharge.

You see, the total number of “free tickets that the Ultra promoters gave away to their event was 8,094 tickets, with a face value of $3,237,195.30.

How’s that for an in-your-face bitch slap?  To add insult to injury, the Ultra attorney cites legal opinion 07-012, issued by the Miami City Attorney as the reason why the Auditor should go pound sand.

This legal opinion 07-012 was written in 2007 by none other than “free ticket” recipient and now retired former City Attorney Julie Bru, and was written in response to the investigation that Victor Igwe, then the Independent Auditor was conducting  involving a condo project called The Loft.

The investigation involved some of the usual players we continue to see today, starting with Jorge Perez of the Related Group, who according to Igwe’s investigation, took $1 million from the City of Miami’s Community Redevelopment funds and $300,000 more from Miami-Dade County on the promise to make 102 of the condos in this building affordable to middle class people - like city and county workers.

Igwe’s investigation discovered that only 6 of the 102 condos designated as “affordable housing” stayed in hands of the original owners for more than a year. Most were flipped within weeks or months of having been purchased.

Among the insiders who got in on the ground floor of this sweetheart deal was lobbyist and campaign consultant Al Lorenzo - known now as Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle’s Campaign Manager, but at the time doing the same job for Manny Diaz.

He purchased a unit for $137,900 and then 60 days later turned around and sold it for $230,000, making $92,100 on the deal.

The legal opinion that Bru wrote - which Igwe disagreed with, just as Guba has disagreed with the Wysong opinion - was as bogus as Wysong’s opinion on the Ultra “free tickets,” and was intended to push Igwe back and provide protection for city employees who had been part of the group who purchased these condos and then flipped them.

For me, the question that piqued my interest was how would a New York attorney know about, or obtain this legal opinion?

You can’t find it by doing a Google search, and the City Attorney’s Office doesn’t maintain a database of Legal Opinions on it’s website.

The opinion is buried on page 185 of the 212 page report on the IA’s Audit Of The City Of Miami Housing Programs, so other than knowing about that 2007 audit, which is available on the Auditor’s webpage, the only way to get a copy would be either to get it through a public records request or have someone with knowledge of that audit provide that information to the New York attorney so that it could be used as a weapon against the Independent Auditor’s efforts to get a copy of the list of ticket recipients.

I decided to see if the attorney or the law firm had made a request for this document through a public records request.

It’s hard not to conclude that someone inside the City Attorney’s Office with specific knowledge of this opinion passed the information on to the New York attorney as a way to thwart the Independent Auditor’s investigation. 

The City Attorney’s Office has had a long and unsavory history of creating bogus legal opinions when needed in order to provide political cover or support, as they did in this case with Wysong’s opinion, and Bru’s opinion in The Loft case, and in the case where Julie Bru issued an opinion supporting then Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones’s efforts to run for a 3rd term.

Perhaps the worst bogus legal opinion the City Attorney Office issued in recent years was in response to the Independent Auditor’s investigation that led to the SEC case now in Federal Court that has cost the taxpayers over $2 million dollars to date in legal fees. 

In that case Victor Igwe, after receiving the bogus opinion from the City Attorney’s Office that was intended to stop his investigation, went to the Florida Attorney General who issued a counter opinion that supported Igwe’s actions and that eventually led to his report, the SEC investigation and the case now in federal Court.

As these incidents and others attest, It’s a never ending story when it comes to the City Attorney’s Office actively engaging in activities that are  against the interests of the City of it’s citizens.

What’s really a hoot in The Loft story is that Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle initiated an investigation into the flipping of the condos which of course resulted in no arrests or convictions, but obviously convinced her that Al Lorenzo was just the kind of guy she wanted to manage her own campaigns, and it was the involvement of Lorenzo’s assistant in the Absentee Ballot shenanigans in Hialeah in 2012 that resulted in Katherine Fernandez-Rundle having to recuse herself from the criminal investigation involving Deisy Cabrera.


The conclusion of the Independent Auditor’s Addendum to his Final Report states that he is referring “this matter to the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics for a final resolution of open items, including an interpretation of the Charter issue.”

I disagree with this recommendation on several grounds.

First, there should be no confusion in anyone’s mind about the language of the City Charter. It’s written in plain English and means exactly what it says. The problem is not in understanding what the Charter says, the problem is that there is a lack of courage by everyone who has the authority to enforce the City Charter to do their job.

That’s what this “confusion” about the Charter language is all about.  Nothing more, nothing less. 

The language of the City Charter plainly, and in straightforward English addresses the issue of accepting “any frank, free ticket, pass or service directly or indirectly, from any person, firm or corporation.”  It commands in unequivocal English that “Any violation of the provision of this section SHALL be a misdemeanor.”

The City Fathers obviously wanted this portion of the City Charter to send a loud and clear message to all the City Officials and employees by telling them if they got caught accepting free stuff, they would be prosecuted!

For all those folks who today want to talk about “Original Meaning” when it comes to the US Constitution, this is what “Original Meaning” means at the municipal level.

What these people did in accepting these “free tickets” was a crime under the City Charter and it needs to be treated as a crime!


If that list contains the names of any City of Miami, Miami-Dade County, or other municipal officials and/or employees, that list becomes the record of a criminal act having been committed by each and every one of those individuals who took a ticket, either under the provisions of the Miami City Charter or under Florida Statute 112,313 (2).

Again, the Ethics Commission shouldn’t be allowed to get anywhere near this case, first because even though they have the subpoena power to go after this list, their history says that they won’t because they’ve yet to demonstrate the courage to actually draw a line in the sand and then fight to preserve that line, and secondly this is not an ethics issue, it’s a criminal issue, and a very sizable one at that!

Of course that means that if we were playing by American rules, instead of Banana Republic rules, this would be a case for Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle to take on, but there’s always the possibility that some of her staff or a few of her thrill-seeking girlfriends might be on that list, and for sure her pal Julie Bru is already on the list as is Veronica Diaz who is rumored to be receiving political guidance from Al Lorenzo and Bob Levy, another Fernandez-Rundle consultant.  Levy has already written me complaining about my previous stories on Diaz.

It always comes back to the usual suspects behaving in the usual way.  A dollar to a donut says that Katherine Fernandez-Rundle would sooner give up parking her ass at the closest country club bar than to prosecute any of her pals, or even anyone on the Family and Friends List.

To expect her to subpoena the list of 4,974 names would be like asking her to prosecute David Rivera on the 52 Count Bill Of Information that her office prepared, or the $18,000 in free bus bench advertising that Miami City Commissioner Willie Gort received during his reelection campaign, or to prosecute the members of the Ethics Commission for violating the Florida Sunshine Law, or prosecuting Mayor Tomas Regalado and his daughter for campaign finance violations, among the most recent examples of how she and her office provided protection to those on the Family and Friends Plan.

Even though the acceptance of all of these tickets by public officials and employees is clearly a criminal act according to the Charter, Katherine Fernandez-Rundle WILL NOT prosecute a single one of these people, even to make an example of them as a warning to everyone else.

At best, the ever pliant Joe “Let ‘em” Go” Centorino will see to it that the Ethics Commission expresses the required amount of indignation over the behavior of the 9 individuals at the core of the initial investigation while leveling the usual bullshit fine and issuing another of their sternly worded Letters Of Instruction that the City of Miami will wipe it’s ass with just like they wiped their ass with the last strongly worded Letter Of Instruction about the issue of “free tickets” in 2012, and the next day, it will all be forgotten because what passes for the news media in Miami will have once again refused to do their job in exposing just how prevalent and deep the layers of corruption are in this community.

It’s Miami, Bitches!

“Any violation of the provision of this section SHALL be a misdemeanor.”

There is no equivocation in the word SHALL. It doesn’t mean maybe or perhaps, or anything other than SHALL, which the City Fathers clearly intended to impose as a mandate on future leaders of the City to prosecute those who took free stuff, because the original City Fathers chose to exclude any and all other penalties from being imposed for city officials and employees who took free stuff. 

So, not withstanding the fact that there was no Ethics Commission in 1921 - an issue that could have been addressed by the Charter Commission that met and made other changes to this portion of the City Charter in 2001 - the issue involving the City of Miami employees, including the 3 lawyers, and the 6 Bayfront Park Management Trust Board Members who have been identified as receiving “free tickets” is not an ethics issue, it’s a criminal issue that requires the State Attorney, based on the language of the City Charter to prosecute them under the State’s misdemeanor statutes.

This number of “free tickets,” plus the refusal to identify the 4,974 individuals who received almost $2 million dollars in “free tickets” was the kind of red flag that should have set off alarm bells in ALL the newsrooms around the city.

I purposely excluded any mention of this issue in my second story - the one where I wrote about the bogus legal opinion issued by the City Attorney’s office - in part because I figured that the more I wrote about this issue the less inclined any of the news outlets would be to cover the story. 

Unfortunately, it didn’t matter because they didn’t. 

So, here’s my take on this story, and why sadly, the refusal of any of the “real” news media to cover this story like it deserves to be covered will probably result in it being swept under the rug in the usual way that these corruption stories get swept under the rug in Miami.


The first important part of this story is how the 4,974 tickets were given away. It isn’t like the promoters hired a couple people to go stand on street corners and start passing out tickets. The Auditor’s Report, and the letter from the attorney representing the Ultra promoters both reference a sign-in list for the people who received the tickets. 

To my mind, that means that the 4,974 people who received the tickets were instructed on a specific process, and perhaps even give codes or passwords of some kind to use as identification when they showed up to sign for these tickets.

Given the number of tickets involved, that leads to a conclusion that the ticket distribution operated like a pyramid, with the promoters or their representatives telling an undetermined, but small number of key individuals how many “free tickets” they could dispense to their employees, co-workers, family and friends, and then each of these individuals, with the aide of whatever code or password was provided as identification, showed up, signed for the ticket(s) and in they went.

What you can absolutely bet on is that no one went around and told 4,974 people that they could get a “free ticket” to the Festival, and explained to each one how to do it.

It is therefore reasonable to speculate - given that this is Miami, and the process by which the Ultra promoters get their annual permits is a highly politicized process involving one or more lobbyists, appearances before the Miami City Commission and numerous meetings with underlings among other steps in the process - that among the people at the top of the pyramid who were told that they could give away “free tickets” there were at least some politicians and high-level administrators in the City of Miami, as well as politicians and administrators in Miami-Dade County and perhaps even other municipalities.

Giving away “free tickets” for an event like the Ultra Music Festival can generate a lot of good will up and down the political ladder and one has to consider that the 3 members of the City Attorney’s office and the 6 Bayfront Park Management Trust Board members were low on any totem pole of individuals the Ultra promoters would want to curry favor with by giving them “free tickets,” given the problems that have occurred in recent years at this event.


When the Independent Auditor revealed in his report his failure to obtain a copy of the list of the 4,974 people who had signed for the “free tickets,” he referenced a letter that he had received from the Ultra promoter’s attorney, and is an exhibit he attached to his report.

Here is the relevant portion of that attorney’s letter.

8,094 tickets, with a face value of $3,237,195.30