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DECEMBER 3, 2014
BARRED FROM NUMEROUS GOVERNMENTAL COMPUTER NETWORKS FOR TELLING THE TRUTH
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SCORPIONS WILL ALWAYS REVEAL THEMSELVES
JORGE HERNANDEZ’S AND HILARIO CANDELA’S SLICK TALKING WAYS TURNED OUT TO BE NOTHING BUT A HUSTLE TO PERSONALLY CASH IN ON THE MIAMI MARINE STADIUM DEAL
PART IX

THE SCORPION AND THE FROG


A scorpion asks a frog to carry him over a river. The frog is

afraid of being stung during the trip, but the scorpion argues that if

it stung the frog, both would sink and the scorpion would drown. The

frog agrees and begins carrying the scorpion, but midway across the

river the scorpion does indeed sting the frog, dooming them both.

When asked why, the scorpion points out that this is its nature.


The fable is used to illustrate the position that no change

can be made in the behavior of the fundamentally vicious.

                                                        - Wikipedia



On May 15, 2011, I started warning everyone about the relationship between Manny Alonso Poch and the Friends of Miami Marine Stadium (FMMS).  My initial warnings were based on several emails from Alonso Poch to Miami Deputy City Attorney Maria Chiaro, and to Tim Schmand, Executive Director of the Bayfront Park Management Trust, written in 2010, that revealed that Alonso Poch, Hilario Candela and Jorge Hernandez were in cahoots to build a Marine Exhibition Center on the Marine Stadium property.

At the time it was suspected that Alonso Poch wanted to use the Exhibition Center as a front for another Charter School.


From the very beginning these three guys were in bed with each other. As a result there is no reason to believe that Candela and Hernandez did not know who Manny Alonso Poch was, including his questionable business history with the abandoned refrigerated cargo ship Ocean Freeze, and the on-going history with his scandal-ridden Charter School in Coconut Grove.


Alonso Poch on the other hand was a savvy enough partner to conveniently distance himself in the years 2012 and 2013, while Candela, Hernandez and FMMS negotiated a Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) with the City Commission that gave them a 2 year window to “develop an operating plan for the overall development and public use of the Stadium as provided in the Miami Marine Park portion of the Virginia Key Master Plan...”


Behind the scenes Alonso Poch’s was always a valued part of the team. The initial filing by Alonso Poch that led to the creation of EXPO-Miami LLC in April of this year, as well as all the work required to structure a deal with the other companies that eventually became part of the Development Agreement presented to the City Commission two weeks ago only makes sense if he had assurances early on from Candela and Hernandez that guaranteed that FMMS would do the deal that he put together.


However Candela and Hernandez pitched the deal to their fellow board members, the resignation of Roberto “Bob” Martinez, the former US Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, that occurred once he learned of Alonso Poch’s participation was certainly unanticipated, and represented the kind of act that you would expect would raise real concerns and made the other board members extremely cautious in going forward.


It obviously didn’t, because the willingness of the remaining board members to approve this deal - especially given the evidence we now have of how woefully inadequate their due diligence was in looking over the specifics of this Development Agreement - represents a level of incompetence one normally only expects from elected officials, and the willingness to allow themselves to be led by the nose by Candela and Hernandez raises serious questions about their integrity and independence should any other group consider appointing any of these guys on another board of directors.


It’s indicative of the poor quality of what passes for reportage in Miami that not one single news media outlet has raised the first question about the participation of any of these board members in this fiasco. For the record, in addition to Hilario Candela, Jorge Hernandez, and Don Worth, the board members of the Friends Of Miami Marine Stadium are: Daniel Diaz Leyva, Cliff Mezey, Jose Mendana Jr., Charles D. Urstadt and Albert Dotson. Dotson supposedly was not present at the meeting.


Not only are these guys board members of FMMS, but they are the membership of FMMS. This is a group without any kind of real, dues paying membership. It’s 8 guys sitting around a table.


This isn’t an organization so much as a small clique of individuals posing as an organization, who in turn claim to represent hundreds, if not thousands of “supporters,” but who in reality have no voice in anything this clique decides to do.


That’s one of the major reasons that they were able to get as far down the road as they did without any scrutiny, because everything that these 8 guys have done has been done largely in secret behind closed doors.


ALONSO POCH’S DID NOT ACT ALONE


It’s been easy to cast Manny Alonso Poch as the bad guy in this story.  His reputation preceded him through the door, and these kinds of stories are so much easier to write and comprehend when there’s only one bad guy.


While he was definitely one of the ring leaders in the various schemes over the last 5 years that repeatedly attempted to come up with a plan to turn the property surrounding the Marine Stadium into a cash cow that would allow them to syphon off as much money as they could, he never could never have come as close as he did to pulling this stunt off this time were it not for the active cooperation and complicity of Hilario Candela and Jorge Hernandez.


While the jury is still out on the level of participation of Don Worth in this latest episode to scam the City, Candela and Hernandez were in every way co-conspirators in this deal, and the evidence supports the claim that they did it for money.


PLAYING THE CUBAN CARD


It’s a compelling story. A young, 26 year old Cuban exile architect designs a building that becomes an internationally recognized landmark, and in his old age fights to save the structure from destruction so as to leave behind a personal legacy and a symbol of the successes achieved by Cuban exiles in a city that has come to be identified and dominated by Cuban exiles and their children.


For Tomas Regalado, the Mayor of Miami who has made a political career out of pandering to the Cuban community, he was more than willing to circumvent any and all requirements for an open and competitive process to renovate the Marine Stadium in order to show his solidarity with Candela by arbitrarily announcing in a Letter To The Editor in the May 12, 2011 edition of the Miami Herald that, “Our goal is to have Friends, with the help of the Miami Heat organization, run the stadium. We have the plan to renovate this landmark without going to the taxpayers.”

“After the hearing, Hernandez said their fee was only four percent of construction costs, which he called standard. Candela noted that they’d spent the last seven years fighting to restore the stadium, and during the last two paid for crucial services like surveys that the city wouldn’t fund.”

How’s that for community service? 


You can only marvel at how ethically challenged Jorge Hernandez must really be to try to justify his self-dealing by claiming that he was only charging a “standard” 4% fee, obviously wanting us to believe that instead of being a sleaze-ball he was really a nice guy doing everyone a big favor by not charging 5% or 6%.


Candela on the other hand, like a petulant and spoiled child attempts to defend his selfish exploitation of the public trust by blaming it on the City of Miami. ‘Those bad city people, after giving us a 2 year, exclusive window to go out and raise the money to renovate the Stadium stiffed us by refusing to pay for surveys, and so therefore I’m completely justified to cash in.’


Here’s a question that I’ll bet Candela won’t answer at the next City Commission meeting. What surveys?  When were they done?  How much money did he and Hernandez pay for out of their own pockets, and show up with the receipts.


The Friends of Miami Marine Stadium(FMMS) have turned out to be a sorry collection of self-dealing schemers and grossly incompetent ass-kissers who failed miserably when entrusted with an opportunity to do right by their fellow citizens.


No matter how sophisticated or slick-talking Candela and Hernandez were, or how they played on everyone’s emotions with the story of  an old man trying to preserve his legacy, at the end of the day nature insures that when you’re a scorpion, you’ll always reveal your true self.


It’s Miami, Bitches!



MY LETTER TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI  BRINGING ATTENTION TO JORGE HERNANDEZ’S SELF-DEALING BEHAVIOR.

Regalado is above all else a very lazy and detached politician, and he’s alway been willing to make grandiose statements and then walk away and leave it to others to do the heavy lifting.   His plan in 2011 was to order the City Manager’s staff to conspire behind the scenes with the FMMS and come up with a way that the City could give them the Stadium free of charge.


That was it. The plan was to give away the largest remaining piece of city-owned waterfront property to his Cuban pals for no money.


He came pretty close to getting the deal done had it not been for a source within City Hall who became so alarmed by the way in which the process to give this property away was circumventing the policies and procedures of the City that they reached out and provided me with the critical documents revealing how FMMS was attempting to dictate the terms of the deal. Those documents allowed me to write my July 25, 2011 story that succeeded in revealing just how underhanded this deal was, which in turn killed it.


Unfortunately, these guys operate like Energizer Bunnies and the following year FMMS resurfaced and appeared before the Miami City Commission with an unsolicited proposal asking for a 2 year exclusive window to go out and structure a plan on how they would raise the money to renovate the Stadium.


That two year period expires in January, and the efforts by Candela and Hernandez to try and slip the Alonso Poch proposal past the City Commission by linking it to a deal that would bring a portion of the Miami Boat Show to the Marine Stadium property was as much about the failure of FMMS to raise anywhere near the money needed to renovate the Marine Stadium, as it was to turn the property into a cash cow for the insider clique organized by Alonso Poch.


Here is a portion of the Commission meeting where Commissioner Francis Suarez deconstructs the FMMS’s financial projections of how much money they had raised during the two years.

The debate that should have been had in 2011 or 2012, will perhaps now be held in 2015, although there is no sign that anyone associated with FMMS - especially Hilario Candela or Jorge Hernandez - is interested in doing anything other than continuing to try and keep control of this deal by separating themselves as quickly as possible from Alonso Poch, and by pretending that they were misguided naifs who were taken advantage of by schemers.


NO SHAME IN THEIR GAME


Candela and Hernandez seem to operate without shame, and the way that they handled the negative revelations about the Development Agreement with Alonso Poch speaks volumes not only about their duplicity, but also about their ethical values and the kind of public accountability that one could expect from them if they were allowed to have any significant part in what happens with the Stadium from this point on.


Instead of apologizing or offering to take any responsibility for the embarrassment caused by the revelations surrounding the Development Agreement, Candela, with Hernandez at his side chose to issue a “clarification statement” - NOT AN APOLOGY MIND YOU - during the Commission meeting where he attempted to portray themselves as shocked, shocked I tell you, to learn that they had done a deal with tricksters. 

To add insult to injury, not only did these two guys nakedly engage in a blatant act of self-dealing by conspiring with Manny Alonso Poch to put together a deal that set out to screw the taxpayers, but after they voted to approve the deal as FMMS Board Members, they showed up in the documents presented to the City as the architects for the entire project, thereby making themselves eligible for as much as $6 million dollars in fees.


When they were asked about this after the Commission meeting, they defended their actions by telling Miami Herald reporter David Smiley:

There are several significant reasons why it would be difficult for anyone - no matter whether they were well-meaning, or out to screw the pooch -  to raise $30 million to finance the renovation of this Stadium, which is perhaps the main reason that it has sat abandoned for the last 20 years.


No matter how many emotional buttons were pushed over the last few years with old photographs of the Stadium invoking memories of Jimmy Buffet, or Gloria Estefan, or boat races, or Richard Nixon and Sammy Davis, or even the Virgin Mary, the numbers don’t lie, and in this case the numbers clearly say that while the memories might linger, there’s been no ground swell of real community financial support to match the rhetoric of those who would argue that this structure has to be saved at any cost.


That’s not to say that the structure shouldn’t be saved.


The problem is how do you go about saving public buildings on public land?  This 5 year saga with FMMS shows the pitfalls of turning over that responsibility to a small handful of private citizens who come to the table with multiple agendas, and a willingness to exploit the opportunity for personal gain.


The restoration of public buildings on public land always needs to be managed by public bodies that operates with transparency, accountability and in a manner that supports debate and discussion.  Not, as Don Worth wrote in a 2010 email to Ron Nelson, Commissioner Marc Sarnoff’s Chief of Staff, by trying to rush the process so as to thwart any debate or “alternative” visions.

THE MARINE STADIUM SERIES
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