OCTOBER 2, 2014







It is said that money is the mother’s milk of politics, and sometimes there is a line that you can follow directly between campaign contributions and allegations of influence peddling and conflict of interest.

However, that’s not always the case.

Some folks write checks just out of partisan habit.  They vote Democratic or Republican, and they send a check in once or twice a year in the way other folks pay membership dues to a club or other civic organization.

Other folks view the the process of writing checks to political candidates as a simple cost of doing business.  For others it’s a way to insure access and entry into the politician’s circle of “political” friends.  And then there is the smaller number who give money to buy influence and and insure that politicians will do what they want, when they want, and how they want.

Because not everyone who gives a politician money does so to “buy” a politician, it’s often hard to determine or prove just what some folks get for their political contributions.

That’s what happened earlier this week when activist Grace Solares wrote to Commissioner Marc Sarnoff asking him to recuse himself from the debate and vote on the WorldCenter project because in 2012, one of Motwani’s companies, The Miami Worldcenter Holdings LLC, had donated $1000 to Sarnoff’s personal foundation, and that donation represented a conflict of interest.

Sarnoff denied that the $1000 donation had any influence or impact on his actions or votes on the WorldCenter project, and he was perfectly in his rights to do so. A thousand dollars donated two years ago to a charity, in and of itself, is not enough to raise a question of conflict of interest.

Unfortunately when she wrote her letter Solares was unaware that in 2013, Marc Sarnoff had received a $10,000 donation to his Electioneering Communications Organization (EOC), Truth Is The Daughter Of Time, from Art Falcone and Nitin Motwani through a contribution made by the PWV Group 1 Holdings LLC..

A search of the Florida Secretary of State’s corporate records for this company only showed the name of the Registered Agent and that this was a company with a West Palm Beach address.

It required a search of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s corporate database to discover that PWV Group 1 Holdings LLC, was a publicly traded company and that the guys in charge were Art Falcone and Nitin Motwani.

in 2012, Worldcenter Holdings LLC gave Sarnoff’s Foundation $1000.  In 2013, another WorldCenter corporation gave his EOC a $10,000 donation.

Was there any correlation between the date of the donation and any activity related to the WorldCenter project that might have involved Commissioner Sarnoff?

Well we know from various news articles that during the summer and early fall of that year there was activity involving the Forbes Company and Taubman Centers and their commitment to build the shopping center that would include Macy’s and Bloomingdales. It would be interesting to learn whether Sarnoff played any part in any of those discussions and negotiations, and if he did, who paid for his expenses, although it would take more than an airplane ticket and a hotel bill, coupled with the $10,000 donation to establish a clear cut conflict of interest.

Again, the issue is often one of perception, and not necessarily one of a direct quid-pro-quo involving the exchange of money or favors, because in the 21st century we’ve developed a more nuanced and sophisticated appreciation for how folks in the deal flow are able to convey their needs and requirements without any direct conversation. Players in the game don’t need a weatherman to tell them how the wind blows.

Take for instance how developer Jorge Perez and various condo projects that are part of the Related Group also gave $10,000 to Sarnoff’s EOC. They are the contributions color coated in Yellow above. 

Those contributions were given in May of 2013, and the following month Jorge Perez showed up at City Hall to inform the Commission that he and his partner, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross,  would become co-developers of the Flagstone Island Gardens project and asked for a lease extension for the controversial project that would now include a doubling of the retail space, additional hotel rooms, and an additional 100,000 square feet of convention center space.

Throughout the summer, Commissioner Sarnoff was very much a cheerleader and supporter of the Perez’s efforts, even being so protective as to withdrew an agenda item dealing with the Flagstone Island Garden project from the DDA agenda when he learned that angry residents and public officials from Miami Beach were planning to attend.

Sarnoff  earned the dubious honor for introducing an ordinance before the City Commission to prohibit and fine unauthorized people and groups from giving food to the homeless.

Eleven days later, during the first reading of what has now become the infamous effort that would have allowed a guy named Mark Siffin to build a 240 foot media tower with 5 gigantic LED billboards on top of a 10 story parking garage on a portion of the Miami Herald property on Biscayne Boulevard - he failed buy the property - Commissioner Sarnoff, as part of a preplanned and packaged presentation on the changes that he wanted Siffin to agree to, made this comment about the actions of a homeless woman that he had seen as he was being chauffeured to the AAA Arena to take part in the extravaganza party welcoming LeBron James to Miami.

“What is significant about the Watson Island project is that Related and Commissioner Sarnoff thought they could get away with a massive expansion of the project without public input,”

                              - Michael Gongora

                                                    Miami Beach City Commissioner

In September of 2013, Perez notified the City and the DDA that he and his partner were withdrawing from the deal because of all the controversy and opposition from Miami Beach residents and politicians.

Again, there is no direct correlation between the $10,000 donation to his EOC and the actions that Sarnoff took in support of Perez’s project. It was just a coincidence that the first 5 contributions to his EOC all came from Perez projects, and they all came just before he appeared before the Miami City Commission where the Commissioner as ready and waiting to provide him support.

It might look suspect, but appearance of impropriety does not necessarily make it so.  But then we come to the Commissioner’s latest venture, and this one definitely looks a little more skanky.


Miamians by and large don’t believe in history. Consequently it will come as a surprise to many of you who read this, that back in 2010, a guy named Keith Olbermann had a talk show on MSNBC that every night had a segment to shame 3 people who Olbermann labeled the 3 Worst People Of The Day.

On July 11, 2010, Olbermann tagged Miami City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff as the 2nd worst person of the day.

Homelessness is a terrible problem, in Miami and elsewhere, and one of components that make the problem so difficult is the mental problems that lead to some folks - perhaps a significant majority - to being on the streets to begin with.

The sight of this woman defecating is definitely an unsettling sight, if in fact it happened. Unfortunately, I and others have documented numerous instances of Sarnoff fabricating stories and incidents, starting with the claim that his grandfather was the famous General Sarnoff who founded NBC, to justify questioning any self-serving claim like this that he makes.

But putting that aside, you have to appreciate that Sarnoff was not just some citizen driving down Biscayne Boulevard when he saw this, he was the Chairman of the Miami City Commission and the Chairman of the Downtown Development Authority, who only days after this July 9th event showed his level of concern about the homelessness issue in Miami by introducing an ordinance to punish people and church groups for feeding homeless people in the city.

As one of, if not the single most powerful elected official in the City of Miami, his solution was to punish folks for showing Christian charity towards their fellow man, and of course to whine and bemoan the fact that he couldn’t get these people moved away from the AAA Arena soon enough so as not to embarrass the folks who would be coming to see Lebron James play.

By 2013, Sarnoff and his fellow DDA Board members managed to go to court to get changes in the Pottinger Agreement that provided protections to the homeless in Miami that he, and others claimed was the biggest impediment to clearing the streets of homeless people.

In February of 2014, Teresa Sarnoff, along with Jay Solowsky and Mason Pertnoy of the firm Solowsky and Allen, where the Commissioner has hung his law license ever since he was forced to vacate the illegal law firm offices he maintained in one of his houses in Coconut Grove, formed a Florida non-profit corporation called End Homelessness Now, which like the Sarnoff Foundation was folded into the Miami Foundation so as to shield the identity of the donors.

Given the comments and actions of her husband on the issue of homelessness over the years, the creation of this non-profit was seen by many as little more than a cynical, and calculated effort to try and burnish Teresa Sarnoff’s image as a more caring and compassionate person than her husband.

Here’s how they tried to do that.


In what has now become a patented process, the Commissioner turned to his developer pals to donate to his wife’s “Foundation.”  In short order approximately $70,000 was collected. Among those who have been publicly identified as being donors were several old, and several new developers; Jorge Perez, Nitin Motwani, Michael Simkins and Nir Shoshani, who in June of this year received approval from the OMNI CRA, chaired by Commissioner Sarnoff, to receive as much as $9 million dollars in tax increment money from the CRA for his Canvas condo project being built inside the OMNI CRA District.

All of these guys have two things in common: They either have, or are buying property to build condos within the Commissioner’s District, and they all require the assistance of the Commissioner, either to help shepherd their projects past the City Commission, get tax increment rebates from his OMNI CRA, or receive white glove treatment from the various city departments under the supervision of Assistant City Manager Alice “Alice In Regaladoland” Bravo, who has long acted as Sarnoff’s sock puppet in insuring that the Commissioner’s constituents received the kind of treatment that all the other Commissioner could only hope to receive for their constituents.

On July 17th, at a ceremony at Camilius House, Sarnoff and his wife presented a $700,000.00 check from the End Homelessness Now Foundation to initiate the MAT program that was part of the settlement agreement in loosing the homeless protections in the Pottinger Agreement.

Here are the Commissioner and his wife proudly posing with the check.

The most significant opposition to Perez’s efforts came from folk on Miami Beach was saw the enlarged project as a major roadblock for residents and visitors using McArthur Causeway to reach the Beach, and who saw Sarnoff as the Rasputin behind the scenes. doing everything to further Perez’s efforts.

How, you ask, could the $70,000 that Teresa Sarnoff’s foundation acknowledged collecting magically become $700,000.00, and where did the other $630,000.00 come from?

The Commissioner answered some of those questions the week after the check presentation during the July 24th City Commission meeting, when he presented a Resolution for approval.

So public tax payer money from the City of Miami, the SEOPW and OMNI CRA’s, and the DDA all magically went into a Hocus-Pocus machine and   and came out the other end as a single $700,000.00 check issued in the name of Teresa Sarnoff’s End Homelessness Now Foundation.

This is nothing but a classic example of a naked, in-your-face exploitation of taxpayer money for personal self-aggrandizement by Sarnoff and his wife and part of a larger effort to create an image of her as a kinder, gentler version of her husband in the run-up to her campaigning to replace him as the City Commissioner for District 2 next year.


In his defense against the claim of conflict of interest lodged against him by Grace Solares last week, Sarnoff at Monday’s Commission meeting claimed that when it came to receiving money for his Sarnoff Foundation, “I have taken not a thought, not a penny, not a cent, not an accolade for anything with a charitable donation.”

Of course, that claim is patently untrue, since as I reported in my story about the Sarnoff Foundation in March of this year, not only did he make sure that the Sarnoff Foundation was mentioned in all of the press release, including the one issued by the city announcing the foundation’s funding of the West Grove Police Station, but that the name of the Sarnoff Foundation was prominently incorporated in the signage on both sides of the front door of the police station.

“I have taken not a thought, not a penny, not a cent, not an accolade for anything with a charitable donation.”

And so it is with the $70,000 that Marc and Teresa Sarnoff collected from Marc’s developer pals for her homeless foundation.

In her letter to Ethics Commission Executive Director Joe Centorino last week, Victoria Mendez, the Miami City Attorney argued that when it came to donation to the Sarnoff Foundation, “I do not believe that there is a conflict in the second instance because the contributions to the not for profit entity did not inure to the benefit of the commissioner.”

I wonder what the Ethics Commission would say to the fact that time after time, a small group of developers seeking tax increment benefits, the passage of development agreements or other special deals for projects located in the Commissioner’s District keep showing up as donors to his campaigns, his EOC, his foundation, and now his wife’s foundation, and that when it comes to the approximately $140,000.00 donated to the Sarnoff Foundation and the End Homelessness Now Foundation, where there was a clear and flagrant effort to exploit the expenditure of $630,000.00 in public money in a very misleading way, that the evidence clearly points to political and personal personal self-aggrandizement and benefit accruing to the Commissioner and his wife?

Do you think that this is enough evidence to demand that Marc Sarnoff recuse himself from having anything to do with all of these folks projects coming before the City Commission and the OMNI CRA, or better yet, that a criminal investigation be opened into how much more money, gifts and favors are being given to the Commissioner and his wife by these, and other folks looking for his assistance, his vote and his making sure that they get favorable treatment by the City of Miami?