CRESPOGRAM REPORT
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JUNE 23, 2016

YESTERDAY WAS THE MOST BIZARRE MEETING OF THE MIAMI CITY COMMISSION I EVER SAW

PART VII

IN THE CITY OF MIAMI, WHEN WATERFRONT PROPERTY GETS

PUT OUT FOR BID

Well, it’s the morning after, and as folks have time now to reflect and rethink about what happened yesterday, there will be not only a bad taste in some mouths, but there are now even more questions about whether what happened at yesterday’s meeting was just a bizarre confluence of events, or a conniving and devious effort on behalf of Willie Gort and others to try and stave off what they might have believed was a possible vote that would have tossed out the Rickenbacker Marina RFP, and required the process to start from scratch all over again.


Let’s jump right in, and go through what happened.


First, like I predicted, the decision prompted by Commissioner Suarez’s motion at the meeting before yesterday’s meeting to arrange the agenda so that the first item up would be a discussion on whether or not to vote up or down the protests made by the two loosing bidders turned out to be pretty much like I predicted. 


The attorney for New Rickenbacker Marina Group a/k/a Tifon, and the attorneys for Suntex were blocked at every turn from introducing arguments outside the 4 corners of their original protest letters, and at the end of arguments the Commission, by a 5-0 vote, voted to deny the Suntex bid. 


The practical effect of this vote is that both of the loosing bidders either have to challenge the decision of the Commission by filing lawsuits, or they just have to bite the bullet and walk away.


Because of the money involved - both in what they’ve each invested to this point, and the prospects of what they might stand to gain if they succeed, especially Suntex, which as the 2nd Place finisher still has a chance of becoming the winning bidder if they won the lawsuit, the odds are pretty good that both of these bidders will soon be filing lawsuits.


Following that item, the second item that came up for discussion was the larger one of whether the Commission should throw all the bids out and start over again. The motion to do so was made by Commissioner Russell, and seconded by Commissioner Carollo, and that’s where things started going squirrely.


I can’t begin to do do justice to all of the arguments, the use and misuse of legal opinions, and the other fun stuff that happens when lawyers start battling over contract language and legal opinions - Link To Video Of Meeting - but that part of the meeting, while perhaps confusing to those who didn’t pay real close attention, while causing eyes to start glazing over in other folks, was in fact a pretty good show by lawyers capable of holding their own - and I give props to Al Dotson, who handled the case for the Christophs on his own - would have been worth the price of admission if you’re into that kind of thing.


The real highlights, or lowlights however, were the stuff of folklore, and will no doubt become a part of the oral history of the crazy and bizarre things that have occurred at Miami City Hall.


THE CITY ATTORNEY REFUSES TO GIVE HER OPINION


The first of these was when the members of the City Commission turned to Victoria Mendez, the City Attorney - she was there as the attorney for the City Commission - to ask her for her opinion on whether Dotson was correct in his arguments that his client’s future actions - or decision not to act because of city decisions at a a future point in time - related to the possible construction of additional boat slips in the Basin would in fact not result in a material impact on the terms set by the RFP, she refused to issue an opinion, and hemmed and hawed about maybe it would, and maybe it wouldn’t.


Forgive me if my brain’s is a little cottony this morning and I’m not as precise as I should be in trying to describe this issue, but this was a critical question because the question of material change to the terms of the RFP was perhaps the only real legal issue on which the RFP could be thrown out by the Commission that might escape a lawsuit.


Mendez’s refusal to step up to the plate, and provide a clear cut opinion to her clients, will I suspect, only add fuel to the fire that is already being stoked by several of the Commissioners who want to fire her.


THE CONFLICT OF INTEREST QUESTIONS RELATED TO DANIEL ROTENBERG


The 2nd issue was the one originally raised by my stories about Daniel Rotenberg and his prior relationship to James Tate, of Tate Capital, who is partners with Robert Christoph in another marina deal in Broward County.


Specifically my story of how I discovered Rotenberg’s photo and description on the Tate Capital website last week, even though Rotenberg has now been the Director of the city’s Real Estate and Asset Department for almost 2 years.


The Assistant City Attorney for Coral Gables who was there to represent the city staff at this meeting - which pretty much means she was there representing Rotenberg - introduced a letter from James Tate, which David Smiley mentioned in his story this morning.

The first thing that leaps out in relation to Tate’s letter is, the claim that his letter was dated June 6th.  If so, why was it only revealed on June 22nd?


Secondly, if in fact Rotenberg left his company in 2012, what reason would Tate have had to continue to keep the pages that listed Rotenberg as part of the leadership of the company for the 4 years after he left, and why would Rotenberg in his notarized statement claim that it was only since September of 2014 - which is when he started working for the city - that:


        “Furthermore, since the date hired by the City of Miami,

        I have had no business relationships with any companies

        owned, operated or related to any member of the Tate family.”


Leaving Tate Capital in 2012, and not having a “business relationship” with “any companies owned, operate or related to a member of the Tate family” since 2014 are entirely different things, especially if it could be the case that Rotenberg was planted in his city job as a way to influence the language of the RFP and the process by which it was handled. That would not have required a continuing “business relationship.” in the way that such a term would normally be interrupted.  In fact, any “business relationship” at that point would have been both counterproductive and even dangerous.


I continue to believe that there needs to be an independent investigation - preferably by the FBI - to determine just how Daniel Rotenberg ended up on the doorstep of the CIty of Miami looking for a job, and to my mind at least, these letters from James Tate and Daniel Rotenberg don’t do anything to remove my doubts. 


If anything, the fact that James Tate would continue to keep the pages including Daniel Rotenberg on his website for 4 years after he supposedly left the company only raises questions that start with is Tate so lazy and incompetent as to not update his website for 4 years, or was the continued presence of Rotenberg on the Tate Capital website - in fact it’s still on the website as of 6:28 this morning - a tacit way to signal that Rotenberg was still on the team?


But putting that to the side, my original story involving Rotenberg’s involvement in this RFP issue was his claim to me that:


        “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.”


Given my allegations regarding the back room activities of the fraudster Stephen Kneapler, including his supposedly weekly meetings with City Manager Dany Alfonso, also raised serious questions about the allegations that the Regalado administration - starting with the Mayor - were engaged from the very beginning in doing everything they could to rig this bid so that the eventual winner would be the company owned by the Christophs.


And that brings us to the third amazing event that occurred at yesterday’s meeting.


WILLIE, OH WILLIE, WHERE HAVE YOU GONE?


There I was, like many others I suspect, trying to keep track of the convoluted arguments over “material changes” and conflicting legal opinions from the 3rd DCA, etc. when I heard Commissioner Russell say something to the effect of, “Commissioner Gort says he has to leave and go to another meeting, and I want to Call The Question.”


I perked up when I heard that, but instead of stopping the discussion, Commission Chairman Hardemon continued to allow the discussion to go on for a few minutes, and since I was watching on TV, I couldn’t see whether Gort had gotten up and left the Commission Chambers.


That only became obvious when the camera focused on all of the Commissioners after Russell challenged Hardemon on why he hadn’t stopped the discussion and Called The Question, because Gort had in fact left the meeting.


There then ensued a back and forth about Calling The Question, and whether Russell had used the right words, and a whole lot of other bullshit that had little if anything to do with the fact that a Miami City Commissioner, in the midst of a meeting and discussion to turn over one of the City’s most valuable pieces of waterfront property involving a 75 year lease worth over ONE BILLION DOLLARS, had just walked out of the meeting without any proper notice to his fellow Commissioners and/or the public.


He just up and walked the fuck out!!!!!!


Now, having given this some thought, and trying to replay what had happened just prior to Gort walking out, I have come to believe that Gort left, not because he had another meeting - because even if he did, no meeting at that point was more important to him and the citizens of the city than the one he was already at - but because he either received a text message, or one of his staff whispered in his ear and told him he had to get up and leave.


I believe that happened because people close to the Christoph camp panicked and believing that there  was a possibility that things were going against them decided that the only thing that might throw a monkey wrench into the proceedings and stop a vote from taking place was to have Gort get up and leave.


And that’s exactly what happened.  Hardemon ignored Russell’s Call The Question, Gort left, and within minutes there was Francis Suarez talking about he was in “no hurry in reaching a decision on this issue,” and that the discussion could be continued at a later date.


Gort’s sudden and unannounced departure resulted in the discussion ending, the meeting being adjourned, and no date being set for when the next meeting would take place.


I talked in my previous post just before this meeting of how little respect Suarez and Hardemon have been showing Commissioner Russell, and how I thought they had treated him like a 3rd grader who gets his lunch money taken by a couple 6th graders in the way that Suarez and Hardemon manhandled him over the setting of the agenda items for this meeting.


Hardemon’ especially has not hidden his lack of respect for Russell, and  his willingness to ignore his Call The Question request is a new low in his behavior as the Chairman.


The Mayor could replace Hardemon as the Chairman, but that raises a tricky problem if he did so, because he needs Hardemon in the Chairman’s seat to make sure that the RFP doesn’t end up being thrown out.


As Roseanne Roseanna Dana used to say, If it ain’t one thing, it’s another.”


So what does this all mean this morning?


Well, Suntex and Tifon have lost their protests, and the Commission never voted on whether to throw out the RFP and start all over again, and according to David Smiley’s story this morning, City Manager Danny Alfonso plans to start negotiations with the Christophs on a contract, so that that can be done and referendum language can be written to put on the ballot for the voters to decide whether they’re okay with all of this.


Of course that could change when the Commission meets again to deal with Russell’s motion to throw the RFP out, but given the way that Hardemon is treating Russell, he might set a meeting time and place, and not bother to tell Russell about it.


If you think that couldn’t happen, then think about what did just happen. Anything can happen in Miami, and yesterday proved that.


It’s Miami, Bitches!


PS: AS OF THIS MORNING, MY CRESPODAMAS PREDICTIONS ARE 50% RIGHT, WITH THE ODDS STILL FAVORABLE FOR THEM BECOMING 100 % RIGHT