Days after his son and daughter sold their half of a Doral development company, Mayor Luigi Boria approached the city attorney to ask if he could now vote on a zoning change crucial to getting the firm’s project off the ground.
But public records reviewed by El Nuevo Herald show that Boria’s adult children — Alexander and María Lorena Boria — had not cut all their financial ties to the development company, Grand Floridian at Doral LLC, and its owner, Juan Carlos Tovar. The records show they had loaned Tovar $3.6 million at about the same time they sold him their 50 percent stake in Grand Floridian.
Adding to the potential conflict of interest: Mayor Boria said he had given a total of $5 million to his adult children about the same time they bought their share of the land connected to the development project. Tovar also is a former business client of the mayor.
Boria, a millionaire who made his fortune exporting computer equipment to Venezuela, said he sees no conflict and has never voted on any matter related to the Grand Floridian project, a development plan to build a luxury gated community marketed toward wealthy families in Venezuela.
“What’s more, I don’t think my kids were obligated to sell because we’re in a capitalist country,” said Boria, a Venezuelan immigrant who financed his own mayoral campaign last year. “People should be able to invest their money here.”
Miami-Dade County’s Commission on Ethics & Public Trust is reviewing the matter, but has not indicated when it will render its opinion.
Meanwhile, the Grand Floridian project is in limbo, awaiting final approval from the city council on a proposal to rezone a new parcel into the planned 17-acre development.
Tovar believes any questioning of the land deals is politically motivated.
“We’re not political,” he said. “We have actually fled our country because of the political tension in Venezuela. It’s been an insult to go through this situation in Doral because we’ve never looked for preferential treatment in our investments.”
Tovar is part of the third generation of a Venezuelan family with business interests back home in the textile, hotel, computer and construction industries. He said he owns more than $15 million worth of real estate in South Florida.
Tovar has been a longtime client of Boria’s computer equipment company. He also donated $500 to the mayor’s campaign last fall.
Tovar and Boria’s children launched the Grand Floridian company on May 14, 2012, according to state records. A week later, Luigi Boria gave his son and daughter a gift totaling $3 million.
The company then bought 12 acres of vacant land on Northwest 107th Avenue at 68th Street — an area just a few blocks from a landfill.
The land had been rezoned years earlier for a residential development project, but had fallen into foreclosure along with another parcel in Homestead. In November 2012, Alexander Boria, in an interview with El Nuevo Herald, said Grand Floridian paid about $6 million for the properties.
This year, Mayor Boria gave another gift to his son and daughter after selling a Miami Beach condo for $3.6 million in April. The mayor said he gave them a total of $2 million from the condo sale.
Then in May, Boria’s kids and Tovar bought an adjacent parcel to the Doral property for $4 million in cash.