A pair of lobbyists in Cutler Bay agreed to a settlement with the Miami-Dade ethics commission on Thursday.
Juan Mayol and Jose Luis Castillo, lobbyists representing Paradise Group Ventures LLC, were applying to develop a new Publix shopping center on Old Cutler Road.
Before the town’s November and January council meetings, Castillo met with Councilwoman Peggy Bell. In January, Mayol had a phone call with Mayor Ed MacDougall and contact with Bell. None of these conversations were disclosed on the town’s lobbyist registration forms.
The settlement stems from an ethics complaint that MacDougall filed against Castillo for not disclosing his contact with Bell and for a different reason.
In 2011, Castillo’s company worked for the election campaign of Councilwoman Sue Ellen Loyzelle. But the commission concluded this relationship didn’t have to be disclosed because it was in the past.
But the commission agreed that Castillo should have disclosed the contact with Bell. On its own initiative, the commission also found a problem with the actions of Mayol.
The shopping center matter was “quasi-judicial,” meaning that council members were supposed to act like court judges and base their decision solely on the evidence presented at the hearing. Information they gather from private meetings with lobbyists or constituents is not supposed to be considered.
While many Miami-Dade municipalities require elected officials to disclose contacts with lobbyists on land-use matters, Cutler Bay also requires the lobbyists to disclose these contacts.
Mayol said he was not aware of this ordinance.
Both Bell and MacDougall did disclose the conversations.
“I thought it would be sufficient to satisfy the requirement,” said Mayol, a land use attorney with the Brickell Avenue law firm of Holland & Knight. Castillo is with Greenpoint Group of Palmetto Bay.
A spokeswoman for the ethics commission said municipalities can set stricter rules than the county, as Cutler Bay has done.
Mayol and Castillo agreed to plead no contest, accept a Letter of Instruction, and pay a $250 fine each.
The town’s lobbyist registration forms have since been updated to remind lobbyists about proper disclosers. According to public emails shared by Mayol from the town clerk, no lobbyist has disclosed contact information since September 2012.