Doral’s City Council on Wednesday postponed a vote on the zoning change of a five-acre tract that until recent months belonged, in part, to Mayor Luigi Boria’s children.
Boria left the special meeting to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest. At the mayor’s request, the Miami-Dade County Ethics Commission is investigating whether Boria’s voting would present a conflict of interest.
Councilwomen Bettina Rodríguez-Aguilera, Christi Fraga, Ana María Rodríguez and Sandra Ruiz unanimously asked the city’s legal department to inform them on the status of the probe.
The Ethics Commission’s executive director, Joe Centorino, said the case remains open but that he expects it to be wrapped up soon.
“There were some serious questions raised and we believe the public deserves to know what happened,” Centorino said on Wednesday afternoon. He added that Boria has been very cooperative in the investigation.
During the session, Rodríguez expressed concerns about a letter from the legal office of Félix Lasarte, a lobbyist who advises Grand Floridian, the company that plans to develop a real estate project on the land. The letter said the Ethics Commission was not investigating any case linked to the project.
“This has created certain confusion and preoccupation,” said Rodríguez, who recalled that in June the councilwomen agreed to wait for a pronouncement from the Ethics Commission.
Grand Floridian at Doral LLC, owned by Venezuelan entrepreneur Juan Carlos Tovar, is developing the project of 66 luxury units. Until a couple of months ago, Tovar owned half of the company’s shares, but when faced with the controversy over an apparent conflict of interest, he bought the other 50 percent from Boria’s children, Alex and Lorena.
An El Nuevo Herald investigation documented that Mayor Boria had actually given his children a total of $5 million to buy their share of the land, despite the fact that during his election campaign last fall he repeatedly denied any involvement.
Boria asked the Ethics Commission whether he could finally vote on the project in May after Tovar bought his children’s shares of the deal. Tovar borrowed $3.6 million from Boria’s children in order to complete that purchase.
On Wednesday, Tovar told El Nuevo Herald that the delay in the zoning vote was losing him money.
“It’s shameful the way this project has been manipulated,” he said. “It would seem that there are hidden interests that need to be investigated.”