For the past few months, the Miami Herald and CBS4’s Jim DeFede had been hounding Bateman over another hinky conflict of interest. Bateman had pushed Homestead officials to sell municipal property to the developer of a for-profit medical college. Bateman’s wife, meanwhile, was working as the developer’s real estate agent.
The Miami Herald’s Jay Weaver and Patricia Borns summed up the mayor’s surreptitious efforts. “Public records suggest Bateman badgered Homestead government staffers and manipulated the process in a bid to help [Ernesto A.] Perez purchase the municipal properties in the historic-but-lifeless downtown area at a fraction of the appraised value — while steering Perez’s real estate transaction to his wife.”
They reported that Perez “won a bargain-basement option to buy 3.5 acres in the downtown area; Bateman’s wife got a lucrative business referral; and the mayor received at least 15 $500 contributions to his 2011 mayoral campaign from Perez and his associates.”
The Perez stories set off a criminal investigation. Lots of folks at City Hall expected Bateman to get busted. They just weren’t sure which dodgy deal would be his undoing. “I think there is so much more,” Councilwoman Waldman told reporters on Wednesday, almost wistfully. “I encourage the state attorney to keep looking and keep investigating.”
DOG WITH A BONE
Perhaps the folks at City Hall are worried that it will take more than a couple of piddling felony charges to get rid of the combative Bateman. The day after he was arrested and removed from office by Gov. Rick Scott, the unrepentant mayor was leading a sign-waving “Steve Bateman for Mayor” roadside rally two blocks from City Hall. On Friday, he made it official and filed his paperwork to run for reelection.
Bateman has had a few other problems, however, that might give voters pause come November. Last year, the Miami Herald’s Christina Veiga reported that the mayor’s wife was able to purchase a nifty used Mercedes-Benz S430 for a sweet $13,000 from a major Homestead developer. Then there was that ethics case (and a $500 fine) back in the 2009 mayoral campaign, after then-Mayor Lynda Bell accused Bateman of violations.
And there was a bar fight — more like a shoving match — at the Peachtree Lounge in 2004 with former mayor and former county manager Steve Shiver. (No one could say the best man won. In this match-up of sleazy wheeler-dealers, there was no best man to be found.) Nothing much came of the tussle, though the encounter gave us an indication of the affection Bateman commands from his fellow politicians.
The Herald’s Veiga and Ben Brasch, describing other hijinks from Bateman’s past, crafted one of those paragraphs that could have been lifted from a Carl Hiaasen novel: “Other incidents included an investigation into a woman’s claim that Bateman, her landlord, pushed her against a wall and tried to shove his hands down her pants. And a boating-while-drunk charge in which he refused to take a breath test. In that episode, his female companion, when asked if she was carrying any ‘weapons,’ raised her shirt and flashed her breasts.”
Such great satirical material, with his slicked-back hair, truculent bluster and $40-an-hour joke writer — no doubt Carl would keep Bateman around for a few more chapters. It’s his colleagues who seem happy — make that euphoric — to be shed of him.