A member of the selection committee that analyzed the proposals to transform a seven-acre property on Biscayne Bay has sued the city of Miami, claiming the city ignored the laws governing public meetings and the cone of silence during the bidding process.
In the lawsuit, filed Monday in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, Stephen Kneapler said the city did not follow the rules when it allowed only certain people who were not on the committee o attend a meeting in June, when the original proposals to modernize the marina and build new restaurants on the Grove Key property next to City Hall were presented. The lawsuit also claimed that there was not proper notice given before the meeting.
The city has said that the meeting could be held behind closed doors because of the cone of silence that goes into effect during the bidding process. However, the city allowed people who were not members of the selection committee to attend, among them, Art Noriega, director of the Miami Parking Authority, and an aide to Commissioner Marc Sarnoff.
“Compounding its errors in failing to properly notice the June 4th Meeting and then allowing individuals who were not members of the Selection Committee to attend such meeting, upon information and belief, the City excluded and turned away reporters from the media, general members of the public who sought to attend [...] and the competing Bidder,” the 13-page lawsuit says.
Alex Vilarello, a former city attorney, is representing Kneapler, who is asking the city to start the bidding process anew. He is also asking for damages and legal expenses.
The city declined to comment on Tuesday.
Although there were two groups that presented proposals for the 50-year lease, only Grove Bay Investment Group ended up submitting a formal proposal. The committee then recommended it to the city commission, which voted in July to grant the lease contract to the investment group.
Because the land is city property, Miami residents will have to vote on the contract in November.
Last week, an appeals court canceled a Miami Beach referendum to renovate the city’s convention center, saying the city must give residents more information about the terms of the $1-billion-dollar plan before seeking their approval.