Carlisle Development Group, a dominant affordable-housing builder under federal investigation, saw a unique opportunity to raise its profile in 2006 — just months after the sudden resignation of longtime Miami-Dade Commissioner Barbara Carey-Shuler.
The Miami-based developer quickly hired Carey-Shuler as a consultant, and paid her newly formed company, Eclectic Business Solutions, a total of $170,000 between 2006 and 2007, according to recently released public records summarizing her check deposits. She left office in late 2005.
Carey-Shuler, who remains a paid consultant for Carlisle, told the Miami Herald that she has “no recollection” of receiving any money from Carlisle back then, let alone what she might have done for the developer. “It’s been so long ago. I don’t remember at this point,” the 73-year-old former commissioner said.
Today, more than seven years after Carlisle hired Carey-Shuler, she has not formally registered as a county lobbyist to represent the developer — even though her successor on the Miami-Dade Commission, Audrey Edmonson, told the Herald that Carey-Shuler had spoken to her in recent years about some of Carlisle’s projects after they were selected in a competitive bidding process.
County law allows former commissioners to work as a lobbyist two years after leaving office, as long as they’re registered with Miami-Dade government. A violation can result in a public reprimand or a $500 fine for a first offense.
Carey-Shuler’s attorney, Reginald Clyne, acknowledged that his client had indeed been a consultant for Carlisle for years. Clyne said she helped the developer on many of its South Florida affordable-housing projects, but he did not specify which ones.
The Herald uncovered the business relationship between Carlisle and Carey-Shuler in reporting on the separate federal criminal investigation of Carlisle.
First disclosed by the Miami Herald in May, Carlisle has been under federal investigation amid allegations that the affordable-housing developer — now the biggest in Florida — may have defrauded a U.S. tax-credit program that subsidizes low-income rental projects nationwide.
Carlisle’s payments to Carey-Shuler are not the subject of any current criminal investigation by federal or state authorities.
Carlisle says Carey-Shuler’s consulting work has met the county’s ethics law and helped its community “outreach efforts” to build much-needed low-income apartments. Carlisle’s lawyer called Carey-Shuler a company “ambassador” to the community.
Under the law, Miami-Dade commissioners are barred from lobbying county government and officials for two years after leaving office. During that period, ex-commissioners can consult with companies doing business at county hall, but they cannot engage in any kind of lobbying. However, they can provide consulting services, including advising clients on community relations, promoting their interests and meeting with residents.
Before Carlisle hired her, Carey-Shuler had voted along with the other commissioners on a handful of multimillion-dollar government subsidies for affordable-housing projects by Carlisle and other developers, mostly in her district, which includes parts of Miami and the county. She vacated her District 3 commission seat at mid-term, following nearly three decades on the county board, in December 2005. Three months later, she founded her company, Eclectic Business Solutions, and collected her first Carlisle paycheck in early April 2006.