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Sunny Isles Beach commissioners raise concerns about city spending more than $70K in creating a foundation


Special to the Miami Herald

Several Sunny Isles Beach commissioners last week questioned the city’s involvement in creating a foundation designed to raise funds for cultural programs throughout the city.

Last year, Mayor Norman Edelcup had proposed creating a nonprofit foundation “to supplement revenues for cultural programs for the city.”

The city paid approximately $72,000 to a consultant to launch the foundation, which would seek financial donors and grants for funding.

Commissioner Jennifer Levin, at Thursday’s commission meeting, said when she learned of the project last summer she thought it was to determine the “feasibility” of a foundation that would work with the city to provide arts, cultural and civic events.

But, she added, it had “morphed into something else” and that she did not approve of using city funds to launch the foundation.

Levin also said she was concerned the foundation would not be independent of the city and that it would use city funds or offices. She also stressed no city officials should serve on its board.

“There is no reason for the city to support this at all,” Levin said.

Commissioner George Scholl agreed with Levin‘s assessment. He said the foundation’s formation was “cloudy” and Levin helped to “throw light” on the topic. Commissioner Jeanette Gatto also noted she initially had concerns about the project.

Vice Mayor Issac Aelion also raised concerns, agreeing with Levin that the foundation should have been vetted more carefully before launching it.

City attorney Hans Ottinot said the city might have to spend another $2,000 on fees for setting up the foundation. Edelcup noted that after those fees were paid, the city would not use any additional city funds and the foundation would have to be self-sustaining. No elected officials would be involved with the foundation, he said.

“No one wants a commissioner on the board,” Edelcup said.

The city will continue to receive updates on the progress of the foundation.

“For the sake of transparency, I will continue to keep the commissioners up to date,” said Lynn Dannheisser, the consultant who was hired to launch the foundation and the city’s former attorney. She worked as the city attorney from 1997 to 2005.

Dannheiser said she hopes to launch the foundation in October, a year after she began working on the project. She said she does not know yet who would run the foundation or how much he or she would be paid to do so.

In other news, the commission:

*Adopted a resolution to open a new restaurant at Pier Park at Sunny Isles Boulevard and Collins Avenue. The Beach Bar at Newport Pier is tentatively scheduled to open in April. The Pelican Restaurant, a former restaurant located at the pier, was destroyed during a hurricane in 2005, City Manager Christopher Russo said.

* Approved creating an ordinance to allow electric signs at city parks to promote city events. The ordinance will be discussed at the next commission meeting, March 20.

*Approved the creation of a resolution to demolish an unfinished structure at 15701 Collins Ave.

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