Ethics Commission

Ethics panel faults ex-Homestead mayor for free flight

 

Ex-mayor Steven Bateman, already facing criminal charges, also may be hit with ethics fines for not reporting a lobbying trip.

mrvasquez@MiamiHerald.com

It was a private flight bound for Tallahassee — and, ultimately, the governor’s office. On board were executives from Dade Medical College, joined by a couple of local politicians.

But that free-of-charge flight may end up costing former Homestead Mayor Steven Bateman.

The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust announced on Wednesday that it has found probable cause that Bateman violated county ethics rules by failing to disclose the flight as a gift from the for-profit school.

The probable cause finding is not final, and Bateman can still fight the ethics violation at a future hearing. But if he’s found guilty, Bateman could be fined or reprimanded by the ethics commission.

If that happens, it would be the latest in a series of setbacks for the former Homestead mayor, who was arrested in August on corruption charges, then booted from office by city voters in October.

Bateman’s criminal trial is pending. Bateman could not be reached Wednesday for comment.

The private flight now being scrutinized by ethics investigators happened in late 2012.

On that trip, Bateman accompanied Dade Medical College owner Ernesto Perez, Dade Medical General Counsel Jonathan Janeiro, and Hialeah state Rep. Eduardo “Eddy” Gonzalez on a lobbying trip to meet with Gov. Rick Scott. The purpose of the meeting was to push for downtown Homestead road improvements that would benefit Dade Medical’s expansion plans in that city.

Records from the trip show that it was catered, and that the group’s food request included pastries, cold cuts and beer.

“Must have AMSTEL LIGHT (Ernie’s favorite beer),” the request states.

Perez could not be reached for comment. Janeiro, who has since been promoted to co-CEO, declined in a text message to discuss the issue. In past interviews, Janeiro has said it would “inappropriate” to weigh in on any ethics issues surrounding the flight.

“I got on a plane and I flew to Tallahassee,” he said previously.

In other action on Wednesday, the ethics commission found probable cause that Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado broke ethics rules by failing to report a free trip to Argentina with his daughter, School Board member Raquel Regalado.

But the commission blamed the Miami city attorney’s office for giving Regalado bad advice — the city’s legal staff told the mayor he didn’t have to report his trip as a gift.

The trip was paid for by the privately-funded Buenos Aires Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Since Regalado relied on faulty legal advice, the commission opted to dismiss the complaint and instead send a letter of instruction to the city attorney’s office.

In a third ethics case, the commission found probable cause that North Miami broke ethics laws when the city gave temporary jobs to two relatives of Deputy City Manager Lumane Pluviose Claude (her son and her husband).

But the commission found no evidence that the deputy manager orchestrated the hirings, and so there will be no fines — only a letter of instruction sent to the city’s administration.

Miami Herald Staff Writer Nadege Green contributed to this report.

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