Dade Data No. 14

How wealthy are Miami-Dade politicians?

When they qualify to run for public office — and every year once they’re elected — Miami-Dade County candidates are required by Florida law to disclose their finances.

They list the value of their assets, including investments and property, and of their liabilities, including mortgages and student loans. The resulting subtraction equals their net worth.

A review of the most recent financial disclosures available of Miami-Dade commissioners and the mayor shows significant disparity.

Commissioner Barbara Jordan, a 71-year-old retired assistant county manager, reported wealth of more than $1.5 million. Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz, a 53-year-old director of business development for Coastland Construction, reported $89,373.

Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Commissioner Esteban “Steve” Bovo filed their 2013 disclosures, but they have not yet been published online by the Florida Commission on Ethics, which compiles the forms.

Besides Jordan, Gimenez and Commissioner Bruno Barreiro also disclosed wealth of more than $1 million. Barreiro, 48, works for his family’s healthcare companies and owns a real-estate business. His net worth is more than $1.1 million. Gimenez, 60, is a retired Miami city manager and fire chief. His net worth is just over $1 million.

Gimenez cut the mayor’s $300,000-plus annual salary in half when he took office. Commissioners’ official salary is $6,000 a year, but with benefits, all board members report county income between about $30,000 and $50,000.

Wealth disparities are also apparent among commission candidates on the Aug. 26 ballot.

The biggest gap is between Commissioner Lynda Bell and challenger Daniella Levine Cava. Bell reported wealth of about $300,000; Levine Cava, more than $3 million.

Bell, 57, holds no outside employment. Levine Cava, 58, is the founder and former chief executive of Catalyst Miami, a nonprofit formerly known as the Human Services Coalition.

Levine Cava has criticized Bell for sponsoring a 2012 ballot question that would have set term limits and raised commission salaries to $92,000 — a compromise endorsed by a task force that reviewed the county’s charter.

Voters rejected the proposal but later that year approved another referendum sponsored by Bell setting term limits without an attached raise.

Part of Levine Cava’s platform is to prohibit campaign contributions from county contractors in an effort to limit their influence on commissioners.

“It’s obscene, the amount of money that’s being spent on this campaign,” she said at a Miami Herald editorial board meeting last month.

But Bell has said such a ban wouldn’t extend to labor unions, who back her opponent. And she has argued it could hinder less-affluent candidates fund their campaigns.

“That might help you, but it wouldn’t help me,” she said. “I’m not wealthy, by any means.”

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