MANAGEMENT

County official's agency gets cut
County Commissioner Dorrin Rolle's nonprofit agency won a lucrative food-service contract with no bid required.

When it came time to dole out management contracts for Ward Towers, one of the most well-connected agencies in MiamiDade got a cut: the James E. Scott Community Association, headed by County Commissioner Dorrin Rolle.

Rolle's controversial social services agency, known as JESCA, was awarded the Ward Towers food-service contract no bid required.

Rolle

Officials with the nonprofit MDHA Development Corp., owner of Ward Towers, said it was important to work with local agencies.

"We have always promoted . . . a true community involvement," said nonprofit Executive Director Maria de Pedro-Gonzalez.

Rolle voted in favor of the legislation that created the nonprofit in 2001.

He later sponsored a resolution proposing $3 million for one of the nonprofit's building projects in Liberty City. He could not be reached for comment.

But he's been questioned before.

In 2002, he pleaded no contest to allegations that he tried to secure money for his own agency, in one case sending a letter to Miami-Dade's then-County Mayor Alex Penelas on county stationery.

Rolle has not asked the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust for an opinion on the Ward contract.

When asked by The Miami Herald, the ethics commission's executive director, Robert Meyers, would say only that commissioners must not use their seat in County Hall to influence deals for the agencies they run.

JESCA was hired in 2005 for the Ward Towers job by the company running the assisted-living program in the building, Independent Living Systems. The deal also allows JESCA to prepare and distribute food at all other future assisted-living facilities managed by ILS in South Florida.

ILS also struck a partnership with Rene Rodriguez, the nonprofit's longtime president, who resigned from the nonprofit in 2004.

He later became a partner in a spinoff company called ILS Development Group. The company is seeking to build public housing in Florida, Georgia and Texas. Officials say it is not involved in Ward Towers.

Rodriguez did not return The Miami Herald's calls requesting comment.