Security detail walks off job at Miami-Dade County Liberty City offices

03/20/2014 7:55 PM

03/20/2014 9:37 PM

Imperial Security offered around-the-clock services for a Liberty City building that houses several Miami-Dade County offices. At midnight Wednesday, security officers walked off the job.

On Thursday morning, about a dozen officers took to the streets in front of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza, a pink, five-story building at Northwest 62nd Street and 25th Avenue, which houses three county departments.

The security officers say they are owed $100,000 in back pay, and some say they have not been paid in two months.

“I want to see my money hit my bank account,” said Joseph Handsford, carrying a sign that reads, “Where is our money Mr. Mayor?”

“I have two kids in private school and a wife at home,” he said. “I’m struggling.”

The county pays $203,000 monthly to BAC Funding Corp. to lease office space for three departments — the corrections and rehabilitation department, information technology, and public works. Day-to-day operations, including security, are handled by PTA Property Management, which is run by long-time Miami developer Otis Pitts Jr.

According to Emmanuel Joseph, owner of Imperial Security, the property management group routinely writes bad checks and pays invoices late. When he inquires, Joseph said he is told they can’t pay him on time because the county is late on its rent.

Joseph provided a series of emails to the Miami Herald showing he has sent at least 20 delinquent notices over a two-year period to PTA Property Management for nonpayment.

In an attempt to get his workers paid, Joseph said he has been trying to meet with county officials to implore them to pay their rent on time so that vendors like himself could be paid.

But, a county spokesperson said Miami-Dade is not delinquent on its rent and that the security company’s fight is with the building’s owner, not the county. The county has no direct responsibilities to vendors on the premises, wrote spokeswoman Suzy Trutie in an email.

“The owner of the building, BAC Funding Corporation, is responsible for providing all services, including paying vendors through its management company,” Trutie said in her email.

Pitts of PTA Property Management has developed several buildings in Liberty City. The former cop has a public history of not paying his bills. Last year, the county foreclosed on Edison Plaza, a Liberty City retail complex he built with $13 million in public funds. Pitts neglected to pay his monthly $53,000 mortgage and his annual property taxes.

“The county is paying him, but Otis refuses to pay us,” Joseph said. “It’s disrespectful and we’re not going to take this anymore.”

Pitts could not be reached for comment Thursday. A woman who answered the phone at the plaza declined to comment. Pitts’ daughter, Otoria Pitts, vice president of operations for PTA Property Management, also declined to comment.

Earlier in the day, before the protest began, Joseph said Otoria Pitts handed him four checks totaling nearly $76,000 to settle most of the debt owed to his company. When he drove to the nearest Wells Fargo bank, he said a teller told him not to bother trying to deposit the checks.

“There was no money on their account to cover the bad checks they wrote. They were worthless,” Joseph said.

Shortly after a Miami Herald reporter contacted her, Otoria Pitts emailed Joseph, he claims. He said she promised to FedEx a check Friday to his North Miami-Dade office.

Joseph replied, “I can assume that it won’t be able to be processed like the four previous ones you issued me this morning.”

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