Miami auditor general seeks second opinion on city’s free Ultra passes

08/08/2014 6:09 PM

08/08/2014 6:10 PM

Days after the office of Miami’s city attorney issued an 11th hour memo that there was nothing wrong with city employees receiving free VIP tickets to the Ultra Music Festival, the city’s independent auditor general has requested an outside opinion.

Auditor Theodore Guba made the request Thursday through an addendum to his July 31 review of Ultra’s agreement with the Bayfront Park Management Trust. His review, which questioned whether the receipt of free passes was a misdemeanor, was prompted by concerns about comped tickets going to city employees – including several current and former employees of the city attorney’s office.

Though Guba sought guidance from the city attorney’s office while conducting his probe, he said Thursday that the attorney may have a conflict of interest. He also noted that the opinion issued by assistant city attorney George Wysong differed with one issued by a lawyer for the county’s commission on ethics.

“Due to these differing opinions … and the fact that the OCA [city attorney’s] opinion affects possible actions against OCA employees who accepted tickets, which can be viewed as a conflict of interest, we recommend that the City obtain an outside independent legal opinion,” Guba wrote.

City Attorney Victoria Méndez did not respond before deadline to messages left with an assistant at her office.

Guba's review stated that several members of the Bayfront Park Trust and the city attorney’s office may have violated the city’s charter by taking free VIP tickets to Ultra, a massive electronic dance music festival held each year at the park. The city’s charter indicates the receipt of free tickets by city employees and board officers may be a misdemeanor.

The attorneys named in Guba's audit — former city attorney Julie Bru, former deputy city attorney Maria Chiaro, and assistant city attorney and current judicial candidate Veronica Diaz — have insisted there was nothing improper about receiving Ultra tickets. Chiaro says she didn't even receive free passes. In a letter to Guba, the executive director of the Bayfront Park Trust noted he and volunteer board members followed guidelines issued by the Miami-Dade ethics commission.

Guba sought guidance from Mendez’s office in early June, but at the time he issued his audit he wrote that he had not received an opinion. Just hours later, Wysong sent his memo, saying that the part of the city’s charter at question included “archaic” and outdated references to old franchised transportation services.

On Thursday, Guba countered that the charter was reviewed as recently as 2001 with the help of the city attorney's office, and the “archaic” language was left in place.

The matter, according to Guba, has been referred to the commission on ethics.

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