Miami commissioners were invited to an exclusive South Beach soiree next week to hear David Beckham and business partner Jorge Mas discuss their plans for fielding a Major League Soccer team — the night before commissioners consider allowing voters to decide if they want to allow a soccer stadium to be built on a city-owned golf course.
It's unclear whether Mas and Beckham will be discussing plans for redeveloping Melreese Country Club into a complex with a stadium, shops, hotels and office space, along with a new public park. Specifics for the Beckham proposal remain secret, kept out of public view even after Mas briefed Miami commissioners individually last week.
But the invitations to Miami's elected officials raised questions Thursday about whether multiple Miami commissioners, who on July 12 could vote to hold a referendum on the Beckham plan, can attend without violating Florida's sunshine law. Under state law, if two voting members of a decision-making government body are discussing a matter they could vote on, the public has to be notified ahead of time and allowed to be present.
After the Miami Herald requested an opinion from the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust, Joe Centorino, the executive director, pointed a reporter to legal precedent that suggests Miami commissioners might violate the law if they went to a private event where they learned facts about the issue they will vote on in the future.
Centorino later contacted Miami's city attorney, Victoria Mendez, who then shared Centorino's advice with commissioners Thursday afternoon in an email.
"He stated that attendance at this function, which is not open to the public and not noticed could potentially result in a Sunshine Violation, in light of it being on the agenda the next day," Mendez wrote. "He stated that I should contact you and advise you of same."
Staffers for multiple commissioners said they had not seen an invitation to the event, though the office of Manolo Reyes confirmed receiving the emailed invitation. As of Thursday, no commissioners had RSVP'd for the cocktail party.
Miami Beach commissioners were also invited, but the stadium is outside their jurisdiction and they won't have any say about it. Mayor Dan Gelber said he might attend to pose for pictures.
The Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce is hosting the event at the Setai on Wednesday, where guests will hear Mas and Beckham "detailing their plans for the new Miami Major League Soccer team," according to an invitation obtained by the Herald.
"Get a first look at the team, and inside information on their strategy to make Miami a North American mecca for Major League Soccer," reads the invitation.
Jerry Libbin, the Beach chamber's CEO, said members of the Beckham team have not divulged what they will talk about at the event, and that the invitation was written by staff at the chamber.
"We don't know what they're going to say," Libbin said. "This is just a cool event for our leadership."
The invitations went out as the public still waits for specific financial details and images of the proposal in advance of a July 12 commission meeting. The Beckham group has yet to publicly unveil its proposal that could replace the Melreese Country Club near Miami International Airport, a city-owned golf course that is privately managed under a lease with the city.
Beckham and Mas want to lease more than half of the golf course's land for a soccer stadium, commercial space, hotels and office space and redevelop the remaining acres into a new city park, but they have not publicly released any architectural renderings showing what the redevelopment would look like. The Herald requested the stadium presentation Mas made to commissioners last week, but because Mas did not leave copies with commissioners, Mendez said the city could not produce the documents.
Mas could not be reached for comment.