Council votes to make changes to Miss Universe agreement

Doral Mayor Luigi Boria speaks to the media about the positive influence that Miss Universe Pageant will have in the city on Monday, Nov. 24, 2014
Doral Mayor Luigi Boria speaks to the media about the positive influence that Miss Universe Pageant will have in the city on Monday, Nov. 24, 2014 EL NUEVO HERALD

Doral City Council members amended the contract between the city and the Miss Universe Organization on Monday at a special meeting at City Hall, after the city agreed to commit $2.5 million for the pageant in September.

According to the addendum, the city will not be handling any incoming sponsorship agreements, instead the Miss Universe organization will. Instead of negotiating with city officials, local businesses will hold talks with pageant personnel.

At an Oct. 1 news conference, Mayor Luigi Boria said businesses had committed to sponsorships, trying to ease residents’ concerns that the $2.5 million won’t come from taxpayer dollars.

However, those monetary promises were oral, according to the city manager’s office at the time. At the Monday meeting, city manager Edward A. Rojas said the Miss Universe Organization has made deals with several businesses, in total committing to $1,020,000 in sponsorships. Some companies include: Badia, Baptist Health, Santa Barbara Airlines, Lennar and Codina developers and Shoma Homes.

However, written contracts were not available Monday to the MIami Herald.

“The Miss Universe Organization wants to keep those documents strictly confidential,” City Attorney Dan Espino said.

The pageant will be held at the Florida International University arena, located a few miles from Doral in unincorporated Miami-Dade.

According to the contract signed by both parties, the city was set to pay $500,000 within five days of signing the agreement (Sept. 26), $1 million by Dec. 1, and the final $1 million by Feb 1.

Records showed that a $500,000 check from city funds was written, sent out and cashed by the Miss Universe Organization on Oct. 2, according to the city’s finance department.

The city will continue to make those payments, regardless of how many sponsorship dollars have been committed. Then what ever funds the city pulls out of it’s reserves will be reimbursed or added as credit toward the city’s bill, according to the addendum.

On the agenda was another item on whether to support more than $300,000 in additional taxpayer dollars toward events leading up to the pageant — the coronation ball, a welcome event, a cultural festival and a silent auction, among others.

However, the council agreed to seek sponsors to host those events instead. For almost an hour, council members went back and forth over whether to commit city money or have donors sponsor the welcome events.

The council agreed to the latter, at 4-1, with Fraga dissenting. Interested sponsors have until Dec. 1 (the next payment deadline) to commit to hosting axillary events in Doral. If no one is interested, the city scraps it and Miss Universe Organization will have to fund it elsewhere.

However, the two decisions made on the dais was not what dozens of residents came to discuss. On Nov. 12, more than 100 residents rallied at city hall after advocate group Concerned Citizens of Doral asked the city in a formal letter for an analysis of the $2.5 million invested by the city in Trump’s Miss Universe Pageant. They asked the council the rescind their support.

They didn’t get it. Instead, the mayor agreed to hold a special meeting to discuss the issue.

But that’s not what happened.

“They asked for a meeting to talk about Miss Universe, they’re getting it,” Boria said.

Residents showed up hoping to talk about rescinding the vote.

Christi Fraga, who has ceaselessly advocated against the contribution, told the Herald the meeting was “all an illusion.”

“Of course the mayor wasn’t going to put that on the agenda,” she said.

Tension between residents and city council members has been simmering since last year when billionaire Donald Trump put up a wall of areca palm trees around residents’ homes on his golf course. It escalated in September when the city pledged $2.5 million from its reserves to support Trump’s beauty pageant.

Follow @MoniqueOMadan on Twitter.

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