The most recent ethics complaint lodged against Miami Beach commission candidate Kristen Rosen Gonzalez was dismissed about four months ago, according to an investigative report obtained by the Miami Herald.
The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics & Public Trust concluded on June 12 that there was insufficient evidence Rosen Gonzalez, a former Miami Beach commissioner, had lobbied senior city staff on behalf of three businesses contracted to do flooding-related work for the city, according to the report.
The executives of all three companies have contributed to Rosen Gonzalez’s political campaigns, directly or indirectly, according to municipal and federal financial reports.
The ethics commission did not publicly announce the case had been closed. The case is not among a published list of complaints the commission has closed so far in 2019, and it was not mentioned in monthly bulletins emailed by the commission in June or July. The emails list actions taken by the commission on a range of ethics complaints that month.
Rosen Gonzalez shared her copy of the investigative report with the Herald on Saturday following the publication of an article detailing the ethical complaints made against her since 2015. The investigative findings have not been previously reported.
“A final judgment has been issued in this case,” she wrote in a text message Saturday.
Rosen Gonzalez, a candidate in the crowded Group IV commission race, has been the subject of at least four ethics complaints between 2015 and last April. She has been cleared in every case.
Decrying the complaints as politically motivated, Rosen Gonzalez is now raising money based on the political hostility she said she has endured. In a campaign advertisement sent to supporters Friday, she likened her treatment by rivals to the persecution felt by historical figures like Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi.
The commission opened the lobbying case on April 17 following an anonymous tip. The investigation centered on an April 3 breakfast meeting at Roasters ‘N Toasters deli in Miami Beach. In attendance: Rosen Gonzalez, senior Miami Beach staff and Emmanuel “Manny” Pacin, the president of marine contracting company Pac Comm.
At issue was whether Rosen Gonzalez violated the county’s ethics code, which prohibits former city officials from lobbying the city within two years after leaving their position, and whether Pacin had violated a Miami Beach code prohibiting city vendors from contributing to political campaigns in the city.
The commission closed its case against Rosen Gonzalez, concluding that there was not enough evidence to show she had been lobbying.
It does not appear that Rosen Gonzalez “knowingly accepted contributions from a vendor” because Pac Comm was not listed among prohibited vendors at the time of the contributions, the report stated. She refunded the checks on April 17, according to financial records.
However, the commission’s findings regarding Pacin’s contributions were forwarded to the Miami-Dade County State Attorney’s Office for additional review. The status of that complaint was unclear Saturday.
During the breakfast, Rosen Gonzalez encouraged Assistant City Manager Eric Carpenter and Public Works Director Roy Coley to visit Pacin’s facility in Miami. She spoke favorably about Pac Comm’s “innovative work in public contracting,” according to testimony given by Carpenter.
“She said something to the effect of: ‘Why aren’t you using this product?’ ” Coley said in his testimony to an investigator and ethics advocate with the commission. “She wanted us to at least give it some consideration.”
Pac Comm has an active contract with the city of Miami Beach but has not yet been hired for any city jobs, according to the report. Rosen Gonzalez told the investigator that she felt Carpenter and Coley should know about Pacin’s concerns with the city’s procurement process.
“He said he hadn’t worked in the city of Miami Beach and that he thought something shady was happening with the procurement process,” Rosen Gonzalez said.
Rosen Gonzalez requested the meeting with Carpenter on March 29 — the same day she received a $1,000 check from Pacin’s 18-year-old son, campaign records show, and a week after receiving a $1,000 donation registered in the name of Pacin’s 4-year-old son. Rosen Gonzalez said she did not know his age.
A $1,000 donation is the maximum contribution from an individual allowed under state law.
Earlier this year, Rosen Gonzalez told the Herald she did not know Pacin would be at the meeting on April 3 but had noticed him at the restaurant and “motioned him over.” Pacin also denied knowing about the meeting ahead of time.
She later said she “lied” to a Herald reporter about the meeting “because I got nervous.”
Rosen Gonzalez told the investigator that she invited Pacin to the meeting to share his views, but that it was not related to the campaign contributions.
“I told Manny. I told him I’m having a meeting with Eric Carpenter. Why don’t you come by and say, ‘Hello.’ I don’t think there was anything wrong with it,” she said in her testimony.
During the meeting, Rosen Gonzalez also spoke about disputed payments involving David Mancini & Sons and Ric-Man International, two companies that had completed drainage work for the city on the Sunset Islands, according to the report.
Carpenter told the investigator that the firms claimed they were owed $2 million, but the city believed a payment of more than $600,000 could not be justified.
Rosen Gonzalez did not appear to be “advocating for them,” but sharing their complaints with city staff, Carpenter said.
Coley told the investigator that Rosen Gonzalez “agreed that we shouldn’t pay if we didn’t owe” anything to the companies.
“This seems to support her contention that she was just trying to sound out the officials on this matter as it had been raised by Pacin as indicative of possible fraud,” the report states.