Opa-locka Commissioner Terence Pinder hasn’t been able to vote on any city matter regarding federal or state funding – the result of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency debarring him in January over concerns about previous charges against him.
On Monday, Pinder, marketing director of the Opa-locka Flea Market, had good news: the EPA lifted its ban.
The news came less than 48 hours after Pinder and his attorney, recently reinstated Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi, brought his case to Washington, D.C., to fight the sanction and flash his recent efforts as a city commissioner to a panel of EPA board members last Thursday.
“I am extremely proud and honored that the EPA has recognized my public service and my commitment to the people of Opa-locka, and no longer require restrictions on my ability to serve my constituents,” Pinder said in a press release on Thursday.
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“After carefully reviewing the entire administrative record in this matter… I have determined that protection of the government’s business interests does not require the continued debarment of [Pinder],” wrote Frank Lane, acting Suspension and Debarment Official at the EPA, in a letter to Pizzi on March 30. “I have decided to terminate the …debarment effective immediately.’’
Pinder was a commissioner from 2004 to 2006, when then-Gov. Jeb Bush removed him from his seat after his arrest on charges of theft and official misconduct for illegally using his city-issued credit card. Pinder was arrested again in 2007 and charged with bribery and unlawful compensation, linking him to lobbyist Dante Starks. He pleaded no contest to Miami-Dade County ordinance violations and was fined $2,500 and placed on probation.
Last November, he was re-elected to the commission, with 30 percent of the vote. Opa-locka does not require a majority to win a seat on the commission.
In January, the commission approved spending $5,000 to help Pinder seek outside counsel to fight the EPA.
At a special meeting Monday, Pinder voted for the first time to approve the newly established process for considering bids for the city’s $40 million revolving loan to fix wastewater, pothole and sewage issues.
“I feel blessed,” Pinder said.