Miami-Dade mayor takes stand in Homestead corruption case

Miami-Dade Carlos Gimenez testifies Wednesday in the corruption trial of former Homestead Mayor Steven Bateman. At right is prosecutor Isis Perez.
Miami-Dade Carlos Gimenez testifies Wednesday in the corruption trial of former Homestead Mayor Steven Bateman. At right is prosecutor Isis Perez.

When Steven Bateman paid a visit to County Hall last year, he pressed officials on speeding up permits for a crucial South Miami-Dade sewage pump station.

But Bateman never disclosed that he was on the payroll of a healthcare company standing to benefit from the pump station, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez told jurors Wednesday.

“I assumed he was there as the mayor of Homestead,” Gimenez testified.

The county mayor’s testimony highlighted the third day of the corruption trial for Bateman, who is accused of landing an illegal gig as a consultant for Community Health of South Florida.

Gimenez’s testimony is key for prosecutors looking to prove that Bateman wielded his position as mayor to go to bat for a secret employer paying him $125 an hour.

Bateman, 59, is charged with two felony counts of illegal compensation, plus three misdemeanor counts.

Miami-Dade prosecutors say Bateman billed for 29 hours of consulting work on the pump station issue in February 2013, including his interactions with Gimenez as well as the city’s engineer — all done, at least outwardly, in his capacity as mayor.

His defense says Bateman’s side job was perfectly legitimate, entailing work beyond the pump station, and investigators are “misinterpreting” the mayor’s bill.

Bateman, who owned a construction business, earned $6,000 as the part-time mayor.

In early 2012, Community Health of South Florida, known as CHI, was trying to build a new clinic in Downtown Homestead. Because of a federal moratorium on adding connections to the current pump station, Homestead wanted to build a bigger facility.

But the county had held up the project over concerns about the pump station’s design.

In February 2013, Bateman met with Gimenez at County Hall, signing in on a visitor’s log as Homestead’s mayor, not as a lobbyist for CHI as required by local laws. For Gimenez, the meeting was brief and unremarkable.

“He wanted to expedite the process to be able to enhance [the pump station], increase capacity,” he recalled.

After his brief testimony, Gimenez told reporters: “He should have told us he was there on behalf of a company, or companies, even though he was the mayor of Homestead.”

Also on the stand Wednesday: Brodes Hartley, the president of CHI, who hired Bateman shortly before the meeting with the county mayor. He said Bateman excelled at his job managing other development projects.

“We felt it was a fair contract,” Hartley said of Bateman’s hourly rate. “Not overly generous.”

Hartley also admitted he knew of Bateman’s plan to meet with the county about the sewage pump issue. But he insisted he never asked him to use his influence on behalf of CHI.

“I never asked him to meet with the mayor,” Hartley said.

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