Money and Politics
Some of Daniella Levine Cava’s idolaters comment regularly that SDM doesn’t look harshly enough at Commissioner Lynda Bell’s campaign reports. Of course, many of them are new to this site so they haven’t read our criticisms of South Dade’s junior commissioner.
Nevertheless, the criticism rings true since SDM really hasn’t looked very closely at Mrs. Bell’s reports until recently. We know what to expect and upon review we found pretty much what we anticipated. To summarize her latest report:
- Mrs. Bell raised a respectable $21,050. SDM identified at least four “bundles” (multiple contributions that appear to have been generated by a single source).
- The Munilla family donated $5,000 through various corporate entities. (Munilla controls several major construction contracts with county and school board entities.)
- The Infante family, which owns land and operates a huge market in South Dade, looks to have bundled $5,000, too.
- A county ambulance service provider located at 2766 NW 62 Street also ponied up $5,000.
SDM Says: Looks like $5k was the number each bundler was asked to bring along in his or her pocket.
None of the above is outside of our expectations; in fact, SDM would be shocked if Mrs. Bell failed to attract money from county vendors and interested parties.
One contribution did tickle our fancy so we did some additional research. Mrs. Bell received a $500 check from a local lobbying firm named Gazitua Letelier, PA. Luis A. Gazitua is the registered agent and President of the firm according to the Florida Department of State. Mr. Gazitua is also a Miami-Dade County registered lobbyist. None of this is a surprise.
The interesting find in Mr. Gazitua’s lobbyist report is that he represents a company called “T&G CORPORATION D/B/A TAG CONSTRUCTION.” You’ve probably never heard of this company and neither had we, so we asked the all-knowing Google what it knows about them.
On March 4, 2011, the Florida International University general counsel reported to the board of trustees on the university’s contract dispute with T&G:
On July 17, 2003, Florida International University (the University) entered into a contract with T &G Corporation d/b/a and f/k/a T&G Constructors (T&G) to construct the FIU Recreation Center located on the Modesto A. Maidique Campus (Recreation Center) which was completed on or about August 2005. The Recreation Center was designated to serve as a Hurricane Shelter for Monroe County. In April/May 2007, the University experienced major water damage and serious water intrusion problems. The University notified the Contractor T&G but T&G failed to investigate and/or remedy the problems. The University undertook its own investigation which literally required the University to open and remove part of the Recreation Center curtain wall window system. The University discovered a number of latent defects in the aluminum framed storefront window, door and curtain wall systems of the Recreation Center as it was constructed by T&G. The University undertook extensive efforts to resolve the issues with T&G informally throughout the investigation and remediation process, which is still ongoing, to no avail. The University sent T&G numerous letters between the period April 30, 2010 and January 19, 2011 inviting them to participate in the investigation and remediation process. T&G failed to provide any meaningful response to the University. Therefore, the University had no choice but to proceed to file a complaint against T&G due to the 4 year statutory limitation period for construction related defects. It is currently estimated that the costs, including consultant fees, to address the latent defect issues at the Recreation Center will be between $700,000 to $750,000. This estimate is subject to change if latent defects are discovered during the remediation process or other unforeseen costs arise.
So what may we reasonably surmise from this connection to the Commissioner? First, Mr. Gazitua is doing his job, which is to develop a relationship with the folks (e.g., Mrs. Bell) who decide which firms get county contracts. Second, one of Mr. Gazitua’s clients has a potential black mark on its record and it is a local problem that could easily filter back to the county. Third, T&G is either currently doing county business or may want to submit some bids down the road.
SDM Wonders: Did Mrs. Bell know about this client and should we expect that T&G will receive less scrutiny now that she has accepted a campaign contribution from their lobbyist?
Mr. Gazitua also represents a company called Securus Technologies. According to Securus’s website, the company provides a service that allows you to visit “your incarcerated friends and family from the comfort of your home or office” and that “New FCC interstate $.25/$.21 per minute rate caps now in effect.” So a ten-minute call with “your incarcerated friend” only costs $2.50, if we are reading the advertisement correctly.
Securus claims to serve “Miami Dade Regional Juvenile Detention,” so they are a current county vendor. We can surmise they want to keep this contract and may want to add other county facilities, thus the lobbyist.
SDM Says: None of the above is illicit, nor is it unexpected. Miami-Dade County is a gigantic, complex bureaucracy and most corporations prefer to hire a local professional to get and keep new government business. We all know that local politicians take money from county vendors and from companies that want county contracts. Mrs. Bell is playing the game just like everyone else, which our mothers always told us was no justification at all.
++ Note to Readers ++
SDM’s editorial staff has been very busy earning their respective livings. We apologize for not blogging consistently, but occasionally we put our vocations before our avocation.