Cronyism Pervasive in Fort Lauderdale’s NW CRA

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Mayor Jack Seiler appointed mega-developer Dev Motwani to the Northwest Progresso Flagler Heights CRA Advisory Board. This is the Board that advises the Commission on the administration of Trust Funds intended to eradicate crime, slum, and blight and to provide affordable housing for low and moderate income families in Flagler Village, Progresso, and Northwest Fort Lauderdale.

imgres-1Motwani with downtown crony Alan Hooper

 

Motwani attended his first meeting in September 2015. According the Board minutes, he participated very little in the conversation over the next few months.  

At the May 25, 2016 Motwani got active in the work of the board. He made two motions: first to approve the CRA’s Property and Business Incentive Program, and another to approve the agency’s new Property Tax Reimbursement Program.  After this sudden outburst of civic activism, Motwani quietly resigned.

On June 22, 2016 Motwani appeared before the Northwest CRA Advisory Board to present two funding requests for an upscale hotel development he is building in tony Flagler Village. The requests: $329,933 from the Property and Business Incentive Program, and $1,711,020 from the Property Tax Reimbursement Program.  The requests were approved and are now headed for a final vote by the Mayor and Commission. Motwani got over $2million dollars in his pocket after a few short months of “volunteer” service. 

As a member of the NWPF CRA Advisory Board, Motwani was subject to regulations set forth in Part III, Chapter 112, Florida Statues which restricts public officers from doing business with their agency and from having an employment or contractual relationship with a person or entity which is subject to the regulation of doing business with their agency.

 

Mayor Jack Seiler appointed Steve Lucas to the CRA Advisory Board. Lucas is Chairman of the NW CRA Advisory Board. Mr. Lucas works for and is a minority owner of Hooper Construction, Inc. Hooper Construction is a full-service general contractor and development company located in Fort Lauderdale. Alan Hooper is a City Commission appointee to the Downtown Development Authority. For the past ten years Hooper has annually received six-figure property tax rebates from the CRA Trust Fund.  That gravy-train came to an end. Now Hooper and Lucas want to do another deal.

 

 

 The City/CRA Staff has been meeting with Hooper Construction to discuss the newly revised CRA incentives for their storage company’s building. They have expressed interest in  applying for CRA incentives.

Conflict(s) of interest? Appearance of impropriety? Ethical lapse? No problem here, just like Tide, or Mr. Clean, Lucas’  City Commission Cronies can wipe that stain away:

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Credit: Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

According to the City, “as a member of the NWPF CRA Advisory Board, Mr. Lucas is subject to regulations set forth in Part III, Chapter 112, Florida Statues which restricts public officers from doing business with their agency and from having an employment or contractual relationship with a person or entity which is subject to the regulation of doing business with their agency. Section 112.313(12), Florida Statutes, provides that the City Commission of the City of Fort Lauderdale as the appointing body of the advisory board upon full disclosure of the transaction, can, by a two-thirds vote, waive certain conflicts of interest.”  

 

On Wednesday, the Mayor and Commission will vote to waive Crony Lucas’ conflict of interest. This will preserve the status quo and allow Lucas to wet his beak while retaining control of the Board.

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 But wait! That’s not all! We’ve got another CRA Board Member who wants to drink at the trough!

Jacqueline Reed is the CEO of Oasis of Hope, a Pompano Beach based non-profit. Ms. Reed an an appointee of Commissioner Robert McKinzie. The CRA is looking to partner with non-profit organizations that could assist with the file intake for individuals/families that are seeking to purchase homes and/or who currently own their home and are in need of rehabilitation. The non-profit agencies selected will handle the intake and initial review of each file and present a completed file  the CRA for final review and approval. Ms. Reed works for Oasis of Hope, one of the non-profit agencies that responded to the request for assistance.  This means that Ms. Reed’s employer (Oasis of Hope) could receive up to $1,500 per intake file submitted and approved by the CRA.

 

Conflict of interest? Appearance of impropriety? No problem. The Commission cronies can pass a simple resolution waiving the conflict. Next Wednesday the Mayor and Commission will vote to wash Ms. Reed’s stain away, along with Mr. Lucas’. RIght down the drain.

This will allow Ms. Reed’s group to also drink at the trough, while retaining her seat at the table. 

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Speaking of cronyism, you might recall  McKinzie was recently outed by the Broward Inspector General for well over a dozen civil and criminal violations of state and local campaign laws. McKinzie took double contributions from a number of Downtown Development Authority cronies, including lawyer lobbyist John Milledge, and multiple members of  developer and Forman family operative Jack Loos’ friends and family. McKinzie also took double contributions from mega-builder Chad Moss, and Las Olas landlord and Planning and Zoning Board Chairman Patrick McTigue. Each of the contributors violated the law along with McKinzie. Each has claimed their illegal contributions were oversights. Out here in Crony Country, we take care of our own.

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Did you know that the CRA has a closed list of contractors and they dole out funds to these guys to the exclusion of all others.

Would anyone be surprised to know that McKinzie’s construction company, Harper and Sons, is on that exclusive list? Here’s a copy of the City dated June 2016: 

Look closely and you will see that it not only lists McKinzie’s company, but also his home address in Plantation – the five bedroom three bath house. Not to be confused with his “official” residence in NW Fort Lauderdale…..the two bedroom one bath house….where he lives with his Doctor wife and four children.

 

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