New Complaints at Liberty Square

By John Dorschner

    As the battle escalates for the $200-million-plus contract to remake Liberty Square, the attorney for one of the two finalists sent letters to the county this week, saying he has  "new evidence" on why the other bidder wasn't qualified.
    Albert E. Dotson Jr., representing Related Urban (RUDG), wrote that he has more proof that Atlantic Pacific
Albert Dotson
Communities (APC) is "a non-responsible proposer" and "it appears that a blind eye has been turned to APC's material deficiencies."
    APC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
    Competition between the two firms has escalated since the county sent each a letter on Jan. 22 saying they were the two finalists among the six developers who submitted proposals. The letter invited them to update, if they chose, their original proposals submitted in July.
    Deadline for the possible updates is Friday, Feb. 5.
    The central contention: RUDG states that APC attempted to qualify as a bidder by improperly claiming it had experience building affordable or public housing because it used the experience of Carlisle Development Group.
    Carlisle, a massive developer of affordable housing, was disbanded after its owner was charged with engineering kickbacks to improperly take federal tax credit funds. Several of Carlisle's leaders who were not charged moved to APC and APC has taken over management of Carlisle's properties.
    Dotson cited several major developments:
    On, Jan 20., the city of Miami "took the highly unusual action" to withdraw $2 million in home funding granted to APC because of alleged misrepresentations made in applying for city funds for its Seventh Avenue Transit Village II project.
     The misrepresentations focus on applying for funds from the city and the county simultaneously without revealing the other applications. "APC made material misrepresentations of over $4.6 million," Dotson alleged.
    After Dotson's earlier complaints, APC in December withdrew its Seventh Avenue application to the county for  $3.1 million in surtax funds.
    What's more, Dotson wrote, on Jan. 14, attorneys representing tax credit investors in Carlisle properties wrote Carlisle saying they were taking full control of the properties.  Carlisle had transferred the properties to APC -- and the county had already approved the transfer. 

                 Investors Want Back Properties

    The attorneys at Baker Donelson in New Orleans said that the guilty plea of Carlisle's owner, Matt Greer, and lack of proper financial reporting on what was happening to the properties cause the investors to want to have complete control of the properties.
    In yet another development, county commissioners on Jan. 20 approved a resolution asking the mayor to investigate the county activities of several affordable housing developers accused of fraud, including Carlisle. That resolution was first reported HERE.
    If the Liberty Square selection committee decided that APC didn't have the proper experience, it could get Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez out of an awkward dilemma.
    Most of the selection committee, including five county staffers, ranked RUDG's proposal the best, but Sara Smith,
Sara Smith
president of the Liberty Square residents council and a member of the section committee, ranked RUDG extremely low and gave APC very high marks -- meaning that APC had the highest overall score.
    Because Smith's scores was such an outlier, the county reported that it was required by regulation to report the situation to the county attorney's office.
    For the past two months, Gimenez has taken no action to recommend his top choice, which must be then approved by the county commission.

     Meanwhile, some leaders in Liberty City, led by Rev. Richard P. Dunn II, are objecting that poor people's wishes are being ignored. Dunn told Miami Times earlier this week that he's disturbed that the mayor has asked for updated proposals from the top top bidders, rather than selecting APC, the high scorer.

           Pastor Says Mayor Trying to Help Related 
    "I find it a little disconcerting that what he is trying to do is handsomely reward Urban Related,” Dunn told Miami Times. "I believe the mayor was stalling to keep Related. ... I don’t trust this process anymore. The only way for this process is for the mayor to recuse himself out of this process.”
    Dunn led a group of demonstrators on Wednesday who who protested outside Gimenez's annual State of the County address.
    At a press conference after the speech, The Miami Herald reported, Gimenez was asked about the Liberty Square demonstrators: "You've got a couple of people who probably have a vested interest in who gets the project. ... I will not be forced or intimidated into making a decision that's not in the best interest of Miami-Dade County."

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