Despite Jean Monestime's Conflict, Miami-Dade Gives $3 Million To Dubious Project

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Commissioner Jean Monestime's conflict didn't stop Northside Centre from getting taxpayer funds.
Are you looking for taxpayer money from Miami-Dade County for a questionable project, but you've been convicted of felony tax evasion and a misdemeanor attempt at boarding an airplane with a loaded gun? No problem!

At least it's not a problem for Yoram Izhak, a commercial property owner who recently scored a $3 million grant to repave roads, install new lights, and add landscaping at a rough-around-the-edges shopping center at NW 79th Street and 27th Avenue in Liberty City. The renovation will supposedly attract a national department store to the long-struggling neighborhood, but neither the developer nor the county will say what chains they've lined up to move in.


Banana Republican could not reach Izhak directly to comment about the cases or the grant, but his attorney, Glenn Widom, said the half-decade-old convictions have nothing to do with the Izhak's ability to turnaround the shopping center. Furthermore, Izhak only had to pay $75 and serve less than two years probation for his crimes, Widom adds. "I can see no reasonable relationship between his criminal charges and Northside Centre other than subjecting Mr. Izhak and his family to embarrassment," Widom says. "This is simply not newsworthy." 

The county commission unanimously approved the deal without discussion January 24, even though the plan's original sponsor, Jean Monestime, pulled his name and withheld his vote at the last minute when the Miami-Dade ethics commission ruled he had a conflict of interest.

Izhak owned Northside Centre LLC, the company that runs the similarly named shopping center, until late last year, when he transferred control to his wife and three business partners. Izhak also owns 50 percent of M.I.A. Properties, which leases office space to Monestime -- a business relationship that put him at conflict, the ethics board ruled.

The commissioner's colleagues were apparently as untroubled by the sponsor's conflict as by Izhak's criminal record.

In 2004, the businessman pleaded guilty to tax evasion in Miami federal court. A year earlier, he pleaded guilty to a federal misdemeanor gun charge after screeners at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport discovered a loaded .38 Special inside his carry-on briefcase on October 9, 2002.

Monestime also stands behind the deal.

"The developer is investing $3 million in addition to the grant for a rundown property next to a poor community," Monestime says. "The owners are also obligated to create and retain 200 jobs before they ever get a nickel from the county."

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Rolle 2?
Rolle 2?

Monestime needs to be more careful. He doesn't want to act like a sleazy corrupt pig like Dorren Rolle who he replaced as commissioner. Monestime is also accused of voting to put up more billboards and mural ads. Too close to lobbyists?

bbtatt
bbtatt

Without a doubt this sounds like Stackhouse all over again. And when you say no other developers wanted to put up, I wounder if they all knew they would also recieve 3mil.?

Jeebus
Jeebus

Jean Monestime is a good guy. My problem with this is this statement:  neither thedeveloper nor the county will say what chains they've lined up tomove inSo the county is allocating 3MIL to a project but they can't tell us, the taxpayers whose 3MIL this is, what commitments they have on who/what giant retailer is moving in? That smells fishy to me...

icui2i
icui2i

Kinda sounds lika da Stackhouse deal.

Buddy Love07
Buddy Love07

No other developers wanted to put up any significant amount of cash to do the project so what's the problem?

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