Despite Jean Monestime's Conflict, Miami-Dade Gives $3 Million To Dubious Project
|Commissioner Jean Monestime's conflict didn't stop Northside Centre from getting taxpayer funds.|
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.
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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