A board functioning with mostly dead members got a rude awakening when two of the living were slapped with an ethics investigation.
Some actions of Mae Christian and former state Rep. Roy Hardemon were discussed and addressed at last week’s Miami-Dade County’s Commission on Ethics and Public Trust.
The two are the only remaining board members of the Model City Community Advisory Committee, which came under scrutiny after an anonymous complaint was made against them.
But community member Renita Holmes said she made the complaint and that she is not “anonymous.”
The complaint received said Hardemon and Christian served on two county boards simultaneously, which would have been a violation of the county ethics code.
That claim was unfounded.
What the ethics investigation did uncover were “severe potential ethical transgressions” as well appearances of conflicts of interest and revealed that the Model City CAC has been basically defunct for several years.
Hardemon said the Model City CAC is alive and well and believes the ethics complaint is a personal attack against him. He pointed out that the committee advised county commissioners to redevelop North West 18 Avenue in Liberty City, and they did.
“If we are dysfunctional – I know they use defunct but I am going to say dysfunctional – why would they reserve space for our meeting next week? Hardemon said Tuesday.
MEMBERS DIED, NOT REPLACED
Christian, who said she has been on the committee some 15 years, told investigators other members of the committee had died and had not been replaced. But investigators would find there were some other people involved with the Model City CAC.
Ethics investigators wrote that Hardemon and Christian put together a plan to get state dollars to develop Poinciana Park into a logistics center. Christian, on Jan. 17, 2018, made a presentation at “a purported meeting” of the Model City CAC to get $25 million for the Poinciana development. Those funds were to be managed by a non-profit she started in 2015, the Model City Advisory Board Community Development Corp. Hardemon is a member of the board of Christian’s nonprofit.
In an attempt to get funding for Poinciana Intermodal Center, Model City CAC presented a “purported document” in the form of a “resolution” to Miami-Dade’s Public Housing and Community Development department signed by Hardemon, Christian, Gerald Reed Jr. and LaVerne Holliday recommending that $200,000 come from Community Development Block Grants for pre-development costs of Poinciana.
For the Poinciana project, Hardemon secured $2 million in state funding that was erroneously set to be issued to the city of Miami. Hardemon wanted those funds to go to the Model City Advisory Board Community Development Corp. But the $2 million were supposed to be appropriated to Miami-Dade County. The investigation noted that the funds could not go to Hardemon and Christian’s organization because it has no county affiliation.
“They [the county] didn’t incorporate our organization,” Hardemon said.
The Commission on Ethics discovered that Christian sought a $42,000 reimbursement for an August 2018 trip to Nigeria from the Model City CAC, which she said she made on behalf of Model City Advisory Board Community Development Corp, her nonprofit.
The Commission on Ethics said Hardemon and Christian’s actions “could be perceived as exploitation of their official position.” It went on to say those actions “appear to be clear violations” of the county’s guidelines. But the conundrum for the investigators is that since the committee wasn’t functioning as it was supposed to, the actions of Christian and Hardemon were sort of moot.
Christian could not be reached for comment.
Holmes, who has been a past critic of the Model City CAC, said she sent the initial complaint to the Miami-Dade County Office of the Inspector General, to look into the “abuse, and misuse of funds and compliance as well bullying,” she wrote in a text to The Miami Times. The Inspector General turned her complaint over to the Commission on Ethics.
Holmes has questioned why the Model City CAC holds no elections and has demanded its meeting minutes.
"Ever since Roy assaulted me last year at one of the CAC meetings I haven't received any notices about the meeting or where there held," said Holmes.
A frequent attendee to meetings called by the Model City CAC, Holmes once reported to police that she was attacked by Hardemon at a meeting.
When asked who are the other members of the board, Holmes didn’t know.
“Who they in there presenting and having meetings with? Ghosts?” Holmes asked.
Hardemon has previously said he was forced to restrain Holmes June 27, 2018, after she began throwing chairs and screaming at a meeting attendee.
The Commission on Ethics recommended that the Miami-Dade County Public Housing and Community Development department – which oversees the Model City CAC – consider removing Christian and Hardemon and shutting down the group.
Christian told the Commission on Ethics that her trip would make future trips possible and that “it would benefit the community.”
The county bore some responsibility, the Commission on Ethics found.
The Commission on Ethics wants an evaluation of all Community Advisory Committees, increased oversight and supervision by PHCD and recommends “immediate” training of all the county’s Community Advisory Committees.
The Community Advisory Committees focus on nine neighborhoods that are historically underserved in Miami-Dade County. They are to provide insight to the board of County Commissioners.
The Community Advisory Committees are required by both Miami-Dade County and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in order to receive Community Development Block Grant funds. The Commission on Ethics questions how the county has been able to secure CDBG funds given the state of the Community Advisory Committees, specifically the Model City CAC.
It plans to forward its findings to PHCD, and local and federal Inspector General offices.