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Commentary, sarcasm and snide remarks from a Florida resident of over thirty years. Being a glutton for punishment is a requirement for residency here. Who am I? I've been called a moonbat by Michelle Malkin, a Right Wing Nut by Daily Kos, and middle of the road by Florida blog State of Sunshine. Tell me what you think.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Florida the rules are different here Chapter LVII

City records found hidden in a office bathroom. This comes 6 years after a scandal took place in these same offices and where one employee hid out in the bathroom. Did authorities ever think of checking out the bathrooms? Obviously they are a part of the offices and one would want to check all areas. Somehow this looks like the latest tale of corruption and stupidity in Miami-Dade County. Where officials take bribes at Starbucks and screwing disabled police officers. Don't you just love Florida?

Linked to- Bullwinkle Blog, Bright & Early, Cao's Blog,

The director of Miami's Bayfront Park noticed a few weeks ago that a corner of a men's room near his office -- a rather notorious men's room in the annals of Miami corruption -- had gone dark. So he asked a maintenance worker to change a light bulb.

The worker climbed a ladder and came down with a cache of old documents hidden for years on top of a shower stall.

The records date back to the late 1990s, a time when police and auditors were questioning the finances of the Bayfront Park Management Trust, the agency that runs the park and receives some city money. The investigators were particularly interested in the expenses of the trust's director at the time, Ira Marc Katz, who was eventually convicted in a kickback scheme.

''It's the damnedest thing,'' said Tim Schmand, the park's current director. ``You never know what's going to happen next.''

No one can say how or why the documents, which fill two banker's boxes, made their way to the bathroom. But investigators and park administrators suspect it happened around Feb. 8, 2000 -- another eventful day for this particular men's room.

That's the day Katz was kicked out of the park offices after he stalled investigators' demands for records and refused to answer their questions.

That's also when the trust's business manager, Vikas Surana, hid in a bathroom stall, crouching on a toilet so a police detective wouldn't see his shoes.

Investigators took custody of all the trust's records and computer files that day -- or at least all that they could find. That night, police caught Surana sneaking out of the park offices with computer discs and files.

''There were documents we couldn't find,'' recalled Miami's Auditor General Victor Igwe, whose audit of the trust led to the criminal probe. ``We looked everywhere.''

Everywhere, it seems, except on top of the shower, where the files remained until Schmand asked maintenance to change a light.

After the records were discovered, on Sept. 26, Schmand called an investigator to figure out what to do with them. He was told the files were no longer useful as evidence because the Katz case was closed and the statute of limitations prevented any new criminal charges.

Most of the records -- dated from 1995 to 1999 -- appear to be routine: Tax records, invoices from suppliers, contracts with concert promoters, permits and a variety of bills (including two 1998 bills from The Miami Herald -- unopened and presumably unpaid).

But some of the hidden records clearly would have caught the attention of investigators.

Check ledgers among the files showed several payments to Katz and Surana from the trust's operating accounts. A Post-it Note is still stuck to a carbon copy of a $495 check to Surana from Oct. 20, 1997: ''No invoices and backups,'' the note reads.

''They were just writing checks to themselves,'' Igwe said.

Surana, who no longer works for the city, was never charged with any crimes.

Igwe's audit also found that trust money was used to pay for pricey meals and expensive tickets to concerts and sporting events -- often without proper documentation.

The audit was never publicly released because it was subpoenaed by the U.S. Attorney's Office in the kickback investigation, Igwe said.

The recently discovered records also show checks from the park to two contractors, Reynaldo Ros and Antonio Baste, who admitted overbilling the trust and sharing the extra money with Katz. Both later pleaded guilty to federal bribery charges.

Also in the files: a hotel bill to the trust for $312.76 -- including six pay-per-view movies -- for Israel Santamaria, an insurance broker who was later indicted for overbilling the trust for insurance policies.

Katz, 42, pleaded guilty to bribery in 2004. He was sentenced to 21 months in prison and ordered to pay the city $200,000 in restitution.

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