LowT "High Corruption" Gimenez

Miami New Times:

Ranking Miami-Dade's Most Corrupt Cities

Here's our definitive ranking of Miami-Dade's most corrupt cities.
1. Opa-locka: Opa-locka is so crooked its own residents tried to wipe it off the map. Last August, a few local activists were so tired of fighting graft that they actually started a petition to dissolve the town. "Once you're tapped out, you're tapped out," said Willis Howard, one of the locals who mounted the charge. "The city revenues are tapped out, there's no leadership, and in this case, you can't even file bankruptcy to restructure your assets, because there's nothing for you to restructure."

How did the Moorish-themed town get here? Here's the tl;dr version: a federal graft probe starting as early as 2013; a city government that decided not to keep any real spending records; officials who thought taxpayer money could be spent on lavish birthday parties and huge holiday bonuses; elected officials convicted of using their employees to extort local businesses; a city commissioner who killed himself while facing bribery charges; and a morning FBI raid on city hall in 2016. Merrett Stierheim, the former county manager brought in to "clean up" the place, quit in March 2017 and said it was the "worst case" he'd seen in his long career. He said he left with "more questions than answers" about how the city became such a miserable failure.
Well, there's one obvious answer: Put the entire Opa-locka government directly in the trash can.
2. North Miami Beach: North Miami Beach is a town where all the politicians hate one another and there's always the risk that any lawmaker, at any time, could get busted by the feds. In 2016, then-Mayor George Vallejo posted a hostage-style Twitter video in which he announced he was facing a public-corruption probe. Then, in October 2017, former North Miami Beach Mayor Myron Rosner was arrested on securities fraud charges. Then the city sold off its water plant, a once-thriving utility that serves 200,000 people, even though the FBI had briefly looked into the deal. In April 2018, Vallejo took his own plea deal after admitting he bankrolled his personal life with campaign funds. Oh yeah, and during the mayor's investigation, he casually admitted his wife was getting paid off by the Dezer family, the most powerful developers in town. Is your head spinning yet? Just imagine living in NMB.
3. North Bay Village: Until 1941, North Bay Village lay at the murky bottom of Biscayne Bay. But then the two small islands along the 79th Street Causeway were dredged up from the muck. Ever since, the town has been a cesspool of graft, drugs, and mobsters. In the '60s, Frank Sinatra hung out at the Place for Steak until a guy named "Big Tony" walked in and put a bullet through the head of Thomas "the Enforcer" Altamura. In the early '80s, the feds warned that a made man named "Joe Scootch" was running a giant Quaalude ring in town, and a few years later, the village's police force got in on the action. In '86, three local cops pleaded guilty after offering to protect drug shipments for an undercover FBI agent. Last year, a commissioner revealed he was being blackmailed over an old cocaine charge, and investigators looked at the mayor and her allies as suspects. They were cleared, but not before cleaning out the police force. Now the former chief has sued, claiming he was axed for blowing the whistle on corruption, while the mayor claims the chief let a bunch of cops get drunk on duty during a hurricane. Is it too late to send this village back to the bottom of the bay?
4. City of Miami: Trying to sum up decades of insidious corruption in Miami in a paragraph is like trying to write the CliffsNotes for Ulysses. In the Magic City, crime is so baked into public office that more than 100 cops — including 20 sent to prison — were investigated and reprimanded for their role in a badge-wearing drug gang in the late '80s River Cops scandal. Miami's so crooked that in 1997, one commissioner was arrested for demanding $200,000 in bribes — and within a year, his replacement was federally charged with mortgage fraud. Two other commissioners were indicted at once in 2009, and in 2013 the feds had to step in to monitor the police department because it was killing so many unarmed men. Did we mention Miami's city commission gleefully helped pass the Marlins Park debacle? Someone get James Joyce on the line to do this city's corruption history justice.

Illustration by Alvero Diaz-Rubio

READ: https://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/miami-dades-most-corrupt-cities-ranked-10533469

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