The Real Deal Miami

Worldcenter principal violates conflict of interest code

By Erik Bojnansky | November 14, 2008 06:44PM

 
The chairman of the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics said a deal between the city of Miami and Miami Worldcenter LLC violates the municipality’s conflict of interest code since its managing partner is a member of a city board.

Yesterday, the Miami City Commission approved a nine-block overlay district covering most of Park West that encourages the construction of 12 million square feet of new development. The commission also approved a 20-year development agreement with Miami Worldcenter.

But, Commission on Ethics Chairman Kerry Rosenthal determined that Miami Worldcenter’s managing principal, Nitin Motwani, has a conflict of interest since he is a member of the Downtown Development Authority (DDA), a semi-autonomous taxpayer-funded board tasked with encouraging economic development in downtown Miami, said the ethics commission’s executive director, Robert Meyers.

Meyers said Motwani has three options: he can resign from the DDA board, he can ask for an opinion from the full five-member Commission on Ethics or he can appeal the decision in court.

Motwani said he didn’t hear about the decision until told by The Real Deal. “If I’m asked to resign because of the conflict of interest ruling, I will do so,” he said. “I hope it will not come to that point.”

Meyers said a Miami ordinance forbids city board members from entering into contracts with the city. Although Palm Beach developers Art Falcone and Marc Roberts are listed as the owners of Miami Worldcenter, “Motwani has a minority interest in the company,” Meyers said.

Meanwhile, DDA Executive Director Alyce Robertson told commissioners yesterday that the DDA board passed a resolution supporting the Miami Worldcenter project. Neither Motwani nor Kasdin voted on the resolution, Robertson said.

This is not the first time a DDA board member was cited for violating Miami’s conflict of interest ordinance. Last year, DDA board member Sergio Rok paid a $250 fine after the Commission on Ethics ruled that the developer improperly sought a $1.8 million grant from the city to help build the Flagler First Condominium in downtown Miami.

The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust is empowered to investigate infractions of county ethic codes as well as municipal codes throughout Miami-Dade County.