Land deal could haunt former Hialeah mayor: report

Julio Robaina allegedly accepted an $800,000 fee on a public land deal
June 03, 2014 03:00PM

Roberto Cayon and Julio Robaina

Former Hialeah mayor Julio Robaina has been cleared of criminal tax-evasion charges. But any return to political life for Robaina could be overshadowed by one piece of trial evidence.

Years ago, Robaina allegedly collected an $800,000 fee for helping a developer make a $16 million profit on a taxpayer-funded land deal with the Miami-Dade public school district, according to the Miami Herald.

The money purportedly came from Robaina’s most generous political donor, the late developer Roberto Cayon. Cayon recruited Robaina — then the president of the Hialeah City Council — to help beat community opposition to a proposed high-density, multifamily housing development in neighboring Hialeah Gardens. Residents feared that additional residents would overflow local schools.

In 2003, Robaina acted as Cayon’s real estate broker and advocate at a public hearing. According to the Herald, Robaina persuaded the Hialeah Gardens City Council to allow a land-use change that doubled the number of allowable dwellings on the parcel — up to 1,050 units on 84 acres.

But what the Hialeah Gardens council didn’t know was that the Miami-Dade school district had allegedly already approached the Cayon family about purchasing his tract, according to the paper.

The deal cost taxpayers millions, since the $14 million parcel was later sold to the city for $30 million, the paper indicated.

“The up-zoning gave [the Cayons] a legal basis to demand more money for their property,” Miami attorney and former mayor of Surfside, Paul Novack told the paper. [Miami Herald]Christopher Cameron