Nonprofit contributions from developers get scrutiny in Miami Beach

Commission considers ordinance to require disclosure of gifts from nonprofits

Apr.April 28, 2016 11:15 AM

In January Miami Beach commissioners unanimously enacted a new ordinance that prevents commissioners, political candidates and their supporters from soliciting contributions from vendors doing business with the city or lobbyists for PACS.

Now some commissioners want the city to go further and require that any member of the city commission who solicits gifts on behalf of a nonprofit group from a vendor, real estate developer or lobbyist disclose the solicitation within 10 business days after doing so.   

The ordinance was proposed by commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, who told the commission Wednesday night that “we shouldn’t use foundations to hide money,” adding that commissioners already “have to disclose any gifts we receive and this would include nonprofits and improve transparency in our community.”   

Rosen Gonzalez got mixed support for her proposal but commissioners voted to approve it on a first reading and reconsider it at their next full meeting on May 11. Commissioner Michael Grieco, however, cautioned that the measure could have a “chilling effect” on charitable contributions that benefit Miami Beach residents and others who depend on them. “I’m very concerned that if I try and raise money for Nicklaus Children’s Hospital now, a donor would have to become part of the public record,” said Grieco.   

While they agreed to consider the ordinance on nonprofit solicitations, commissioner rejected a second ordinance proposed by Rosen Gonzalez that would prohibit campaign consultants from lobbying city commissioners that they helped to elect for 12 months after they take office.  Commissioners said they would consider an ordinance that might address “disclosure” at their June meeting, but they said the ordinance as drafted contained too many loopholes and could be challenged in court on First Amendment grounds.   

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