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Confidential downtown Miami courthouse plans leaked to rival developer

Parent company of Brightline wants to build a new courthouse for Miami-Dade. But so do other developers.
By Erik Bojnansky | April 17, 2018 06:00PM

Miami-Dade County’s courthouse and Mayor Carlos Gimenez

UPDATED April 18, 2:15 p.m.: Details of Brightline’s parent company’s plans for a new courthouse in downtown Miami were leaked to a competing real estate developer by the county’s consultant, according to a memo from Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez.

That throws a new wrench into the already controversial development plans for the new courthouse.

KPMG LLP, the county’s financial adviser on public-private projects, will no longer be advising on the county’s courthouse development after a company employee “inadvertently transmitted confidential information” filed by New Flagler Courthouse Development Partners to Mike Marasco, CEO of Plenary Concessions.

The “data breach,” as described in the memo from the county mayor, will likely be discussed by the Miami-Dade County Commission’s Public Safety and Health Committee on Wednesday.

New Flagler Courthouse Development Partners, or NFCDP, consists of Indianapolis-based Hunt Construction Group, Fort Lauderdale-based Moss Construction Management and Coral Gables-based Florida East Coast Industries. Florida East Coast Industries, or FECI, is also developing the massive MiamiCentral project in Miami’s Park West area as well as the Brightline passenger train between Miami and Orlando.

On Jan. 11, NFCDP submitted an unsolicited proposal to construct a new civic courthouse on 26,000 square feet of land just west of the old Miami-Dade Courthouse at 73 West Flagler Street. NFCDP also proposed turning the old courthouse into a hotel. In exchange NFCDP sought $26 million a year for the next 35 years from Miami-Dade County. Further details of the bid were kept secret due to the county’s cone of silence ordinance.

However, on April 5, Marasco received an email from Cate Singer, an employee of KPMG LLP, that included detailed information about NFCDP’s proposal, including clarifications from the company from March 5 and an “un-redacted memo produced by KPMG that contained KPMG’s evaluation of he unsolicited proposal.” According to an affidavit from Marasco, dated April 12, KPMG principal Guy Wilkinson immediately informed the Plenary executive that the email was sent by mistake and to delete it. Marasco claimed he did so, that he never read the attachments, and didn’t forward the proposal to anyone in his company.

Plenary Concessions is a subsidiary of Plenary Group, a multinational corporation with several projects in Asia and North America. According to a July 2017 memo from Gimenez, Plenary is among five teams interested in building a new courthouse just east of the Miami-Dade Children’s Courthouse at 155 Northwest Third Street.

Plenary Group’s partners include Johnson Controls International Consortium, Munilla Construction Management, and HOK. HOK completed the $110 million Miami-Dade Children’s Courthouse in April 2015. Munilla Construction Management, or MCM, owned by the Munilla family, built the Florida International University pedestrian bridge that collapsed March 15, killing six people. MCM has also completed several projects for the state of Florida and Miami-Dade County and has employed two of Gimenez’s sons in the past, according to published reports.

However, Jose Galan, assistant director of the county’s internal service division, stated that Plenary Group only expressed interest to build and hasn’t as yet submitted a formal bid. “If Plenary Group decides to respond to the new civil courthouse RFQ, the make-up of that team is currently unknown to us,” Galan added.

Gimenez has repeatedly tried to kill NFCDP’s unsolicited proposal, arguing that it tainted a “two-step” P3 bidding process the mayor later initiated. That process, which focuses on a developer who can build a new courthouse, will close on May 2. The Miami-Dade County Commission, however, refused to throw out NFCDP’s bid.

Eugene Stearns, an attorney representing NFCDP, argued that Gimenez’s two-step process should be thrown out since it originated from KPMG. Stearns also questioned why the data breach wasn’t mentioned on April 10, when the mayor and county commissioners discussed the process of building a new courthouse.

“We did not have all the facts,” Galan said.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified the writer of the email.