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Veronica Diaz Ethics Investigation

Veronica Diaz Ethics Investigation

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Published by Al Crespo

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Published by: Al Crespo on Jul 17, 2014
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04/28/2015

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Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics
& Public Trust
Investigative Report Investigator: Larry Lebowitz
. u
Case No.: Case Name:
Xiques
Date Open:
K13-067
Lu
 
S
E
Complainant(s):
Subject s):
May 16, 2013
Anonymous Veronica Diaz (f/k/a
t
te:
Veronica Xiques)
Allegation(s): An anonymous tip was received by the Commission on Ethics and Public Trust (COE) that an assistant city attorney with the City of Miami was steering city work to her fiancé's law firm.
Applicable Law:
Miami-Dade County Conflict of Interest and Code of Ethics ordinance:
Sec. 2-11.1(c) (1) prohibits public officials from transacting any business in which he or she or a
member of his or her immediate family has a direct or indirect interest.
Sec. 2-11.1 (d) prohibits public officials from entering into any contract or transacting any business through a firm, corporation, partnership or business entity in which he or she or any member of his or her immediate family has a direct or indirect controlling financial interest.
Sec. 2-11.1(b)(9), defines immediate family as spouses,
domestic partners,
parents, stepparents, children and stepchildren of the public official. Sec 2-11.1(b)(12) defines
domestic
partners
as
any persons who have formally registered their relationship as further described under the county's
anti-Discrimination codes at Sec. 11 A-72 (b) (1-4 and 6). Sec. 2-11.1(g), prohibits a public official from exploiting their official position to secure special privileges for himself, herself or others except as may be specifically permitted by other ordinances.
City of Miami, Code of Ordinances, Chapter 18, Article III, details the manner by which
procurements, including the hiring of professional services, are subject to transparent competitive
 
bidding and selection processes. With the exception of the Community Redevelopment Agencies, the rules are supposed to apply for procurements secured by all city entities or boards, including the quasi-independent authorities, departments and trusts.
The city attorney's office, however, is exempted by statute, at 18-72 (b)(16): This article shall not
apply to legal services coordinated by and through the office of the city attorney citywide, including, but not limited to: attorney services, paralegals, expert witnesses, jury consultants, legal support services, legal research, court reporters and stenographers.
The code, at 18-84, Methods of Source Selection, redundantly reinforces this exemption: All
purchases of goods, including but not limited to supplies, materials, equipment, printed materials and all purchases of services, including but not limited to personal, professional, management, technical, contractual and general services needed by the city,
but not including legal services
may be
obtained by contract or through city labor and materials shall be exclusively made in the manner set forth in this article.
Investigation:
nterviews
Keri Lynda Horvat
(Horvat) is a lawyer with the Miami law firm Trujillo, Vargas, Ortiz & Gonzalez LLC. From March 2011 to September 2013 she was a contract employee at a law
firm that has subsequently come to be known as Alvarez, Carbonell, Feltman & DaSilva PL of
Coral Gables (ACF&D). Horvat is an experienced real estate and commercial litigator, and holds an active title insurance license. Since 2009, she has been the sole proprietor of Horvat Law Firm PLLC, which primarily handles real estate closings connected with that title-insurance license.
On April 7, 2014, Horvat provided sworn testimony to the COE. Multiple e-mails, with records and follow-up contextual explanations from Horvat, will be burned to a disc and added to the file.
Aldo
Bustamante
(Bustamante), Real Estate Manager, City of Miami Department of Public Facilities and Asset Management. Bustamante was interviewed several times in May-June 2013, largely to secure production of the city's master file on the project to expand the footprint of the former Coral Way NET center and adapt it into a community center and playground with additional parking. A couple of follow-up conversations occurred in 2014, largely for fact-checking purposes and to complete the production of public records related to the successful purchase of two adjacent parcels and the failure to acquire a third. Bustamante was able to provide historic context as the project grew and morphed, how his department routinely seeks legal services from the City Attorney's Office, and detailed
conversations regarding Horvat' s role in helping the city acquire the parcels.
2
 
Veronica Adriana Diaz
(Diaz)
flia Veronica Xiques),
is an assistant city attorney with the
City of Miami. She is currently on a leave of absence while pursuing an elected circuit Court
judgeship. When this file was opened in 2013, she was known professionally by her married name, Veronica Xiques, but subsequently reverted to her maiden name prior to announcing her candidacy for the bench.
This investigator had one brief phone conversation with Diaz in May 2013. At the time she noted that Horvat was an eminently qualified title attorney who was doing excellent work ( She's a
kick-ass attorney. ) on the city's behalf in trying to untangle a messy set of circumstances to
clean up the titles and acquire the parcels in question. Diaz said she was aware that Horvat worked
at ACF&D, but said the city's contract was with Horvat Law Firm PLLC. To her knowledge,
Diaz said, ACF&D did not handle this type of real estate work. She described Alvarez as my
boyfriend --- not fiancé.
This investigator asked Diaz some general questions regarding the way the city hires outside counsel. She confirmed that there is no rotating wheel or list of pre-qualified lawyers to conduct
specialized work on a rotating basis. We just hire people we know are qualified, she said. Diaz
mentioned that Horvat was hired under a boilerplate contract with a pre-set hourly rate. That
contract also caps the number of hours for a particular task. Diaz explained that the City Attorney's
Office is exempt from many of the procurement rules that must be followed by other departments, agencies and quasi-independent authorities under city code and charter.
In the May 2013 conversation, she said the contract with HLF provides no benefit to ACF&D. She
also said at the time that she didn't believe there was a conflict of interest worth reporting to her supervisors at the city attorney's office. This investigator had a second brief phone conversation with Diaz in March 2014, asking primarily for her files regarding the outside work she assigned to Horvat regarding an Opinion of Title for a city-owned marina parcel at Watson Island. She agreed to forward her complete file on the Watson Island title-opinion and a few outstanding documents needed to complete the file on the Coral Way community center acquisitions. She responded with a series of e-mailed documents, all of which will be burned to a disc most of her documentation on the Watson Island title-opinion contract along with a few documents needed to complete the investigative file on the Coral Way community center acquisitions. She responded with a series of e-mailed documents and added to the file.
Document/Audio/Video Review:
City public records, reports, emails, closing documents and contracts rearding the acquisition of two parcels of land adjacent to the community center at 1300 SW 12 Ave. and the
unsuccessful attempt to acquire a third adjacent parcel.
03

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