The Lakeland Ledger reported today that two wealthy developers backed by powerful lobbyists convinced the State of Florida to pay the developers $7.2 million dollars for six acres of underwater real estate in Coral Gables (off Biscayne Bay) which the developers had already purchased from an 81-year old widow for $445,000.
What's wrong with this picture?
First off, the state says they didn't know about the developers deal with the widow and the widow didn't know about the developers deal with the state.
Second, what the f*ck is the State of Florida doing paying $7.2 million of our hard earned dollars because they're afraid to go to trial and fight some wealthy developers and lobbyists?
The developers made a deal with DEP but DEP didn't know how they were going to pay for it.
The developers hired lobbyists--three lawyers one of which was lobbyist Rodney Barreto, chair of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
The developers purchased the property in 2004 and then filed suit immediately against the DEP who had promised to purchase it but the deal was being nixed by Jeb Bush.
The developers also hired former state attorney general turned lobbyist Jim Smith to represent them. But Jim Smith's partner is the brother of the DEP's deputy secretary.
The Governor nixed the deal but then finally relented when the DEP secretary informed him that they better go through with it, that a trial was too risky.
And so now, two wealthy developers and four lobbyists (two with questionable conflicts of interest in my opinion) just got wealthier for screwing the state taxpayers out of $7.2 million and the state now has 6 acres of sea grass beds off Lugo Avenue in Coral Gables for its troubles.
If you don't recall hearing about this on the news, you're not the only one.