Bayside Foundation probe request goes nowhere after city's directive
By Risa Polansky
Despite heated public questions about how the Bayside Minority Foundation is spending its money, a requested probe has yet to begin.
Meanwhile, forms filed with the Internal Revenue Service through 2005 reveal little, and a former mall part-owner and foundation board member recalls limited action on the part of the organization.
Citing an inability to get answers from Bayside Foundation leadership, Miami commissioners last week called for the state attorney to look into how the group, formed along with the downtown retail plaza to aid minority businesses, has been spending the money it collects from the mall each year.
Assistant City Attorney Veronica Xiques said she has not yet reached out to the state attorney on behalf of the city.
State Attorney's Office Spokesman Ed Griffith confirmed that, as of late last week, "We have not received any request from the Miami City Commission to open a criminal investigation relating to any matter."
The issue came up at a city commission meeting this month, where both commissioners and foundation board members complained that the foundation has been mum on spending.
When downtown's Bayside Marketplace was built in the '80s as a mall meant to foster minority business, the city helped create a foundation along with it to assist owners with business plans and enable others to set up shop.
City commissioners appoint five of the 15 board members.
The foundation is meant to facilitate a loan guaranty program for minority businesses, create a scholarship fund for minorities and technically assist community/economic development organizations, according to the city clerk's office.
But it's unclear whether that mission is being fulfilled.
City leaders and board members have said Executive Director Dwayne Wynn isn't providing requested information as to how foundation dollars are being spent.
Mr. Wynn also declined to outline spending to Miami Today when asked last week and did not return calls this week.
In a statement June 15, he said that "The Miami Bayside Foundation is a private mission oriented organization. We have had a history of advocacy for Minority Business in the Retail Industry and an operational relationship with the City of Miami since our inception," though he did not detail advocacy or other efforts.
And though Mr. Wynn calls the foundation "private," it from at least 2002 through 2005 has filed the 990 forms the Internal Revenue Service requires of income tax-exempt organizations.
Forms filed under Miami Bayside Foundation can be found online through outside websites from 2002 to 2005.
The Internal Revenue Service did not respond to a records request for any forms filed in the past five years.
Mr. Wynn did not return calls asking whether the foundation has filed since 2005.
As for the forms themselves, they reveal little.
The foundation is funded by mall manager Bayside Marketplace, which each year contributes the greater of 10% of net retail income or $100,000.
Bayside has paid more than $1.2 million since 2004.
The IRS paperwork filed by the foundation in 2005 lists under "primary exempt purpose" to "promote economic development in the City of Miami."
In a section that calls for "number of clients served, publications issued, etc. Discuss achievements that are not measurable," the foundation wrote only "provide legal, business management, accounting services, and training to retail merchants."
No specific retailers are named anywhere on the form, which lists $26,022 in "program service expenses."
"Total functional expenses" add up to $52,753, including telephone, management fees, professional fees, travel and entertainment, licenses and taxes, bank charges and office expenses.
Though the form originally listed former foundation Director Yvonne McKinley as keeper of the books, her name is crossed off and covered by Mr. Wynn's.
Ms. McKinley did not return a call this week.
Raul Masvidal, an original part-owner in the mall who later sold his share, became involved in the foundation a few years ago, he said. His term expired last year.
"When I came on board, the foundation had very little activity. It had been sitting on the money that [former mall owner] Rouse had contributed over the years," Mr. Masvidal said. "Then the loan committee was organized to make two or three loansÖ and there was some other assistance provided to merchants who were falling behind on their payments."
He recalls also that "there was assistance given for small merchants to pay for CPAs and lawyers and that kind of thing," but said "there was very little activity in the later years. There were maybe three meetings a year kind of thing, or two meetings, and there were loans provided to the small merchants, but there was nothing really major going on."
Though he said there were a few loans, the only one he could remember specifically was one to Chili's. The Bayside restaurant is still operating.
Former part-owner Mr. Masvidal also noted that Bayside must fund the foundation even in years it loses money, recalling that "we had to make contributions to stay with our ownership."
Current Senior General Manager Pamela Weller is calling for a change in foundation practice.
In an e-mail to a fellow board member, she suggested "that 75% of the funding in [a] given year be distributed into the community during the same year."
As far as the requested but stalled city probe, Mr. Griffith of the State Attorney's Office added via e-mail thatİ"of course, any such criminal investigation would be a joint investigation with the attorneys of the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office providing the overall legal guidance and direction and investigators from the City of Miami Police Department putting together the actual evidence that would be the basis of any criminal action."
If it's not a criminal matter, it could be out of the State Attorney's Office's purview.
In that case, it would be up to city leaders to make a call as to where to go from there.