Threat on vote rattles commissioners
Written by Meghan Mangrum on August 1, 2013
The Miami City Commission voted last week not to extend the lease of 2.2 acres of city-owned property on Virginia Key for Beasley-Reed Acquisition Partnership.
The property has housed an AM-FM radio booster tower since the initial lease between the city and Hernstadt Broadcasting Corp. in 1982. The title and interest was assigned to Beasley-Reed in 2000.
The lease was presented to the commission for a one-time extension as a revocable license-agreement, which would allow the city to terminate it at any time without cause. Currently, the city gets $15,953.52 a month for use of the property.
The commission’s vote was complicated by an email sent to Henry Torre, director of the Department of Public Facilities, by a citizen claiming she would bring the matter and every commissioner who voted yes on the resolution to the Ethics Commission if it passed.
The threatening email alarmed commission Chairman Mark Sarnoff, who sought City Attorney Julie Bru’s advice before voting on the resolution.
“I don’t know if that in good faith I can vote on this because I am concerned that I would be brought up to the Ethics Commission for merely voting my conscious on this,” Mr. Sarnoff said. “As such, this has given a chilling effect on me and as such would cause a personal expenditure of funds and would bring negative public light on me.”
Concern was also expressed by Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones that commissioners Francis Suarez and Frank Carollo were absent and therefore wouldn’t be affected by a vote but could possibly have been influenced by the email as well.
Ms. Bru assured commissioners that they could legally vote on the resolution and even had a duty to do so.
“This item is lawfully and properly before you,” Ms. Bru said. “I can assure you that there is no conflict in your voting, I have analyzed the document before you and I don’t believe it composes any violation of the code of Miami.”
Ms. Spence-Jones’ motion to defer the vote until September failed. A second motion was made to adopt the resolution, but it also failed, with Commissioner Wifredo Gort and Mr. Sarnoff voting no and Mr. Suarez absent.
Next, the city’s Department of Public Facilities will begin drafting a request for procurement, which should be available in three to four weeks. The current lease expires at the beginning of September, at which time an effort to relocate the radio booster to another location on Virginia Key will be made, according to Mr. Torre. Beasley-Reed will be given the opportunity to bid on that site.
The radio booster currently transmits two local stations, WQAM owned by Beasley and WKAT owned by Salem Communications.
Beasley is currently negotiating with the city to either continue to use the tower on the property or to move it to another location, said Mike Cooney, chief technological director at Beasley Broadcast Group.