Patricia Borns & @jayhweaver
At $6,000 a year, the salary for being the mayor of Homestead is a pittance. But Steve Bateman, a barrel-chested booster of this gateway city to the Florida Keys, has found that the position comes with hidden perks.
This past February, Bateman leveraged his role as mayor to land a lucrative, secret side job working as a construction consultant for a nonprofit that needs the blessing of the city and county to expand its chain of health clinics.
The deal, which the head of the nonprofit, Community Health of South Florida Inc. (CHI), says he did not initiate, pays Bateman $125 an hour — more than $4,500 during one 38-hour work week, according to a sampling of invoices reviewed by the Miami Herald. Bills for other weeks were unavailable for review.
Bateman, who has a county license to install awnings, shutters and screen enclosures but is not a general contractor or registered lobbyist, has not publicly disclosed the lucrative arrangement to his colleagues on the City Council, which holds sway over CHI’s plans. Nor did Bateman inform the county of his employment with the nonprofit, even when he met with Mayor Carlos Gimenez and his top aides to personally plead for Miami-Dade to fast-track a multi-million-dollar Homestead sewer system expansion that would facilitate construction of a proposed CHI children’s clinic in downtown Homestead.
The city’s interest in expanding its downtown pumping station is not surprising. The $3 million sewer project could spur development in a downtown that has withered since Hurricane Andrew nearly leveled the city in 1992. The station would benefit five projects that are currently on the drawing board but can’t proceed without added sewer capacity. The mayor or his wife has a financial stake in three of the five, none of which he has disclosed.