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Miami-Dade commissioner didn't disclose family links to fence legislation


In February, Lynda Bell persuaded her Miami-Dade County Commission colleagues to lift a decade-old ban on unsightly chain-link fences in front yards of homes in unincorporated neighborhoods. She pitched it as common-sense legislation to help residents of her South Miami-Dade district.

What she didn’t mention: Her daughter and son-in-law own a fencing company.

They established the business, Fence Assured, in March 2012, eight months before Bell filed her proposal — raising the question of whether the ordinance was intended to benefit the commissioner’s immediate family.

Absolutely not, Bell told the Miami Herald on Thursday.

“There’s zero personal gain for me and zero personal gain for my son-in-law,” she said. “It’s a 100 percent gain for the people of Miami-Dade County who want to put up a chain-link fence.”

Bell said any suggestion of wrongdoing stemming from the family connection, first reported by the Eye on Miami blog, was “ridiculous.” She would have kept the ban had she wanted to help her relatives, Bell argued, because chain-link fences are cheaper and less profitable for her daughter and son-in-law’s business.

But Robert Jarvis, a legal ethics professor at Nova Southeastern University, said Bell’s failure to disclose her family’s business ties could make the public wonder if she was hiding something.

“At the very least, it creates an appearance of impropriety,” he said.

More here.