For Ernesto Perez’s increasingly troubled educational empire, it was the Homestead piece that was the first to crumble.
On Tuesday, Homestead’s City Council killed a planned land sale to the Perez-owned Dade Medical College. The 5-2 vote came after weeks of damaging revelations about Perez’s for-profit school.
Perez was a conspicuous no-show. The land deal in question would have allowed Perez to buy 19 city properties in downtown Homestead — with the college leader paying 38 percent of what the land is worth.
Homestead’s city council unanimously approved the sale two years ago — believing Perez’s promise that an expanded Dade Medical presence would enliven their sleepy downtown. Dade Medical already has a Homestead campus but Perez said the additional land would mean more students and more spin-off businesses.
What wasn’t known at the time: Perez had hired the wife of Homestead’s mayor as his real estate consultant.
Neither Perez nor then-Mayor Steve Bateman disclosed the conflict. Bateman, meanwhile, aggressively pushed the Dade Medical sale, short-circuiting city efforts to negotiate a better deal.
Homestead Vice Mayor Stephen Shelley, one of those who supported canceling the sale, called the project forever “tainted” by Bateman’s actions. The former mayor was arrested on unrelated corruption charges in August.