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Miami Beach CDC director quits amid city probe


Roberto Datorre, longtime president/CEO of the Miami Beach Community Development Corporation, resigned earlier this month amid a city review that found "fiscal and operational discrepancies" including $300,000 in double billing.

On Dec. 5, Denis Russ, now the acting director of the CDC, informed city administration that Datorre submitted his resignation effective immediately. Datorre had been the executive director for about 10 years. He could not be reached for comment and no one at the CDC returned calls.

The city's review of CDC finances earlier this year turned up problems related to reimbursements for the London House Apartments, an affordable housing development that is supposed to be completed by March, according to a Dec. 16 memo written by City Manager Jimmy Morales. Three city employees resigned or were fired during the city's review.

The CDC does housing and community redevelopment programs in Miami Beach. The private nonprofit is not a city agency but the city is a pass through for federal funds including community development block grant (CDBG) dollars. 

Morales' memo stated that the CDC had been “unable to provide satisfactory explanations to issues raised” that related to the London House Apartments, an affordable housing development that is supposed to be completed in March.

The memo, sent to Mayor Phillip Levine, stated “we hope to inform you of actions that may need to be considered in the coming weeks to safeguard certain City assets and funds.”

According to Morales’ memo: in May, Anna Parekh, the city’s former director of Real Estate, Housing and Community Development, approached an employee asking him to sign timesheets for the Neighborhood Stabilization Program although he didn’t work for the program. Parekh was fired on May 23.

On July 31, staff met with Rocio Soto, an employee in the housing and community development division and was asked why she and Parekh routinely processed reimbursement requests from the CDC without back-up documentation such as cancelled checks. Some of her answers contradicted what the city found in emails and Soto quit after the meeting.

On Sept. 23, Brian Gillis, a community development specialist, submitted his immediate resignation. Gillis had administered the city’s CDBG program.

The city review focused on discrepancies in invoices submitted by the CDC in 2011 and 2012 for a grant related to the London House Apartments. The apartments, located at 1965-1975 Washington Ave, were acquired using city redevelopment agency funds. Among the receipts submitted by the CDC were architectural and insurances costs that dated back four years before the execution of the city’s contract for funding.

After finding that HUD rules were not followed, city staff met with representatives from HUD’s Miami office and told HUD that the city was working together with law enforecement. (The city's memo doesn't identify the law enforcement agency or agencies involved.) Records show that the city reimbursed the CDC for expenses also paid by the Florida Housing Finance Corproation if the amount of almost $300,000. The city has asked the CDC to return the London House Apartments to the city.

The city had awarded about $1.3 million in neighborhood stabilization funds to the CDC which has received about half that amount so far "and has yet to provide a full accounting of the funds advanced." If the project isn't completed by March, HUD could deem the city in default. The total amount of liability the city faces -- when all of the various federal pots of money toward the project are combined -- is about $1.8 million.

On Friday, Datorre remained listed as the president on the CDC's website and his email and voicemail did not indicate that he resigned.