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The South Florida Roundup

Commissioner Joe Martinez arrested, a new Broward School Board, and the restoration of a historic hotel

Joe Martinez Mugshot
Miami-Dade Corrections
Booking photo for Miami-Dade County Commissioner Joe Martinez. He was charged with unlawful compensation and conspiracy to commit unlawful compensation, according to an arrest warrant, on August 30th.

Miami-Dade Commissioner Joe Martinez was arrested for two felony charges linked to alleged unlawful compensation and conspiracy to commit unlawful compensation.

Unlawful compensation is different to bribery, but the concept remains the same. An elected official is not allowed to accept direct payments from parties they are trying to help. The Miami Herald’s David Ovalle called it a “pay to play”.

An arrest warrant revealed Commissioner Martinez was accused of accepting $15,000 dollars to sponsor a law that would have helped a shopping plaza that had been repeatedly hit with fines for code violations. This was more than five years ago.

Under Miami-Dade code, stores can only have one cargo container in shopping centers. A supermarket out in West Miami-Dade called Extra Supermarket had six, so the plaza was getting hit with multiple fines. They reached out to the commissioner for help in the form of legislation.

“The prosecutors believe that that money was to basically go toward getting this legislation passed that would allow for more cargo containers to be allowed on this property,” he said.

Ovalle said the commissioner’s defense in the potential trial will be that this is a politically motivated move, and the $15,000 he was paid comes from when he was a private citizen.

The prosecution, he said, he will try to convince the jury that the case is a plain and obvious one.

“It's kind of one where the prosecutors are going to say, you know, this is just common sense, ladies and gentlemen. You know, this is 'He's getting this money as he's doing this thing for them,'” Ovalle said.

The commissioner also faces a potential suspension from office from Governor Ron DeSantis. A temporary replacement on the county board would be appointed if this occurs.

The Broward County School Board was also talked about on the South Florida Roundup. Broward Teachers Union President Anna Fusco gave us some insight into her concerns about the newly appointed board members.

“First and foremost, they’re not elected, they’ve been appointed, and that doesn’t show representation of what Broward County voters have voted for,” she said.

Finally, the Gulfstream Hotel was discussed on the South Florida Roundup. Residents in Lake Worth Beach are celebrating after landing a $104 million project that officials say could generate hundreds of full-time jobs and pump millions into its struggling economy.

“A lot of people that have been in the area for a long time, they remember the Gulf Stream and were married there or had their children married there … [or] celebrated some major life event there,” said Jorge Milian, reporter for the Palm Beach Post.

"And there's a lot of nostalgia connected to the Gulf Stream.”

A development impact analysis found the full-service Gulfstream Hotel could generate "$7.4 million annually on dining, shopping, and entertainment, creating a strong opportunity for nearby businesses to capture this additional local spending capacity."

Reporting from WLRN’s Wilkine Brutus has more on what occurred during the commission meeting.

Listen to the full South Florida Roundup episode above.

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Natu Tweh is producer of The Florida Roundup and The South Florida Roundup at WLRN.