Homestead Mayor Steve Bateman was arrested on Wednesday morning for allegedly using his position as mayor to obtain private employment.
According to the charges, Bateman had a deal with the nonprofit Community Health of South Florida (CHI) to be paid $125 an hour for consulting services. Authorities also believe CHI set aside a total of $120,000 to pay him and hired an assistant for him.
Bateman was arrested at his home.
“We believe that he saw us out the window. For whatever reason, there was a delay of about fifteen or twenty minutes before we were able to make contact with him at the door,” said state attorney corruption investigator Robert Fielder. “He said he was taking a shower.”
This scandal makes Bateman the third Miami-Dade County mayor arrested this month. The mayors of Sweetwater and Miami Lakes were arrested by the FBI on bribery charges on August 6. Gov. Rick Scott suspended both men as they await trial and announced he will take the same action against Bateman, according to the Miami Herald.
Bateman is charged with two felony counts of unlawful compensation, said Miami-Dade state attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle during the press conference.
“A half-truth as to who you're representing and who you're working for is not right. This is all to do about honest disclosure. In our view, he failed to do that,” she said.
Bateman is also charged with several misdemeanors for unregistered lobbying on CHI’s behalf and failure to disclose the conflict of interest created by his relationship with the organization.
To help facilitate construction for a CHI children’s clinic in downtown Homestead, Bateman allegedly lobbied Miami Mayor Carlos Gimenez to fast-track a sewer system upgrade necessary for the construction.
Ethics authorities say that, had Bateman disclosed his position as a lobbyist working for HCI, he would not have been granted a direct audience with Mayor Gimenez and his top aides to discuss the project.
Rundle did not say whether the nonprofit could face charges as well.
“As best we can tell, CHI has done great things, as we've said, for our community at large,” Rundle said. “The center is a worthwhile cause, I think all of us would agree. So right now our focus is on the elected official. He’s the one who we believe has violated the law.”
At the press conference, ethics commissioners displayed blowups of billing invoices Bateman submitted to CHI that he allegedly signed as a consultant.
Bateman is running for reelection on November 5. Friday is the deadline for candidates to enter the race.