An attorney has filed an ethics complaint against retired soccer star David Beckham and some of his partners on a Miami soccer stadium venture, claiming they illegally lobbied for the project on Tuesday’s ballot.
David Winker filed the complaint Wednesday with the Miami-Dade Ethics Commission, arguing Beckham, brothers and MasTec Inc. leaders Jorge and Jose Mas, and Sprint executive chairman Marcelo Claure lobbied without registering with the city clerk.
Winker, a former partner at Zumpano, Patricios & Winker in Coral Gables who left to start his own firm, also accused Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, City Manager Emilio Gonzalez and the City Commission of knowingly allowing lobbying by unregistered lobbyists.
The developers’ legal team argued their clients registered to lobby for Miami Beckham United LLC. The Ethics Commission decided in a “virtually identical” case there was no violation “when the individual ‘was properly registered to lobby on behalf of a principal (i.e. Miami Beckham United LLC.) as required by the ordinance,’ ” said Holland & Knight partner Miguel De Grandy.
De Grandy added it “is frankly absurd to believe” anyone would be misled “when the ‘issue description’ on the face of the registration states ‘approvals for a new soccer facility in the City of Miami.’”
Winker disagrees that registration for Miami Beckham United was sufficient for the MLS stadium project.
Beckham and the others spoke on behalf of a different limited liability company, Miami Freedom Park LLC, which was used for the proposed project at the Melreese golf course and is the one on the referendum. Miami Beckham United was used when Beckham and his team eyed property in Miami’s Overtown, Winker said.
“You are required to register on behalf of all the entities you work for so we know what’s happening,” he said. “It’s a fundamental aspect of government in the open. It’s not good enough to say, ‘Yeah, I registered with another entity.’ ”
The city had no comment by deadline.
Miami Freedom Park wants a long-term lease for part of the city-owned golf course east of Miami International Airport and plans a 25,000-seat stadium, hotel and at least 1 million square feet of other commercial space.
Opponent of the soccer stadium deal object to the city skipping a bid process to allow others to submit competing proposals.
If voters approve the referendum, four-fifths of the City Commission would have to vote for the project to proceed.