Only in Opa-locka can a lobbyist be charged with racketeering and unlawful compensation, stand trial for seven years, and then cop a plea, go from “convicted felon” to “community activist” in sixty seconds flat.
Yeah, I am exaggerating about the sixty seconds. It was more like two months. But in the scheme of things, it makes no difference to Opa-lockans that former lobbyist Dante Starks pled no contest to a total of six counts of conflict of interest and other charges, and that at the end of the very long, presumably expensive trial, Starks’ only consequences are two years’ probation and a fine of $2,500.00.
Plus, he gets to go back to the scene of the crime to unofficially lobby the city commission, “in an unpaid capacity,” on behalf of residents and business owners to fix a “battered street,” according to a Miami Herald article posted today.
Obviously, Opa-locka has problems. City Manager Kelvin Baker, formerly FIRED from North Miami Beach, is one of them. Potholes, and not enough money to fix them, are among its many other headaches.
But the fact that members of the community don’t seem to give a rat’s ass that a lobbyist was arrested for committing serious crimes, then copped a plea deal amounting to nothing more than a slap on the wrist, and then is welcomed back into the fold as the returning prodigal son, is unfathomable.
Starks’ co-defendant and former Vice Mayor of Opa-locka, Terence Pinder, who received an identical sentence, told the Herald in February that he “may consider a return to public office.”
Pinder was “first arrested and charged with multiple counts of grand theft, filing a false campaign statement and official misconduct for allegedly misusing his city issued credit card for personal expenses,” which were later dropped in favor of “only” four counts of conflict of interest.
That apparently won’t stop Pinder from throwing his hat in the ring again. He already ran unsuccessfully for a commission seat in 2012 while awaiting trial. Should he run again, and win this time, he’ll be granted a brand new chance to betray the trust of the very public he screwed over eight years earlier. Apparently, his once and future constituents either don’t give a damn if their representatives are ethical, or they don’t think they’re worthy enough to demand higher standards of their elected officials.
North Miami Beach’s own EX-Mayor Myron Rosner, whose CRIMINAL trial has been pending for the last year and a half (which could potentially last another five or six years with Ben Kuehne as his defense lawyer), has yet to threaten running for office again. Knowing Myron, this isn’t out of a sense of shame, guilt or remorse. We all know he’s shameless. But, North Miami Beach residents, business owners and city employees are not quite as forgiving as Opa-lockans since so many of us were the recipients of Myron’s fraudulent and bullying ways up close and personal.
And should anyone forget, I have a very long memory. I will be more than happy to remind them.
Opa-locka, you’re on your own. Get your own blogger.
“Spreading the Wealth”