North Miami Councilwoman Marie Steril just can’t stay out of the spotlight.
The Miami-Dade County Commission on Ethics and Public Trust found probable cause that she “used her position to get upgrades to her mother’s city-subsidized home renovation,” according to a Miami Herald article published October 8, 2014. Reporter Lance Dixon explained that “Marie Steril will have to pay more than $5,000.00 over the next five years” for the violation.
But, the joke is on the taxpayers of North Miami, and here’s why.
For one thing, Marie’s mother, Marie Enare Charles-Brutus, already received the “more than $7,700.00” upgrades, which included “high-end counter tops and appliances.” Steril’s “punishment” requires that she immediately pay to the Ethics Commission a $250.00 fine and $250.00 in costs. Although she’ll eventually pay back $4,950.00 to the City of North Miami, North Miami taxpayers will still have to eat the difference of $2,750.00.
What’s even more ridiculous, the terms of her “settlement with the city” is stretched out over 60 months to the tune of $87.00 a month.
The Commission’s Executive Director, Let ‘Em Go Joe Centorino told the Herald that “he hopes the settlement gets the message across to elected officials in North Miami and throughout the county.”
Oh, yeah. That was some formidable message. I’m sure it put the fear of God in every last one of them.
In case that message wasn’t strong enough, Marie Steril will also receive “a letter of public reprimand” from the mighty Ethics Commission.
Oooooh! A letter of public reprimand! How humiliating!
That should make Marie hang her head in shame.
For about five minutes.
Until she bursts out in uncontrollable laughter.
According to a Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) Action Plan grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the City of North Miami was awarded the sum of $2,847,089.00 for the purpose of acquiring “foreclosed and abandoned single family homes for rehabilitation and resale to eligible homebuyers.”
If you want to spend a good portion of your life reviewing the rules and regulations of eligibility for buying an NSP home, feel free to browse through the HUD Exchange website, or download HUD’s NSP3 Program Design Guidebook. Good luck with that.
As far as I can tell, you don’t have to be a first-time home buyer, even though there are income limits and other requirements before you can qualify to purchase a taxpayer subsidized home.
I do, however, question the wisdom of subsidizing a home for, and lending taxpayer money to, someone who already is in foreclosure on another piece of property.
On April 14, 2006, Marie Enare Brutus, along with her son-in-law, Nego Steril, purchased a condominium located at 270 NE 191 Street, Unit 120, Miami, Florida 33179. According to a Warranty Deed recorded on April 19, 2006, they paid $119,900.00 for this home, and borrowed $107,900.00 from Argent Mortgage Company, LLC. In 2007, they almost lost the property due to non-payment of real estate taxes. The county sold the certificate for $1,739.31, which was redeemed on June 1, 2008.
On December 10, 2009, a Lis Pendens for a notice of foreclosure action was filed by Deutsche Bank National Trust Company, as Trustee for Argent Securities Trust, a branch of the original mortgagor. On March 22, 2012, a Certificate of Title was filed, selling the property to Deutsche Bank. On September 6, 2012, Deutsche Bank sold the property to one Juan Correa for the sum of $29,900.00, as evidenced by a Special Warranty Deed. This sale was at a loss of $78,000.00 from the original mortgage of $119,900.00.
Meanwhile, while this foreclosure was in the works, Marie Steril was helping her mother buy a home from the City of North Miami under its Neighborhood Stabilization Program, funded by HUD.
Except that Marie neglected to tell anyone that the elder Marie was her mom. I’m sure it just slipped her mind.
Here’s the story:
On February 5, 2010, a Quit Claim Deed was filed, reflecting that the City of North Miami purchased the property located at 1755 NE 142 Street, North Miami, Florida 33181 for the sum of $65,000.00, and then proceeded to spend an additional $89,802.02 on the property, including the rehabilitation of the house. The City of North Miami spent a grand total of $154,802.02 of the NSP grant money on this property.
On March 31, 2011, the City of North Miami sold the property to Marie Enare Charles-Brutus for the sum of $100,000.00, as reflected by a Special Warranty Deed. Charles-Brutus borrowed $51,000.00 from Northern Trust, as evidenced by a Mortgage filed on April 1, 2011. She also borrowed $51,000.00 from the City of North Miami, as evidenced by a Purchase Money Mortgage also filed on April 1, 2011, as well as a Promissory Note.
If you’re wondering how someone is able to borrow money from a bank to buy a piece of property when she is already being foreclosed on for another piece of property, you are not alone.
Yet, somehow, Marie Enare Charles-Brutus, an individual who was already losing one home to foreclosure, was able to obtain first and second mortgages totaling $102,000.00 to purchase a property for $100,000.00, or more than 100% financing.
IRONY ALERT: The NSP program, designed to alleviate the national sub-prime (over-financed) mortgage disaster, fixed the problem by offering sub-prime (over-financed) mortgages. This concept is also known as Rocket Science for Dummies.
If that’s not insane enough, the second paragraph of the buyer’s Promissory Note to the City of North Miami states: “So long as the undersigned has not defaulted on payment of this note, or has not provided false information in support of the application for a loan, or has not otherwise violated the City of North Miami HOME Investment Partnership Program, this amount shall be partially forgiven in the amount of $3,400.00 each year over a fifteen (15) year period, until fully forgiven at the conclusion of fifteen (15) years.”
Yes, you read that correctly.
The City of North Miami acquired a home for a total of $154,802.02, then turned around and sold it for $100,000.00, or for a loss of $54,802.02.
On top of that, North Miami took back a second Purchase Money Mortgage for $51,000.00, which Marie Enare Charles-Brutus will not have to pay back.
That’s assuming the house remains her primary residence for the full fifteen years and that she “has not provided false information in support of the application for a loan.”
Oh, you mean, like, disclosing that she was related to someone who’s on the payroll of the City of North Miami?
In the end, the $51,000.00 that Charles-Brutus borrowed from Northern Trust toward the purchase price was the only return on North Miami’s $154,802.02 “investment.”
Yes, that sound you hear is exactly what you think it is.
If that’s not bad enough, here’s where it gets even better.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you already know that the City of North Miami had to repay the $154,802.12 to the U.S. Housing and Urban Development’s NSP grant fund after a review found that the City was in violation of Conflict of Interest regulations. It seems that Marie Steril forgot to mention that she was related to Marie Enare Charles-Brutus when Mama Marie applied for subsidized housing.
According to Tab J of Item 8. Consent Agenda for the North Miami City Council meeting held November 13, 2012, the Budget Manager recommended that the money be taken out of the General Fund and transferred back into the Neighborhood Stabilization Program Fund. According to the Minutes of that meeting, Councilman Scott Galvin moved to remove Tab J from the Consent Agenda, but his motion failed due to a lack of a second. Andre Pierre, who was Mayor at the time, asked for a vote to approve the Consent Agenda, Marie Steril seconded, and it passed 4-1, with Galvin being the only dissenting vote.
Ironically, Marie Steril’s vote to pay out $154,802.12 because of her own conflict of interest violation created yet another conflict of interest.
And, somehow, this was not a problem for the Miami-Dade County Commission on Ethics and Public Trust.
(Note to Ellen Abramson: Don’t bother asking, “Where are the authorities?” There’s your answer.)
If you’re shaking your head in disbelief over this entire fiasco, you are not alone.
Where else can an elected official get a free pass for helping her mom get a home for half price?
Where else can the taxpayers pay for the privilege of getting screwed … without getting kissed?
Welcome to Planet North Miami.
“Spreading the Wealth”