Miami’s Omni CRA holds on to $10.7 million owed to Miami-Dade County

The city of Miami’s Omni Community Redevelopment Agency is responsible for 35% of the debt service paid for the Adrienne Arsht Performing Arts Center. It is so delineated in the 2007 interlocal agreement and has always been paid. Every year.

Until now.

The city owes the county more than $10.7 million, according to a memo from Rasha Cameau, assistant director of Community Redevelopment and Municipal Services with the office of budget management. She wrote that the payment was approved by the Omni board, City Commission and Board of County Commissioners as part of the 2021-22 budget.

“To date we have yet to receive payment or a response to our inquiries,” Cameau wrote in a second notice sent June 2. The first notice was sent April 27. The payment was due March 31. “Nonpayment of the agreed upon disbursement may jeopardize future extension negotiations.”

Read related: Miami Commissioner cleans house at Omni CRA after his crony is kicked out

The Omni CRA sunsets or ceases to exist in 2030 and the county may not be in the mood to extend that if the city is not going to keep its word.

This is important because the CRA’s $65 million budget is already mostly dedicated to existing and ongoing affordable housing projects, grants and debt service for the PAC and for the port tunnel. This is a pot of $10,761,636 that the new chairman, Alex Diaz de la Portilla, can do whatever he wants with. Las malas lenguas say he has no intention of paying — he didn’t want to pay last year — and is willing to pick a fight with the county.

Diaz de la Portilla has a specific interest in the Omni CRA. He fought for it, taking it from Commissioner Ken Russell, who actually represents the district where the Omni CRA lies. Remember, this is where ADLP put longtime lackey Jenny Nillo in as a “community liaison” for $45,000 a year. She was making $53,000 by the time she was fired. Do all city employees get such nice raises. She must have been doing a good job running errands for the commissioner and drinking beer in her city car.

Read related: Alex Diaz de la Portilla is investigated on ghost city employee at Omni CRA

When he first told the former director to hire her, it was as an Allapattah liaison. After he was told that Allapattah wasn’t in the district, The Dean started talking about expanding the CRA so it includes the Allapattah District where he was elected. Because the Omni is not in his district.

Anyway, he was removed as chair after Nillo was stopped by police drinking and driving was fired (though Diaz de la Portilla rehired her to work in his district office) and then became chair again earlier this year. He took no time to fire then executive director Jason Walker — who Nillo calls “James Walker” in her interview with investigators, because she never worked there — and then cleaned house asking for resignations from the top three administrators. He put in Bert Gonzalez to do exactly what he just did: Say nothing.

ADLP doesn’t answer legitimate questions. Omni CRA Executive Director Bert Gonzalez, who was handpicked by ADLP, did his duty and told Ladra nothing Friday.

“I have no comment on that. It’s a matter of protocol,” he said. What protocol? “I have protocol I need to follow. I follow procedures as dictated to me by the board.”

Read related: Omni CRA head ousted by Miami city commissioner who hired ghost staffer

Does that mean the board told him not to pay? No, he said. Then why? He wouldn’t tell Ladra but suggested calling the county to see what he said.

“I’ve communicated and they have my answer. I’ve talked to them over the phone,” he said. “I’m not going to get into a he said, she said with you.”

But that’s exactly what it would be if Cameau had been available for comment.

Stay tuned. The Omni CRA is worth watching.

Second payment request to city of Miami from Miami-Dade for PAC debt service by Political Cortadito on Scribd