Stacks of cash, a disputed election and the fight over a historic preservation group

Miami Herald 2 months ago

It all started with a thick stack of cash, a political consultant known to some as the "Prince of Darkness," and a dispute over the future of a historic preservation group that has played an outsize role in shaping Miami Beach's urban landscape.

Following a contested board election in June, the Miami Design Preservation League — a nonprofit that has worked to save Miami Beach's Art Deco buildings and proved adept at blocking development that it feels harms historic neighborhoods — has been thrown into turmoil. Its bank accounts have been frozen, the office locks changed and its executive director suspended as two competing groups vie for control of the organization.

Last week, the dispute landed in court, with one camp asking a judge to intervene through a request for a temporary injunction. On Wednesday, a Miami-Dade Circuit Court judge will hear arguments from both sides.

The fight has prompted concern from Miami Beach officials. The city provides roughly $45,000 a year in funding to the group and had earmarked $100,000 for Art Deco Weekend, an annual event organized by the preservation league. City Attorney Raul Aguila has asked members of the competing factions not to come to public meetings purporting to speak on behalf of the organization until the conflict is resolved. He cautioned that the battle threatens to jeopardize the city's funding and the group's ability to manage the Art Deco Welcome Center on Ocean Drive.

"Again, we urge you to resolve this matter quickly and expeditiously, so as not to jeopardize MDPL’s contractual status and/or funding with the City," Aguila told the factions in an e-mail.

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