By Terrence McCoy
By Scott Fishman
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Allie Conti
By New Times Staff
By Ryan Pfeffer
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Kyle Swenson
After county staff approved the change based on Ferguson's letter, the Broward County Commission voted to accept the removal of the entrance during a June 29, 2004, meeting that was attended by Capellini and Lamia.
When questioned about these behind-the-scenes maneuverings, Lamia denied that removing the entrance was the mayor's idea.
"The county did that," he said.
Asked if that was true, Broward County traffic engineer Irene Cooper replied, "Absolutely not."
"We had many meetings and [Capellini and Lamia] said they didn't want to build the turn lane because it cost money and it would require dedication of some of their property," Cooper says. "Those are the usual reasons why people don't want to construct improvements."
The loss of the entrance may seem like a small thing, but it has galvanized the residents against Capellini and the project. That, however, hasn't affected the rising value of the land. A month after the site plan was approved by the commission, the land was sold to Plantation entrepreneur Randall Bast for $4 million. Property appraiser records show that it had been sold to a previous owner for just $1.4 million a year before. It isn't known if Capellini benefited from the substantial profit on the sale.
While owners have changed, one thing has remained constant: Capellini and Lamia have overseen the project from the start.
The Natura case comes on the heels of an investigative report in New Times last week detailing other apparent ethics violations and the mayor's insider dealings with architect Bill Gallo, another business partner of Capellini's. In addition to working on city-regulated projects with the mayor, Gallo also does work for the city. Records obtained by New Times show the city has paid Gallo's firm about $80,000 during the past five years. The only known contract the firm had with the city was supposed to pay a maximum of $25,000.
State law makes it a felony for a politician to use his elected office for personal profit. Currently, the U.S. Attorney's Office is investigating Broward Sheriff Ken Jenne under federal laws that forbid public officials from depriving the public of "honest services."
While there is no known criminal investigation of the mayor underway, numerous citizens are clamoring for just that.
"He snuck around our backs because he has a financial interest in the office park," says 90-year-old Annette Heimowitz, who braved the hot sun during Friday's protest near her home in Natura. "And he shouldn't be allowed to do that."