With the latest arrests in the part of the federal corruption probe involving Miramar construction projects, another big name is coming to light: Hall of Fame Miami Dolphin Dwight Stephenson.
Although there's no indication that Stephenson did anything wrong, his politically connected construction firm, D. Stephenson Construction, is involved in Miramar city projects that federal officials say were marred by allegations of bribery and graft.
Named in a new criminal complaint yesterday was Skip Aniekwu, a construction representative for local heavyweight construction firm Gulf Building Corp., which is owned by John Scherer, son of local attorney and power broker Bill Scherer.
Scherer had been a longtime partner of John D. Collins, who founded Gulf and is a former North Broward Hospital District commissioner but recently bought out Collins. Collins served on the hospital board at the same time Bill Scherer served as the district's general counsel. When Gov. Jeb Bush moved to clean up the board after a series of scandals, both men were among many who were removed from their public positions. Small world, eh?
Aniekwu represented Gulf in deals it made with the City of Miramar to build a multiservice complex and a sports complex, projects worth about $30 million. According to the feds, he was involved in a $50,000 bribe. There's no indication at this time that Scherer or Collins was involved in the criminal wrongdoing.
Partnering with Gulf in the Miramar deals was D. Stephenson Construction, owned by Hall of Fame center Dwight Stephenson, one of the greatest Dolphins players of all time. The company does a great deal of government work, the brunt of it for the Broward County School Board, which is also ensnared in the federal investigation. Here's a link to a city site that lists Stephenson and Gulf as partners on the multiservices building.
Here's where it gets interesting: Stephenson's firm helped snare the lucrative projects in part due to the company's
minority status. But once the building began, D. Stephenson Construction had little to do with it. In fact, when Gulf announced its completion of the projects, Stephenson wasn't even mentioned.
It needs to be made clear that there's no indication Stephenson did anything wrong. But a lingering question is: Did Stephenson use the minority status to help obtain the contracts for Gulf and Aniekwu for a fee and then walk away?
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I called Stephenson this morning at his construction office in Fort Lauderdale and left a voice mail for him. I did manage to get his son, Dwight Jr., on the phone to ask him about the federal investigation. He told me that he was aware of the federal investigation but that he didn't believe the FBI had contacted his father.
"You really need to talk to my father about that," said Dwight Stephenson Jr. "I wouldn't want to say the wrong thing."
Did the company do anything wrong?
"We cannot operate like that," he said. "It's not moral."