Homestead Mayor Steve Bateman was released on $21,500 bond Wednesday evening after he was arrested on public corruption charges, becoming the third South Florida mayor arrested this month.
Bateman, 58, was arrested at his home early Wednesday morning on five charges, including two felonies and three misdemeanors, authorities said. The charges include two counts of unlawful compensation, unregistered lobbying, exploitation of his position and acquiring financial interests related to a secret consulting job with a Florida health clinic company, authorities said.
He was ordered held on $21,500 bond and was behind bars at the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center until his release, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said at a news conference.
"It's another very sad day for the people of Miami-Dade County and it's an even sadder day for the City of Homestead," Fernandez Rundle said.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott suspended him.
"I join all Floridians in profound disappointment that another elected official has been arrested and accused of violating the public’s trust," Scott said in a statement. "Elected officials that break the law must be prosecuted to its fullest extent. All elected officials must be held to the highest ethical standard."
The investigation centers on Bateman's paid consultant job with Community Health of South Florida Inc., which began in February, Fernandez Rundle said.
According to Fernandez Rundle, the nonprofit company paid Bateman $120,000 for his services through February 2014. He also billed the company at $125 per hour for a meeting with Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, Fernandez Rundle said.
Prosecutors who worked along with the County Ethics Commission say Bateman never revealed to Gimenez, or his own Homestead elected officials, that he was working for the Medical non profit.
The company had been seeking approval from the Homestead city council to expand in the city.
Authorities say Bateman never disclosed his consulting work to city staff or council members. They also say Bateman sought county approval for sewer improvements for the health clinic without disclosing his job with the company.
"We believe that enriching oneself by using the power and the prestige of an elected public office not only enrages the community but more importantly and fundamentally it violates the law," Fernandez Rundle said. "No one would argue that everyone has the right to a job of their choice, of course they do, but a half truth as to who you're representing and who you're working for is not right. This is all to do about honest disclosure, in our view, he failed to do that."
Sources told NBC 6 that Bateman voted more than once to approve a pump project that would ultimately aid the firm that hired him.
The City of Homestead City Manager, George Gretsas said: "Abuses of power took place with this individual. Staff was bullied, people had special favors done for them," he said.
"Today is a good day justice has been served it was shortly after Mr. Bateman was elected mayor that I noticed he was going against the city charter," said Judy Walkman, who is on the city council.
Attorney Ben Kuehne provided Bateman's defense.
"Mr. Bateman - Mayor Bateman - looks forward to holding his head up high to continuing to serve his community and to obtain his ultimate vindication on a case that we believe should never have been brought," Kuehne said.
Bateman was elected Homestead's mayor in 2009 and won re-election in 2011. He served as the city's vice mayor and councilman and was the chairman of the city's planning and zoning board.
An arrest affidavit shows Bateman earns a base salary of $6,000, and receives other monetary benefits from the city in excess of $33,000 a year. He also receives health and life insurance and a retirement account, the affidavit said.
According to his profile on CityofHomestead.com, Bateman has lived in Homestead since 1966 and is the owner and president of Two Brothers Construction, Inc., which is based in the city.
The arrest comes just days after the mayors of Miami Lakes and Sweetwater were arrested on public corruption charges.
Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi and Sweetwater Mayor Manuel Marono were also suspended by Gov. Scott following their arrests by federal authorities on Aug. 6 on charges of conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right. Their arraignments have been scheduled for Sept. 20.
Check back with NBC 6 South Florida and NBC6.com for updates.
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