At City of Miami's request, state attorney probes Bayside Minority Foundation funds
By Jacquelyn Weiner
Responding to Miami city commissioners' call for answers, the state attorney's office has opened an investigation into the Bayside Minority Foundation's finances, a spokesman says.
But the foundation executive director's attorney says his client has nothing to hide.
"There's no secret about how the foundation has spent its money," said William Barzee, foundation Executive Director Dwayne Wynn's attorney.
The Bayside Minority Foundation was created at the City of Miami's urging in the '80s when downtown's Bayside Marketplace was built on city-owned land.
Charged with aiding minority-owned businesses, the foundation's duties include facilitating a loan guaranty program for minority businesses, creating a scholarship fund for minorities and providing technical assistance to community/economic development organizations, according to the city clerk's office.
To fund its initiatives, the foundation collects 10% of net retail income or $100,000 — whichever is greater — from mall manager Bayside Marketplace.
More than $1.2 million has been paid to the foundation since 2004.
Attorney Mr. Barzee said the foundation has been "operating largely in the open with great transparency."
However, Miami commissioners disagree.
At a June City of Miami commission meeting, commissioners voted to seek the state attorney's aid in unveiling how the foundation is spending its money.
Commissioners and foundation board members complained at the meeting that their inquiries into the foundation's finances went unanswered.
Miami commissioners appoint five of the foundation's 15 board members.
Reached Tuesday evening, Mr. Barzee said the foundation would gladly share how it has been spending its money, but that he couldn't provide exact numbers at the late hour.
Mr. Barzee insisted that the foundation has always operated transparently and called charges that the foundation has not been forthcoming "absolutely and totally ridiculous."
The city is "trying to cause some smoke when there is none," he said.
When asked why the city would call for an investigation if the foundation's finances are public information, Mr. Barzee said he thinks "It has to do with the City of Miami's finances."
"Unfortunately, they're politics as usual," he said.
Mr. Barzee also added that his client Mr. Wynn "does not handle finances of the foundation."
Mr. Wynn has declined to discuss specifics of the group's finances with Miami Today in the past, saying the foundation is private.
Still, the investigation moves on, but little can be shared until the inquiry is closed.
"We do have an ongoing investigation," Miami-Dade state attorney's office spokesman Ed Griffith wrote in an e-mail. However, "It would be improper for us to be discussing any aspect of an ongoing investigation."