August is a bad month to be a mayor, at least in Florida. Not one, not two, but three chief executives of Sunshine State municipalities were led away in handcuffs in just the past three weeks, arrested on various corruption charges.
The latest entry in this hit parade is Steven Bateman, mayor since 2009 of Homestead, a Miami suburb of about 60,000 inhabitants. Bateman was arrested Wednesday on charges that he secretly took a $125 per hour consulting position with a health care company that was doing business with the city.
Bateman helped Community Health Care of South Florida, Inc., known as CHI, in efforts to get permits for a new clinic in Homestead, at the same time he was on the firm’s payroll, prosecutors say.
Bateman, 58, appeared in court yesterday (see photo) and was released on $21,500 bail posted by his wife.
The Bateman bust comes on the heels of an FBI sting operation that on Aug. 6 nabbed the mayors of Sweetwater and Miami Lakes taking suitcases and envelopes stuffed with cash. Federal prosecutors allege that the two mayors, Manuel Maroño, 41, of Sweetwater and Michael Pizzi, 51, of Miami Lakes, not only took bribes in exchange for helping businesses apply for federal grants, but they plotted together to siphon off a share of the grant money for themselves.
While those two mayors suffered the humiliation of being arrested at their mayoral offices, state law enforcement officials showed up at Bateman’s home yesterday, where he refused to answer the door for 20 minutes. When Bateman’s wife came home and entered the house, police were able to get inside and put the mayor in bracelets.
Bateman’s lawyer said he was taking a shower.
These sordid scenes are nothing new for the state of Florida. From 2000-2010, no state saw more public officials convicted on corruption charges, according Justice Department data cited in a study by the nonpartisan research group Integrity Florida.
SOURCES: CBS 4 Miami, Miami Herald, Integrity Florida