A judge again dismissed a lawsuit filed against the city of Miami Beach by the owner of a bankrupt nightclub at the center of a 2012 FBI extortion attack that led to the arrest of seven city employees .
The 2013 lawsuit by former Ocean Drive nightclub owner and FBI informant Haim Turgman sought $ 15 million in damages from the city and claimed that a pattern of harassment by crooked city inspectors had led to the closure of his club, known as Chakra 5 and, later, Club Dolce. The lawsuit had already been dismissed in 2016, but the decision was overturned on appeal.
On March 30, Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Mark Blumstein again dismissed the complaint, dismissing Turgman’s claim that the city had violated its due process rights and should be held accountable. the foreclosure of the place in 2012.
“The plaintiffs have provided no evidence that the city acted with willful disregard for due process rights or that the city caused or acted as a ‘driving force behind the constitutional violation …” wrote Blumstein in his prescription. “The plaintiffs are simply seeking to hold the city vicariously accountable for the illegal actions of some rogue city employees.”
The lawsuit also listed the seven former city employees as defendants, but most never responded to the processing servers and dropped the case. The city, the main target of the lawsuit, expects the club to appeal the lower court’s decision again.
Yet for Miami Beach City Hall, which over the past few years has suffered a string of high-level public corruption arrests involving city employees, the court order was news that deserved attention. to be celebrated.
Acting City Manager Raul Aguila released a statement Tuesday saying he was “satisfied” with the order, stressing that the city employs “thousands of honest and hardworking people who serve the community faithfully every day” and has a fair process for dealing with complaints of illegal processing. by city employees.
“We have also worked around the clock to make sure that the misdeeds of a few rogue employees over ten years ago will never happen again, and we will continue to do so every day,” said Aguila.
The club’s complaint
Turgman, who opened the club in 2006, argued in his legal complaint that the club had lost income and was unable to pay its mortgage due to harassment from city inspectors who had issued false citations.
In 2011, Turgman spoke to the FBI after he said that a Miami Beach code enforcement inspector threatened to fine the club $ 30,000 for discarded promotional flyers unless Turgman paid the club. the inspector a bribe of $ 3,000, according to court records.
Following an FBI injection, five code officers and two firefighters were arrested. Turgman, who was appointed a paid informant, worked with an undercover agent posing as a club manager to catch city workers paying bribes.
Criminal complaints suggested that city employees had been accepting bribes for years. In his lawsuit, Turgman alleged that the city had failed to create policies to prevent harassment and extortion among employees.
In his order, Blumstein wrote that Turgman has yet to “identify a single date, time or circumstance when the allegedly harassing” inspections “or visits” took place … or the names of city inspectors or officials. . And if the harassment had taken place, Turgman could have reported it to the city or appealed against the citations issued.
The bribes, he wrote, came more than a year and a half after Turgman stopped making mortgage payments on the club.
Turgman did not immediately respond to a request for comment from his lawyers on Tuesday.
Miami Beach City’s First Deputy Attorney-at-Law Rob Rosenwald, who headed the city’s legal defense, released a statement Tuesday alleging that Turgman “attempted to take advantage of the unfortunate fact that a former code compliance had solicited a bribe ”from him.
“The simple fact is that Mr. Turgman’s nightclub failed because he had no previous experience running a club in Miami Beach and his first attempt to do so coincided with the Great Recession which crippled many businesses around this time, ”Rosenwald wrote. “The court correctly concluded that Turgman had presented no evidence that the city caused him a loss, and even if it did, the city had adequate procedures to have someone in Turgman’s position remedies it. Turgman simply failed to use them.
In a memo to the Miami Beach City Commission on Thursday, Acting City Attorney Rafael Paz wrote that since the FBI bite, the city has stepped up its oversight of code enforcement, equipping City vehicles equipped with GPS location tracking technology and requiring code inspectors to wear body cameras when interacting with the public and recording their inspections.
In 2019, the commission created the Office of the Inspector General at City Hall to, in part, eradicate corruption.
“After the 2012 FBI operation that led to this trial, the city enacted even more comprehensive reforms that were successful in preventing any further allegations of corruption or other misconduct on the part of code compliance inspectors or officials. firefighters, ”Paz wrote.