Despite her overwhelming influence that enabled her to silence a community newspaper, Miami Lakes Vice Mayor Nancy Simon was unable to influence the Florida Department of Business and Department Regulation, who found her “guilty of having operated as a broker or sales associate without being the holder of a valid and current license as a broker or sales associate.”
The state regulatory agency filed its report on Jan. 18th, 2008, after investigating the allegations against Simon for several months.
Now it’s up to the State Attorney’s Office to proceed with the investigation, which can land Simon in prison for five years because it is a third-degree felony.
Simon received more than $28,000 in commissions from three separate sales since allowing her real estate license to expire on Sept. 3rd, 2004, according to the report.
Despite evidence against her that include a disbursement statement, a settlement statement and a signed contract, Simon told WSVN-TV reporter Carmel Caifero that she is innocent of all charges.
“But, the fact is, I’ve not made one dime off of real estate for three years, one dime,” she said.
Apparently, denial is not just a river that runs through Egypt. It also runs through the drinking water in Miami Lakes.
Also in denial is Roger Reece, the editor of the community newspaper, The Miami Laker. He insists the paper’s decision to cease all political coverage had nothing to do with the fact that Simon complained about an article that revealed she was under investigation.
In a faxed statement to Seven News, editor Roger Reece wrote, “We don’t believe our role as a community newspaper is compatible with the extensive coverage expectations of local politicians.”
Reece is not only an embarrassment to journalism, he is an embarrassment to the community he supposedly serves.
Thankfully, Caifero is a solid reporter. She was the one who last November broke the story about Simon being under investigation.
But it was Miami Lakes residents Gus Abella and Miriam Mendoza who first reported Simon to the state last July. Simon has since filed a restraining order against Abella, whom she claims came after her in a Publix parking lot.
The petition alleges Abella “came out of his car swinging his hands in the air and screaming at her. The petitioner (Simon) ran to her car and left with her family.”
It should be mentioned that Simon also sped off in her car when Caifero first approached her back in November, only to return a few minutes later.
A few weeks after Caifero’s first story aired, Miami Laker reporter David Snelling wrote an article about the investigation, detailing Caifero’s report. Perhaps knowing all to well that she would have the story killed, he wrote the story without calling her for comment. But nothing in the story was inaccurate.
When the article hit the streets, Simon did all she could to prevent her constituents from reading the article, including going around town and removing as many newspapers as she could from various vending machines, doing her civic duty to protect the First Amendment.
Then she raised hell with Stu Wyllie, president of Graham Companies, which owns the Laker. According to The Miami Herald:
“I called Stu Wyllie and told him I can’t have this outside my door. Stu’s a good friend of mine … In town we’ve known that The Miami Laker wouldn’t write these type of incendiary stories,” Simon said.
“I think that’s why David never called me (for the story). Whoever put him up to this knew that if Stu Wyllie found out, he wouldn’t allow that trash to get into the paper.”
The newspaper then announced that it would no longer cover local politics, something it had been doing for several decades. Last month, 20 members of the Miami Lakes Civics Association stood in front of the Miami Laker building and protested its decision, according to the Herald.
Hoisting a sign that read ”No Censorship,” resident Elena Gonzalez said when she heard that the paper was no longer covering politics, it reminded her of the Cuba she fled in 1961.”This is depriving all of us loyal residents from getting the information we relied on,” Gonzalez said.
Just as upset was association member Lee Medina, who said she has been an avid reader of The Laker for years.
”It’s not fair that the paper is being cornered into this position,” Medina said. “I’ve been living here for 29 years and I always look forward to reading The Laker. If they’re not covering the town’s affairs like they used to, what’s left for a citizen like me?”
Graham Companies, which planned, developed and practically owns Miami Lakes , was launched years ago by former Florida governor Bob Graham and two of his brothers. In fact, Bob Graham, one of the most influential politicians in the history of Florida, still owns a $10 million stake in the company.
With connections like that, it’s no wonder why Simon is so confident she will beat this rap.