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Former Mayor Loses Appeal of Lobbying Convictions

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Posted: Sunday, December 31, 2017 1:17 pm | Updated: 2:03 pm, Sun Dec 31, 2017.

  Third District Court of Appeal issued an opinion on December 20 rejecting former Homestead Mayor Steve Bateman’s appeal of his criminal conviction. 

   The five count indictment was issued in 2013 by a grand jury, stemming from a Miami-Dade County ethics investigation.  The state rejected one count of exploitation of his official position and took Bateman to trial on the remaining four counts. 

The jury found him guilty of unlawful compensation for official behavior (Count 1), illegal lobbying, and unlawful compensation for exerting influence.  

   The jury acquitted Bateman of acquiring a financial interest in conflict with official actions.  The trial judge also granted Bateman’s motion for acquittal on Count 1, rejecting the state’s motion for rehearing. 

   Bateman was sentenced to twenty-two months for unlawful compensation exerting influence and sixty days for illegal lobbying to run concurrently with the initial sentence. 

The story starts with Community Health of South Florida (“CHI”).    

   The non-profit group wanted to build a children’s crisis center in Homestead on CHI’s available lot (Bateman v. State, 2017 Fla. App. LEXIS 19373, pg. 2).

   The building needed to hook up to the City sewer which was under an EPA moratorium until the City pgraded the sewer pump station.  Miami-Dade’s DERM would not issue a permit until that happened. 

Homestead had already approved money for the pump upgrade in 2012 but DERM approval was delayed so CHI could not build.  Bateman contacted CHI and signed a consulting contract to assist with the project.  As Homestead Mayor, he then met with the County Mayor and Deputy about permitting for the project but he did not reveal his contract with CHI and never registered as a lobbyist.  Bateman billed CHI for the meetings and a later phone conference. 

The Appeals Court agreed with the trial court’s acquittal on Count 1 and with convictions on the two other charges.  The trial court said “The county ordinance definition of lobbyist is broad and included what Bateman did here, even if the company did not label him that way.”  After legal analysis of the record, the Appeals Court expressly agreed.

Any appeal from the Third District Court’s opinion would be to the Florida Supreme Court, although no notice of appeal has been filed.  The state would issue a directive before Bateman has to surrender and begin serving his sentence in a state prison.    

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