Miami Shores

Miami Archbishop Announces Findings Of Investigation Into Priest Accused Of Improprieties

Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski released a letter to the parishioners of St. Rose of Lima in Miami Shores today on his investigation of the parish’s former priest Father Pedro Corces.

In it, Wenski claimed that many of the allegations leveled against Corces in a 129 page dossier of information were not true.

However, Wenski’s investigation also found that Corces was not fit for service as a parish priest and he accepted Corces’ resignation.

Wenski’s investigation was prompted after a group of concerned parents at St. Rose accused Corces of putting children at the school in “grave danger” after he allegedly hired a man as a school maintenance worker who was once arrested on prostitution charges.

The parents united under the name of Christifidelis and they paid a private investigator over $3,500 to surveil Father Corces to help them build a case against him. Once they could no longer afford the investigator’s services, parents took to surveilling Father Corces on their own, even digging around the rectory trash to find incriminating documents.

The parent’s report also alleged that Father Corces took frequent expensive vacations, sometimes with a St. Rose maintenance worker and that he often spent the night at the same workers condo where they claimed Corces paid the cable bill.

Read More: Miami Priest Accused Of Hiring School Maintenance Worker Who Was Once Arrested For Prostitution

During the investigation, Wenski said that Corces volunteered to take a polygraph exam and that the priest denied any sexual improprieties with school maintenance staff.

“The investigation of these allegations is now completed,” Wenski said in the letter. “Based on the outcome of extensive interviews of all persons that could have knowledge of the truth of these allegations as well as the results of a voluntary polygraph examination of Fr. Corces, it is concluded that no sexual impropriety had occurred. Nevertheless, Father’s decisions to hire friends to work for the Parish and his continues socializing with them outside the Parish did contribute to the perception among some of inappropriate behavior.”

Read the whole letter:

Letter from Archbishop Wenski on Fr. Corces Investigation

Interestingly, while short on specifics, Wenski’s letter did say something damning about Corces:

“The investigation did identify other deficiencies with Fr. Corces’ administration in which we failed to follow clear Archdiocesan policies.”

While trying to put a bow on the story, Wenski may have only opened up more questions as to the full extent of what actually happened.

For example, which specific deficiencies were there with Corces’ administration?

Which clear Archdiocesan policies did he not follow?

Why was Sister Bernadette Keane fired from her role as principal before the end of the school year?

Did the maintenance worker not have a criminal record when he was hired?

Read More: “SAVE OUR SISTERS”: The Nuns At This Miami Shores Catholic School Are Leaving After 35 Years, And People Are Really Mad About It

This is a developing story. Stay with RISE NEWS for further updates. 

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.

Miami Priest Accused Of Hiring School Maintenance Worker Who Was Once Arrested For Prostitution

UPDATED- May 26, 5:25 PM EST

BREAKING- Father Pedro Corces has been asked to step down as the pastor of St. Rose of Lima according to a statement from the Archdiocese of Miami.

The principal of the school Sister Bernadette Keane has also been replaced by a Archdiocese official for the reminder of the school year

The announcements came in a letter emailed to parents at St. Rose on Thursday afternoon.

In it, Archbishop Thomas Wenski announced that he has asked for Father Pedro Corces to step down as pastor of St. Rose of Lima in an effort to fix the “fractured” spirit and unity at the church and its associated school after a group of parents and a private investigator published a 129 dossier of information filled with allegations against Father Corces.

This is developing and this story will be updated. 

Read the full statement from Archbishop Thomas Wenski:

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Original Story: 

A group of concerned parents at St. Rose Of Lima School in Miami Shores have accused their parish priest, Father Pedro Corces, of putting children at the school in “grave danger” after he allegedly hired a man as a school maintenance worker who was once arrested on prostitution charges.

That allegation and many others were made in a 129 page “dossier” of information prepared by a group of parents at the school organized under the name of Christifidelis @ Saint Rose of Lima Miami Shores.

The group also paid a private investigator over $3,500 to surveil Father Corces to help them build a case against him. Once they could no longer afford the investigator’s services, parents took to surveilling Father Corces on their own.

The document was leaked to RISE NEWS on Friday afternoon and it alleges that Father Corces is in a relationship with a school maintenance worker named Juan Alberto Cardenas.

The group and the private investigator both assert that Cardenas has been arrested on three separate occasions including in 2000 after he allegedly offered oral sex to an undercover police officer for $15.

The private investigator said that he got a hold of Cardenas’ date of birth and then matched his mugshot photos to those found on social media and through surveillance to ensure it was the same person.

Cardenas was also arrested in 2002 on a charge of uttering forged bills and in 2004 for making false insurance claims.

The document also alleges that Father Corces takes frequent expensive vacations, sometimes with Cardenas and that he often spends the night at Cardenas’ condo where he pays for his employee’s cable bill.

 MARCH 11, 2016 (FRIDAY NIGHT): After dinner, Father Pedro and Alberto Cardenas went to the Flamingo Theater Bar to watch a show by Cuban signer Carlos Varela. Below are three photographs taken by the bar’s official photographer.

This photo taken on March 11, 2016 shows Father Pedro Corces (L) and Alberto Cardenas (R) at the Flamingo Theater Bar where they watched a show by Cuban signer Carlos Varela. Photo Credit: Christifidelis

Christifidelis is a group of “faithful Catholics” according to group spokesperson Rosa Armesto.

Most of them have children at the school and they take the name of their group from a similar effort of unrelated activists who worked to uncover what they called a “homosexual super culture” in the Archdiocese of Miami in 2005.

The original Christifidelis came to national prominence after Gawker published their findings in 2011.

Many of the allegations Christifidelis leveled at Father Corces surround his sexuality and some of the document can read as being anti-gay.

RISE NEWS has only decided to report on some of the allegations after confirming the group’s findings with the private investigator involved in the investigation.

Background

Father Corces first came under scrutiny from some members of the St. Rose community after the shock announcement in January that the nuns that have run the school since 1981 were being asked to leave. Parents rebelled and demanded answers but received little in the way of clarification.

Read More: “SAVE OUR SISTERS”: The Nuns At This Miami Shores Catholic School Are Leaving After 35 Years, And People Are Really Mad About It

While publicly supporting the Archdiocese’s line that they had been asked to withdraw from St. Rose by the Motherhouse in Pennsylvania due to the declining supply of sisters in the United States, some of the nuns were privately telling parents that Father Corces had pushed them out.

As a result, the community became divided between the side of the nuns and that of the parish priest.

Some even feel that Father Corces lied to them about the situation and that he tried to stop parents from talking about it.

“There is undeniably a reign of intimidation from Fr. Pedro Corces,” Armesto said in a phone interview.

The Hunt For Answers

Christifidelis took serious actions in order to build their case about Father Corces.

Some of the information was gathered when a family that lives next to the rectory allowed cameras to be placed in rooms in their house to surveil activities there.

From that source and others, the group was able to determine that many people were coming and going into the rectory at all hours of the night, raising suspicions about who actually lives there.

“We’ve seen people over there who are not priests,” the man who owns the home next to the rectory said in an interview. He gave his name but asked for it not to be published after his wife objected. “A lot of weird things have been going on. It doesn’t look right.”

Other neighbors didn’t want to talk about the situation but one said that he hadn’t really noticed anything out of the ordinary since Father Corces had moved there a few years ago.

But according to the family that allowed their house to become a surveillance outpost, things are different.

“We used to have a little community thing for all of us that lived around the lake. We always had a Christmas get together. But since this guy [Father Corces] came here, things changed.”

Christifidelis also searched the trash left outside of the rectory on numerous occasions, where it claimed to find a tax form for a massage business that Cardenas runs.

“The fact that such form was filled in the rectory also suggests a closer relationship between Father Pedro and Alberto Cardenas than the usual boss‐subordinate relationship,” Christifidelis wrote in the report. “It also raises the question as to whether Father Pedro provides tax or financial advice of some type.”

A high-ranking school official who wished to remain anonymous due to concerns over potential retribution said that she became frustrated after discovering that there was no contact information on record for the maintenance workers.

She also said that it was widely known that three of the maintenance workers including Cardenas have keys to the rectory, which was not standard practice before the new workers were hired.

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Surveillance photos allegedly showing Cardenas entering rectory. Photo Credit: Christifidelis

Cardenas was hired in 2015 as a worker at the school according to Christifidelis, about a year and a half after Father Corces fired a “significant portion” of the longstanding maintenance staff.

The firings came around Christmas of 2014 and were a surprise to many in the community.

Little information about the maintenance staff can be found on the school’s website.

In fact, on the “Staff Pictures 2016” page, four of the maintenance staff are the only people without pictures included. Cardenas’ name is not even on the page.

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The maintenance staff has seemed to take a more low-key role in the life of the school since Father Corces fired most of them in 2014.

The new crew, including Cardenas has never appeared in the St. Rose yearbook for example, one of the few moments when a parent can physically see all the people who work around their children.

But a review of St. Rose yearbooks going back to 2008 shows that the maintenance staff were always included in the staff pictures section except for in 2015 and 2016.

Armesto, the Christifidelis spokesperson claimed that she saw a pre published version of the 2016 yearbook and that in it were the names of the maintenance workers without pictures. However, the final published version of the book does not include the names or pictures of the workers.

A group of parents at the school had hoped to hold a rosary prayer session before the 9 AM Mass on May 22 in order to pray for the “well-being of the parish”. It happened to also be the 28th anniversary of Father Corces’ ordination into the priesthood.

However they were not allowed to pray after being told by a priest that they needed to clear any sort of demonstration with the Archbishop.

When reached for comment via phone, Archdiocese spokesperson Mary Ross Agosta started laughing and said “Oh, you again,” to a RISE NEWS reporter.

When asked about the contents of the Christifidelis report, Ross Agosta refused to talk about them.

Ross Agosta then said that she had nothing to say and hung up the phone.

RISE NEWS has been unable to speak to Father Corces or Alberto Cardenas.

UPDATE #1- The Broward Palm Beach New Times is reporting that the Archdiocese of Miami has “initiated” an “investigation in accordance with canon law” into the accusations made against Father Corces.

UPDATE #2- St. Rose school officials sent home a letter to parents on Tuesday afternoon announcing that some “lay employees”- presumably some of the maintenance men have been placed on administrative leave by Archbishop Wenski pending an ongoing investigation into the allegations.

Here is the text of the full letter sent home to parents:

“Allegations of misconduct at St. Rose of Lima Parish not involving minors were brought to Archbishop Thomas Wenski last week. The Archbishop takes the allegations seriously. In accordance with canon law and Archdiocesan policies, the Archbishop immediately initiated an investigation that is ongoing. At the present time Father Corces is attending a previously scheduled retreat. The lay employees in question have been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.”

Read The Full Report

Have a tip about this story or something similar? Send us an email to editor@risenews.net. 

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.

“Chupacabra”? Miami Suburb Falls In Love With Mysterious Animal

A small white animal that some think resembles a fox has become something like an urban legend in Miami Shores.

The animal probably is a fox but it has no tail and is stark white, giving credence to the idea that it could be some sort of hybrid animal.

It has been spotted for months in different parts of the northern Miami suburb and is suspected by some residents to live on the local golf course.

There are a number of red foxes that live in the neighborhood but none of them come close to the unique appearance of this one.

Bengy Cid, a Shores resident posted this picture of the animal on the Miami Shores Village People Facebook page:

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What could it be? Photo Credit: Bengy Cid/ Facebook

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure it’s a fox,” Miami Shores resident Jorge Diaz said on the neighborhood Facebook group. “…we see him almost every evening by our house… Looks like the poor little guy lost his tail and a portion of his ear…. He seems gentle although he never gets too close.”

However at least one Miami Shores resident joked on the online forum that the animal was a “Chupacabra“, the mythical creature thought to attack animals and people.

We’re going to send the link to this piece to Zoo Miami guru Ron Magill to get an expert opinion. We’ll update this piece if we hear back from him.

In the meantime, what do you think it is?

What Is This Animal?

View Results

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RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Bengy Cid‎/Facebook

Police Raid Suspected Marijuana Growhouse in Miami Shores

UPDATED: 2:18 PM EST

Local authorities raided a suspected hydroponic marijuana grow house in Miami Shores early this morning.

According to NBC 6 Miami, one person was arrested.

The arrest happened at 269 NE 104th St, and is about two blocks away from St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church School and Miami Shores Elementary.

According to WSVN, local police carried out a large black bag full of what officials said was drugs.

The street is typically quiet and not used to police activity.

Victor O’Harriz has lived behind the house in question for over 10 years and said that he never really noticed anything weird happening there.

“Everything is quiet around here all the time,” O’Harriz said. “It’s strange but we’re in a new era and things can happen even in the best neighborhoods.

The street is back open to vehicular traffic after being shut down for multiple hours.

And an orange notice saying that the home is unsafe for inhabitance has been placed on a front window.

Miami Shores police referred requests for comment to the Miami-Dade Police department as they are handling the case.
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RISE NEWS is on scene and will update this story with additional information as it becomes available.

“SAVE OUR SISTERS”: The Nuns At This Miami Shores Catholic School Are Leaving After 35 Years, And People Are Really Mad About It

MIAMI SHORES, FL- St. Rose of Lima Catholic School is a small Pre K-8 school that has been one of the most important bedrock institutions in this northern Miami suburb since it was started in 1951.

And since the start, the school has been staffed and led by nuns.

For the first 30 years, Adrian Dominican Sisters led the school until the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) took over in 1981.

The IHM has supplied the school of roughly 500 with a handful of teachers and a principal since the first year of the Reagan administration, while the rest of the teaching and administration jobs were filled by lay people- some of whom are non Catholics.

All of this changed last Thursday when the school announced that the IHM sisters would not be returning for another year due to the lack of women religious it had to support its mission there.

In a letter, St. Rose’s Principal Sister Bernadette Keane explained to parents why the decision was made:

“Dear Parents, it is with a heavy heart that I write this letter to you as this letter informs you that our community, the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, finds it necessary to begin the process of withdrawal from St. Rose of Lima School and Convent as of June, 2016,” the letter reads in part. “For 170 years our Congregation has been faithful to the mission of Catholic education in our Catholic schools. However, at this time we do not have the number of sisters needed to staff the schools we are presently serving.”

Keane went on to thank the St. Rose community for the past 35 years of service.

The reaction was met with anger and outrage by many in the St. Rose community.

A Facebook page called Show your Support for our St Rose IHM Sisters was launched and an online petition designed to keep the nuns at the school is also circulating.

Many parents don’t believe the letter and think that the nuns are being forced out by the Parish Priest, Father Pedro Corces.

Many parents don’t believe the letter and think that the nuns are being forced out by the Parish Priest, Father Pedro Corces.

Salvador Barreiros wanted his kids to go to St. Rose so badly, that he and his wife moved close to the school shortly before the birth of their first child.

Now he has two children at the school and jokes about the potential of his newborn going there as well, “St. Rose may have me for another 14 years.”

READ MORE: Authorities Investigating Potential Criminal Wrongdoing In Miami Shores Charter School Scandal

But Barreiros, the Treasurer of the Home and School Board was so angered by the decision that he launched the Facebook page in support of the nuns and the petition calling for the Archdiocese of Miami to do “everything possible to keep the IHM Sisters at St Rose School in Miami Shores.”

According to Barreiros, he went to Sister Keane shortly after receiving the letter and asked her for more clarification about what took place. “Talk to your Pastor,” Keane reportedly told Barreiros and so the concerned dad did just that.

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St. Rose of Lima in Miami Shores. Photo Credit: RISE NEWS.

According to Barreiros, Corces said that the IHM was a dying order and that he wanted a lay person to lead the school moving forward.

Corces did not respond to an interview request from RISE NEWS.

In an phone interview with RISE NEWS, Sister Marie Roseanne Bonfini, the Director of IHM Information Services at the order’s Motherhouse in Immaculata, PA said that she didn’t know the specifics for why the nuns at St. Rose were withdrawing but that they will be gladly used in other roles across their ministry.

Bonfini said that the IHM would never have accepted a mission if it couldn’t promise a long-term commitment to the community and that there are many reasons why withdrawal happens- including a lack of qualified personnel and when the Parish Priest decides to not renew a contract with the order.

The IHM nuns at St. Rose are basically contract workers that serve the Church and stay as long as the Parish Priest wants them to.

The IHM nuns at St. Rose are basically contract workers that serve the Church and stay as long as the Parish Priest wants them to.

Bonfini and the other nuns at the Motherhouse had never seen a copy of the letter Sister Keane sent home to the parents last week announcing the withdrawal, until RISE NEWS supplied them with it.

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It is also not clear whether the Motherhouse was aware of the decision in advance.

However, Bonfini and other IHM nuns were aware of the anger and sadness of the St. Rose community displayed online in the aftermath of the decision.

“I understand that the people are upset,” Bonfini said. “We just hope that this can be resolved peacefully.”

Photo Credit: RISE NEWS

Photo Credit: RISE NEWS

While the actual cause of the St. Rose dispute is hotly disputed, there is undoubtedly a real crisis facing the very future of nuns in the United States because not enough young women are joining their ranks.

According to the Washington Post, there were only 56,000 nuns left in the United States in 2013, down from the peak of women religious of 180,000 in 1965.

According to Bonfini, the IHM has 750 sisters serving around the world, including the six currently living at the St. Rose convent.

IHM is withdrawing from three other schools this year due to a lack of nuns available to serve at those schools.

Jai Koch has been a parent at St. Rose for the past six years. She is also the Vice President of the Home and School Board.

Source: The Washington Post

Graphic produced by RISE NEWS. Information Source: The Washington Post

Koch said that she believed that the nuns are in good physical shape, vibrant and could potentially stay at St. Rose for another 10 years without much difficulty.

“Sister Bernadette [Keane] spends every free moment with the kids,” She’s a constant presence for the kids. There’s no way to replace her and for what she means for the kids.”

Koch told RISE NEWS that she believed that the nuns had to take the high road and not smear anyone, which is why the letter was sent out.

Many of the comments on the page have called into question the motives of Corces and the Archdiocese of Miami.

“The priest is temporary,” Meike Katrin Espinosa wrote on the pro-nun Facebook page. “We are permanent.”

“The priest is temporary,” Meike Katrin Espinosa wrote on the pro-nun Facebook page. “We are permanent. The nuns are a blessing to our community, that’s why we choose to live here in Miami Shores.”

“It’s a shame our Pastor doesn’t have the appreciation for the Sisters like the parishioners do,” Lawrence Zigmont, a longtime St. Rose parishioner and the husband of the school’s Assistant Principal wrote.

The Archdiocese of Miami stood by the decision, which it said was made by IHM.

“Everyone is upset when change occurs, but the spirit and the memories will continue,” Mary Ross, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese said in a phone conversation. “The Pastor will decide who the next principal is going to be.”

If you want to sign the petition in support of the IHM sisters staying at St. Rose, you can do so by visiting this link: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/keep-our-ihm-sisters-at-st-rose

Public Disclosure: Ross, The Archdiocese of Miami spokeswoman tried to dissuade RISE NEWS from writing this piece and asked about whether the author viewed the fact that he graduated from St. Rose as a conflict of interest.

No, he doesn’t.

But for the sake of transparency and fairness, it is important for our audience to know that he attended St. Rose from 2002 until he graduated in 2007.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. Anyone can write for you us as long as you are fiercely interested in making the world a better place. 

Cover Photo Credit: Facebook/ Show Your Support For Our St. Rose Sisters

Doctors Charter School Executive Director Nick Dorn Resigns

UPDATED: 6:57 PM EST

Nick Dorn, the Executive Director of Doctors Charter School in Miami Shores has announced that he will be stepping down in January after his wife accepted a new position at a Kansas City area Presbyterian Church.

Dorn made the announcement moments ago at a regularly scheduled DCS board meeting.

“Regretfully at this time, I am giving the board of directors my 60 day notice,” Dorn said. “It will be bittersweet to leave the DCS community where I was born and raised.

“I struggle with it because I’m a committed project guy. But I’m married to my wife, not married to the school.”

“On January 19th, I will be moving with my wife of one year to her city of call in Kansas City,” Dorn said.

“Thank you very much for all you’ve done for this school,” Dr. Chester Morris, a DCS board member said to Dorn. “I think there was a period of time where it was a bit contagious. But we’ve come through it and you’ve done a terrific job. I will miss you.”

Daryl Gallo asked Dorn if he would consider staying until the end of the school year but Dorn said it was wasn’t on the table.

“I struggle with it because I’m a committed project guy. But I’m married to my wife, not married to the school,” Dorn said in reference to Gallo’s question. “This was definitely a hard decision for both of us. But she is amazing. She is a wave maker. You can’t direct the wind, you can only adjust your sails.”

Dorn, 37, has been in the position for a little over a year and grew up in Miami Shores.

The “Shores” as it is called by many natives, is a small enclave of roughly 10 thousand people- a suburban respite from the hustle and bustle of Downtown Miami.

After his graduation from Miami Country Day School, Dorn left his hometown for Gainesville, FL where he said that he received both undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Florida. He then worked out of the state for numerous years before coming back to take a job at a school in Boca Raton in 2009.

By 2014, Dorn was actively searching for his next step.

“I was working at a school in Boca Raton and I had always had aspirations to be a principal,” Dorn said in an interview with Rise News in June.

Shortly after beginning his search, Dorn said that he saw the opening for the executive director position at DCS. It was almost too perfect. His family still lived in the Shores and his fiancé was the associate pastor of Miami Shores Presbyterian Church.

Dorn also said that he liked what DCS stood for.

“I truly believed in its mission. It talks about a rigorous academic program,” Dorn said. “If Doctors Charter School had existed when I was kid, I probably would have gone here.”

DCS opened for classes in 2005 and is considered to be one of the best charter schools in Miami-Dade County.

More to come. Stay with Rise News. 

Read More: Authorities Investigating Potential Criminal Wrongdoing In Miami Shores Charter School Scandal

Authorities Investigating Potential Criminal Wrongdoing In Miami Shores Charter School Scandal

Rise News has learned that there is an ongoing investigation into allegations that members of the supervisory board of a Miami area charter school may have criminally violated Florida Sunshine Laws.

One of the members of the board at the time of the alleged law violations was the current Mayor of Miami Shores, Alice Burch.

At least two members of the Doctors Charter School (DCS) Board of Directors and a high-ranking school official have been subpoenaed and interviewed by an Assistant State Attorney and an investigator with the Miami-Dade Ethics Commission.

Sources close to the investigation indicate that the inquiry is focused around the events of the controversial non-renewal of contract of DCS Executive Director Nick Dorn.

DCS is a highly rated charter school with 600 students nestled in the sleepy neighborhood of Miami Shores.

Rise Miami News, the predecessor website to Rise News first broke the story of the scandal in June of 2015 and showed that Burch had improperly coordinated with a few other members of the unpaid DCS board to remove Dorn in a secret meeting.

From our original report on the matter:

“Rise Miami News has learned that Burch supplied DCS board members meeting in the ‘shade’ a dossier of information that she had been collecting for over eight months, meant to act as justification for the non-renewal of the school director’s contract.

Burch has also admitted to violating state Sunshine Laws by continuing to volunteer as the de-facto secretary of the DCS board of directors while serving as the acting mayor of the Village.

Burch apologized to the Miami Shores community at a Village Council meeting on June 2 but did not discuss her level of involvement in the dismissal of Nick Dorn, the director of DCS.”

Due to the public outrage, Dorn was eventually offered a contract and a raise. Dorn accepted the contract extension but did not agree to a raise. He is currently leading the school.

DCS board meeting in June.

DCS board meeting in June. Photo Credit: Rise News

Read More: Miami Shores Mayor Actively Advocated For Removal Of Charter School Head In Closed Door Letter

While Burch did not vote in the secret meeting, she openly discussed the idea of not renewing Dorn’s contract with members of the board both before and immediately after the “shade” meeting.

Additional public records including text messages show the extent of communications between Burch and other board members. It also showed how important Burch was to the lifeblood of the board and therefore potentially to the Sunshine Law violations she later admitted to.

Read More: Text Messages, Emails Bring Into Focus Influential Role Miami Shores Mayor Played In DCS Scandal

According to multiple sources with direct knowledge of the matter, the inquiry is being headed up by Assistant State Attorney Luis Perez-Medina and Miami-Dade Ethics Commission investigator Larry Lebowitz.

Perez-Medina works out of the Public Corruption Unit under Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle while Lebowitz, a former Miami Herald reporter works under Joseph Centorino, the longtime former head of the Public Corruption Unit and current director of the county Ethics Commission.

Neither the State Attorney’s office or Ethics Commission would confirm or deny that there is an ongoing investigation.

Paul Calli, an attorney and current member of the DCS board first blew the whistle on the “shade” meeting in a series of Facebook posts last spring.

In June, Calli filed a complaint with the Ethics Commission alleging that there had been violations of Section 286.011 of Florida Statutes, also known as the Sunshine Laws.

The Commission referred the complaint to the State Attorney as it said that it does not have jurisdiction over Sunshine Laws.

Miami Shores Mayor Alice Burch. Photo Credit: Alice Burch/Facebook

Miami Shores Mayor Alice Burch. Photo Credit: Alice Burch/Facebook

“The rules should not and cannot be different for elected officials and Village administrators in Miami Shores,” Calli said in an interview with Rise News. “The residents of Miami Shores do not deserve to be excluded from the political process and government administration by elected or appointed officials who hold the trust of residents and voters.  The Shores is not a fiefdom, with its residents vassals.”

 

Mayor Burch did not respond to a request for comment.

Vice Mayor Steven Zelkowitz said that he was not aware of any investigation ongoing in Miami Shores but said that public officials should be careful of Sunshine Law violations.

“I live and breathe the Sunshine Law,” Zelkowitz, a lawyer who deals with many local municipalities in his practice said in a phone interview. “I’m very cognizant and I’m very careful with it. Maybe elected officials should read the laws and understand them before acting.”

Another member of the Village council had a similar view.

“What is important is what[ever] the investigation reveals, it will help bring closure and restore confidence in our leaders,” Councilwoman Ivonne Ledesma said in an email statement.

READ: The 14 page dossier of information Miami Shores Mayor Alice Burch presented to DCS board members before secret, “shade” meeting

Miami Shores Mayor Alice Burch’s “Shade” Letter by Rich

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Cover Photo Credit: Rise News/ Rich Robinson

Miami Shores Councilman Resigns From Office, Says “It Just Isn’t Fun Anymore”

Miami Shores councilman and former Vice Mayor Jesse Walters resigned from office on Tuesday in a surprise announcement that has jarred the local political scene.

Walters announced his resignation before Tuesday’s regular Village Council meeting and was replaced by Mac Glinn, the man who barely lost out on a seat in the council election held in April. Glenn will serve out the remainder of Walters term, which runs out in April of 2017.

Walters will continue as the Executive Director of the Miami Shores Chamber of Commerce.

In an interview with Rise News, Walters said he resigned because he no longer enjoyed the job.

“It just isn’t fun anymore and I crossed it off my bucket list,” Walters said.

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Former Miami Shores councilmember Jesse Walters. Photo Credit: Miami Shores Village.

Walters also said that the tenor of correspondence between himself and members of the Shores community has grown darker in recent months.

“Some of the people that email you are really really angry,” Walters said. “I just feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders.”

Walters said that he intended to stay an active member in the community and now has more time to spend with his family.

“We love it here,” Walters said. “The vast majority of people are nice and great.”

Rise News reached out to Glinn but could not reach him before the publication of this story. We will update it with his comments.

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Freshly appointed Miami Shores council member Mac Glinn. Photo Credit: Facebook

Glenn did post a message to Facebook however celebrating his new role in the community.

“While I was very sorry to see Jesse resign and I am grateful for his years of service to the Village, I am also very honored to have been selected and am excited about this chance to directly influence our Village’s path forward,” Glinn wrote on the social media site. “I cannot thank you enough for all you did this year to help me reach this incredible opportunity. I look forward to the opportunity to deliver on the faith you have placed in me.”

Walters made news in in 2011, when he was only the fourth openly gay public official elected in the history of Miami-Dade County.

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Cover Photo Credit: Phillip Pessar/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

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