City of South Miami responds to Justice Department investigation on housing discrimination

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At the July 18 Commission Meeting, City Attorney Pepe acknowledges the Justice Department has asked the City of South Miami for evidence.
At the July 18 Commission Meeting, City Attorney Pepe acknowledges the Justice Department has asked the City of South Miami for evidence.
At the July 18 Commission Meeting, City Attorney Pepe acknowledges the Justice Department has asked the City of South Miami for evidence.

With clear frustration, one South Miami resident stands before the City Commission July 18 proclaiming “It should never have to come to this.” But it has – and in a very high profile way.

Deltravis Williams, who also sits on two separate city advisory boards, said he has “had enough” with the delays on the development of Madison Square, located in the center of South Miami’s historic black community.

His on-the-record comments were presented at the same city meeting during which City Attorney Thomas F. Pepe formally announcement the U.S. Department of Justice request for documentation. Pepe went on to acknowledge that the DOJ released legal documentation forcing the City of South Miami to fork over evidence.

He also noted that staff was proceeding with a “last push” to supply a mass of needed information by the July 20 deadline, including emails, videos, and other public records.

“It’s a sad state of affairs,” said Former Mayor Horace Feliu upon hearing the news. “Over the past seven years, South Miami has witnessed several firsts, such as drive-by shootings — and now a Department of Justice investigation. Another first is the unprecedented increase of legal fees which the DOJ investigation will only exacerbate,” he added.

The concern is a violation of the Fair Housing Act’s protection against the discrimination of race. The Attorney General can be authorized to start a civil action because rights granted by the Act are denied.

imagesThe City of Miami is thought to have made decisions discriminating race while reviewing low-income housing programs. While declining to prosecute, the first step in the investigation has been accelerated by simplifying the areas in which the city is under attack. Sameena Shina Majeed, Chief of Housing and Enforcement Section, has formally requested the city to be transparent in offering information and indicated interviews of city representatives will occur if necessary.

Rodney James, former Pastor of Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church of South Miami and President of the City’s Concerned Clergy and Citizens Coalition, represented the sentiment of the overall community. James, who died late last year, had a reputation as a strong proponent of affordable housing and fought for the construction of the Murray Park Pool after decades of waiting on this municipal project. Following his death, the pastor’s wife continued to draw attention to delays associated with Madison Square by contacting the Department of Justice.

“It should have never gone to the Department of Justice,” Williams continued in his public remarks. “So we have to do what we have to do. And I will fight this until the day I die.”


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