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Friday, October 18, 2019

Art dealer alleges conflict of interest in Miami Dade College bidding process

By Michelle de Leon | Oct 9, 2016

MIAMI -- The legal battle between a prominent Florida art dealer and Miami Dade College has come to a halt following the court’s decision to table the discussion. The court declared the case premature, since the alleged actions have yet to be officially confirmed.

The bid protest of Gary Nader, a well-known art dealer in Miami, has been dismissed by the court and was cited as a premature action. According to the judge, it was too early for Nader and his company to question the recommended selection of the Related Group in a major development project at Miami Dade College. In its ruling, the court noted that the school has yet to make their decision official.

“We are pleased that the judge is permitting the college to move forward with negotiations with the highest-ranked proposer, the Related Group,” announced Miami Dade College in a statement, according to The Real Deal. “The college board of trustees will be considering the judge’s recommendation regarding the Nader Team’s premature bid protest. We look forward to proceeding with this project.”

Sculpture Miami Dade College | Phillip Pessar/Flickr CC

For their part, the legal team of Nader considers the ruling a victory for their cause. William W. Riley Jr., the lawyer representing Nader’s company called Nader + Museu, explained that this latest update would give their group more time to finally get to the root of the matter. The Nader team aims to unearth public records that would prove that there was a conflict of interest between the lawyers hired by the Miami Dade College in their selection process and the Related Group.

“We worked around the clock against an army of attorneys on the other side to get this victory. It is exactly what we were hoping for,” shared Riley of the latest ruling, according to The Real Deal.

The issue started when Nader made an unsolicited proposal to the Miami Dade College for a multi-million dollar campus development project without the school spending anything. The offer included the creation of a museum that would feature more than 150,000 square feet of exhibition space. It also will feature a sculpture garden, as well as a conference center that could accommodate 3,000 guests. A theater, which could welcome 1,600 people and will be designed by Emilio Estefan, was part of the package.

The Nader group also proposed to build two 48-story condo towers to make the campus project profitable. In exchange, the lot would be deeded to the developer. Meanwhile, Miami Dade College would be the owner and operator of the cultural center via a public-private partnership. The college also would receive a cash infusion worth $20 million along with their share in the condo sales.

In accordance with state law, Miami Dade College was not allowed to approve the proposal of Nader immediately. They are required to open the bidding to other competitors who would strive to match and outdo the offer of the art dealer. Among the bidders, the committee chose Related, which is owned and headed by Jorge Perez.

The selection of Related eventually prompted Nader to file a bid protest, noting that there was a conflict of interest that affected the process. The art dealer’s camp singled out Al Dotson, who is a member of the South Florida law firm Bilzin Sumberg. Dotson was part of the committee that advised Miami Dade College to choose Related for the project. However, records show that the lawyer also worked for Related in another project before his stint with the college.

Apart from Dotson, Nader also pointed out the communication between an executive from Related and another lawyer, who is part of the committee, despite the “cone of silence” or the communications blackout imposed during the selection process.

With the latest ruling on the project, Nader and his legal team still have the right to contest the decision of Miami Dade College if the school opts to select Related. However, the art dealer’s lawyers are hoping to settle the matter amicably.

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Organizations in this Story

Miami Dade College