Wednesday, November 14, 2007
7 News Investigations: Lawmaker or Lawbreaker
Buying and selling real estate can be tricky business. We're always warned to trust only licensed individuals. But a Seven News investigation raises questions about the role of a town council member in Miami Lakes real estate. And now the state is looking into it as well. Carmel Cafiero with this special assignment report, "Lawmaker or Lawbreaker?"
WSVN -- Carmel Cafiero: "I'd like to talk to you about the status of your real estate license."
Nancy Simon sits on the Miami Lakes town council.
Carmel Cafiero: "Can you explain this ad here with your name on it?"
Simon wasn't talking.
This is the advertisement I was asking about.
It's in a magazine that lists homes for sale.
The ad is for a house located just a few doors down from Simon's home.
Her name and cell phone number are on the ad, despite the fact she has not had a valid real estate license for three years.
She had failed to keep up with continuing education requirements.
Simon returned to answer questions saying she was angry because she had just learned she is being investigated by the state in connection with her real estate activities.
She says she had nothing to do with the ad and her information was included by mistake.
Nancy Simon: "Number one, I don't know who put that ad there. I have no responsibility for that."
But she does admit to being involved with the property.
She says the home belongs to a friend, and she helps out by keeping the key and showing it for a realtor who does have a license.
Nancy Simon: "All I'm doing is opening the house and showing it to them."
Carmel Cafiero: "You're acting as a realtor, aren't you, when you show a property? Isn't that considered acting as a realtor?
Nancy Simon: "No."
Carmel Cafiero: "No?"
Nancy Simon: "I don't think so, I'm not negotiating anything."
But the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which licenses realtors says otherwise.
Alexis Antonacci: "A person showing a house should have a real estate license."
Alexis Antonacci: "That would be unlicensed activity, which is a third degree felony offense."
The department started an investigation of council woman Simon, after two Miami Lakes residents complained about her involvement in the real estate field.
Nancy Simon: "They're local troublemakers is what they are."
Miriam Mendoza and Gus Abella say they found Simon listed as a realtor on the Internet and in another publication after her real estate license was no longer valid.
Gus Abella: "We felt it was our duty to file it."
Miriam Mendoza: "Credibility is a very important factor."
Even a financial statement filled out by Simon shows she had income from real estate sales in 2005, a year after her license was void.
Carmel Cafiero: "How does that wash?
Nancy Simon: "It doesn't have to wash, Miss Cafiero."
Simon says she must have copied the information from her 2004 form to the 2005 report.
Nancy Simon: "But, the fact is, I've not made one dime off of real estate for three years, one dime."
Carmel Cafiero: "Despite what you said on the financial disclosure form?"
Nancy Simon: "Yeah, well, you know, that was a mistake. It was probably, and I know this is what happened, is that I copied it from the prior year."
But the Miami-Dade ethics commission says accurate reporting by elected officials is very important.
Robert Meyers: "Because you hold a position of trust in your community and you have an obligation to properly disclose your finances."
Simon doesn't think it's significant.
Nancy Simon: "Whatever it is, whatever the mistake is, let's fix it. It's not a big deal."
The councilwoman insists she has done nothing wrong.
Carmel Cafiero: "According to Nancy Simon, this is all about politics. She says she's in the spotlight because she just might run for Mayor of Miami Lakes."
Nancy Simon: "I haven't announced any candidacy."
Carmel Cafiero: "Are you planning?"
Nancy Simon: "I don't know yet. If they keep pissing me off, I will just to piss them off back."
Meanwhile, Simon is doing the town's work while waiting for the results of the state investigation.
It should determine if she is a lawmaker or a lawbreaker.