MIAMI (CBSMiami.com) – The Miami Marlins Stadium is nearing completion in Little Havana, but it’s controversial journey took a new turn Friday when the Securities and Exchange Commission opened an investigation into the finances underlying the stadium deal.
“Oh no! Are you kidding me,” asked taxpayer Vicki Diez.
The Marlins refused to hand over the team’s financial records for years and fought in court to prevent Miami billionaire Norman Braman from getting access to the records.
“I don’t like using words like ‘I told you so,” Braman said Monday. “If you study it, and you look at the total lack of transparency; it cries for an investigation.”
But those records, and the finances of Miami and Miami-Dade County, are just what the SEC is going to examine.
The SEC requested all correspondence to and from the Marlins’ owner, Jeffrey Loria, team president, and the commissioner of baseball.
The Marlins finances, which were eventually leaked to the website Deadspin.com, showed the Marlins were actually making tens of millions of dollars while claiming poverty during the negotiations of the cost they would shoulder for the new stadium.
At the time, former Mayor Carlos Alvarez said under oath that he had never seen the financial statements and that the county never requested those statements during the negotiations.
CBS4 tried to contact Alvarez for a statement Monday, but was unable to get anything from his office.
The Marlins released this statement about the SEC investigation:
“Yes, we are aware of the investigation that the SEC is conducting on the issuance of the County’s and City’s stadium and parking bonds. Of course, we will fully cooperate with the SEC’s investigation as needed and assist in whatever way possible. Because this is an on-going matter, it is not appropriate to comment further.”
Current Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado, who was at that time a commissioner, vehemently opposed the stadium deal.
“Yes, I said hell no because it was a bad deal for Miami,” Regalado said Monday.
The Marlins gave the city and county a month to supply the demanded materials.
Things took another turn over the weekend when the team handed out roughly $128 million in contracts to closer Heath Bell and shortstop Jose Reyes.
The Marlins have for years claimed poverty and had the lowest payroll in business.
The Marlins are also said to be the leading team to sign left-handed starting pitcher Mark Buehrle and are making a big push to sign free agent first baseman Albert Pujols.
Signing Pujols alone will cost the team at least $200 million over the next nine years.
So, the Marlins could sign upwards of $350 million worth of players in the coming days. However, the Marlins couldn’t contribute more to the stadium deal.
It’s a catch-22 for taxpayers. On the one hand, they don’t want to pay so much for a stadium.
On the other hand, by saving the money from paying for the stadium; the Marlins now have the ability to go out and sign the best players in baseball.