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Miami Considers Suing Nonprofit, Others While in Talks for Beckham Soccer Stadium

Rendering of the soccer stadium

This rendering shows the soccer stadium, hotel, offices and other real estate as well as park space David Beckham and project partners want to develop at the Melreese Country Club in Miami.

Miami is considering suing to push out a youth golf nonprofit and other groups possibly at the city-owned Melreese golf course where David Beckham's soccer stadium is planned.

The city has taken issue with groups using the Melreese address in their state registration papers and some being located on and using the city-owned property, according to a resolution coming up for a City Commission vote.

Miami officials are to consider suing the city-hired golf course manager for breaching its agreement as well as The First Tee Miami and other groups it claims are illegally using the golf course property or address in state documents.

The commission is set to vote Thursday on a resolution directing staff members to take action to stop the allegedly improper use of its property and specifically Melreese. The resolution includes a draft complaint against golf course manager Delucca Enterprises Inc., Dade Amateur Golf Association Inc. and 13 other groups.

Florida Division of Corporations documents show Dade Amateur Golf Association is an affiliate of The First Tee, and the nonprofit's website says it's part of the Dade Amateur Golf Association.

Mayor Francis Suarez, the resolution's sponsor, didn't return a request for comment by deadline. The city attorney's office also didn't return a request for comment.

"None of these business entities had or have a legal right to use that address or those premises," the draft complaint said. "As a matter of law these business entities must be ejected from the premises."

The complaint lists ejection and unjust enrichment counts against all defendants except Delucca.

The complaint also lists accounting and breach of contract counts against Delucca, saying it should estimate how much the groups owe the city for their use of the site. The city maintains Delucca broke its agreement with the city by allowing others to use the golf course.

The 160-acre International Links Melreese Country Club east of Miami International Airport is to be redeveloped as Beckham's Major League Soccer site with a 25,000-seat stadium, more than 1 million square feet of office and retail, a 750-room hotel, and 23 acres of youth soccer fields.

Voters last November green-lighted negotiations for a 99-year lease for more than $3.5 million in annual rent.

But even before the referendum the city already had started inquiring about First Tee and the other organizations.

A letter sent last year from Delucca's attorney to the city indicates that Miami Department of Real Estate Asset Management Director Daniel Rotenberg had sent an email requesting corporate registration documents for the Melreese groups on July 17, 2018. That's a day before the commission voted in favor of putting the stadium lease to a referendum.

In response to that inquiry, Delucca attorney Thomas Korge, of Korge & Korge in Coral Gables, on July 26 sent a letter to the city with details about nine organizations. Rotenberg on Aug. 6 replied calling Korge's explanation of the entities associated with Melreese "very brief" and asking him to provide information on additional organizations the city has linked to the golf course. Then, at Korge's request in an Aug. 14 letter, his correspondence gets redirected to the city attorney's office.

In a Sept. 16 letter from Korge to City Attorney Daniel Diaz, Korge maintains he is the attorney only for Delucca and provides information about groups the city has tied to Melreese and inquired about. This time, Korge provides information on about 20 groups. Not all of the companies he lists are named defendants in the draft complaint and, according to Korge's letter, only some of them have actual operations on Melreese.

Dade Amateur Golf Association is a First Tee affiliate and operates the youth educational activities at Melreese. It's tied to golf course manager Delucca Enterprises, which is headed by Charles DeLucca. Charles DeLucca Jr. is president and executive director and Charles DeLucca III is executive director of First Tee.

Some of the other organizations also are tied to DeLucca but not all, according to Korge's letter. Bunkers Inc. is owned by DeLucca but it's largely inactive except for having sold golf balls to Melreese for re-sale at the pro shop at a profit to the city; Tina's Touch Inc. was organized by DeLucca for his daughter, Tina, for a consultancy business in Palm Beach County but it's never had activities at Melreese; and custom golf clubs fitter JJ Custom Golf LLC isn't associated with DeLucca and uses some space at Melreese in exchange for $1,250 a month, according to Korge's letter. Bukners, Tina's Touch and JJ Custom Golf are listed as defendants.

Some of the other organizations the city inquired about are inactive and already have been dissolved, Korge says in the letter.

Korge also says that already there is solid record-keeping and accounting for revenue generated from activities at the golf course, that Delucca weekly provides the city with receipts and that a 2017 city auditor's report already has addressed at least some of the city's questions.

An annual charity golf tournament First Tee holds at Melreese is self-sustaining, meaning the proceeds cover its expenses, and it also pays Melreese fees, including fees for using the greens, Korge said in his letter.

"Indeed, charitable tournaments constitute a substantial additional source of net revenues for the Melreese operations," Korge wrote in the letter.

Korge on Friday responded to a Daily Business Review request for comment by pointing out that he already has addressed Miami's concerns in his previous letters. He said there have been indications that the resolution might be pulled from Thursday's meeting to allow for further talks.

First Tee teaches golf to youths and students with disabilities and offers other programs, including after-school tutoring, academic advising and the Charles De Lucca School of Golf summer camp.

While Beckham and his team of investors, including brothers and MasTec executives Jorge and Jose Mas, have city backing for their venture, the project also has its opponents.

Miami attorney David Winker has two pending complaints against the city. An ethics complaint alleging illegal lobbying was dismissed last month by the Miami-Dade Ethics Commission.

Related stories: 

David Beckham, Mas Brothers Cleared of Improper Lobbying Claims

Miami Beckham United, Fort Lauderdale Sued Over Stadium Deal