Husband of Sunny Isles commissioner invoked wife’s position after alleged hit-and-run

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When Michael Gates was accused of backing into a parked car at Bal Harbour Shops and then fleeing the scene, he told police multiple times that his wife, Dana Goldman, is an elected official in Sunny Isles Beach, according to a police report obtained by the Miami Herald.

Asked about the June 27 incident Friday, Goldman, who was in the passenger seat at the time, said her husband “acted inappropriately” but declined to say whether she heard him invoke her position or did anything in response.

“Let’s be clear, this is my husband’s legal problem, not mine,” Goldman said in an email. “I was NOT driving the vehicle, I was NOT paying attention while I was a passenger.”

It’s “regrettable,” she added, that her husband is “a hothead who sometimes says intemperate things at inappropriate times.”

Goldman, a real estate attorney who has served on the Sunny Isles Beach City Commission since 2014, is one of four candidates running for mayor in a special election on Nov. 2. Former mayor George “Bud” Scholl resigned in August to focus on his role as president and CEO of the OneBlood blood bank.

According to the report by Bal Harbour Police, Gates first mentioned Goldman’s elected position after an officer told him that leaving the scene of an accident with damage is a crime.

“[H]e became defensive, stating that his wife is [a] Commissioner [in] Sunny Isles and that he is not a criminal,” Officer William Myers wrote. Later in the exchange, Myers said, Gates “continued to be very defensive and tell me that I was accusing him of being a criminal and that his wife is the Commissioner of Sunny Isles.”

Gates told the Miami Herald he wasn’t trying to leverage his wife’s position, but rather explain to police that he and Goldman are upstanding people who wouldn’t intentionally flee an accident scene.

“I said, ‘Look, I live right here in Sunny Isles. In fact, she’s a commissioner,’” Gates said. “We’re not runaway people.”

A criminal traffic citation

According to the police report, Gates backed his 2021 Genesis into the side of a car while trying to park in the valet lot of Bal Harbour Shops. After hitting the car, Gates parked in a space a few rows over before a valet worker told him he couldn’t park there and he left the area.

Gates and Goldman were confronted by police when they returned from dinner, and after police had reviewed surveillance footage of the incident. Police said Gates named a series of objects he thought he had struck, including a pole, a curb and a traffic cone. There were no poles or traffic cones in the vicinity, according to police.

Gates said Friday that he actually believed he had hit a sign behind the parked car.

The damage later came to about $300 to replace a damaged piece on the fender of the parked Audi SUV, according to the owner of the car, Miami resident David Steinberg. Gates offered to pay Steinberg to settle the dispute on the scene, but Steinberg declined.

“I said, ‘I’d rather you [face] justice than I get a few hundred dollars,” Steinberg told the Herald, adding that he was troubled that Gates mentioned his wife’s role in Sunny Isles Beach.

“I care about you not getting away with it because of who your wife is,” he said.

Police told Gates his actions could constitute a misdemeanor, according to the report, but ultimately no misdemeanor charges were filed.

Bal Harbour Police Chief Raleigh Flowers said Gates instead received a criminal traffic citation, which requires an appearance in traffic court but not a criminal arraignment. He said Goldman’s status as a commissioner in a nearby city had nothing to do with the outcome.

“I thought the officer did a very thorough job,” the chief said.

Gates entered a not guilty plea at an Oct. 6 traffic court hearing, online records show. He told the Herald the officer overstepped by accusing him of a hit-and-run.

“This was the most ludicrous thing I have ever witnessed in my life,” Gates said.

Svechin and Goldman trade shots

Goldman is battling for the mayor’s seat against a field that includes acting Mayor Larisa Svechin, the former vice mayor who took over as mayor per the rules of the city charter after Scholl resigned.

Goldman and Svechin have traded allegations of impropriety in recent weeks. Goldman said a campaign ad asking voters to “Re-elect Mayor Larisa Svechin” violated ethics rules because Svechin wasn’t elected as mayor. The Miami-Dade Ethics Commission dismissed the case this month, finding that her use of “re-elect” was allowed.

In another ethics complaint, Goldman was accused of improperly leading voters to a campaign website that touted endorsements from a previous campaign. The ethics commission dismissed that case, too.

Goldman has also suggested Svechin has faced four separate foreclosures, pointing to past court cases that list Svechin as the defendant. Svechin said the cases have all involved her mother’s home, and that she has helped her mother pay the mortgage.

“This was me helping my parent get out of a financial situation,” Svechin said.

As Sunny Isles residents grapple with issues of traffic and development in the skyscraper-filled city, Goldman and Svechin have become political rivals. Earlier this year, a public records lawsuit forced the release of text messages between Goldman and her husband that showed Goldman calling Svechin “devious” and “very jealous of me.”

In another message to a Sunny Isles resident last November, Goldman said she and Svechin were engaged in “a power struggle for the mayor succession.”

There will be another mayoral election in November 2022, when Scholl’s term was scheduled to expire.

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