Miami commissioner Keon Hardemon calls family lobbying allegations ‘completely false’

Miami Commissioner Keon Hardemon is pushing back against allegations that his uncle solicited a $10,000 lobbying fee from a businessman fighting legislation sponsored by the commissioner’s office.

In a tweet sent Thursday afternoon, Hardemon called the claim — levied in a Design District property owner’s $5 million lawsuit against the city — an “offensive” accusation intended to stir up controversy.

“I am disappointed with the completely false allegations that have been made against me,” the commissioner wrote. “They are offensive and were made only to embarrass, bully, and harass the City of Miami and me. The allegations are impertinent to their frivolous claim and were only included to cause scandal.”

Hardemon’s office later issued the statement through the city’s communications team.

As the Miami Herald reported Thursday, accountant Michael Siegel sued the city of Miami in February for $4.8 million, his estimate for lost property value after the city in 2017 changed the boundaries for where billboards could be displayed in the Design District. That change, requested by Design District developer Craig Robins and proposed by Hardemon, eliminated Siegel’s right to host a large advertisement, called a “mural,” on his property.

Siegel’s lawsuit states that when he arrived at a meeting he’d requested with Hardemon’s staff to discuss the matter, the commissioner’s uncle, Billy Hardemon, was there instead. Siegel said the commissioner’s uncle wanted a $10,000 retainer and 10 percent of future mural revenues in exchange for helping out with Siegel’s problem.

Siegel didn’t hire Billy Hardemon. He said a property owner down the street who did hire Hardemon was allowed to keep his mural, although that businessman told the Miami Herald that, while he had worked with the commissioner’s uncle in the past, he didn’t hire him to help with the city’s mural legislation.

Commissioner Hardemon declined to comment for the Herald’s article.

But Billy Hardemon and the attorney Siegel had with him at the time, Bill Riley, disputed Siegel’s account in interviews Wednesday. They said Riley arranged a meeting at his law office to introduce Billy Hardemon as a potential consultant who could help Siegel, and that the meeting was never supposed to be with the commissioner’s staff.

In a second tweet Thursday, Commissioner Hardemon wrote that he trusted the legal system to resolve the matter.

“I have confidence in my attorneys and the court system and know this matter will be handled appropriately,” he wrote.

Hardemon represents Miami’s District 5, which includes Overtown, Liberty City, Wynwood, the Design District, Little Haiti and the Upper Eastside.