Thursday, March 19, 2015

Robert Miranda, Former Esperanza Unida Executive Director Gets Probation In Obstructing Case

Miranda pled guilty to obstructing an officer investigating mural funding allegations of falsely claiming matching fund with CMAC.

By H. Nelson Goodson 
Hispanic News Network U.S.A.

March 19, 2015

Milwaukee, Wisconsin - On Thursday, Robert Miranda, pleaded guilty to one count of misdemeanor for obstructing an officer, his sentence was stayed and received one year probation. Miranda was facing nine months in jail and up to $10,000 in fines.
Miranda was charged for making false statements concerning a matching fund from the City of Milwaukee Arts Council  (CMAC), which agreed to grant $4,500 geared for a mural repair in 2011, if Miranda would provide another $5,000. Miranda claimed he had a matching fund and the CMAC released their funding. It was later discovered that Miranda didn't have a matching fund until months later, according to the complaint.
In August 2014, Miranda said, that Reynaldo Hernández, the artist that painted the Esperanza Unida mural was paid $2,500 from the city art funding and never returned the money for work never done. Miranda told Hispanic News Network U.S.A. (HNNUSA) that Hernández should return that money to the organization.
Manuel "Manny" Pérez, who took over after Miranda left the organization as executive director of Esperanza Unida, Inc. had confirmed that Hernández was paid $2,500 and had not seen anything that the artist had done to the building outdoor mural to keep the funding. Hernández should as an ethical stand strongly consider returning the money, according to Pérez.
Once the article was posted by HNNUSA, Hernández contacted Pérez and made an agreed payment to reimburse Esperanza Unida. Pérez said, that Hernández paid back part of the funds after he gave Pérez documentation what had been done for the mural.
Pérez previously confirmed to HNNUSA, that a $4,500 check was sent to the City Attorney's Office to resolve the issue concerning Miranda's prior request to get city art funds to recondition a mural without actually having a matching fund.
Pérez also stated, that Esperanza Unida could not account for $700,000 of loans that were granted by several banks to the prior Richard Oulahan administration. There is no record of what happened to the funds and the feds had been notified of the discrepancy of funds, according to Pérez.
Miranda admitted that Esperanza Unida was going through a financial crisis that resulted from the Oulahan bank loans of $700K that went unaccounted for, but had to be paid and he was desperate to save Esperanza Unida. Miranda stated on Thursday, at the time "we were hemorrhaging, it was a stress to keep that agency open, it was a bad decision" regarding to the art matching funds request and not having matching funds. 
Miranda said, "Well, this case is finally over. My apologies to those who support me. Good intention, bad decision. In 2006, when I took over EU, many gave the agency 6 months before it would close. After working out a deal with the banks and the city to allow me to put a plan I had in place to get the agency back on its feet, I proceeded with my work to do so. My plan to save Esperanza Unida had the support of the Mayor of Milwaukee, the former president of Milwaukee Area Technical College, the CEO of Bucyrus International and leaders of the country of Turkey. The plan was to have Turkey buy heavy earth moving equipment from Bucyrus, who then would hire welders trained by Esperanza Unida under the guidance and training of welding instructors from MATC. Bucyrus would hire our workers because under a sister city economic agreement I was able to put together with the help of Alderman Jim Witkowiak and Alderman Joe Davis, Turkey would be contracting with Bucyrus under that sister city agreement. The plan died because the MATC board of directors voted against it 5 to 4. Two Hispanics sat on that board. They were former State Representative Pedro Colón and Labor Attorney Peter Earle. These two Hispanics voted against this plan to keep this Hispanic job training agency open in their community. Before they voted against Esperanza Unida, Christine Neumann-Ortiz of Voces de la Frontera, a workers rights group, spoke against having this deal go through for the same community she says she cares about. Go Figure. That being said. Life goes on."
In February 2015, HNNUSA reported that an Ethics Board complaint filed by Pérez, the executive director from Esperanza Unida described details how Alderman José G. Pérez from the 12th Aldermanic District engaged in conflict of interest, made derogatory comments, attempted to purchase the 611 building and canceled his presence to a grand opening for an insurance business at the Esperanza Unida International Building. Ald. Pérez actions contributed to Esperanza Unida's lack of help from the city and adding new tenants.
The Ethics Board complaint revealed that in 2013, Damon Dorsey, a developer contacted Esperanza Unida and notified Manuel Pérez that he won't be doing any business with Esperanza Unida because Alderman Pérez offered a BID to Dorsey undermining any economic development project for Esperanza Unida without public imput, Manuel requested a letter of support from Ald. Pérez for Esperanza Unida's attempt to promote economic development and Ald. Pérez refused to grant a letter of support to Esperanza Unida. Until a lawyer received a statement from a Esperanza Unida Board member indicating he had requested to buy the 611 W. National Avenue building, Ald. Pérez found out and immediately released a letter of support to Esperanza Unida.
The Ethics Board never acted or investigated the Esperanza Unida complaint against Ald. Pérez simply because they received it via e-mail and was not notarized. Ald. Pérez BID offer to Dorsey is considered an illegal act, which if pursued and investigated by the Ethics Board, the City Attorney's Office or the Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office could cost Ald. Pérez his job.

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