CHI project manager testifies in Steven Bateman trial

Rafael Nieves said he was 'excited' for the former Homestead mayor to join their team

The project manager for the health company that paid Bateman for being a consultant while he was mayor took the stand Thursday morning.

MIAMI – The corruption trial for former Homestead Mayor Steven Bateman continues Thursday.

Bateman is accused of abusing his power as mayor to get work completed for a health company he worked as a consultant for.

The man on the stand all morning Thursday was Community Health's go-to guy for all of its projects and expansion plans. Rafael Nieves talked about how excited he was to find out that the mayor of Homestead was coming on as a paid consultant and said he thought his projects would finally get done.

"Were you glad to have assistance?" asked the prosecutor.

"Yes," said Nieves. "You know, finally some of that pressure is coming off of me, and someone is going to have to move or push these through."

Nieves was talking about CHI's plans to build a Children's Crisis Center in downtown Homestead that was held up last year as Miami-Dade County worked to comply with a non-federal mandate.

Weeks later, Bateman met with county Mayor Carlos Gimenez -- presenting himself at County Hall as Homestead's mayor and not as a paid company consultant, and not registered as a lobbyist. In fact, if a mayor was acting in a different capacity than being a mayor, then in essence he did something wrong.

After a meeting with the deputy mayor, Bateman said the city of Homestead should be off the hook for all sewage problems by Friday and he should know by Thursday the status of building the Children's Crisis Center.

"Do you remember that meeting," asked the prosecutor.

"Yes," said Nieves. "There was relief that we can finally proceed."

The essential question for jurors in this case is whether Bateman acted for the good of the people, for the good of Homestead or acted for the good of himself. 

Nieves will remain on the stand for much of Thursday and will be cross-examined by defense attorneys.

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