Judges hear arguments in lawsuit challenging no-bid sale of soccer stadium site

Bruce Matheson questions legality of county's real estate deal


MIAMI – A local activist from a pioneering Miami-Dade County family is appealing a court decision allowing the county's no-bid sale of a publicly-owned property for David Beckham's soccer stadium site.

Attorneys for Bruce Matheson argued Tuesday morning in front of a three-judge panel at the Third District Court of Appeal that the county illegally gave a sweetheart real estate deal to Beckham's group to the detriment of the public good.

The property at issue is a three-acre parcel in Overtown adjoining two privately purchased lots that Beckham's team has identified as a site for its new Major League Soccer stadium.  

Matheson filed suit last summer, alleging county commissioners illegally waived the competitive bidding process that ensures a fair deal for the public. Miami-Dade County commissioners had approved a $9 million no-bid deal for the land purchase in return for promises of jobs and public benefits by Beckham's team.

Beckham was not named in the lawsuit.

In October, a Miami-Dade County judge dismissed the lawsuit, citing the stadium's benefits of economic development as the reason the competitive bidding process could be waived.

During the appeals hearing Tuesday morning, Matheson's attorneys argued otherwise.

"It ensures there will be no collusion or corruption," attorney Richard Overman said. "It ensures that the public gets the best price. That's why you do competitive bidding in economic development."

Miami-Dade County attorney Oren Rosenthal questioned Matheson's motives. 

"This challenge is an attempt to legislate by litigation," Rosenthal argued.

Matheson, whose family historically deeded land to the county for public use, has brought other lawsuits against the county in an attempt to keep commercial enterprise from displacing public use properties.

"This is a purely commercial enterprise and not for a nonprofit," Matheson said of the soccer stadium.

The panel of judges adjourned without indicating when they would issue a ruling.

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