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Surfside pushes back on report on delayed building repairs

Surfside pushes back on report on delayed building repairs

A Surfside, Florida, official pushed back Sunday on the idea that the town was responsible for slowing down a condo board’s plans to make needed structural repairs to a building that eventually collapsed, killing dozensBy BERNARD CONDON Associated PressJuly 4, 2021, 7:55 PM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleA Surfside, Florida, official pushed back Sunday on the idea that the town was responsible for slowing down a condo board’s plans to make needed structural repairs to a building that eventually collapsed, killing dozens.Following a Miami Herald report that it took more than a month for the town to respond to plans submitted by the building’s board in May, town manager Andrew Hyatt released a statement saying the issues under discussion were preliminary plans unrelated to structural work and not permits to begin repairs the building needed to pass a 40-year recertification.“It would appear that the Champlain Towers South Condominium Association sought to address a number of issues outside the scope of any proposed 40-year re-certification work,” such as new natural gas lines and added parking, Hyatt’s statement said. “There was no indication during any communications between the Town and the association by telephone or electronic mail that this submission required emergency action by the Town of Surfside.”Emails first obtained by the Herald show the condo building manager growing impatient at the lack of response from the town to plans for a temporary parking plan needed to move forward on repair of a concrete slab under building’s pool and on damaged columns in its garage.“As we are out to bid on our project (we) need to get to answers to these questions,” wrote building manager Scott Stewart to a town building official on June 21, more than a month after an initial email request was sent. “This is holding us up and cost (sic) are going up and out (sic) 40 year is coming up fast.”He added, “Can we get some feed back please so we can keep moving forward please.”The town responded with requests for additional information on June 23, just 14 hours before major sections of the 12-story building pancaked on itself, burying sleeping residents in twisted metal and broken concrete. So far, 24 people have been confirmed dead and 121 are still unaccounted for.A spokesman for the condo board declined to comment.Even without the town delay, it is not certain it would have made any difference. Approving bids and permits for such work may have taken longer than a month. And while the structural problems that were to be repaired have gotten intense scrutiny, it has not been determined definitively that they caused the collapse.The emails between the condo building and the town came after years of delay over the structural repairs.The problems with the building were first highlighted by an inspection report s ubmitted by an engineering firm to the condo board in 2018. The report urged work on a concrete slab that been improperly laid flat instead of sloped, preventing water from draining off, causing “major structural damage.”The report submitted by Morabito Consultants did not warn that the building was in danger of falling down. And a town building official at the time was reassuring, telling members soon after the report that the condo building was in “very good shape.”Another possible factor adding to the delay was Morabito Consultant’s estimated price tag for the work — more than $9 million.Some owners protested, members of the board left, new ones came in, the repairs were put off and by the time a new board was ready to start the work this year, the price tag had ballooned to more than $15 million, according to a board letter sent to owners in April.When the building fell on June 24, the board had taken out a loan, work on the roof had begun, requests for bids for structural repairs were put out, and some owners had already paid in full their special assessment to pay for the work. Those who elected to pay in installments over many years instead faced a deadline for their first payments on July 1.

EXPLAINER: How could the indictment hurt Trump's company?

EXPLAINER: How could the indictment hurt Trump's company?

NEW YORK — The criminal tax fraud charges unsealed against Donald Trump’s company Thursday are a blow to a business already reeling from canceled deals following the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on hotels and clubs.The indictment may make it harder for Trump to strike new deals, get bank loans and bring in new money to his sprawling and indebted business.The former president himself was not charged by prosecutors, but investigations are ongoing.Here’s a look at the company and the challenge it now faces:WHAT IS THE TRUMP ORGANIZATION?The company is a business entity encompassing hundreds of firms and partnerships that own or manage office buildings, hotels, residential towers, golf clubs, branding rights, licensing deals and other assets around the world.Those various businesses share staff with the Trump Organization, including Trump’s two adult sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, both executive vice presidents, and Allen Weisselberg, the indicted chief financial officer.WHAT ARE THE ALLEGATIONS?A grand jury indictment charged the Trump Organization with conspiring to help top executives cheat on their taxes by not reporting compensation like free use of apartments and cars, payments of school tuition or reimbursement for personal expenses.The company pleaded not guilty, as has Weisselberg, one of Trump’s most loyal and longest-serving employees.The company says neither it nor Weisselberg did anything wrong and claimed the charges are politically motivated.Weisselberg is also accused of cheating on his taxes by disguising that his full-time residence was in New York City, where he was subject to the city’s income tax.WHAT IS TRUMP’S CURRENT ROLE IN THE COMPANY?Trump resigned from positions he held with hundreds of Trump Organization entities in over 20 countries before he took the presidential oath of office four years ago.It was his attempt to allay fears he would use the presidency to help his business. At the time he set up trust to hold its assets and handed over day-to-day control of it his two adult sons and Weisselberg.But Trump remained the sole owner or principal owner of those hundreds of businesses and could pull profits from them at any time. Recently, he’s returned to his old offices at Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue, but it’s not clear how much he has assumed his former role overseeing operations.WILL THE CHARGES HURT THE COMPANY’S ABILITY TO DO BUSINESS?If the Trump Organization is convicted, it would have to pay a fine of double the amount of unpaid taxes, or $250,000, whichever is larger. The company may also have to change the way it operates.But even absent a conviction, the indictment could pose problems.“Companies that are being indicted, whether they are private or public, big or small, face serious collateral consequences,” said Daniel Horwitz, a white collar defense lawyer at McLaughlin and Stern and former prosecutor at the Manhattan district attorney’s office.“Companies in the financial services industry are reluctant to do business with them,” Horwitz said. “Their access to capital is limited or cut off as is their ability to place their liquid assets with banks and brokerages.”WHAT HAPPENED TO OTHER COMPANIES THAT HAVE BEEN CRIMINALLY INDICTED?The giant accounting firm Arthur Andersen started losing auditing business after criminal charges were filed in relation to its Enron work, and it eventually had to lay of tens of thousands of workers. In 2005, the Supreme Court overturned its obstruction of justice conviction but it was too late and the firm collapsed.Other companies hit hard by criminal charges include the now-defunct 1980s junk bond giant Drexel Burnham Lambert, the once-massive hedge fund SAC Capital and oil company BP, which had to pay billions stemming from criminal charges for its role in a drilling rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico.WHAT IS THE LIKELY HIT TO TRUMP’S COMPANY?The Trump Organization could find it more difficult to strike deals to put the Trump name on buildings or products, attract tournaments to its golf courses and borrow money.It may be able to withstand the blows. It is a sprawling company, but its operations are simple and behind the scenes: It runs golf clubs and hotels, collects checks from companies occupying offices it owns, and charges licensing fees to buildings and others using its name.Although some companies have collapsed after criminal indictments, others have survived or even thrived, including Bank of America, which was convicted for reckless mortgage lending practices. Others that received what’s called deferred criminal charges have done well afterward, including drug giant Bristol-Myers Squibb, which was accused of accounting fraud, and JPMorgan Chase & Co., which was caught up in connection with Bernard Madoff’s massive fraud.Stocks in all three companies are at or near all-time highs.WHAT ARE THE FORMER PRESIDENT’S FUTURE BUSINESS PLANS?He hasn’t said, but there some obvious moves.Experts on branding say that the company could still use Trump’s fame to strike licensing deals around the world. In the years surrounding his runaway TV success, “The Apprentice,” Trump struck deals to put his names on suits, ties, steaks and residential towers in Las Vegas, Chicago and New York.The Trump brand has been damaged by his divisive rhetoric and stances. It’s unclear how successful a new licensing effort would prove.While he was in office, hotels and residential towers in several cities stripped his name off their buildings. His company had to scrap plans for new hotel chains because of a lack of interest by potential partners.Most damaging of all were accusations Trump incited the bloody siege of the Capitol in January. Real estate brokers, lenders and other businesses cut ties shortly afterward.The Associated Press reported earlier this year that prices in condos in many buildings that have licensed the use of his name have fallen sharply, with brokers saying some potential buyers refuse to even look at apartments in buildings with Trump’s name over the door.

Trump's company could face criminal charges in New York City

Trump's company could face criminal charges in New York City

Manhattan prosecutors are considering filing criminal charges soon against Donald Trump’s company stemming from a long-running investigation into the former president’s business dealingsBy BERNARD CONDON Associated PressJune 25, 2021, 8:41 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleNEW YORK — Manhattan prosecutors are considering filing criminal charges soon against Donald Trump’s company, stemming from a long-running investigation into the former president’s business dealings.The New York Times, citing sources familiar with the matter, reported that charges could be filed against the Trump Organization as early as next week related to fringe benefits the company gave to top executives, such as use of apartments, cars and school tuition.Trump Organization lawyer Ron Fischetti said he met virtually with prosecutors Thursday for around 1 1/2 hours to try and persuade them not to seek a criminal indictment against the company, but that the charges would not be unexpected.“The charges are absolutely outrageous and unprecedented, if indeed the charges are filed. This is just to get back at Donald Trump,” he told The Associated Press on Friday. “We’re going to plead not guilty and we’ll make a motion to dismiss.”The Manhattan district attorney’s office declined to comment.No charges have been filed thus far in the long-running probe. Prosecutors have been scrutinizing Trump’s tax records, subpoenaing documents and interviewing witnesses, including Trump insiders and company executives.Law enforcement officials familiar with the matter say the investigation has reached a critical point. A grand jury was recently empaneled to weigh evidence and New York Attorney General Letitia James said she was assigning two of her lawyers to work with Vance on the criminal probe while she continues a civil investigation of Trump.Some of the scrutiny has been focused on longtime Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg.Vance’s investigation of Weisselberg, 73, stemmed in part from questions about his son’s use of a Trump apartment at little or no cost, cars leased for the family and tuition payments made to a school attended by Weisselberg’s grandchildren.Weisselberg’s attorney, Mary Mulligan, didn’t immediately return a message Friday.There’s nothing illegal about companies giving lavish perks to valued employees, but in many circumstances those benefits count as compensation subject to income tax.Fischetti said any charges against the company based on fringe benefits would be overreach by prosecutors.“We looked back 100 years of cases and we haven’t found one in which an employee has been indicted for fringe benefits — and certainly not a corporation,” he said. For it to be a crime, he said, “it would have to be for the benefit of the corporation with the knowledge of the corporation. They don’t have the evidence at all.”———This story has been corrected to show that the lawyers met for around 90 minutes, not nine minutes.